Disney Plus is coming to the UK on March 24. There’s a huge amount of content to dive into, from originals like The Mandalorian and The World According to Jeff Goldblum to more than 30 Marvel films, Disney’s entire back catalogue of animated movies and loads of TV. Live-action classics such as Home Alone, Hook, Hocus Pocus and more have also made the cut.
While all the content above is amazing value alone, there’s another hook to reel you in to the waiting arms of Disney Plus: after the Disney Corporation’s acquisition of Fox, it’s become the only place in which you can stream all 600-something episodes of The Simpsons.
Although it’s been a 6pm primetime staple for years, The Simpsons is still a huge draw. With so many episodes, it’s difficult to know where to start if you’ve not watched in a while, but there’s some absolute comedy classics – with gags for every single age group – embedded in its back catalogue, classics that remain some of the funniest family-friendly TV ever aired. Don’t believe us? Grab your donuts, crack open a Duff and make your way through our personal favourites.
1. Cape Feare (Season 5, episode 2)
There’s so much to like about this spoof of the 1991 film Cape Fear, which starred Robert De Niro as a determined serial killer. For one, it’s Kelsey Grammer’s best turn as the murderous, meticulous Sideshow Bob, Bart’s series-long sworn enemy. Whether he’s stepping on rakes or singing the score to HMS Pinafore, Grammar steals every scene he’s in with impeccable comic delivery and self-righteous fury at being outwitted, yet again, by his ten-year-old nemesis.
This is The Simpsons at its finest, with one-liners galore (“Use a pen, Sideshow Bob”), slapstick physical comedy (the cactus patch) and amazing pop-culture lampoons (Homer and Bob in the cinema, in a delightful role-reversal of the scene in De Niro’s classic). It’s no wonder the episode is considered to be one of the best in the whole series. Start here.
2. You Only Move Twice (Season 8, episode 2)
“Scorpio! He’ll sting you with his dreams of power and wealth…” When the Simpsons move to the idyllic town of Cypress Creek, Homer begins working for wealthy billionaire Hank Scorpio. Of course, he’s also a James Bond-style supervillain set on world domination. The episode is full of heart because it’s really a look at how much Homer is willing to sacrifice for his family: while he excels at work for the first time ever, the rest of the Simpsons clan struggle with their new surroundings.
Marge begins drinking, Bart is put in a school that won’t tolerate his antics, while Lisa is surrounded by nature but can’t enjoy it because of her allergies. All the supervillain stuff is moved to the background, unnoticed by Homer, and there’s no better representation of this than him casually kicking a live grenade while deep in thought, as if it was a beer can on the street.
3. Marge vs The Monorail (Season 4, episode 12)
Marge-focused episodes are relatively rare on “best of” lists, but this episode is just so darn good. With the late Phil Hartman as shady monorail salesman Lyle Lanley, it was initially rated one of the series’ worst episodes on release, but has since grown into a cult classic.
A mixture of impressive sight gags (Mr Burns' hiring policies employing a duck at the power plant), sharp writing, a catchy musical number and a dramatic, high-speed third act, the whole family – and possibly Star Trek's Leonard Nimoy – work together to save the day. It also reveals the town’s mob mentality, which becomes a recurring plot device in later seasons.
4. Last Exit to Springfield (Season 4, episode 17)
Last Exit is heavy on the Homer-Lisa relationship, which is arguably one of the best dynamics of the show. It’s another episode that shows the lengths Homer will go for his family, proving that for all his buffoonery, he’s really a good man at heart. When Lisa finds out she needs braces, Homer creates a union at the power plant, encouraging his fellow workers to go on strike or risk losing their dental plan.
It might have a few tender moments, but the best jokes of the show involve Homer, as the head of the union, matching wits with Mr Burns and Smithers in a game of class warfare. With heart, humour and a subtle nod to How The Grinch Stole Christmas, it’s an episode that has it all.
5. Homer vs the Eighteenth Amendment (Season 8, episode 18)
There’s not a huge amount of emotional content to be found here, but it’s a riot from start to finish. When Bart gets drunk on St Patrick’s Day, alcohol is banned in Springfield, kickstarting a chaotic Prohibition-themed episode as Homer becomes the Beer Baron, a mysterious bootlegger. It’s a surprisingly adult episode as it examines the town’s relationship with alcohol, but it doesn't have time to go too deep on the subject – it's too busy rocketing from one joke to the next.
From the St Patrick’s Day parade to Homer’s clever smuggling operation, it’s full of classic Simpsons moments, but the cherry on top of the Banana Kaboom is the sheer genius that is police chief Rex Banner. The Elliot Ness figure charged with hunting Homer down, Banner is a single-minded straight-man antagonist, creating chaos and chewing scenery whenever he shows up. Perhaps the funniest episode ever written.