The Simpsons has had a run that no other show of its kind can match, what with its 25 seasons and 550 episodes (and counting). In addition to that sheer quantity, it is also a show that has generated large swaths of unparalleled comedic brilliance. In the minds of many, The Simpsons is the best show of all time, but—also in the minds of many—it is a show that went downhill many moons ago. Indeed, with such an immense body of work, you will find great variance in quality, and there are some episodes of the show that are downright awful. With that in mind, we present the 10 worst episodes in The Simpsons’ history. Unsurprisingly, none of these episodes come from the peak of the show’s run, when it was considered nigh universally great. Perhaps surprisingly, they all come from a period in the show’s run even later than the time when you most likely stopped watching. (You’re such a quitter.)
“The Simpsons Go To…” episodes had major diminishing returns over the years (we’ll never forget you, “Bart vs. Australia”), and the nadir of all those is “In the Name of the Grandfather.” In this episode, the family (joined by Grampa) goes to Ireland, where nothing funny or interesting happens. They aren’t even able to get Tony Blair or J.K. Rowling to do a voice cameo. That couple from Once doesn’t cut it.
Have you ever wanted Lisa to walk around referring to everyone around her as a “loser”? If so, this would be the episode for you. Bart meets the prankster who broke Principal Skinner many years ago, in another redrawing of the show’s increasingly convoluted past. The prankster is played by Jonah Hill. It all overshadows an uninteresting B story involving healthy eating.
For the first time in the show’s history, an episode focused on the fact that Homer’s is constantly strangling Bart. Perhaps calling attention to it—instead of treating it as a cartoonish bit—was not a good idea. But what was definitely not a good idea? Having Kareem Abdul-Jabbar strangle Homer until he becomes traumatized and can no longer strangle Bart or punish him at all. Then a psychiatrist decides that Bart deserves to die and tries to kill him. This is arguably the most unpleasant episode in the history of the show.
Bart doesn’t just get a cell phone, he gets Denis Leary’s cell phone. Have you ever wanted Leary to be a prominent focal point of a Simpsons episode? I don’t know how that could possibly be the case. Adding to the (abject lack of) hilarity is the fact that Bart pranks Leary into starring in a movie version of Everybody Poops. Also, the family goes to Peru and nothing happens.
This episode tells the tale of Moe’s rag, and the one telling this tale is—wait for it— Moe’s rag, voiced by Jeremy Irons. Most distressingly, nothing in the episode plays like the piece is aware of its non-canon status. So maybe Moe has a sentient rag (which is about the dumbest thing imaginable). The only thing keeping this one from being even further down the list is the hope that this whole thing wasn’t actually happening, and that the show just failed to establish this well.
Which of these storylines is worse: Bart and a 15-year-old girl running away together to get married (and then, also, she’s pregnant), or Lisa pretending to be a Native American? The plot in this episode makes no sense and the stories aren’t funny. It’s a slog just to sit through.
Homer and Marge’s marriage turns out to be null and void, so they have to get married again. Fair enough, so far. Marge then turns into a Bridezilla, then Patti and Selma kidnap Homer in a parody of the Saw movies. This is what makes this episode obnoxious, and—for whatever reason—none of the jokes really land, either. I guess when you run out of characters to marry off, you have your main characters get married again. Or, you have Comic Book Guy randomly marry a Japanese Manga artist.
Bart adopts a kid to be his younger brother, and then nothing else funny happens. To this episode’s credit, it has one very funny joke about how the orphan that Bart adopts, unlike another well-known orphan, hates tomorrow. Unfortunately, one good joke does not a worthwhile episode make.
A bunch of these jokes are clunkers, rendering the whole episode terribly unfunny. But what makes “Smoke on the Daughter” particularly bad, is the fact that the main plot centerd around Lisa becoming a ballerina and taking up smoking. Then there was that family of raccoons living in the Simpsons’ tree that look just like the Simpsons. That is too cartoonish even for a cartoon.
In “Double, Double, Boy in Trouble,” Bart meets a kid who looks just like him, and—shockingly—he’s also rich. Now, imagine that unoriginal plot, and add some terrible jokes that are beaten into the ground. If you hang around long enough, you will find out that Joe Montana has a cameo, but why would you do that to yourself? You’re a human being, goddammit. Your life has value.
Chris Morgan is an Internet gadabout who writes on a variety of topics and in a variety of mediums. If he had to select one thing to promote, however, it would be his ’90s blog/podcast, Existential Parachute Pants. (You can also follow him on Twitter.)