Making Ned Flanders the devil was just one of many inspired choices behind this segment. This is a story that takes something core to Homer’s character (his gluttony) and carries it to its logical extreme. Homer has so little willpower that he really would give his soul away for a doughnut.
Renowned “Simpsons” writer John Swartzwelder once said that Homer is basically a giant talking dog, in that he’s pretty much only concerned with satisfying his immediate urges, and as a result, he can veer from deeply sad to giddily happy within the span of seconds. “If you write him as a dog you’ll never go wrong,” Swartzwelder said, and that’s why this segment works.
Of course, Homer isn’t quite as dumb as a dog; he does manage to outsmart the devil for a short period. But sure enough, while drowsily searching for a midnight snack he forgets about the consequences of eating the last bit of the doughnut, and so the devil wins out in the end after all. Or does he? A lot happens in this segment, and it’s all great.
It might seem bold to put this as the #1 segment out of over 300 entries, but honestly, it was an easy choice. Funny, spooky, and surprisingly touching at points. “Homer vs the Devil” has it all.