“Beer. Now there’s a temporary solution.” – Homer Simpson
Good morning and welcome to a special, unannounced, Simpsons Day Beer-Simpsons marathon! For the last two years I’ve been stuck at work on Simpsons Day. That resulted in a lot of YouTube and regular posts. Of those, the 1989 Groening interview on Letterman is probably my favorite. He’s wretchedly adorable in his nervous, pre-fame earnestness. (The embedding’s been disabled in the two years since I posted it, but you can click through to YouTube to see it.) For Simpsons Day this year my butt is planted right where it belongs: squarely in front of my television.
As with previous marathons, I’ll be drinking one delicious, cheap domestic beer per episode and posting updates along the way. The pause and reverse buttons will be employed so I can get quotes or screen grabs, but the fast forward button will not be touched. I’ll try to keep an eye on the comments, but I make no promises on that score. Let’s get started, and happy Simpsons Day!
1. Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire
- Having witnessed and performed in a number of craptacular grade school Christmas pageants, I can attest that this is far and away the most accurate portrayal I’ve ever seen on television. (Parental boredom most definitely included.)
- Among the many things about this season that were horrifying at the time but now seem quaint is the way they repeatedly deny the existence of Santa Claus. People actually thought this was a show for little kids.
- As far as great character introductions go, it doesn’t get much better than having Flanders unwittingly humiliate Homer with a Christmas display.
- “One ‘Mother’, please.” “Wait a minute, how old are you?” “Twenty-one, sir.” “Get in the chair.”
- I don’t have anything to add to this, but Homer stands in for pretty much every Christmas themed hero in the history of American pop culture in this episode.
- Homer’s shiver on the way up the stairs when Marge says her sisters are here should be in some kind of in-law hall of fame.
- There is nothing to dislike about this episode’s total contempt for Christmas television.
- I love the way Lisa destroys Patty & Selma over Homer. It’s especially awesome when you remember that we (the audience) don’t really know who she is yet.
- I make much of this in the post from last year I linked above, but it is essential to Homer that he takes in the dog out of sympathy instead of as a way to save Christmas. Homer sucks at everything here, and it wouldn’t work if he consciously saved Christmas.
2. Bart the Genius
- Aww, it’s the first time we see the opening, compete with bus stop.
- This probably puts me in the minority, but I always liked the story problems in math. Once you got the numbers out of the text they were always really easy.
- I have no idea if George Meyer had a hand in the scene with Bart and his parents in Skinner’s office, but this oft quoted article sums it up perfectly:
“Once, I was sent to the principal’s office, and when I went in my parents were sitting there. They had been summoned somehow. God, that was scary; I would have been very unhappy, but not particularly surprised, if they had said, ‘This time you have gone too far. Now you must die.’”
- All these years later, I remain in awe of the contempt for school authority this show had.
- Animation question for those more knowledgeable than myself: what is with all the backgrounds in Season 1 with gradient colors? So many walls are a color on one end and dissolve into white in the middle or at the other end.
- There is an insane genius to having fourth graders debate free will vs. fate.
- Words I learned from The Simpsons: cuspidor.
- An underrated aspect of this episode is the fact that the genius school never catches on to Bart’s scam. They’re just as full of shit as the regular school.
- The control hamster gets away!
3. Homer’s Odyssey
- Lost in the mists of time is the way that having an admittedly hungover bus driver was kind of offensive in 1990.
- Black Smithers.
- This filmstrip is the precursor of all the Troy McClure bits. You can tell because he literally sweeps nuclear waste under the rug.
- Hey, there’s Blinky!
- Sherri & Terri’s dad is an asshole.
- “There, there, Homer, you’ll find a job. You’ve caused plenty of industrial accidents and you’ve always bounced back.”
- Marge Simpson: roller-skate MILF before there was such a term.
- This show makes a (serious) suicide note funny. Nothing else need be said.
- I don’t think Marge’s vocal but non-verbal description of what the “Dip Sign” describes can be improved upon. That’s exactly what it feels like.
- This episode really demonstrates how much of the later show was present in the beginning. Even the serious/sad/important moments are frivolous and cynical.
- Yes, Homer dismisses the possibility of a serious nuclear accident with a silent “Nah”.
- This episode has two morals. First, that industrial safety is the least of management’s concerns. Second, that the appearance of such can be bought cheaply.
4. There’s No Disgrace Like Home
- The initial establishing shot of Burns Manor includes a sign that says “Poachers Will Be Shot”.
- Yet another topic that didn’t get made fun of much before The Simpsons: wifely competition. Also, drunk Marge is awesome.
- One of us, one of us, one of us.
- “Dear Lord, thank you for this microwaved bounty.”
- Subtle Season 1 joke: Homer saying he wants to be alone with his “thought”, singular.
- That’s right, Springfield cops extort drinks on the job. Bless ’em.
- The pawn shop guy is appropriately sleazy.
- Marvin Monroe: total swindler. I love this show.
- Openly denigrating the idea of the nuclear family is just one more of many civic contributions of The Simpsons.
- Realistic flesh tones!
5. Bart the General
- “Bart! You’re saying ‘butt kisser’ like it’s a bad thing.”
- Homer gives a wonderful ton of awful fatherly advice this season.
- That’s right, Bart considers “honor student” to be pejorative.
- It’s great that, in his imagining of his own funeral, Bart figures that Homer would care more about missing work than the death of his first born.
- Homer’s “code of the school yard” speech should be thought in upper level sociology classes.
- Scratch that, this entire episode should be taught in upper level sociology classes.
- C’mon Grampa, you can be a vibrant, sex loving maniac and a bitter, resentful individual.
- Google seems to think that there is not, repeat not, a large type edition of Soldier of Fortune.
- They made a lot of movies about World War II, Patton is one of the best.
- Gorgeous animation much?:
- Grampa’s nostalgia for the horrors of combat is one of those things you probably couldn’t get away with these days.
- This episode has a child say “We were only following orders”.
6. Moaning Lisa
- Grade school band practice is so inherently awful as to be beyond mockery, right until Lisa starts talking. That’s good mockery.
- There’s no way to watch Bart and Homer play the B-plot without wanting to fire up an emulator and play the Mike Tyson game.
- Maggie picking the TV over both of her siblings is a joke that can only be seen, but is no less great for being so.
- It’s sad, but the original Bleeding Gums died in 2002. Still awesome.
- “Oh, so that’s it, this is some kind of underwear thing.” Homer’s cluelessness and Marge’s resigned competence are perfect here.
- Marge’s horrible advice to Lisa about dimwittedly smiling, and her subsequent recantation of said advice, is yet another thing for which this show should be canonized. Here’s what many parents tell their kids, and here’s why that’s stupid beyond belief.
- Speaking of excellent animation: the jazz club and everything afterwards. There are things in Season 1 that don’t look right. This is not one of them.
7. The Call of the Simpsons
- Albert Brooks, RV salesman.
- “You ever known a siren to be good?”
- I’m not trying to make this a theme or anything, but the RV falling off the cliff and blowing up is animated really well.
- The ballistic failure of Homer’s rabbit trap is one of the best visual jokes this show has ever done.
- People say the news media sucks these days, and they’re right. But remember that it sucked in 1990 too.
8. The Telltale Head
- Ever been to church? This episode will let you giggle through that awful waste of time.
- “You don’t need an introduction, you’re the worst kid in school.” “Thanks.”
- Gotta love the school bus on fire going off a cliff.
- There are a lot of shows that will use a distressed cat’s meow as a punchline. There aren’t a lot of shows that will use it twice by starting and stopping it.
- Gotta love the murderous, vigilante rage of Krusty.
- There is also a disturbing “why so serious” vibe to Krusty in this episode.
9. Life on the Fast Lane
- Even in Season 1 animation, Lisa’s insane macaroni birthday card is hilarious.
- “The Springfield Mall is now open for your spending needs.”
- The singing waiters sing “Nearer My God”. And it’s during a birthday celebration. Once again, I love this show.
- God bless sleazy horn music.
- Helen Lovejoy is a great television villain. Let’s hope something runs over her.
- There are a lot of genuinely sad moments in this episode, but everyone one has some gags to let you know that they aren’t really serious.
10. Homer’s Night Out
- Almost all of the time, bachelor’s parties are wretched.
- Hey, look! They’re developing photos with chemicals instead of Mac OX X.
- Research indicates that over fifty-percent of power is used by women. The gall!
- This is another episode that has a brutal hilarity to its conclusion. Yes, women are pathetic drooling objects, but men are salivatory jackasses.
11. The Crepes of Wrath
- “The boy. Bring me the boy.” If there has ever been a better expression of parental frustration I have yet to encounter it.
- Marge looking through the peep-hole to see Skinner is great. It makes him seem as odd for them as he naturally would be. Also, he wants to deport an American citizen.
- “Don’t mess up France the way you messed up your room.”
- Skinner’s jingoistic love of that duplicitous Albanian is great.
- 5% of the people controlling 95% of the wealth, Adil was ahead of the curve.
- Even when his son has been replaced by a Commie spy, Homer still has to be baited into thinking his own kid isn’t worthless.
- It probably won’t even blind him.
- The child spy exchange is awesome.
12. Krusty Gets Busted
- “If cartoons were meant for adults they’d put them on in primetime.”
- In a theoretically serious moment, Chief Wiggum says “Send in the clowns.”
- Again with the “hell yeah!” Season 1 animcation:
- Character wise, the repressed valet parking of Sideshow Bob comes through wonderfully.
- Sideshow Bob: proof that homicidal maniacs can also be authoritarian.
- An invocation of “meddling kids” can also serve as a reminder that children are oft smarter than we give them credit for.
13. Some Enchanted Evening
- Harsh reality time: Homer’s a boob and Dr. Marvin is as useless as those guys on Oprah.
- “We’re all pigs.”
- I can’t do Homer’s mispronunciations in this episode. But that it involves babysitting, work, and nominal child abandonment is good enough for me.
- “Video library”, there’s one of the 1980s worst innovations.
- And we end on Homer giving cash to an armed fugitive.