Thursday, June 18, 2015

Simpsons Roasting On an Open Fire


Oh, no. Not another website devoted to The Simpsons. Oh, great and it focuses solely on the good years and doesn't even dip a toe into the more recent seasons. Do we really another pointless commentary on the golden age of The Simpsons?

I don't know but I'm at least going to start one and see what happens. The Simpsons have played a big role in my life--a role that lasted 23 years and I would like to pay tribute to this show that will probably be the longest-running TV series I will ever watch. So let's get this thing started with the first full-length episode--"The Simpsons Christmas Special" also known as "Simpsons Roasting On an Open Fire."
This episode premiered on Sunday, December 17, 1989 and, fitting in line with the message of the special, I watched it with my family. Every two weeks we would spend Sunday at my Grandparent's house and this special just happened to fall on one of those weekends. I had never seen The Simpsons before because I didn't watch Tracy Ullman. To be fair, I was only 6 but I loved what I saw in this Christmas special. So did my Mom which made it possible for me to watch it when it would debut in January. There is just so much in this episode that I remember. Honestly, aside from "Marge Vs. the Monorail" and both parts of "Who Shot Mr. Burns?", this is the only other episode I can quote beginning to end and completely.

It's always the details that makes The Simpsons fun. The opening scene with the school Christmas program is so accurate as to how those go. Each grade is paraded onto the stage to do their thing but the parents only care about the grades that have their children. Luckily, Homer and Marge barely catch the end of the 1st grade class and only have to sit through grades 2-6. What I love is that when the 1st grade is done singing, they added a cough to one of the audience members making it seem like someone had been holding in a cough for a while.

I've always loved this dialogue exchange between Homer and Patty:
*phone rings*
"Yello?"
"Marge, please."
"Who's this?"
"May I please speak to Marge?"
"This is her sister isn't it?"
"Is Marge there?"
"Who shall I say is calling?!"
"Marge, please."
"It's your sister."

 I always wanted to decorate a house like Flanders does but then I realized that it requires time, money and effort, three things I just don't have. Flanders was initially created to be the opposite of Homer--the anti-Homer as it were. Homer has no money, Flanders has money to spare. Homer is lackadaisical parent, Flanders is a loving, caring father and husband. Homer is a lazy worker, Flanders starts his own business. Homer went to church but didn't like it. Flanders went to church and went above and beyond what his faith requires. Flanders was a perfect foil for Homer and while the seeds of friendship were planted in numerous episodes, it never quite happened. It recent seasons, Homer and Ned are friends and Flanders is no longer the anti-Homer, he is a caricature of religious conservatives. The Homer/Flanders dynamic was such a good addition to the show, it's too bad that it, like most everything else in The Simpsons, had to end.

When the doctor is lasering off Bart's tattoo, he says "Now whatever you do, don't squirm. You don't want to get this thing near your eyes or groin." That was the first time I had ever heard the word 'groin.' I didn't know what it was so I had to ask. When Homer comes home from work to learn that Marge "had to spend the Christmas money having [Bart's tattoo] surgically removed" and starts freaking out over Christmas being canceled and there being no "presents for anyone" shouldn't that have raised some bells that something was wrong? Marge does at least notice in the next scene where we also get a glimpse of Homer's one chest hair.
But Homer, not wanting to disappoint his family, instead asks to do the Christmas shopping, which he does at a discount store buying things like pads of paper for Bart and a squeaky pork chop dog toy for Maggie. The presents he buys for his family can be contained in one paper bag and, after literally running into Flanders, he realizes just how disappointing Christmas is going to be for his family. During the good years of The Simpsons, Homer loved him family and tried to do the right thing by them but whether through his own stupidity or just because of life, Homer failed. That was something everyone could see themselves in. Homer was also sympathetic, something that began disappearing after season 8 and was completely eradicated by season 20.
After stopping in at Moe's, Homer is convinced by Barney to become a Mall Santa in order to make some extra money. After some cut scenes showing Homer not doing that great of a job reciting the names of Santa's reindeer and nearly punching the teacher when he pretended to be a child saying "You're not Santa, tubby" Homer actually becomes a pretty decent Santa but it doesn't matter since he only gets $13 for his work. Hoping to overcome the lack of a Christmas miracle, Homer goes with Barney to the racetrack to bet on a dog. Homer instead decides to bet on a dog named Santa's Little Helper who handily loses the race.

In an odd turn of events, Santa's Little Helper is soon abandoned by his owner for losing too many times and leaps into the arms of Homer who reluctantly agrees to take him home. It's amazing how just bringing home a dog makes everything better. The only thing bringing home a dog can't do is fix the upside down background in this scene.

And thus The Simpsons entered into our lives as the force it is today. Sure, the animation got a lot slicker, the colors more vibrant and the heart a bit more lackluster but that the first episode is a Christmas episode is just wonderful and this episode was the only Christmas episode until season 7's "Marge Be Not Proud".

One thing I didn't note above is that Homer goes out to buy a Christmas tree and ends up cutting one down on some private property. The family notices the birdhouse in it which Homer waves off as a Christmas ornament. When you see the later when the family is singing, the tree is still undecorated except for the birdhouse. I never noticed that before and just thought that was kind of funny.

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