Thursday, May 31, 2018

Each Holding An ORB: Final Fantasy 2

INTRODUCTION: An evil empire is aggressively expanding its territory, enslaving the good peoples of the world and generally being a standard evil empire.  Seriously, it's all a bit predictable in that respect.

Four young heroes (again) attempt to escape their town as it is invaded but are cut down as they run.  Firion, Maria and Guy are rescued by Princess Hilda's rebel militia, whilst Leon mysteriously disappears.

Funnily enough, it turns out that only the three remaining youngsters have the spunk to take on the Empire, supported by an ever-changing cast of fourth characters, and off they go on a quest to save the world, that will eventually lead them to HELL ITSELF...

RELEASE: 17 December 1988, Nintendo Famicom (JPN); 8 April 2003, Sony PlayStation (USA, remake); 14 March 2003, Sony PlayStation (EU, remake)

MY FIRST PLAY: 2002-2003, NES emulator on my ancient PC, though no longer as sick. Not completed until 2006 on the GameBoy Advance version, due to my attention seriously wandering on a number of occasions.

Courtesy Square Enix, via Final Fantasy Wikia.

REAL WORLD: Released almost exactly a year after the first game, Final Fantasy 2 takes the bold step of throwing out almost everything from the previous game, as a sequel was genuinely never envisaged.  For this reason, the story was written before the game engine, in the opposite fashion to the original.

The original Famicom version was never officially translated to English, though a fan translated ROM exists, and a partially-translated NES test cartridge for "Final Fantasy 2: Dark Shadows Over Palkia" was produced, there were problems fitting the amount of English characters into the game - Japanese pictogram writing can say more in less memory than a full-alphabet written language, so it was primarily a capacity issue - so the game released as FF2 in America was very different...  See you in two weeks' time!

THE GAME: FF2's engine and character progression system is unlike any other in the series...  But wait a minute, did we say "characters"?  As in, actual, living, breathing, not constructed at the start of the game, characters?...  Well, yes and no.

This time round your party consists of main protagonist and vanilla hero-type Firion; Maria, who is a girl and therefore described as an "archer" rather than a heavy warrior because of course she is, and Guy or Gus (depending on version), an *ahem* 'simple' gentleman who can talk to animals, mainly beavers.  Long story.  Fourth wheel Leon goes missing fifteen seconds into the game, so much of it is spent with a revolving-door approach to your fourth and final character, from princes to pirates and sages to dragoons.

Now, what about that gameplay?  Well, it's immensly divisive, but it's probably the most realistic imagining of character skill growth in the entire series.  Essentially, stats and skills get better the more you use them - so Maria uses her bow, she gets better at using her bow; Guy attacks something, his Strength might go up; Firion takes damage, his Endurance and/or Hit Points increase.

Unfortunately this makes levelling your characters up somehow less organic, and increases the chance of bumping into enemies you are ill-prepared for and getting wiped out.  It also puts in a fair few exploits, some of which were excised for the remakes, where cancelled actions would still lead to gains and beating up your own party members was the key to success.

We also get a landmark debut for the series, as this is the first appearance of Chocobos - a kind of big yellow ostrich thing that serves as a steed, increasing movement speed and sometimes allowing otherwise inaccessible terrain to be navigated, and have become an iconic symbol for the series.  In later games they would be everything from NPCs to semi-main characters to antagonists, and have technically appeared at Wrestlemania courtesy of The New Day.

Courtesy Square Enix, via Wikipedia.
IT'S A KIND OF MAGIC: Magic is handled in the same way as weapon mastery - the more you use a spell, the better (and more expensive) that skill becomes.  Expensive?  Yes, for the first time spellcasting costs MP, as would become de rigueur for most of the rest of the series.

MUSIC: The overworld theme is a lot more ominous in this one, which changes the atmosphere nicely from its predecessor's jolly lark of a magical adventure to this entry's romantically doomed fight against the odds:


And all three of those points are for The Dreadnought, a gigantic imperial airship that levels resistance towns.  It's essentially a wooden Star Destroyer.  Other than that the sheer level of classic Christian imagery and fantasy tropes at play here render technology essentially unnecessary.

MEGABOSSES: ...Erm, well, there isn't one as such.  However there are Beelzebub, Zombie Borghen, Tiamat and Astaroth, who are optional strong opponents that can be faced to get rare equipment, and the Iron Giant, a randomly-occurring battle towards the end of the game (a bit like WarMech last time out) with an opponent that is strong enough to at least partially count towards this category.

REMAKES: A mere 14 remakes here...  Worth noting though that 2003's "Final Fantasy Origins" for the PlayStation was the first time the game was available (ahem, legally) outside of Japan.

Despite that version, and that version alone, being the only FF game to contain a character called Gareth (known as Ricard in the Japanese version), "Final Fantasy I and II: Dawn of Souls" for the GameBoy Advance is the definitive version for me, and contains a near-impossible post-game dungeon which I've yet to complete.

WORST BIT: It's a hell of a grind, and without an overarching system to provide constant character growth, it can be very difficult to know both how you should improve your characters, and best to do it once you know what you want to do.  For the last few battles I was running on fumes, doing minimal damage, scarping through and not really understanding why.

In short - and I feel like the worst stick-in-the-mud for saying this - the character growth system in this game, although incredibly logical, really damages the amount of fun one can have playing it.

BEST BIT: The "Key Words" system, which makes its only appearence in the entire series, which  expands the conversations it is possible to have with NPCs - not by much, but it is appreciated.

For instance, you're told you need to get "Sunfire".  "Sunfire" then becomes a part of your vocabulary, and if you use it when talking to other characters, you might learn something useful.  It's a small thing, but it makes it feel more lifelike and organic.

It's little things like that system, and the sheer level of innovation and risk, that make me want to like this one a lot more...  But in truth, it just hasn't ever entertained me as much as the others.  It's still a very interesting play though, as a evolutionary dead end if nothing else.

Join us next time for Moogles, airship after airship after airship, and getting a damn job, you hippy.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Each Holding An ORB: Final Fantasy 1

INTRODUCTION: All four elements in the air/cymbals crashing ev-er-ee-whe-hare...  Ahem.  Sorry, that's "Hong Kong Garden" by Siouxsie And The Banshees, not a synopsis of Final Fantasy.

Anyway, all four elements - Earth, Fire, Water and Wind (note how Heart is not one of those elements, so-called Captain Planet) - are out of whack, as the crystals that produce them grow dim, and as a result the world is slowly dying.  A prophecy speaks of Four Warriors of Light, who will appear when the world needs them most.

And hark!  What is this but four young adventurers appearing over yonder, answering the King of Cornelia's appeal to rescue his daughter Sara from the dread knight Garland - each holding an ORB...

RELEASE: 18 December 1987, Nintendo Famicom (JPN); May 1990, Nintendo Entertainment System (USA); 14 March 2003, Sony PlayStation (EU, remake)

MY FIRST PLAY: 2001, off sick from work via an NES emulator on my ancient PC.

Copyright Square Enix, via

REAL WORLD: Odd as it may be these days, with Square Enix firnly established as a staggeringly successful developer, back in 1987 Square were suffering.  Hironobu Sakaguchi envisiged this as his last shot at the videogame market - and so "Fighting Fantasy" became "Final Fantasy".  Although that probably has a fair bit to do with the popular Choose Your Own Adventure franchise of the former name as well!

He envisaged something along the lines of the early eighties' Ultima and Wizardry series of home computer RPGs, which was then given a battle system similar to Dungeons & Dragons.  Whilst Dragon Quest/Dragon Warrior's success was definitely instrumental in getting the project off the ground, the incorporation of western influences helped Final Fantasy to stand out - and the rest is history...

THE GAME: This sets the standard for the entire rest of the 8-bit era and beyond, so settle in, we've got a fair bit to cover.

The game begins with you creating four heroes, in the style of the tabletop RPGs of the time albeit with more limited options.  Each character will have one of six classes: Fighter (uses heavy weapons and armour), Black Belt (unarmed combatant), Thief (sort of between the two), White Mage (uses healing and beneficial magic), Black Mage (uses damaging and negative magic) and Red Mage (sort of between the two, but with a significantly cooler hat).

You control a person walking on what is essentially a big game board.  That board contains features such as towns, castles and caves, and when you move your person onto these, they open up into their own boards, a bit like you're zooming in.  You'll encounter a ton of non-player characters (NPCs) to chat to, of all different shapes and sizes - humans, dwarves, elves, gender non-specific merpeople (alright, alright, they're blatantly mermaids), dragons and robots, to name but a few.

Whilst walking in almost all areas, you will randomly encounter enemies - most of them have no physical presence on the board, and combat will happen according to internal calculations.  This takes you to a battle screen, where you assign actions to your team (attack, magic, item and so forth).

Enemies and your party members have a limited number of Hit Points (HP), which are decreased by attacks from the opposition and can be increased through White magic like Cure and Heal, and items like Potions.  When a combatant's HP is exhausted, they are killed.

Win the battle by killing all enemies, and your team gains experience points which "level up" your party, making them stronger, an amount of gil (the in-game currency) and sometimes other useful items, and off you go on your way.  Lose, by getting all your party members killed, and it's simply Game Over.

Fair use,
IT'S A KIND OF MAGIC: Spells can be used by Black, White and Red mages (and later, Ninjas, Wizards and Knights), and are split into White and Black magic, roughly along the lines of all beneficial magic being White and all combat magic being Black, with a few exceptions - White magic includes spells that damage undead creatures, for instance.

The spells themselves - I always pictured them as spellbooks - can be bought from shops in most towns, and are split into eight levels, roughly by power.  Magic users have a fixed number of spells per level they can use, and as they level up, they gain more uses.  Their magic uses can be regenerated, along with the party's HP, by resting at a town.

MUSIC: Nobuo Uematsu was the lead (and sometimes only) composer and musician for Final Fantasy's soundtracks throughout the years.  Despite the limitations of the NES chipset, he played an absolute blinder in creating not only two theme tunes for the series that would last basically the entire franchise, but also a dynamic overworld song, stirring battle themes and my particular favourite, "Matoya's Cave":

This has one of the most traditionally medieval fantasy-based setting in the series...  Until the robots turn up and you go to what is tantermount to a space station for a bit.  The Lefeinish might be aliens too, it's not 100% clear.

MEGABOSSES: WarMech (or Death Machine, in later translations) has a one in 64 chance of appearing in the final area of the floating castle.  A bipedal robot reminiscent of a Warhammer 40k Chaos Dreadnought, it is head and shoulders above anything you've encountered to this point and the final boss itself.  And here began the tradition of sticking a creature even more fearsome than the final boss in a part of the game (or lately, the post game).

Take it down and you get:  a sense of achievement.  Yay?  Remakes have added a possible drop of Genji Armour as an added incentive.  Ooh, and speaking of remakes...

REMAKES: There have been 18 separate releases of the original Final Fantasy game, so I'm clearly not going to look at all of them.  The standouts for me are "Final Fantasy Origins" for the PlayStation and "Final Fantasy I and II: Dawn of Souls" for the GameBoy Advance, the latter of which swaps in a Magic Point (MP) system that replaces the spell uses with an HP-like cost for casting, and adds four bonus dungeons containing bosses from Final Fantasy 2 to 6.

WORST BIT: Probably the sheer amount of "grinding" - seemingly endless fighting of random monsters to increase your levels, particularly around Elfland and the Ice Cavern.  Things get a bit better after you give Bahamut the Rat's Tail and your characters receive a pretty awesome boost, but until then it's a ballache.

BEST BIT: With great grinding comes great reward however. and there are a fair few moments where satisfaction matches effort - the secret at the heart of the Ice Cavern that busts the game wide open, the discovery of the visitor from the stars, Bahamut's class boost after completing the Castle of Ordeals, which I can tell you is appropriately named...

But the greatest fistpump momet comes right near the start, when the King of Corneria builds a bridge to the mainland to celebrate the return of his daughter, and the theme from Final Fantasy strikes up for the first time ever.

It may be the first, but it's hardly the worst - now join me on a journey, why not, through every non-online numbered entry in the series!  You'll laugh at spoony bards, you'll cry at the deaths of major characters and the linearity of FF13 (stay tuned), you'll learn a bit about why Snow is a twat, and if you're really lucky, I might trouble myself to do Chrono Trigger as well.

Off we go to adventure - each holding an ORB!!!

Join us next time for...  Well, Final Fantasy 2, obviously.  You big dummy.  But in general: chocobos, hell and a logical if flawed character growth system.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

22 Short Pieces About Springfield: Number One - “Sir, I need some business hammocks.”

Season 8, Episode 2
“You Only Move Twice”
First Broadcast: November 3, 1996

Courtesy 20th Century Fox, via Frinkiac.

A new company named Globex Corporation is headhunting experienced nuclear industry workers.  After Springfield Nuclear Power Plant’s longest-tenured employee Waylon Smithers turns down the opportunity to move to Cypress Creek, their idyllic workers' village, with a much increased income, they turn to the next longest server – one Homer Simpson.

Homer meets his new boss Hank Scorpio very early on.  Hank is an extremely personable manager, always available for a chat, quick with a joke and more than happy to reward loyal service.  He is also a megalomaniacal supervillain who is holding the world to ransom with his superweapon, Project Arcturus.  Homer, who is largely responsible for motivation and management of a small team working on one isolated aspect of the product, is utterly oblivious to this.

Homer is having the time of his life – respected, useful and effective at work, finally pulling down Tom Landry’s Hat money, and edging ever closer to his dream of owning the Dallas Cowboys.  But the rest of the family are unfulfilled, with Bart in the “Leg Up” programme and going slower to catch up, Lisa allergic to everything, and Marge so bored she drinks less than the recommended amount of wine per day.

Homer opts to do the right thing by his family and moves them back to their condemned home in Springfield, after saying farewell to Hank during a pitched battle against an enemy army.  Ever grateful for a good worker’s efforts, and now apparently now in charge of the entire east coast of America, Hank rewards Homer with ownership of…  The Denver Broncos.


Bart meeting his fellow students in the Leg Up Programme:

Courtesy 20th Century Fox, via Frinkiac.

The then-shocking reveal that Scorpio, who had simply seemed to be an annoyingly casual multi-millionaire in the Richard Branson mould, is a villain determined to bring the United Nations to its knees.

Any, and this cannot be stated enough, ANY of the joyful, semi-improvised encounters between Hank and Homer that pepper the episode.  Whether discussing moccasins, shopping for hammocks, looking for sugar or simply not exchanging jackets, every one of them is pure gold.


It's even got a great song, albeit over the closing titles - a thematically-correct (if perhaps slightly over-jaunty) parody of a Bond theme, which features an excellent line about pensions and therefore covers all of my interests:


Hank Scorpio has actually appeared briefly twice more in The Simpsons, but in blink-and-you'll-miss them cameos.  I guess when you're the current (or former) ruler of the East Coast, you can't afford to be seen out and about.

Scorpio is an iconic character, largely due to his easy back-and-forth with Homer, in dialogue that was semi-improvised by Albert Brooks and Dan Castellaneta.  There is rumoured to be a much longer version of these conversations somewhere, which means there is always the tantalising possibility of a remastered and extended version...

The character was originally pencilled in as the antagonist in "The Simpsons Movie", but was later replaced by Russ Cargill, head of EPA, also voiced by Brooks.  I think this was a smart move; Scorpio, whilst clearly cut out for supervillainy, is simply too beloved for the role, and fans still got to see a Brooks-toned bad guy lock horns with Homer.


This is The One.  The ultimate episode of The Simpsons.  Just crazy enough to be hilarious; just grounded enough to have genuine heart; a gentle parody of a nearly universally-recognised film series, but told from a slightly different angle, with Homer as the kind of unwitting henchman who would be routinely slaughtered by James Bond, but here thwarts his facsimile with ease.  All basic hallmarks of a good episode, delivered here with a panache and quality that shows a show in full stride and rude health.

BUT - and there is a but, I fear a single caveat on this holiest of holy episodes - this would never be the first episode I showed somebody who had never seen The Simpsons, if indeed such a thing exists.  In fact my whole top five are deeper cuts, entries that are best viewed with a working knowledge of the show.

You can't just throw someone in to this or "Itchy and Scratchy and Poochie" - something like a "Mr Plow", "Marge Be Not Proud" or even my proper starting point, "Bart The Daredevil" would seem more appropriate, as the keep the core characters on home soil and concentrate on the familial bond enduring through relatable situations.

Then once you've got them hooked, it's time to don Tom Landry's hat, take a trip to Cypress Creek, snuggle into one of Anne's Hammocks, and enjoy this writer's favourite nigh-on half hour of television, bar none.

And that brings us to the end of 22 Short Pieces About Springfield, and off we shuffle:

Courtesy 20th Century Fox, via Frinkiac.
But do stay tuned for “Each Holding An ORB”, which is 100% definitely coming very, very soon!!!

Thursday, May 10, 2018

22 Short Pieces About Springfield: - G.F. Hirons And His Heavy Friends Present "Simpsons Roundtable" 3

Phil Catterall: a stupid moron with an ugly face and big butt and his butt smells and… He likes to kiss his own butt.

Favourite Episode: You Only Move Twice
I know, this is probably an obvious pick, but even twenty two years after it's initial broadcast this one still makes me howl. The central premise of Homer getting a job working for a supervillain is such a strong core to build the episode around (especially as he only gets the job by dint of having worked at the nuclear plant for longer than anyone except Smithers), but it's all the quick gags that make it for me.

The panhandler in the Cypress Creek promotional video that turns into a mailbox, the UN's response to the destruction of the 59th Street Bridge ("Maybe it just collapsed on it's own"), Hank Scorpio's apparent habit of keeping loose sugar in his pockets, Grampa's plaintive cries ("I'm cold and there are wolves after me!") - it's full of genuine laugh out loud moments.

It also has those character beats that I think lie at the heart of all the really good Simpsons episodes - in particular, the fact that Homer is actually good at his new job and it's heartbreaking when he has to abandon it (even though he's doing it in the middle of a military assault on Scorpio's facility) and go back to the drudgery of working for Mr Burns. But abandon it he does because his family are desperately unhappy, and I honestly find that more moving than the "Do It For Her" moment of "And Maggie Makes Three", because he's giving up a better job, home, salary and his happiness to give them back theirs.

Courtesy 20th Century Fox, via Frinkiac.
And all of this is before we even get to Hank Scorpio himself, a Bond style supervillain who is also the best boss you could ever hope to have. Sure, he's power crazed and bent on world domination, but he knows where to get the best business hammocks (the hammock district, naturally) and he'll pay for them. He looks after his people, and even though he sends Homer the wrong NFL team, you know he’d give him that job back in a second.

Favourite Moment:

This is significantly tougher, so I’m going to cheat a bit - every second there’s a Phil Hartman character on screen. Troy McClure’s filmography never fails to make me smile (I remember him from such films as “P is for Psycho” and “The President’s Neck Is Missing”), I totally get why the people of Springfield bought Lyle Lanley’s monorail (it WAS a strong song), and basically everything that comes out of Lionel Hutz’ mouth is golden.

I don’t know how much of it is Hartman’s distinctive voice and how much of it is the writers knowing exactly what they can get from him and tailoring the lines accordingly, but it all just works. I don’t think there’s a bad episode with Hartman in. Well, maybe Bart Vs. Australia.

Drew Steiner, 'the guy the audience goes mad for when he walks in the room'.

EPISODE: "Bart On The Road" - classic moment followed by classic moment.  The 'can we stop for ice cream?' bit, the cruise control bit, the wig shop in the Sunosphere bit, the Al Gore doll, just class from start to end.

CHARACTER: I think I'd have to go for Bart.  But to narrow it down to one is really difficult.  If I can have a fave 5 I'd have Disco Stu, Moe, Hitler, Mr Teenie and Chief Wiggum.T: t

MOMENT: Carl (with big obvious pyramid hat on): So er, ain't anyone gonna ask about the hat?

Lenny: Hmm, hey Carl, what's with the hat?

Courtesy 20th Century Fox, via Frinkiac.
Drew is chief beard coordinator for The Liverbeards, Liverpool's premier club for the facially hirsute.

Tom Williamson, skeptic, flag enthusiast, Internet wrangler and ex-scientist.

EPISODE: The Summer of 4 ft 2. It’s got everything. Homer is on top form, it’s got some great moments of fine animation, and it’s the source of the “You got the dud” meme. But most importantly the story revolving around Lisa has a warm and fuzzy ending.

CHARACTER: Lisa Simpson. I really empathised with her when I was a kid. A smart fish out of water
who subscribes to Junior Skeptic magazine, what’s not to love?

Courtesy 20th Century Fox, via Frinkiac.
MOMENT: the bit where Homer is in the cinema and he taps his drink to get the last few drops but instead gets a mouthful of ice, then pops up as if nothing happened. The craft and timing of that bit is top notch!

You can find Tom’s site at And, you can find me and Tom's new podcast RETROSPECTICUS - a Simpsons/modern history podcast - at

Join us next week when - FINALLY - you will get to see what Atomic Sourpuss thinks the best episode of The Simpsons is!

Thursday, May 03, 2018

22 Short Pieces About Springfield: - G.F. Hirons And His Heavy Friends Present "Simpsons Roundtable" 2

Kat Alvarado, transplant from Obama’s America (all subsequent Americas are declared null and void). Beer swiller. Less annoying but somehow angrier feminist. Unrepentant lifestyle deviant. Addicted to dumplings.

Favourite Episode:

Lisa vs Malibu Stacey. This aired when I was about 8 and it wouldn’t have been long after that I managed to first watch it. This was a very important episode for me as I was struggling with those same issues - infuriating double standards, getting the shit choices in toys and basically everything else, and not only experiencing the pressures to be A Girl™ but also the active discouragement of being anything else (like a science-loving tomboy). I saw that it wasn’t just me that thought it was bullshit!

Courtesy 20th Century Fox, via Frinkiac.
Favourite Character:

From the above, it will likely be no surprise that Lisa was always my favourite character. I saw a lot of myself in her growing up, which was a double edged sword really. Her storylines gave me hope that my crazy progressive and egalitarian ideas were maybe not so crazy after all, and she helped show that it was ok to be a big nerd as a girl. Her philosophical and moral struggles were also echoed however (think Lisa the Iconoclast), which only reenforced the frustration and sometimes hopelessness that come with having to exist in society and in a reality with very few “right” answers.

Favourite Moment:

I’m veeeeery tempted by “stupid sexy Flanders!”...

Courtesy 20th Century Fox, via Frinkiac.

...But I'm going to have to go with:

Willy: Yea I bought yer mutt. And I ‘ate him!
Bart: (Gasp!)
Willy: I ‘ate his little face, I ‘ate his guts, and I 'ate the way he's always barkin’. So, I gave him to the church.
Bart: Oh, I see. You hate him, so you gave him to the church.
Willy: Aye. I also ‘ate the mess he left on me rug. Ya ‘eard me!

Find Kat @girlsgamesgrog on FB, Twitter, Meetup, and Instagram. Thank you, I owe you some dumplings x

Rich Dorries, lover AND fighter, Cheap Beer Enthusiast, destroyer of the environment one petrol tank and set of tyres at a time.

EPISODE: Very difficult for me this.  I love so many.  After wrestling with Two Bad Neighbours, Homer Goes to College and Bart vs. Australia I think it's the latter.  I'll never forgive myself for casting the other two aside like a parent choosing to keep the one child they love just a bit more than the rest.

But anyhoo, this child has Prime Minister Andy, Big Beer, definitely no Coffee (B, E . . .) Chazwozzers, Knifey Spooney, a giant Boot, and 900 Dollarydoos.  I particularly like how Homer gets behind Bart regardless of how bad he behaves through pure blind patriotism and completely in defiance and against the advice of both governments.

CHARACTER: Oh this is easy.  Let me give you the 411 on this. Like Miller said, it's Moe.  I love how horrible he is, yet loveable.  His constant social faux pas, and his passive criminality with the whales and the pandas and such.  I look forward to a Moe episode.

“Man, you go through life, you try to be nice to people, you struggle to resist the urge to punch 'em in the face, and for what?”

Courtesy 20th Century Fox, via Frinkiac.
MOMENT: Has to be in Two Bad Neighbours where it cuts to Homer at the breakfast table reading an encyclopaedia section on U.S. Presidents and then grumbling 'his story checks out' about George Bush only to immediately recognise Gerald Ford at the episodes conclusion.  As a lover of history it gets me every time that Homer wouldn't know one but would know the other.

Rich didn't give me a link, but he loves a bit of the ol' motorcycle racing, so... Er... Go and watch some?

Ben Baker, author, podcaster and ineffective goggles supplier

Favourite Episode: The 138th Episode Spectacular

It’s to the credit of show-runners and official Simpsons history geeks Bill Oakley and Josh Weinstein that when faced with the grey uninvolving task of compiling a clip show to save on animation costs and increase the number of episodes Fox had for syndicating around the world they created this beautiful stew of repurposed classic moments from the series' already rich back catalogue, early scenes from when the family existed in short interstitials breaking up the sketches on "the nation's showcase for psychiatrist jokes and musical comedy numbers" "The Tracey Ullman Show" (the entirety of which have never been released despite the obvious demand, possibly due to an unpleasant court case Ullman had with the creators over getting a cut of royalties) and deleted scenes from a time where such things were discussed only in whispers and the internet or DVD had yet to make the mainstream.

As for the "twenty-three percent new footage" promised by host Troy McClure - who we may remember from "Alien Nose Job" and Five Fabulous Weeks Of "The Chevy Chase Show" - it is of a perfect vintage, half in love and half openly mocking the series and its creators.

The "early drawings" of Abe and Krusty being little more than children's scribbles alone always makes me weep laughing along with the line "they were never popular!" and the interpretation of Matt Groening as an embittered right-wing drunk. And of course it ends with what we've all come here to see - Hardcore Nudity! 

Courtesy 20th Century Fox, via Frinkiac.
Favourite Character: While Homer, Burns and Lisa are undoubtedly at the top of my favourites pile, I think my love for Krusty the Clown just pips the lot. A truly awful, perverse and immoral man with no qualms about endorsing a product or service and yet, over the course of the first ten years, we get to see the range of Krusty's back catalogue of television which has seemingly taken in everything from an erudite talk show to huge budget celebrity spectacular.

In fact, is it too late to change my favourite episode to "Krusty Gets Kancelled"? It is? Lousy half-brother Luke Perry. If you need me, I'll be at the Sex Cauldron…

Courtesy 20th Century Fox, via Frinkiac.
Favourite Moment: The first ever episode finally airing after months of hyping. My family were fortunate, depending on how you look at it, to get a second hand Sky dish at a time when a subscription for regular channels wasn't needed and I learnt - out of sheer boredom, very much the theme of this article - that if you waggled the card around just right, you could also unscramble the movie channels too.

In my older much more aware years, I take pride in this little spit in the general direction of Rupert Murdoch and his, let’s be honest, bloody awful satellite service which now is full of new dramas and a big investment in comedy but prior to a certain yellow family moving in - more on which shortly - it was thin gruel of the old US sitcoms Channel 4 didn't want, very cheap game shows and imports from Fox TV in the States. Oh and “Lonesome Dove”.

When the Springfield five made their long awaited arrival in September 1990, I would happily watch the first Sunday showing at 6:30pm - a timeslot tradition that seems to have pleasingly held all these years - AND the same week repeats on Thursdays. Sky even had a “Simpsons week” once they'd reached enough episodes to fill five days in a row. And I'd have been there watching them all again.

It’s not even like season one is especially that good compared to what followed but it became an instant (and rare) family-centring ritual which was upheld until the end of the decade and my moving out in our household.

You can find my books including several quiz compilations and a bulging retrospective of classic British Christmas TV at

Also: Krusty saying "what the hell was that?" which is the funniest take on any line ever recorded in the history of TV.