It’s the third episode of the seven-part miniseries IT CAME FROM SYNDICATION! This time around, I continue my look at syndicated television from the 1980s and 1990s with a look at a category known as “Infotainment,” which includes news programs, sports programs, entertainment journalism, and talk shows. Join me and Amanda as we talk about everything from The George Michael Sports Machine to A Current Affair and The Oprah Winfrey Show.
Lisa practices acting like a teenager in "The Summer of 4 ft. 2."
When my yearbook staff puts the finishing touches on its last deadline, we have a few traditions. First, we take the ladder–a poster-sized “map” of the yearbook–and pass it around the room, each staff member tearing it until it’s completely shredded. Second, we have a pizza party. Third, we watch the Simpsons episode “The Summer of 4 ft. 2.”
If you’re unfamiliar with the episode, I don’t blame you. It originally aired on May 19, 1996 and along with the star-studded episode “Homerpalooza,” capped off season 7 of the series, which means that it was an episode from back when the show was not only good but amazing. Flipping through my copy of The Simpsons: A Complete Guide to Our Favorite Family, I see that season 7 is incredibly strong: “Bart Sells His Soul,” “Radioactive Man,” “King-Size Homer,” “Team Homer,” and “Bart on the Road” are just five episodes in a year packed with gems, and I have to say that I have to consider myself lucky because this particular year (1995-1996) was when I first started watching The Simpsons on a regular basis.
You see, I actually wasn’t allowed to watch the show when it first premiered in 1990. Not right off the bat, anyway. I remember watching the first regular episode (not “Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire” but “Bart the Genius”), but when the show took off and the merchandise started hitting the shelves, my mother didn’t think that the image of Bart Simpson holding a slingshot and proclaiming he was an “underachiever and proud of it” was a good image for her kids. Therefore, me–the 13-year-old–and my sister–the 10-year-old–were forbidden from watching The Simpsons.
Now, let’s think about this for a minute. I had spent the better part of my childhood watching festivals of violence–from Tom & Jerry cartoons to Commando. I was also a straight-A student who never got into any trouble at school. How a cartoon character that was about as harmful as Dennis the Menace was going to make me rebel in some way was completely beyond me. So I was stuck watching The Cosby Show instead, at least until the beginning of season two when I was able to watch “Bart Gets an F” because it was about that underachiever trying to achieve; and then wound up catching most of that and the next season. Then my viewing fell off as I became more involved in school and found myself spending most of my nights holed up in my room doing homework or listening to Rangers games on the radio. (more…)