The 10 Lowest-Rated Golden-Era The Simpsons Episodes (according to IMDb)
Too close to call...
Between the years 1991 and 1997 (and a couple of years on either side), The Simpsons was the best television show. For 143 episodes from 'Stark Raving Dad' to 'The Secret War of Lisa Simpson', The Simpsons experienced its 'golden age', hitting a proverbial home run every week. Every episode produced during this era could be on someone's all-time top 10 episodes list. However, not all The Simpsons' golden era' episodes were created equal. To find out the 'weakest' episodes form this run, I have turned to IMDb user reviews to provide an 'objective' view. This list will present the ten 'classic' Simpsons episodes that have received the lowest IMDb score. This top ten list will not include the three clip shows produced during this period, as they would easily take the top three spots. All the episodes featured on this list feature 100% original content. Let's do it to it!
10) Like Father, Like Clown (Season 3, Episode 6) 7.7
'Like Father, Like Clown' would serve as one of the first episodes of The Simpsons where the focus lay outside of the Simpson family. The episode sees Bart and Lisa try and help Krusty the Clown reunite with his rabbi father, who had disowned his son due to his career choice. This episode introduced important features to Krusty's character, including his Jewish faith, father, and even his real name Herschel Krustofsky. The episode also includes an essential piece of continuity. It directly follows on from the Season 1 episode 'Krusty Gets Busted', which saw Bart save Krusty from being framed by his sidekick Sideshow Bob. When Krusty comes round to have dinner with the Simpsons, it is to say thank you to Bart, even if Krusty had cancelled these dinner plans several times before.
Despite its strong story, character development and an excellent performance from guest star Jackie Mason as Rabbi Hyman Krustofsky, the episode may lack humour. A significant part of 'Like Father, Like Clown' involve Bart trying to convince Hyman to take his son back, utilising several quotes from people that the Rabbi admires. These scenes are not laughter-heavy moments. Some may find the tone of 'Like Father, Like Clown' a bit too serious and the ending overly sentimental for a Simpsons episode.
However, 'Like Father, Like Clown' comes from a period where The Simpsons could tell well-rounded, heartfelt character stories without resorting to a gag every couple of minutes. This episode was aired in the early stages of the 'golden era', so the show may still have been trying to balance emotional storytelling and humorous moments. This episode is essential viewing for fans of Springfield's favourite light entertainer.
9) Marge In Chains (Season 4, Episode 21) 7.7
Season 4 would be an excellent season for one Simpson family member: Marge. The season would provide four Marge-centric episodes. The last of these episodes' Marge In Chains', would be the penultimate episode of Season 4, following 'A Streetcar Named Marge', 'Marge Gets A Job' and 'Marge vs The Monorail'. The episode sees an overworked Marge accidentally shoplift at the Kwik-E-Mart, before being sent to a month in prison for the offence. Meanwhile, the rest of the Simpson family and the rest of Springfield's residents struggle in Marge's absence.
If you are a fan of Lionel Hutz, then this is the episode for you. The middle portion of this episode (the shoplifting trial) is just a string of greatest hits for Hutz. Think 'law-talking guy', writing guilty on a napkin, 'not wearing a tie at all', 'sweet brown liquor', 'world without lawyers' and Hutz not wearing any trousers in the courtroom. Despite being a Marge episode, Lionel Hutz just steals every scene he is in. You also have the Jimmy Carter statue with Marge's hair.
For the sake of this list, I would say that the time spent with Marge in prison seems relatively short. Phillips is a fun character, but she only appears in a small run of scenes. Most of the episode is spent on setting up Marge shoplifting, the aftermath and the trial, not leaving much time to show Marge in prison. I know that Marge is only given a 30-day sentence. Still, it would have been interesting to show more of the impact that Marge's absence has on Springfield or more of the women's prison that Marge suddenly finds herself in.
Out of the four Marge-centric episodes in Season Four, 'Marge In Chains' is comparatively the weakest. However, it is still amusing to watch how Springfield reacts to a flu outbreak and one woman behind bars for 30 days.
8) Bart's Inner Child (Season 5, Episode 7) 7.7
How would you feel if everyone started copying you? Bart finds this fact out the hard way in this Season 5 episode. After self-help guru Brad Goodman praises Bart for his particular attitude to life, the rest of Springfield start copying Bart's way of living.
I am surprised to see an episode like 'Bart Inner's Child' with one of the lower IMDb scores of The Simpsons' golden era' episodes. It contains both Phil Hartman and Albert Brooks, two of the show's most remarkable guest stars. Brad Goodman may not be as exciting a Brooks character as Hank Scorpio and doesn't produce many funny lines. However, he serves as an excellent vessel for The Simpsons writing team to satirise self-help gurus. The video involving himself and Troy McClure is, understandably, brilliant and the writers show their disdain for self-help gurus through the 'Do What You Feel' Festival. For a whole town to put their faith in the words of one man and start acting like a 10-year-old boy is obviously going to lead to failure. Goodman does disappear after the episode's second act, but his effect is felt for the rest of the episode.
If I were to have any complaints, I would say that the episode ends rather abruptly. The 'Do What You Feel Festival' happens. Bart starts to question his own identity. The festival goes awry. The townspeople chase Bart and Homer, suddenly stop chasing them, and the episode ends not long afterwards. I cannot really offer up an alternative, but maybe more time could be spent on the town acting like Bart. This whole part of the episode seems to begin in Act 3. Bart's newfound identity crisis is suddenly resolved as the rest of Springfield's residents stop acting like him, resetting the status quo.
However, this episode is brilliant, featuring an all-time great opening act involving a trampoline. Albert Brooks shows why he is one of the show's most frequent guest stars during this period.
7) Simpsoncalifragilisticexpiala(D’oh)cious (Season 8, Episode 13) 7.7
Eight seasons and 166 episodes into the series' run, The Simpsons would produce their first musical episode. Throughout all seasons of the show to the present day, The Simpsons have only done a handful of musical episodes, with mixed results. However, the writing and production teams had not yet taken this step by the show's eighth season. For the first musical episode of the show, the writers decided to go big. This episode would parody one of the most famous musical films of all time Mary Poppins. The episode 'Simpsoncalifragilisticexpiala(D'oh)cious' sees a Mary Poppins-type nanny named Shary Bobbins, who flies in to help an overly-stressed Marge with handling the kids. However, keeping the Simpson family in check proves more challenging than Shary Bobbins first imagined.
'Simpsoncalifragilisticexpiala(D'oh)cious' was not the first episode of The Simpsons to pay heavy reference to a particular film, with Season 5's 'Cape Feare' another example. However, for their first musical episode, The Simpsons certainly pulled it off. It is like they took every notable Mary Poppins song and put the Simpsons twist on it. 'A Spoonful of Sugar' becomes 'Cut Every Corner'. A song about a woman feeding the birds becomes a song about Barney being a 'boozehound'. Even though she has played multiple Simpsons characters in many episodes, Maggie Roswell's performance as Shary Bobbins in this episode is probably her best. Roswell captures the essence of Julie Andrews in her performance, putting her own spin on the character. She even gives us the famous line "I've been singing all day, I'm not a ruddy jukebox".
An all-musical episode of The Simpsons may not be to everyone's taste. Later musical episodes have not managed to live up to the quality of the first one. The following season after this would provide us with 'All Singing, All Dancing', a clip show based around The Simpsons most famous songs, interlinked with musical padding from the Simpson family. This episode has not aged well and sits amongst the other clip shows as one of the show's worst episodes. Alleged criticism may be levelled at the episode's second half. Shary finds that the moment she leaves the family, all the family's problems re-emerge. From this point onwards, the family refuse Shary's instructions causing her to fall into a depression. The ending where the Simpson family sing to Shary that they are happy being just the way they are may also be criticised. However, this is all just speculation on my part.
While it may not rank near the top of any Season 8 episode rankings, 'Simpsoncalifragilisticexpiala(D'oh)cious' serves as a delightful parody of an iconic film.
6) Burns, Baby, Burns (Season 8, Episode 4) 7.7
To make a guest star and one-time character the main character in an episode can be risky, as shown in later years by the truly awful 'Lisa Goes Gaga'. However, Lady Gaga is no Rodney Dangerfield. In 'Burns, Baby, Burns', the legendary comedian plays Larry Burns, Mr Burns long-lost son. After finding out about this, Mr Burns invites his son to stay with him. However, he soon realises that he and Larry have very little in common and begin to tire of his boorish tendencies. Therefore, Homer hatches a plan to help Larry win back his father's love.
Once again, I am surprised to see 'Burns, Baby, Burns' ranked among the lower rung of 'golden era' Simpsons episodes. I know that 7.7 is not a bad score by any means but work with me here. Rodney Dangerfield is excellent here. The character of Larry contrasts perfectly with Mr Burns and Homer works as a great foil to him. In every scene that Larry is in, Dangerfield delivers a memorable line. The kidnapping plot provides plenty of hilarious moments, as each step that Homer and Larry take turns out to be the wrong one. The random party to end the episode does come out of nowhere, but parties seem to be the line that runs through many Season 8 episodes.
If you do not like Rodney Dangerfield, this episode may not be for you, considering that he is the focus of this particular show. However, I would say that this episode is underrated and well worth giving a re-watch.
5) Scenes From The Class Struggle In Springfield (Season 6, Episode 14) 7.7
The second of two Marge-centric episodes on this list, 'Scenes From The Class Struggle In Springfield' sees Marge become a social climber. After buying a Chanel suit, Marge starts spending time with a new class of friends at a country club. However, the harder Marge tries to fit in, she risks alienating herself from her own family.
If I ever got around to personally ranking the best and worst of The Simpsons' golden era' episodes, 'Scenes From The Class Struggle In Springfield' would probably be near the bottom of the list. There are plenty of great episodes which involve Marge getting out of the Simpson house and doing something for herself. 'The Springfield Connection', 'Marge On The Lam' and 'A Streetcar Named Marge' are proof of this.
However, the plot of 'Scenes From The Class Struggle…' just seems a bit too small-scale. I do not have any particular problems with this episode. It contains a central arc which ends with Marge realising that she would prefer to go to Krusty Burger with her family then fit in with a class of people who do not deserve them. The episode also includes some great character moments between Marge and Lisa and the golf sub-plot with Homer and Mr Burns provides some good laughs. However, 'Scenes From The Class Struggle…' seems to pale to the other Marge episodes from this period. I guess that's just the case of this show being produced when most of the shows are 8/10 or above.
4) Bart The Fink (Season 6, Episode 15) 7.7
The second Krusty-centric episode on this list and one that I can honestly say I sometimes forget about, save for a couple of iconic moments. The episode sees Bart accidentally expose Krusty the Clown as a tax cheat. Soon after, the depressed clown crashes his plane into a mountain and is pronounced dead. Following the funeral, Bart starts to see a man around town named Rory B. Bellows, someone who has a physical resemblance to Krusty.
As should be a given by this point, 'Bart The Fink' is a marvellous T.V. episode featuring a well-balanced story, memorable character interactions, and plenty of laugh-out-loud moments. People will remember the bank workers dressed in ape suits and masks, Moe buying Krusty's bed for half a buck, Bob Newhart's cameo and the 'Oh crap' scene featuring the representative from the Cayman Islands.
However, when I think about the most memorable Krusty episodes or the best of Season 7, 'Bart The Fink' does not immediately come to mind. It is not that the episode has any noticeably bad moments. It's just that there are better Krusty-centric episodes in the series run, including the previously discussed 'Like Father, Like Clown' and Season 4's 'Krusty Gets Kancelled'. A great episode, but there are better ones to watch instead.
3) The Canine Mutiny (Season 8, Episode 20) 7.6
Another episode from Season 8, 'The Canine Mutiny' sees Bart sign for his own credit card. Bart then proceeds to splurge on stuff he doesn't need, racking up a huge bill. One of Bart's purchases is for a Border Collie named Laddie, a perfect dog in every way. Once Bart finds out about his account, all his recent acquisitions are taken away from him. However, when forced to give up either Laddie or Santa's Little Helper, Bart is faced with a difficult decision.
'The Canine Mutiny' would be the 4th episode of The Simpsons to focus on Santa's Little Helper following 'Bart's Dog Gets An F', 'Dog Of Death', 'Two Dozen and One Greyhounds'. 'The Canine Mutiny' is a solid Simpsons episode. All the stuff regarding Laddie is fun, especially in how the family reacts to him. Homer has many great moments, including wearing a tie to impress the dog, trying to get Bart to eat dog food and the line "There, there, shut up boy". The plot's resolution is predictable, but the ending of the police having a party and getting high to Bob Marley's 'Jammin' is pure excellence.
A rare Simpsons episode that does not contain a B-plot, 'The Canine Mutiny' probably sits somewhere in the middle of the Season 8 rankings. However, IMDb users have ranked the episode as the 2nd-worst of Season 8, behind another episode that would be discussed later.
2) Lady Bouvier's Lover (Season 5, Episode 21) 7.5
Two people finding love in old age, don't you love to see it? The penultimate episode of Season 5 sees a romantic relationship form between Grampa and Marge's mother Jacqueline Bouvier. However, the more agile Mr Burns steps in to take Jacqueline for his own, leaving Grampa heartbroken and alone. However, this does not stop Simpson Snr from fighting for the woman he loves.
Despite the episode being packed full of memorable and funny moments as always, a problem is that none of them come from the character for whom the episode is named. Jacqueline Bouvier is not a particularly interesting Simpsons character. Out of nearly 700 episodes, Jacqueline has appeared in just 30. She mostly shares the same character traits as Patty and Selma. The Simpsons creators have mainly chosen to include her in episodes that involve the extended Simpson family coming together or plots that involve the Bouvier family. Giving her a spotlight episode only shows how one-note her character is.
Despite this, everyone else is on top form. Grampa serves as an excellent focal point to this episode. His rivalry with Mr Burns leads to some early character moments between the two that would be expanded upon in later episodes. Homer and Marge's contrasting reactions to their parents' relationship leads to some hilarious moments. Even Bart's short but sweet B-plot involving an Itchy and Scratchy animation cel serves as a decent distraction throughout the episode.
'Lady Bouvier's Lover' is not the best Season 5 episode and is not the best Grampa Simpson episode. However, despite a less-than-interesting central character, the rest of the characters and the writing carry this show well.
1) The Simpsons Spin-Off Showcase (Season 8, Episode 24) 7.2
In the absence of clip shows, the penultimate episode of Season 8 takes the top spot on our list. In the first episode of The Simpsons outside of the 'Treehouse of Horror' episodes to use the three-story structure, the audience is presented with examples of three potential Simpsons spin-offs. Chief Wiggum P.I., The Love-Matic Grampa and The Simpson Family Smile-Time Variety Hour are used to satirise the T.V. genres of police procedurals, sitcoms and variety shows. Simultaneously, the whole episode serves to parody the idea of successful T.V. shows spinning off characters into their own programmes.
The episode's stand-out moments come with Chief Wiggum P.I. as the ludicrous pairing of Chief Wiggum and Principal Skinner as a detective duo provides a slew of hilarious moments. From Chief Wiggum's terrible aim, the random cameo from the Simpson family and everything involving Big Daddy, this is a Simpsons spin-off that I would legitimately want to watch. Also, any line uttered by Troy McClure in the episode's framing device is golden. Just ask the curator of the Museum of T.V. and Television, Mr John Winslow.
If I were to quibble, I would argue that the episode perhaps does not hit as hard as possible. While a lot of the humour comes from replicating the use of bad writing in these terrible spin-offs, a lot of the jokes come from exposing these tropes. These jokes do not always hit home for me personally. Regarding the episode's middle part, The Love-Matic Grampa, the earlier point I made about the 'bad writing' jokes come to the fore here. The segment is still funny, but for some reason, this story doesn't quite click with me. In particular, the show is slightly let down by the variety show segment. While it does contain some funny moments and the parody does work, this segment does not hit as hard as the last two parts.
It tells you something that I had a hard time nit-picking the 'weakest' golden-era Simpsons episode. Despite my quibbles, 'The Simpsons Spin-Off Showcase' is still a must-watch that works as a hilarious television satire.
When writing this list, I often questioned why I was doing it. Finding the 'worst' of The Simpsons' golden era'? With many of these episodes, I had a hard time seeing what IMDb users found particularly wrong with some of these episodes and tried to speculate their reasoning for disliking it. I had to dig deep down into these episodes to find possible things to criticise. Not all the episodes from this era are home runs. I can think of some which I would put on this list instead of the 10 discussed in this post.
Finally, it does tell you something about how great The Simpsons was between Season 3 and 8. Excluding clip shows, the lowest rating on this list was a 7.2/10, and seven episodes shared the same rating of 7.7. I had to decide their positions on this list based on the number of reviews each one had received. That is an absurd level of consistency right there, to produce over 100 consecutive episodes that are beloved to such an extent by such a large amount of people. That is why, despite what your opinion has been about the show post-Season 8, the 'golden era' is why many consider The Simpsons one of the greatest shows in television history.