"The Simpsons" is the only show in the history of broadcasting that's simultaneously cartoon, sitcom, and reality TV. Yes, reality TV: Nowhere else on the small screen are emotional truths and outrageous behavior so memorably (let alone humanely) exhibited.
Where to begin with singing the show's praises? Why, with the characters, of course. The population of Springfield teems with a density of eccentricity that's like a convention of Shakespearean clowns presided over by Preston Sturges , only with fewer fingers and much stranger hair.
With "The Simpsons Movie" opening Friday, we asked some well-known locals who their favorite characters might be. (That snarl you hear in the distance is Krusty the Clown, still fuming that he didn't make the list.)
PETER FARRELLY, filmmaker
"Homer, Homer,Homer. I think if a guys being honest, he says Homer. Homer screws things up and he often makes a mess of his life, but he always comes through in the end.
JAMES LYNCH, Dropkick Murphys guitarist
Milhouse Van Houten: Just hearing his name mentioned by any other character will set me off. The classic goofy sidekick, whose mere presence can change a scene, Milhouse is one of many secondary characters who give the Simpson family a chance to shine. I dont know if theres something wrong with me, but a glimpse into the crippling emotional pain that runs his life always brings a smile to my face.
JOHN UPDIKE, Author and "Simpsons" guest voice
Im partial to the skinny guy who owns the power plant, Mr. Burns. I like Mr. Burns because hes a man of drive. You can identify with his desires: to control things and get richer.
SAM YOON, Boston City Councilor
As a fellow hard-working Asian immigrant, Id have to say Apu. My runner-up would be Troy McClure, because I seek to emulate his strong on-camera presence.
ELSA DORFMAN, Photographer
Lisas the perfect little girl. I just love everything about her. Shes the progressive voice. Also, shes very instructive for little girls. Of course, Marge isnt so bad herself.
JEROME GROOPMAN physician and author
"Marge: Because I realize, as a husband who's often obtuse or inept or blundering, she has that sort of tough love. I figure if she can forgive Homer for the kinds of stuff he does there's hope for me. Also, how could you not love a hairstyle like that?"
NADER TEHRANI architect
"I like Homer, because he goes 'mmmmmmmmmmmmmm' when he sees a doughnut, not to mention 'D'oh.' "
ERROL MORRIS documentary filmmaker
"Hans Moleman: I am impressed with his knowledge of Freudian psychology and general self-awareness."
TOM WERNER chairman, Boston Red Sox
"I have always admired Mr. Burns, and not just because he is a rich owner (like me!). After all, Mr. Burns once bet a million dollars that the Springfield nuclear power plant softball team would win a game. And to ensure their victory, Burns hired Jose Canseco, Don Mattingly, Ken Griffey, Ozzie Smith, Steve Sax, Darryl Strawberry, Roger Clemens, Wade Boggs, and Mike Scioscia to work in the plant so they could play in the game. If you remember that episode, Burns pinch-hits Homer for Strawberry in the bottom of the ninth because the opposing team's pitcher is left - handed, and Springfield wins the game when Homer is beaned."
JOHN KERRY, US senator
"I could say my favorite character is Mr. Burns, because thanks to him even after Dick Cheney is out of office he will live on as a cartoon. But I'm actually a Bart fan, despite the fact Time named him one of the 100 most influential people, and I didn't make the list. He once mooned a doctor, indicating he has the same view toward our current health-care system most Americans do."
CHRIS SCHLESINGER restaurateur
"I wish I could choose someone less obvious, but it's got to be Homer -- the doughnuts, his favorite chief justice being Warren Burger -- because of his love of food."
THEO EPSTEIN Red Sox general manager
"I'm just a casual 'Simpsons' fan. My favorite moment was when some cannibals had kidnapped Bart and were chanting in apparent gibberish. I did a double take, then listened more closely and confirmed that they were chanting: 'Mosi Tatupu, Mosi Tatupu.' "
AMANDA PALMER Dresden Dolls singer
"My favorite character, hands down: Groundskeeper Willie, the hot-tempered Scotsman. His unbridled passion inspires me. Plus, being a Scot and all, he's in my clan. I must love him."
ROBERT PINSKY former US poet laureate and "Simpsons" guest voice
" 'The Simpsons' is a great traditional sitcom -- but the show is also a wild, surreal comic imagining. I like certain characters who embody that bizarre, un-sitcom quality: like Bumblebee Man, for instance, and Sideshow Bob (and his successor, Sideshow Mel)."
DANIEL DENNETT Tufts University philosopher
"I would say Marge, now that I think about it. What has Homer ever done to deserve the largely unspoken, utterly unquestionable loyalty and love of that remarkable woman? That is a great and wonderful mystery. And Julie Kavner's voice as Marge is one of the auditory icons of the age."
VIVIEN LI executive director the Boston Harbor Association
"I like Lisa. I don't know if it's because I'm a child of the '60s or I see a part of me reflected in her, but Lisa's the social activist. She's serious (probably not the life of the party). I like her spunk. She's very precocious."
MARIA LOPEZ television personality and former Superior Court judge
"I like Marge, because she's a mom, and I like how she deals with the kids and the stupid husband."
ISRAEL HOROVITZ playwright
"Has to be Homer, but the reason why is far too personal to discuss in print."
LENNY CLARKE actor, comedian
"Oh yeah, I have a favorite: Chief Wiggum. Not only because he's hilarious, but he reminds me of myself when I was heavy. And he sounds like Edward G. Robinson: 'All right, Simpson, pull over. See . . .' "
Compiled by Globe staffers Carol Beggy, Gordon Edes, and Mark Feeney.