Service members who joined up when the first full-length episode of “The Simpsons” hit the air have been eligible to retire for about five years.
And while the long-running animated series rarely dabbles in military-themed humor, it’s tough for any scripted television to go a quarter-century without somebody stealing a tank, somebody else entering into a blood pact over World War II plunder, and somebody else becoming a red-team leader in an Army war game through a series of inexplicable circumstances. It’s simple math.
FXX recently secured the rights to the show’s massive back catalog, and it’s celebrating by airing the whole thing — 552 episodes and a movie, in order, starting earlier today.
Not planning on spending the rest of your August watching cartoons drink beer and jump gorges? Here’s five episodes with a military twist and their expected air times, courtesy of a massive piece of web posting from Uproxx’s Ashley Burns. (All times Eastern)
Raging Abe Simpson and His Grumbling Grandson in ‘The Curse of the Flying Hellfish’ (Aug. 24, 12:30 p.m.)
What: Bart’s grandfather, Abe, and evil nuclear plant owner C. Montgomery Burns are the last surviving members of a World War II unit that discovered precious pieces of art during the war’s final days and pledged to keep the treasure hidden until the final Flying Hellfish could reap the rewards. Burns, ever the pragmatist, hires a hit man to speed up the process. Hilarity ensues.
When: The episode aired in 1996. In the first show of that seventh season, viewers left in breathless anticipation by a dramatic Season 6 cliffhanger had learned that Burns was shot by — spoiler alert — baby Maggie.
Why watch: Ever want to see an animated slow-witted private named Ox explain the centuries-old concept of “tontine“? You’re in luck.
The Principal and the Pauper (Aug. 25, 3 a.m.)
What: Springfield Elementary’s principal, Seymour Skinner, is revealed to be an impostor, having taken the place of a war buddy he believed had been killed in action in Vietnam. The real Sgt. Skinner, voiced by Martin Sheen, and the entire plot of this episode have been all but erased from series history.
When: The episode was the second of the show’s ninth season and quickly earned its place on nearly every critic’s worst-episode list.
Why watch: It’s a tough sell — even the voice of the (fake) Skinner, “Saturday Night Live” alum and “Spinal Tap” icon Harry Shearer, has blasted the episode in several interviews.
Simpson Tide (Aug. 25, noon)
What: In one of many familiar story arcs, Homer loses his job at the nuclear plant and needs something else to do. Why not join the Navy and stumble into command of a nuclear submarine? Why not add an officer named Capt. Tennille, a montage set to the Village People’s “In the Navy” and a cameo by “Gilligan’s Island” star Bob Denver? It’s almost like the writing staff played a word-association game with “Navy,” then animated it.
When: Later in the ninth season, which means it predates the Navy working uniform, sparing standard-definition TVs everywhere at the time from processing Homer in blue camo.
Why watch: The one-liners are rapid-fire, including Homer’s supremely optimistic take on the end of his military service — “You can’t spell ‘dishonorable’ without ‘honorable.'” (this quote, and other valuable reference points, provided by the super-inclusive Simpsons Archive.)
New Kids on the Blecch (Aug. 26, 8:30 p.m.)
What: Bart and his friends form a singing group that turns out to be a front for an ambitious Navy recruiter. Somehow, it makes more sense in German:
When: Originally aired in 2001, meaning some members of the current fleet may have been brainwashed into joining by the seductive sounds of “Yvan eht Nioj.”
Why watch: A cameo by pre-mogul Justin Timberlake adds to a fairly well-known episode that takes jabs at both the military and boy bands.
G.I. D’oh (Aug. 29, 9 a.m.)
What: More hi-jinks at recruiters’ expense, as the Army targets elementary-school kids to fill its ranks. Bart, impressed by a short film of destruction, signs up, but when his parents want to get him out of the contract, one of the Simpsons has to enlist. Hint: He will not meet current body composition standards, no matter how hard somebody tries to help.
When: Aired in 2006, when recruiting duty was decidedly not funny.
Why watch: One critic at IGN.com said the episode “crossed the line of good taste” in lampooning the armed forces. On the other hand, Homer does force a crazed officer, voiced by Kiefer Sutherland, to surrender during a war game by spiking the Springfield water supply with alcohol, delivering the mother of all hangovers.
Honorable mentions include:
- “Sideshow Bob’s Last Gleaming” (Aug. 24, 6 a.m.), during which the show’s recurring, Kelsey Grammer-voiced villain steals a nuclear device from Springfield Air Force Base. R. Lee Ermey lends his voice to a colonel who, naturally, ask Bob about his “major malfunction.”
- “Bart vs. Australia” (Aug. 23, 9 p.m.), when the crew goes Down Under and Homer has a run-in with a Marine embassy guard — he believes the sentry will remain stoic during his antics, like Britain’s famed Queen’s Guard, and is proven wrong in painful fashion.
- “Brother’s Little Helper” (Aug. 26, 3:30 a.m.), when Bart, overmedicated on a Ritalin-esque focus-enhancer, steals a tank from nearby Fort Fragg and uses it to shoot down a satellite launched by Major League Baseball that’s capable of monitoring people’s thoughts. St. Louis slugger Mark McGwire, playing himself, has a cameo in which he hits home runs to distract people from MLB’s ethically questionable actions. This was less ironic in 1999.
Have a favorite, or have one we left out? Join the discussion in the comments below or on Army Times’ Facebook page.