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Recap / The Simpsons S1 E1 "Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire"

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Marge: Isn't Bart sweet, Homer? He sings like an angel.
Bart: (close up) Oh, Jingle bells, Batman smells, Robin laid an egg. The Batmobile broke its wheel, and the Joker got awa- (cut off by Skinner pulling him off stage)
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Episode - 7G08
First Aired - 12/17/1989

"Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire" (production code 7G08), also known as "The Simpsons Christmas Special" was the first full episode of The Simpsons ever aired, although it was originally produced as the eighth episode.

After going to the Springfield Elementary School Christmas pageant, Marge asks Lisa and Bart for their letters to Santa. Lisa wishes for a pony, while Bart instead wants a tattoo. When Marge, Lisa and Bart go shopping the next day, Bart slips away to the tattoo parlor and gets a tattoo that reads "mother". Counting on Homer's Christmas bonus, Marge spends the Christmas money getting the tattoo removed. However, at the Power Plant Mr. Burns announces that there will be no Christmas bonus for this year.

When Homer discovers that Marge has spent the Christmas money on removing Bart's tattoo, he decides not to worry the family by making them think that they're might be no presents for the year, and so starts working as a Mall Santa. On Christmas Eve, Bart goes to the mall deciding to harass the fake Santa. When he pulls off the beard he discovers that the Santa is actually Homer.

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Homer is paid less than he expected at the end of the day, and is convinced to go to the racing dog tracks. He bets all his money on a last-minute entry called Santa's Little Helper, who then loses. As they leave the track, Homer and Bart see the dog's owner abandon him for losing the race. Bart asks Homer if they can keep the dog as a pet, and Homer reluctantly allows him to. When Homer comes home, thinking he'll have to come clean, the family think that Santa's Little Helper is meant to be a present for the whole family and all is forgiven.


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This episode contains examples of:

  • Adult Fear: Homer Simpson ends up with a terrifying problem. Marge has a jar with Christmas savings that ends up being spent removing a tattoo from Bart, and his own usual Christmas bonus was rescinded by his corrupt boss. Since he doesn't want Marge to know about the money problems, Homer spends the rest of the episode in serious distress, working part-time jobs, cutting corners on gifts, and is eventually reduced to betting on a dog race to get enough money for a good Christmas for his family. However, the dog he bets on loses so bad that the owner disowns him, and the Simpsons get a new dog and a wonderful Christmas present.
  • All Girls Like Ponies: Even the Wise Beyond Their Years Lisa is still very much a little girl, as seen when she asks Santa for a pony in her letter.
  • Always Someone Better: The Running Gag of Homer always being bested by Ned Flanders begins here, first with their Christmas decorations (Homer put up a few malfunctioning lights, while Ned put an elaborate display complete with animatronic Santa), then when they run into each other and drop each others' gifts (Homer's were in a single bag, while Ned had multiple well-wrapped packages).
  • Body Wipe: With Bart, as he, along with Lisa, runs over to Homer after escaping Selma and Patty's smothering.
  • Bread, Eggs, Milk, Squick: This episode has all of the Christmas tropes like the tangled-up Christmas lights, the next door neighbor who puts your lights to shame, crowded malls with overworked Santas and bored elves and taking your son to a dog racing track.
  • Christmas Episode: The episode revolves around the Simpsons celebrating Christmas (or trying to, with Homer having to find ways to get the extra cash needed to get presents and whatnot). An odd example of the Christmas special being the first (full-length) episode (although it's actually eighth in production order).
  • Department of Redundancy Department: Lisa's letter to Santa. She requests a pony six times on her list.
  • Description Cut: Marge says that Homer and Bart went caroling. Cut to Bart singing "We're in the Money" with Barney at Springfield Downs.
  • Early Installment Weirdness:
    • Homer is actually relatively competent at his job, at least compared with later episodes. He also tries to teach Bart about the satisfaction of getting paid for a job well done.
    • Todd Flanders acts more like a regular boy here instead of a caricature of Christian upbringing he would later become.
    • Moe has black hair instead of grey, and his tavern has a different interior too.
    • Mr. Burns has a different voice, and his office also looks different.
    • Barney has blonde hair and a different burp.
    • Patty and Selma do not live in Springfield and are staying with the family over Christmas. They mention that they just got into town and while on the phone Patty talks about coming to see Marge for the first time in a while.
    • Although Lisa is starting to show the advanced intelligence that now characterizes her, she still has the mischievous streak she showed in the Tracy Ullman Show shorts, as evidenced with her joining Bart in making teasing remarks during the sing-along in the end. This episode also aired before Lisa's environmentalist trait kicked in, evidenced by her sheer joy in the snow-melting resolution to the Happy Little Elves Christmas special.
    • Lisa's also shown as still believing in Santa Claus while Bart doesn't; in future episodes, Depending on the Writer it would either be the other way around, or they would disbelieve in Santa's existence for different reasons (Bart because he's older and more cynical than Lisa, and Lisa because she'd be smart enough to do the math and realise that it'd be logistically impossible for Santa to exist).
    • When we're introduced to Mr. Largo, he shows enthusiasm while introducing Lisa in her class's "Santas of Many Lands" presentation. This contradicts every subsequent appearance where he hates his job and stifles Lisa's creativity every chance he gets. This episode doesn't have the standard opening sequence which includes Mr. Largo's signature role: kicking Lisa out of class for adding a flourish to her saxophone solo.
    • Ralph Wiggum has a different, deeper voice, and doesn't seem as stupid as in his later appearances. He might just be reciting his lines in the presentation, but even that would be beyond the Ralph we come to know.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: Homer does everything he can to make sure the family has a merry Christmas.
  • Establishing Character Moment:
    • When we're introduced to Bart in the series proper, he sings the "Batman smells" variant of "Jingle Bells".
    • Lisa does a Polynesian dance at the school program, showing her more artistic side. Her intelligence and precociousness is later demonstrated by her eloquently telling off her Aunt Patty for badmouthing Homer, also establishing her as a loving Daddy's Girl.
  • Everyone Has Standards: Homer didn't want to go to the dog track, as he thought it would be sleazy to take Bart there on Christmas.
  • First-Episode Twist: The episode ends with Santa's Little Helper running away from his owner and becoming the Simpson family's pet. This is now a well-known fact about the franchise.
  • Hammerspace Hair: Marge hides the money jar inside her beehive hairdo.
  • Irony: When Bart sits on Homer's lap, Homer announces himself as "Jolly Old St. Nick" in an angry tone of voice. For context though, it's because he's getting frustrated with Bart trolling him (unaware that's his father dressed as Santa).
  • It's All Junk: Homer attempts to cut corners in Christmas shopping, optimistic the kids will find joy in discount items like dog toys and drawing paper. He then bumps into Flanders who has bought tons of lavish gifts for his family. After he leaves, Homer looks at the cheap crap he brought his family and sheds a Single Tear.
  • Kick the Dog: Santa's Little Helper's original owner disowns him for losing the race, even throwing a rock at him. It all causes the dog to run right into the arms of Homer.
  • Licked by the Dog: After losing a race, Santa's Little Helper is chased off by his angry owner and jumps into the arms of Homer (who lost all his money betting on him).
    Bart: Aw, can we keep him, Dad? Please!
    Homer: But he's a loser! He's pathetic! He's... (the dog licks him and Homer smiles) a Simpson.
  • Mall Santa: Homer becomes one half-way through the episode in order to help pay for Christmas after he doesn't get his Christmas bonus. Barney is also one, though we never see him in action.
  • Mistaken for Cheating: Because they think so little of him, Patty and Selma express certainty that Homer is running late because he's with another woman and will come home smelling of cheap perfume.
  • Obnoxious In-Laws: Patty and Selma make their first appearance and their roles as the snobby overbearing in-laws.
    Bart and Lisa: Dad, we're so glad to see you! You're finally home!
    Homer: What? Why? (sees Patty and Selma) Oh, yeah.
  • Off-Model: Sherri and Terri are depicted with brown hair and yellow skin, as opposed to their lavender hair and eerie paleness.
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • Having already lost out on his bonus, Homer, when he sees that Marge's savings jar is empty.
      Homer: We're ruined. Christmas is cancelled. No presents for anyone!
    • And again, when Marge suggests using Homer's Christmas bonus.
    • Bart when he learns the Mall Santa he's been trolling is his own father.
  • One-Book Author: The only Simpsons episode written by Mimi Pond, a cartoonist and writer who was a friend of Matt Groening.
  • Rapid-Fire Interrupting: When Homer confronts the clerk upon receiving his wage of thirteen dollars, he keeps getting interrupted as she lists off the deductions.
  • Reality Ensues: Homer spends what little money he has on the dog track in a last-ditch effort to afford Christmas gifts for the family. Homer ignores Barney's advice and chooses the last-minute addition, Santa's Little Helper, believing the name to be a sign of a Christmas miracle despite the dog's horrible track record. Ultimately, Santa's Little Helper comes dead last, the Christmas miracle doesn't happen, and Barney's pick ends up winning the race. And this is in the very first episode! However, the family gets a happy ending after all when the track owner fires Santa's Little Helper and the Simpsons get to take him home as a pet.
    Bart: It doesn't seem possible, but I guess TV has betrayed me.
  • Refuge in Audacity: How easy it was for Bart to get a tattoo at the mall by claiming he's 21 without showing the store owner any form of I.D. (though that could also be Idiot Ball on part of the tattoo store owner).
  • Rousing Speech: Homer refuses Barney's offer to bet their meager paychecks at the dog track, but Bart convinces him to not give up hope.
    Bart: Aw, c'mon, Dad, this could be the miracle that saves the Simpsons' Christmas. If TV has taught me anything, it's that miracles always happen to poor kids at Christmas. It happened to Tiny Tim, it happened to Charlie Brown, it happened to the Smurfs, and it's gonna happen to us!
  • Shout-Out:
    • The episode's title is a reference to "The Christmas Song", also known as "Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire".
    • One of the race dogs is called "Dog o' War", similar to the actual racehorse Man o' War.
    • In one scene Bart is Strapped to an Operating Table with a laser moving towards him, like the iconic scene in Goldfinger.
    • When talking about Christmas miracles, Bart mentions Tiny Tim, Charlie Brown, and The Smurfs. This is followed by Homer asking, "Who's Tiny Tim?"
    • Bart's version of "Jingle Bells" includes Batman.
  • Tastes Like Diabetes: Abe's in-universe reaction to the Happy Little Elves.
    Abe: Unadulterated pap.
  • Tempting Fate: Marge twice in the first act.
    • Right after she comments that Bart "sings like an angel", he sings a Batman-themed version of "Jingle Bells".
    • After looking at Lisa's list where she requests a pony several times, she believes Bart's will be more realistic. Then, she sees a tattoo as one of his wish list items.
  • Too Dumb to Live: How the tattoo artist can't tell Bart isn't actually 21 is anyone's guess.
  • Vapor Wear: Lisa is seen dancing whilst wearing a grass skirt, with seemingly nothing under it. The creators said that she's wearing a skin-colored suit, but you can see her individual toes.
  • Wide-Eyed Idealist: Zig zagged with Bart. He scoffs at the notion of Santa Claus, as he knows there's only one fat guy that gets him and his sisters presents. However, thanks to TV, he sincerely believes in the idea of Christmas miracles and that the family will get one. Even so, he's not so idealistic as to believe that Santa's Little Helper has any chance of winning the race, and unsuccessfully tries to talk Homer out of betting on him.
  • Wise Beyond Their Years:
    Patty: Where's Homer anyway? It's so typical of the big doofus to spoil it all.
    Lisa: What, Aunt Patty?
    Patty: Oh, nothing, dear. I'm just trashing your father.
    Lisa: Well, I wish you wouldn't because, aside from the fact that he has the same frailties as all human beings, he's the only father I have. Therefore, he is my model of manhood, and my estimation of him will govern the prospects of my adult relationships. So I hope you bear in mind that any knock at him is a knock at me, and I am far too young to defend myself against such onslaughts.
    Patty: Mm hm. Go watch your cartoon show, dear.

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