"In cooking, as in all the arts, simplicity is a sign of perfection." - Curnonsky

Friday, March 7, 2008

The Simpsons: That 90's Show

When I first heard that this episode of The Simpsons was going to flashback to the 1990s, I thought it could be a fun episode. Then I wondered if they'd do something really cool and interesting and actually go back to an episode or era I'm already familiar with since The Simpsons aired throughout that decade. But 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. No longer does Homer get Marge knocked up after high school, forcing him to find work at the nuclear power plant. No longer are the kids born in the '80s, when "a young Joe Piscopo taught us how to laugh." That's all been erased and rewritten. And it simply never should have happened.

To a degree, it's understandable. It's understandable that an animated program with characters that never age that's been on the air for nearly two decades would have trouble keeping up a consistent, believable timeline. So maybe -- maybe -- they could have gotten away with a big change like this if the episode had been a memorable laugh riot. But it wasn't.

After Lisa calculated the logistics of what year Bart would have been born, Marge and Homer shared the story of Marge's time in college. Instead of a barbershop quartet, Homer was singing "inoffensive urban-like hip-hop smooth grooves." Instead of raising her children in the Lower East Side of Springfield, Marge was falling for her cultural history professor. It all felt so wrong.

Were there some funny moments? Sure. The Simpsons does have a knack for mocking the '90s. They did it for, like, ten years. There was a great bit with Homer dividing up his and Marge's belongings: "I'll keep the LPs, and you take the CDs. I'll take the typewriter, you take the computer. I'll take the Enron stock, you take the Microsoft stock." And I got a kick out the Back to the Future reference to how grunge music may have started: "Kurt, it's Marvin. Your cousin, Marvin Cobain. You know that new sound you're looking for?" But nothing was funny enough to cover up the fact that "That '90s Show" was thumbing its nose at all the great, established, hilarious moments and episodes I've come to love and cherish.

I like the Simpsons. People have made all sorts of arguments about how the show isn't as funny as it used to be (and it's not), but I still enjoy it most of the time. But to any diehard fan of The Simpsons, "That '90s Show" was an abomination.

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