Best Episode of The Simpsons? Season 1: Life on the Fast Lane

A reference to a dance number in The Gay Divorcee (1934)

In an attempt to get completely up-to-date on one of my favourite TV-series The Simpsons, after I watch each season, I will choose my favourite episode…

The first season is always a strange watch. On the one hand everyone will argue about the strange animation and weird voices – all the characters in opening sequence when Bart skateboards past the bus-stop are unknown (wth an older-Bart amongst the many bus-users), Ralph sounds like Nelson, etc.
But I think this also adds a little charm to the episodes – they are rough and ready. To some extent, Groening and Co didn’t know what they had and so the humour is quite brave. I will mention a particular dark episode in Season 2, but considering the episode I chose for Season 1 is Life on the Fast Lane, the central narrative is “Marge considers an affair” so I doubt we need to get any darker than that.
The reference to An Officer and a Gentleman (1982)
To summarise the plot – it is Marge’s birthday and Homer buys her a bowling ball which she refuses to give to him – and instead takes bowling lessons from French-seducer Jacque… which leads her to make a very difficult decision.
What makes the episode so great is how it doesn’t redeem Homer at all. I think part of what has made The Simpsons last so long is how, depending on the episode, it will utilise the supporting cast (even the family) in whatever way it needs to. So, in this episode Marge is the lead and everyone else is simply comedic in their roles. Homer does not redeem himself – he simply misses Marge and wants her back. What is important is how Marge realises the importance of him – and their marriage and children. Homer doesn’t change in the episode at all.
The start – as Lisa and Bart destroy the Kitchen while making a card out of macaroni and create pancakes are the type of things my family would do for birthdays when we were younger. The dream-sequence looks incredible – using pink to highlight features whilst everything else remains in shades of grey. It is flash-backed in Season 4, so it is clearly memorable, but there is a brilliant reference to An Officer and a Gentleman at the end, whilst the best line (and I’ll try to find these whenever I write these posts) belongs to Jacque:
Marge: You certainly have a lot of bowling trophies.
Jacques: [Laughs] I like you so much. They’re not for bowling, Marge. You’re so naïve. They’re for lovemaking!
Currently, I have just finished Season 4, so I shall try and release these posts slowly so that there isn’t too much of a gap in between, but it is no suprise that this episode – my favourite from the first season is also Matt Groening’s second favourite of all time!
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