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Springfield's best

By Bill Koester
On February 19, 2012

  • Lindsey Whitcomb attempts to get possession of the ball in the beginning of PUC's game against Trinity Christian. Nathyn Gibson

Fox's animated classic "The Simpsons" broadcast its 500th episode on Feb. 19. To mark this milestone, here is a look back at the funniest adventures Springfield's most famous family has had over the years.

"Homer at the Bat," Season 3, 1992

An array of the then-most popular MLB players guest star and fall victim to a laughably absurd array of misfortune before the big softball game. This is a dream episode for any baseball fan, but it has enough humor for non-sports fans to enjoy as well.

"Bart's Friend Falls in Love," Season 3, 1992

Tons of great throw-away gags surround a well-written story of the relationship between Milhouse and Bart. The re-creation of the opening of "Raiders of the Lost Ark" is easily one of the top movie references the show has ever made.

"Treehouse of Horror V," Season 6, 1994

The episode begins with a spot-on parody of Stanley Kubrick's "The Shining," then follows it up with Homer catastrophically, but hilariously, altering the future via a time-traveling toaster. The final vignette, in which the Springfield Elementary faculty turns cannibal, is a bit of a letdown, but the first two easily make this the best of the yearly Halloween specials.

"Two Bad Neighbors," Season 7, 1996

This memorably goofy outing pits Homer and Bart against their new neighbor, former President George Bush, in a battle of pranks. This is not so much a political satire, but an act of revenge against the 41st commander-in-chief for speaking out against the show early in its run. Mission accomplished on the creator's part.

"Homer's Phobia," Season 8, 1997

The show tackles male insecurity head-on as Homer fears gay collectible shop owner John (voiced by cult filmmaker John Waters) has turned Bart onto men. This episode explored the issue of homosexuality with a level of humanity uncommon for a sitcom, while still keeping viewers laughing with memorable gags like the gay steel mill and the robot Santa Claus.

"Homer's Enemy," Season 8, 1997

Few characters in television history have made such a lasting impression in just one episode as Frank Grimes, the driven, uptight go-getter who gets paired with Homer at the nuclear power plant. Watching his sanity finally, fatally snap in the episode's final moments is both cathartic and hysterical.

"Viva Ned Flanders," Season 10, 1999

A decade before "The Hangover," Homer and usually-uptight neighbor Ned Flanders had their own memorable trip to Las Vegas, which culminated in the two chums marrying cocktail waitresses. This one churns out gag after gag at a breathless pace.

"Simpsons Bible Stories," Season 10, 1999

The Simpson family travels back to the Old Testament after falling asleep in church. This ribbing of the Good Book contains surprisingly little blasphemy while managing some big laughs for viewers who paid attention in Sunday school, and Homer's vision of Hell is classic.

"E-I-E-I-(Annoyed Grunt)," Season 11, 1999

Zorro, a dueling southern colonel, former president Jimmy Carter, murderous nicotine-addicted farm animals, and a new vegetable called Tomacco all play a part as the Simpson family gives farm life a try. Any one of these would have been funny as just a throw-away gag in any given episode, but stuffing them all into one takes brilliance.

"The Regina Monologues," Season 15, 2003

The show as a whole was starting to go downhill by this point, but the family's trip to England is undoubtedly their best excursion to another country to date. The gags are many and very funny, and the depiction of the UK actually comes close to reality at times.

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