Greatest TV Seasons: The Simpsons Season Four (1992-1993)
What is the greatest season of your favourite TV series? And what makes it stand out from those seasons around it? Every fan will have their own opinion of what is great and what isn't and here at The Digital Fix, our team of writers are going to complete the possibly impossible task of selecting what season of their favourite shows makes the cut above all others.
After previously tackling Matt Groening’s animated sci-fi comedy Futurama, this time out I’ll be looking at his original smash hit The Simpsons. An absolute bonafide cultural phenomenon, there can’t be many people in the world who haven’t heard of Springfield’s yellow-hued first family. Thirty-one seasons and counting, The Simpsons has spawned a blockbuster movie, several computer games, a ride at Universal Studios and more merchandise than you can shake a Krusty doll at.
Originally conceived as filler material for The Tracey Ullman Show, the misadventures of Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa and Maggie is now the longest-running primetime comedy and primetime animated series in television history. So with that in mind, how to pick the best season and then whittle that down to the greatest five episodes? Ay carumba indeed! Well for starters I happen to agree with the general consensus that the quality starts to dip at around about the tenth season mark. Excellent, as Mr Burns would say, although that still leaves us with over two hundred episodes of mostly comedy classics to choose from!
The Simpsons has become a bit like Friends; it’s a sort of background wallpaper that is always on one channel or another when you turn the TV on. Even the lesser episodes still have some great lines in them and most of the older episodes have become completely ingrained in popular culture.
So after much deliberating, I’ve decided to board the monorail from Ogdenville, head straight through North Haverbrook and onto season four. The show was really beginning to hit its stride at this point. The animation wasn't as crude as the opening seasons and Homer had started to sound much more like his normal self. The final choice has changed several times (Homer the Heretic, Duffless and Treehouse of Horror III almost made the cut) but I believe I’ve picked the five most cromulant episodes.
So prepare to embiggen your enjoyment as, finally, here are…
Season Four’s Five Greatest Episodes…
4.09 Mr. Plow
“Call Mr. Plow, that’s my name, that name again is Mr. Plow.”
Once you’ve seen Mr. Plow you’ll never get that jingle out of your head again. Ever. This classic episode sees Homer buy a new truck complete with a snow plow. Obviously he can’t afford it and so goes into the snow plowing business to raise some extra cash. All goes well until Barney sets up a rival business as the Plow King.
Two great and totally off the wall cameos add to the brilliance of Mr Plow, first Adam West shows up at the motor show dressed as Batman. He then launches a thousand memes as he dances the Batusi. Barney ruins the moment by saying so long Superman. Then singer Linda Ronstadt appears and performs the vocals for Barney's rival Plow King advert. The eventual making up of the two good drinking buddies is touching and effective, cementing a friendship that will pass the test of time.
4.12 Marge vs. the Monorail
The Simpsons has given us several classic songs during its run: Who Needs the Kwiki-mart?, (We do) The Stonecutters Song, Who Puts the Spring in Springfield? One of the absolute best is the monorail song that raises Marge vs. the Monorail to one of the greatest episodes of all. After coming into a considerable amount of money the town of Springfield vote on how to spend it, schuckster Lyle Lanley doesn’t take long to convince them to build a monorail. Lanley is voiced by the late great Phil Hartman who you may remember from voicing Troy McClure in such films as The Erotic Adventures of Hercules, Dial M For Murderousness and Lead Paint: Delicious But Deadly.
Marge is the only one sensible enough to challenge the idea of a monorail so obviously Homer gets a job as the main driver. Leonard Nimoy cameos as himself and it works fantastically well. It's incredible to think the role was originally offered to George Takei but he ultimately turned it down. His loss is our gain, as Nimoy lends his gravitas and distinctive tones to this tale of a town easily duped. It’s easy to see why this is Conan O’Brien’s favourite episode out of all the ones he wrote.
4.15 I Love Lisa
How could I not choo choo choose this episode? Laughs and poignancy abound when Lisa feels sorry for Ralph Wiggum and gives him a Valentines Day card. He promptly develops a crush on her. He subsequently gets his heart broken when Lisa rejects him at the recording of the Krusty the Clown 29th Anniversary Special show. There are a lot of heartwarming scenes in I Love Lisa. Ralph, always the butt of any joke, actually gets to show a much more sensitive side. We feel a real sympathy for him, especially when Bart freezes the frame so "you can actually pinpoint the second when his heart rips in half."
Ralph also puts in a powerhouse performance as George Washington in the Presidents Day play. Obviously at the end of the episode Ralph is back to his crayon eating, Wookie bending self. It's probably a reflection on me that my favourite gag of the episode is the Krusty the Clown pregnancy test that states "warning, may cause birth defects." Each to their own.
4.17 Last Exit To Springfield
Often lauded as one of the greatest episodes ever, Last Exit to Springfield finds The Simpsons writers at their very best. Smart and funny, this episode finds Homer becoming a highly unlikely union president and leading the nuclear plant workers in a strike over Mr Burns scrapping their dental plan. Homer bumbles his way through, more by luck than judgement and the jokes come thick and fast.
There are lots of parodies to enjoy, from The Grinch to The Godfather and even an emotional musical number as Lisa plays for the striking workers (Lenny then requests she plays Classical Gas). The denouement is fantastically understated as Mr Burns is forced to admit "Smithers, I'm beginning to think that Homer Simpson was not the brilliant tactician I thought he was." D'oh indeed.
4.20 Whacking Day
Whacking Day features two main plots that eventually come together. Bart is expelled after some tractor shenanigans and Marge decides to homeschool him. Meanwhile Springfield is celebrating its annual Whacking Day where the inhabitants beat snakes to death with clubs. Whacking Day features a lot of good character development particularly for Bart. Kicked out of school, he demonstrates a previously unseen intelligence. For once he is not just the shows antagonist. Using his research he shows the townsfolk that whacking day was just invented as a way to beat up the Irish.
Other highlights include Mayor Quimby being handed pre-whacked snakes and Barry White realising in disgust just what exactly it is he's been asked to open. Barry White then sings a song about the sexy slither of a lady snake. Because why not?
Season Four’s Greatest Moments
The monorail song! (Marge vs. the Monorail)
Homer: There’s a $10,000 bill in it for you.
Barney: Oh yeah? Which President is on it?
Homer: Ah, all of them. They’re having a party. Jimmy Carter is passed out on the couch.
Selma sticking her head in the supperware jar and scaring Jub-Jub. (Duffless)
Lisa: [Hallucinating] I am the lizard queen! (Selma’s Choice)
Mr. Burns: This is a thousand monkeys working at a thousand typewriters. Soon they’ll have written the greatest novel known to man. Let’s see… “it was the best of times, it was the BLURST of times?” You stupid monkey!
(Last Exit to Springfield)
Homer: Now, we play the waiting game..[pause] Ahh, the waiting game sucks. Let’s play Hungry Hungry Hippos!
Marge: [Marge opens a closet in the monorail] Homer, there's a family of opossums in here!
Homer: I call the big one Bitey.
(Marge vs. the Monorail)
Homer: When I was 17 I drank some very good beer. I drank some very good beer I purchased with a fake I.D. My name was Brian McGee. I stayed up listening to Queen, when I was 17.
What are your thoughts on The Simpsons season four? Do you agree with the episodes I’ve picked? What are your choices? Let us know in the comments below...