Well, today marks a big milestone for one of the most famous cartoons of all time: it was twenty-five years ago tonight that the premiere episode of the Simpsons, the Christmas special "Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire", debuted on the FOX network. I wonder how many people who saw the show's premiere honestly thought the show would still be going strong a quarter of a century later...? Probably no one...Anyways, in honor of the show reaching this milestone, I thought I'd post another webcam image of me with my own copy of the Complete First Season DVD box set...seeing as the Simpsons IS my favorite show of all time and IS an influence on my writing (somewhat...)
To put it in perspective, the first season of the Simpsons aired long enough ago that I wasn't even conceived
yet when the show first hit the airwaves (in fact, my parents actually got married DURING
the show's first season), so obviously, I was not able to see the show when it first aired; I've always
lived in a world in which the Simpsons existed!
I did grow up watching the show though (I was fortunate enough to see the show when I was growing up while it was still in what's considered its' prime years), although I never really saw any
of the first season episodes other than the initial Christmas special being re-ran when I was growing up (matter of fact, I don't think I saw saw virtually ANY of the episodes from the first three seasons when I was growing up...if I did, I don't remember them). I did have an old VHS tape containing a pair of first season episodes, but that was basically all I saw of the show's beginnings as a kid. It wasn't until I was in my late teens that I finally got to watch the show's premiere season (through a torrent, no less!), which ultimately motivated me to go out and buy the DVD (as well as Seasons 2-5
) as an 18th birthday present. I found it at a DVD store, and, as you can see by the sticker, it was a used copy, so it came at a discounted price. I ended up getting the first five seasons for just a little over $100 (Volumes 1, 4, and 5 were all used)...which I think personally, is quite
The discs and episodes all work fine, save for episode 10, "Homer's Night Out"...the episode still plays fine, but the picture on it has a tendency to glitch up quite a bit while I'm watching it. I think the disc may be a little dirty, or possibly scratched a bit...Anyways, I'd now like to give a few thoughts on the actual first season featuring the wacky hijinks of America's favorite dysfunctional family...a "mini-review
", if you will. So prepare for some more lengthy rambling, courtesy of yours truly!
Let me just go ahead and say this...if you're expecting the show's first season to be on par with the show's classic years, or even modern-day Simpsons...you're going to more than likely be VERY
let down by it. I would never say the Simpsons is the most superbly animated show I've ever seen (the show's animation is COMPETENT, but I would never call it utterly breath-taking or phenomenal), but the first season's animation can be rather
mediocre at times (to be fair, the show had a much smaller budget when it first started). In particular, some of the earliest episodes ("Bart the Genius" and "Homer's Odyssey", more specifically) have some PRETTY
ugly animation: a lot of the backgrounds have this weird bleachy look to them that often makes it look like the characters are standing in front of some kind of weird void. Most notably, some of the crowd sequences in "Homer's Odyssey" are absolutely AWFUL
looking...they feature a ton of ridiculously drawn nobodies who barely even move or do anything
at all. The show's animation does improve over the course of the season, but it DEFINITELY starts out pretty rough.
For that matter, a lot of the main characters are more underdeveloped in the first season. The only members of the Simpson family to have their characters solidly established right from the very start are Bart (probably because he was initially the most focused on character of the family-he WAS
the show's initial breakout star, after all) and Maggie. Homer, Marge, and Lisa, however, have a ways to go as characters, and thus, some of their portrayals in the earliest episodes can be QUITE jarring to watch. The character who had the
furthest to evolve was...Homer. For instance, in "Homer's Odyssey", Homer actually ATTEMPTS TO COMMIT SUICIDE
after losing his job at the nuclear power plant, as he fears he is a failure and a disgrace to his family. Nowadays, Homer would just find some other job, and his wacky hijinks in his new career would form part of the plot of this week's episode. Likewise, in "There's No Disgrace Like Home", Homer is concerned that the Simpsons may be the worst family in Springfield, and takes his family to see a therapist, going so far as to PAWN THEIR TV
to obtain the money to pay for the therapy...while MARGE
protests and insists that they could sell something else. As soon as later this very season, I'm positive Homer's and Marge's roles would be swapped around in such a situation: Marge would be the one pawning the TV while Homer would be blubbering and crying about having to give up his beloved television. It's certainly...Different seeing the characters in their more unevolved forms...
Last, but certainly not least, the pacing of these first season episodes is QUITE different from the pace later seasons of the show would take. Virtually ALL
of these episodes are quite slow-paced in nature, and are often very light on jokes. You'll probably only encounter 1-2 funny lines or moments in a single minute as opposed to seeing something funny every 5 seconds or so. In particular, most of the episodes of this season take a rather serious (at times, rather
realistic) tone in approach to their subject matter (though there are a couple of exceptions..."Call of the Simpsons" the most notable one), as contrasted with the more jokey, witty, satirical tone of latter-day episodes (that's not to say these
episodes aren't satirical, however). At the time, this was one of THE most controversial shows on TV; while the Simpsons recieved a lot of praise right from the start, it also received a LOT of criticism for...well, for basically being a cartoon that showed some very adult scenarios such as fear of financial and personal failure, marital and family troubles, thoughts of infidelity, etc. (I have NO doubt the people complaining were the ones who firmly believed that "Cartoons are supposed to be for KIDS!
") That seems kind of funny now, considering these episodes are VERY
tame compared to, say, what Family Guy and South Park consistently show nowadays (which just makes me wonder how tame THOSE shows might be seen as in 25 years...) Honestly, I could EASILY see a lot of people today finding most-if not all
-of these episodes to be pretty boring, seeing as how a lot of TV viewers today are more spoiled by fast-paced humor and action shows...
The show was certainly QUITE a bit different then from what it ultimately became; while there are certainly more notable differences (some of the characters' designs aren't a little off (Smithers was BLACK
in his first appearance!), some of the voices are quite different-Homer's, particularly!), those are the three that will probably jump out at you the most...And yet, despite all the flaws of the first season, I still find it fairly interesting and a little bit underrated. It's not AS good as the seasons that were to follow it (as I've said, the show DID have some growing pains to go through, like...well...pretty much EVERY
show that lives beyond the first season), but it's not AS
bad as some people say it is...I mean, if it REALLY were terrible, the show wouldn't have been a hit at ALL
I find it quite fascinating to see the show's humble beginnings (it WAS quite a challenge to bring the Simpsons from starring in brief animated sketches on the Tracey Ullman Show to being the stars of their own half-hour TV series, after all), and it's certainly interesting to see the characters in their more embryonic states, in the process of evolution. One thing that REALLY surprised me was that even though there ARE a few notable character absences from this season (Groundskeeper Willie, Dr. Hibbert, and Comic Book Guy probably being the most notable characters who do not appear in this season)...many of Springfield's wacky residents are already
here, if not in their most recognizable forms. Barney Gumble, Moe Syslak, Ned Flanders, Chief Wiggum, Apu Nahasapeemapetilon, Nelson Muntz, Krusty the Clown, Waylon Smithers, Lenny Leonard and Carl Carlson...they and many others all make their debuts in the first season. And to be honest...I really do find quite a good number of these first 13 episodes entertaining. Some of them are more humorous (the aforementioned "There's No Disgrace Like Home" and "Call of the Simpsons"), some of them are decidedly more on the emotional side of things ("Homer's Odyssey", "Life in the Fast Lane"), but I genuinely do think most of these episodes hold up fairly well.
It's not the Simpsons at its' best, but I personally do think it was a solid start for the show, and a hint of things to come in the future (I wouldn't recommend new fans to start off with the first season, though...Unless you actually WANT to start from the beginning)...Overall, on a scale of 1-10, I think I would give the first season of the Simpsons an 8.5 out of 10. So happy 25th anniversary, Simpsons (Homer: WOO-HOO! USA! USA! USA!) ! I would like to say "here's to 25 more years", but I have no idea if the show will last that long (and I definitely feel it SHOULDN'T)...