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 ever episode – “Bart the Genius.” Whilst some have been simple, there are also 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, with 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? In the second ever episode of the series, “Bart the Genius”, which aired on January 14,1990, a running joke was introduced which became a huge part of the show. After the Simpson family make their way home, they pile onto the couch but 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. In the first season, the couch gags were very simple in comparison to what came later and featured things like Homer and Maggie squeezed off, as well as the sofa giving way. Season one also features perhaps the rarest couch gag ever, which is where the family rush in and simply sit on the couch in a normal manner.
9. M.C Escher
There are not many paintings more famous than M.C Escher’s Relativity, which has become an important part of popular culture and has been heavily referenced and used in many films, TV shows, games, and other areas of pop culture. The Simpsons has also referenced 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, which is clearly a favorite of Simpsons creator Matt Groening’s, as it was also referenced in The Simpsons Movie, the Futurama episode “I, Roommate,” and his comic strip Life in Hell.
It is always fantastic to see our favorite yellow family re-imagined in different animation styles, but 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 and 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, but there is also one ball who has transformed into the classic claymation character Gumby. The family look strangely 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. The Simpsons have also been reworked as Japanese anime in a couch gag before, which pays tribute to Astro Boy, Sailor Moon, Pokemon, Science Ninja Team Gatchaman, and Ultraman.
7. The Thompsons
The Simpsons’ take on Cape Fear is a fan favorite episode and it also happens to feature one of the great couch gags. However, it is 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 become “The Thompsons” and relocate to Terror Lake where they live on a houseboat. Brilliantly, The Thompsons get their own opening credits sequence complete with their name appearing through 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. Parodying themselves was a nice touch and it added to an already excellent episode which contains many fan favorite jokes, including the rake scene with Sideshow Bob and an FBI agent attempting to get Homer to respond to being called Mr. Thompson.
6. The Hobbit
The Simpsons was at its parodying best in 2013 with this excellent couch gag, which was used for the “Four Regrettings and a Funeral” from season 25. Here, they meet Middle Earth in a parody/homage to JRR 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.” Homer is the dwarf, the kids are hobbits, and Marge plays Gandalf. 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.” 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 and catchy theme song is Game of Thrones, which The Simpsons paid homage to in 2012 in the episode “Exit Through the Kwik-E-Mart.” The opening credits open as normal, but 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 are being driven by cogs, 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. Ever since the 1990s, The Simpsons has been remarkably current and in tune with whatever is popular in culture. They are then also brilliant at referencing/paying homage/parodying these trends and the Game of Thrones spoof great example and a very memorable couch gag.
4. Circus Show
We are now 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, but The Simpsons first pushed the boat out in 1992 episode “Lisa’s First Word”. When the theme music stops, the family are 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, complete with magicians, hand-standing elephants, unicyclists, and even a ring of fire which 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
As previously mentioned, the couch gag has become such a key part of the show that they have even brought in famous directors 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, in 2013 he 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 where a horde of zombies are shot at by the army and “Lard Lad” comes to life and is eaten by a giant cyclops Chief Wiggum. There are also references to a handful of horror films such as The Birds and The Shining, before del Toro parodies his own Pans Labyrinth. In the end, each Simpson travels home as usual but against the backdrop of anarchic scenes in Springfield before finally reaching the couch, which Lisa falls through a la Alice in Wonderland.
2. The Flintstones
One family that the Simpsons are often compared to, and no doubt a source of inspiration for the show, is The Flintstones. This connection was first acknowledged in the couch gag of season 4’s 1992 premiere, “Kamp Krusty.” The gag sees the Simpson family run into their living room, only to find Fred Flintstone, Wilma and Pebbles sat down 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 in the 167th episode, which just so happened to be the episode which broke The Flintstones’ record for longest running American animated program. Before The Simpsons, there was The Flintstones, which is still regarded as one of the greatest and most inspirational cartoons of all-time; this couch gag was a fantastic way of recognizing this and paying homage to the show.
1. Homer’s Evolution
In season 18’s “Homerazzi,” we see a brilliant couch gag where Homer evolves from a single celled organism through to his modern self. He begins as a jellyfish and manages to escape an octopus that looks like Mr. Burns, before getting out of the ocean and becoming a prehistoric lizard that eats an insect resembling Lenny. Next, he evolves into a larger lizard and then a rat, which is chased by a T-Rex Bart, who gets into a fight with a stegosaurus Lisa. Homer then hides in a hole as an asteroid wipes out the dinosaurs, evolving into a monkey who becomes increasingly apelike as he enters a jungle. After an ice age, he evolves from a Neanderthal to a Cro-Magnon to a caveman. He then passes Moe, who is hilariously devolving. As he continues walking, he evolves into men from different eras before finally reaching his current self. For sheer creativity and ambition alone, this memorable couch gag earns the top spot on our list.