Simpsons reviews analyzed

So, the Simpsons movie is out this weekend. Most critics are saying it’s good, but some dissent. Who to believe? Luckily, some reviewers are naming their favorite episodes in their reviews, from which we can get a sense of where their tastes lie. I’ve seen a number of different episodes mentioned, but two in particular were named multiple times. I am going to claim (based on very little evidence) that we can use this to weed out the inaccurate reviews. Consider the two episodes in question:
“Lisa the Vegetarian”
Cited by: A.O. Scott (NYTimes), Jake Coyle (Associated Press)
Reviewers’ opinions of the movie: Mixed. Scott is generally positive but says “‘The Simpsons,’ for all its mischief and iconoclasm, has become an institution, and that status has kept this film from taking too many chances,” and declares it only as good as an average episode. Coyle is somewhat harsher, calling it “too much a caricature of itself” and giving it an overall score of 2.5 stars.
Analysis: Appearing in season 7, just after the show’s golden age, this uneven and heavy-handed episode is a strange choice. The episode showcases Lisa at her most irritatingly preachy, and the jokes too often seem smug or self-righteous. There are some great moments in this episode, but its flaws keep it from reaching the top tier. Clearly, any critic who prefers “Lisa the Vegetarian” is not to be trusted.
“Marge vs. the Monorail”
Cited by: Kyle Smith (NY Post), Chris Vognar (Dallas Morning News) [this review now seems to have been edited for print, with the monorail reference trimmed out, but it was in the version originally posted online]
Reviewers’ opinions of the movie: Positive. Smith awards it three stars and Vognar gives it a B+. Neither critic puts at it at the level of the best Simpsons episodes, but they seem to have enjoyed it.
Analysis: Any true fan of The Simpsons will immediately break into song at the very mention of the word “monorail”. (I recall one Fark thread in which the news article had something to do with a monorail, and the first twenty comments consisted of various commenters reciting lines to the song, in order.) This Conan O’Brien-penned spoof of The Music Man is a classic episode from the peak of the series, with the right mix of absurdity, subtle commentary, and pop-culture synthesis. Plus, Leonard Nimoy! These critics have made a solid choice, indicating they can be relied upon to review the movie from an appropriate perspective.
Conclusion: The Simpsons Movie, as per the trustworthy reviews, will be highly entertaining but won’t rise to the brilliance of the TV show at its height. (Wait, I think I knew that already.)
Weekend discussion thread: What is the best Simpsons episode ever? (Hint: it’s “Treehouse of Horror IV”.)

11 thoughts on “Simpsons reviews analyzed

  1. Mason

    I think it’s been something like 14-15 years since I watched the show regularly. I still catch an occasional episode. I think I missed the monorail one because it sounds like I would have remembered it.
    I am definitely planning to see the movie and then when it comes to watching some of the show, maybe compiling some list of what the best episodes are would be a good way for me to see some selecta.
    An institution, indeed. Maggie is freaking legal now and the series shows no signs of stopping!

  2. Lemming

    Looking up THoH IV, I see that I saw the first two bits, but not the third.
    Also, I’ve heard so much about it, I must see “Monorail”, especially since I’m such a fan of The Music Man and Conan O’Brien.
    I’m effectively Simpsons-illiterate, but I’ll share some of my favorites:
    “Homer’s Barbershop Quartet” is possibly my favorite episode. Definitely the best ending to any Simpsons episode (that I’ve seen, I suppose).
    I really like either “The Principal and the Pauper” or “Sweet Seymour Skinner’s Baadasssss Song”, my memory of the two seems to have blurred them into one episode. Maybe what’s in my head is funnier than either?
    The Kodos v. Kang bit from THoH VII (I can still hear them saying, “What are you going to do, it’s a two party system”, and “Go ahead, throw your vote away”, every time elections roll around.)
    Worth mentioning is the South Park episode “Simpsons Already Did It”, where Professor Chaos (Butters) ends up aborting devious scheme after devious scheme because “they already did that on the Simpsons.” Eventually, he starts hallucinating, seeing the entirety of South Park drawn in the style of The Simpsons. Good times.
    Oh, and “Lisa the Vegetarian” sucks eggs. Or, you know, something else, if you find the exploitation of chickens for their eggs morally reprehensible.

  3. Arcane Gazebo

    That South Park episode is great, and I almost had a section for it in the original post because it was mentioned by more Simpsons Movie reviews than any single episode of The Simpsons.

  4. Josh

    The greatest seasons of the Simpsons are definitely Seasons 4 and 5. Were I to create an Uber-Season of The Simpsons, it would largely be a compilation of 4-5 star episodes in these two, including, from Season 4:
    Kamp Krusty
    A Streetcar Named Marge
    Homer’s Triple Bypass
    Marge vs. the Monorail
    Last Exit to Springfield
    Wacking Day
    Season 5:
    Cape Feare
    Homer Goes to College
    Treehouse of Horror IV
    Marge on the Lam
    Homer and Apu
    Deep Space Homer
    Burns’ Heir
    That’s only 16 episodes. So I’ll add in 6 more for the uber-season (standard 22 episodes) from outside those two:
    Flaming Moe’s (Season 3)
    Homer at the Bat (Season 3)
    Bart of Darkness (Season 6)
    Itchy & Scratchy Land (Season 6)
    Treehouse of Horror V (Season 6)
    You Only Move Twice (Season 8)
    That’s my perfect Simpsons box set.
    For best episode, I have to go with Cape Feare. But I would find any of the above episodes a satisfactory answer depending on personal taste.

  5. Mason

    I’ve definitely seen Flaming Moe’s and Homer at the Bat. (Homer at the Bat was the one with dancing Homer and the Albuquerque Isotopes, right? We now have a team of that name because of that…)
    I need to see that episode of South Park. That’s been on my list ever since Lemming told me about it.
    Lemming: My comment above had to be made. It was a moral imperative.

  6. Josh

    Sorry, Mason, you’re thinking of “Dancing Homer”… Homer at the Bat was a parody of The Natural, with ringers as guest stars including Mattingly, Ken Griffy Jr., Wade Boggs, Steve Sax…

  7. Mason

    Oh, then Homer at the Bat is the one that has Terry Cashman singing “Talkin’ Softball” in a parody of probably my favorite baseball song ever. I think I saw that one too and I know I have the song on my playlist.

  8. Stephanie

    I love both episodes you mentioned, but I must admit, Monorail is better than Vegetarian.
    The Simpsons movie is not a 2-hour episode. It is actually very good. There was a moment where I nearly cried. I laughed many times. It’s funny, poignant, beautiful, and more importantly, funny. It goes beyond the Simpsons’ usual schtick.
    I enjoyed it very much, and think it was well worth the price of admission, parking, and navigating downtown San Jose during the Gran Prix.

  9. smm

    gotta add “homer loves flanders” from season 5. at the time, i thought that T2 spoof sequence was the funniest thing ever.

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