Opening credit sequences don’t get any more iconic than The Simpsons couch gag. The couch gag has become an important part of the show and has been used as far back as the second episode – “Bart the Genius.” Whilst some have been simple, there are many that have been outlandish, over-the-top, and absurd. Sometimes, even a guest director is brought in solely to create a new gag.
What you may not realize is that these gags are used to even out the runtime of the episode. Some of the more elaborate gags lasting well over a minute.
Everyone Simpsons fan has their favorites, so here are our 10.
10. Bart Squeezed Off
Where better to start than the very first couch gag?
After the Simpson family makes their way home, they pile onto the couch. However, the sides of it give in, seeing Bart squeezed off. He flies out of the frame before landing in front of the television. Simple yet effective, this was a fantastic way to end the opening sequence and begin an episode.
9. M.C Escher
There are not many paintings more famous than M.C Escher’s Relativity. The painting is such an important part of popular culture that it has been heavily referenced in all forms of media.
The Simpsons made reference to the painting through the couch gag for season six’s “Homer the Great”. In the gag, the living room is transformed into a Relativity-esque environment with a few different staircases and conflicting perspectives. The family enters the room from different directions and makes their way to the sofa.
It is an excellent homage to the mind-bending piece of art that’s clearly a favorite of Simpsons creator Matt Groening. In addition to this couch gag, Relativity has been referenced in The Simpsons Movie, the Futurama episode “I, Roommate,” and Groening’s comic strip Life in Hell.
It is always fantastic to see our favorite yellow family reimagined in different animation styles. Perhaps, the best was when we saw them in claymation.
For the couch gag in season 17’s “The Girl Who Slept Too Little”, the gag is filmed in claymation. It sees the family start off as colored balls that roll around and bump into each other before landing on the couch. They then transform into each character. However, one of the balls transforms into the classic claymation character Gumby. The family looks at Gumby, who smiles and waves at them.
It is fantastic to see the characters and the lounge in a different style. Plus, the addition of Gumby is a clever touch.
7. The Thompsons
Not only is “Cape Feare”, The Simpsons’ take on Cape Fear, a fan-favorite episode, but it also happens to feature one of the great couch gags. However, it’s not a regular gag as it comes halfway through the episode.
With the family sent into witness protection after Sideshow Bob threatens to kill Bart, the Simpson family becomes “The Thompsons”. They relocate to Terror Lake where they live on a houseboat. Brilliantly, the Thompsons get their own opening credits sequence complete with their name appearing in the clouds. They even get their own couch gag, where they all sit on the sofa only for a net full of fish to fall down onto them.
6. The Hobbit
The Simpsons was at its parodying best in 2013 with this excellent couch gag.
Used for season 25’s “Four Regrettings and a Funeral”, the Simpsons meet Middle Earth in a parody/homage to J.R.R. Tolkien’s epic fantasy world. Each family member dresses up as a character from The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings, on a mission to reach “The Comfy Couch.” Along the way, they meet a host of characters such as Gollum (Moe) and Smaug (Mr. Burns).
After a long trek, the family finally arrives at the couch, where Homer lays down on it, much to the dismay of the others. Bart asks “What about us, man?” to which Homer replies “Get your own couch.”
It’s a brilliant take on one of the biggest and most beloved fantasy franchises ever.
5. Game of Thrones
Another show with a fantastic opening credit sequence is Game of Thrones. Well, The Simpsons would pay homage to it during to opening to “Exit Through the Kwik-E-Mart.”
The opening credits open as normal. However, once Homer enters the room, it switches to a spoof of the Game of Thrones intro — complete with the theme tune. Buildings rise out of the floor and different areas of Springfield are visited and labeled, much like on the HBO show. This includes Springfield Gorge, Burns Landing, and finally The Couch, which is overlooking the entire town.
4. Circus Show
Nowadays, viewers are used to seeing extremely elaborate and lengthy couch gags, but this has not always been the case. In the show’s infancy, the couch gags were usually contained to the living room and a minor joke.
The Simpsons first pushed the boundaries of the couch gag in “Lisa’s First Word”. When the theme music stops, the family is joined by a line of Rockette-esque women and they form a chorus line. They begin high-kicking before the walls are lifted away and a large production number begins. The production includes magicians, hand-standing elephants, unicyclists, and even a ring of fire that Santa’s Little Helper jumps through before reaching a jazz-hands-esque finish.
Unexpected, over-the-top, and elaborate, this sequence remains one of the great and most memorable couch gags ever.
3. Guillermo del Toro
The couch gag has become such a key part of the show that famous directors are brought in to create their own. The most notable and impressive so far has been Guillermo del Toro, best known for directing Pans Labyrinth, Pacific Rim, and Crimson Peak.
Fittingly, del Toro was enlisted to create a horror-themed opening for “Treehouse of Horror XXIV”. The result is a fantastic yet odd two and a half minute sequence. A horde of zombies is shot at by the army. Lard Lad comes to life and is eaten by a giant cyclops Chief Wiggum. There are tons of references to horror films, including a parody of del Toro’s own Pans Labyrinth.
In the end, each member of the Simpson travels home as usual but against the backdrop of anarchic scenes in Springfield. However, when they reach the couch, Lisa falls through a la Alice in Wonderland.
2. The Flintstones
One family that the Simpsons are often compared to is the Flintstones. This connection was first acknowledged in the couch gag of season four’s “Kamp Krusty”.
The gag sees the Simpson family run into their living room, only to find Fred Flintstone, Wilma, and Pebbles sitting on the couch. Fred then smiles at Homer and invites him to join him on the couch.
The gag was used again four years later for the 167th episode. This episode just so happened to be the one that broke The Flintstones’ record for the longest-running American animated program.
1. Homer’s Evolution
In season 18’s “Homerazzi”, we see a brilliant couch gag where Homer evolves from a single-celled organism all the way to his modern self. As Homer evolves, he runs into creatures that look like other characters from The Simpsons. This includes Mr. Burns as an octopus, Bart as a T-Rex, Lisa as a stegosaurus, and Lenny as an insect.
For sheer creativity and ambition alone, this memorable couch gag earns the top spot on our list.