John Swartzwelder, the reclusive former writer for The Simpsons, says that the iconic animated series’ third season is its best. In recent years, many fans have argued that the quality of The Simpsons has declined and that its best days are behind it. While this may be a somewhat common opinion, there are still plenty of fans who feel the best is yet to come.
After 32 seasons – and with another two seasons already secured, the Simpson family, as well as the other inhabitants of Springfield, have certainly been through a lot. Over the years, a very impressive number of celebrity guest stars have also lent their voices to the fun, and when asked to pick a favorite episode, long-term Simpsons fans definitely have their work cut out for themselves. Intended to represent an average middle-class American family, the Simpsons are anything but, with Homer having been to space, Marge once gaining fame as a folk artist, Bart briefly working for the mafia, Lisa hanging out with former Beatle, Paul McCartney, and even Maggie accidentally shooting Springfield’s richest man, Mr Burns. So much has happened (and continues to happen) on the series, that choosing a favorite season feels infinitely more difficult than picking a favorite episode or moment.
But for one former writer from The Simpsons’ heyday, deciding which season is the best isn’t that much of a challenge at all. After leaving the series 18 years ago, Swartzwelder hasn’t given a single interview. Now, thanks to The Guardian, information from Swartzwelder’s recent interview with The New Yorker has made it clear that the former Simpsons writer feels that the third season, which first aired in 1991/1992, is the best Simpsons season. Swartzwelder said:
I’ve always thought season three was our best individual season. [By then] we had learned how to grind out first-class Simpsons episodes with surprising regularity, we had developed a big cast of characters to work with, we hadn’t even come close to running out of storylines and the staff hadn’t been worn down by overwork yet. Season three was a fun year to be in the Simpsons writers’ room, and I think it shows in the work.
Swartzwelder wrote 59 episodes of The Simpsons in total, leaving the hit series in its 15th season. However, despite leaving, he did return to co-write The Simpsons’ 2007 feature film. For Simpsons fans, season three offers some absolute highlights, including Sideshow Bob’s marriage to Selma, a hilarious guest appearance by Spinal Tap, Mr. Burns’ sale of the nuclear powerplant to German buyers, and Homer’s ill-fated purchase of a pony for Lisa. The third season definitely finds the Simpson family and the inhabitants of Springfield coming into their own, with the entire show feeling far more solid in terms of both its characters and scope.
As for definitively labelling season three of The Simpsons the best of them all, that’s a highly contestable argument. Long-term fans tend to feel that the best work on the series came in those early seasons, with the third, fourth (which features Conan O’Brien as a writer) and fifth seasons especially popular. It’s tough narrowing down one particular season in a series that has perpetually offered so much to its audience over the years. Ultimately, it’s a subjective decision to make, but for Swartzwelder at least, the choice is clear.
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