Though many judge The Simpsons by its annual Halloween themed Treehouse of Horror episodes, I think some of the best yearly episodes actually happen at Christmas, starting with very first full length Simpsons episode ever. Unlike the Halloween episodes, most of the Christmas specials fall within the accepted Simpsons universe (though in recent years there have been a few in the anthology format). Especially in the 90s, The Simpsons treated these holiday episodes in the same ways as other sitcoms of that period, as an opportunity to tell a family story centered around Christmas.
Two of my favorite Simpsons Christmas episodes are “Miracle on Evergreen Terrace” and “Marge Be Not Proud”. In “Miracle” Bart tries to sneak a look at his presents early, only to accidentally set the tree on fire and destroy all of the gifts. Rather than fess up, Bart hides the evidence and blames the disappearance of the tree and gifts on a burgler. The story of someone who stole Christmas airs on the local news, and the people of Springfield dig deep to give the Simpsons the Christmas they deserve. Bart is already feeling guilty, but this is made even worse by the donation of a dollar from a couple of kids at the local orphanage who are obviously very sick. Bart doesn’t want to take it, but the kids insist. The Simpsons proceed to buy a new car with the money which is promptly totaled (falls through a crack in the ice and explodes) and Bart’s lie is exposed to the whole town just after he admits it to his parents. The town turns on the Simpsons, who attempt to earn back some of the money on Jeopardy only to go even deeper into debt. The town eventually forgives the Simpsons, collecting their debt by taking everything out of the Simpsons home except a washcloth.
While “Miracle” is more of a gags show with no particular message, “Marge Be Not Proud” shows us a badder and a better Bart than usual. Personally, as bad of a kid as Bart seems to be, and as poorly as he does in school, I don’t like the Simpsons future episodes that posit he’ll be a loser with no job prospects. I actually think Bart is just a normal kid who will grow up and find some happiness. Even Homer has a loving wife, and a beautiful family and I think Bart will have this too, as evidenced by episodes like this one.
Bart desires a violent video game called “Bonestorm” which Marge refuses to buy. After seeing Nelson and a couple of the bullies shoplifting, Bart tries to steal a copy of the game but is promptly caught. The store security guard bans him from the store and calls his parents but only gets their answering machine. Bart is able to intercept the tape and keep his parents from finding out, until they decide to get Christmas pictures taken at the same store where Bart tried to steal the game. Bart’s theft is revealed and Marge is very disappointed, unable to specifically punish Bart, who begins to realize how much he has hurt his Mom. The Simpsons carry on with typical traditions, including making snowmen, but they fail to include Bart.
Bart worries that he’s lost his mother’s love, and tries to make it right. He returns home with another bulge in his jacket, which Marge takes for stealing until she realizes its a picture of Bart to replace the one he ruined by being yanked out of frame by the security guard. Taped to the frame is the receipt. Marge tears up and hugs Bart, and even lets him open a present early, a putting video game which is pretty dull but Bart feigns happiness anyway.
What are your favorite TV Christmas specials?
Some additional “Holiday Flavorites” can be found here:
“Mr. Plow” – Homer runs a snow plow business, but soon must contend with his rival, Barney “The Plow King”.
“Grift of the Magi” – If you ever needed a reason why Furbies should never be sold again, this is it.
“Simpsons Roasting on an open Fire” – First episode ever, and explanation for Santa’s Little Helper.