'Simpsons' sharper than ever TELEVISION PREVIEW

September 30, 1993|By David Zurawik | David Zurawik,Television Critic

John and Yoko, Ron and Nancy, Homer and Marge. They're all there tonight as "The Simpsons" starts its fifth season with a delicious piece of pop music madness at 8 on WBFF (Channel 45).

"Homer's Barbershop Quartet" tells the story of Homer's six weeks atop the world of pop music during that "magical summer of 1985."

Homer was a member of a barbershop quartet called the Be-Sharps, whose career bears a remarkable resemblance to that of another "Fab Four" 20 years earlier.

We see the quartet's humble beginnings in a nightclub, Moe's Cavern. We see the firing of a fifth Be-Sharp as the group finds its sound. We see their arrival at Kennedy International Airport.

We see their triumphs and, sadly, their demise when one member falls "under the spell of a Japanese conceptual artist" who believes she can take barbershop music to "strange, new places."

We even see the reunion they said could never happen.

The parody of the Beatles and the sendup of the '80s, which are at the core of tonight's show, are simply brilliant. And, then, the producers go yet another rung higher with George Harrison as one of the guest voices.

Homer meets George at a big party after the Grammy Awards show where the Be-Sharps took the top award for Outstanding Soul, Spoken Word or Barbershop Album of the Year. George wants to chat with Homer. But Homer's too busy chowing down on a huge plate of brownies to chat with George.

In the words of Bart, "Let it be, man."

Maybe it's a matter of absence making the heart grow fonder. Or, maybe, it's the overload this season of goopy family sitcoms with three kids and baby-boomer parents pumping TV bromides straight out of the 1950s.

Whatever, I can't remember enjoying an episode of "The Simpsons" as much as I enjoyed this one in a long time. I tried to keep a count of the pop culture references in tonight's show. I stopped after 20. And the show was only 7 minutes old.

The opening sequence at a swap meet in Springfield, with a JFK-sound-alike as emcee, is a genuine collectible.

"The Simpsons" is the smartest show on television period. And TV needs this postmodern parody of mommy-daddy-and-the-three-kiddies more than ever.

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