That '90s Show
"That '90s Show" is the eleventh episode of The Simpsons' nineteenth season. It was first broadcast on January 27, 2008. Kurt Loder and "Weird Al" Yankovic both guest star as themselves, this being the second time for Yankovic. The episode was written by Matt Selman, and directed by Mark Kirkland.
After Bart and Lisa discover Marge's diploma from Springfield University, Homer and Marge recount one of the darkest points of their relationship. The episode significantly retcons some of the Simpson family history, depicting the timeframe of Homer and Marge's romance as being in the 1990s due to the show's long run, as opposed to the late 1970s and early 1980s setting in the early episodes, though later episodes would return to the latter setting.
The Simpson family are freezing inside their house since Homer had not paid the heating bill, thinking that global warming would compensate for his ineptitude. Bart and Lisa, searching for items to feed the fire, discover a box containing a degree belonging to Marge from Springfield University. Homer and Marge look shocked to find it, and claim it was from their dating years. Lisa does some calculations and realizes that, because Bart is 10, and Homer and Marge are in their mid-to-late thirties, Bart must have been born later in their parents' relationship than they thought. Marge and Homer proceed to describe one of the darker points of their relationship, the 1990s (which Bart has never heard of, despite the fact that the show was one of the most popular on TV during the 90s).
In the flashback, Homer and Marge are happily dating, living together in an apartment. Marge is an avid reader, and Homer is part of an R&B group alongside Lenny, Carl, and Lou the cop. One morning, Marge wakes up to find out she had been accepted into Springfield University, but is shocked to learn of the high cost of tuition, $3,000 a year. Homer, taking pity on Marge, gives up his dream of becoming a musician and instead decides to work at his dad's popular laser tag warehouse in order to pay for it, where he is abused by the children and his dad. At Springfield University, Marge is impressed with her surroundings and with the radically feminist revisionist history professor Stefane August, despite Homer's disapproval.
In the present, a repairman arrives and fixes the heater, while Marge continues on with the story. Marge soon begins to admire August, and while caressing Homer after his long day at work, realizes she has feelings for her professor. Marge starts talking to Professor August who has also fallen for her. August begins manipulating Marge by telling her Homer is a simple "townie" who would not appreciate her intellect. A shocked Homer arrives and catches the two together. In his anger, he reforms his R&B group with a new sound called "grunge," which Homer explains is an acronym for "Guitar Rock Utilizing Nihilist Grunge Energy." His band is renamed to "Sadgasm" and they sing a song Homer calls "Politically Incorrect", listed in the episode's credits as "Kisses are Dirt". An angry Marge and Homer soon call their relationship quits, and Marge leaves to go with Professor August.
Homer goes to Moe, who at this point owns a cigar bar, where Barney was starting to be a recurrent client. Finding no help from Moe, Homer goes on to perform a new song, called "Shave Me", which causes him to become so famous that "Weird Al" Yankovic parodies his song calling it "Brain Freeze". Marge finds Homer's music unnerving. Marge and August share their first kiss. When running onto the beach, August reveals he and Marge have very different views on marriage. After the two argue, Marge breaks up with him, breaking his heart. A miserable Marge watches television and is surprised to see Homer made a song dedicated to her, called "Margerine", about what she did to Homer. A special news report with Kurt Loder interrupts, revealing Sadgasm had broken up and Homer is holed up in his mansion, miserable. Arriving there, Marge thinks Homer had been doing drugs and soon begins caring for him. It turns out the needles were insulin for his diabetes after drinking too many frappuccinos. The two soon re-unite. Marge reveals to Bart and Lisa that she learned "Homie is where my heart is", while a now aged August walks by, looking at the audience, saying "Townie".
- The title is a reference to That '70s Show and the failed spinoff That '80s Show.
- The scene with "Marvin Cobain", calling his cousin Kurt is a reference to the movie Back to the Future. There Marty McFly performs the song Johnny B. Goode (which had not been made yet, in 1955), prompting a man named "Marvin Berry" to call his cousin "Chuck" (who's been looking for a new sound), telling him to listen to the song Marty's singing. Here "Marvin" is the cousin of grunge rock band, Nirvana's front man, Kurt Cobain.
- The sculpture of a button in the Springfield University quadrangle is a reference to Claes Oldenburg's "Split Button" on the University of Pennsylvania campus. The episode's writer Matt Selman is a graduate of the college.
- In one scene, Comic Book Guy is heard telling a group, "And that is why The Lord of the Rings can never be filmed."
- The song "Brain Freeze" played by Weird Al Yankovic is a parody of Nirvana's "Rape Me" and also a reference to his 1992 single "Smells Like Nirvana".
- The toy octopus that Homer and Marge own is a Beanie Baby by Ty Inc.
- The LP shown while Homer and Marge are dividing their possessions, is The Dark Side of the Moon by Pink Floyd.
- When Homer divides up his and Marge's possessions, he gives himself "bad" or old fashioned things and her the "good" or modern things; namely LPs vs CDs, a typewriter vs a computer and Enron stock vs Microsoft stock.
- Professor August's head of department is a take on the Archie Comics character Moose.
- Sonic the Hedgehog and Amy Rose in her Sonic Adventure attire appear on the billboard titled "Sonic the Hedgehog says wait until marriage".
- Homer's R&B group is based on Boyz II Men.
- The song "Politically Incorrect" played by Sadgasm in the episode is similar to "Frances Farmer Will Have Her Revenge on Seattle" with guitar riffs similar to "Heart-Shaped Box", both by Nirvana; "Shave Me" is similar to "Rape Me" by Nirvana.
- The song "Margerine" is similar to "Glycerine" by Bush, which vocalist/guitarist Gavin Rossdale wrote based on his relationship with his girlfriend.
- Homer's house is similar to Kurt Cobain's former house.
- During the scene Marge and Homer are facing opposite of each other after Marge rubs salve on Homer, "Closing Time" by Semisonic plays.
- Homer mentions that Matt Groening was working hard on launching Futurama, during the 1990s.
- Homer and Marge live in an apartment building called Springfield Place, a spoof of Melrose Place.
- Homer is seen playing a daphne blue Fender Mustang, a guitar famously used by Kurt Cobain. Homer also dresses and acts similarly to Cobain. (Cobain played a JagStang, a hybrid of the Jaguar and Mustang and a very rare model as it was left handed.).
- Homer is watching TV with the theme of Seinfeld playing. He laughs at and refers to the episode "The Sponge" and his consequent rebuttal to Marge references classic lines from Seinfeld: "No soup for you," "Master of my domain" and "Newman".
- Marge's hairstyle looks very similar to "The Rachel", made popular by Jennifer Aniston's character Rachel Green during season 2 of Friends.
- Professor August rides a recumbent bicycle.
- "Weird Al" Yankovic's appearance corresponds with his "classic" public image of eyeglasses and a moustache, before his 1998 LASIK surgery to correct his myopia and his change to a generally clean-shaven appearance.
- When Homer pulls off a tentacle from the toy octopus, the music played is the opening to "Bitter Sweet Symphony" by The Verve.
- Kurt Loder's 1994 MTV breaking newscast on Kurt Cobain's death is parodied, with Loder (as himself) reporting that Homer had locked himself in his mansion, in which the mansion is similar to Kurt Cobain's mansion.
An estimated 7.6 million viewers tuned into the episode, fewer than the previous episode. Richard Keller of TV Squad enjoyed the many cultural references to the 1990s, but felt disappointed that the episode changed the continuity of The Simpsons. Robert Canning of IGN strongly disliked the episode, also feeling that the continuity change was not a good choice. He said, "What 'That '90s Show' did was neither cool nor interesting. Instead, it insulted lifelong Simpsons fans everywhere. With this episode, the writers chose to change the history of the Simpson family." He gave the episode a 3/10, and suggested that this episode should have been set a decade earlier to fit classic Simpsons continuity. He later added that it was his least favorite episode of the nineteenth season, and that it "was an episode that [he] will be erasing from [his] personal Simpsons memory bank." James Greene of Nerve.com put the episode tenth on his list Ten Times The Simpsons Jumped the Shark, stating that "A Weird Al cameo wasn't enough to save this unforgivable 2008 retcon of Marge and Homer's youthful romance".
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- Gross, Dan (2008-02-28). "'Geator' takes a heart break". Philadelphia Daily News. p. 39.
- "That 90's Show". tvsquad.com. Retrieved 2008-01-28.
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- "YouTube". YouTube. Retrieved 2014-04-29.
- "That 90's Show". Simpsons Channel. 2008. Archived from the original on 2008-02-14. Retrieved 2008-01-28.
- Canning, Robert (2008). "That 90's Show". IGN. Retrieved 2008-01-28.
- Canning, Robert (2008-05-27). "The Simpsons: Season 19 Review". IGN. Retrieved 2008-01-28.
- "Ten Times The Simpsons Jumped the Shark". Nerve.com. May 6, 2010. Retrieved January 23, 2012.