Top 5 - The Simpsons Season 4
#05 - Kamp Krusty
S04/E01 - This episode made the list for sheer enjoyment, much like the rest of the episodes on this list. For quite a few of these that I've formerly posted, I've been finding deeper meaning behind them. But after a while, the deeper meaning lies in the nostalgia of these Golden Years, and it all comes down to which ones I found kinda "legendary" in their own right.
Now begins the almost impossible task of narrowing these seasons down to a Top 5. Seasons 2 and 3 were very difficult, but 4 was the first time I almost left it all behind because deciding was just too damn hard. Somehow I managed to figure it out, and it all starts with 'Kamp Krusty'.
It's the end of school, and summer is at hand. Bart has been promised that if he gets a C average, he can join Lisa in going to Kamp Krusty - a summer camp owned by the clown, himself, with promises of meeting him in person. Bart gets a bunch of Ds, but Homer ends up letting him go anyway just because they didn't want him hanging around anyway.
The kids get to Kamp Krusty, only to find out that it's being run by a corporate jerk named Mr. Black, and the counselors are known Springfield Elementary bullies, Jimbo, Kearney and Dolph. While the kids essentially go through a sort of living hell, Homer and Marge are finding themselves closer, happier and healthier than ever, with them away.
Eventually the campers end up rebelling, and Bart leads them in a hostile takeover of the camp. Meanwhile, Krusty is kinda just off doing his thing, living the life of a celebrity with the camp way in the back of his head. When he is finally called about what's happening at his camp, he's actually being knighted at the time. So we very nearly got a Sir Herschel Krustofsky, which to me was always kind of a funny idea.
This one makes a few solid cultural references throughout it, including 'Lord of the Flies', 'Camp Runamock', 'The French Lieutenant's Woman' and 'Ben-Hur'. But it's often mistaken as a take on a forgotten Gameboy Game called "Bart Simpson's Escape from Camp Deadly'. I actually had that game, and forgot about it entirely until writing this.
One of the things that really puts the Donnie Brand Seal of Approval on this one, though, is one of my all-time favourite 'Simpson' quotes (of which there are many), "Shut up and eat your pinecone!" - something I still quote to this day whenever someone complains about their "bad" food. But of course, the whole episode, much like many of this era, is entirely quotable - yet another thing making this list very difficult to accomplish.
#04 - Last Exit to Springfield
S04/E17 - In my mind, this was one of the most cleverly written episodes that shows that things aren't always what they seem. That particular reveal is well in front of our eyes the whole time, but it's fun to watch a clueless Mr. Burns all the same.
While Mr. Burns awaits the union leader to discuss the proposed union contract, he reminisces about a simpler time, when disgruntled workers were dealt with a bit more harshly.. He then decides to take on the union, due to their demands, by taking away their dental plan.
After a trip to the dentist, it's revealed that Lisa needs braces. Homer eventually realizes that if they give up their dental plan, Lisa's braces are gonna cost a lot more. He soon becomes head of the union, and the plant goes on strike. The worse Mr. Burns tries to make it for the town, the longer they strike, and they won't back down.
Perhaps the best part of this episode, to me, is what it takes to send everyone back to work. I won't say much more, but it's one of those funny reveals that pretty well just puts everything where it was before the episode even started. In other words, the episode almost feels pointless. But the cleverness here lies largely in how Mr. Burns sees Homer throughout the episode, getting a completely false impression of him.
This one largely makes the list for cleverness, but it's full of great and memorable moments as well. This is the one where you can find those "hired goons", a hallucination referring to The Beatles and 'Yellow Submarine', a reference to the Joker in 1989's 'Batman', and it even portrays Mr. Burns as The Grinch at one point. We can't leave out the gag that portrays Homer's train of thought, either. In fact, I bet that when I mentioned "Lisa needs braces", Marge's voice in Homer's head went through your own head, followed by Lenny's saying "dental plan!"
It's an overall memorable episode that was well-received by audiences and critics alike. In fact, it has made a #1 of all time on a few lists. In 2003, USA Today chose it as #1 for 'The Simpson Archive', and in the same year, 'Entertainment Weekly' called it the best of the bunch. The actual quote - "this episode is virtually flawless, the product of a series at the height of its creative powers -- when the satire was savage and relevant".
So while I wouldn't put it at the tippy top of my all-time list, it's interesting to find out that I'm not alone in finding it to still be one of the best. It has a lot to say about how simple a union's demands can be, and how corrupt upper management can be with those demands. It's an episode that pretty much any working person can relate to, and that's most of us.
#03 - Krusty Gets Kancelled
S04/E22 - If 'Homer at the Bat' was the big star-studded episode of Season 3, then 'Krusty Gets Cancelled' is definitely its Season 4 equivalent.
The episode features the likes of Bette Midler, Elizabeth Taylor, Luke Perry, Johnny Carson, Hugh Hefner, a brief appearance by Barry White, and all of the Red Hot Chili Peppers. They all play themselves, and much like with 'Homer at the Bat', they all have fun parts that show these celebrities can laugh at themselves.
We open with Homer and Bart watching 'The Springfield Squares' (where White makes his appearance). Out of nowhere, a flashy, attention-grabbing ad for something called 'Gabbo' flashes across the screen. The strange ad works, and all of the people of Springfield start talking about what 'Gabbo' could be.
'Gabbo' ends up being the name of a playful new ventriloquist's dummy, who is gonna host a new show with his puppeteer, Arthur Crandall. The show will parallel 'Krusty the Clown', and Bart and Lisa end up worrying that this new character will take the world by storm, and Krusty's show will get cancelled. Sure enough, that eventuality happens, and Bart and Lisa soon find Krusty competing with that "Old Gray Mare" man on the street.
Upon learning that Krusty knows all of the aforementioned celebrities, Bart and Lisa offer to find them all for a comeback special. Krusty agrees to let them help him get back on his feet, and some hilarity ensues from there as one-by-one we're introduced to these various personalities. All of their parts are comedically written, from Midler being an over-the-top action hero to Perry being Krusty's "worthless half brother" (and eventual new sidekick, may he rest in peace), they each offer a decent laugh.
The episode is chock full of visual gags as well, making for a lot of short but hilarious sequences. On top of that, the dialogue that was written for these celebrities is mostly hilarious. It sounds silly, but even Hef saying "no" to Bart calling him "Hef" gets a good chuckle from me. This is one of those episodes that still makes me laugh a lot today, and it's certainly one of the probable all-time funniest. That is, at least for yours truly. Lets face it, there's a lot to choose from here.
While this one is a lot of fun to watch, upon doing a bit of reading, it seems apparent that filing it was kind of a nightmare. This includes things like Julie Kavner and Harry Shearer both objecting strongly to celeb voice cameos. This lead to Kavner not participating in the episode at all, boycotting it. There were also timing issues, that very nearly made them scrap the celebrity cameos altogether. But thank God they stuck to their guns, 'cause to me, this is easily one of the funniest episodes out there.
#02 - Lisa's First Word
S04/E10 - Coincidentally enough, this one carries over from 'Krusty Gets Kancelled' and the length of time it took to film. To give you some idea, Elizabeth Taylor did a voice for Maggie for this episode on the same day she recorded for 'Krusty Gets Cancelled'. This episode aired twelve episodes beforehand.
The family is seen at the beginning, trying to get Maggie to say her first words. The questions start coming as Bart asks what his first word it. We all learn it's "Aye-Carumba", but the context in which it's said leaves the kids in the dark. We then carry on to the "very cute" story of Lisa's first word.
It all begins in March of 1983. The Simpson family of the time (Homer, Marge and a 2-year-old Bart) are living in a little apartment, and we get to see how life is kind of on cruise control for them. This is where the scene of a naked baby Bart swinging on a clothesline came from. YouTube it, you'll be satisfied.
Marge tells Homer that she's pregnant, however, leading them to need a bigger home. So here's where we learn the origins of how the family moved into their famous house as well. Bart eventually kinda starts feeling overlooked, however, and the story really becomes how Bart, as an only child, takes to getting his first new sibling. It's a lot of negatives for him, but a LOT of laughs for us! In a way, we totally get his misery and confusion.
Once Lisa is born, Bart really starts messing with her, even trying to mail her away. Because he's only two, it's easy to laugh at the things he does. It's pretty bad stuff, but cute all the same. Eventually Bart's behavior leads to Lisa's first word is, and the siblings seemingly form a bond.
In a kinda wonderful scene, we flash back to the present once the story is told, only to see Bart and Lisa squabbling. Homer leaves the room with Maggie, putting her to bed, and without spoiling anything, we get a very cute and sweet scene of Maggie finally saying her first word. So here's where we literally learn all of the Simpson kids' first words, although the way 'Simpsons' continuity works, these first words are often debated on. For me, this is the one and only "first word" episode. For one, because it came first, and on top of that, it's just a really nice story.
But this isn't quite like when I favoured 'Moaning Lisa' in Season 1, where I knew people would probably have strong disagreements. This one is in most of my friends memory as a sort of classic. There are so many great one-liners to take from this, like "Can't sleep, clown'll eat me!" and "Iron helps us play!"
This one makes for one of my favourite and highest recommended 'Simpsons' stories. It's loaded with humour, sweet moments, great dialogue, and information about a good chunk of the family's past. We even learn things like how Grampa won his house in a crooked gameshow, and that Homer has a cousin, Frank, which is a whole story within a scene on its own.
#01 - Marge vs The Monorail
S04/E12 - Topping it all off for Season 4 is an episode of near legendary status. This one was written by Conan O'Brian, and is often found topping, or nearly topping a lot of "all time" lists when it comes to best 'Simpson' episodes. In my eyes, it most certainly belongs up there in the list of highest recommendatons.
A little known fact is that Conan actually only ever wrote for four episodes of the show. Two of these show up on my lists, one is a 'Treehouse of Horror' episode that I've omitted, and the last one was 'New Kid on the Block', which is another great Season 4 episode that didn't quite make the cut for me.
The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency, who would later play a huge role in the movie) fines Mr. Burns $3 million due to his gross negligence, when he's caught storing toxic waste drums at a park. The money is to be poured back into the town of Springfield, and a meeting takes place to figure out how to spend it.
Marge's initial idea, which takes off pretty well, is to fix up Main Street's damage. Enter Lyle Lanley (Phil Hartman) who proposes that the town build a Monorail transportation system. With his catchy tune and singalong, he gets Springfield's attention quite easily, and the whole Main Street idea is completely scrapped in favour of the Monorail.
Marge isn't exactly taken with the whole idea, and being concerned that the town has done the wrong thing, she does some investigating. Heading to North Haverbrook, she meets Sebastian Cobb (Harry Shearer) who worked on the Monorail for Lanley for his town in the past. It's revealed that Lanley is nothing but a con man, and the two rush back to Springfield to try to stop a terrible fate from happening.
Meanwhile, on the funnier side of the story, Homer is busy trying to become a Monorail conductor. He's picked at random by Lanley, and Bart starts to look up to him as a success, leading to one of the great lines when Homer asks "Do you wanna change your name to Homer Jr? The kids can call you Hoju!" - it gets me every time.
On the maiden voyage, we meet up with surprise guest Leonard Nimoy (as himself), and every little scene he's in offers a good chuckle, especially comparing his overall sophistication with an otherwise kinda silly show. Of course, he comes back for 'The Springfield Files', and the show appreciated him enough to give him a tribute in 'The Princess Guide' (a much more recent episode I haven't seen yet). He's certainly one of the most fun guest appearances this show gets, and that's speaking for both occurrences. In fact, 'The Springfield Files' also made my Top 5 for Season 8.
But getting back to this episode, it's greatly appreciated by yours truly much in the same ways 'Lisa's First Word' is, but more on the comedic level. Truth be told, the two episodes are pretty much a coin-flip for me for this season. 'Monorail' makes #1 for me, however, solely based on popularity. Although these lists are based on personal taste, choosing between these two was just too damn hard, as they're greatly appreciated in different ways. 'Lisa's First Word' is appreciated more for the storytelling, whereas 'Monorail' just makes me laugh more. Let's face it though, It's a tough choice to narrow any of these down to a mere five.
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