The Simpsons is not only the most iconic show of modern television, but arguably the most important cartoon ever created. Seemingly everything has been referenced by, and in turn referenced, The Simpsons. The Fox animated sitcom is a mainstay that pretty much defined at least two entire generations and became a cultural institution over the decades.
Its influence is truly immeasurable. Without The Simpsons there would be no South Park, no Family Guy, and no Futurama. The entire television landscape would be unrecognizable. The Simpsons made the adult cartoon the staple of entertainment it is today. There have been over 550 episodes, more than 600 guest stars, and countless recurring characters, but just one famously consistent element on the show: the couch gag.
The couch gag actually began as nothing more than a clever way to fill time. If an episode ran long, then they'd create a short gag. If an episode was a bit short, they'd create a long gag to pad out the runtime. But over the years it became such a fixture of the show that the intro began morphing into it's own separate art form. As it stands now, the couch gag is essentially a short film playing before every episode of The Simpsons.
Vote for your favorite couch gags, whether you love the quick jokes and visual gags of the early years or the longer, more conceptual gags by guest animators over recent seasons.
Season 26. Episode 574.
Rick and Morty of the Adult Swim series Rick and Morty suddenly crash into the TV room, instantly and gruesomely killing the entire Simpson family. The alcoholic scientist and his put-upon grandson go to great lengths to wipe out any evidence of the accident, eventually creating hideously mutated Simpsons clones, with Bart declaring, "No more guest animators!"
Season 25. Episode 532.This phantasmagoric opening directed by Guillermo Del Toro is jam-packed with references to horror, fantasy, and science fiction, including Lisa falling through a hole à la Disney's 1951 Alice in Wonderland and ending with homages to del Toro's own Pan's Labyrinth and the Hypnotoad from Futurama.
Season 18. Episode 394.Millions of years of evolutionary history in a couch gag. Homer evolves from a single-celled organism into a more complex lifeforms, first as a jellyfish, then a fish. Emerging from the ocean and outwitting predators, Homer morphs into a lizard, a rat, a sloth, and a monkey, becoming more apelike as he swings through the jungle. He then strolls through an ice age, going from Neanderthal to Cro-Magnon to upright walking caveman. Homo sapiens Homer rides out several historical eras until finally, he's arriving home at 742 Evergreen Terrace. Marge, already sitting with the kids, asks, "What took you so long?"
Season 24. Episode 528.Everyone and everything in Springfield is animated in the stop-motion style of Robot Chicken, ending with the family getting strapped to the couch and forced to watch The Simpsons by that Adult Swim show's half-robot, half-chicken creature.