That 90s Show
Couch gag: The camera zooms out to reveal the family sitting on the couch is a painting in an art gallery
Director: Mark Kirkland
Weird Al Yankovic as himself
Kurt Loder as himself
Synopsis: A flashback to the 1990s, when Marge and Homer were a young couple living in Springfield Place before the kids were born.
Discussion: Ladies and gentlemen, what is the Golden Rule of narrative? DON’T MESS WITH CONTINUITY! By the time this episode aired in 2008, The Simpsons had been on air as their own series for almost twenty years. During that time, we’ve seen many flashback episodes chronicling the relationship between Marge and Homer: they were high school sweethearts who married straight out of high school because Homer had blessed Marge with the seed that would become Bart. Yes, the maths don’t work (Homer and Marge are 37 and 34 respectively, Bart is 10… so unless Homer and Marge stayed back a few years…) and this is where this ep fits in.
During the actual 1990s, the show was a staple on television even here in Australia so how is it possible for Homer and Marge to spend that time dating college professors and recording music?
Forgetting completely about the Simpsons’ timeline, it’s actually a pretty good episode. The ep is chock full of 90s references, including the emergence of grunge (apparently Homer invented the genre and Marvin Cobain called his cousin Kurt to pass it on). We’ve seen Homer singing before in a barbershop quartet but his grunge days as the lead singer of Sadgasm really stretch the character in a new way. Sadgasm really embody the spirit of the angsty music defining the decade and Homer’s fame parallels that of real-life Kurt Cobain. If you’re a 90s kid, you’ll get it.
Unfortunately I can’t forgive the interruption of the Simpsons’ timeline. You can’t spend 20 years creating a universe only to squeeze something nonsensical into it. If it made sense, then sure, it’s a great episode due to the many, many 90s references including Marge’s “Rachel” haircut. Messing with characters is the reason, I believe, that the show jumped the shark to begin with (as noted in ‘The Principal and the Pauper‘ in which Principal Seymour Skinner is revealed to be Armin Tamzarian). You can’t spend years building up your characters and then mess with them. It pisses off the fans and creates havoc with continuity.