The Simpsons Christmas Special 1989
During the holiday season there are tons of Christmas programming on television. Growing up, I would always watch the animated Christmas specials like Frosty the Snowman, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, A Charlie Brown Christmas, and How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Not many people lump this Christmas special with the other classics. The Simpsons Christmas Special is a classic like those others and should be a traditional event for the season. People in my generation and hard-core Simpsons fans will agree that not only is this a great Christmas treat, but it is a historical episode that launched The Simpsons into the public eye.
Christmas 1989 marked the closing of a great decade and the coming of the 1990’s. I was 16 at the time and I have long out grown Christmas specials and my interests were horror movies and video games. Then I remember seeing an advertisement for a cartoon that was called The Simpsons and they were premiering a Christmas special. All I knew about The Simpsons at that point was that they were a cartoon skit on FOX’s The Tracey Ullman Show. The Simpson was finally getting their own series and the Christmas special was going to be their first episode. I heard more about the cartoon and found out it wasn’t just for kids and it was also geared toward adults. Also kids in high school were talking about it as well. I was curious about the show and checked it out when it aired Sunday night on December 17, 1989.
The special starts off with Homer, Marge, and their baby Maggie going to see their other two children, Lisa and Bart perform in the schools Christmas pageant. In these first few moments of the episode we get a taste of who The Simpsons are and the tone to the whole series, with Homer complaining and Marge giving him a hard time. One of the best moments of the special is when Bart is singing with his class, Jingle Bells, and he belts out….”Jingle Bells, Batman smells, Robin laid an egg. The Batmobile broke its wheel and The Joker got away!” After singing this Bart gets yanked out of the group and embarrasses his parents.
The rest of the episode has Homer taking a second job as a mall Santa due to the fact that he didn’t get his Christmas bonus at his job at the power plant and Marge had to use her Christmas jar money to spend on a tattoo removal when Bart goes against his mother’s wishes and gets a tattoo in the mall. Once Homer finds out the Christmas money has been spent he gets the second job without telling his family and making them think that he got his Christmas bonus this year.
Eventually, Bart finds out that Homer is the mall Santa, but vows he won’t tell the rest of the family and is proud of his dad for going through all that just to save their Christmas. On Christmas Eve, Homer gets his paycheck from the Santa Company and it is only a lousy thirteen dollars. Taking the advice of his best friend and drinking buddy Barney, he takes his thirteen dollars and goes to the dog track. He happens to bet on a replacement dog named Santa’s Little Helper, thinking it is a miracle waiting to happen, but the dog ends up coming in dead last and Homer looses all of his money.
While Homer and Bart look for winning ticket stubs on the ground, the owner to Santa’s Little Helper doesn’t want anything to do with him and tells him to get lost. The dog runs right over to Homer and jumps in his arms. Bart asks his dad if they can keep the dog and Homer replies to him that he’s a loser, but he’s a Simpson. They keep Santa’s Little Helper and go home. Feeling that Homer has let his family down he is ready to confess that their Christmas has been canceled, but when he walks in with the new dog the family lights up and are very happy with their new Christmas present and new addition to the family.
After watching the special I was hooked to The Simpsons. At the time I didn’t realize that this was a new series and thought it was just a Christmas special. During the show there were commercials for more episodes starting in January of the new year. I was excited about this new series, which became a phenomenon over night and is still going strong over twenty years later. The series also started a trend in adult themed cartoons, which lead to other in your face cartoons like Beavis and Butt-Head, South Park, Family Guy, and shows on Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim. The Simpson Christmas Special started it all and launched the series and made the name Simpson a household name. The special is also known as Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire, but was simply called The Simpson Christmas Special when it aired. The episode also didn’t have The Simpsons trademark open to the show, which came during the second episode and the animation for the special and the first season was drawn very crudely, which I liked because it looked edgier and was not polished like it is today. Most animation series that followed were often liked that in their first couple seasons, until they got more money in their budget.
There were a ton of memorable moments in this Christmas special and great one-liners. Along with the Jingle Bells, Batman Smells song there was the scene where Bart gets busted getting a tattoo on his arm. After he gets it removed by a giant laser the wound is wrapped in a bandage and Lisa and Maggie keep poking at him, where Bart turns around and yells, “Owwww! Quit It!” over and over again. Another moment is when Bart actually references other popular Christmas specials when the family is down on their luck and he is talking about miracles. He says, “If television has taught him anything it is that miracles happen on Christmas. It happened to Tiny Tim, it happened to Charlie Brown, it happened to The Smurfs, and it can happen to The Simpsons.”
There is also the part where Bart and his friends are at the mall and they spot Homer dressed as Santa. At the time they don’t know that it’s Homer and one of Bart’s friends, Millhouse, goes to Bart and says “Check out that quote unquote Santa.”, I’ve always thought that line was funny for some reason. Anyways, Bart’s friends dare him to sit on Santa’s lap and rip off his beard. Bart, never backing down from a challenge, sits on Santa’s lap. Homer almost slips up and calls him Bart, but corrects himself and calls him partner. He then asks him his name in which Bart replies, “I’m Bart Simpson. Who the hell are you?” and then rips off the beard revealing that it’s his father. This became one of The Simpsons biggest catch phrases at the time. I even had a T-shirt of Bart saying this line.
The Simpson didn’t do another Christmas episode until 1997 and would sometimes repeat the ’89 special. The Simpson are most known for their annual Tree House of Horror Halloween Specials then their Christmas ones. The special got me hooked on the show and it became not just one of my favorite animated series, but one of my favorite TV shows as well. For years I watched the series and it never missed a beat. Although I have not watched the show religiously like I use too, I sometimes catch an episode here and there whether it be a new one or a rerun.
The Simpsons Christmas Special is a Christmas classic, just like all those other timeless classics from the 1960’s. If you have not seen the special before it is available on The Simpsons Season One DVD Box Set and it is also included on a special Simpson’s Christmas DVD that includes a few other Christmas themed episodes. Make The Simpsons Christmas Special a part of your tradition during the holiday season. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!