Christmas with the Simpsons
January 1, 2003
Starring: Dan Castellaneta, Julie Kavner, Nancy Cartwright, Yeardley Smith, Hank Azaria, Harry Shearer, Marcia Wallace, Phil Hartman, Tress MacNeille, Pamela Hayden, Maggie Roswell, ,
If you’ve one of those families that just can’t seem to get along, and treat every holiday reunion as a chance to inflict the most deplorable insults upon each other then maybe spending a Christmas with the Simpsons will seem like something of a pleasant break. Personally the tension caused by my brother Paul dwarfs the uncomfortable silences that a Patty and Selma visit brings to the Simpson household, so I welcome a little Homer relief.
So the Simpsons are up to season 3 in their slowly but surely DVD releases, which means there’s still time and episodes out there to throw out another DVD volume of related shenanigans. This special Yuletide feast offers some of the best moments from over the years, and of course the very first Simpsons episode.
Simpsons Roasting on an open fire was the first ever episode of the show, and features all of those trademark early touches. Homer’s voice isn’t quite how we remember it (although still Dan Castellaneta, the pitch is different because he didn’t realise just how much shouting he’d have to do and was forced to change it to save his voice box), the animation is rough and the cast is limited. This episode introduces us to Santa’s Little Helper as Bart and Homer rescue him from his angry owner at the dog track.
This episode is a little rough around the edges, and the comedy is more drawn out and edgy as opposed the fast paced humour that made the show famous.
The next episode is a veritable classic, Mr Plow. Oddly though this isn’t actually a Christmas episode, merely a snow laden one. This is one of those iconic Simpsons episodes that is oft referred to in later shows. We see Barney’s Plough King truck again later in Miracle on Evergreen Terrace and in another episode Homer is seen wearing the Mr Plow jacket, despite having no memory of ever owning a Plow.
Mr Plow shows us that it was Homer’s fault that Barney is a heavy drinker as he gave him his very first beer in college. This episode also features a cameo from Adam West, the original Batman. Adam laments how the new Batman films never feature any dance numbers like the TV series did, and the camera even tilts to the side as he speaks. A classic moment in easily the best episode on the DVD.
Miracle on Evergreen Terrace shows what happens when Bart tries to cover the evidence of accidentally burning down the Christmas tree and destroying all of the presents. Blaming it on a burglar and burying the evidence in the snow brings about a wave of charity from the residents of Springfield, but when the truth comes out the Simpsons are shunned as fraudsters.
There follows a classic moment when Homer and co enter a fast food restaurant and find the staff spitting in their food. Then the staff realise that it’s the Simpsons next so they spit some more! As Homer himself would say, it’s funny because it’s true.
Grift of the Magi is the episode where a toy company takes over the school due to Skinner’s mob dealings, and uses the pupils to inadvertently design the ultimate toy for Christmas. Lisa is naturally outraged when she finds out, but Bart couldn’t care less. He tells Lisa that if she’s gonna throw a spaz though, he’ll come with. This episode freatures a great moment where the Simpsons and Gary Coleman debate the meaning of Christmas until the small hours, and Homer breaks into all of the houses in Springfield to steal toys… but for the right reasons.
She of Little Faith is another of those Simpsons episodes that shows how much the show, despite all of it’s lampooning, is very pro Christianity. Marge epitomises the term blind faith, so much so that she can’t tolerate or understand other religions. When Homer dedicates his life to blasphemy in one episode she is outraged, and equally here when Lisa declares herself a Buddhist.
Her reaction is nothing compared to Ned Flanders’ though, whom upon hearing the words Buddhist announces “My Satan sense is tingling, into the root cellar boys.” The episode features a guest appearance from Richard Gere, who explains the meaning of Buddhism to Lisa.
This, among all of the episodes on the DVD, is the only one that covers the religious aspect of Christmas and I feel that it’s at these moments that the Simpsons start to preach ever so slightly. Christianity is promoted, and always seen to be right.
Finally on the DVD we get something classed as a featurette, but what is merely a collection of clips featuring Mr Burns’ finest moments. Fans of old Monty Burns will enjoy it, but it’s hardly a special feature!
In terms of value, this DVD certainly has it in abundance for its low retail price, and if you get the double pack with Bart Wars you’re in for a real treat. Genuine Simpsons fans though may want to wait for the subsequent series’ to be released.