Today marks the kickoff of FXX’s epic The Simpsons marathon where they will air every episode of the series (plus the movie) over the next twelve days. If things weren’t so hectic at work, I’d seriously consider taking a day or two off to just bask in all the animated Springfield glory. Sadly, I am a grown up with grown up responsibilities, so I don’t know how much of the actual marathon I’m going to catch. Sometimes it really stinks to be old.
I am admittedly a fairly fair-weather Simpsons fan; I watched the show a lot during its early seasons and then my commitment wavered a bit. Sunday night television has become way too crowded with other prestige programming and my priority and tastes have changed, so I’ll only occasionally check out the show when there is either a guest star that I enjoy, a plot topic that captures my interest or if I simply come across an episode while flipping through the channels. There are probably entire seasons that I’ve never seen, which is very unlike me. I don’t typically drop in and out of show – my completest nature and borderline ADD when it comes to pop culture usually compels me to fill in any gaps of a show that I continue to watch; if I quit a show, I quit a show and rarely look back. But this sporadic viewership in a real anomaly.
In my defense, The Simpsons has been on for 25 seasons and it would be a daunting effort to work my way back through the canon. It’s hard to even comprehend that this show has been on since I was in middle school; that’s two-thirds of my life! I don’t know if I’m even capable of that level of devotion – most shows just don’t last that long. After 25 seasons, I might even tire of Seinfeld, Arrested Development, Breaking Bad and The Wire. The Simpsons has been on longer than all those shows combined. Just think about that.
Though I may not be a Simpsons fanatic, I do have a fondness for the show. The episodes that I have seen over the years may not uniformly be great, but I’ve found something to enjoy in just about all of them. That’s in large part to the memorable characters that the writers have created over the years; they have done an excellent job of populating Springfield and creating a deep bench of citizens beyond the core Simpsons family. Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa and Maggie are fun, but it is the supporting characters that make the show special. It’s easy to create five memorable characters, but an entire city of characters takes some real talent.
So in hour of today’s momentous Simpsons occasion, here are my ten favorite supporting characters from the show. I didn’t include celebrity characters and I didn’t count characters that only appeared once. That cuts down the possible candidates, but that still leaves a pretty sizable pool to draw from.
- Sideshow Bob
Sideshow Bob would be higher on the list but he’s been overused on the show. His appearances have become too frequent and too similar. When he was initially introduced, he was a welcome addition to the Springfield landscape, withhis highbrow speech and his murderous intent.
- Dr. Nick
Hey everybody! A quack doctor isn’t a new invention for a comedy, but Dr. Nick’s sheer incompetence is only rivaled by Dr. Spaceman on 30 Rock and Dr. Fishman on Arrested Development. He’s an idiot with a catchphrase, which is entertaining enough for me.
- Groundskeeper Willie
If I had to clean up after the little monsters at Springfield Elementary, I’d probably be as angry as Willie too. His mysterious background and his thick Scottish accent are always a welcome component of any episode.
- Fat Tony
I have a weakness for anything mafia related and the resident Springfield crime boss fits the bill. He and his crew were always up to some criminal enterprise and I was bummed when they decided to have his character sleep with the fishes.
- Reverend Lovejoy
I wouldn’t want to be tasked with meeting the spiritual needs of this community and Lovejoy is clearly exasperated by the nonsense that he has to encounter on a regular basis – even Ned Flanders and his enthusiasm are exhausting. His loss of patience is the viewer’s gain.
- Mayor Quimby
Making fun of politicians is kind of low-hanging fruit, but Mayor Quimby’s corruption and the obvious Kennedy parody are never fails to make me smile. I’ve probably placed him too high in the rankings, but as a political scientist I overvalue this kind of humor.
- Waylon Smithers
Poor, sweet Smithers – he is the dutiful servant to a man that he is inexplicably in love with and has absolutely zero chance with. While in real life that kind of unreciprocated love isn’t all that funny, in an animated series he unwavering devotion and his terrible attempts to mask his sexual preference are pretty amusing. Plus anyone who has been someone’s assistant will recognize a little bit of themselves in Smithers and what he is tasked to do.
Ha-ha. I’m always drawn to the bad boys so I guess it isn’t too surprising that Springfield Elementary bully Nelson cracked my top five. Sure Nelson is kind of terrible, but there had to be someone worse than Bart to make a core character more likeable. Nelson has tormented his classmates for years, but my favorite moments with his character are his interactions with Lisa, who was able to see through his tough exterior and find a pretty decent guy underneath.
- Edna Krabappel
I’ve written before about Mrs. Krabapplel and how bummed out I was when Marcia Cross died and the character had to be retired. As a former educator, there is a lot I could identify with in Mrs. K – though I hope that I was better at teaching than she was. She is probably one of the more well-rounded characters on the show and she was always a nice foil for Bart. I liked it best when he realized how much he actually cared about his teacher.
- Mr. Burns
Well, they don’t get much badder than C. Montgomery Burns, so I am in no way surprised that he is my favorite non-Simpson Simpsons character. I tend to like villains more than heroes and Mr. Burns is definitely the resident villain in Springfield. Any episode where he makes an appearance is automatically a great episode and I’ll never tire of this truly despicable plans and his total disregard for the health, safety and emotional stability of all that he comes in contact with. He’ll occasionally show some flashes of humanity, but that only adds some depth to the character. Release the hounds!
Now it’s your turn – who are your favorite supporting characters on The Simpsons and why? Sound off in the comments below.