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. After a well-meaning Lisa frees Snorky star dolphin performer at a Sea Worldesque marine park Springfield soon learns he's King Snorky, finally able to lead his subjects from their forced habitation of the sea. Though Homer's instinct to take a stand ("I'm not going to let a bunch of hoop-jumping tuna munchers push me around!") is classic, the most priceless moment is an aside between two supporting characters. Moe: "What did he say?" Carl: "He said years ago dolphins lived on the land." Moe: "Whaaaaaaa?" (Eddy)
7. Anthropomorphic slapstick See Snorky, above. I also give you rampaging rhinos, the sideways glances of annoyed-looking amphibians, the many worries of Mr. Teeny, and of course, Itchy and Scratchy, gleefully upping the ante of every cruel Warner Bros. cartoon ever made. (Huston)
8. All singing, all dancing Yes, Danny Elfman wrote the famous Simpsons theme, but the series' real audio hero is composer-arranger Alf Clausen, who over 18 years has had occasion to brilliantly spoof just about every musical genre. Among serious songfests, it doesn't get any better than Marge's community theater turn as Blanche DuBois ("A Streetcar Named Marge") or Troy McClure's big comeback as Charlton Heston in the Broadway-bound Stop the Planet of the Apes, I Want to Get Off ("A Fish Called Selma"). Then there was The Simpson Family Smile-Time Variety Hour, a 1997 tribute to horrendous '70s variety shows that featured Smithers in chaps, singing Devo's "Whip It." (Harvey)
9. Lenny Leonard What is it about Lenny Leonard (voiced by Harry Shearer)? Maybe it's the sideburns, maybe the nonchalance or the complete obliviousness with which he floats through life. I don't know, but I would do him. Carl is clearly the more functional half of their conjoined yet asexual partnership. But Lenny he's like Steve Buscemi with more sex appeal! (Harvey)
10. Yvan eht nioj 'Nuff said. (Huston)
THE SIMPSONS MOVIE
Opens Fri/27 in Bay Area theaters
See Movie Clock at www.sfbg.com