As a 30 year old American, I cannot remember a time when The Simpsons wasn’t a TV show. They’re on season 28 now, with over 600 episodes to its credit.
But somewhere in season 10, the show started to veer off course. Seasons 3-7 are widely regarded as the “Golden Age” of The Simpsons, with Seasons 8 and 9 checking in very strongly. However, we start to see cracks in the armor in season 10, and by season 15, the decline is more exposed than Comic Book Guy in a bathrobe.
This can be traced to two things. First, is the introduction of Mike Scully as the showrunner in Season 9, and the declining influence of writer/producer/humor god John Swartzwelder.
There’s been articles and op-eds written about that. I’m not going to go into detail with that here.
Instead, this series is going to redeem seasons 10-15.
I’ll be bringing you the 3 best episodes of each season (and why), the worst episode (and why), and the best jokes/moments from other episodes that didn’t make the best-of list.
Let’s start at the top of the hill before we tumble down, at season 10.
August 23, 1998 to May 16, 1999
“Best Of” #1
Viva Ned Flanders
Plot: After accusing Ned of lying about his age to get a car wash discount, Homer finds out Ned is actually 60 years old, but since hasn’t experienced any thrills in his life, looks 40. Ned decides to live a little, and hires Homer. The two head to Las Vegas.
What makes it special: Little did we know, but this episode has eerie parallels to the first Hangover movie. But it’s not fantastic merely because of coincidence. It peels back layers of a beloved side character (Ned) in a “fish out of water” setting and adds to his depth as a character. And that’s what makes ‘The Simpsons’ special – the side characters in Springfield have so much depth (even before the show began its decline) and how they intertwine with the Simpson family.
But the star of the episode is the dynamic between Homer’s Id and Ned’s Superego, with the city of Las Vegas acting as the “calming” Ego. But we all know the city’s motto. Flanders doesn’t stand a chance.
This is also a unique episode in regards to the lack of a “B” story line – a sub story meant to break up the primary story. Instead, ‘Viva Ned Flanders’ is neatly divided into thirds.
Best moments (mostly in gifs)
- Subtle callbacks to both ‘$pringfield’ and ‘Trash of the Titans” that get run over.
- Someone didn’t prepare:
- Comic Book Guy’s collection of bumper stickers:
- Aww, Melissa Rivers would be nothing without her mom.
- Lance Murdock returns!
- Homer: “The one with the red paint?”
- It’s a sin, Ned.
- “I don’t know Flanders. Having two wives could have it’s advantages:”
- This spin on a beaten-horse gag:
- Ahh! The Moody Blues!
And of course, the episode ends with the music of Elvis’s ‘Viva Las Vegas.’
Coming next – the two other episodes I consider the best of the season (one is kid-centric, the other is Lisa-centric), as well as the worst of the season.
What do you think?