The Simpsons - The Way We Was

"Oh son, don't overreach! Go for the dented car, the dead-end job, the less attractive girl." 
- Grandpa Simpson

For our fifteenth and final post in this series, let's have a look at The Simpsons, season 2, episode 12, "The Way We Was." (1991) 

I'm going to assume that no one needs an overview of the show, so let's just hop right in.


When the television in the Simpsons abode breaks, Homer and Marge relay the story of how they fell in love. 

The Simpsons timeline has been revised several times since this episode aired. If Homer and Marge were high school seniors in 1974, they'd be pushing 60 in the season (its 27th) currently airing on FOX. Who cares, of course, I'm just saying. 

At this time aired, 70s nostalgia was in its infancy, which is funny to think about now. I think The Wedding Singer (1998) might have been the first thing to break 80s nostalgia big, but really 80s nostalgia got underway in the 80s themselves. (The 70s had to wait until Dazed and Confused (1993) as mentioned in the comments.) Both are genres unto themselves now, across a variety of media. 60s nostalgia, of course, was a huge part of the 80s, so that was old hat by '91. Anyway, "The Way We Was" does a nice job of evoking its era while keeping things light.


This was the first episode to feature Springfield's Schwarzenegger parody, Reiner Wolfcastle, whose movie McBain is being reviewed on the Siskel and Ebert At the Movies parody the Simpsons are watching before their TV breaks. 

"I don't want to hear it, McBain! You're out of here!"

I can't speak for you and your friends, but for me and mine, McBain was just about the awesomest thing to ever appear on television. 80s-style action movies were on the way out in '90 but were still a very visible part of the landscape. In the same way Austin Powers made a certain type of Bond presentation obsolete (or at least made it have to work harder to overcome the association), McBain hastened the demise of the Tango and Cash / Commando era. May it rest in rocket-launcher one-liner peace.

McBain is only a few moments of screentime and has no bearing on the rest of the episode, but hey, any excuse.


Most of the episode takes place in the week leading up to Senior Prom. Homer and Barney, "Springfield's answer to Cheech and Chong," according to Principal Dondelinger. When Homer and Marge both get detention, Homer falls pretty much head over heels at first sight.

"I'd reached step one: she knew I existed. The problem was, she didn't care."

Homer applies himself to wooing her, seeking advice from his guidance counselor -

who advises him to establish common interests and then "spend, spend, spend." On the way out, he slips him a brochure for the power plant, one of the few post-graduation careers he sees as viable for Homer. (Homer's response is to stare at it uncomprehendingly, giggle "KA-BOOM!" to himself, then pitch it in the trash.) 

Homer joins the debate ("forensics," in the parlance of the time) team to get to know her better and eventually works up the courage to ask her out.

She refuses, but he pretends to need help in French, which she tutors. After they spend the evening conjugating French verbs and dancing, she agrees to go to the prom with him.

But when he reveals his ruse was all just a brilliant ploy to get her over his house and let her guard down, she leaves angrily.

Homer avoids school for a week in case her angry departure means she'll cancel their prom date (meaning he'll have to graduate in the summer), so he doesn't realize she's agreed to go with Artie Ziff. 

Voiced by Jon Lovitz.
He realizes this when they both show up at Marge's house.

Homer makes the limo driver take him to the prom anyway, as well as to Inspiration Point (i.e. Make-Out Point) afterwards. ("Okay Romeo, but remember, I'm only paid to drive.") Marge and Artie are voted Prom Queen and King (prompting Artie's memorably whiny singalong to the Carpenters' "Close to You"), but he gets "busy hands" while they're parking, and Marge ends the date with indignation.

When she sees Homer walking home by himself, forlorn, she drives back to pick him up.

And the rest is history.
The end.

It's a sweet little story that was one of the first to deepen the backstory of Marge and Homer, making them seem even more like a "real" sitcom family.


There are some nice shots that emphasize Homer's alone-ness before getting together with the woman he'll eventually marry. 

Prom Tropes: Boy Meets/Loses/Gains Girl, Marrying your Date to the Senior Prom, Streaking (Barney), and:


Well, this wasn't the most page-view-tastic series I've ever completed here at the Omnibus, but it was fun. Thanks to everyone who read along. I wanted to end on an easily-digestible one, and "The Way We Was" seemed a good fit. I could have padded it all out with a hundred other Simpsons associative-memories and other favorite quotes, but it seemed just sticking to the above was the better way to go. Feel free to leave your Simpsons-associative-memories in the comments, if you're so inclined. 

Last dance, everyone. Remember not to drink and drive.



  1. For some reason, we loved to quote the limo driver from this episode saying "Prom it is!" It's nothing earthshattering to say that the voice actors on The Simpsons were terrific, but the standout episodes have a lot of funny little line readings like that.

    1. Absolutely. "Hey, why ruin a perfect night?"

  2. Your note about how 70s nostalgia hadn't quite caught in 1991 made me look up the release date for Dazed and Confused, as I always thought of that film as one of the main drivers behind that. And you're right -- D&C didn't hit theaters until 1993. And Wooderson didn't get his Oscar for another 21 years after that, but that's another story.

    1. There's an '80s-centric Linklater film coming out this year called "Everybody Wants Some" that looks a lot like a spiritual sequel to "Dazed and Confused." I will watch THE HELL out of that.

    2. Can't wait. Linklater's had a hell of a career.

    3. He really has. This one looks really good, too. The trailer has Van Halen all over it, too, so bonus.

  3. This is a great episode of "The Simpsons." I'm not enough of a fan to have any sort of ranking (I've seen too few episodes, percentage-wise), but surely it's a top-tenner.

    My thoughts on the prom as a television trope: everyone (a few excepted) seems to feel like it's desperately lame and beneath contempt, but also that it's an indelible rite of passage. It's a mystery to me: I didn't go to my senior prom. I couldn't get a date, so I went to a family reunion with my parents and brother and ate a lot of fried catfish instead. It was kind of a bummer; I didn't mind at the time, but the fact -- and it is a stone-cold fact -- was that as soon as it was over, there was no going back. That which was skipped could never be unskipped.

    Amazing, but true: you can even feel nostalgic regret for having missed something you gave almost literally no shits about.

    In other words, it might be desperate and lame and beneath contempt, but it's also somehow incredibly important. It's a paradox; maybe even a dilemma. But it's true. How strange!

    Too bad the page-counts haven't measured up for this series. I think it's been a lot of fun, and it fits the blog like a charm.

    1. I know the first 8 seasons of "The Simpsons" as well as I know anything, I'd wager, but sheeeeot, wouldn't know where to begin ranking anything. I think my favorite episode is when Homer goes to work for Mr. Scorpio, but ask me on a different day and who knows. And of course there's the one where Troy McClure Marries Selma - don't get me started.

      "Amazing, but true: you can even feel nostalgic regret for having missed something you gave almost literally no shits about."

      Isn't that wild? If I'd been a tad more ambitious/ intellectual about this series, perhaps I'd have gotten to the bottom of this more. But it's a process (conditioned nostalgia? reactive nostalgia? I'm sure there's a word for this in German) that fascinates me. Is there one collective memory that we can all tap into, if properly accessed/ triggered? Or is it just a case of our being highly impressionable and imaginative creatures who can project and be projected upon?

      As for prom itself, I feel the same way - something we all recognize as very lame and we feel above those (like Blair or the ghost chick from "Smallville") who see it as an opportunity to seize to have their own narcissism confirmed by the public/ their adoring fans. Yet, these rite of passage rituals, whatever they are and however they manifest themselves in our un-tribe/ritual-like world of Nowadays, touch us primally. They're like sporting events that way, I guess.

    2. I suspect that what lurks at the bottom of it all is a deep-seated need to self-mythologize. Life events such as a prom are good for that.