Classic TV: Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire (Pilot Episode) Review

Classic TV is a series in which I review episodes of television that are culturally significant or had some type of impact on television or at the very least, on the show itself.

How weird is it that The Simpsons all started with a Christmas episode? Just to preface this review, I don’t really have a strong knowledge of The Simpsons. I’ve only seen episodes here and there (mostly the early ones) back when I was younger and I haven’t watched the show in probably a good four or five years. (That includes older and new episodes.) And I decided to do something stupid and attempt to watch all 552 episodes of The Simpsons. It’s going to take one hell of a long time, that’s for sure. I considered reviewing every single episode but I highly doubt I’ll have enough motivation (or time) to actually do so but I will certainly review the episodes that stick out for me. Anyhow, I should probably get on with actually reviewing this episode. (That I have actually seen before as I do remember bits and pieces of it as I watched it again.)

This very first episode of The Simpsons isn’t really special by any means. It’s actually quite a standard piece of television without a whole lot worth noting. Nor is it incredibly hilarious or filled with great moments either. It absolutely is just a simple episode of TV that actually does a pretty good job introducing many of the characters of Springfield whether it is Moe, Flanders, Patty and Selma, Barney, Mr. Burns, etc. The episode manages to fit in many great supporting characters that will be part of the show forever which is a very good thing…but it isn’t all that great of an episode. It feels just sorta…typical. Sure, it pushes a few boundaries here and there for an animated sitcom with Bart being the troublemaker he is or Lisa’s comeback to Patty and Selma about her father that is far more sophisticated than a 2nd grader should be but it doesn’t do a whole lot else.

The episode carries a typical sitcom plot of the family not having enough money for Christmas due to having to spend the Christmas money on Bart having to remove a tattoo (okay, that isn’t too typical to be perfectly honest) and Homer doesn’t get his Christmas bonus either since Mr. Burns is just a total dick. So, Homer decides to get a job as Santa at the mall but to his disbelief, he only makes 13 dollars which leads to him betting it at a dog race. He bets on the absolute worst dog. (Also very much a trope already established in film/TV…but I suppose more so in horse races. Are dog races even like a popular thing?) But he ends up getting the worst dog after his owner gets rid of him and Christmas is saved! Is it really that interesting? No, not really. Is it watchable? Sure, but it isn’t memorable in any sense of the word.

It’s standard and average fair but then again, isn’t that how most TV pilots are? Very few TV pilots are actually “great” and they aren’t the most memorable episodes of the series. Some of the only great TV pilots I can think of are Lost and Breaking Bad, which are both dramas anyhow. Sitcoms tend to struggle with starting with really grabbing episodes and that tends to leave the entire first seasons to never be the best ones as shows try to figure out what the hell they want to be. The Simpsons didn’t totally understand what it wanted to be yet which lead to a mostly formulaic episode of sitcom television albeit a somewhat fun one.

3/5 Stars


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