I think I may have seen the single most 90s episode in the entire Simpsons run, and that includes the one they called “That 90s Show”.
Could this episode be any more 90s than it was? I mean, look at it. The Generation X teenage stereotypes. The fact one of them didn’t know what Apple Computers was. The bands that were part of the fictional tour Homer joined, namely Cyprus Hill, Sonic Youth, Smashing Pumpkins…and Peter Frampton. OK, they can’t all be 90s signifiers.
Our episode opens with the accidental destruction of the school bus, which leads to Homer running a car pool for some of the local kids, which leads to him learning how out-of-touch his taste in music is.
Yes, as much as Grand Funk Railroad may rock, and as much as rock obtained perfection in 1974 (a scientific fact!), Homer is sad to realize his father’s prediction has come true.
What prediction was that? In his youth, Homer accused Abe of not being “with it”.
Abe replies, “I used to be with it, but then they changed what it was. Now what I’m with isn’t it and what’s it seems weird and scary to me. It’ll happen to you!”
And it has.
In an attempt to get back into the crowd he wants so much to be a part of, but probably never was, Homer buys three tickets for a traveling rock show called Hullaballooza and takes Bart and Lisa. He then proceeds to embarrass the hell out of his kids such that they ditch him even though the crowd smells a lot like Otto’s jacket.
On his own, Homer is mistaken for a narc and accidentally sets off Peter Frampton’s inflatable pig. Seeing he can take a shot to the gut without any real problems, Homer is hired to join the freak show as the guy who takes a cannonball to the gut. Now he’s back in the scene, on tour, and more popular than ever.
But his new act is killing him. His new manager sends him to the vet still watching Jimi Hendrix’s puppy, who tells Homer one more hit and he’s dead.
Next stop: Springfield.
Bart is actually respecting Homer. Marge is worried. She just feels cannons are designed to hurt. Right. Just hurt.
Homer decides he loves his family more than fame and takes a dive from the ongoing cannonball, earning respect from the bands, aside from maybe Frampton, Marge’s love, and the loss of his children’s determination that he’s cool. He’s oddly fine with that.
In other news, I doubt anyone was surprised Mr. Burns owned Ticketmaster.