|Episode no. 411|
Written by Matt Selman
Production code KABF04
|Directed by Mark Kirkland|
Showrunner(s) Al Jean
Original air date January 27, 2008
"That '90s Show" is the eleventh episode of The Simpsons' nineteenth season. It first aired on the Fox network in the United States 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 degree 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 mid-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 1990s).
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" (which sounds similar to "Heart Shaped Box" by Nirvana), 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" (based on "Rape Me" by Nirvana), 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" (based on "Glycerine" by Bush), 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 another professor who insulted Homer earlier walks by, looking at the audience, saying "Townie".
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".