Our Springfield soft spots

Ten (out of 10,000,000) reasons why we love The Simpsons

1. Tress MacNeille Julie Kavner and Hank Azaria always get props, but how about throwing down for my hero, the voice behind characters such as scathing Agnes Skinner, the brilliant-when-coherent Cat Lady, single working woman Cookie Kwan ("Stay outta the West Side!"; "Sign here, initial here, kiss me here!"), and Cookie's sex-predator pal Lindsey Naegle, who appears as everything from a network executive ("We're losing male tweens! Can you get jiggy with something?") to a consumer-testing ad sloganeer ("We'll call it Desert Breeze!" she says after one spray of a product blinds Homer) to door-to-door baby-proofing salesperson (donning bonnet and pacifier in the process) to proud espouser of the child-free lifestyle. The sharpest sarcasm on The Simpsons comes straight from the mouth of MacNeille. (Johnny Ray Huston)

2. Homer as Mr. Sparkle (in "In Marge We Trust") After Homer spots his eerie likeness on a box of Mr. Sparkle, a Japanese detergent, he investigates. Though it's later revealed that the Mr. Sparkle logo is actually an amalgamation of a fish and a lightbulb, the product's television commercial is no less hilarious.

Disembodied Homeresque head: "I'm disrespectful to dirt! Can you see that I am serious? Out of my way, all of you! This is no place for loafers! Join me or die! Can you do any less?"

Giggling consumers: "What a brave corporate logo!" "I accept the challenge of Mr. Sparkle!" (Cheryl Eddy)

3. Springfield is for lovers We knew Matt Groening was 'mo-friendly even pre-Simpsons, given the oft-nakedly frolicsome duo Akbar and Jeff of Life in Hell. But the show pushed boundaries right away — remember all that earnest "Is Smithers gay?" debate around school yards and watercoolers? Ah, how innocent (or just dumb) we were then. Aside from her time with a golf gender-bender, Patty's love life has yet to be given much shrift, but at least two episodes wrapped themselves in the rainbow flag. In 1997's "Homer's Phobia," Homer (scared by flaming voice guest John Waters) decides Bart needs a father-son field trip to a steel mill — where, unfortunately, the uniformly hunky male workers spend their break shakin' can to "Everybody Dance Now" by C+C Music Factory. Seven seasons later, "Three Gays of the Condo" found Marge and Homer temporarily separated, the latter moving in with a quarreling male couple in Springfield's "gay ghetto." He fits in suspiciously well before heterosexual instincts triumph once again. (Dennis Harvey)

4. Quotability Every episode contains at least one line that can be used in any situation, be it from Comic Book Guy ("Ah yes — the Incredible Hulk Melon Baller!"), Ralph Wiggum ("When I grow up, I want to be a principal ... or a caterpillar"), Groundskeeper Willie ("When you're alone and life is making you lonely, you can always go ... ach! doon-toon"), or, of course, Homer ("I've been a fan of the Who since the very beginning, when they were the Hillbilly Bugger Boys"). (Eddy)

5. Apt or prophetic celebrity cameos I'll name just two: Serena Williams moaning, "I just ate a personal pizza," to beg out of a tennis match (in "Tennis the Menace") and Kathy Griffin as a bully named Francine who terrorizes Lisa (in "Bye Bye Nerdie"). For extra laughs, listen close to the crowd noises of the scientists in the latter episode and then brace yourself for the end, in which Griffin's character howls with rage as she swallows the camera in an attempt to beat the stuffing out of the biggest nerd of all: you. (Huston)

6. Treehouses of Horror My favorite-ever "Treehouse of Horror" segment deserves its own mention.