It's nothing new for Simpsons fans to lament how the show has gone downhill in recent years (I first said so here more than two years ago) so I won't revisit that argument. Nor is it original to marvel at how The Simpsons has shaped society - there's been hundreds of books, articles, academic papers and studies - so no need to add my two cents on this either.
But when the Simpsons is good, it's very very good. In fact, it soars far and above almost all other pop culture. Therefore, I'd like to present my list of personal Best Episodes Ever. They may not tally with the preceived wisdom, but these are the ones I'd take with me to...well, anywhere. (Links where provided are to the SNPP capsules for each episode, if available)
#FABF10 Co-Dependents Day
"Sleep well, my drunken angel"
A thin premise, perhaps - Homer and Marge on a bender. But it works. The scene where they attend the cinema is priceless; and there's no Big Message here, just fast-flowing gags.
#CABF14 Trilogy of Error
"I'll sentence fragment you, stupid grammar robot!"
This is definitley the smartest episode ever. In fact, it's probably one of the most intelligent things ever shown on network TV. But even if you just watch the show for the humour, don't worry; #CABF14 has that too, in spades.
#4F19 Homer's Enemy
"God, he eats like a pig."
"I dunno. Pigs tend to chew. I'd say he eats more like a duck."
Ever wondered what would happen if the rules of the real world applied to the Simpsons? Here they do. It's completely unlike any other episode - poor Frank Grimes can see what we as the audience can, but what the Sprigfieldianties cannot, and it drives him to an early grave. It will change the way you view the show, especially Homer (don't worry, it's gone by next week).
#DABF22 How I Spent My Strummer Vacation
"It's only rock n roll fantasy camp"
"But I like it!"
The best cameo-packed episode of recent seasons, and a return to the multi-level plots of yesteryear. Most of the best jokes here are visual (seeing Homer imitating Lenny Kravitz had me in tears of laughter) - and who could forget the startling revelations of Disco Stu?
"My name is Hans. Drinking has ruined my life. I'm 31 years old!"
Season four is generally regarded by hardcore fans as the pinnacle of the show's achievement. Okay, the animation wasn't what it is today (but the animation on Toy Story is better than anything seen on the Simpsons, and I still wouldn't want to watch it) and the Bart and Lisa sub plot goes astray, but Homer's epic struggle to give up the beer is a television moment to remember. Classic stuff.
And the all time number one...
#3F05 King Size Homer
"Fat, don't fail me now!"
Anyone who's ever feared a company exercise program, or just looked for any good excuse to skip work, will love this episode. (Even if just because I told you to).
As you may have noticed, all of these (with the partial exception of #CABF14) are Homer-based episodes. Is anyone really suprised?