We may earn a commission when you buy through links in our articles. Learn more.

Simpsons writer shares the four episodes that changed TV forever

It's undeniable that The Simpsons is one of the best TV series ever made, but one of the show's long-term writers thinks these four episodes changed the world.

The Simpsons family

Not a day goes by in my life when I don’t reference The Simpsons at least once. This can be in group chats, while chatting to my partner who’s never watched a single episode of The Simpsons in her life, or even in indignant work emails (I use bold red letters). Basically, what I’m saying is the best animated series of all time has changed my life.

But at least one of The Simpsons writers is convinced that the show (which will probably go down as one of the best TV series of all time) changed not just TV but the world forever. Yes, really. No, we’re not being hyperbolic, and we just called a show about a weird yellow family one of the best TV series ever made.

In his book Simpsons Confidential, Mike Reiss, who’s worked on the show since season 1 and was showrunner on season 4, claims that four episodes changed the world. Specifically, Reiss writes, in chapter eight, ‘Four Episodes that Changed the World (Kinda),’ that Like Father Like Clown, Homer at the Bat, Moaning Lisa, and Treehouse of Horror are the four episodes that changed everything. So what’s special about these episodes? Well, let us explain:

YouTube Thumbnail

Like Father Like Clown

In case you’ve forgotten, this is the episode where Bart and Lisa help Krusty reunite with his estranged father, Rabbi Krustofsky. Now it’s a beautiful episode for sure (even if it is just a rip-off of The Jazz Singer), but what makes it so special? Well, according to Reiss, it helped establish four precedents.

The first is that you could write Simpsons episodes about peripheral characters, the second is that religion can be funny, and the third is that doing proper research can make or break an episode. Specifically, Reiss writes that they got three real rabbis to consult on the episode so that Bart and Rabbi Krustofsky’s Talmudic debate made sense. Oh, and the fourth is, “If you want to make a touching episode, rip off a touching movie”.

YouTube Thumbnail

Homer At The Bat

‘The reason this episode, which sees Mr. Burns recruit nine professional baseball players for the Nuclear Power Plant’s softball team, is so seminal is pretty obvious.

It’s the one that taught the Simpsons’ writers that they could get any guest star they wanted and started the craze of celebrity voice cameos.  Homer at the Bat also showed the writers that they could get away with wackier adventures outside of the reality of the show.

YouTube Thumbnail

Moaning Lisa

“Moaning Lisa is the episode that first showed viewers the deep emotional reserves in The Simpsons,” writes Reiss. “That a cartoon had the ability to move you and even bum you out. Most of all, it showed that we weren’t just a show for boys.”

YouTube Thumbnail

Treehouse of Horror

The first Treehouse of Horror is Reiss’s final pick for Simpsons episodes that changed the world, and again, the reasons are pretty obvious. It taught the writers that once a year, they could get creative, adapting hitherto unthinkable stories, kill off the best Simpsons characters, and scare the audience.

Oh, Reiss also claims they learned a valuable lesson during the first Treehouse, “don’t be pretentious”. He’s talking, of course, about The Raven segment, which I must admit went over my head when I was a kid but I quite like these days.

So do you think Reiss is right about these four episodes changing the world, or is he just being a little LA about things, and what he means is they changed The Simpsons and television? We’ll let you decide.

If you love great TV, check out our list of the best comedy series, we’ve also got a guide breaking down everything you need to know about the Disenchantment season 5 release date. If you want more about The Simpsons, though, you should read our article about the joke in every episode you’ve definitely missed.