"Homer at the Bat" (11:30 a.m.)
Why It's a Classic: When Mr. Burns decides to fill the power plant softball team roster with ringers, he does not take half-measures, recruiting 9 of the biggest names in baseball at the time — Daryl Strawberry, Ken Griffey Jr., Jose Canseco, Roger Clemens, Don Mattingly, Steve Sax, Ozzie Smith, Wade Boggs and Mike Sciosia — all but one of whom is then prevented from playing due to either a catastrophe (Griffey comes down with a case of gigantism from an overdose of nerve tonic) and the irrational whims of Monty Burns (who kicks Mattingly off the team for the — wholly imaginary — crime of having long sideburns). It's part homage to "The Natural," part tribute to the glorious and strange history of professional baseball in America, and one of the few "Simpsons" episodes that manages to take this many guest stars and give them all something funny to do.
Favorite Lines: If you love baseball even a little, is there a line of this episode that ISN'T wildly quotable? But if I can only pick a few, I start with Barney and Wade Boggs getting into a violent argument over England's greatest Prime Minister ("LORD PALMERSTON!" "PITT THE ELDER!"), followed by Mr. Burns ordering Smithers to "Scour the professional ranks. The American League, the National League, the Negro League!," and then a radiation-poisoned Mike Sciosia declaring "Can't... lift arm... or speak... at... normal... rate."
Daniel Fienberg Also Recommends:
"Last Exit to Springfield" (11:30 p.m.)
Why It's a Classic: Let's take the surface level first and we can praise one of the most cutting and yet nuanced depictions of labor/management strife ever chronicled, as we see Homer's rise to labor kingpin and his struggles to do right and avoid corruption through a properly Homer-esque prism. The negotiation in which Homer thinks Mr. Burns is hitting on him is superb. But then let's look at the true heart of the episode, which is the Homer/Lisa relationship, which was never more touchingly showcased. So you have a sterling plot, a well-maintained core and then you have some of the finest and most eclectic pop culture references the show has ever done, including Lisa's "Yellow Submarine"-style hallucination, the "Batman"-esque hideous dental surgery and Homer's "Godfather II"-esque ascension to mob boss. It's really a pretty perfect episode.
Favorite Lines: "Dental Plan" "Lisa needs braces!" Mr. Burns explores his 1000 monkeys with 1000 typewriters and declares, "It was the best of times, it was the BLURST of times? You stupid monkey." We get an early reference to Mr. Burns' unique ability to forget Homer as he thinks he's new only to have Mr. Smithers remind him, "He thwarted your campaign for governor, you ran over his son, he saved the plant from meltdown, his wife painted you in the nude..." Oh and apropos of nearly nothing, this episode also features Grandpa's legendary, "The important thing was that I had an onion on my belt, which was the style at the time" story. Oh and [Doorbell] "Who is it?" "Goons." "Who?" "Hired goons."
Dave Lewis Also Recommends:
"Mr. Plow" (7:30 p.m.)
Why it's a classic: A late night car accident forces Homer to buy a snowplow to make some money on the side, resulting in a rivalry with the Plow King (Barney), a pitch perfect spoof of Calvin Klein ads, a new Linda Ronstadt song, and TV's "Batman," Adam West, as himself -- years before "Family Guy" ran the gag into the ground. Even God himself shows up.
Homer (when asked by an insurance investigator if Moe's is a bar): "It's a pornography store! I was buying pornography!"
Homer's Brain: "Heh heh. I would have never thought of that."
Drew McWeeny Also Recommends:
"Lisa's Substitute" (1:30 AM)
Why it's a classic: For every student who has ever excelled in school, there are moments they remember, and teachers who made major impacts in their lives. Lisa breaks my heart because of how alone she feels in her family, and I think she's one of the best-written versions of a gifted student I've ever seen on TV. When Miss Hoover ends up sidelined by Lyme Disease, Lisa ends up meeting the single best teacher of her young life, and Dustin Hoffman's performance as Mr. Bergstrom is an all-timer, setting a fairly high bar for guest stars for the still-young series.
Bart showing his videotaped project "How Kittens Are Born: The Ugly Truth" is pretty much funny wall-to-wall, but it's his aside at the end that always kills me. "Oh, look, this is really cool! When I hit reverse, I can make them go back in!"
And for sheer heart-shattering impact, there's Lisa's line when Miss Hoover complains that Mr. Bergstrom didn't use her lesson plan at all, asking in exasperation what he taught Lisa. "That life is worth living."
Josh Lasser Also Recommends:
“Lisa the Greek” (10 a.m.)
Why it’s a Classic: It won Yeardley Smith an Emmy. It correctly predicted the Washington Redskins winning the Super Bowl. It is brilliantly funny too. The story here revolves around Homer and Lisa trying to bond and Homer realizing that his daughter is brilliant at picking the winner of football games. That then becomes the sole reason that he wants to spend time with her and so, when it comes down to the Super Bowl and she offers him her choice, she says that her subconscious may be sabotaging her and that if she still truly loves her father, it will be Washington who wins, if she doesn’t, it will be Buffalo. The episode is full of hysterical moments while managing to remain relatively serious.
Favorite Lines: The episode is packed with great lines, but here are just a couple.
Marge calls out Homer for using his daughter to gamble and he explains, "Marge, she never loses. Aren't parents supposed to encourage their kids whenever they show talent?"
Lisa asks Bart for the score of the Super Bowl, and he responds, “You Hate Dad is up by a touchdown."
Of course, if you happen to need a bathroom break or a nap or a brief window communicating with the outside world...
Daniel Fienberg Recommends Skipping:
"Old Money" (12:30 a.m.)
Why It's a Dud: I hate to say this, but given enough days, I could probably tell you to use nearly every Grandpa Simpson episode as a bathroom break. I know some people love ol' Abe, but my own instinct would be to treat him like the Simpsons treat him, push him off to the side and only welcome him in as an occasional guest. Look, the "Onion on my belt" monologue is a highlight of this day, so it's not that I hate EVERYTHING related to Abe, but I can just pass on various permutations of "Abe isn't too old for love, but complications ensue because we can't actually have Abe be secure and loved for too long or else the character loses his identity." And with early "Simpsons" episodes, if the A story wasn't working for you, there's no respite. And this story is way maudlin and it's particularly maudlin about a character -- Good Ol' Bea -- who we never came close to caring about.
Redeeming Lines: Put it all on 41. (To Homer) I've got a feeling about that number." "The wheel only goes to 36, sir."
What are your picks for the second day of the FXX Every Simpsons Ever Marathon?