TV Review: The Simpsons Christmas Special

Posted: December 9, 2009 in Cartoon Review, Holiday, Reviews
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The Simpsons Christmas Special (1989 Dir. David Silverman)

I have a wife with 5 foot tall blue hair and a star fish for a daughter. This is my life, pity me.

You might notice I am not calling this “Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire” because I believe in using the title on the screen for a review and that is the title this screen has. As much as people talk about which number this was as the show was produced, I also don’t care about that either. It’s the first real episode of The Simpsons and serves as the pilot for the series that anyone outside of the studio so, so it’s the first. This was something of a new experience for TV viewers. We’d rarely seen anything like this family before. This was an imperfect family on television, living in a world that actually had some flaws in it. No wonder Bush the first and the rest of the republicans railed against this, it wasn’t whitewashing the American people to look like something they weren’t. Republicans hate truth, and children, which is why they take away their school lunches and replace them with ketchup.

Darn it! You can’t see in this shrunken view how the flames are licking at those stockings.

The show starts with Marge and Homer getting in just in time to the school Christmas Concert. I’ve always wondered why they weren’t there on time. Wouldn’t they have to bring their kids to school for something like this? Or have the Simpson children been getting nervously drunk the whole day on orange drink? And what is orange drink anyway? Not orange juice, that’s for sure! The only highlights in this portion of the show is Lisa in a body stocking being a fire god and Bart getting yanked from the choir for singing naughty lyrics to Jingle Bells. Then we get a scene where Marge writes the traditional Christmas letter, sort of giving us the personality of all the characters for the next ten or fifteen years right there in one go. It’s a bit disappointing how little character development there is between this episode and a new one. On a side note, because of how the fire was animated in this scene, the stockings appear to be on fire.

I lived next to people like this once, and then strangely they disappeared. No one knows what happened to them or what field they’re buried in.

We then get to hear a bit about what will be one of the side plots where Bart wants a tattoo. That will be expanded upon later. We get to see the Flanders for the first time, acting in a way they’d never act today. They’re far more secular and commercial here than they would ever be again. I think the super religious Flanders family didn’t really get going until second season actually, because there is another episode in this season where they are wantonly consumerish in a way that would be totally out of place today. I think the original idea of the Flanders was just that they were just the perfect family that the Simpsons weren’t.

“Do you expect me to talk?” “No Mr. Bond, I expect you to die!”

This year, Mr. Burns has canceled the Christmas bonuses, and he’s a bit worried because they were going to buy presents with that cash. The blow is softened a bit by the fact that Marge has been putting aside money in a big jar all year. However, Bart gets a tattoo, and Marge spends all her saved Christmas money on getting it removed. Now, with no bonus and no jar money, Homer cries out that Christmas is ruined! Marge begs him to relax and not to get his suicide kit out, reminding him of the Christmas bonus, which he hasn’t told her, is canceled. He goes outside and hangs his head in the snow, wondering whatever he’s going to do. Fade to commercial.

This is the face of pathos.

Homer then decides that instead of telling Marge about the money, he would like to do the shopping this year. He takes the list to Circus of Values where nothing is over five bucks. He loads up on lots of things like pads of paper for Bart and a doggie toy for Maggie. He’s trying really hard, and you can tell that it’s humiliating for him, but he’s managing to keep his chin up and that’s inspiring. He bumps into Flanders and is reminded again how much of a loser he is. Instead of going home he runs off to Moe’s to drown his sorrows. When Barney comes in and announces that he’ll buy a round of drinks for everyone (which is just him and Homer) he informs our hero that he got the money by being a Santa at the mall.

NO! Homer! It’s a toy, not a real pork chop!

Homer enters Santa training class, which gives us a few laughs. He covers up the fact and is given a “treat” by having Marge’s sisters stop by and insult him about not having a tree. He runs off and steals a tree, coming back with it to be insulted a bit more. He then has to be Santa at the mall, where he is discovered by Bart who pulls of his beard. This is actually a great moment, because when Homer explains the whole thing to Bart he agrees to keep the secret for him.

Despite the red suit, I am not a communist. Yea capitalism.

Sadly, Homer’s check only turns out to be thirteen bucks. Barney announces that there is a dog at the track that he’s going to bet on. Homer is reluctant, but Bart convinces him. Sadly, Homer bets his money on a dog called Santa’s Little Helper. This turns out to be a loser though and he loses everything. The whole time of course Patty and Selma insults Homer to Marge and Lisa’s face, which has always made me think they should be hacked up with an axe and burned in the fire place. I’ve never felt any sympathy what-so-ever with either of Marge’s sisters, they’re nothing but hateful monsters.

If only we had the rest of this brave photo journalists images.

Homer, depressed beyond reason and working with a crushed spirit finds Santa’s Little Helper being run off by his owner. The dog leaps into Homer’s arms and the show is brought to a heart warming climax by Homer yelling “He’s pathetic! He’s a loser! He’s (dog licks him) a Simpson.” How can you not empathize with sentiment like that? Homer comes home, admits everything to the group and tries to explain, but Bart interrupts by bringing in Santa’s Little Helper in an attempt to save some of Homer’s dignity. This is to the great joy of all but the two sisters who wanted Homer to fail, but screw them! They’re evil people who need to die in a fire.

You do know you’re only going to appear in episodes where the story needs you, right?

I have to admit that while the animation is cheep and the characters are no where near as rounded as they would later become, I really like this special. I genuinely enjoy a show that A) Doesn’t spend its entire run time decrying commercialism and B) Actually points out the fact that some people have to really struggle to have a Merry Christmas. For that, it gets full marks.

Look at all those forced smiles. People pretending to get along. It must be Christmas after all!
Official Score:
42 Degrees on the Graffiti Bridge Scale.

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