Even though many people say that the last few seasons have gotten a bit stale, The Simpsons is considered one of this century’s greatest comedies. It’s a pop culture beast, and the classics still make people roll over laughing. The especial good ones touch on some pretty deep issues; like religion and free speech. But every now and then, they get a little too deep for just a comedy on TV. It’s not that they’re trying to make a serious issue funny. It’s that they’re acknowledging that some issues simply can’t be made fun of.
We’ve found fifteen of the most touching Simpsons episode that wouldn’t be considered comedy. But that doesn’t make them any less good.
15. Mother Simpson
Sometimes, Homer just can’t catch a break, especially when it comes to his parents. After faking his death to get the weekend off, he finds out that his mother, whom he thought was dead for years, is in fact alive and well. At first he thinks she left because “maybe I was a horrible son and she didn’t want me”. But it turns out she’s a fugitive from the law. That’s…better? Details aside, Grandma Simpson fits right in with the rest of the family, from the intellectual Lisa, to the trouble-making Bart, to the not-very-intelligent-but-still-sweet Homer. That’s gotta be a superpower. Unfortunately, Mr. Burns (the person who’s after Grandma Simpson) tracks her down. Homer manages to get her out, and has to send her off with her friends so she can stay out of jail.
14. Bart’s New Friend
When we’re kids, we all want to be adults, because adults can do whatever they want. But then we become adults, and we wish we could go back to being kids. Kids don’t have to deal with things like taxes, overbearing bosses, and marriage issues. Homer’s the most child-like adult out there, but is still an adult. So when he gets hypnotized into thinking he’s a ten-year-old child, the change is drastic. He can’t even stand the taste of beer! And he develops a great relationship with his kids! Especially Bart. But good things never last, and they manage to get their hands on the hypnotist. Homer has to choose between his love for Marge and his new bond with Bart, and chooses the former. His advice to Bart: “Stay ten forever.”
13. Sleeping With The Enemy
As sad as Nelson’s fatherless family is, the writers somehow managed to make that plot funny. But what we’re going to focus on is Lisa’s subplot. Girls at school tease Lisa about having a big butt, prompting her to go on a diet; a really severe diet, where the food choices are a shaving of a carrot or a squirt of toothpaste (we call that anorexia). Eventually she can’t take the starvation and eats an entire cake as wide as she is tall. Nelson is the one who makes Lisa feel better about herself and retaliates against her bullies, but that doesn’t solve the problem. Lisa’s insecurity is not resolved at the end of the episode, because it can’t be resolved with one conversation or one good prank. She said it best: “I’m afraid it’s a very open-ended problem.”
12. The Last Temptation Of Homer
Some people say that every spouse is tempted at least once to cheat on their significant other. I can’t say whether that’s true or not, but Homer certainly gets tempted when he meets Mindy Simmons, who’s basically a hot, female version of Homer himself. She loves horribly unhealthy food with a particular fondness for double-glazed donuts (even drools over them the same way Homer does), she’s lazy and takes naps at work, and is not the sharpest knife in the drawer. (“Wow, Capital City! The Windy Apple!”) To make things worse, Mindy’s attracted to Homer, too, so there is chemistry. But while Homer’s an idiot, he’s not that much of an idiot. He makes his decision and brings Marge to the hotel he’s staying at so he can spend the weekend with her, rather than his would-be mistress.
11. Lisa On Ice
There’s nothing quite like a good sibling rivalry. Lisa joins the local hockey team to avoid failing gym class and ends up as their top-notch goalie. The problem is, Bart’s on the other hockey team and he’s their best forward. Lisa starts to get better than Bart at the sport, and she’s already better than him at school. (This episode has one of the greatest Simpson lines ever: “Bart Simpson, will you stop raising your hand! You haven’t had one right answer all day!”) So things are bit…tense. Of course they have a final confrontation when their teams go against each other and Bart gets an opportunity to try to score on Lisa’s goal. But they decide that hockey isn’t worth killing anyone over, especially not your sibling, and call it a game.
10. Lisa’s First Word
Speaking of sibling rivalry, let’s go to where it all began. Kids always have a hard time when the parents introduce a younger sibling. I say this as an eldest child: we don’t like it when all the resources and attention get diverted to a trespasser. We were here first! Bart doesn’t take to the intrusion any better, and after being ignored by his family and then punished when he acts out, he decides to run away. But then Lisa says her first word: Bart. That’s the annoying thing about siblings: we love each other. It makes things like running away and sending the little tikes to Australia very inconvenient.
Even though the entire episode is about Bart and Lisa, Maggie’s the one who claims the best awww moment. After Homer, who has never been called “Daddy” by the eldest children, tucks Maggie in, he tells her that he hopes she never says a word. So of course after he leaves, Maggie’s first word is “Daddy.”
9. Lisa’s Wedding
There have been a few times when Lisa didn’t want to be a Simpson, or related to her family in any way. And can you blame her? She’s a vegetarian, everyone else loves meat. She’s politically active, the rest of them couldn’t care less. She’s an intellectual, her father is…well, he’s Homer. But for better or for worse, Lisa is a Simpson. And at some point she becomes proud of that fact. Lisa looks into the future to see how her first love turns out, and it’s disappointing to say the least. He’s her dream man, but then he makes a fatal mistake: he forces her to choose between him and her family. Lisa might be the black sheep of the family, but it is still her family. Take it or leave it.
8. Marge And Bart
Bart’s always been a bit of a troublemaker, but there’s a line for everything and he tramples right over it. When he’s caught stealing a fancy new video game at the Try n’ Save, Marge becomes cold and distant, treating him like an adult acquaintance. It’s so contrary to her character that it’s dizzying. Some kids, when neglected and treated this way, become even worse. (“Mom doesn’t care, so why bother trying to be a good boy and please her?”) Luckily, Bart goes the other way. He makes it up to Marge by buying a self-portrait of himself, fixing the family portrait he ruined. So we see that even though Bart does some rotten things, he’s not entirely beyond redemption. And Marge is way too good a mom to be human.
7. Scenes From The Class Struggle In Springfield
One of the myths of America is that we don’t have a class system. Hate to break it to you, but we do. It’s just not formal or carrying big fancy titles like British nobility. Marge gets an opportunity to bring her family to the top tier of the social ladder when she buys a fancy suit and gets invited to visit the country club. One by one the Simpson family falls in love with the club, but ambition causes a drastic change in Marge. She starts neglecting her family, until they do something “unacceptable” in the eyes of the elite. In the end Marge realizes that she’s changed, and not for the better. She decides that it’s best for the family to just be themselves rather than try to jam themselves into an uncomfortable social status.
6. The Father, The Son, And The Holy Guest Star
First of all, any episode that has Liam Neeson in it is a good episode. He somehow managed to make The Simpsons even better. He also managed to convert Bart, and then Homer, to Catholicism. Marge and the Protestant church do everything they can to win them back, which infuriates Homer, Lisa, and anyone else who thinks that the only person who has any say in what religion they follow is the person in question. It also annoys Bart, who blows up during the confrontation. “The little stupid differences mean nothing against the big stupid similarities!” Unfortunately, humanity is comprised of angry morons. At the end, thousands of years later, two armies of Bart-followers fight over whether or not Bart’s message was about love and tolerance, or peace and understanding. Because they’re such critical differences worth killing over.
5. Miracle On Evergreen Terrace
Bart screws up big-time when he wakes up early on Christmas to get a head start on presents. He ends up burning down the plastic tree with his toy firetruck, as well as all the other presents. After burying the evidence in the yard, he says that a burglar came and stole it all. The empathetic townspeople donate thousands of dollars to the Simpson family, which they blow on a fancy car that they crash ten minutes after buying it (d’oh!). Immediately after, the melted tree and presents are discovered and the truth comes out. The townspeople decide to settle things by taking everything from the Simpson household: furniture, antiques, paintings, all of it, except for a washcloth. At first they fight over it, then Marge knocks some sense into them with the true meaning of Christmas yadda yadda, and then steals the washcloth.
4. Bart The Mother
An episode that shows Bart’s gentle side is always one of the best. Bart goes against Marge’s orders to stay away from Nelson and ends up killing a bird with Nelson’s BB-gun. When he discovers the bird had two eggs in its nest, he takes them home to care for them himself. Only it turns out they’re not bird eggs, they’re egg-eating lizards, the bane of the Springfield Birdwatching Society. Bart begs them not to kill them to no avail, and when Marge talks to him alone Bart explains that he loves the lizards even though they’re monsters. It’s a not-so-subtle metaphor for Marge’s love for Bart, and she helps Bart try to escape with the lizards. Side note, the lizards are adorable. Especially after they fly off of the roof of the building and flick their tongues at each other.
Scientists discover a crayon lodged in Homer’s brain. When he gets surgery done to remove it, his intelligence drastically increases. But as they say, ignorance is bliss. He ends up alienating his friends and getting depressed, to the point that he has Moe shove a new crayon into his brain. This initially saddens Lisa, as they shared a greater bond when he was smart. But she finds a note that he wrote to her before the operation that explains that while he’s taking the “coward’s way out,” he has a greater appreciation and respect for Lisa now that he knows what it’s like to live with her kind of mind. Really, it’s just thirty minutes of Homer and Lisa feels. The saddest moment is when Homer goes to Lisa for help after discovering how harsh life can be for the intelligent, and she shows him a graph detailing how intelligence goes up, happiness goes down, and says, “I make a lot of graphs.” It was by far the loneliest scene we’ve seen.
2. Three Gays Of The Condo
Homer and Marge argue for the 492nd time, except this time it’s more serious. Homer found a letter to him that Marge never sent, detailing how angry and resentful she is that he got drunk and ditched her to hang out with his friends. Homer then finds a hospital appointment card dated two days later and assumes that she only stayed because she was pregnant with Bart. During the confrontation, Marge says that Homer still does things that annoy the hell out of her. Apparently, this is a huge shock, and Homer leaves. He tries to patch things up with Marge from a distance. But he mucks it up with alcohol (again), angering Marge again. Homer ends up hospitalized from alcohol poisoning, but it’s not as bad as the first time, which was the night Marge wrote her angry letter. Dr. Hibbert shows Homer a video that has Marge telling a younger, unconscious Homer that she loves him. Real Marge shows up and says her feelings have stayed the same.
1. A Totally Fun Thing That Bart Will Never Do Again
Sometimes, life sucks. It’s boring. Unpleasant, even. Work drones on and on. Bills and to-do lists stress you out. Kids require wrangling and feeding and they are the most ungrateful bosses ever. A vacation every now and then is mandatory for our sanity if we want to survive the insanity of life. So is it any wonder that Bart tries to extend his family vacation from one week to forever? The problem is, you can’t dodge responsibilities and drudgery forever. The trick is to find the gems of life (and if necessary, create some of your own) and live in the moment.
I can’t believe I’m saying this, but Homer was the one who said the wisest words of the episode: “Yeah, stupid. Stop thinking about having fun, and have it!”