December 1989: "Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire" Premieres

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This week in December '89, Bart Simpson may have captured the holiday best: “If TV has taught me anything, it’s that miracles always happen to poor kids at Christmas. It happened to Tiny Tim, it happened to Charlie Brown, it happened to the Smurfs and it’s gonna happen to us!” 

Marking the first time America heard Bart mutter, "Ay caramba," TV viewers officially met the Simpsons on December 17, 1989 with Fox's premiere of the Christmas special "Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire," which would preview the series that would begin its schedule that upcoming January. 

The Simpsons celebrates its 30th anniversary this year, which Fox is honoring with a special mix of specials, starting with a 30-episode marathon of favorite episodes on FXX last weekend. The tribute continued at the Empire State Building on Monday, honoring voice actors Nancy Cartwright (Bart Simpson), Pamela Hayden (Milhouse Van Houten), writer Stephanie Gillis and executive producer Mike Scully as the New York landmark beamed yellow. 

The Simpsons were ahead of their time back in the late 80's, as there were no animated shows on network prime-time television at the time. With The Flintstones going off air in 1966, it's somewhat bizarre to grasp the full significance of the The Simpsons debuting as an adult-oriented animated series, especially weighing the landscape of today's modern TV landscape and its plethora of adult cartoons. While the fast wit and layered satire of The Simpsons surely proved itself with more time and seasons, even this first run of The Simpsons made for a promising debut of adult comedy that had its own undeniable language and tone. 

The episode was geared around Homer Simpson (Dan Castellaneta) realizing he was not only lacking a Christmas bonus at work this year, but also the fact that he did not have the finances to get gifts for his family. To top it all off, Bart gets a tattoo that swiftly upsets Marge (Julie Kavner) and puts to waste the savings she had maintained for holiday gifts. With Homer lacks in intelligence, he makes up for in sincere effort - he undertakes a short stint as a mall Santa and even tries his hand at betting (on a greyhound race). He round it all off with a rescue-turned-adoption of Santa's Little Helper, meaning that despite everything he has lost this episode - the family has gained a dog. 

This first episode concludes in warm holiday sentiment, as the Simpsons gather around the piano to sing a united "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" with their newfound love for their new pet, as Marge describes, "the best gift of all - something to share our love and fight prowlers."  

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