Regardless with how you feel about the show, it’s impossible to say that The Simpsons is one of, and still, the biggest television programs out there. It’s currently the longest running scripted sitcoms out there and has made a huge impact on popular culture, even making it possible for the word “D’oh” to be added in the Oxford English Dictionary. The characters are recognized all over the world and their faces can still be seen on pretty much everything still.
The Simpsons may have accomplished a great many things but many fans have been complaining about the show’s decline in quality over the years. I can’t vouch for the later episodes since I have generally stopped watching it for a while now but I can agree that The Simpsons isn’t as great as it used to be. Everyone probably has some episode they can point to and say it’s the point when The Simpsons jumped the shark. For me, it would be the incredibly terrible, unfunny and ultimately useless episode from its 19th season, That 90’s Show.
The setup of That 90’s Show is actually kind of witty as it tries to correct an error that’s been in The Simpsons ever since the first episode aired: Why is Bart only 10-years old while both Homer and Marge in their mid-to-late 30’s? The previous episodes establishes that they conceived Bart right after Marge graduated high school! That should mean that both Bart’s parents should be in their late 20’s, at the latest! What’s with the roughly 5-year gap? Well, this is where That 90’s Show comes in as it tries to fill in those missing years. The problem is, nobody really asked for this!
That 90’s Show has Marge go to college, becomes infatuated with her professor and breaks up with Homer. Homer becomes depressed and inadvertently creates the grunge music genre. Homer’s band, Sadgasm, becomes a success and break up. Marge hears one of Sadgasm’s songs, which is about her, and returns to Homer. They go to the old golf course where Homer worked and conceive Bart then and there. The end and they all lived happily ever after.
On paper, That 90’s Show does sound like it could be funny and it has a lot of potential. The writers also had a chance to work in as many 90’s references and jokes as well, thanks to the time period the episode is set. Unfortunately, everything falls flat on it’s face and, well, it just isn’t that good! In fact, I’d go so far as to say that it’s not only a bad Simpsons episode. It’s the Worst. Episode. Ever.
Let’s start with the reason why someone thought of That 90’s Show in the first place: the huge retcon of Bart Simpson’s conception. I honestly appreciate The Simpsons identifying the weird time gap and how it’s a huge problem of continuity. But, really, was anyone actually questioning it? I mean, it’s not like anyone was taking The Simpsons timeline seriously!
Like any good cartoon, The Simpsons has always had something called a “floating timeline.” This means that, while the years may pass by, no one in The Simpsons actually age. Bart Simpsons was already 10-years old when the show started way back in 1989 and he’s still 10-years old in 2018! I don’t know anyone who actually questioned the age gap because it’s The Simpsons!
Even afterwards, I don’t even think future Simpsons episodes ever refer to That 90’s Show, despite it being the “real” story of Bart’s conception, making this a huge waste of time. I do see the irony of me being upset about the new timeline when I just said no one takes The Simpsons’ continuity seriously. But the writers were the ones who brought it up! So I expected something much better than the previous history they gave us!
To be fair, The Simpsons have had a ton of episodes where things and events were brushed aside. We’ve had stories where Lisa got numerous cats named Snowball and even one with Principal Skinner not being the real Skinner. But at those were resolved and they even poke fun at themselves for being pointless as everything returns to the status quo by the end of the episode. That 90’s Show didn’t, making it seem like the writers at the time intended this to be the “new” and “official” history of The Simpsons! What’s worse, they have never gotten around to retconning this retcon horror show. At least to my knowledge, this is still the history, even though The Simpsons never refer to this episode ever again.
It didn’t help that most of the jokes fell flat on its face and not in a physical humor pratfall kind of way. I can’t really remember finding a Simpsons episode so not funny like That 90’s Show. I was in my college years during the 90’s so I was expecting this episode to resonate with me strongly. Instead, none of the 90’s jokes really worked for me, which is sad because I should be the target audience!
To be fair, I do like how Homer invented grunge and the band name, Sadgasm. I would have honestly listened to a band called Sadgasm at the time! But most of the humor that revolved around the 90’s weren’t all that humorous. Oh, dial up internet is slow? You don’t say! Oh, oxygen bars were a thing before? How funny! It’s so funny I forgot to laugh!
The 90’s Show was critically panned when it was released because of all the things I’ve mentioned above. But there is one thing that most people fail to criticize and is something that I overlooked when I first saw this episode a long time ago. I just realized this while researching and rewatching the episode many years later. That would be how terribly written Marge is in That 90’s Show.
I’m not even focusing on Marge’s infidelity, which may seem out of character for her. But Marge has already have cheated on Homer in earlier episodes before and it’s a human failing so I can understand. However, this was usually because of Homer’s seemingly careless and selfish actions that drives Marge away. In The 90’s Show, Marge leaves Homer for no other reason but because she’s attracted to another guy! In fact, Homer does so much for Marge, such as taking care of her tuition. Heck, they even make it so that Marge becomes a snob, thanks to this new love interest!
She actually becomes very unlikable and the only reason why she “snaps out of it” is because the professor doesn’t believe in marriage. The instant the professor/new guy says that he doesn’t want to be married to anyone, she storms off in a huff! What a hackneyed and stupid reason! I’m not sure what possessed the writers to go in this direction. I guess it’s something that happens in real life as people do drift apart as they get older. The problem is it’s not funny.
I guess there are a couple of good points. I do like the Weird Al Yankovic cameo from out of nowhere. But that’s mostly because I like Weird Al and I do agree with Homer when he says that “he who is tired of Weird Al is tired of life.” And I do like the attention to detail where they get a repairman in to fix the heat and you can actually see him listening to the story after one of the commercial breaks.
Those little things are neat but they definitely don’t save That 90’s Show from being a terrible episode. I guess you can argue that there are worse episodes that The Simpsons have crapped out but there has always been something about That 90’s Show that rubbed me the wrong way. To me, that has and always will be, say it with me now…
Worst. Episode. Ever.
What is the worst Simpsons episode from your point of view? Let me know in the comments section below!