As we’ve said before, any show that goes on long enough to produce more than 100 episodes is bound to have a few dismal seasons. It’s hard to cite a more iconic sitcom than animated juggernaut The Simpsons, which has amassed over 30 seasons en route to being the longest-running primetime scripted TV show of all time. While the show has become a shell of its former self, fans often disagree on exactly where that tipping point is. The series “golden age” ends after season nine, but there’s actually a bevy of hidden gems in the following seasons—or at least the next five, to be exact. With every episode available on Disney+ and FXX, we’ve compiled some diamonds in the rough that deserve your rewatching.
Homer Simpson is the man of a million professions and here he embarks on one of his greatest, grease salesmen. In a classic example of the B plot being more engaging than the A plot, Homer and Bart run around town for many shortsighted attempts to acquire and sell grease (“Of course with grease!”) ultimately resulting in a standoff with Willie over Springfield Elementary’s grease traps. Meanwhile, Lisa Kudrow guest stars as a mature transfer student who encourages Lisa and the other girls in school to grow up too fast. DMY!
This will forever be known as the episode that gifted us with “Super Nintendo Chalmers.” Our main story follows Lisa’s guilt trip after uncharacteristically cheating on a school test resulting in some much needed school funding. While the school gets its first computer, Homer’s money saving plan to raise a tiny lobster until it’s large enough to eat is disrupted when he unexpectedly falls in love with it, naming him Pinchy. Come for the iconic Ralph lines, stay for cinder-block tetherball.
This episode teaches us the overlooked lesson of carelessly challenging strangers to a duel. Homer and the family are on the run after he glove-slaps an old southern gentleman, the type who says “suh!”, and must hide out on the old family farm. Here the iconic tomacco is born—half tomato, half tobacco, and tastes “like Grandma.” Plutonium shenanigans and farm animal nicotine-fueled fury deserve all the rewatching.
In this overlooked gem, Bart and the family rescue a horse, Duncan, from the carnival and turn him into a punk rock racing horse. This is one of the few non-Halloween episodes that veers off of semi-reality for a delightfully random fantasy element in the form of devious, elvish jockeys. This episode is better than a trip to the glue factory (“That’s a great tour”).
Tap-a-tap-tap-a! The kids dominate this episode as Lisa struggles at a dance academy run by a Shirley Temple-esque former child star while Bart and Milhouse camp out at the mall after hours and cause havoc. Little Vicky’s sugar-coated narcissism and apathy towards Lisa’s lack of talent (“Lisa’s bad dancing makes my feet sad”) steal the show with too many quote-worthy lines to list.
“Ow! My eye! I’m not supposed to get pudding in it!” It’s Lenny’s most iconic episode as he is frequently the victim of Homer’s pranks. After some financial woes, Homer gets hired by Mr. Burns to prank random victims much to Lisa’s dismay. We learn about boundaries, eyecare, and Smithers’ other hobbies. Plus a much appreciated, and extended, cameo by the Yes Guy. A larf is had.
Since the era of streaming, I’ve always had difficulty tracking this, the ultimate underrated episode, down because it feels more in step with the “golden era” seasons. The kids are snowed in at the school due to Skinner’s careless insistence of keeping the school open despite a recent blizzard. The kids stage a coup and overthrow Skinner’s rule. They gorge on relish and burn library books as Nibbles the hamster, Homer, and Flanders try to save the day. It’s a late, great, hall of fame episode.
No single episode has possibly had a bigger effect on the world than this one. Homer goes on a hunger strike after learning his beloved baseball team is secretly planning on relocating to Albuquerque. While their plans are put to the test by Homer, Cesar Romero, and some “new feelings brewing in” Duffman, the episode resulted in a real life Triple A baseball team renaming themselves as the Albuquerque Isotopes. Legendary.
The episode that answers the question, “what if Bart and Homer were handcuffed together for an extended time?” After stealing a cop car, the boys are sentenced to be tethered together by a no-nonsense judge. While the two start to appreciate each other a little more, the logistics of the situation naturally leads to some physical altercations and desperate attempts to free them from this cruel and unusual punishment.
One of my favorite genre of Simpsons episodes growing up is when they visit a different country. The show always delivers a Gatling gun of jokes when the Simpsons journey abroad. This time, the family flies to Brazil in an effort to track down an orphan boy Lisa is sponsoring. Sexy beaches, questionable children’s shows, and kidnapping all find a place here. Though plentiful, the winning gag will always be Bart smacking the “useless” Spanish he mistakenly learned out of his head on the plane ride over.
The kids are fighting. Bart and Lisa’s test scores force them into the same third grade classroom where emotions boil over during a field trip to the state capital. The episode starts out with a great, unrelated-to-the-main-plot cold open as the family wrap themselves around their new satellite TV (think Rick & Morty interdimensional cable).
This is the turning point in the last watchable season. On the other side of this is one or two decent episodes surrounded by what feels like a completely different show. Homer comes to realize, again, that he’s not a very attentive parent and hires a private investigator to find out more about Lisa. The two go on the run after they’re framed for vandalism by the shady P.I. It’s an episode full of good sight gags and Clancy Wiggum tomfoolery.
Olivia Cathcart is a comedian and writer.