The Simpsons' house has been inspected of having termites, and must temporarily live in a house that takes them back to 1895.
When Homer is injured at work, his compensation is the use of a luxury sky box at a Hockey Rink (though the family originally thought it was basketball, and along with everyone else going into the stadium showed disappointment bordering on horror at the realization).
The family enjoys the luxuries, but Lisa finds his families superior attitudes disgraceful and joins the masses rink side. She gives one of the Russian players some score tying advice and is rewarded with a goal for the Ice-O-Topes and one of their players, Kozlov's, hockey "tree". The stick is mounted in Lisa's room where later that night termites break out of the stick and do damage to the family home. Until the Russian no-wood-nick termites can be thoroughly exterminated, which would take six months, the Simpson family is homeless.
The family tries a number of options like staying with Lenny and Jeffery Albertson, but settle upon trying out for a home on a TV show where they are required to live like it's 1895. They pass the audition and start living the lifestyle.
The family face various hardships at first and argues with each other, much to the delight of the viewers who enjoy the family's misery and pain. However, the family soon cooperate with each other and start living an ideal 19th Century life, which the viewers find boring resulting in plummeting ratings. When "The 1895 Challenge" sinks in the ratings, the producers try to make the family stir things up by adding Squiggy from Laverne and Shirley. When even that doesn't work they deliberately make the family miserable again, relocating the house to a river and watch it float downstream.
Eventually, the house comes to shore and falls apart. The family finds themselves without food and shelter and the TV crew refuses to help them as they are not allowed to interfere with the reality of the show, stuffing their faces with gourmet meals and saying to burn the leftovers while the family starve in front of them. They encounter a native tribe that are actually a band of refugees from another reality program that was abandoned when they stopped degrading themselves, and together they fight the TV crew and producers and return to civilization, where they can find quality scripted television. When even that fails them, they start to entertain themselves by watching Homer fail at using the hose.