The Simpsons - S1, E1, - "Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire"
by, 08-28-2011 at 07:18 AM (782 Views)
So, yeah. I've decided to do an episode-by-episode review series of The Simpsons.
First up is, well, the very first episode of course! Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire (aka The Simpsons Christmas Special, which doesn't really sound as witty or cool, does it?).
We hear a (much, much) shorter version of the theme tune....which incidentally is the version my music teacher played on the piano when someone requested The Simpsons theme tune....I guess because it's just much quicker and easier. Maggie is seen in her star-shaped baby outfit, which I think reappears several times over the course of the series. We see (and hear) a choir of schoolchildren, all of whom are generic (I think). Homer addresses someone named Norman and someone named Fred (Fred Flintstone perhaps? ). Nowadays, it would probably be Lenny and Carl. We then see Skinner for the first time, who also strangely seems quite generic at this point. He had more personality in Bart the General, which was produced before this episode. A very Ralph-esque character appears on stage as a Japanese Priest. I've always found it odd that the writers claim that the first Ralph appearance was in Moaning Lisa as a boy who is basically a slightly easier going version of Nelson. This boy on stage has the same hair style, and sort of the same mannerisms as the Ralph that we now know and love (well, most of us do anyway). Mr. Largo (who, like Skinner, doesn't have much personality yet) introduces a tribal dance by Lisa which caused some controversy, but the DVD audio commentary on this episode explained all. A pan shot reveals some more badly drawn (with all due respect to the animators) schoolchildren, although we do see Lewis and Richard for the first time, who were semi-regular characters for the first few seasons. Bart performs an alternate version of Jingle Bells, which is probably one of the most popular scenes of season one. We then cut away to the Simpsons house. Marge is writing a letter, revealing to us that the family has brought a new cat called Snowball II after Snowball I was killed earlier that year, and that Grampa (who we see in a portrait on the wall....a nice touch) is still with us. Maggie is seen falling down several times....a gag that was common in the first season but was (in my opinion) wisely dropped. It's revealed that Lisa is smart....and then probably my favorite line of this episode: "Bart, well....we love Bart". Some 'interesting' facial expressions are seen on Homer and Marge. Lisa wants a pony for Christmas....hmmmm....foreshadow much? Bart meanwhile wishes to have a tattoo....back to that later. The phone rings, Homer picks it up, and it's....Patty? Selma? Oh....it's Patty....she wants to visit the family. The rivalry between them hadn't -quite- morphed into what it was to become later on in the series. Outside, Homer tumbles off the roof while trying to fix the Christmas lights....the first of many serious Homer accidents (or would-be serious Homer accidents). This particular one is repeated in a later episode, in an even more humourous way. Ned Flanders has done a more impressive job of making his house look pretty, however. No comment about his faith as of yet. He just seems to be a semi-@ssholeish neighbour. Bart now proceeds to get his tattoo, thinking his mother will approve. We get our first look at the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant. Smithers is heard, but not seen. I wonder if he....oh nevermind. Mr. Burns announces that there will be no Christmas bonuses for semi-skilled workers. I guess the writers had his character in place pretty quickly, eh? Homer is not too concerned, as his family still has the "bonus jar". Marge is horrified that Bart now has a tattoo with the word "Moth", and immediately drags him to the tattoo removel thingy place....but she has no choice but to use Homer's Christmas bonus. The use of the word "groin" didn't exactly go down too well back in 1989....The Simpsons is kind of a history lesson of TV, isn't it? The "ow, quit it" sequence was inspired by Matt Groening's two sisters (Lisa and Maggie?) doing the same thing to him as what Lisa and Maggie (Simpson) do to Bart. Homer is shocked to learn that his bonus is now gone, but going outside doesn't exactly help. Homer had a confession to make to Marge.........he wants to do the Christmas shopping this year. He does so at a generic looking store. After he's finished buying some low-grade gifts, he (literally) bumps into Ned and Todd Flanders outside. They help him pick up the gifts, but semi-taunt him whilst doing so....I told you, didn't I? Homer visits Moe's. Moe appears to be serving meals at this point....oh, and his hair is black. Barney enters wearing a Santa outfit. His hair is the smae colour as his skin....good job the animators rectified that. He has been working as a Santa down at the mall. We hear his trademark burp for the first time too, but even that sounds different. Homer, desperate for some money, successfully gets a job as Santa, but not before he almost strangles a pencil-head man. Arriving back home, he sees that his sister-in-laws have arrived....clearly they are not the best of friends. Reaching his lowest ebb of the episode, he steals a Christmas tree. Patty and Selma are bemused by the bird house that is in it, for whatever reason. At the mall, Homer had some very small children on his lap. After a dare from Milhouse, Bart sits on Homer...I mean, Santa Clauses' lap. He uses the word "hell"....oh dear. He then pulls Santa Homer's beard off, a moment which is caught on camera. After a sweet Bart-Homer scene, Homer recieves his paycheck....but it's only $13. Following Barney's advice, they go to the greyhound racetrack. We see the Happy Little Elves for the first time since the shorts. After initially backing Whirlwind, they back a replacement called Santa's Little Helper at 99-1. Back at the Simpsons house, Patty: "Oh, nothing dear. I'm just trashing your father". At the racetrack, Santa's Little Helper comes into last after the first lap. We hear a grunt from Homer that's not "D'oh", but we hear it again at least several times, including just a few seconds later, in fact. Barney appears to have found himself a girlfriend. After Santa's Little Helper's owner dumps him after yet another last-place finish, Homer and Bart take him home. "He's....a Simpson". Grampa is sleeping back at home, while Patty and Selma are speculating about Homer's whereabouts. Bart reveals Santa's Little Helper to the family, and they are delighted. The episode ends with a snapshot of the family and their new dog, over which is written: "Merry Christmas, from The Simpsons". During the credits, the family sing Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Grampa is playing it on the piano (which also appears again). At the very end of the credits, Homer is heard strangling Bart. We then see the familar Gracie Films and 20th Century Fox logos for the first time.
Overall, a good start to the series, and a very suitable episode for all of the family. The animation was to improve of course, and the humour was to become more fluid as this great series progressed.