From Apu to Frink, every segment in the greatest episode is ranked. It’s the list Laser Time was born to host, baby!
Hi! My name is Dave Rudden. You may remember me from such Laser Time features as The Fat Kid’s Dad Did It: Why I Love Friday the 13th Part 5 and Duckman Meets Jerry “The King” Lawler. Today I’m posting a list I’ve promised for months, due to the fact that this week is the 25th air-niversary of The Simpsons’ legit non-holiday special premiere (and the fact that I was recently hooked up with the sweet FX Now service). That list, if I can be a bit humble, is the list to end all Simpsons lists… ranking 22 Short Films About Springfield!
A few caveats about the list before we dive in. First; there are not 22 segments to rank. The producers said as much during the commentary, even with elements cut at the last minute (like a story explaining Marge’s mood when Lisa comes to her with hair troubles, and a skit starring Krusty). Furthermore, I don’t quite follow Wikipedia’s skit list— I don’t think Bart and Milhouse’s interactions count as two separate skits, while the skits in Comic Book Guy and Herman’s stores definitely do. Lastly, I screengrabbed from the FX Now app and couldn’t turn off captions, so expect an improper aspect ratio and sometimes-awkward word placement. Anywho, here’s the list!
19 – REVEREND LOVEJOY’S REVENGE
When I told people about this list, I always said that Apu’s skit would be ranked last. While that was partially a joke, it was at least a part of the episode I remembered. There’s really not much to Lovejoy’s appearance in the episode. We already knew he hated Flanders, so this doesn’t seem all that special or out of character. I guess this is the first time he was proactive in his hatred, and I do quite enjoy Lovejoy’s dog doubletalk, but it falls just short of this amazing episode’s standards.
18 – LISA GETS A HAIRCUT
Another one I’m iffy about. It’s tonally different than what follows, and Lisa’s hair crisis definitely deserves to have three separate entries, but besides the stock barber-isms from the The Tracy Ullman Show returnee hairdresser and showing a character with new hair, this one also fails to stand out.
17 – BART AND MILHOUSE’S OVERPASS
I feel a bit jerky ranking this one so low, seeing as how it starts and ends the episode, but there are only a handful of jokes that really connect. It’s more form than function, but I have a soft spot for the slightly weirder version of Milhouse who’s more into mischief than hanging on Bart’s every word and had the foresight to bring mustard to the overpass.
16 – WIGGUM AND SNAKE’S FIGHT
Here’s another element of the episode that I wish I could tie into another entry, as the skit itself is more about pushing Wiggum’s story from one destination to another. Wiggum’s eagerness to say hi to Springfield’s biggest criminal is charming, and their brief scuffle is entertaining (especially Snake’s kick to the face that finally makes Wiggum angry), but it’s kind of a one-note skit.
15 – APU IN: THE JOLLY BENGALI
As far as the big-name skits in this episode go, Apu’s is a tad overrated, in my opinion. It’s really just one joke—Apu has to do things fast because of the Kwik-E-Mart’s demands—done to varying degrees of effectiveness. Apu’s Freakazoid dance and Jasper’s indignation are really good highlights, but everything else is the same joke.
14 – MARGE’S HAIR SOLUTIONS
In the commentary for “22 Short Films,” the producers discuss a scrapped scene giving more context to Marge’s mood in the episode. It’s kind of a shame it was cut, because a tad more humor could have really made this one as good as the next part of Lisa’s saga. I like Lisa’s recycling request, and Marge’s continued condiment stacking is a nice exaggeration of mom solutions, but the true savior of this skit is Gorman’s Ear Guards.
13 – DR. NICK’S ER
Hey! Remember ER?! While everyone remembers this episode as one big Pulp Fiction homage (from the intersecting stories to the hamburger talk), I always thought tossing a medical drama into the episode was a bit too weird of a shift. Fortunately, the then-new mashup of Dr. Nick’s ineptitude and Abe Simpson’s elderly medical complaints made some magic. While it’s not a kneeslapper, this one makes me smile so much I run the risk of having skin failure.
12 – BUMBLEBEE MAN’S BAD DAY
This one has probably shifted from three spots below to three spots above, due to my always-fluctuating opinion of the skit. I wasn’t a huge fan back in the day since it betrayed BBM’s suaveness established as a temporary news anchor two years prior, but the lame Sabado Gigante gags with the beginners-level Spanish dialogue is enough for me, even if I lose track of the talking once Bumblebee Man’s wife storms in.
11 – MILHOUSE SAVES THE DAY
Did Kirk Van Houten have any standout character moments before this episode? In his final major appearance before breaking out in the divorce episode, this weird solution to Chief Wiggum’s character arc had Kirk’s awkward attempt at conversation to avoid addressing imminent attempted rape. I thought this episode was a bit too extreme in its treatment of Herman (who went from counterfit jeans to kidnapping and implied sexual assault), but who else in Springfield can serve as a Taratino-inspired villain.
10 – HOMER’S NEWSPAPER PROBLEM
Admittedly, there’s not a lot of humor or crazy character moments within this scene, but I’m a sucker for Homer-Maggagie interactions. As a dude who spend eight years writing for magazines, I dig the many print-focused jokes, but the real reason I remember this one is the sweet ending showing how sweet a story a baby getting trapped in a newspaper vending machine can be.
9 – SPRINGFIELD’S HAIR TIPS
WRESTLING DISCUSSION TIME: You know how every WrestleMania has a part where 10 or more dudes are put into a giant tag fight, lumberjack match, or battle royal just so everyone has something to do? I appreciate this skit from that perspective. There’s some great one-liners, Lisa’s continued exasperation, and without this part of the episode, we’d be bemoaning the lack of the likes of Uter and Lionel Hutz.
8 – MOE GETS ROBBED
Admittedly, this one should probably be in the double digits, but I just love the zippiness of the what happens at Moe’s Tavern… there’s so much stupidly silly stuff I can’t get enough of. The NASA gag, the awesome visual gag of Moe in his crawl space, and Barney’s wonder at the flickering lights are some of my favorite parts of this episode, so I can’t help but rank this one high up.
7 – MCDONALDS VS KRUSTY BURGER
Out of any part of this episode, the cops’ discussion of McDonalds is dated the most (though today’s young adults have watched Pulp Fiction… right?!), but this brief discussion is so much more than a Tarantino joke. There’s the unexpected acknowledgment of a real-world entity and a batch of new gags that provide fresh fast food parody. Arnold Schwarzenegger being a character in The Simpsons Movie is a step into reality I always hated. This, on the other hand is a wonderful examination of the bubble Springfield exists within.
6 – THE TOMFOOLERY OF PROFESSOR FRINK
Could Frink have been anywhere but the credits of the episode? Any longer and he’d wear out his welcome, and his failure is always a nice trait to play off of. There’s a sad title card, a sadder jingle and a oft-referenced monkey due for some comeuppance; I can’t think of a single extra element Frink needed.
5 – VERY TALL MAN’S REVENGE
Nelson never really got what was coming to him for seven long years. His initial bullying was settled with an unsatisfying truce. Sometimes he was a fill-in friend for Bart but he’d just as often be a jerk to those around him. For as long as fans waited, getting pantsed in front of the entire town and getting a taste of his own catchphrase was the best perfect level of revenge. When you add in the fact that this scene gave us our first real introduction to the Very Tall Man and included an old lady falling into a garbage pail, it stands among the very best parts of one of the very best episodes.
4 – SMITHERS’ ALLERGY
Mr. Burns using early 1900s slang always makes for a funny skit, and dude is on point during this underrated part of the episode. Stuperous funker? Mephitic clodhopper? TUTTLE’S SUNDAY TROUSERS. Did I even get the drift of that possibly too obscure Burns dialogue? I didn’t, but I loved hearing it!
3 – MILHOUSE BUYS A COMIC
Here’s my sentimental favorite, based on my favorite joke of the episode – The Hamburgular Comic. The price, the premise, the jumble – everything about it makes me want to know more. How did Comic Book Guy come into possession of it? How did the writers come up with such a pitch-perfect choice for “cheapest comic book store” item? I love that comic, and seeing Milhouse’s bathroom gambit fail is a cherry on top of this brief-but-wonderful slice of hilarity.
2 – CLETUS THE SLACK-JAWED YOKEL
What is going on on this side, indeed. I feel like the concept of “22 Short Films” does the most by Cletus than any other character. Previously relegated to capping off select scenes with a bit of absurdity, this was far more than an episode should focus on Springfield’s lowest-income family, but the Hee-Haw level gag works perfectly as a mini-show within a show. The story itself is a fun one, but Cletus’ great post-jingle tags put this one over the top.
1 – SKINNER AND THE SUPERINTENDENT
Is there a greater scene in the 25-year history of The Simpsons than this one? Outside of Homer’s chili trip or one of the unforgettable musical segments, nothing really stands up to the escalation of Skinner’s stupid-yet-slightly plausable fibs that turn a clambake into a hamburger feast that burns downs his mother’s house. Chalmers’ continued deconstruction of Skinner’s steamed hams are wonderful, but the dynamic of their relationship that allows the superintendent to be just gullible enough to believe Aurora Borealis is happening within the principal’s kitchen is mixture of sweet and silly that I love on The Simpsons.
There you have it! Some 1700 words later, I’ve dissected one of my favorite Simpsons episodes to the point that I’ll probably never want to watch it ever again. Oh well. Cheer me up by commenting below with your picks for the best and worst of “22 Short Films About Springfield!”
GET SOME SIMPSONS AND SUPPORT LASER TIME!!