As I wait for this year’s Christmas update, to take my mind off how slow EA are being I’ve been watching some of The Simpsons Christmas episodes, which are in all honesty a bit of a mixed bag. So far there have been 11 episodes directly centred on the holidays, as opposed to just featuring a scene or two during that time period, which I have decided to present here in order from worst to best.
11. Simpsons Christmas Stories (Season 17, episode 9)
“I need a present for my wife, or I’ll have no sex for life”
Similar to the classic Treehouse of Horror episodes this episode centres on three stories. The first is probably the best, featuring a retelling of the birth of Jesus, with Homer as Joseph, Marge as Mary, Bart as Jesus etc; with some great jokes. The second is a bit strange, showcasing Grandpa and Mr Burns trapped on a desert island during World War 2, it doesn’t really become a Christmas story until Santa crashes with them. I do enjoy the relationship between Gramps and Burns, particularly the joke about Grandpa becoming attracted to Burns, but it isn’t enough to carry the segment. The final story is really just the characters singing to the tune of the Nutcracker, with a few funny jokes but no coherent story, that is only really memorable for the cute twist on the classic story element of Homer forgetting to buy Marge a gift.
10. Kill Gill, Volumes 1 and 2 (Season 18, episode 9)
“Marge, admit it. You just can’t say no to anyone. That’s why you have 3 kids.”
To call this episode a Christmas episode may be a bit of a cheat because although it starts and ends at Christmas, it actually centres on all the holidays throughout the year after Marge foolishly invites Gil to stay with the family and he never leaves. It mostly just showcases how irritating a character Gil can be, which is more annoying than funny, though I do enjoy the joke of Gil poorly pasting his picture onto the family’s Christmas card.
9. Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire (Season 1, episode 1)
“Dad, you must really love us to sink so low.”
I’m probably going to be accused of blasphemy for placing the first episode of the Simpsons this far down the list but I don’t find it to be that great an episode overall (plus I don’t think the show really hit its stride until at least season 2). It does do a great job of introducing the classic characters in a full on sitcom (they had previously been seen in shorts), setting up the family unit and establishing the joke format but the story about Homer going to new lows to attempt to provide for the family has been done since and better.
8. The Fight Before Christmas (Season 22, episode 8)
“Kid, this company’s bust. For years I’ve been giving away free toys and getting cookies in return. It’s not a sustainable business model.”
Similar to the Simpsons Christmas Stories this is another segmented episode though the stories are much more enjoyable this time around, as each family member dreams about the Christmas to come. The first one sees Bart travel to the North Pole to confront Santa (played here by Krusty) about the dirt bike he’s never received. Lisa’s segment is a bit more random and once again centres on WW2 for some reason, seeing the family try to celebrate Christmas with Marge fighting overseas. Martha Stewart shows up to help Marge realize a perfect Christmas but she decides she would rather have her family’s screwed up version. And in the final section Maggie while cuddling up to a Muppets DVD dreams up a story involving the family trying to trick Mr Burns into believing Homer is sick so he can go to Hawaii, featuring Katy Perry and every Simpsons character as a Muppet-style puppet. It’s a special that definitely starts out stronger than it ends, but is quite consistently funny throughout.
7. ’Tis the Fifteenth Season (Season 15, episode 7)
“Aw, why do things I love always burn?!”
This episode features Homer selfishly spending a fortune on himself rather than buying gifts for the family and after a version of A Christmas Carol convinces him that this attitude will lead to him being unloved he becomes ultra-generous, replacing Flanders’ as the nicest guy in town. When Flanders retaliates by buying everyone in town a Christmas present, Homer takes Lisa’s advice that material goods don’t lead to happiness too far and decides to steal Christmas in true Grinch-y fashion. I love the fake Christmas specials presented in this episode particularly the California Prunes – “this is offensive to both Christmas and prunes” says Lisa – and the, I really wish it were real original Star Trek take on A Christmas Carol. Homer’s take on “You’re a Mean One, Mr Grinch” is also brilliant, particularly the image of him using chloroform on a teddy bear.
6. She of Little Faith (Season 13, episode 6)
“Marge, you can save more souls with roller skates and Easy-Bake ovens than with this 2 thousand page sleeping pill.”
Honestly I would have placed this episode far higher if not for the fact that for a great deal of it’s time it isn’t really a Christmas episode and I remember it much more for the storyline centring on Lisa becoming a buddhist, in fact I just about decided to put it on the list at all. It’s a great episode, with Lisa deciding she is done with Christianity when she feels the church becomes incredibly commercialised, and I always have a sweet spot for Lisa episodes as a whole. There is some fun to be had in the Christmas portion of the episode, with Marge and Reverend Lovejoy trying to pressure Lisa back to the church with Christmas, and a ‘pony’.
If you disagree with the order don’t be shy to let me know in the comments. I will return with my top 5 Simpson’s Christmas episodes…