Starting today at 10 a.m. ET, FXX is going to play every single Simpsons episode back-to-back-to-back-to-back-to-back. It's an impressive undertaking on the network's part that is also utterly overwhelming for any viewer. We're talking over 550 episodes and a movie. It lasts twelve days! There's no way to watch everything, and you shouldn’t try, but that doesn’t mean you can't enjoy it. Here are ten very helpful tips that will allow you to make the most out of the marathon. (Note: Every time we instruct you to "watch" a particular episode, feel free to replace "watch" with "DVR." We know you have jobs and/or children and/or responsibilities.) Happy watching!
1. Start Slowly. Skip Most of Season One.
We know you're going into this with a good bit of momentum, but if you are a Simpsons virgin or moderate fan, please start slowly. Frankly, season one is not jam-packed with classics. And because the show essentially resets every episode, and because it was still figuring out who these characters were, you won't really be missing much by skipping most of the first season. You can even skip a bunch of season two. Watch "Simpsons Roasting on a Open Fire," the first episode that ever aired and then just play it by ear. "Bart the Daredevil" is generally thought of as the first great episode, and "Lisa's Substitute" is probably the first truly incredible episode. Just remember: The Simpsons marathon is not a sprint; it is literally a marathon.
2. You Should Pull Only One All-Nighter and It Should Be Friday Night Into Saturday Morning (Season Four Into Season Five)
You’re not as young as used to be. You used to rock and roll all night, and party every day. Then it was every other day. Now you’re lucky to find half an hour a week to get caught up with your DVR before you fall asleep on the couch. But party like it’s 1993 from Saturday evening until Sunday morning. That’s when season four turns into season five, and if you’re fast asleep, you’ll miss such classics as “Rosebud,” “Homer's Barbershop Quartet,” and freaking "Cape Feare" — you don't want to miss "Cape Feare." Sunday night into Monday morning is also incredible, but, again, you're not as young as you used to be. None of us are.
3. Watch Every Sideshow Bob Episode
For newbies and fans, the marathon provides you with an interesting opportunity to watch the show in a different way. We suggest creating a miniseries of sorts by watching every episode that features Sideshow Bob, undeniably the show's greatest reoccurring guest star. Perfectly voiced by Kelsey Grammer, Bob is as close as the show gets to a multiseason story arc. Here are all of his episodes: "Krusty Gets Busted" (season one) "Black Widower" (s3); "Cape Feare" (s5); "Sideshow Bob Roberts" (s6); "Sideshow Bob's Last Gleaming" (s7); "Brother from Another Series" (s8); "Day of the Jackanapes" (s12); "The Great Louse Detective" (s14); "The Italian Bob" (s17); "Funeral for a Friend" (s19); "Wedding for Disaster" (s20), though briefly; "The Bob Next Door" (s21); "At Long Last Leave" (s23), though very briefly; "The Man Who Grew Too Much" (s25).
4. You Want to Watch All the Conan O'Brien Episodes? Fine. But Now Shut Up About It.
Most TV writers aren't famous. Conan is. As a result, his is the name most associated with the show, despite the relative few episodes he wrote for the show. He wrote "New Kid on the Block," "Marge vs. the Monorail," "Homer Goes to College," and the wraparounds of "Treehouse of Horror IV." ("Marge Gets a Job" was based on an idea of his, but he had already left the show by the time it was written, so it was taken on by future showrunners Bill Oakley and Josh Weinstein.) Happy now?! These episodes are great, sure, but there are plenty of other writers we'd suggest you focus on first: Jon Vitti, Greg Daniels, Matt Selman ...
5. Seriously, Watch the Later Seasons, Especially the Episodes Written by Matt Selman
Some people and some other sites will tell you that you don't have to watch after season eight, but please don't listen to those people. Seriously. Sure, the rate of great episodes drops off, but some of the show's best half-hours happen after season ten. A way to know which ones will probably be great, is to just look at which ones were written by or co-showrun by Matt Selman (here's his Wiki). This includes latter classics like "Behind the Laughter," "Trilogy of Error," "All's Fair in Oven War," "That '90s Show" (more on that later), and "The Day the Earth Stood Cool."
6. DVR All the "Treehouse of Horror" Episodes and Watch Separately
The “Treehouse of Horror” series is a must-see and we recommend watching it in one chunk. Be sure to DVR the annual Halloween episode, which began in season two, and once the marathon is over (and only once the marathon’s over) binge watch 'em all. It’s a weird tonal shift going from “Sideshow Bob Roberts” to “Treehouse of Horror V” back to “Bart’s Girlfriend.” It makes a lot more sense to transition from “Treehouse of Horror V” to “Treehouse of Horror VI.”
7. Here Is Every Episode With an Original Song
People love The Simpsons' songs, as they should. Make your marathon more musical with any of the below. (Here, The Simpsons' writers picked their favorite songs for us.)
- "Second Grade Blues" from "Moaning Lisa"
- "Lisa, It’s Your Birthday" from "Stark Raving Dad"
- "Capital City" from "Dancin’ Homer"
- "The Trading Gap Shuffle" from "Mr. Lisa Goes to Washington"
- "Flaming Moe's" from “Flaming Moe's"
- "We're Sending Our Love Down the Well" from “Radio Bart”
- "Talkin' Softball" from “Homer at the Bat”
- "Your Wife Don't Understand You,” “Bagged Me a Homer,” “Bunk with Me Tonight,” and “Stand By Your Manager” from “Colonel Homer”
- "The Field of Excellence" from “Brother, Can You Spare Two Dimes?”
- "Kamp Krusty Theme Song" from “Kamp Krusty”
- "Oh, Streetcar!" from "A Streetcar Named Marge"
- "Mr. Plow" from "Mr. Plow"
- "The Monorail Song" from “Marge vs. the Monorail”
- "Presidents' Song" from “I Love Lisa”
- "Union Strike Folk Song" from “Last Exit to Springfield”
- “It Was a Very Good Beer” from Duffless”
- "The Adventures of Ned Flanders Theme Song" from “The Front”
- “You’re Gonna Like Me” from “Krusty Gets Kancelled”
- “Baby on Board" from “Homer’s Barbershop Quartet”
- “Springfield, Springfield” from "Boy-Scoutz 'N the Hood"
- "Who Needs the Kwik-E-Mart?" from “Homer and Apu”
- "Underwater Wonderland" from “Homer Badman”
- "We Do (The Stonecutters' Song)" from “Homer the Great”
- "See My Vest" from “Two Dozens and One Greyhounds”
- "Bleeding Gums Blues" from “Round Springfield”
- "Señor Burns" from “Who Shot Mr. Burns (Part Two)?”
- "Just Don't Look" from “Treehouse of Horror VI”
- "Big Spender" and “Table Five” from “Two Bad Neighbors”
- "The Amendment Song" from “The Day the Violence Died”
- "Dr. Zaius" and "Chimpan-A to Chimpan-Z" from “A Fish Called Selma”
- "We Put the Spring in Springfield" from “Bart After Dark”
- "Can I Borrow A Feeling?" from “A Milhouse Divided”
- "Minimum Wage Nanny,” “Cut Every Corner,” "A Boozehound Named Barney,” and "Happy Just the Way We Are" from "Simpsoncalifragilisticexpiala(Annoyed Grunt)cious"
- "Poochie Rap Song" from "The Itchy & Scratchy & Poochie Show"
- "You're Checkin' In" from "The City of New York vs. Homer Simpson"
- "Those Were The Days" from “Lisa’s Sax”
- "Gonna Paint Our Wagon" from “All Singing, All Dancing”
- "Canyonero" from "The Last Temptation of Krust"
- "The Garbageman" from “Trash of the Titans”
- "Luke, Be a Jedi" from “Mayored to the Mob”
- "Adults/Kids" from “Wild Barts Can’t Be Broken”
- "Max Power" from “Homer to the Max”
- "Testify" from “Faith Off”
- "Simpsons Christmas Boogie" from “Behind the Laughter”
- "Sold Separately" from “Homer vs. Dignity”
- "Drop Da Bomb,” “Special Girl,” and "Silent G/Spell Out What You Mean to Me" from “New Kids on the Blecch”
- "They'll Never Stop the Simpsons" from “Gump Roast”
- "Homer and Marge" from “Three Gays of the Condo”
- "Everybody Hates Ned Flanders" from “Dude, Where’s My Ranch?”
- "A Vote For a Winner" from “The President Wore Pearls”
- "Ode to Branson" from “The Old Man and the Key”
- "Politically Incorrect" and "Margerine" from “That ‘90s Show”
- "Sneaking in at Noon" from "The Falcon and the D'ohman"
- "Bloggin' a Food Blog" from "The Food Wife"
- "Dream Operator" from "How I Wet Your Mother"
- "Enjoy It While You Can" from "A Totally Fun Thing That Bart Will Never Do Again"
- "Super Star" and "Homer Face" from "Lisa Goes Gaga"
- "The Ballad of Cylinder Head," "Homer Is Where the Bart Is," "Spuckler Bossa Nova," and "Ode to Apologize" from "Love Is a Many-Splintered Thing"
- "Two-Step Heart" from "Gone Abie Gone"
- "High to Be Loathed" from "Gorgeous Grampa"
- "Sassy Madison Train Tag" from "Dangers on a Train"
- "Swag" from "Homerland"
- "You Only Live Twice" from "YOLO"
- "The Super Bowl Shuffle Rap" from "The Kid Is All Right"
- "Skinner!" and "Fiddler!" from "Yellow Subterfuge"
- "Comic Book Guy's Lament" from "Married to the Blob"
- "Let Them Play!" from "What to Expect When Bart's Expecting"
Also, generally, "Do the Bartman."
8. Don't Be Afraid to Cry
The Simpsons is not solely a joke machine. It will make you cry. It's a fact. Stock up on the tissue boxes for “Lisa’s Substitute,” “Mother Simpson,” "HOMR,” “And Maggie Makes Three," "'Round Springfield," "Bart Sells His Soul," "Marge Be Not Proud," "Mother Simpson," and a few others. They’re going to make you ugly-cry, but don’t feel even the slightest hint of shame. They’re wonderful, emotional, and remember: Do it for her.
9. Get Caught Up on the Controversy
“Homer’s Enemy” (peak Obnoxious Homer), “A Star Is Burns” (the meta Critic crossover, which Matt Groening protested because he felt it was just a plug for another show), “That ‘90s Show” (which gave Homer and Marge a new origin story of sorts, one that involves Bush and Nirvana), and “The Principal and the Pauper” (Principal Skinner isn't the real Principal Skinner!) are four of the most controversial Simpsons episodes ever. But even if they left a bad taste in your mouth the last time you saw them, give them another shot because they're all fantastic and have aged better than expected. (Same with “The City of New York vs. Homer Simpson,” which is considered controversial only because it stopped being syndicated as a result of the World Trade Center playing a large plot role.) If you are new to the series, they're worth watching both for being great and also to get a sense of what Simpsons nerds complained about in the 90s. Don’t bother with the equally contentious “Saddlesore Galactica” though.
10. Have Fun!
This is a marathon of a wonderfully funny television show; it's not homework. Do not try to watch everything. Don't even try to watch every classic episode, because they are too many and they each deserve to be watched in earnest, not out of obligation. Just pop in and out when you need a laugh. Read through the full schedule, scroll through the titles, and if the episode name sounds funny or suggests a topic or story line that you might be interested in, watch that episode. Enjoy!