Monday, 20 February 2012

The Top Fifteen-To-Thirteen Simpsons Episodes OF ALL TIME


Well, at least the couch gag was a nice touch. As for the rest of the 500th episode… well, the above caption (which closed the episode) pretty much sums it up.

Anyway, on with happier times in Springfield. It’s the next part of our rundown! Of the best (etc.)!


15. Krusty Gets Kancelled

Season 4 episode 22
original airdate 13 May 1993

“Endut! Hoch Hech!”

With so many of the later episodes derailed by being centred so heavily on whatever celebrity has cropped up that week (usually introduced by Lisa gasping their name so we know who it is, which is a bit like Rory Bremners saying “I wonder what Tony Blairs would say about that” before doing an impression of Tony Blairs, i.e. annoying), it’s a bit of a revelation to rediscover the episode that kickstarted the whole “loads of celebrity guests in one episode” theme. Inspired by the success of season three’s Homer At The Bat, which featured appearances from a bunch of MLB big hitters (figuratively, presumably at least one of them was a pitcher), the production team decided to put together an episode featuring stars from the world of, well, everything.

It certainly helped that when it came to choosing guest stars, the production team aimed for the, er, stars (the stellar kind) (figuratively). All surviving ex-presidents were invited to appear, as were the Rolling Stones. Many of those initially contacted declined the offer (with the ‘Stones later appearing in piss-weak 2002 episode ‘How I Spent My Strummer Vacation’), though the majority of those taking part were as A-list as you could get in 1990s showbiz, such as Bette Midler, Liz Taylor, Luke Perry (hey, it was 1993), and in one of only a few post-retirement TV appearances, the great Johnny Carson.

It all helped that there was a brilliant plot for them all to get involved with (as opposed to, say, just turning up for no reason), with Krusty being usurped by infuriatingly popular puppet Gabbo (imagine TV Burp being replaced by Celebrity Juice), and more brilliant lines than you’d get in an entire series of most top-drawer sitcoms (“If I had a girlfriend, she’d kill me!” “And now, the Crazy Old Man singers.” “Hah, yeah. I slaughtered the Special Olympics!” “If this is anyone but Steve Allen, you’re stealing my bit!” “Eastern Europe’s top cartoon cat and mouse, Worker and Parasite.” “We want Chilly Willy!” “My face! My valuable face!” and so on).

FUN FACT! Along with inviting every living ex-President to take part, “very respectful but cute” scripts were penned for each potential former ‘leader of the free world’. That means scripts were written for (in reverse order of tenure) George H. W. Bush, Ronald Reagan, Jimmy Carter, Gerald Ford and Richard Nixon. It is now our ambition to become US President purely so we can demand the script written for Richard Nixon’s scenes be made public.


14. Homer the Heretic

Season 4 episode 3
original airdate 8 October 1992

“I’m all naked and wet!”

Ah, one of those episodes that helped propel the series from merely being “the best show currently on TV”, to the heights of “one of the best things ever broadcast in the history of always”. Taking what could have been a very sober topic – Homer doubting his faith – is played for laughs wonderfully, with Homer deciding to eschew Christianity more through endemic laziness than high-minded secularism.

So, it’s a great big expensive example of atheist showboating? Not a bit of it. While the church is lampooned throughout (“Don’t worry Lisa. If I’m wrong, I’ll decant on my deathbed”), the concept of God is treated with as much reverence as the show can muster, as indeed are all faiths. In a cheek-tweakingly enjoyable way, obvs (“be they Christian, Jew or… miscellaneous”).

We should probably stop mentioning this as a plus as it applies to every single episode on our list, but the tight wrapping up at the end of the episode – lesson learned by Homer (if only in a way that suits him), everything can go back to how it was - is what really seals this episode’s place here. Lesser writers may have thought the ending too preachy, but George Meyer (picked to write the episode by Al Jean and Mike Reiss in part because of his lapsed Catholic background) judged it all perfectly.

FUN FACT! This was the first Simpsons episode where the animation was produced by Film Roman. The earlier, slightly wobblier episodes had been put together by Klasky-Csupo, of Duckman and Rugrats fame (also, Stressed Eric, for the six people who remember Stressed Eric. No, wasn’t very, was it?).


13. Burns Verkaufen der Kraftwerk

Season 3 episode 11
original airdate 5 December 1991

“Does your money cheer you up when you’re feeling blue?” “Yes.” “Okay, bad example.”

Another episode that saw the series hit new heights, and the first proving that somewhere within the withered frame of C Montgomery Burns beats what might just be a human heart. Word gets out that Monty might be tiring of the nuclear energy business, meaning that a group of German venture capitalists swoop in and decide to run things in a caring, sharing, efficient European Union kinda way.

With the new regime in place, Homer’s position of safety inspector is soon under threat, meaning that the family are soon desperate for an increasingly restless Burns back in the boss’s chair. Though, Homer being Homer, he doesn’t really go about this in the best way possible.

For our money, ‘…Kraftwerk’ was a clear step up from the previous enjoyable, but still relatively tame episodes. The bite that was missing from episodes like ‘Mr Lisa Goes To Washington’ or ‘Radio Bart’ finally snaps into place here, with ruthless businessman Monty Burns selling out his most prized possession for a quick buck (well, hundred million bucks), as well as finally becoming a character so established there was plenty of enjoyment to be had from seeing him as a fish out of water, Homer instinctively acting against his own best interests more entertainingly than he’d done before, Smithers gamely adapting to his future employers with a cheery resignation, the other power plant employees proving that they’re only a few notches lower than Homer on the dumbness scale after all.

All that, plus this marked the point where great episodes started to outnumber the episodes that were merely good, and if you ask us, the start of the real Simpsons Golden Age.

FUN FACT! Originally, the writers intended the new owners of the plant to be Japanese, but were wary of being too clichéd. As it was, the portrayal of the German businessmen in this episode was probably about as affectionate a portrayal of a national stereotype as the series would get.

(If this were a documentary on The Simpsons, this is where a clip of Monty Burns mockingly warbling “ooh, don’t let the Germans come after me!” would be played. You’ll just have to imagine it.)

More tomorrow, as we get into the top non-baker’s-dozen. Will ‘Dude, Where’s My Ranch?’ make the cut? Only time will tell.


(No. No, it won’t make the cut.)


Sunday, 19 February 2012

The Simpsons 500th Episode Spectacular: The Top 20 Simpsons Episodes Ever! (Part One)


Hi, I’m BrokenTV’s Mark X. You may remember me from such things as “bitching about 10 O’Clock Live on Twitter” and “writing a television blog that was quite good for three weeks in 2007”.

So, the 500th episode of The Simpsons airs in the USA tonight. PREDICTION: it’ll be a hugely disappointing episode, only it’ll have more guest stars than usual, and we’ll have completely forgotten what happened in it about three days after watching it. No matter what happens in it (LeBron James and Skrillex turn up to help Homer get a spot on X Factor USA or something probably), it’ll never dilute the majesty of classic-era Simpsons.

Join us now* as we spend a week – A WHOLE WEEK - looking at the history of the greatest American comedy series of all time. First up (in several parts) THE TWENTY BEST SIMPSONS EPISODES OF ALL TIME EVER. Later on, we’ll provide THE DEFINITIVE GUIDE TO WHICH SEASON OF THE SIMPSONS IS BEST, and to round off, EVERY SINGLE EPISODE SCORED OUT OF TEN. And some other stuff too, if we think of and get around to it.

(*And at various times throughout said week.)




20. Treehouse of Horror III

Season 4 episode 5
original airdate 29 October 1992

“Where d’you get all that money, Grandpa?” “The government. I didn’t earn it, I don’t need it, but if they miss one payment, I’ll rise hell!”

Talking Krusty doll, King Homer, and the one with all the zombies. Three great segments, with not a dud amongst them. So packed with brilliant lines, we’re slightly regretting using that one up there to mark it. But hey, we’ve transcribed it now. Almost accurately, too.

This ‘House episode is so goshdarned great, a plot development that took up a whole episode in a later episode (Patty coming out of the closet) was actually given away thirteen years earlier, with her reacting to a naked doll-fleeing Homer dashing through the kitchen with the comment “well, there goes the last lingering threat of my heterosexuality”. It was an episode with a number of firsts in fact, such as the first glimpse of Marge’s father (fleetingly), the first Treehouse spoof of a specific film (King Kong – a far cry from the awful cut-n-paste jobs made for more recent Treehouses), and indeed, we think the first direct mention of Smithers’ sexuality (“Well, I think women and seamen should not mix.”).

FUN FACT! The King Homer segment was the longest continuous monochrome segment the show had seen at that point, leading Simpsons writer Al Jean to worry that some viewers may be concerned that the colour control on their TV sets had gone awry.


19. Sideshow Bob Roberts

Season 6 episode 5
original airdate 9 October 1994

“And we remind you, there is a one per cent margin of error."

Mmm, that’s good satire. Unlike, say, the episode with the Enron rollercoaster ride that ended with a voiceover smugly announcing, er, “mmm, that’s good satire”. Sideshow Bob gets released from prison after lobbying by right-wing talk radio host Birch Barlow and runs for office. First sight (we think) of the Republican Party Headquarters-slash-Lair-Of-Doom, the first appearance of talk show host Birch Barlow (who crops up in a few episodes from the last few years), and sadly the only appearance of the Maaaatlock Expressway.

What with this being the first time the show concentrated so heavily on political satire – for a show that was so phenomenally popular around the world – it’s commendable how accessible it all is for people who don’t know a caucus from a cactus. Despite being focused on the Republicans, the Democrats don’t get off lightly either, with Mayor Quimby showing how desperately frantic he is to curry favour with anyone (“If you were running for President, he’d vote for you”), despite being largely incompetent. Though as his campaign commercial tells us, it’s not his fault the stadium collapsed.

All deftly done, with a great payoff to boot. What could have been preachy and cloying (as would be seen in later episodes like “E Pluribus Wiggum” or “Politically Inept, with Homer Simpson”) turned out to be perfectly judged, and every bit as enjoyable if you don’t care about satire. In short, what the writers of 10 O’Clock Live wrongly imagine the sketches they write for Jimmy Carr are like.

FUN FACT! A rare example of a Simpsons episode that didn’t include a couch gag when first broadcast. On most repeat showings, couch gags from other episodes are edited into the title sequence.


18. A Fish Called Selma

Season 7 episode 19
original airdate 24 March 1996


“Please, don’t smoke in our restaurant. We don’t serve contemporary cuisine in your lungs.”

For such an unlikeable character, it’s quite interesting how many Selma-centred episodes are amongst the best the show has seen. Prime example: this episode where Miss Bouvier becomes Mrs McClure, unbeknownst to her that the star of Give My Remains To Broadway is only in it for the sake of his career.

Possibly the finest Simpsons moment for the tragically late Phil Hartman, with his Troy McClure character stepping up from his previously occasional short scenes wonderfully.

FUN FACT! Due to the slow talking speed of Troy and Selma, the episode's audio track ended up overrunning by several minutes. This meant that multiple scenes had to be cut, including Troy's bachelor party, and Jeff Goldblum had to re-record his dialogue as McClure’s agent at a faster pace in order to get the episode’s duration down to just under 23 minutes.



17. Mother Simpson

Season 7 episode 8
original airdate 19 November 1995

“Do I know what rhetorical means?”

The first Simpsons episode written by Cleveland Show co-creator Richard Appel, and he set the bar remarkably high for himself. After faking his own death to avoid working on a Saturday, Homer is reunited with his mother for the first time in 27 years.

So, possibly the most honest and touching a Simpsons episode would get for years, and it opened with (what was assumed to be) the body of the main character being fatally sucked into a turbine. From that point on, things got even more cynical, with the local electric company cutting off the family’s power supply due to Homer’s insistence on sticking with his charade (“the juice stays off until you get a job or a generator… oh, and my deepest sympathies”). That’s until Homer stumbles across his ma, and we’re onto one of the most memorable plots from the entire series.

One thing we’ve always liked about The Simpsons is the way that despite Springfield being packed with so many different characters, so many big parts of the family’s life are left deliberately underfilled. Whatever happened to Marge’s father has never been explored, with him only having a couple of lines throughout the entire run of the show (and those only in a previously-repressed memory uncovered by Marge after counselling). The neighbours on the other side of the Simpson residence have only made fleeting appearances in episodes aside from New Kid On The Block, and for all we know the house opposite 742 Evergreen Terrace is still occupied by Gerald Ford. And yet, when we DO get to find out these nuggets of information, it only serves to highlight what a rare treat that kind of thing is, and of such episodes (Fear Of Flying, HOMЯ, D'oh-in in the Wind), this is easily the best.

FUN FACT! The final word spoken by Mona Simpson in the episode was recorded by Pamela Hayden instead of Glenn Close, because Close hadn’t been able to say “d’oh!” properly.

FUN FACT 2! The Spiro Agnew alarm clock featured in one of the flashback scenes was a real item:


“I guess he must work there or something.” (Yes, we know it’s a different episode.)



16. Bart's Comet

Season 6 episode 14
original airdate 5 February 1995

“It’s a silent testament to the never give up and never think things out spirit of our citizens.”

An episode that seems simple enough – Bart pulls a prank on Skinner, gets punished but subsequently famous in a field of science that Skinner adores. From there however, we’re onto an episode that shows the population of Springfield at their very best. By which we mean “selfish, disorganised and idiotic”. Yay!

The plot: Bart discovers a comet that astrologers soon discover is about to slam into the town. Chaos and hilarity ensue. And, best of all, a wonderful moment that sees Homer make a selfless charitable act without having a lengthy clumsy build-up to it beforehand. Something that the show really should have seen more of, if we’re honest. (Yes, we know it came just after he’d acted like a massive arsehole, shush.)

“Now, let’s burn down the observatory so this’ll never happen again!”

Most charmingly mid-1990s moment: one of Lisa’s nerdish friends being nicknamed ‘Email’. Because, of course, the only people who would use email are huge geekwads.

FUN FACT! Kent Brockman's pre-annihilation, what-the-hell list of outed celebrities is comprised of the show's production staff, who had to sign legal agreements that they would not sue their own show.




Okay, that’ll do for now. Next time on BrokenTV: numbers 15 to 11 on our countdown. Don’t forget to tune in tomorrow at, er, when we’ve written it. Will ‘Saddlesore Galactica’ be in there? We’re not telling!

(No. No, it won’t.)


Thursday, 16 February 2012

Tweet Of The Day






Sunday, 5 February 2012

It’s Superbowl Sunday So Here Are Ten Superb Owls (Five Super Bowl XLVI Commercials)

(Yes, we know everyone on Twitter has made weak “Superb Owl” jokes today. We did that joke on Twitter three years ago though, so we are best.)

NUMBER SIX: The Owl From The BBC Micro ‘B’


Fluttering into prominence in December 1981, Alan The Acornsoft Owl was an instant hit in computer labs around Thatcher’s Britain. Named in honour of former QPR, Crystal Palace, Charlton and Brighton midfield general Alan Mullery, there’s a long and complicated history behind the dotmatrixed hooter’s genesis.



(Reader’s voice: “Buh?”) That’s right. the only reason anyone could possibly have for watching the Super Bowl – the adverts – can now be done hours earlier, without having to stay up until a billion clock in the morning and negotiating dodgy video streaming sites that are so blocky they may as well have been displayed on a BBC Micro Model ‘B’. All on YouTube, which is such a fantastic thing we hardly even mind that YouTube have now removed the excellent Johnny Carson video we uploaded to it several years ago for ‘copyright infringement’.

First up, this:


Wait, not another Terminator movie? Well, as long as McG’s not bloody directing it this time.


Oh shit! Is it FALLOUT 4? Holy crap, it’s FALLOUT 4! We’re only now finishing up the DLC on Fallout 3, this is going to be AWESOME.


Aah, it’s about the Mayans. So, what is this advert actually for? A new Michael Bay film? Volcano insurance? What?


It’s for whatever the US equivalent of a Chelsea Tractor is. Namely a Chevy Silverado, which is the kind of thing Proper Men drive. Hey, nothing says “I am comfortable with my genitals” like spending about $130 a week on petrol. Erm, gasoline.


Anyway, back to the ad. Truck Drivin’ Guy trundles his way through what’s left of the freeway, and meets up with his buds. Well, most of them. Not the one who drives… a certain rival type of car. D’ya know what? That’s something we’ve always liked about American TV commercials, that they’re not afraid to name their rivals as they’re pissing on their wailing faces. Not for them the sniggering “we’re better than ‘them lot’” you might get in British ads, as anyone who saw Pepsi’s infamous, swiftly-pulled and entirely just-made-up-by-us commercial from Superbowl XVI (just the words COKE IS FUCKING SHIT flashing on screen in Helvetica Bold for 150 seconds) will attest.

BONUS FACT: Ford have officially asked Chevrolet to pull this advert. Good luck with that.



You know films that everyone has seen and makes endless references to but which you’ve never actually seen so you only really get the references from the times Family Guy riffed on it? Well, for us, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off is one of those films.


As a result, lots of this is probably searingly clever and well-observed, but we don’t know it. This advert for the Honda CR-V sees Matthew Broderick calling his agent to “phone in sick” for the day, so he can slope off an embark on lots of Honda CR-V-related tomfoolery.


Partly involving visiting funfairs and pretending to be a dinosaur.

All very good, we’re sure. Though we’d prefer if it’d all been heavily based on WarGames, because we’ve seen that. We’ve also seen Godzilla, but, yeah, y’know.


Not a full ad, but rather a teaser for Volkswagen’s biggie.


In a BROKENTV EXCLUSIVE we’ve found a leaked version of the full commercial. And here it is. Don’t tell The Man.


Uh-oh. This advert for the ‘reinvented’ Toyota Camry (YES WE KNOW ITS ANOTHER CAR ADVERT. Hey, at least it’s not the sodding Go Daddy advert, though eh?) seems gallingly formulaic at first. Geek Chap arrives home with groceries…


Only to find he’s now somehow the owner of a ‘reinvented couch’…


Yep, looks like it’s going to be a fuckawful Lynx advert, doesn’t it? However, Geek Chap doesn’t look too impressed, until the voiceover announces that it also comes in ‘male’.


Ah, them The Gays, eh? Luckily, it gets better from there, taking in other great new inventions such a pizza curtains, robot time travelling non-pooping babies and crime-fighting potplants.


All in all, not quite as good as an infomercial of Reeves and Mortimer products, but not too far off. And only a shot of the expensive vehicle right at the start and right at the end, which is the way car adverts should be.



Jerry Seinfeld hasn’t really got a great record of appearing in entertaining television commercials. There was the Microsoft advert that riffed on the idea of Bill Gates ‘doing’ comedy in pretty much the most joy-free manner imaginable. There were the American Express commercials where Jerry appeared with Superman (voiced by Patrick Warburton doing his Joe Swanson voice), which again were pretty much laugh-free, though presumably a bit of a fantasy come true for J Seinfeld.

This commercial however – YES IT’S FOR ANOTHER BLOODY CAR – is on much safer ground.


See? The plot, such as it is, sees Jerry beaten to the punch on buying the first Anuncio Acura available on American soil. In order to get it, he makes the new owner of the car a number of offers he’ll hopefully find impossible to refuse. These range from slipping him twenty bucks, offering to tell dirty limericks at family gatherings, dancing holographic monkeys, all the regulars you’d expect.


And so on, and so on, right up until the point where the plan very nearly comes off. Until, well, yeah. Best just imagine the whole payoff didn’t really happen, but still! Seinfeld doing something much better than The Marriage Ref!


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