The 25 Best Simpsons Episodes Ranked

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Written By Sedoso Feb

What makes a perfect episode of “The Simpsons”? Is it classic characters getting up to hilarious hijinks? Great guest stars? Or maybe, just maybe, the answer is “A full-fledged parody of ‘The Music Man.'” Penned by none other than Conan O’Brien, “Marge vs. the Monorail” is “The Simpsons” at its very best — a showcase for the main cast, a perfect encapsulation of the town of Springfield, and a great example of how the series could tell a great, compact story while also being unafraid to get a little weird. It was also the beginning of the show changing into something bigger than it had ever been before.

“For me as a director, ‘Marge vs. The Monorail’ was a real turning point, because it was the beginning of these big spectacle episodes,” said the episode’s director, Rich Moore. “We had a musical number every now and then, but the stories had been more intimate. Very domestic and around the house. Here comes this one that has a full-blown disaster movie ending.”

After Springfield comes into some money (thanks to a hefty fine leveled at Mr. Burns for dumping nuclear waste), the town must decide how to spend the dough. Marge Simpson, ever the level-headed buzzkill, suggests using the cash to fix the town’s horribly dilapidated Main Street. But the people of Springfield are notoriously dumb and gullible, and when conman Lyle Lanley (Phil Hartman, arguably the best guest star the show ever had) shows up and suggests spending the fortune on a monorail, the Springfieldians burst into song at the idea (“Well, sir, there’s nothing on earth like a genuine, bona fide, electrified, six-car monorail!”). The monorail is, of course, a con job, with Lanley planning to take the cash and run (which he does, although he eventually meets his comeuppance).

Homer lands a job as the monorail’s conductor — or “the best monothingy guy there ever was,” as he puts it later — but the maiden voyage is doomed, with the monorail unable to stop, bulleting around Springfield at a killer speed. It’s up to Marge, a scientist, and Leonard Nimoy (“You didn’t do anything!” “Didn’t I?”) to try and save the day — and Homer is eventually the hero of the moment. The episode feels like a feature film packed into a tight half-hour, complete with some of the funniest bits the show has ever unleashed (“Homer, there’s a family of possums in here!” “I call the big one Bitey.”) It all caps off with a perfect epilogue wherein Marge swears the town of Springfield never succumbed to folly again … except for the Popsicle stick skyscraper … and the 50-foot magnifying glass … and that escalator to nowhere. (Chris Evangelista)

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