The Simpsons: Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire
December 17, 2022 1:30 AM - Season 1, Episode 1 - Subscribe

When Marge must use all the family's gift money to remove Bart's tattoo, it's up to Homer to save Christmas.

Bart gets a "Mom" tattoo and all the family's Christmas gift money goes towards laser removal. Mr. Burns skips the Christmas bonuses, so Homer gets a job as a Mall Santa. When the 13 dollar paycheck proves insufficient to save Christmas, Homer and Bart go to the dog track hoping to win big. They fail miserably, but in the process pick up a new member of the family.

I call the big one "Bitey"
  • Marge: Maggie is walking by herself. Lisa got straight A's. And Bart... well, we love Bart.
  • Lisa: Aside from the fact that he has the same frailties as all human beings, he's the only father I have. Therefore, he is my model of manhood, and my estimation of him will govern the prospects of my adult relationships. So I hope you bear in mind that any knock at him is a knock at me, and I am far too young to defend myself against such onslaughts. Patty: Mmhm. Go watch your cartoon show, dear.
  • Bart: It doesn't seem possible, but I guess TV has betrayed me.
  • Homer: He's a loser, he's pathetic, he's... a Simpson.
  • Aired 33 years ago today. If the family aged in real time, Bart Simpson would now be 43 years old.
  • The only full episode of The Simpsons to air in the 1980s.
  • It wasn't supposed to be the first episode to air, but production problems bumped it up the schedule.
  • Lacks the famous opening sequence and theme song.
  • Aired against Murder, She Wrote (CBS), Sister Kate (NBC), and the last episode of Homeroom (ABC) before it was cancelled.
  • Written by Mimi Pond; she was not invited to join the writer's room permanently.
  • One of the animators was Eric Stefani, Gwen Stefani's brother and member of No Doubt.
  • Nominated for two Emmy Awards.
I really hope somebody got fired for that blunder
  • In the race, Santa's Little Helper is Dog #8, but only six traps for dogs are pictured.
  • Barney Gumble has blonde hair; this was later retconned away so that only the Simpson kids are blonde.
Worst. Episode. Ever.
  • "I was surprised by how slow and humorously sporadic the episode was. Poor transitions from scene to scene affected the pacing, with a surprising number of bits ending on a joke that didn't quite hit as hard as the writers may have intended. Thought there were hints at what was to come, The Simpsons television series had yet to find its voice. Jokes seemed tame, pop culture references were limited, and the overall world existed in more of a realistic setting." Robert Canning
I wish to subscribe to your newsletter
posted by Paragon (17 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
In case the categories are not obvious:
I call the big one "Bitey" - quotes
alt.nerd.obsessive - trivia
I really hope somebody got fired for that blunder - blunders
Worst. Episode. Ever. - a negative review of the episode; I am confident that someone somewhere will have complained about every single one
I wish to subscribe to your newsletter - links
posted by Paragon at 1:33 AM on December 17, 2022 [3 favorites]

Great post. It seems true that most great TV shows—especially comedies—take some time to really get rolling. It also seems the recent trend among streaming services is to cancel everything in one or two seasons unless it becomes an overnight, runaway, smash hit. My guess is that at least some of these cancelled shows could have warmed up and become great, but we can never know. Oh well, it's just TV.

The Simpsons is some of the all-time greatest television ever, IMO.
posted by SoberHighland at 5:53 AM on December 17, 2022 [2 favorites]

I had a bunch of the Life in Hell books and regularly watched The Tracey Ullman show so I tuned into this the night it was broadcast and was not disappointed. Then I watched the show religiously for the first 7-8 seasons or so. What a great time to be alive. There was really nothing like The Simpsons and it hit at a perfect time in my life, when I was figuring out my sense of humor and discovering new things by myself for the first time.

There's been a lot of great TV since then, but I think The Simpsons might be the best TV show ever, for a lot of reasons.

I haven't watched the show in years, so I have no opinion on whether or not it's still "good", but I'm glad it was there when I needed it. If it ever ends I'll watch the finale.
posted by bondcliff at 8:12 AM on December 17, 2022 [8 favorites]

This is such an obvious thing to comment on, so let's get it out of the way... They look so weird. They really hadn't settled into the classic look yet. At all.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 11:55 AM on December 17, 2022 [2 favorites]

I recall catching the original pre-season episode entirely by accident - family was visiting Uncle Benny's for dinner and my sister and I were left to be babysat by the television. I must have been 11 at the time.

Watching the Tracy Ulman show, then this weird cartoon showed up. I knew immediately that this was going to be something special.

However, I cannot recall for the life of me, how I ended up knowing when to catch this series premiere.
posted by porpoise at 1:41 PM on December 17, 2022

I, too, saw this first on Tracey Ullman. I had an ultracontroversial "Simpson Family Values" t-shirt almost right away (not even Bart peeing or anything!).
posted by praemunire at 2:32 PM on December 17, 2022

All silly conservative moral panics look ridiculous in hindsight but the panic over The Simpsons looks especially so.
posted by Pope Guilty at 2:52 PM on December 17, 2022 [3 favorites]

Especially early season Simpsons, which was actually quite wholesome at heart. I mean, "Moaning Lisa," for God's sake.
posted by praemunire at 5:09 PM on December 17, 2022 [2 favorites]

This was the only episode I was allowed to watch (I was seven) until I defended The Simpsons as satire successfully at a family dinner. In season 9.
posted by thecaddy at 5:35 PM on December 17, 2022 [2 favorites]

“I love that dog, but that is one stupid name.” Lisa, season 20-something.
posted by Servo5678 at 11:22 PM on December 17, 2022

“I love that dog, but that is one stupid name.” Lisa, season 20-something.

But without that stupid name, we wouldn't have the premise for Season 8, Episode 20 "The Canine Mutiny", where "Santos L. Halper" gets a credit card from Moneybank.
posted by mikelieman at 7:28 AM on December 18, 2022 [1 favorite]

The Simpsons moral panic always struck me as hilarious: an American, white, Christian, literally* nuclear family. Fully employed father, stay-at-home mother, everyone goes to church every Sunday... all the stereotypes they could ever need.

*As in, Homer has probably brought home enough radiation to power the whole SNPP grid.
posted by Paragon at 12:39 PM on December 18, 2022 [1 favorite]

I remember rewatching our family's recording of this premiere over and over as a kid. It's a show that definitely shaped my sense of humor at all ages, from singing "Jingle Bells, Batman Smells" as a stub, to only in the past few years understanding why the Matt Groening model (Invidious, YouTube) is old and wearing an eyepatch.

The Wikipedia article cites an article that pulls from an interview Mimi Pond did with Jezebel where she states that it was Sam Simon who "didn’t want any women around because he was going through a divorce." There's another quote from Matt Groening on Simon from this article in Vanity Fair written in 2007 when The Simpsons Movie was coming out:
Many of the original staff remain loyal to Simon, crediting him with taking Groening’s crude characters from The Tracey Ullman Show and making them into the Simpsons that the world knows and loves. Simon recently told 60 Minutes, ”Any show I’ve ever worked on, it turns me into a monster. I go crazy; I hate myself.” For his part, Groening has said, “I think Sam Simon is brilliantly funny and one of the smartest writers I’ve ever worked with, although unpleasant and mentally unbalanced.”
It saddens me that the show that gave me so many laughs the vast majority of my life has a dark side to it. That's something for me to learn more about and reconcile as I, joyfully, rewatch it.
posted by chinesefood at 6:00 PM on December 20, 2022 [3 favorites]

The Simpsons moral panic always struck me as hilarious: an American, white, Christian, literally* nuclear family. Fully employed father, stay-at-home mother, everyone goes to church every Sunday... all the stereotypes they could ever need.

It’s been pointed out that the reality of the Simpsons — family of five, one breadwinner (with only a high school education), decent house in the suburbs, slightly beat-up car — was pretty much a realistic scenario when the show began and is basically unthinkable now.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 6:25 PM on December 21, 2022 [3 favorites]

and the overall world existed in more of a realistic setting

It's funny to me that this is meant as a criticism. The somewhat more realistic Simpsons of the first few seasons is refreshing considering the extreme hijinx and Flanderization of every character over the years (often in not great ways, see: Jerkass Homer).
posted by asnider at 2:27 PM on December 23, 2022 [1 favorite]

This episode was adapted into a comic book pretty much word for word, or at least joke for joke. So I'm sure I've seen it once or twice, but I've read it like 1000 times.
posted by potrzebie at 5:43 PM on December 26, 2022

Wow, this is a really good post.
posted by box at 2:40 PM on December 27, 2022

« Older Horatio Hornblower: The Duel: ...   |  Movie: All the Beauty and the ... Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments