“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!”
"Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire" or the The Simpsons Christmas Special was the first full-length episode of The Simpsons (not a short). However, it was originally intended to be the eighth episode of Season 1, but technical difficulties caused the episode order and air date to change, and the first episode produced, Some Enchanted Evening, aired as the season 1 finale. It originally aired on December 17, 1989. It was written by Mimi Pond and directed by David Silverman.
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 that he did not get the bonus, Homer takes a second job as a mall Santa.
Homer hastily drives the Family Sedan with Marge and Maggie through a snow covered street. They are late for Bart and Lisa's Christmas pageant at Springfield Elementary School. After crashing into a pile of snow at the front of Springfield Elementary School (park at the front), Homer and Marge stumble through a full audience to find their seats. Homer and Marge sit down just in time to see Principal Skinner introduce the second grade. The children do a presentation of different Santa Clauses from around the world such as Ralph Wiggum as Hotei Oshō. Dewey Largo introduces Lisa, playing Tawanga, the Santa Claus of the South Seas. Lisa’s dance causes awe throughout the crowd. Lisa performs a skilled dance with torch performing tricks such as throwing it around herself – Lisa also wears see-through clothing, effectively ‘revealing' Lisa completely at the end of the act. Skinner eventually introduces the fourth grade singing Christmas carols. Jingle Bells is sung first and after the first verse, Bart picks up his voice volume during the chorus and rudely screams a Batman-themed parody, causing him to be expelled from the performance. As the pageant continues, Homer grows very bored and wonders aloud how long the pageant will last. As a reason, they do not have programs.
Afterwards, at the Simpson family home, Marge writes a letter for the Simpsons family Christmas cards, as Homer gets out Christmas decorations, and Bart and Lisa write their Christmas wish lists. In the letter, Marge describes family life. As she reads the letter, Marge's narration describes her writing, the camera pans around to the different family members as she mentions their names and stories. Marge soon stops writing, due to Homer's grumpy demeanor. Bart and Lisa show Marge their wish lists; Marge is upset when Lisa once again asks for a pony for Christmas, but Lisa remains optimistic of her present request. Bart asks for a tattoo, escalating into a debate amongst Homer, Marge and Bart since Homer and Marge refuses to let Bart have one. They are interrupted by a phone call; Homer answers to a rude Patty who refuses to speak with him, requesting Marge; a grumbling Homer hands the phone over to Marge and the two sisters discuss their plans Christmas Eve – the sisters also find time to criticize Marge's choice in husband.
Meawhile, Homer is outside adding the finishing touches to the Christmas lights on the roof, the three children watch. Homer falls from the roof, suffers minor injuries, and calls out to Marge power the lights. Only a few of the lights actually light up, 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 admire his superiority. As he plugs the lights in, Flanders' 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, yet Homer still manages to criticize Ned's work.
At breakfast the next morning, Marge tells the kids to grab their money so they can go Christmas shopping at the Springfield 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 jar out of her hair. It is a very large jar full of money, impressing Homer. Later at the mall, Marge, Lisa and Maggie look at gifts together; Bart is off by himself, and comes across The Happy Sailor Tattoo Parlor. In the window, he sees a tattoo of a heart with the word “mother” written across it. He imagines that Marge will have a positive reaction to him getting a tattoo, so he runs inside the parlor, lies to the tattoo artist Mervin Monroe about his age, and hops into the chair. Meanwhile, at the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant, Mr. Burns, the plant's owner and rightful boss, announces over the loudspeaker that 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 coming from inside the tattoo parlor and she quickly runs inside to see Bart with the heart tattoo practically finished on his arm. She quickly pulls him out of the chair and takes him to Dr. Zitsofsky's Dermatology Clinic. The tattoo removal is expensive and requires a full cash payment up front. Marge decides to use all the Christmas money for Bart's tattoo removal; although unhappy, she assumes Homer's Christmas Bonus will cover future costs. Bart then undergoes a “James Bond” operation. Back at home, Lisa tells Homer what has happened and Homer freaks out. Marge tells him to calm down, and that they will just have to stretch his Christmas bonus further for the year. Homer fakes relief when Marge mentions his bonus; he tells everyone that this will be the best Christmas ever and steps outside for a walk, choosing to conceal the truth. Once outside he looks up at his poorly decorated house and then at Flanders' masterpiece. A depressed Homer hangs his head in despair on the sidewalk.
That night in bed, Marge senses something is amiss with Homer and asks if there is something 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 is content with Homer's answer; the two sleep. The next day Homer does the Christmas shopping alone at Circus of Values. He purchases pantyhose for Marge, pads of paper for Bart and a squeaky chew toy for Maggie. While purchasing such dismal presents, Homer uses empty optimism to assure his own self. On his way out the door with his bag of presents, Homer accidentally crashes into Ned and Todd, while he carries an armful of fancily wrapped packages. All the presents are spilled onto the ground, and as Homer picks the few he purchased and sees how many Ned bought, Ned attempts to sort the presents, unintentionally gloating his wealth. At Moe's Tavern, Homer drinks a beer alone, when a cheerful Barney walks in wearing a Santa Claus suit. Barney explains that he is in a good mood because he has extra money from working a part-time job acting as a department store Santa 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 the finishes reviewing Homer's application, as well as interviewing him, the personnel director welcomes Homer aboard and sends him to mall Santa training. A montage of Homer enduring Santa training ensues – this includes the Hypnotist as the teacher.
Homer finally makes it home late at night and a worried Marge wants to know where he has been. Homer assures the insignificance of his tardiness and heads upstairs, but Marge tells him they have guests, Patty and Selma. As Homer talks to Patty and Selma, they comment on the fact that the Simpsons don't have a Christmas tree up yet. Homer lies and tells them he was about to leave, and he angrily hurries out the door. In the car, Homer drives past several Christmas tree lots; gradually the trees become cheaper from the earlier expensive ones. Eventually he stops at a private Christmas Tree Farm and uses a chain saw to steal a nice Christmas tree for the family. Homer is soon met with retaliation, the farm owner fires his gun upon Homer, and has two hounds pursue. However, Homer escapes relatively easily. Back at home, Homer stands up the tree, and everyone is impressed except for Patty and Selma. On Christmas Eve at the mall, Homer works as Santa Claus, while children wait in line to sit on his lap, one being a very greedy child. From a distance, Bart, Milhouse and Lewis watch the children line-up to sit on Santa's lap, they comment on the gullibility of the children. 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 that Santa is really Homer, Bart yanks off his beard. Bart is shocked at what he uncovers, and an angry Homer escorts Bart inside Santa's workshop to speak with him in private, leaving Alfie to cover for him. 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 that he has only made $13. 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 the $13, an excited Barney tells Homer that he is going to the Springfield Downs to place a bet with his earnings. He invites Homer to come along with him, ensuring a win on the dog Whirlwind, Homer is reluctant but Bart convinces him to go, citing that this might be their only chance to save the Simpson family Christmas.
Meanwhile, Patty, Selma and Abe Simpson, wait for Homer and Bart to come home while watching The Happy Little Elves. Cut to the dog track, where Barney insists Homer bet on Whirlwind. After seeing what Whirlwind looks like, Homer is reluctant to bet on him. Just then an announcement plays over the P.A. system, a dog named Santa's Little Helper will be replacing Sir Galahad in the fourth race. Bart senses that the announcement is an omen, and decides to ask Homer to bet on him, and despite the fact that the odds are 99 to 1. Homer puts down all $13 on Santa's Little Helper. Meanwhile, at home, Patty and Selma talk bad about Homer, while everyone waits for him and Bart. Lisa then explains to Patty how her bad mouthing will damage herself, confusing Patty. 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, as Santa's Little Helper finishes last.
Homer and Bart are out in the parking lot of the dog track, looking for discarded betting slips hoping to find that someone has thrown away a winner. Barney drives by in a convertible with a woman named Daria 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 scolding Santa's Little Helper and sending him away 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 in and starts to confess to everyone about the fact that he didn't receive his Christmas Bonus, and apologizes for the lack of presents; when Bart interrupts, Santa's Little Helper runs into the room barking. Everyone ignores Homer and falls in love with the dog, and Homer realizes that in the end he has done a good job providing gifts at Christmas for the Simpson Family. In then roll the credits from a photo of the happy family.
While the credits roll. the Simpsons Family begin singing "Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer", while Maggie is riding on Santa's Little Helper. On a few occasions, Homer scolds Bart and Lisa for ruining the song, such as Bart calling out "Like a lightbulb!". Homer eventually sings "Rudloph get your nose over here, won't you guide my sleigh today?".
The Simpsons creator Matt Groening conceived of the idea for the Simpsons in the lobby of James L. Brooks's office. Brooks, the producer of the sketch comedy program The Tracey Ullman Show, wanted to use a series of animated shorts as bumpers between sketches. He had asked Groening to pitch an idea for a series of animated shorts, which Groening initially intended to present as his Life in Hell series. However, when Groening realized that animating Life in Hell would require the rescinding of publication rights for his life's work, he chose another approach and formulated his version of a dysfunctional family.
The Simpson family first appeared as shorts in The Tracey Ullman Show on April 19, 1987. Groening submitted only basic sketches to the animators and assumed that the figures would be cleaned up in production. However, the animators merely re-traced his drawings, which led to the crude appearance of the characters in the initial short episodes. In 1989, a team of production companies adapted The Simpsons into a half-hour series for the Fox Broadcasting Company. Brooks negotiated a provision in the contract with the Fox network that prevented Fox from interfering with the show's content. Groening said his goal in creating the show was to offer the audience an alternative to what he called "the mainstream trash" that they were watching. The half-hour series premiered on December 17, 1989, with "Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire".
"Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire" is the first episode of The Simpsons and the Fox network was nervous about the show because they were unsure if it could sustain the audience's attention for the duration of the episode. They proposed doing three seven-minute shorts per episode and four specials until the audience adjusted, but in the end, the producers gambled by asking Fox for 13 full-length episodes. The series was originally planned to premiere earlier in the fall of 1989 with the episode "Some Enchanted Evening", but due to major problems with the animation of that episode, the series began on December 17 with this episode. "Some Enchanted Evening" instead aired as the season finale. The episode, being the first to air, lacked the opening sequencewhich was later added in the second episode titled, Bart the Genius. when Groening realized that a longer opening sequence resulted in less animation.
The "Santas of many lands" portion of the Christmas pageant is based on Groening's experience in the second grade when he did a report on Christmas in Russia. Groening also used that reference in his comic strip "Life in Hell" when he spoofed himself as a young man, being told that it is too bad his grandmother is from Russia, because Christmas is against the law there. Also, Groening claims that this episode has been incorrectly credited with creating the "alternate version" of "Jingle Bells" that has become a well-known children's playground song.
Fox was very nervous about the show because they were unsure if they could sustain the audience's attention for the duration of the episode. In the end, they gambled by asking 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 which was 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 that it is too bad his grandmother is from Russia, because Christmas is against the law there. Also, Matt Groening claims that this episode has been incorrectly credited with creating the "alternate version" of Jingle Bells.
The episode was written by Mimi Pond. 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. There are also many other major differences in appearances throughout the episode, including Moe, Moe's Tavern and an early Ralph Wiggum.Idiot1930 (talk) 14:34, December 7, 2013 (UTC)
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".
Since airing, Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire has received positive criticism. The authors of "I Can't Believe It's a Bigger and Better Updated Unofficial Simpsons Guide" commented positively of the episode: "pretty standard early fare, with the series not quite hitting its stride". "The Realism of the first season is much apparent, with only the laser used to remove Bart's tattoo hinting at what the series will become."
In its original broadcast, the episode finished 13th in the week of December 11–17, 1989. It finished with a Nielsen rating of 14.5, viewed by approximately 13.4 million homes.