[As you probably already know, starting on Thursday, August 21, FXX is running the Every Simpsons Ever Marathon, running through all 552 episodes of "The Simpsons," plus "The Simpsons Movie." To aid in your viewing process, Team HitFix is selecting our favorite episodes from each day, plus an episode or two that you can skip and use as a bathroom or nap break.]
I must admit: The "Simpsons" fans on Team HitFix are beginning to drop like flies. Josh Lasser's fandom carried through the Tomacco episode, but no further. David Lewis wrote a blurb here for "Simpsons Tall Tales," the episode he says ended his active support of the show.
Fortunately, Sepinwall and I had a pair of favorites apiece and Katie Hasty also had a preferred episode, so we've got some recommendations for you, plus a couple episodes you can avoid.
[And while I only wrote up two episodes I love, there are at least 10 more that I'll be happy to rewatch if I'm around and another 10 more that I'd enjoy having on in the background. Possibly more. This may be the worst period for "The Simpsons" thus far, but I'll always maintain that middling-to-poor "Simpsons" is still more rewatchable than nearly anything else on TV.]
Check out our recommendations for Day 7 and chime in with your own favorites...
Katie Hasty Recommends:
"She Of Little Faith" (3 a.m.)
Why It's a Classic: Lisa has been through so many well-meaning spiritual adventures, but not all of them stick. After she converted to Buddhism from Christianity in this episode, though, it's the route she's walked ever since. While writers poured a lot of time-tried Americanisms into the comedy (shotguns, commercialization of the sacred, Christmas, blowing up crap with rockets), they put a lot of soul into this religiously themed episode. It comfortably urges respect for all religions while ably incorporating Richard Gere into Buddha's teachings. Heart, all around.
Richard Gere: I am dreaming of a free Tibet.
Lenny: We are dreaming of free sandwiches.
Homer: The word un-blow-upable is thrown around a lot these days.
Lisa: I still believe in God. I just think there's another path to Him or Her.
Marge: Her?!... She's just kidding, Mr. Lord!
Alan Sepinwall Recommends:
"Jaws Wired Shut" (4:30 a.m.)
Why It's a Classic: This episode and the one that follow it feature among the stronger latter-day stories about the state of the Simpsons marriage. Here, Homer can't speak while his jaw is wired shut, and in the process becomes a good listener to Marge and the kids, as well as a less reckless individual (since so many of his rash decisions seem driven by his mouth rather than his brain). It's a sweet period for the family, and the good behavior continues even after the wires come out, until Marge realizes she misses the craziness in her life, and needs a drunken, Popeye-esque Homer to rescue her at a demolition derby. A strong, funny reminder that Marge Bouvier is married to the exact man she fell in love with.
Favorite lines: Duffman pays another visit to Moe's, and responds to news reports that he died of liver failure: "Duffman can never die! Only the actors who play him! OH, YEAH!"
Alan Sepinwall Also Recommends:
"Half-Decent Proposal" (5 a.m.)
Why It's a Classic: My favorite episode from the series' second decade, "Half-Decent Proposal" nimbly bridges the gap between the more emotional character study the show began as and the madcap pop culture satire it became. On the latter, we get not only the eponymous tribute of the title, as Jon Lovitz's now-wealthy Artie Ziff returns to try to buy Marge away from Homer, but one of the earliest and best spoofs of "Sex and the City," a great "M*A*S*H" finale sight gag, and a surreal action climax that's equal parts "Giant" and "Armageddon," involving an oil fire in West Springfield. On the former, Artie's return not only calls back to "The Way We Was," but presents an excellent story about Marge, Homer, their marriage and the paralyzing fear that grips Homer whenever he realizes how much better Marge could have done than him. Also, every single joke related to Homer's snoring and the debilitating effect it has on Marge is hysterical, and Carl's rescue of Lenny in the oil fire is the most romantic Lenny and Carl moment of them all.
Favorite lines: The Carrie Bradshaw stand-in from "Nookie in New York" declares, "If I'm not having sex by the time I finish this goat-cheese quesadilla, I'm gonna scream," setting off a run of "SATC"-style puns from the other characters that inspire Patty to declare, "This is so like our lives!" Homer, mistaking his life for the plot of "Back to the Future," spies on Marge and Artie on a date and worries, "Oh, no! If Marge marries Artie, I'll never be born!" And Homer, pondering the shabbiness of his life compared to Artie's, complains, "I can't take his money, I can't print my own money, I have to work for money. Why don't I just lie down and die?"
Daniel Fienberg Recommends:
"I'm Spelling As Fast As I Can" (5 p.m.)
Why It's a Classic: Just as Ernest Borgnine's presence is what elevates "Boy-Scoutz 'n the Hood" from solid episode to a classic, it's the late George Plimpton's cameo as Spellympics host that takes "I'm Spelling As Fast As I Can" from decent episode to personal favorite. From "And a hotplate!" to "And now I go back to doing whatever it is I do," the Plimptonian intellectualism of the episode is random and tremendous. And while Homer's pursuit of the Ribwich isn't quite, um, meaty enough to be an A-story, there's enough vaguely gross lunacy to fill an amusing B-story. But mostly? George Plimpton.
Favorite Lines: "And a hotplate!" "It's not important to talk about who got rich off of whom, or who got exposed to tainted what..." and "What a long, strange product roll-out it's been."