[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.]
Day 9 of FXX's Every Simpsons Ever Marathon takes us from "Simpson Christmas Stories" (mid-Season 17) through "Funeral for a Fiend" (mid-Season 19). It's a bit truncated in terms of half-hour episodes, because from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. FXX is airing "The Simpsons Movie."
Fortunately, we've got some episodes to recommend and Sepinwall wanted to salute the movie, so you can still dedicate quality time to the Marathon.
And there are some good ones we didn't get to. I love the poetry humor and author cameos in the poorly titled "Moe'N'A Lisa." And I know lots of fans love "24 Minutes," but nobody in our dwindling group of fans wanted to salute it. Feel free to watch, though!
Check out our recommendations for Day 9 and chime in with your own favorites...
Katie Hasty Recommends:
"My Fair Laddy" (1:30 a.m.)
Why you should watch it: There are characters in the Simpsons universe that should be sprinkled, like Ralph and The Bumblebee Man. Use too much, and they're ruined. Then there are secondary characters who, whenever they get their expanded episode, just work. Moe and Groundskeeper Willie are among these, and especially for the sadsack that the latter laddy is, it's just nothing but heart. Combine that with a classic Broadway musical and, by golly, you've got an episode with so many sweet moments I could dance all night. It may be "adequate" more than loverly, but it's still a Willie keepsake.
Krupt: "Duck or die."
"What flows from the nose does not go on my clothes."
Katie Hasty Also Recommends:
"The Seemingly Never-Ending Story" (2 a.m.)
Why you should watch it: Did I mention my soft spot for Moe? Mrs. Krabbappel and the diminished bartender used to be together, Mr. Burns used to be poor... and Bart of course will do anything, ANYTHING, to get out of flunking yet another test, including an intricately developed and executed story about a lost bet, a smiling child, a gay friend, the Simpsons in a cave, an angry sheep and two of the loneliest Springfield souls perhaps becoming an item again. It's a good pot of lore.
Moe: I was the happiest guy in the world, but fate likes to play a little game called "Up Yours, Moe".
The Texan: Moe can't catch a break!
Carl: Hey barboy, write a play where I meet Henry Ford and Captain Kirk!
Daniel Fienberg Recommends:
"Kiss Kiss Bang Bangalore" (4 a.m.)
Why it's worth watching: Patty and Selma kidnapping Richard Dean Anderson "Misery"-style, is a wee bit disturbing, but it's also strangely funny. And I'm not going to try to tell you that Homer's adventures in India aren't just a bit colonialistic and jingoistic, but they're still funny because they're all seen through Homer's uniquely ignorant perspective. So what I'm saying is that you may be uncomfortable laughing at "Kiss Kiss Bang Bangalore," but you will laugh. For a late-season travel episode, that's more than enough for me.
Favorite lines: I love Homer stepping off the plane, looking around and complaining, "This isn't India! Where's the University of Notre Dame, the Indy 500, Wrigley Field, Dodger Dogs?!" And the response, "You ignorant American! You have confused India with Indiana, Indiana with Illinois, and the Cubs with the Dodgers!"
Daniel Fienberg Also Recommends:
"Springfield Up" (1 p.m.)
Why it's worth watching: How does "Springfield Up" play if you don't think that Michael Apted's "Up" documentary series is one of the all-time pinnacles of filmed media? I can't say. I know that as a worshipper of the Apted series, "Springfield Up" plays as a smart way of introducing flashbacks and layered backstories for a number of characters. It's both a good take-off on "Up," playing with the myriad familiar conventions of Apted's documentaries but also with familiar "Simpsons" tropes involving Homer's need to impress those in power, but eventually learning that his unembellished life isn't so bad. It's also an improved way to use Eric Idle's Declan Desmond character, who appeared in two previous episodes that I'm not hugely enthusiastic about. I don't know how much in this episode actually counts as true "Simpsons" canon, but as a documentary nerd, this episode totally works for me.
Favorite lines: Young Homer confusing Declan for a genie and then struggling to figure out how to properly address the camera feels like an homage to Homer's difficulties mastering his Witness Protection identity in "Cape Feare" and we've already established that I love that episode. I also love Homer's final life lesson, as explained to Marge, "All those years I was dreaming of other things, I was actually doing what I really wanted: Hanging out with my family, drinking with my friends, making friends with my family and hanging with my drinking." Awww.
Daniel Fienberg Also Recommends:
"Yokel Chords" (1:30 p.m.)
Why it's worth watching: The Edward Gorey-esque animation in Dark Stanley segment, a story recounted by Bart to scare his classmates, is among the most striking the show has ever done, a sequence so vivid and imaginative that it's hard not to pause, rewind and immediately rewatch it, leaving the rest of the episode aside. That would be a pity if you happen to like Cletus' amusingly named children -- Whitney, Jitney, Dubya, Incest, Crystal Meth, International Harvester, and Birthday -- and Lisa's "Sound of Music"-inspired attempts to tutor them. But it's almost essential that you skip the stuff with Homer getting drunk at the Chinese restaurant, which is only a C-story, if that, but it's genuinely awful. Oh and a great Stephen Sondheim cameo! That's here, too.
Favorite lines: The clear winner is Bart's off-hand comment, "Then I had this crazy dream that my family were all just cartoon characters and that our success led to some crazy propaganda network called Fox News."
Alan Sepinwall Recommends:
"The Simpsons Movie" (6 p.m.)
Why it's a classic: "The Simpsons Movie" was released during a period (between seasons 18 & 19) at a time when the TV series was long past its peak. Yet the film evoked the same feelings the show did back in the days of "Marge vs. the Monorail" and "Homer Badman." Some of this was simply the joy of getting to watch Homer, Bart and everyone else in public with an audience of appreciative fellow "Simpsons" fans, but much of it was simply the craft of the movie itself, which told a huge satirical story — involving Springfield being placed under a dome by the EPA after Homer's stupidity hopelessly pollutes the town's water supply — while also telling a strong and poignant story about the family itself, as Homer has to prove himself all over as both husband and father. Marge's videotaped explanation for why she can't put up with Homer's selfish antics anymore is among the most heartbreaking moments of the entire series, and easily Julie Kavner's finest vocal performance as Marge. Yet it's also a movie that has room for Spider-Pig, Bart skateboarding naked, President Arnold Schwarzenegger and Albert Brooks again playing a supervillain (as evil EPA boss Russ Cargill).
Favorite lines: As Homer has his new pig dance along the ceiling, he sings, "Spider-Pig, Spider-Pig, does whatever a spider-pig does. Can he swing from a web? No he can't, he's a pig. Look out! He is the Spider-Pig!" Everyone loves Spider-Pig, but the joke that got by far the loudest audience laughs when I saw it in the theater wasn't spoken at all, but rather is the imitation of the on-screen crawls that had come to infest TV broadcasts by this point: "Watch 'Are You Smarter Than a Celebrity?' on FOX. That's right, we even advertise our shows during movies now."
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:
"Revenge Is a Dish Best Served Three Times" (Noon)
Why It's a Dud: This inspiration-free dud is a good place to mention one of the least exciting trends in late-run "Simpsons" writing, the "We can't think of one good story for a full episode, so we're going to do three loosely joined parodies and call it a day" structure. This Marathon day also includes "Simpsons Christmas Stories" "The Wettest Stories Ever Told" and two "Treehouse of Horrors" episodes, which are the originators of this device. Of the three revenge-themed stories here, "The Count of Monte Fatso" has a couple amusing moments, but "Revenge of the Geeks" and "Batman Begins" are flat and pointless. The end credits dedicated to all of the characters who died in the "Star Wars" films is one of the few highlights.
Redeeming Lines: Bart agrees. As he puts it, "Now we have three ways to talk about revenge, although the first two were sort of the same, and even the third would have worked better as a Halloween story."
Daniel Fienberg Also Recommends Skipping:
"Rome-Old and Juli-Eh" (2 p.m.)
Why It's a Dud: This episode follows two of my favorite episodes of this period, the previously praised "Springfield Up" and "Yokel Chords," which makes this piece of lame, refried narrative seem even worse. And yes, it's another Grandpa Simpson Dating episode that I'm telling you to skip. But really, do you want to watch Grandpa and Selma making out? No. No you do not. And yes, this is the same Grandpa who, in another unfunny episode, fell in love with Selma's mother Jacqueline. [And yes, there was a joke about the show's desperation at potentially pairing Abe and Selma up way back in "Gump Roast," so it's even sadder and less funny that it eventually came to happen.] While unsuccessful, that episode was funnier than the awkwardness that's ensuing here. Meanwhile, in the B-plot, Bart and Lisa order a lot of complimentary shipping boxes and make a fort. That's a deadly combination of plots. Oh and you can also skip "Million-Dollar Abie."
Redeeming Lines: Abe somehow ended up watching Selma's baby and he explains, " I cleaned up all my best war stories for her. I told her how we chased the teddy bears into their cuddle bunkers, then had to tickle them out with machine-hugs and fun-throwers. They say the more soldiers you tickle, the easier it gets. Well, sir, it doesn't." Sigh. That's as good as this gets.
Sound off on your favorites or least favorites from Day 9...