In the last two decades, you would have to be under a rock somewhere not to have heard of the animated television family, The Simpsons. They are sort of the anti-family; a dysfunctional collection of everything most of us would recoil in horror about as a family. At the same time, there are tidbits within that we laugh at because it hits quite close to home.
The entire family is featured in this collection, as well as many of the recurring characters viewers have gotten to know throughout the years. Blue-haired Marge holds the family together and loves her man but is often frustrated. Homer seems to always end up on the short end of the stick, sometimes through no fault of his own but often due to his poor choices. Bart is the monster child most parents dread having, but at the same time there are moments when he shows that he really does have a heart. Lisa is precocious and thoughtful and often seems out of place within the family unit. Baby Maggie doesn’t do much of anything just yet except suck on a pacifier.
Contained in Christmas with the Simpsons are five Simpsons “Christmas specials” plus a featurette. I put them in italics because some of the links to Christmas are dubious at best. Just because the setting for an episode is in the winter doesn’t mean it’s necessarily a Christmas special. I also feel that just mentioning the holiday while the main thrust of the story is something entirely different. These specials have not been formatted for widescreen.
First up is the episode I think of when I think about the Simpsons at Christmas, Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire. The Simpsons go through the holiday season attending the school holiday program, decorating the house, writing the annual letter, etc. Bart wants a tattoo for Christmas. He thinks his mother will be proud if he gets Mother tattooed on his arm. Marge spends the jar of Christmas money on getting it removed, and Homer’s Christmas bonus is cancelled. On the side, Homer gets a job as a Santa in the mall so they will have some money. He keeps it a secret but Bart finds out. His check is next to nothing, so he gambles it all at the dog track on a dog named “Santa’s Little Helper”. Of course, the dog loses. While outside the track, Bart and Homer witness the owner of “Santa’s Little Helper” sending him away, so they bring him home.
There are a lot of very funny moments, such as when Marge pulls the jar of Christmas money out of her hair. This was early in the sun of the television show, so the characters might be voiced different than what we’re used to. Watching a recent episode and this one, I definitely notice a difference in Dan Castellaneta’s (Homer) voice from then until now. Still, it’s a sweet tale where the father who believes he has screwed up the holiday for all actually wins out in the end.
In Mr. Plow, Homer gets the idea he can make some money in the plow business. After buying a plow truck and running an ad on television, he finds himself undercut by his friend Barney. The two rival each other to be the heroes of the city. It’s not really a Christmas episode, it just takes place during the winter.
Miracle on Evergreen Terrace is one I didn’t remember all that well but is pretty funny. Bart sneaks down and snoops in the presents in the middle of the night on Christmas Eve. As he’s doing so, he accidentally causes the tree to catch fire and burn down, taking the presents with it. He hides the evidence under the snow in the backyard and lies that a burglar took all of their stuff.
Aren’t we forgetting the true meaning of this day? The birth of santa… – Bart Simpson
After their story is featured on the local news, their neighbors and townsfolk rally around to try to give them something back at this time. Bart begins to feel guilty as the family is given gifts from the town that Bart knows is built on a lie.
In a very different episode that in a very obtuse way talks about the commercialization of Christmas, Grift of the Magi comes in as the most off-beat. When Principal Skinner is conned by a construction crew on the building of ramps for the school, the school is shut down due to lack of funds. A private group comes in and re-opens the school, but they are a front for a marketing research company marketing toys. Lisa uncovers the plot and she and Bart pose as carolers while Homer steals the nefarious toys from under people’s trees.
Gary Coleman guest stars as security at the corporation. It’s a very different episode.
Finally we have Lisa doing some soul-searching in She of Little Faith. After becoming disenchanted at their home church, Lisa searches for a new religion. She enters a Buddhist temple and meets Richard Gere who coaches her in the ways of Buddhism. Reverent Lovejoy counsels Marge to bring Lisa back to Christianity with bribes at Christmas including cookies and presents.
I was really surprised there wasn’t more outcries about this one as it really makes it look like some branches of the Christian faith have little more to offer than material things and goodies. It’s really funny and drives home a point about hypocrisy.
At the end there’s a short featurette titled Mr. Burns’ Finest Moments. It’s a very short clip containing some of Mr. Burns’ funniest moments, although it has nothing to do with Christmas. It was just sort of thrown in there as a gift to fans.
This is a good collection of The Simpsons from early episodes to more recent. It’s hard to believe they have been on the air as long as they have, and seeing a collection like this shows how the animation has become more polished through the years. It’s an excellent bit of fun that kids and parents will enjoy. It will make anyone’s crazy holiday season appear positively normal.
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