On Sunday night, Fox will air the 500th episode of The Simpsons. The show is already the longest running scripted primetime series in American television history. To celebrate, Voice looks back at the other milestone episodes of the show.
#1: “Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire” (Dec. 17, 1989, Season 1) – With no Christmas bonus, Homer has no money to buy presents for the family. Hoping to win some money at the dog track, he instead adopts one of the racers, Santa’s Little Helper, and the family has a wonderful Christmas.
The first episode has some weird animation that feels out of place with the rest of the series, but it introduces the memorable characters perfectly. The pilot also has the first instance of what would be one of the most recurring themes of the show: Homer may not do everything right, but his heart is in the right place and he truly cares for his family.
#100: “Sweet Seymour Skinner’s Baadasssss Song” (April 28, 1994, Season 5) – Principal Skinner is fired after Santa’s Little Helper (who Bart brought for show and tell) escapes into the air ducts and causes chaos. As Bart feels responsible for this, he does everything he can to get Skinner his job back, even though the two rarely get along.
While Bart may not seem the type to help the principal of his school, his guilt feelings seem unexpectedly genuine. The episode is probably the best at defining the mutual respect that Bart and Skinner ultimately have for each other, a storyline that the series would go back to repeatedly, rarely with the level of success this episode achieves.
#200: “Trash of the Titans” (April 26, 1998, Season 9) – Homer runs for and wins the job of Sanitation Commissioner, making a lot of crazy promises of how clean he will make Springfield. After he blows through the office’s budget in one month, he is forced to find new ways to pay for the great service the department provides.
Even though the episode clearly has a message of environmentalism, it never feels preachy. U2 has a very funny guest appearance, and the episode features one of the show’s most memorable musical numbers.
#300: “Barting Over” (Feb. 16, 2003, Season 14) – Bart becomes an emancipated minor after discovering he starred in commercials as a baby, and that Homer has squandered all of his son’s earnings. Bart leaves and gets his own place, then becomes friends with Tony Hawk. Homer works hard and eventually regains his son’s trust.
This episode falls into one of the series’ longest running problems: an over reliance on guest stars in plots that don’t really make any sense. Bart hangs out with Tony Hawk because they could get Tony Hawk on the show, not because it made any sense in a narrative.
#400: “You Kent Always Say What You Want” (May 20, 2007, Season 18) – News anchor Kent Brockman is fired after cursing on the air, so he posts a web video the next day decrying the federal regulations on TV. He is quickly given his job back after other media members fear he will reveal more secrets about television.
One of the show’s more political episodes, this episode takes a number of direct shots at the FCC and the Fox network and not in a very satirical way. Some of the political humor seems obvious, and therefore falls flat, but the ending, jokingly censored, makes up for any unfunny moments.
The Simpsons is currently in its 23rd season, and has been renewed for at least two more. While it may have lost the edge it had in the beginning, its effect on popular culture will never be forgotten, and 500 episodes is an incredible achievement for any series, especially an animated one.