In my review of the first season of The Simpsons, I mentioned that “Life on the Fast Lane,” was the season’s only episode that contended for a spot in the series’ pantheon. In “Simpsons Classics,” I’ll do my best to explain why “Life on the Fast Lane” and episodes like it belong in said pantheon.
The first great episode of The Simpsons, “Life on the Fast Lane” deals with Marge’s temptation to cheat on Homer with Jacques, a French bowler impeccably voiced by Albert Brooks.
Most Simpsons episodes that consider extramarital temptation in later years do so from Homer’s perspective. Homer is wooed by country star Lurleen Lumpkin, has trouble resisting coworker Mindy Simmons, and even gets married to a second woman in Las Vegas. Each of these episodes places moral culpability on Homer; in other words, it’s never anything Marge does that leaves Homer vulnerable to outside affairs.
“Life on the Fast Lane” is very different. Marge is driven away from her husband by Homer’s own selfishness, illustrated first by his forgetting her birthday (thinking momentarily that it was his own) and then presenting her with a bowling ball—with “Homer” engraved on it—as her present. This reprehensible act of husbandry isn’t even isolated; as Patty/Selma detail earlier in the episode, Homer’s past birthday gifts to Marge include a tackle box and a Connie Chung calendar.