Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Way Back WhensDay: Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire

A new member of the family
By Kevin Hunsperger
@kevinhunsperger & @my123cents on Twitter

December 17, 1989 is a day that changed pop culture forever.  It was the first time a full length version of The Simpsons aired, sparking what has become one of the longest running television shows ever.  As of this writing in 2013, The Simpsons is still going strong.  Since Christmas was just days away, the first episode revolves around the holiday.

I was a junior in high school when the show debuted.  I had been a fan of the shorts on The Tracy Ullman Show and when I heard the animated family was going to get its own show, I was more than excited.  I loaded my trusty VCR that night and recorded the episode.  I instantly became hooked and ended up doing the same thing each week for years.

Officially titled "Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire", the episode is also referred to as "The Simpsons Christmas Special."  Viewers get an expanded look at the four fingered, yellow residents of Springfield USA during the show.  Other characters like Barney, Moe, and Principal Skinner are also introduced to viewers.

Santa Homer
Homer finds out he's not getting his Christmas bonus.  Bart decides to get a tattoo to honor his mother.  That move forces Marge to use the family's Christmas savings to have the word MOTH (he was going for MOTHER) removed from her son's arm.  Because the Simpsons are like most American families, living paycheck to paycheck, these two scenarios create a great source of conflict.  As a way to make ends meet Homer becomes a mall Santa only to receive a "measly $13", which eventually leads the father and son to the dog races in an effort to pull off a Christmas miracle and earn enough cash to buy gifts.  Keep in mind, it's Christmas eve.

Homer puts his money on a dog known as Santa's Little Helper, which loses the race and gets disowned in the process.  Because he's a lovable loser like Homer and Bart, they take the pooch home, thus creating the ultimate Christmas gift for the family.  It's a touching episode and a reminder that Christmas isn't about what you get, it's about what you give.

In the years that followed the creators would do other Christmas episodes.  They don't do them every year, and while funny, I don't think any of them hold a candle to that first episode.  This one holds a special place in my memory, partly because it was the first, but also because of the message and the unconditional love the family has for one another, with the exception of Homer and Patty and Selma.

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