While every Simpsons fan has their own opinions about what the best episode of the animated sitcom is, there are a few that everyone can pretty much agree are undeniable classics.
Cape Feare, in which Sideshow Bob chases The Simpsons into witness protection. Last Exit To Springfield, otherwise known as “Dental plan! Lisa needs braces!”. And, of course, Marge vs. The Monorail.
Originally airing in 1993, Marge vs. The Monorail is often hailed as a turning point for the TV phenomenon, coming at a time when the show was really coming into its own, and carving a niche in terms of its jokes-first approach to storytelling.
And then, of course, there’s the musical number, which has gone on to become one of the most iconic scenes in Simpsons history.
With the show now celebrating its 30th birthday, we’re taking a trip down memory line and looking back at one of its most famous episodes, with 30 things you probably didn’t know about Marge vs. The Monorail...
1. The episode was written by Conan O’Brien, who would go on to achieve huge success in America as a talk show host
In 2014, Conan paid tribute to the episode with a performance of the famous Monorail Song with the LA Gay Men’s Chorus at the Hollywood Bowl as part of a concert centred around iconic Simpsons tunes.
2. The Monorail Song is what the episode is best remembered for, but did you know it’s actually a parody?
The song – co-written by Conan O’Brien and Simpsons show-runner Al Jean – is a parody of the showtune Ya Got Trouble, taken from The Music Man. In fact, the whole episode is a take-off of the classic Broadway show, which centres around an American town being conned by a mysterious stranger.
3. That aside, Marge vs. The Monorail is a particularly musical instalment of The Simpsons
The episode opens with a parody of The Flintstones’ opening song, as performed by Homer, who later serenades Marge with a line from the folk song The Riddle Song (before being distracted by the thought of chicken, obviously).
4. Marge vs. The Monorail also features one of The Simpsons’ most iconic cameos ever from Leonard Nimoy, but he wasn’t producers’ first pick to appear
They originally offered the cameo to George Takei, who had already appeared in The Simpsons once before. He ultimately turned them down, as he was on the board of directors for the Southern California Rapid Transit District, and didn’t want to be seen poking fun at anything related to public transport (yes, really!).
5. In fact, producers only went for Leonard Nimoy after ruling out a second Star Trek actor
William Shatner had already turned The Simpsons down once before, so to avoid being spurned a second time, they decided to chance it with Leonard Nimoy.
6. It’s a good job they did, as Nimoy proved so popular they asked him back for a second appearance four years later
He served as the narrator in the X-Files-themed episode The Springfield Files, delivering this ridiculous introduction:
7. As it turns out, the over-the-top version of Leonard Nimoy portrayed in The Simpsons would probably suggest his cameo in this particular episode was written in the stars...
His name is, in fact, an anagram of “deny monorail”.
8. Early in the episode, when Mr Burns and Smithers are dumping toxic waste in the park, one of the tress has been carved with the message “MB + HS”
This is presumably a nod to Marge Bouvier and Homer Simpson, in the early years of their romance.
9. In the Springfield Shopper’s front page about Mr Burns being fined $3 million, Smithers is seen in the background struggling with the statue of justice
10. The Monorail Song features an impressive cast of Springfield residents
Dancing with Homer on the steps at the end are *deep breath* Chief Wiggum, Ned and Maude Flanders, Krusty and Sideshow Mel, Dr Marvin Monroe, Mayor Quimby, the Van Houtens and Jacques, who attempted to seduce Marge in Life In The Fast Lane.
11. Lyle Lanley claims to have sold monorails to Ogdenville, North Haverbrook and Brockwell
Like Springfield (and, indeed, its rival, Shelbyville) these places are all made up, though obviously exist in The Simpsons universe, as Marge pays a visit to North Haverbrook later in the episode.
12. These places also cropped up in an episode of Supernatural more than a decade later
In the 2006 episode Something Wicked, they’re named as the places the mysterious Shtriga had previously attacked. Clearly, there was a Simpsons fan in the writers room on that show, who felt the use of those fictional towns would be particularly cromulent.
13. There’s a star-studded turn-out when the Springfield monorail opens
This includes Lurleen Lumpkin – the country singer who almost turned Homer’s head in Colonel Homer – who has apparently fallen on hard times. In this episode, she’s voiced by Doris Grau, a script supervisor on The Simpsons, who also voiced Lunchlady Doris.
14. But Lurleen isn’t the only celebrity in attendance
While newscaster Kent Brockman is reporting, his dopplegänger can also be seen in the crowd.
15. There’s a bit of a pothole plothole
As we know, Marge wanted to use Mr Burns’ $3 million to fix Main Street’s shoddy roads, though it ultimately goes to the Monorail (“you should have written a song, like that guy”). However, as YouTuber MKtheinstrumentalist points out, when the anchor cuts through the road, the potholes have all vanished – which is unfortunate, as they could have actually been instrumental in Homer’s “M” anchor saving everyone’s lives (doughnuts, is there anything they can’t do?).
16. Homer’s monorail uniform was inspired by Star Wars
In fact, a joke cut from the episode saw Selma commenting that Homer looked like “Darth Vader without the helmet”. This wasn’t the only Star Wars reference, though, as Mayor Quimby also quoted “may the force be with you” to Leonard Nimoy (despite apparently thinking he was “one of the Little Rascals”).
17. Towards the end of the episode, we learn the town charter says Chief Wiggum shall “receive one pig every month and two comely lasses of virtue true”
Future references to the charter would reveal that if “food stuff should touch the ground, said food stuff should be turned over to the village idiot” and that it’s “illegal to put squirrels down your pants for the purposes of gambling”.
18. Marge vs. The Monorail was directed by future Oscar-winner Rich Moore, who won an Academy Award for his work on Zootopia
He also directed Disney’s Wreck-It Ralph and its sequel, Ralph Breaks The Internet, as well as multiple classic episodes of The Simpsons and Futurama.
19. The episode also continues the early Simpsons trend of featuring a “vs” in its title
Other examples from around this time include Bart vs. Thanksgiving, Lisa vs. Malibu Stacy and Homer vs. Lisa And The 8th Commandment.
20. This is also one of many episodes which sees Homer claiming something is his “lifelong dream”
This time it’s being a monorail driver, although Marge points out his lifelong dream was actually to “run onto the field during a baseball game”.
21. In later years, Marge vs. The Monorail would also spawn some of the most popular Simpsons memes
These include “Mr Snrub” and Leonard Nimoy’s vanishing act towards the end of the episode.
22. The writers were initially concerned that Matt Groening would want to cut the joke, so were thrilled when it was left in.
Us too, to be honest. Imagine if we didn’t have this gif to amuse ourselves.
23. There were apparently some concerns about the more action-packed moments of the episode, too
Director Rich Moore told Joe in 2018: “That was one of the very first big action episodes of The Simpsons… it wasn’t just storyboarded sequentially, I planned out a bunch of scenes that could be edited in a more live-action way, which is different for animation.
“At the time, the studio that I was working for hated that! They wanted to know exactly the sequence. You now, their thinking was more like ‘this scene will be cut to this one and then this one etc.’ They did not appreciate my approach but the proof is in the pudding, as I say.”
24. The Springfield monorail would finally be revisited more than 20 years after it was first constructed, in the 2017 episode The Old Blue Mayor Ain’t What She Used To Be
The beginning of the episode saw the monorail track being converted into a mall, only for the train to spring back to life, crushing Sebastian Cobb and a statue of Leonard Nimoy, who died in 2015.
25. Marge vs. The Monorail has gone on to become a true favourite of Simpsons fans and critics
In the years since it first aired, Marge vs. The Monorail has been listed on top 10 best Simpsons episodes lists from Entertainment Weekly, TV Guide, The Times and The Guardian.
26. Simpsons creator Matt Groening has also said it has one of his favourite ever quotes from the show
The line in question? “I call the big one Bitey,” referring to the family of possums living in Homer’s monorail carriage.
27. However, not everyone was such a fan…
In fact, in 1995 voice actor Yeardley Smith – who has played Lisa since The Simpsons launched in 1989 – said the episode was among the show’s worst, criticising the humour of the episode, and suggesting the entire cast agreed with her.
28. In 2002, life began to imitate art when residents in Seattle organised a protest about proposed plans for a local monorail, which they called Coming Out With Marge Simpson
Fox apparently refused permission for Marge vs. The Monorail to be screened as part of the protest.
29. In fact, a 2019 article by City Metric suggested the episode puts forward a few strong arguments for why monorails never took off as a mode of transport
Let’s be honest, when was the last time you saw – or even heard the mention of – a monorail and didn’t immediately burst into song?
30. Lyle Lanley is often remembered as a swindler and con artist, but he’s actually much worse than that.
Don’t let the straw hat fool you. As one Reddit user pointed out in 2019, Lanley is actually one of the most sinsister villains The Simpsons has ever featured, suggesting he’s a “psychopath who wanted to kill the people of Springfield”.
In fact, not only was he happy to be complicit in multiple deaths in the city, his notepad even saw him gleefully fantasising about citizens burning to death. Grim stuff, right?