FXX kicks off their dominion over The Simpsons' catalog with a 12-day marathon of every episode ever, starting Thursday at 10am. Obviously you can't just sit and watch TV for that entire span; you have a life to live, after all. But still, you want to take advantage of such a momentous pop-culture event. (And besides, the syndicated Simpsons reruns seem ever more fixated on the later, crappier years, so this kind of marathon is actually pretty necessary to restore pop-cultural equilibrium.) The question is how to best optimize your marathonning.
Listen: the simple truth is that for almost a decade, The Simpsons was a miraculously near-perfect show. Then it went on for another fifteen years. Everybody knows this. So the smart money going into this is to basically burn yourself out early. Run hot and let your natural momentum carry you through the best years of the show. This is do-able! Of course, for the golden-era run (roughly seasons 3-7), nearly every episode is a classic. Some sacrifices have to be made so that you don't actually die while watching TV. That's where we come in.
In the interests of realism, we put some restrictions on this guide. You're still going to be spending four days at home watching The Simpsons. But for every 24-hour period, we have required:
- 6 hours of sleep, either consecutively, or broken up into two 3-hour chunks. The latter is not exactly a healthy way to live, but you can get by for a few days on Da Vinci sleep.
- One hour of forced outdoors time, for fresh air/exercise/warding off creeping atrophy.
- One hour of nap-time to augment what really does look like a dangerous sleep schedule.
- Thirty minutes to shower (your couch will thank you) and do any other bathroom business. [NOTE: Standard bathroom breaks are considered part of the normal course of the day and are not allotted for. You're a grown-up. Figure that shit out for yourself. So to speak.]
To compensate, and to prove we're not callous monsters, we're allotting you twelve (12) hours of DVR space, because finding six consecutive hours of skippable Simpsons in the early years is asking a lot. Too much, really.
Vulture provided a handy lil' schedule for the whole marathon right here. We're telling you what episodes you can afford to skip. The goal of this strategy guide is simple: to optimize your Simpsons marathon experience so that you can sleep/eat/move and miss as few classic episodes as possible.
Day One: Thursday 8/21 - Friday 8/22*
- OUTDOORS: 11:30 AM - 12:30 PM (”No Disgrace Like Home”; “Bart the General”)
- BATHROOM: 2:30 PM (“Homer’s Night Out”)
- SLEEP: 10:30 PM - 4:30AM (“Homer v. Lisa and the 8th Commandment” through “Mr. Lisa Goes to Washington”)
- DVR: “Lisa’s Substitute” (1:30 AM). [0.5/12 hours used]
- NAP: 9:00 AM - 10:00 AM (“I Married Marge”; “Radio Bart”)
We're off to a controversial start, as we're advising you to take an hour's worth of outdoors time while the marathon is barely 90 minutes old. You'll thank us for this, and not just for the metabolism boost. One of the oft-overlooked aspects of The Simpsons' early years is that the first seasons took a while to hit their stride, and some of the very first episodes are nearly unwatchable. So take in the first few, for history's sake, and because "Bart the Genius" is actually a solid episode. Then skip a couple, with the hope that Dan Castellaneta gets the Homer voice nailed down soon.
Your sleep time will take you through the latter half of Season 2, past some classic episodes, certainly. But a lot of beats that get hit here — Lisa is disappointed in Homer; Grandpa finds love; Marge and Homer's marriage is on the rocks; Homer runs afoul of Mr. Burns; Homer discovers his brother Herb — will get hit again, and better, later on. Obviously we're letting you DVR "Lisa's Substitute." We like Dustin Hoffman as much as anyone.
What you'll miss: Principal Skinner and Patty's odd courtship. Homer's car design. Ringo Starr. Michael Jackson. "Queen of the Harpies!"
*Days run from 10AM to 10AM.
Day Two: Friday 8/22 - Saturday 8/23
- OUTDOORS: 12:00PM - 1:00 PM (“Separate Vocations”; “Dog of Death”)
- NAP: 2:00 PM (“The Otto Show”; "Bart's Friend Falls in Love")
- SLEEP: 6:00PM - 9:00PM (“Itchy and Scratchy the Movie” through “Homer’s Triple Bypass”)
- DVR: “Itchy and Scratchy the Movie” (6:00PM); “Mr. Plow” (7:30PM); “Homer’s Triple Bypass” (8:30PM). [2/12 hours used]
- BATHROOM: 12:00AM - 12:30AM (“So It’s Come to This: A Simpsons Clip Show”)
- SLEEP: 6:00AM - 9:00AM (“Boy Scoutz N the Hood” through “Homer and Apu”)
- DVR: “The Last Temptation of Homer” (6:30AM); “Homer the Vigilante” (7:30AM); “Homer and Apu” (8:30 AM). [3.5/12 hours used]
Mid-season three through mid-season five. The very definition of the sweet spot. Honestly, if you felt like just ditching sleep entirely for this day, we won't tell anyone. Picking six hours among these episodes to sleep was an insane challenge, which is why we're only allowing three hours of shuteye at a time. And why of the twelve episodes you have to miss while you're sleeping, we're advising that you DVR six of them. We were on the fence about "Homer's Triple Bypass," but it felt cruel to have you skip the Merry Widow Insurance Agency. Your recommended skips at this stage largely center on characters who are boring (Santa's Little Helper, sorry about it) or have aged into one-note slogs (Otto). It's also here that we note how helpful clip shows are in scheduling breaks. The hardest cut here was "Bart's Friend Falls in Love." It hurts to slight Milhouse, but as a rule, episodes about the kids' love lives are a rung below, unless they involve Jessica Lovejoy or the phrase "choo-choo-choose."
What you'll miss: Spinal Tap as themselves. St. Sebastian's School for Wicked Girls. Mr. Burns falls in love with Marge. Sara Gilbert voices the girl next door who Bart falls in love with and who makes out with a shirtless Jimbo in a scene that gave certain impressionable twelve-year-olds a valuable and scary insight into teenage sex. Elizabeth Taylor voicing Maggie's first word ("Daddy"). Ernest Borgnine, Robert Goulet, and Conan O'Brien as themselves. Marge's gambling addiction. "I didn't do it."
Day Three: Saturday 8/23 - Sunday 8/24
- BATHROOM: 12:30PM (“Lady Bouvier’s Lover”)
- OUTDOORS: 2:00PM - 3:00PM (“Lisa’s Rival”; “Another Simpsons Clip Show”)
- SLEEP: 6:00PM - 9:00PM (“Grandpa vs. Sexual Inadequacy” through “Homie the Clown”)
- DVR: "Homer the Great" (7:00PM); “Homie the Clown” (8:30PM). [4.5/12 hours used]
- NAP: 1:30AM - 2:30AM (“Who Shot Mr. Burns” pt. 1 and 2)
- SLEEP: 5:30AM - 8:30AM (“Mother Simpson” through “Two Bad Neighbors”)
The tail end of season five, all of season six, and most of season seven. Not quite the murderer's row of Day Two, but still wildly strong, enough to once again divide your six hours of sleep into two highly unstable halves. Let's address this up front: yes, we're advising that you sleep through both "Who Shot Mr. Burns?" episodes. They're important as historical curiosities, but there are far funnier episodes for you to spend your waking minutes with. Also more notable as curiosities than as episodes: Homer discovering his mother and Homer entering a feud with former President George H.W. Bush. It's notable that we're skipping a few Grandpa-centered episodes today, and that's a shame. Just try to appreciate the Fighting Hellfish episode all the more.
What you'll miss: A pretty good The Graduate parody with Grandpa and Marge's mom. Winona Ryder as Lisa's rival. Diorama-rama. Milhouse's reverse-vampires theory/"We're through the looking glass here, people." Anne Bancroft as Marge's therapist. Marge's weird flashbacks of her father as a flight attendant. "Lowenstein ... Lowenstein ... Lowenstein ..." Chief Wiggum's Twin Peaks dream. The least successful of the golden-era Sideshow Bob episodes (with the army base and the atomic bomb). Glenn Close as Mother Simpson. Lee Carvallo's Putting Challenge. Disco Stu's debut.
Day Four: Sunday 8/24 - Monday 8/25
- NAP: 1:00PM-2:00PM (“Much Apu About Nothing”; "Homerpalooza")
- BATHROOM: 8:30PM - 9:00PM (“Simpsoncalifragilisticexpiala(Annoyed Grunt)cious”)
- SLEEP: 12:00AM - 6:00AM (“The Canine Mutiny” through “Bart Star”)
- DVR: “Homer’s Enemy” (1:30 AM); “The City of New York vs. Homer Simpson” (3:00AM). [5.5/12 hours used]
- OUTDOORS: 7:30 AM - 8:30AM (“Miracle on Evergreen Terrace”; “All Singing, All Dancing”)
Finishing up season seven and running halfway through season nine. Here's where we start skipping episodes that we genuinely don't care for. Like Apu coming under fire from immigration. Or the episode where Homer becomes addicted to guns. Or that awful Christmas episode where the Simpsons accidentally grift all their friends out of presents. And while I'm not at crazed with rage about the Armin Tamzarian episode as everybody else is, skip that one too and avoid the headaches. You're getting a proper six hours of sleep today, and you'll only have to DVR two true classics, wherein Homer drives a man to electrocute himself and then travels to New York City and tries to avoid pimps and C.H.U.D.s.
What you'll miss: "Bears pay the bear tax. I pay the Homer tax." "That's the home-owner tax." Grandpa and Marge's incomparable statements on youth culture and coolness, respectively. Laddie. That old hippie at the recycling plant ("Contemporize, man!"). Mr. Sparkle. "Chief Wiggum, P.I." Homer saying "oboe-ma-bo." Homer yelling "SHE'S A WITCH!" at Lisa for petty reasons during one of the "Treehouse of Horror" segments.
Day Five: Monday 8/25
You're done. Stop. Get up off the couch. You're almost finished with season nine, at which point, the quality of the episodes starts to dip considerably enough that marathonning just won't be worth it from here on out. But if you notice, you've smartly left yourself with six and a half hours of DVR space, which you can now use to pick up the stragglers in the coming day(s). [This can also be used as a handy exercise to pick out the last great Simpsons episode.]
So DVR the following:
- “The Last Temptation of Krust” (8/25, 10:00 AM): The one where Krusty, after being shamed by IRL comedians like Jay Leno and Janeane Garofalo, becomes an edgy, angry modern stand-up.
- “Lisa the Simpson” (8/25, 11:00 AM): The one where Lisa thinks she's going dumb due to her family legacy. Includes her op-ed on the local news, summed up by Kent Brockman thusly: "Little girl... likes her brain."
- “Simpson Tide” (8/25, 12:00 PM): As you might expect, this is the one that's a Crimson Tide ripoff, at least inasmuch as it takes place on a Navy destroyer.
- “The Trouble with Trillions” (8/25, 12:30 PM): Homer turns IRS informant in order to nab Mr. Burns. They both (with Smithers) end up in Cuba. Es muy bueno.
- “Homer to the Max” (8/25, 9:30 PM): Maaaaaaax Power! He's the man whose name you'd love to touuuuuuch. But you mustn't touuuuuuch."
- “Mom and Pop Art” (8/26, 12:30 AM): Isabella Rossellini as a Eurotrash art connoisseur chiding Jasper Johns for stealing things is my favorite Isabella Rossellini line reading that doesn't include the phrase "big beef and cheddar." This is also the one where Homer tries to make the grill.
- “Guess Who’s Coming to Criticize Dinner” (8/26, 4:00 AM): Homer becomes a food critic. His lowest rating is seven thumbs up.
- “E-I-E-I-(Annoyed Grunt)” (8/26, 5:00 AM): Tomacco!
- “The Mansion Family” (8/26, 8:30 AM): For such a late entry, this one is packed with greatness. Mr. Burns takes a trip to the Mayo Clinic where he learns he has every disease. The Simpsons house-sit for him, act like the oafs they are, and it all ends up on Rich Uncle Homer's wild box-social in international waters.
- “Alone Again Natura-Diddly” (8/26, 9:30 AM): More of a curiosity than a truly great episode, but Maude Flanders gets killed by a t-shirt cannon, and how many times are you gonna see that?
- “Last Tap Dance in Springfield” (8/26, 12:30 PM): This, ladies and gentlemen, was the last great Simpsons episode (your two subsequent recordings are more curiosities). Lisa takes tap-dancing lessons from a half-crazed former child star who once destroyed Buddy Ebsen's credit rating (he knows why). "Tappa-tappa-tappa" is probably all you need to remember this one, but it's also the one where Bart and Milhouse hide out in the Springfield mall for a few days of food, fun, and fashion.
- “Behind the Laughter” (8/26, 1:30 PM): This was the Behind the Music parody. Remember Behind the Music?
- “Treehouse of Horror XII” (8/27, 12:30 AM): The last gasp of true quality from The Simpsons' annual Halloween spectacular. This one features a gypsy curse, a Harry Potter knockoff, and, best of all, an artificially-intelligent house voiced by Pierce Brosnan.