April 19, 2012 -- intro: Today is the 25th anniversary of "The Simpsons," as the family first appeared on April 19, 1987 in an animated short as part of "The Tracey Ullman Show." In their 25 year existence, the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) credits Homer, Bart, Marge and Lisa with the most appearances per-episode, as one might guess ... but do you know who tops the list of recurring characters beyond the immediate Simpsons family?
Assuming IMDb has them listed them correctly, let's take a look at the most recurring, and perhaps most crucial characters in the world of "The Simpsons".
quicklist: 1 category: Most Prolific 'Simpsons' Roles title: Homer Jay Simpson: 500 Episodes text: It comes as no surprise that "The Simpsons" funniest, most beloved and dumbest character (outside of Ralph) would top the list. The donut loving doofus has become less aggressive over the years -- just think of how much he used to yell at Bart in the 90's. Today he is a lovable doofus who should just shave what he has left and own the baldness.
quicklist: 2 category: Most Prolific 'Simpsons' Roles title: Bartholomew JoJo 'Bart' Simpson: 500 Episodes text: Perennial bad boy, Bart was arguably more central to the show than Homer in earlier seasons, serving as one of the edgiest characters on early '90's television. As controversy over Bart's actions and language has diminished over the years, Bart's leading role has been pushed wayside in lieu of more Homer-centric plot lines. The last big splash Bart's mischievous hijinks made was a highly memorable nude scene in 2008's "The Simpsons Movie", which producers feared might earn the film an "R" rating.
quicklist: 3 category: Most Prolific 'Simpsons' Roles title: Marjorie 'Marge' Bouvier Simpson: 500 Episodes text: A voice of reason in a town full of miscreants, Marge is a gravelly voiced, blue haired thirty-something; you know, like most mothers in America. Marge serves as stay-at-home mom to her kids, though she has been known to dabble in various careers for 22 minute increments, with positions ranging from real estate agent to law enforcement official.
quicklist: 4 category: Most Prolific 'Simpsons' Roles title: Lisa Marie Simpson: 500 Episodes text: You can count on Lisa episodes for some of the show's smartest humor. Longtime "Simpsons" fans are a brainy, cynical bunch, and the show's writers have latched onto their identification with Lisa, using her character to explore themes of music, philosophy, tech and alternative lifestyles.
quicklist: 5 category: Most Prolific 'Simpsons' Roles title: Moe Szyslak: 334 Episodes text: It should be Moe surprise, er … no surprise, that Moe ranks just below the Simpson family themselves when total speaking roles are added up. Homer's tendency to stop by the bar even for the briefest period of time in any given episode brings Moe into the picture more often than not. Moe is a clear favorite of the writers, a sad, lonely man with a rag that the series loves to rag on. He further increases his screen time with a subtle history of showing up at the Simpson household, flowers in hand, ready to step in and replace Homer as Marge's man after a stressful family situation. Bar flies Lenny (180 episodes), Carl (152 episodes) and Barney (166 episodes) may be portrayed as Homer's friends but one might argue that Moe just may be Homer's best friend of all, doling out advice and always providing one on the house, mostly because Homer refuses to pay.
quicklist: 6 category: Most Prolific 'Simpsons' Roles title: Milhouse Mussolini Van Houten: 298 Episodes text: Can you believe Milhouse outranks Mr. Burns? You can chalk Milhouse's high episode count up to the early seasons where his antics with Bart were constantly at the forefront of the show. Milhouse is the embodiment of everyone's childhood the best friend, loyal and ready for adventure, he serves as Bart's sidekick when he's not getting kicked in the side by school yard bullies. Milhouse's not so secret love for Lisa serves to up his episode count as well. Having appeared in more than half of the episodes produced so far, it starts to make total sense that he would eventually end up marrying Lisa, as has been alluded to in many-a-flash-forward.
quicklist: 7 category: Most Prolific 'Simpsons' Roles title: Armin Tamzarian AKA Principal W. Seymour Skinner: 274 Episodes text: We've seen Principal Skinner almost a hundred times more than Bart's teacher Edna Krabappel (164 appearances), and for good reason, the man's dry sardonic humor is hilarious. He is a broken man, an authority figure without respect from his students, his boss or even his mom. While some would argue for Sideshow Bob, Skinner is Bart's true greatest enemy, foiling Bart where he is the most mischievous, at school. We've seen great insight into Skinner's world over the years, meeting his overbearing mother early on and seeing him through a failed relationship with Edna. Skinner should belong on every "Simpsons" top ten crucial characters list, end of argument.
quicklist: 8 category: Most Prolific 'Simpsons' Roles title: Nedward 'Ned' Flanders Jr.: 271 Episodes text: With most plots revolving around the Simpsons' household, next door neighbor Ned has the perfect proximity for cameos, popping into the Simpsons front yard and popping up over their adjoining fence with a friendly "hidilyho!". Most characters on this list serve multiple purposes in the world of "The Simpsons" and Ned's role too stretches beyond that of just living next door. Flanders is everything that Homer is not, providing a great source of envy in the Simpsons household. Ned is impossibly upbeat, his own boss as a small business owner, a fantastically attentive father, lives in a clean house full of expensive power-tools and is at once at peace with his God and at peak physical fitness. Additionally if the topic of religion is touched upon in the show, you can always count on a Ned-heavy episode.
quicklist: 9 category: Most Prolific 'Simpsons' Roles title: Mr. Charles Montgomery 'Monty' Burns: 237 Episodes text: Mr. Burns is to Homer as Principal Skinner is to Bart. As an authority figure at work, the richest man in town and the oldest character on the show, Mr. Burns racks up key traits which allow him to recur in almost any Simpson's situation. Having a hilariously evil, twisted, slightly senile personality doesn't hurt either, the writers have build Burns up as an unredeemable villain with little sense of moral code, often contaminating the environment and sometimes blocking out the sun.
quicklist: 10 category: Most Prolific 'Simpsons' Roles title: Grandpa Abraham J. 'Abe' Simpson: 204 Episodes text: For a guy Homer and company usually want to avoid, Grandpa sure does pop up a lot. Abe Simpson deserves to be ranked in the upper echelons of crux characters, but one might think that the number ten spot would have gone to Krusty, at 184 episodes or Apu at 190. After all, those characters have the chance to cameo whenever a TV is turned on or a trip to the store is made. The reason we have so much Grandpa may be because big family milestones seem to bring him out of the woodwork. Relegated to a retirement home for most episodes, Grandpa has come in handy more than once as a storyteller who expands on the history of Springfield and its inhabitants, serving as a voice for the elderly and commenting on our modern society with distain. Homer's strained relationship with his father, Abe's quests for a new love and the ability to bring Grandpa in at any time for a hilarious one-liner visit keep him in the rotation as a power player.
quicklist: 11 category: Most Prolific 'Simpsons' Roles title: What do these characters say about 'The Simpsons'? text: As the Simpson family and their adventures are constructed to represent the average American experience, "The Simpsons" can serve as a 25 year case study on which relationships Americans hold most dear.
In the world of "The Simpsons", family is first, everything revolves around family and no family member is ever left out, with all immediate family members in the cast achieving 500 episodes total. What comes second? Beer! And the community of friendship around social gathering. Moe serves up a tall glass of friendship nightly at the bar, Milhouse at school. Beyond that "The Simpsons" embraces education as its third tenant via Principal Skinner and religion/neighborly love as it's fourth through Ned Flanders. Work and extended family round out the list, unpleasantries that are forced upon us all.
The writers have repeatedly utilized these characters for a reason, the daily interactions we have with our community members represent the priorities of our culture and the stories we all share. Or maybe the characters are just really funny and easy to write for. Immediate family, friendship, education, religion, work and parents sum up the American experience through the eyes of "The Simpsons". Do they represent your American experience?