No show is without its weaker episodes, and The Simpsons is no exception. With a bucket list of 400 episodes, there's bound to be quite a few bad eggs in there. And while I'm patient enough to label only 30 or so of these episodes as bad, the topmost worst ones really do go off the scale in terms of how bad they are. So with as little swearing and slander as possible, I present to you my personal Top 20 Worst Episodes of The Simpsons.
DISCLAIMER: I must emphasise again that I'm only going to count episodes from Season 18 and backward, as I consider only those canon. So don't expect infamous stinkers like "Lisa Goes Gaga" or "Love is a Many Strangled Thing." (But if I did count them, they probably would make the list.)
#20 - Worst Episode Ever ~ Season 12, Episode 11
Ironic, isn't it? This is definitely my most personal choice of the list. Objectively, this episode isn't terrible, or even really that bad. The reason why I put it on the list though is because it stars my three most despised characters of the entire show. Comic Book Guy and Agnes Skinner are not compelling characters and in fact they are just unlikeable people. So I'm really uninterested in seeing a love story between these two. Yes, I know it's supposed to be played for laughs, but I just never found this kind of romance plot amusing, and I certainly did not want to see the intimacies of their relationship (I did not want to see them making out in bed). As if that's not enough, Milhouse and Bart look after Comic Book Guy's store while he's away, and this is just another example of why I can't stand Milhouse. Bart is OK, but Milhouse is just too much of an annoying loser for me to put up with him. Overall, again, it's not a bad episode technically, but I have no desire to watch it again.
#19 - Little Big Girl (or as I like to call it "Barty, You Can Drive My Car") ~ Season 16, Episode 12
Season 18 is home to a few... iffy premises that gave me a really bad impression. And while there were a few surprisingly OK or even good ones like "Rome-old & Juli-eh" or "Ice Cream of Margie", this episode is as bad as it sounds. Although I misconstrued the premise as "Bart gets a teenage girl pregnant", the actual plot is "Bart gets the legal right to drive and hooks up with an older girl whom later reveals she is pregnant with someone else's child". While less appalling, it's still not really a good premise. This episode as a whole is actually not repulsive or lowbrow as I expected it to be, but it's just... well... honestly I don't know how to describe it. It's not funny, but at the same time it's not unfunny, you feel me? I think the best word to describe it is "weird". And not in a good way. By the end of the episode, I was like "...What?" I just don't know what this episode wanted me to feel, it's quite an unpleasant enigma. I'd say watch it to see what I mean, but I advise against it, because trying to understand it is definitely a waste of time.
#18 - Three Men and a Comic Book ~ Season 2, Episode 21
Season 2 was surprisingly very disappointing. Whereas Season 1 stood the test of time for the most part, Season 2 is the bland and boring collection of early episodes that a lot of people say have not aged well. A couple of these are just downright unpleasant to watch, like this one. The premise is simple; Bart sees a comic book he really wants, and so he works hard to earn money to get it. But when that's not enough, he shares his profits with Milhouse and Martin to buy the book. Sounds nice, but in an attempt to be subversive, this episode tries to show how hard work isn't rewarding and how kids can't share. There's certainly merit to that idea, but the way this episode executes it, it more or less just meanders about its premise. Bart's hard work for Mrs. Glick is not only very unpleasant to watch, but with how little he's rewarded, it may encourage kids to not work hard to earn anything, which is a bad lesson to teach. And when he shares his money with Milhouse and Martin to buy the comic, there's a $5 remainder, exactly the amount of money left that Bart earned from the 2nd Act of the episode. So in other words, the 2nd Act was not only unappealing, it was entirely pointless. The actual plot of Bart, Milhouse and Martin sharing the comic doesn't come until 2/3 of the way into the episode, which is just bad writing. Bart's endeavour doesn't seem worth it anyway, since Radioactive Man is a very boring superhero. Itchy & Scratchy may have a lot of charm, but Radioactive Man is just Superman but with The Hulk's origin story. Yawn.
#17 - A Star is Torn (or as I like to call it "Sing Your 'A' Game") ~ Season 16, Episode 18
Each Simpson has had at least one bad episode to their name (except for Maggie of course). Not just bad for how it's written, but for how each relative Simpson is portrayed in a negative light. And yet I was hoping I wouldn't come across an episode that was bad solely because of Homer. Despite how much of a jerk he can be, he still remains to be a lovable oaf who's also a doting father (for the most part). Alas, this episode really made me cringe with how unfunny Homer acts in this one. Lisa enters a singing competition, and Homer becomes her manager. But Homer's actions to support her by bullying other staff members are too violent and mean, so he definitely feels out-of-character for this story. I get that he behaviour is too exaggerated to support her for a simple singing competition, but it goes too far, even for us. So Lisa appropriately fires him, which only makes him upset and bitter. It's just an ugly interpretation of Homer's personality, and it really put me off watching this episode again. To quote Bart in this episode: "Hell, I'll rather go shoe shopping."
#16 - Wild Barts Can't Be Broken ~ Season 10, Episode 11
I hated this episode as a kid for how kids are picked on and unfairly forced into curfew by the adults. As an adult, I still hate this episode, for how kids are picked on and unfairly forced into curfew by the adults. It's a very one-sided conflict where the adults do nothing in this episode but rag on about how kids are nothing but troublemakers and that they never learn... even though they didn't do anything (in this episode at least). The conflict is set into motion after Homer and his buddies trash the school in a drunken bender, and the blame is immediately set onto all the children of Springfield. And seeing Homer just rub it in Bart and Lisa's face about how much of pests they are when this whole mess is his fault is just aggravating to watch. It'd be nice if Homer's drunken romp was exposed, or at least punished independently by the kids as a means of catharsis, but that never happens. Instead what follows suit is adults and kids just bickering at each other about how much they can't stand one another. Very unintelligent commentary with a terrible song to boot.
#15 - The Parent Rap ~ Season 13, Episode 2
I thought I would hate this episode specifically because of Judge Constance Harm, the one-off character introduced in this episode played by Jane Kaczmarek. I don't know if it's the character or the actress, but My God, Constance is just such an unappealing character. I get that she's meant to be a kind of bully who exaggerates discipline on parents. But she's so incredibly unfunny and unlikeable to watch, she sticks out like a sore thumb in the Simpsons universe. Unlike Mr. Burns or Nelson Muntz who are enjoyable for how evil or for how bullying they are, Constance's straight-faced serious personality is an immediate buzzkill for any jokes revolving her scenes. But it's not just her; no one in this episode is a likeable character. Bart commits grand theft auto and expects to get off scot-free, and when Homer and Marge are taking the punishment, he just sits back and watches TV, only eventually taking responsibility. Homer's childishness is just annoying in this episode, and of course he ends up destroying Constance's houseboat. Oh yeah, and he also nearly MURDERS her, by throwing a cinderblock at her head! Like Christ, if Constance didn't duck at that last second, she would definitely be dead. Homer would've ended up killing a strict authority figure. That's just so wrong on so many levels. Even Marge is not without sin. She takes a stance against Constance and refuses to call herself a bad parent... even though she agreed to have sex with Homer in front of Bart. Never mind how Homer somehow pressured Marge into doing it, the fact is she eventually agreed to it. Again, that's just not something Marge would or should do, and is wrong on so many levels. Terrible episode with an all-around unlikeable cast.
#14 - Simpson and Delilah ~ Season 2, Episode 2
Season 2 is honestly one of the weakest seasons in Simpsons history because most of the episodes are just bland and boring. It tries to be more grounded and slow-paced with its episodes, but this just takes away the unique charm the Simpsons had. And this episode is the worst of those bland and boring episodes. Simpson and Delilah isn't just bad because the jokes don't work, it's bad because I don't think there are any jokes in it, period. I'm seriously trying to remember a line or a gag that was meant to be funny, but I can't even think of one moment where this episode attempted one. It's all mostly serious and as a result, it's just very, very boring. Homer moving up in the work business due to finally having hair and then dropping back down certainly has dramatic weight to it, but without comedy to synchronise with it like all its other episodes, this one just ends up being a downpour. It's even worse when you consider that it might be offensive to bald people. You might laugh at that last statement, but honestly if I was a bald man watching this, I would not be happy.
When Homer loses his hair just in time to present a big speech to his peers, his assistant Karl writes a professionally well-written one for him in advance and bolsters his confidence by saying "it was never the hair". But he's wrong. When Homer delivers the speech, everyone leaves the auditorium and pays no attention to him, solely because he doesn't have hair. One person even explicitly states this. ...That's just mean. It's not even satirical; who would refuse to listen to a person just because he's bald? That's just terrible writing. Nonsensical when you consider Mr. Burns is the intimidating founder and yet he's bald, and offensive when you replace the word "bald" in this episode's theme with the word "fat", or "gay", or "black". I might be stepping on people's toes here, but that's what I'm saying. This episode is inadvertently very mean and offensive, and on top of that; very, very boring.
#13 - You Kent Always Say What You Want ~ Season 18, Episode 22
Since I consider the first 18 seasons of the show canon, that technically means I consider this episode to be the final episode of the series. And boy what a letdown it is. One thing I will say I really like about each 100th Episode - and furthermore why I consider the first 18 seasons canon - is that each 100th Episode stars a different member of the Simpson family (again, not including Maggie). The 100th Episode was about Bart becoming best friends with Principal Skinner and helping him get his job back. The 200th Episode was about Homer becoming a sanitation commissioner. The 300th Episode was about Marge getting muscular (yes, really). So naturally the 400th and last Episode has to be about Lis- Kent Brockman.
...What? Seriously?! We're basing the 400th Episode, the 20th Anniversary Special on Kent Brockman?! That background character who has literally never had an episode about him until now? REALLY?! Well to be fair, Lisa does get a major say in this episode, but not by much. The plot isn't even original. It's just the same as the 100th Episode, but with Lisa and Kent Brockman instead of Bart and Principal Skinner. But regardless, this episode wants to make a point about the corruption in the media. And who better to cast Lisa as the political figure, with Kent Brockman as the whistleblower.
So what point do they make? ...That TV often lies to you. ......Bravo, writers. I didn't already know that through all the many episodes from other shows and even this show. Honestly, this episode is just pathetic. It tries to make a point, but is too scared to really break any ground or satirise the medium. And that's the glaring sign if anything that this show is now a shell of its former self. Before, it broke traditions and unveiled some of the ugliness of society in humorous and clever ways. But this episode doesn't even bother trying and instead just wastes time with dentist trips and Marge running. What a terrible 100th Episode for Lisa and a terrible end to this series.
#12 - The Way We Weren't ~ Season 15, Episode 10
Normally, I wouldn't immediately say no to a bad idea. Experience has taught me that even ideas or premises that sound iffy or bad can sometimes end up being good, based on its execution. But this is one of those ideas where I say "No. This was a terrible idea. They should never have attempted this."
Remember "The Way We Was"? That lovely flashback that shows how Homer and Marge met for the first time and fell in love in a very grounded and identifiable way? Well turns out that's not how they first met. They first met as kids in this episode, not knowing each other's true identities, and got separated in the most wacky situation possible. ...Thanks writers. Thanks for making this episode that no one asked for or, more importantly, wanted. Thanks for making an episode that exists solely to make 'The Way We Was' less special. Seriously, this episode has no value apart from that. It's not that funny, and Homer and Marge meeting each other as kids doesn't change a thing about their relationship. Immediately after this episode, they forget about this whole flashback, as will anyone who watches this.
#11 - G.I.D'oh ~ Season 18, Episode 5
I'll admit I can never see myself joining the army or even be interested enough to consider it. And I'm aware of the downsides to it, like the biggest one being possibly dying while fighting other armies. And I think we could all do without wars as a lot of you might agree. But I of course still wholeheartedly respect anyone who has dedicated their life to being a soldier, as they are risking their lives just to protect the freedoms and ideals of their respective countries. G.I.D'oh on the other hand portrays their American army as a bunch of morons. That they are not only lowbrow in lying to children about the fun of war, but that they are also incompetent and gun crazy. Now yes, being a soldier certainly isn't peaches and daisies, and there most likely has been examples of army officials or soldiers acting shady or out-of-line. But this episode isn't portraying the incompetency of just this army branch, or even by Homer's actions, they're making it seem like armies in general are just incompetent. When Homer joins the army and gets selected for being a live target for practice runs, he and his comrades escape into Springfield and the army chases after them; destroying a good portion of the city and putting its residents in clear danger, while also undeniably sacrificing hundreds of thousands of dollars on just this silly practice run. It's utterly embarrassing the way they depict the army in this episode, and while there's not a lot about the army that I know if this is true or not, I don't think knowing otherwise would make this episode any better.
#10 - Million Dollar Abie ~ Season 17, Episode 16
This was my first time watching this episode as part of this marathon, and I feel like I came out of it less angry than I probably should've been. A lot of people despise this episode, and for good reason; the premise is awful and so very lowbrow for Simpson standards. I'm not talking about the idea of making Grampa a matador; I'm talking about the events that preceded it.
Springfield gets chosen to hold a special football team or something and Grampa single-handedly ruins it for everyone by capturing the commissioner, thinking he's a psychopath out to get him. As a result, everyone in town hates him, and so Grampa decides to go to a euthanasia doctor to kill himself. Oh c'mon Simpsons, this is far beneath you! You might be thinking this plot sounds very similar to the other infamous episode "Boys of Bummer" and indeed it does. Both episodes involve the entire town of Springfield booing and shaming the Simpson Pariah long enough for them to make them consider killing themselves. But I think what makes this episode less awful than "Boys of Bummer" is that:
1) The town of Springfield lost a very important commendation all because of one old man's senility. It actually feels understandable why everyone would hate Grampa after this.
2) Only one man convinced Grampa to go to a euthanasia doctor, rather than the entire town. And the euthanasia doctor is reprimanded by the police after the euthanasia ban law has finally come to pass right before Grampa is fully killed.
3) It's not the main draw of the episode.
Describing all these points now makes me understand why I don't hate this episode as much as I should, but that still doesn't mean it's not awful. The actual main draw of the story; that being Grampa becoming a matador, doesn't come until 2/3 of the way into the story and somehow feels out-of-place anyway. It's worse writing than "Three Men and a Comic Book". But more importantly, the episode just feels soulless. Lisa ends up being the one to encourage Grampa to not kill any of the bulls saying she's always supported him, even though there's no proof of that. And during the scene where Grampa thinks he's dead and stumbles upon his family eating in a restaurant, he proclaims he tried to kill himself and Marge's immediate reaction is "Grampa! Suicide is a sin! If you do it, you'll go to hell!" This is her response as opposed to "Grampa! Please don't kill yourself! We love you! Things might look bad now, but they'll get better!" See what I mean? There's such a huge tinge of heartlessness to this episode on top of bad writing and that easily puts it in the top bracket for this list.
#9 - Marge Gamer ~ Season 18, Episode 17
In 2006, half a year before this episode came out, South Park broadcasted their episode "Make Love, Not Warcraft". It was a brilliant episode that was loaded with South Park's charm and wit, and best of all it doesn't require the viewers to know and understand video games - much less World of Warcraft - to get a lot of the jokes. Furthermore, collaborating with Blizzard to portray most of the episode within World of Warcraft and with its characters was an episode-long advertisement that pretty much worked excellently. Because of how impressed we were with the episode, my cousin and I actually bought the game. No joke.
So The Simpsons decided to toss their hat into the ring and make their own episode about video gaming as well, only to show how completely inept they are on the subject, as well as being utterly lazy. Watching Marge trying to understand the Internet is as aggravating as watching your own parents / grandparents trying to understand the Internet. And when she finally does play the game, they take the cheap route and just make the visual style same as the rest of the show, and have jokes that most people just won't understand or just won't care to understand; because it's so boring.
Worse than that though, the story is just unfair. Bart is the best player in the game and Marge does nothing but intrude on his fun, embarrass him in front of everybody and redecorate his lair without his permission. Look I love my mom, but even I would be mad at her if she did this to me. And Marge is upset at Bart when he accidentally kills her character in a fit of rage. God forbid he does something mischievous again, but killing off Marge's video game character was apparently going too far. Meanwhile, Homer becomes the coach of Lisa's soccer team and when Lisa outright cheats in the game by faking injuries, Homer appropriately penalises her, then gets her withdrawn from the game when she argues with him. And this results in Lisa being mad at Homer for something that was her fault. Later, Homer and Bart go to Moe's, sullen that they've upset their respective game partners and apparently feeling like it was their fault that they're mad at them. Even though it's clearly not. Marge was annoying and intrusive, and Lisa outright cheated at her game. But Bart and Homer go out of their way to make them feel better, which is just terrible. We can't have Marge and Lisa apologise to Bart and Homer for doing something wrong for once, no, it's always Bart and Homer's fault. So utterly aggravating. Even if this episode wasn't tied to video games, this plot would still be atrocious and make me never want to watch it again.
Also, as a video game savvy, I could write a 5-page essay on all the jokes made in Marge's game and how they're not just unfunny, but also how they just don't make sense. But I've gone on for long enough now, so that will have to be for another time.
#8 - Homer's Night Out ~ Season 1, Episode 10
Despite Season 1 actually being better than Season 2, its worst episodes are still worse than anything bad in Season 2. Contrary to popular consensus, I think Season 1 still holds up a lot to this day, even for its rough and awkward charm. But there are a couple of episodes that are undeniably dated and make you wonder how they ever worked in the first place. "Homer's Night Out" is one of them. Homer dances with a friendly belly dancer at a stag party - one whom Homer has no affection for - and Bart just so happens to be there to take a photo of the event. Bart's photo is admired by everybody in Springfield because they find the image of Homer dancing with someone incredibly hilarious. ......Why? We live in the world of the Internet, where images like this wouldn't even be funny if your grampa retweeted it to you, yet for some reason the entire town of Springfield thinks it's funny? Even back then, would you giggle and laugh if you saw a man you didn't know dancing with a woman you didn't know?
Marge eventually discovers the picture and is absolutely furious at Homer for having just an innocent night of fun. Keep in mind that Homer didn't even want to dance with the belly dancer at first, and Marge doesn't even give him a chance to explain his actions. She just immediately throws him out of the house and calls him "soulless" for performing such a "heinous" action. ......An action that Marge herself thought of doing in the episode RIGHT BEFORE this one. So Marge is not only out-of-line here, she's also a flaming hypocrite. When Homer returns to beg an apology out of Marge, he tries to be as nice as possible, but Marge demands he go and find the belly dancer with Bart and apologise to her for objectifying her. Imagine having to do this; to be forced to go and find someone and apologise to them for something that they seemed happy about doing. Why should Homer apologise when the belly dancer seemed happy, or at least content, with being objectified?
See what I mean? This episode has no moral ground to stand on, because it makes no sense. Homer has no right or reason to apologise, and even though we know him now for being impulsive and destructive, this is one of those occasions where he didn't even instigate the action. He just went along with everyone as part of the mood of the night. So all this does is portray another example of Marge being incredibly unlikeable. The saving grace to this episode is that it has a nice lesson, about not objectifying women. But in our age of sensitive bickering, I don't think any of us need reminding about that.
#7 - My Big Fat Geek Wedding ~ Season 15, Episode 17
Thanks a lot writers. Thanks for taking a humble and beautiful romance between Principal Skinner and Edna Krabappel and flushing it down the toilet. Thanks for regressing these respective characters back to their selves before any of this romance happened for the sake of the status quo. Thanks for making any of the episodes about their relationship, or even any small scenes in other episodes about their relationship, completely meaningless. THANKS. A LOT. Honestly, I could forgive this terrible episode if after this they could learn to patch things up and get together again, but then again, that would just make this episode a waste of time at best. I could accept the plot of Skinner getting nervous at his wedding and even considering getting cold feet, if he had to once again work his way back into Edna's heart, proving he deserves it. But instead, Edna falls in love with Comic Book Guy of all people and he gets in the way for this romance to ever be repaired again (see why I hate this character now?) And as if that wasn't enough, we have to YET AGAIN make this episode about Homer and Marge's marriage failing, and so Homer makes up to Marge at the last minute by remarrying her again, which is just soulless. First time he remarried her was very sweet, but if this his solution to every time they fight, then it makes their overall relationship all the more shallow. I would love to pretend this episode never existed, but it does, and so unfortunately it does.
#6 - Moaning Lisa ~ Season 1, Episode 6
Yep, this is worse than "Homer's Night Out". Because I just can't stand it. I don't understand how a lot of people don't hate this episode more, because it has very little value in it whatsoever.
Plot Summary: Lisa frowns for 20 minutes. END. You might be thinking there's more to it than that, but I say you're overthinking things. The episode wants to make clear that Lisa is depressed and that she is creatively stifled. I understand that completely, it's just not appealing to watch in any way. Especially because Lisa's depression is the worst kind of depression; it's snobby depression. The kind where she seems like you'll never understand what she's going through and so she'll never bother telling you. It's like "Well excuse me for asking about your feelings." If the episode made it seem like Lisa is trying to reach to other people for a clear answer to why she's feeling so sad before getting fully ignored, I could easily forgive it, but instead she sulks by herself and doesn't even bother explaining why. It just makes it seem like she's whining over nothing, and that's never fun to watch.
To quote Bleeding Gums Murphy in this episode: "You know you play pretty well for someone with no real problems."
Exactly. She has no real problems. Oh boo hoo Lisa, your family doesn't often listen to your metaphysical ramblings and some don't respect your craft. Boo hoo. It could be worse. You could have... no family at all. You could be poor. You could be homeless. You could have no saxophone at all or any comforts and be left hungry in the street. Throughout this entire episode, all I can think in my mind is "Get over yourself Lisa." And that's all I'll ever think if I watch it again.
The subplot isn't even fun to watch. Homer just wants to beat Bart at a video game, and he feels emasculated when he can't do it. An all too relatable feeling. Yet when he practices with kids, he's shamed by other adults by "not acting his age", and doesn't get the chance to finally defeat Bart because Marge pulls the plug on his game. God, it's so sad to see Homer cry over something we wanted to see him win so badly.
#5 - Catch 'Em If You Can ~ Season 15, Episode 18
This episode infuriated me as a kid, and it still infuriates me now. I can't believe some people call this one of the better modern Simpson episodes because I just find it reprehensible.
The Simpsons are scheduled to go visit their great Uncle Tyrone's birthday. But Bart and Lisa don't want to go because they hate how depressing Uncle Tyrone is. So they stay home with Grampa while Homer and Marge go to Tyrone's by themselves. But before they board the plane, they decide to ditch the birthday plan and go on vacation instead, having some much needed time to themselves. When Bart and Lisa hear about this, they track them down and stop their vacation specifically because they don't believe their parents deserve to have fun anymore. ......That's horrible. That's not funny or satirical, that's just plain disgusting. Why CAN'T Homer and Marge have some time to themselves? No skin off their kids' noses, so why must Bart and Lisa feel like they have to wreck their chances of having fun? It's appalling.
I couldn't even relate to this as a kid. All throughout the episode, I kept shouting in my mind "LEAVE THEM ALONE you horrible little gremlins!" The fact that Bart and Lisa go out of their way to prevent their parents from having some fun by themselves makes their characters utterly reprehensible. Bart I can actually see doing this, but I expected better out of Lisa. And this is a problem that can easily be solved. If they really want to make it clear that Homer and Marge are ditching their kids to have fun, have the entire family go to Uncle Tyrone's, THEN have Homer and Marge ditch the kids with him to go off on their own vacation. It would make the kids' actions totally justified, yet the parents' actions would still be relatable because having just a little bit of time to themselves is something that every parent craves for time to time.
The only saving grace to this episode is Grampa. Who gets one or two funny lines here and there. God bless you, you senile old man.
#4 - Homer Simpson, This Is Your Wife ~ Season 17, Episode 15
I admit I never watch Ricky Gervais, and therefore I don't understand his humour. Perhaps if I watch some of his other works, I might grow to like this episode. But there's a huge feeling in my gut that tells me that wouldn't even be the case, because this episode is monumentally boring. It's the worse kind of boring; it's frustratingly boring. By that I mean the episode isn't content with dishing out jokes that just don't work, they also have to be as agonisingly long as possible. You know how Family Guy has jokes where they stick onto a repetitive unfunny gag for literally 2 minutes? That's this episode. Throughout its entirety it has jokes like that. It's extremely tedious on top of being extremely unfunny. Normally I wouldn't put an episode this high on a worst list for a reason other than it being boring, but I can't emphasise enough how much I really wanted this episode to end because it was so awful and I wanted to stop watching.
Just as I had thought, this episode was entirely written by Ricky Gervais. Which is a glaring sign that I just won't like his brand of humour. It certainly wasn't a bad idea to have him write an episode for the show, since he's a comedian and all that. But the fatal mistake made here is that he's a British comedian. American and British humour just doesn't mix. Just take a look at both versions of 'The Office' to see what I mean. The reason for that is American humour is often fast-paced and off-kilter. Every Simpsons episode, among other American shows, likes to dish out as many gags as possible in a 20-minute runtime. Even if a joke doesn't work, they quickly move on to the next one. British humour is often slow-paced and grounded. It often relies heavily on jokes or gags that last for more than a minute each time, in often very real or relatable situations. Which makes the good jokes stand out all the more because they leave a longer lasting impression. But the downside is that the jokes that don't work will end up wasting more time that would be better spent on other jokes.
And that's pretty much why this episode fails. All of its jokes are terrible. They not only take forever to get to the point, they're just not funny at all. I can't tell if it's because I personally don't watch a lot of British comedy and therefore can't identify with this episode, or if it's because Ricky Gervais is simply not funny. .........Hmmmmmm, nah, I'm gonna go with the latter.
#3 - Boys of Bummer ~ Season 18, Episode 18
Yeah I'm sure a lot of fans were expecting this episode here. Like I said, Season 18 has a lot of iffy premises, but this one is exactly as bad as it sounds. The town of Springfield is furious that Bart lost a simple peewee baseball game, and so they berate and mock him to the point where he wants to kill himself. ...Need I say more? This is of course far, far beneath the standards of what we should expect from decent Simpsons writing. Or just decent writing in general. Trying to make light of a 10-year old boy wanting to kill himself because of peer pressure is beyond shameful and the tone this creates is a horribly mean, dull and bitter episode, with any attempts at comedy falling flat.
Both "Million Dollar Abie" and this share pretty much the exact same premise, but with Grampa for the former and Bart for the latter. What makes this episode worse than "Million Dollar Abie" however is that it has the antithesis of that episode's redeeming traits:
1) Everyone in Springfield is upset at Bart for losing a simple peewee baseball game. They try to make seem like it's an important commendation, but it's not good enough. So berating him for this to the point where he wants to kill himself is extremely shallow of the whole town.
2) Bart wasn't talked into suicide, but he eventually goes crazy with sorrow and jumps off a water tower when he's had enough. Take note how no one besides a guest star tries to save him from falling to his death. And even when he's hospitalised, the town still boos and mocks him. Needless to say, that's incredibly heartless.
3) Unlike Grampa becoming a matador, there is no other plot that all this berating leads to. The entire plot is that Bart gets picked on by the town, which is just horribly mean.
And when Marge properly scolds everyone for berating him, the town makes it up to him by setting up the baseball game again without Bart knowing so that they can rig it and make him win. Instead of, you know, APOLOGISING. And it's far too little, too late anyway. Bart has already committed the action, and therefore he's already scarred for life. No use trying to save face, Springfield.
Honestly, I still came out of this one less furious than I should've been. I wasn't really that offended or put off by it. But that's just due to the dull portion of the episode's tone. It doesn't really make me want to care enough about how the characters are affected because the episode itself feels like it doesn't care. While not as bad as I originally thought it might be, do yourself a massive favour and never watch it. It has no redeeming quality.
The ONLY thing keeping this episode from reaching the worst spot on this list is that I can actually think of a way to fix it. Maybe not make it good; it all depends on the writing. But to make the premise less shameful and give it some value, I believe I have an idea as to what they could've done. But I've talked enough and that will have to wait for another time.
#2 - Girls Just Want to Have Sums ~ Season 17, Episode 19
Ah, gender politics. Why is it whenever a show of any calibre attempts this topic, they often fail? Is it because they often simplify the concept and subject each gender to their respective stereotypes? Is it because they often make the conflict one-sided and say that one gender is better than the other, when that is the wrong lesson to teach? Is it because the very idea of gender politics is a childish argument to have in the first place?
Well in this episode's case, it's all the above. The writing here is so unbelievably careless and exaggerated, that I honestly cannot believe a human being wrote it. The writer must have said this to themselves upon finishing the script: "Yes, other HU-MONS will like this. Other HU-MONS will relate to this and dispense laughter from their oral passages. I truly understand the HU-MON mind for I too am HU-MON."
Jokes aside, it really is a mistake to behold. Because of a sexist remark Skinner makes, he is replaced as principal and the school is divided into half; one half for the boys and the other half for the girls. From there, they boil down each gender into the stereotypes we are familiar with and makes the brazen assumption that all boys and girls act this way. It makes ridiculous notions such as "Boys love to do nothing but punch each other all the time.", "Girls are always so cleanly organised and men love living in filth." and "Men love eating food off the floor." You might be thinking I'm looking too deep into it and that the point is that these views are shared amongst the children; this is what only they believe boys and girls do. But no. The episode is outright boiling down each gender into these stereotypes and stating each person of their respective gender acts like this. This entire episode's conflict is set into motion by a remark that Skinner makes, saying that "Men are better at solving math problems than women." And according to this episode, he's entirely right! Since when the school is divided and the girls' class does some math, they don't solve math problems, but instead they feeeel the math problems. I can't believe this episode isn't the scorn of feminists or SJWs everywhere. Seriously SJWs, stop ineffectually picking on Apu for a moment, and make this the forefront of your "toxic masculinity" essays.
It's impossible to not focus on the gender politics as they are the very theme of the episode, but even if you turn your mind away from it, all you get is a dumb plot with very few working jokes and a conflict that isn't even resolved. By the end, the school is still separated into half, so where's the ending? I could write a 10-page essay on how carelessly bad this episode is, nitpicking each and every line, but I'm gonna stop here.
What keeps this episode from reaching the top of this list is that, like "Boys of Bummer", I also have a way to fix this episode. Again, not promising it would be hilarious and successful, but at least give the dumb plot some value. And also, The Simpsons' sister series - Futurama - also has a worst episode that is about gender politics, so I didn't want to make this choice too easy to make.
#32 - A Milhouse Divided
#31 - The Principal and The Pauper
#30 - Flaming Moe's
#29 - All's Fair in Oven War
#28 - The Old Man and The 'C' Student
#27 - The Great Money Caper
#26 - Marge in Chains
#25 - Another Simpsons Clip Show
#24 - The Father, The Son and The Holy Guest Star
#23 - Pokey Mom
#22 - Insane Clown Poppy
#21 - Itchy & Scratchy & Poochie
#1 - Please Homer, Don't Hammer 'Em ~ Season 18, Episode 3
You might be wondering, "What's so bad about this one? I've never even of heard of it." Neither did I until I watched it, but I can assure you all I felt after watching it was the despair knowing I'll never get those 20 minutes of my life back.
The premise is that Marge becomes a contractor. Sounds innocent enough, right? Yet I don't think a single other episode had made me reflect this much on how badly a premise like this is executed.
No one in Springfield wants to hire Marge specifically because she's a woman. Krusty even says "What if you get pregnant and I'm left with half a hot tub?" ...I can't believe someone got paid to write that.
Marge is understandably furious at the town (yes, the entire town) for their unbelievably sexist interpretation of female workers, and so she gets the idea to have Homer take the credit while she builds. Homer agrees, and the plan seems to work smoothly. But Marge gets impatient with Homer and asks him to tell their clients the truth. Homer asks Kent Brockman, one of their clients, how he would react if Homer told him that a woman built his gazebo. His legitimate response is: "I'd have this gazebo torn down and built into a coffin...for your manhood." ......Wow. So not only is the entire town of Springfield sexist, they're also so petty to not have a woman build their structures that they would destroy them even after they're finished just to spite her. ......That's disgusting. Once again, I can't believe someone got paid to write this script.
So Homer keeps mum about the situation, which we can agree was the right choice for him to make. But Marge gets mad at Homer for not telling Brockman the truth, even though Brockman clearly stated he would destroy her work. Homer even tells Marge that it was her idea in the first place to have him take the credit and he's completely right. But Marge still refuses to forgive him. So not only is she acting out-of-line, she's being a massive hypocrite. And just to make it seem like this really is Homer's fault, the 2nd half of the episode portrays Homer as selfish and prideful; making it seem like he deserves the credit because he's a man. So in the end, I can't even identify with his character. I can't identify with ANY character in this episode. The entire town of Springfield are all massive bigots, Marge is being unfair and hypocritical, and Homer is acting like a selfish, unfunny jerk. And all I can think is; "Why does Marge even want to be a contractor if no one's going to support her?"
The episode also has a subplot about Bart manipulating Skinner through his peanut allergy, but it's just not funny. And all it amounts to is a tacky rendition of the famous Darth Maul battle from Star Wars Episode I. I guess I should go further and point out how neither Bart or Skinner are likeable characters here either. Bart's just being a jerk, and Skinner bans peanut-related foods from school even though he could just not go anywhere near peanuts and avoided this plotline altogether.
The more I thought about this episode after watching it, the madder I got. The more I realised that, unlike the other Top 5 Choices, there is literally no redeemable quality here whatsoever. In "Boys of Bummer", I could at least relate to Bart when he's hounded and mocked by the town. In "Girls Just Want to Have Sums", I identified with Lisa when all she wanted was just to learn something at her school and not engage in pointless gender bickering. Furthermore, it also had a really funny joke that works in theme with the episode. This episode however doesn't have a single likeable or identifiable character. It doesn't have a single joke that made me laugh or even smile. And even though it has an innocent premise, what lies beneath it is such ugly sexist undertones that I ask again how no one has caught onto this offensive writing yet.
And what's more, I have no suggestions on how to salvage it. Beyond just writing it better and making it not offensive. But even then, the most commendation it could gain from that would be becoming the standard issue Simpsons episode. The best suggestion I could give is to either scrap the entire script and try again, or just don't bother with it entirely. If this episode sounds as bland as every other Modern Simpsons episode to you, then follow your instinct and never watch it. Because you will gain nothing otherwise.
And that's it. There's my Top 20 Worst Episodes out of the way, and with it, I can put this Simpsons Marathon to rest. Thanks for joining me on this journey and I hope you have a good one.
Let me know what you think of my descriptions or my choices, and also what your least favourite / worst episodes of the show are. I'd be really curious to hear what you have to say!