Thursday, December 17, 2009


Twenty years ago tonight saw Fox air a Christmas special featuring characters spun-off from its critically-beloved, popularly-ignored sketch comedy series The Tracy Ullman Show.

At the risk of re-stating what is common knowledge to most, the special was "Simpsons Roasting on Open Fire," and the characters were the Simpsons. The half-hour series that arose following the special's success began a run that fall that has continued uninterrupted to this very day, generating billions of dollars in syndication, box office, and licensing revenues in its wake.

Even though The Simpsons has been mediocre-to-bad for longer than it's been good (which I'm not alone in feeling), those twenty years of history have given the show an air of cultural permanence afforded only to national monuments or Saturday Night Live. Though these days it's something of an elder statesman of primetime fare, I can remember quite clearly -- almost wistfully -- those heady early months when George Bush Sr. criticized the show for its lack of values, and when "Bart Simpson: Underachiever" t-shirts became a proud talisman of preteen rebellion.

Twenty years. Crap, I'm old.

1 comment:

Brian said...

Twenty years ago tonight, a nine-year-old Brian Hall, layed out with the chicken pox, had to miss a friend's birthday party and settle for the couch, a blanket, and a Christmas special entitled "The Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire."

I could have never imagined those goofy, yellow characters that cracked me up that night would - over the course of more than two-thirds of my life - go on to significantly shape my sense humor, teach me more about history and pop culture than many of my high school classes, and fill my head with so many quotable bits of dialog that I can pull one from memory to fit nearly every occassion or subject at hand.

It makes me sad to see where're they've ended up but their golden years are simply untouchable.