The Simpsons is America’s first family of comedy (suck it, The Flintstones) and are an institution in pop culture. Starting off in 1987 as shorts for The Tracy Ullman Show, The Simpsons has been on for more than 25 years is beyond fascinating delivering lovable characters, memorable moments that stick in our minds and top notch humor…for the first ten seasons anyway, but I disgress. Of course, it does help that their first episode ever was a Christmas special.
The Simpsons Christmas Special, other wise known by its official title ‘Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire,’ is unique in that it did launch a whole series rather than be a ‘one-and-done’ special as a whole. Comprised of concerned and possibly idiotic father Homer, voiced by Dan Casatellena, over protective yet wise mother Marge, voiced by Julie Kavner, know-it-all Lisa, voiced by Yeardley Smith, bratty punk ass Bart, voiced by Nancy Cartwright, and baby Maggie, the Simpsons are very dysfunctional family and seeing them tackle the conventions presented in Christmas is a delight.
After not receiving a Christmas bonus from his notorious hard ass Mr. Burns, voiced by Harry Shearer, Homer (who somehow sounds like a caricature of Walter Matthau) decides take a second job as a mall santa in order to make ends meet in order to buy presents for the family without Marge knowing. Homet attends Santa school and becomes a mall santa along with his friend Barney Gumble. Bart finds out that Homer is the mall santa by pulling his beard off and realizes that Homer would do anything in order to make his family happy.
Unfortunately, being a mall santa pays Homer a measly $13, but Bart encourages Homer to get more money by betting on a greyhound race thanks to the concept of the Christmas miracle that Charlie Brown and The Smurfs received. Homer winds up losing after betting on Santa’s Little Helper, despite his “odds” of 99 to 1 by a shady clerk. Now dejected and afraid to give a gift to anyone, Santa’s Little Helper comes to his and Bart’s side to lift their spirits. Homer and Bart return and realize that Homer’s struggle was worth it as they now have a new Simpson in the family.
As we all know now, the episode is a classic for not only capturing the Christmas spirit, but also capturing Homer as a character.
Sure, the family as a whole is introduced, but Homer gets the spotlight in the pilot. Some of my personal favorite episodes involve showing Homer’s more caring and emotional side from Homer caring for Lisa and the family in ‘Last Exit to Springfield’ to Homer dealing with the return and exit of his mother in his life in ‘Mother Simpson.’ Homer has always been a lovable oaf and seen as an idiot (well, more idiotic now than the first ten seasons), but his softer side makes me love him as character. We see Homer wanting to succeed and do what is right, despite not being the sharpest pencil in the spot. Even without the highest of intelligence, Homer cares about his family first, himself second. To me, that is what makes this special a true classic and gets heavy rotation on my Christmas classics list. Hopefully those reading this feel just the same.