Not content with giving myself a show or film to watch a day and write something about it, for whatever reason I decided with some shows to lump a couple of episodes together, on in this case, three whole Simpsons episodes. It’s hard to believe that in the first ten seasons of the Simpsons, there are only three Christmas episodes! It’s good to see a show have some restraint, since there are so many shows in the UK which fart out a Christmas special every year, no matter how forced the plot line may be. Then again, the less said about late era Simpsons… the better.
Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire
The Simpsons is probably the only show I can think of that starts with a Christmas special. The first season is pretty difficult to go back to now, and not just because of the quality of the animation. The characters really didn’t settle in for a couple of seasons, and especially the voices. It’s fascinating to see Moe’s Tavern with dark blue walls, or hear Ralph Wiggum with a completely different voice, but the show is nowhere near as funny as it would get later on in it’s prime. It does a great job of introducing the characters naturally, and giving you just enough information that you can determine exactly who that character is and what part they play in the family. They even go as far as to give back story to their cat, Snowball II, and the plot for the episode sets up the back story for the dog, Santa’s Little Helper. Even though it was never planned as the season opener, it actually works well!
Marge Be Not Proud
I really love this episode. It’s both packed with fantastic jokes, but also plenty of plot moments. No matter how many times I watch this episode, I’ll never get sick of Bart switching the answering machine tape for Allan Sherman’s ‘Camp Granada’. Homer is on top form in this episode too, going off on a complete tangent about Police Academy while trying to yell at Bart for shoplifting. It’s not just a funny episode either, it so perfectly demonstrates how fickle kids can be, so desperate to get the latest game, and then the next day they are so totally engrossed with some other dumb toy. The best is saved for last though, as the Lee Carvallo’s Putting Challenge post-credits sequence is probably one of my favourite ever moments in Simpsons history:
Miracle on Evergreen Terrace
Watching these back to back made me realise how similar the last two episodes are. Essentially the plot is ‘Bart ruins Christmas, learns a lesson’, but this time around Bart has to live with the guilt in secret, rather than the family knowing what he did wrong. There are some really funny moments in this episode, but it doesn’t have the magic of Marge Be Not Proud. I think it’s the scale of the episode that becomes the issue. The magic of the Bart shoplifting storyline was that it was local to the family, and focused on the relationships of the characters coming to terms with Bart’s crimes. The problem with accidentally scamming the town is that once they figure out that Bart melted the tree and hid it in the front yard (honestly, wouldn’t it have made more sense if it was the back yard?), the entire town turns against The Simpsons, and by the time that’s happened, the plot falls off the rails until eventually they have to end the episode with the most ridiculous ‘town looting their house for redemption’ ending. It’s the problem with amplifying a story line up when you run out of places to go other than to keep getting increasingly more ridiculous and less grounded in reality or even logic. Other than that, it’s a pretty funny episode that’s still a fun watch, but you can see the cracks where The Simpsons was starting to become less consistent.