One of the beautiful things about television is that it allows characters to always be changing and trying new things. The identity crisis is a TV trope as old as the medium itself, but it rarely has both the power and the ability to go wrong as when a character decides to rebel, join a band, dye their hair or pierce something. The results are compelling either because the image of a middle aged TV dad in a leather jacket and mohawk is inherently hilarious, or because we see ourselves in him, just trying to fit in somewhere we don’t really belong.
Watching characters grow is part of what makes television great. If the chances they take in order to stimulate that growth include donning a leather jacket, spiking their hair, and hanging out with Sonic Youth, even better! Here are five of the best times that your favorite TV characters went punk.
Daniel Desario (James Franco) – “Freaks and Geeks”
The Judd Apatow produced Freaks and Geeks was a one-season wonder that launched the careers of Jason Segel and Seth Rogen. As a bonus, it even includes a performance by a young Rashida Jones. The shows’ most complex character, however, was easily the “James-Dean-If-It-Was-1980” Daniel Desario played by James Franco. In the episode “Noshing and Moshing”, Daniel sports a ripped T-shirt, leather jacket, and an incredibly cringe-worthy spiked hairdo to impress the punk girl at the liquor store. The episode features an appearance by the seminal Bay Area, California band, Diesel Boy, who is seen playing at the club where Daniel makes his punk rock debut, which, doesn’t exactly go according to plan.
Homer Simpson – “Homer-Pa-Loooza”
Homer Simpson is the Czar of changing identities. He’s been everything from an astronaut, to a baby proofer, to a car designer, and he was even Duffman once. A lot of episodes of the Simpsons are time-capsules (Let us not forget that George Bush Sr. lived on Evergreen Terrace for a while). But none of them are more of their time than the brilliant “Homerpalooza.” During this episode, Homer goes on tour with Hullabalooza as a sideshow act. While on tour, he gets hit in the stomach with cannonballs and meets Cypress Hill and Sonic Youth, who keep stealing from Peter Frampton’s cooler. The episode features one of the most Simpsons-y jokes of all time: “Hi Homer, Billy Corgan, Smashing Pumpkins.” “Homer Simpson, smiling politely.”
Jack Shephard (Matthew Fox) – “LOST”
One’s mind doesn’t normally go to punk rock when thinking about the esoteric and unique TV phenomenon that was LOST, but Matthew Fox’s Jack Shephard would probably disagree. The episode “Through The Looking Glass Part 2” portrays a disheveled, pilled up, and bearded Jack careening through the streets in his jeep blasting Nirvana’s “Scentless Apprentice.” The flash-forward is a jarring shift in tone from the jungle and monster noises of the rest of the show, and sets up Jack’s plea to Kate at the end of the episode, in which he proclaims, “We have to go back!”
Chuck Noblet (Stephen Colbert) – “Strangers With Candy”
Strangers With Candy was one of the oddest, grossest, and most hilarious shows that Comedy Central has ever produced. It featured a “fatty suit” wearing Amy Sedaris as an ex-con who has gone back to high school to try and learn lessons she should have learned the first time around, after-school special style. Stephen Colbert flawlessly plays a narcissistic teacher who, in the episode “Yes You Can’t” has dreams of rock stardom. He’s seen secretly wearing a spiked bracelet and looking through punk clothing catalogues. The episode wraps up with Colbert doing a full rendition of “Carry On My Wayward Son” while rocking a fake mustache to cover his cold sore.
ABC After-School Special – “The Day My Kid Went Punk”
Speaking of after-school specials, while not necessarily one of our beloved TV characters, this 1987 ABC after-school special espouses the dangers of hair-care products and awful “New Romantic” makeup. The piece’s main character, Terry, is a gifted classical violinist who takes a summer job out of town and then *gasp* joins a rock band and dyes his hair. His parents are mortified, but not as mortified as you’ll be watching it. The thing is shot like a porno and it made me feel the shame that porn sometimes brings about in a person. The saving grace is a small appearance by teenage drummer Josh Freese of the Vandals and Devo fame!
Article by Michael Joseph O’Connor.
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