Tonight marks the unimaginable event. The Simpsons has officially hit 600 episodes, tying with western series Gunsmoke for most episodes by a scripted program. For an animated show that continues to push boundaries, it's quite the achievement. With the promise of major moments coming tonight, it only feels right to look back at the first five centennials and rank them from best to worst. How will the 600th episode hold up to such hits as "Trash of the Titans"? Come back tomorrow to find out. For now, relive the episodes that should be held in higher esteem than anything else that they've done in the last 27 years.
1. "Trash of the Titans"
It seemed shocking enough that The Simpsons would hit 100, but for their 200th episode they managed to top themselves. It was an episode where Homer famously ran a campaign on the slogan "Can't Someone Else Do It?," winning against guest star Steve Martin. It has all of the familiar corrupt politics and cultural gags that the show did best. However, it also had the catchy song "The Garbageman Can," which fantasized a world where garbage men did everything from picking up trash to fixing people up before the big policeman's ball. There's more jokes per minute than any other centennial, and it's going to be difficult for the show to ever top this inspired lunacy.
2. "Sweet Seymour Skinner’s Baadasssss Song"
The premise was simple. The episode would focus on Bart's greatest prank that got Seymour Skinner fired. It was quite the incident indeed, as Santa's Little Helper escapes in the school vents (Alien style) and sends Skinner back to the military, lost for any direction in life. He is replaced by goody goody Ned Flanders, and the school falls into chaos. It's an episode full of novelty and heart, showing a different side to the Bart/Skinner dynamic by forcing them to bond and have Bart inevitably get his foe his job back as principal. If nothing else, it shows the perfect balance that the show could have between madcap jokes involving gas station explosions and heartfelt ennui involving Bart's need for an enemy.
3. "You Kent Always Say What You Want"
Upon Homer buying the millionth ice cream from a local establishment, news anchor Kent Brockman is forced to interview him. Upon an accident that lands hot coffee on his lap, Kent curses on live TV, forcing his abandonment from journalistic glory. The episode focuses on the struggles of censorship and the changing landscape of news consumption. While it ends with Kent back where he started, it does feature some of his more aggressive and menacing rants about the media. It may not focus on the central family like the others, but it does feature The Simpsons going high concept in ways that they usually do best. It was also the last episode to air before The Simpsons Movie was released, making it extra special.
4. "Barting Over"
What's more impressive is that "Barting Over" was half a lifetime ago for The Simpsons. Even at that time, it didn't seem like the show would last for twice as long, if just because of the waning interest that general audiences were beginning to give it. With guest stars Tony Hawk and the band Blink-182, it was at the height of the show's reliance on guest stars and wild premises. Still, the idea of Bart moving out on his own was a genius one that became overshadowed by Homer fighting Hawk in a midair, The Matrix-style skateboard fight. It's still funny, but it lacks the heart that makes the other centennials so effective.
5. "Treehouse of Horror XXVII"
It only seemed right that one of the centennials would fall on a Treehouse of Horror episode. Now in its 27th installment, the episode pretty much embodies the standards of latter day Simpsons episodes featuring elaborate couch gags and the self-referential humor featuring cameos by Dr. Marvin Monroe, Sideshow Bob, and Frank Grimes. The third name was billed as a big deal, but failed to achieve more than an obnoxious gag around the phrase "Won't somebody stop them?" In some respects, it's one of the lesser Treehouse of Horror episodes with references made to Mad Max: Fury Road, Kingsman, The Hunger Games, and Planet of the Apes. The only effective segment ("BFF") saw Lisa's imaginary friend go on a murderous rampage. As a whole, this felt more like a special episode instead of a great story. It does have laughs, but the substance is a little lacking.
6. "At Long Last Leave"
The episode had all of the components that make for a quality episode of The Simpsons. There was the meta humor in which the city of Springfield recollected their burden of taking care of the Simpsons family. There was a popular guest star in Wikileaks founder Julian Assange. However, it was also the unfortunate reality that, as South Park once said, "Simpsons did it." The plot to exile the family may not be a carbon copy, but one cannot help but feel like "At Long Last Leave" is a rehash of The Simpsons Movie, but shorter. It's still funny, but managed to do what the other centennials didn't: show the series' age.