Thursday, August 02, 2007

5 for the Day: The Simpsons

Picking the five best Simpsons episodes is well-nigh impossible. Even if you accept that basically nothing from season nine onwards is going to match up to anything in the first eight seasons (despite seasons nine and onwards having a few choice episodes), you still have to contend with the sheer amount of classic episodes in those first eight seasons. The Simpsons were the cultural institution of the 90s, for better or worse, a touchstone of a whole generation (Slate.com press critic Jack Shafer has argued that we’ll know that baby boomers have ceded control of the media to younger generations when Simpsons quotes start turning up in headlines).

For those who grew up in the ‘90s, The Simpsons became the lingua franca of life. When I was in college from 1999 to 2003, Simpsons quotes or references became a kind of conversational shorthand, a way to sound clever on dates, or a way to size up whether the person you were talking to might be the very best kind of friend. It was a common denominator, one of the few things everyone knew about and could agree on. Saying “My cat’s breath smells like cat food” wasn’t just leeching off of someone else to be funny; it was both an ice breaker and a quick way to signify that you didn’t completely suck. And that was in rural South Dakota! Surely the phenomenon was more pronounced elsewhere; TV writer Denis McGrath has talked about how TV writers rooms often descend into long Simpsons quote-a-thons.
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You can find out the actual list here.

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