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Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire

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Season 1 Episode
Short 48 "TV Simpsons"
001
"Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire"
"Bart the Genius" 002
"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 going to happen to us!"
Bart Simpson
Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire
Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire promo.png
Episode Information
Episode Number: 1
Production Code: 7G08
Original Airdate: USA: December 17, 1989
UK: September 2, 1990[1]
Show Runner(s): James L. Brooks
Matt Groening
Sam Simon
Written By: Mimi Pond
Directed By: David Silverman
Transcript  DVD features


"Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire" (aka "The Simpsons Christmas Special") is the first episode of Season 1. It is also the first independent episode of The Simpsons, with the previous episodes, the Ullman Shorts, having only been aired as part of the The Tracey Ullman Show. It originally aired on December 17, 1989. Fox considers the episode as a special, so it was one of two episodes from the first season to be nominated for the Emmy Award for Outstanding Animated Series. It lost to "Life on the Fast Lane". It was also nominated for Outstanding Editing for a Miniseries or Special.

Synopsis[edit]

"It's a not-so-merry Christmas for the Simpsons, when Mr. Burns decides to cut the Christmas bonuses and Marge has to spend the family's Christmas savings to erase a tattoo Bart thought would make a great Christmas present. In order to hide the fact he did not get the bonus, Homer takes a second job as a mall Santa."


Plot[edit]

Homer in Santa School.

The episode begins as Homer hastily drives Marge and Maggie, in the family car, through snow covered streets. They are late for Bart and Lisa’s Christmas pageant at school. Once there, Homer and Marge stumble through a full audience to find their seats; everyone looks on stage at the pageant which already began. Homer and Marge sit down just in time to see Principal Skinner introduce the second grade. They do a presentation of different Santa Clauses from around the world, and Lisa steals the show as Tawanga, the Santa Claus of the South Seas. Cut to Skinner introducing the Fourth Grade singing a medley of Christmas carols. As they all sing "Jingle Bells", Bart can be heard singing much different words to the song, he is quickly yanked from the performance. The pageant continues on, as a bored Homer wonders aloud, "How many grades does this school have?" Afterwards, at the Simpson home, Marge writes a letter for the Simpson family Christmas cards, as Homer gets out Christmas decorations, and Bart and Lisa write their Christmas wish lists. In the letter Marge describes how everyone is doing and as she reads the letter in her head the camera pans around to the different family members as she mentions their names. Bart and Lisa show Marge their wish lists; Marge is upset when Lisa once again asks for a pony for Christmas and Bart asks for a tattoo. Just then Marge’s sister, Patty, calls; a grumbling Homer hands the phone to Marge and the two sisters discuss their plans for getting together on Christmas Eve. Cut to Homer, outside putting the finishing touches on the Christmas lights on the roof, as the kids watch from the sidewalk. After Homer falls from the roof, he calls out to Marge to plug the lights in. Only 5 light light up and 1 burns out, and Homer admires his handy work, while the kids are less than impressed. Ned Flanders is also outside and, ready to plug in his lights for the first time, he calls out to Homer and tells him to check it out. As he plugs the lights in his entire house lights up, including a talking Santa Claus on the roof. The lights illuminate everyone’s face and, much to Homer’s dismay, his kids are very impressed at Ned’s display of lights.

At breakfast the next morning, Marge tells the kids to grab their money so they can go Christmas shopping at the mall. As the excited kids run off to get their money, Homer asks Marge where she has been keeping the Christmas savings. She makes him turn around and she pulls a big jar of money out of her hair. Homer is impressed at the amount of money they have for Christmas this year. Later at the mall, as Marge, Lisa and Maggie look at gifts together; Bart is by himself, and comes across a tattoo parlor. In the window, he sees a tattoo of a heart with the word “mother” written across it. He daydreams Marge will have a positive reaction to him getting a tattoo, so he runs inside the parlor, lies to the tattoo artist about his age, and hops into the chair. Meanwhile, at the nuclear power plant, Mr. Burns announces over the loud speaker there will not be any Christmas bonuses this year for unskilled workers; this includes Homer. Homer sighs as he remembers they still have the big jar full of money for Christmas presents. Back at the mall, Marge hears Bart’s yells of pain inside the tattoo parlor and she quickly runs inside to see Bart with the heart tattoo halfway finished on his arm. She quickly pulls him out of the chair and takes him to a tattoo removal clinic. The tattoo removal is expensive and requires a full cash payment up front. Marge has to use all of the Christmas money for Bart’s tattoo removal, but she sighs when she remembers they can use still Homer’s Christmas bonus instead. Back at home Marge tells Homer what happened and Homer freaks out. She tells him to calm down, and they will just have to stretch his Christmas bonus a little further this year. Homer fakes relief when Marge mentions his bonus, tells everyone this will be the best Christmas ever and steps outside for a walk. Once outside he looks up at his poorly decorated house and at Flanders’ masterpiece. A depressed Homer hangs his head in despair.

That night in bed, Marge senses something is amiss with Homer and she asks what is wrong. Homer almost tells her the truth about his Christmas bonus, but quickly backpedals and instead offers to do the Christmas shopping so she doesn’t have to. Marge agrees and seems satisfied there is nothing wrong and they both go to bed. The next day Homer does some Christmas shopping alone at a cheap thrift store. He purchases pantyhose for Marge, pads of paper for Bart and a squeaky chew toy for Maggie. On his way out the door with his bag of presents, Homer accidentally crashes into Ned who has an armful of fancily wrapped packages. All of the presents are spilled onto the ground, and as Homer picks the few he purchased and sees how many Ned bought, he becomes sad and depressed and heads over to Moe's Tavern. At Moe's, Homer drinks a beer alone, when a cheerful Barney walks in wearing a Santa Claus suit. Barney explains he is in a good mood because he has extra money from working a part-time job acting as Santa Claus at the mall. Homer suddenly has an idea. Cut to the personnel office in the mall, as Homer fills out an application and is interviewed to be a mall Santa. After reviewing Homer’s application, and interviewing him, the personnel director welcomes Homer aboard and sends him to mall Santa training. A montage of Homer enduring Santa training ensues.

Homer finally makes it home late at night and a worried Marge wants to know where he has been. Homer ignores her and heads upstairs, but Marge tells him her sisters are here and he needs to visit with them. As Homer talks with Patty and Selma, they comment on the fact the Simpsons don’t have a Christmas tree up yet. Homer tells them he was just on his way to get one, and he angrily hurries out the door. In the car, Homer drives past several expensive Christmas tree lots, finally stops at a private tree farm and uses a chain saw to steal a nice Christmas tree for the family. Back at home, Homer stands up the tree, and everyone is impressed except Patty and Selma. On Christmas Eve at the mall, Homer works as Santa Claus, while children wait in line to sit on his lap. From a distance, Bart and Milhouse watch the kids line up to sit on Santa’s lap and they comment on how they can’t believe these kids are falling for the fake Santa bit. Milhouse dares Bart to yank off Santa’s beard and Bart agrees. Bart jumps in line and finally gets his turn on Santa’s lap. Not knowing Santa is really Homer, Bart yanks off his beard. Bart is shocked at what he uncovered, and an angry Homer escorts Bart inside Santa’s workshop to speak with him in private. Homer explains the situation to Bart, who understands and feels bad for yanking off Homer’s beard. At the end of Homer’s shift, Bart goes with Homer as he picks up his check. Homer is surprised to learn he only made 13 dollars. When he questions the cashier, she explains the majority of his check went to pay for the Santa suit, social security, etc. While a depressed Homer sits down to figure out what to do with 13 dollars, an excited Barney tells Homer he is going to the dog track to place a bet with his 13 dollars. He invites Homer to come along with him. Homer is reluctant but Bart convinces him to go, citing this might be their only chance to save the Simpson family Christmas.

Back at the Simpson home everyone, including Patty, Selma and Grampa Simpson, wait for Homer and Bart to come home. Cut to the dog track, where Barney gives Homer a tip on a dog named Whirlwind. After seeing what Whirlwind looks like, Homer is reluctant to bet on him. Just then an announcement plays over the P.A. system, announcing a dog named Santa's Little Helper will be replacing another dog in the fourth race. Homer senses the announcement is an omen, and decides to bet on him even though Bart recommends not to. Despite the fact the odds are 99 to 1, Homer puts down all 13 dollars on Santa’s Little Helper. Meanwhile at home, Patty and Selma talk bad about Homer, while everyone else still waits for him and Bart. Back at the track, Homer and Bart anxiously await the running of the fourth race. As the race begins Homer and Bart cheer on Santa’s Little Helper, but Whirlwind, Barney’s pick, is out to an early lead with Santa’s Little Helper bringing up the rear. Homer and Bart quickly realize their chances at winning any money are dashed, because Santa’s Little Helper doesn’t even finish the race. Cut to Homer and Bart in the parking lot of the dog track, looking for discarded betting slips hoping to find someone threw away a winner. Barney drives by in a convertible with a woman in the passenger seat, and gloats to Bart and Homer about his pick for the race: Whirlwind. A dejected Bart and Homer head back to their car, when off in the distance they see a racing dog owner yelling and chasing Santa’s Little Helper for losing once again. Santa’s Little Helper jumps up into Homer’s arms. Bart asks Homer if they can keep the dog. Homer, reluctant at first, quickly warms up to the dog and decides to take him home. Cut back to the Simpson home, where everyone still awaits Bart and Homer’s return. Suddenly, a sad looking Homer enters and starts to confess to everyone about the fact he didn't receive his Christmas bonus, and apologizes for the lack of presents; when Bart bursts in, along with a barking Santa’s Little Helper. Everyone falls in love with the dog, and Homer realizes in the end he did a good job providing gifts at Christmas.

Production[edit]

Barney as a blond
See also: Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire/Music.

Fox was very nervous about the show because they were unsure they could sustain the audience's attention for the duration of the episode. In the end, they gambled by asking FOX for 13 full-length episodes. The series was originally planned to premiere in the fall of 1989, but due to major problems with the animation of "Some Enchanted Evening" (the first Simpsons episode produced), the series instead began on December 17, 1989 with this episode. "Some Enchanted Evening" instead aired as the season finale.

The episode, being the first to air, lacked the now famous opening sequence later added in the second episode when Groening thought of the idea of a longer opening sequence resulting in less animation.

The "Santas of many lands" portion of the Christmas pageant is based on Matt Groening's experience in the second grade when he did a report on Christmas in Russia. Groening also used that reference in his strip "Life in Hell" when he spoofed himself as a young man, being told it is too bad his grandmother is from Russia, because Christmas is against the law there. Also, Matt Groening claims this episode has been incorrectly credited with creating the "alternate version" of Jingle Bells.

David Silverman directed this episode, although Rich Moore storyboarded it and designed Flanders. Several of the scenes were laid out by Eric Stefani, brother of Gwen Stefani. In this episode, Barney had yellow hair which was the same color as his skin, but that was later dropped because of the belief that only the Simpson family should have such hair.

The original premise of this episode was that Homer was worried that Marge was going to get drunk at a party and get him in trouble at the office.[2]

Release[edit]

This episode was released on VHS by FOX Home Video in 1991. The VHS release was titled "The Simpsons Christmas Special". It was later released on VHS and DVD in Christmas with the Simpsons in 2001, and then eventually released in 2001 in the season One boxset.

Reception[edit]

The episode was nominated for two Emmy Awards in 1990: "Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Animated Program (For Programming less than One Hour)" and "Outstanding Editing for a Miniseries or Special." Because "Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire" is considered to be a separate special, The Simpsons was nominated twice in the Animated Program category; the episode would lose to fellow The Simpsons episode "Life on the Fast Lane".

International airdates[edit]

Country Airdate Channel
Czech Republic January 8, 1993[3]
Estonia September 5, 1997
Finland October 14, 1991
France December 22, 1990 Canal+
Germany September 13, 1991[4] ZDF
Hungary September 23, 1998 TV3
Italy December 24, 1991[5] RTÉ Two
Poland October 25, 1994[6] FOX (Poland)
United Kingdom September 2, 1990 Sky1
Canada November 1, 1990 Global
Spain January 20, 1991 TVE

In other languages[edit]

Language Name Translation
Germany.png Deutsch "Es weihnachtet schwer" Christmas is Hard
Spain flag.png Español "Sin blanca Navidad" No white Christmas
Hispanic America.gif Español "Especial de Navidad de los Simpson" The Simpsons Christmas Special
France.png Français "Noël mortel" Deadly Christmas
Flag of Quebec.svg.png Français "Homer au nez rouge" Homer red nose
Italy Flag.png Italiano "Un Natale da cani" A dogs' Christmas
Brasil Flag.png Português "O prêmio de Natal" The Christmas prize
Hungary flag.png Magyar "Simpsonék karácsonya" The Simpsons' Christmas

References[edit]


External links[edit]

The Saga of Carl - title screen.png Wikisimpsons has a collection of images related to Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire.
Season 1 Episodes
Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire Bart the Genius Homer's Odyssey There's No Disgrace Like Home Bart the General Moaning Lisa The Call of the Simpsons The Telltale Head Life on the Fast Lane Homer's Night Out The Crepes of Wrath Krusty Gets Busted Some Enchanted Evening