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The Simpsons

The Simpsons is an animated comedy about a family in the fictional town of Springfield. The family is made up of selfish father Homer, fretting mother Marge, precocious daughter Lisa, rebellious son Bart and silent daughter Maggie. FOX 1989-???

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Episode 1 - Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire

27 March 2012

Synopsis: Homer Simpson is struggling to pay for a good Christmas for his family. Unruly son Bart gets a tattoo and all the money that fastidious mum Marge had saved is spent on removing it. Homer takes a job as a mall Santa to earn extra money. He and Bart then head to the racetrack to put his wages on a Dog named Santa’s Little Helper. Although the dog loses, they decide to take it home and the new arrival proves a much loved addition to the Simpsons family.

The Good: It’s amazing to see how many of the pieces were already in place when The Simpsons made its jump from being a sketch piece to a full length cartoon. Helpless lazy Homer, hopeful and stressed Marge, wise and precocious Lisa, attention craving mischievous Bart and even Maggie’s familiar “crawl crawl stumble.” But outside of the immediate family we have Patty and Selma pushing Homer around, Flanders providing the enviable picture of success next door, Mr Burns as the heartless boss, Moe and Barney in their familiar role as enablers. We even get a “D’oh!” as Homer bashes his head while playing Santa.

What makes these characters work so well is the emotion that they provoke. Homer is loveable because of those he loves. Marge says he tells her that he loves her all the time. “Oh Good” he adds “because I do love you. I don’t deserve you as much as a guy with a fat wallet and a credit card that won’t set off that horrible beeping.” Rather than disappoint her he heads out to try and find a way to provide for her and the family.

Bart too evokes emotion through his irresponsible behaviour. His tattoo is the major cause of the family’s problems and yet they forgive him anyway. And he too redeems himself by seeing the good in Homer “You must really love us to sink so low.” Lisa has less of a prominent role in the episode but gives a hint of the wisdom to come when she rebukes her Aunt for mocking her father “Aside from the fact that he has the same frailties as all human beings, he is the only father I have.” She continues with her beautifully eloquent defence of Homer in a very moving way.

The humour in the episode is gentle as the show is more about the morality play than gags at this stage. But the beginnings of The Simpsons attack on bureaucracy and injustice begins when Homer’s hours of work as Santa yield him just $13 thanks to tax and other reductions. The classic Homer slow wittedness is also well featured as he struggles through Santa training.

The Simpsons also set themselves against other cartoons and television shows. Not just their distinctive appearance but the way the story is resolved. Yes it is the happy ending which upholds American family values. But there is no success for Homer in the end. The new addition to the family will bring more financial burden and other problems even if it is temporarily a way to make everyone happy. Bart points out that in other TV shows a Christmas miracle will occur to save the day. And while it does, it isn’t the happy ending which other shows offer. It is just the beginning of a long journey with this lovably average family unit.

The Bad: The show isn’t yet a sit com as such. But it isn’t trying to be. The jokes fit in where they can around the story being told.

Best Joke: Homer heads to the discount store to try and buy cheap Christmas presents for the family. “…that just leaves little Maggie and oh look! A little squeak toy. It says it’s for dogs…but she can’t read.”

The Bottom Line: What stands out most about the first episode is the emotion. The love of the Simpson family is what marks this out as special. It is their love for one another which will pull them through this crisis and many others. It’s not hard to see from this earnest portrayal of family unity why the show won so many fans.

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