When a show creates and airs more than 740 episodes of television, finding consensus about the best of those episodes is nearly impossible. Yet, 30 years after it first aired, The Simpsons‘ “Marge vs. the Monorail” might be closest to the crown. This piece from Alan Siegel isn’t the first time an outlet has examined the episode’s impact — see Vice‘s oral history from 2020 — but it gleefully dives into the origin and execution the way few others have. D’ohnt skip it.
The episode was the first true extravaganza for a groundbreaking animated series that was originally conceived as an intimate family comedy. Both visually and narratively, it was an installment that expanded the world of The Simpsons as it moved beyond its first few seasons. All the quotable lines, sight gags, pop culture references, ambitious set pieces, and catchy songs add up to something unexpectedly (and eternally) prescient. The episode is now synonymous with modern hucksterism: Whenever a fancy new transportation system, or a billion-dollar eyesore, or a deal that enriches corporate executives and few others comes along, it can’t escape comparisons to Lanley’s genuine, bona fide, electrified, six-car monorail. “I get a kick out of the cultural reach of The Simpsons,” says television writer and producer Jeff Martin, who had a hand in making “Marge vs. the Monorail.” “Now if there’s some shorthand for a dishonest salesman, a flimflam man, it’s a monorail salesman.”