Tuesday 07 September

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The Best...Simpsons character
Ralph Wiggum, The Simpsons
Talk about being spoilt for choice. Trying to choose the best Simpsons character is rather like being punted on a gondola past a parade of very sexy people, colourful iced cakes, several pots of cash, holiday vouchers, a dolphin that talks, David Bowie's house keys and an arrest warrant for Noel Edmonds, and being asked to pick just one. Where does one even start?

Let's take it methodically.

First, the main characters are out. Logistically, they have to be. How on earth, for instance, could you choose between Bart and Homer? They're so very different, yet equally brilliant. And because they hog the action and the one-liners, you take them for granted. Rightly so. It's the Simpsons writers' duty to make the show's stars utterly hilarious and to expect nothing in return (besides pay, reasonable working conditions and maybe some health insurance, but it's Matt Groening's job to square those, not yours).

It's the random gems that delight the most. Those minor characters who appear only occasionally to offer something approaching genius - like a fortune-telling fish in a cracker - who then disappear back into Springfield's underbelly as if nothing had just happened to make our lives feel briefly enviable - they're the ones.

I always loved Professor Frink. With the glasses and the teeth and the talking gibberish and the inventing of the machines that Homer buys at the boot fair then turning the boy into the half-fly creature and the swatting and the loathing and the overuse of the word "the". But he seems to be doing that less frequently as time wears on, becoming more understandable, which can only be classed as a disappointment.

There's always Cletus, the excessive redneck. ("Someone done stoled ma wheels!") But we can get more stupid than that, and here's a fact: asinine is comedy gold. Think Father Dougal from Father Ted, Baldrick from Blackadder, Manuel from Fawlty Towers.

So the best Simpsons character? Come on, it has to be…

"Me fail English? That's unpossible."
"Hi, Super Nintendo Chalmers!"
"Mrs Krabappel and Principal Skinner were in the closet making babies and I saw one of the babies and then the baby looked at me."

Yes, Ralph Wiggum, son of the man who is to police-chiefing what doggy do is to landscape gardening. Ralph is so stupid, if you put a shovel and a fork against a shed and told him to take his pick, he'd run the other way shouting, "My head feels squishy!"

He's so braindead yet lovable, with his wide eyes and their blank glare, standing there like a benign Hannibal Lecter. Every time he appears, you will him to utter something inane. And then he does…

Ralph: Lisa, what's the answer to number seven?
Lisa: Sorry, Ralph. That would defeat the purpose of testing as a means of student evaluation.
Ralph: [pause] My cat's name is Mittens.

Bliss.

Nick Griffiths
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