The classic to clunker ratio is still extraordinarily high, though The Simpsons' sixth season could give some devoted viewers pause. The show that takes cheeky delight in mooning television convention gives us "Another Simpsons Clip Show" and its first season-ending cliffhanger, "Who Shot Mr. Burns?" And, as does Bart in "A Star Is Burns," we should all feel a little dirty at the "cheap cartoon crossover" appearance of Jay Sherman (Jon Lovitz), designed to give a boost to the ill-fated animated series The Critic. But this is just beard-stroking tongue-clucking regarding a season that delivered episodes that rank in the hallowed The Simpsons pantheon, among them, "Homer: Bad Man," in which lust for a gummy Venus de Milo, peeled from the behind of an unwitting babysitter, makes Homer the object of feminist protest and tabloid TV fodder, and "Homer the Great," in which Homer is discovered to be the Chosen One to lead the secret society, "The Stonecutters" ("Who holds back the electric car/Who made Steve Guttenberg a star?/We do!"). Several episodes take their inspiration from classic films and books: Hitchcock's Rear Window ("Bart of Darkness"); Michael Crichton's Westworld and Jurassic Park ("Itchy and Scratchy Land"); and Stephen King and Ray Bradbury ("Treehouse of Horror V").
This season's roster of guest voices is also especially impressive, including Winona Ryder as "Lisa's Rival," Meryl Streep as Rev. Lovejoy's bad-seed daughter ("She's like a Milk Dud," a smitten Bart laments. "Sweet on the outside, poison on the inside"), the late Anne Bancroft in "Fear of Flying"; Patrick Stewart in "Homer the Great"; Mel Brooks and Susan Sarandon in "Homer vs. Patty and Selma," and Mandy Patinkin as Lisa's future fiancée in the surprisingly moving "Lisa's Wedding." There has, of late, been a feud a-brewin' between fans of The Simpsons and Family Guy. Which show is funnier? Has The Simpsons lost it? Is Family Guy a Simpsons-wannabe? Hey; Can't we all just laugh along? Best to just marvel at another exemplary Simpsons season that, to quote Homer in "Lisa's Rival," delivers it all: "The terrifying lows, the dizzying highs, the creamy middles." - Donald Liebenson, Amazon.com
"Bart of Darkness" (1F22)
After breaking his leg, Bart spends the summer at his bedroom window, spying on the neighbors with a telescope. Bart finds the view boring until he sees Ned Flanders murdering his wife. Or did he?
It looks as if Lisa's days as the class brain are numbered when a new student, Allison Taylor, proves to be smarter, younger, and plays the sax better than her. Meanwhile, Homer strikes white gold in the form of an over-turned sugar truck.
With the help of a radio talk show host, Mayor Quimby is pressured into releasing Sideshow Bob from prison. Once out, Bob promptly runs against the mayor and wins. Bart and Lisa set out to prove Sideshow Bob didn't win legally.
Marge's fear of flying is revealed after the family earns a free trip to almost any state of their choice. To help overcome her fear, Marge visits a psychiatrist. Ted Danson, Woody Harrelson, Rhea Perlman, John Ratzenberger, and George Wendt all guest star.
Homer joins a secret club named the Stonecutters, where his greatness is revealed, but only after he destroys the club's secret parchment and is stripped of his membership. Patrick Stewart does the voice of Number One.
It's bad enough that Mr. Burns steals the newly discovered oil under Springfield Elementary, but it's going too far when he steals the town's sunshine. He is shot and everyone wonders who did the dirty deed.