If you followed the Lounge Geeks shows over here to One Of Us, you may have noticed that this isn’t Spinoff Showdown and you may find yourself wondering what happened to it. The short answer is I stopped writing it. The long answer is I stopped writing it after finding it tiresome to take different characters from different shows and propose spinoffs for each of them using the same scenario. The magic was gone, what can I say?
After getting word from Grant about the end of Lounge Geeks (RIP), I tried to get some articles ready for my debut on One Of Us, but nothing felt right. I then thought back on a conversation I had with Brian, in which he asked me about my area of expertise. The first subject that came to mind was The Simpsons. The Simpsons isn’t just a TV show to me, it was my childhood and young adult life. Every day after school, I watched the CBC and CFMT re-runs and I recall spending countless weekends going through the satellite catching as many episodes as possible. I spent untold sums of allowance dollars on whatever merchandise I could get. Trips to the mall were always agonizing I knew I couldn’t buy everything there. My passion for everything Simpsons was unconditional and unabating.
Now that the show is in its 25th year and has been on the decline as of late, I decided it’s well past time someone went through the entire series, pieced together what made it a cultural icon, and determined what went wrong. It’s a lofty goal, and I’m just the man to do it.
Episode title: Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire
Airdate: December 17, 1989
Summary: It’s Christmas time in Springfield and things don’t look good for the Simpsons. After Bart gets a tattoo, Marge had to spend the money saved up for gifts to have it removed. Additionally, Homer has been told that he won’t be receiving a bonus this year. Desperate to make sure his family has a Christmas, Homer decides he must do whatever it takes, including stealing a tree and working as a mall Santa, to preserve the holiday spirit.
Review: 25 years. 25 years and it’s still the same old goodness. In the first few minutes, we get a good look at the nature of each member of the family. Bart is the rebellious free spirit, as demonstrated by his singing of the schoolyard version of “Jingle Bells” and yanking a fake beard off of “Santa.” He does everything we wanted to do as children and is happy with himself, despite being an underachiever according to the school. Lisa is the intelligent overachiever. We see outdoing her classmates with her dance representing a foreign Santa. Lisa is also sensitive and empathetic, as we can see as she defends her dimwitted dad from her aunt.
Marge is the calm center of the family. Despite the insanity brought about by her family, she always loves them all. She reaffirms this to Homer as he questions his worth and status. As she writes the family’s Christmas letter, she tries to put the best face on the family because she knows that behind the hijinx, they are all good people. Homer is the dumb but loving father. He may not always succeed in what he does but his heart is in the right place. The strength of the older episodes is that while a few things may have changed, the core of the characters is still there.
As a Christmas episode, it’s a breath of fresh air because it ditches the usual trope of a last minute miracle common with holiday specials (even making fun of it along the way with the Happy Little Elves Christmas Special), which makes the Simpsons feel more like a real family. While the ending may still be a happy ending, it’s not the one you’d hope for or expect from a Christmas special. While it maybe a minor detail, when Bart says, “There’s only one fat guy who brings us present and his name isn’t Santa,” it’s one of the few times that a show remains grounded. In most animated Christmas specials, regardless of realism, Santa exists during holiday episodes. Here Bart’s saying something that children around his age usually start suspecting: Santa isn’t real.
From a cultural perspective, the episode has aged very well. If the animation was updated, you would never be able to tell this came out in 1989. The cultural references are next to non-existent (that’s right, there was a time a show could exist without relying on references) and the scenario is more common nowadays, as many people are struggling to make ends meet, especially during holidays. As the launch of The Simpsons, it sets the series up well. It doesn’t end in a way you’d expect and isn’t so much “Christmas is saved” ending as much as it is a lesson in prioritization. They get by and are happy with each other and what they have. That’s what makes The Simpsons so great.
Final rating: 4.0/5.0
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