Good Night (The Simpsons short)
|The Simpsons short|
|Released during||The Tracey Ullman Show
Season 1, Episode 3
|Directed by||Wesley Archer
|Written by||Matt Groening|
|Original air date||April 19, 1987|
|Running time||1:48-1:58 minutes|
|Followed by||"Watching TV"|
|List of The Tracey Ullman Show episodes|
"Good Night" (aka "Good Night Simpsons") is the first of forty-eight Simpsons shorts that appeared on the variety show The Tracey Ullman Show. It originally aired April 19, 1987, during the third episode of The Tracey Ullman Show and marks the first appearance of the Simpson family - Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa, and Maggie — on television. After three seasons on Tracey Ullman, the shorts would be adapted into the animated show The Simpsons. "Good Night" has since been aired on the show in the episode "The Simpsons 138th Episode Spectacular" (in its entirety), along with several other Ullman shorts, and is one of the few shorts to ever be released on DVD, being included in the Season 1 DVD set.
Homer and Marge say goodnight to their kids but all does not go according to plan. Bart philosophically contemplates the wonders of the mind, Lisa hears Marge say "Don't let the bed bugs bite" and fears that bed bugs will eat her, and Maggie is traumatized by the lyrics of "Rock-a-bye Baby". Ultimately, all of the kids decide to sleep in their parents' bed.
Groening first conceived of the Simpsons in the lobby of James L. Brooks' office. He had been called in to pitch a series of animated shorts, and had intended to present his Life in Hell series. When he realized that animating Life in Hell would require him to rescind publication rights for his life's work, Groening decided to go in another direction. He hurriedly sketched out his version of a dysfunctional family, and named the characters after his own family. Bart was modeled after Groening's older brother, Mark, but given a different name which was chosen as an anagram of "brat."
This short was written and storyboarded by Groening. The family was crudely drawn, because Groening had submitted basic sketches to the animators, assuming they would clean them up; instead they just traced over his drawings. The animation was produced at Klasky Csupo, with Wesley Archer, David Silverman, and Bill Kopp being animators.
Despite later making the decision for Maggie to not speak throughout the show's run, Maggie does say the words 'good night'. While Yeardley Smith does Maggie's babbling in the show, her speaking bits in this short were done by Liz Georges. The Simpsons Archive suggests that Gabor Csupo did the pacifier sucking noises, as opposed to Matt Groening who did the role later. At this point in time, the characters were very different from how they would be in the first season of The Simpsons and beyond. In addition to this, Homer was smarter than portrayed later and spoke in a Walter Matthau style voice. Lisa's behavior was similar to Bart's and Bart's behavior was similar to Lisa's.
The episode was animated by Klasky-Csupo. The episode is sometimes considered to be the first episode of season 0 of The Simpsons The show's production number is MG01. 11 seconds of the short were cut in syndication airings. The short consisted of 4 segments, lasting 24, 15, 33, and 33 seconds each. After the short plays from start to finish in "The Simpsons 138th Episode Spectacular", Troy McClure, who now has a look of disbelief on his face, as though he has never seen the clip before, covers his expression with an awkward laugh and insincerely comments 'They haven't changed a bit, have they', a comment on how the characters' appearance and personalities had altered from the shorts to the airing of that episode.
FilmThreat says "This dark nursery rhyme is funny and disturbing. Homer’s voice is totally off the wall, nothing like it stands today, and it’s interesting to see how far they’ve come since these early forays into animation. The episode of The Tracy Ulman Show that the short was featured in received an IMDB rating of 6.6. Todd Doogan of The Digital Bits was sad that "only [one] of the original Tracey Ullman Show shorts" was featured on the first season DVD". He added, "Still, the one you gets perfectly illustrates just how far the show has come". DVD.net describes it as "The Simpsons as some of you may never have seen before, drawn by the hand of Matt Groening himself and looking a little worse for wear." DVD Movie Guide says, "I’ve seen a few additional Ullman shorts and think they’re nearly unwatchable, so I can’t say I miss them, at least not for their entertainment value. However, they’d make a nice historical addition, so it’s too bad we only get this single clip. The first one ever aired, “Good Night Simpsons” runs for 115 unfunny seconds." The Digital Fix says the short extra on the DVD "showcases the superb sense of humour that has made The Simpsons what it is today", and that "the picture quality is quite breathtaking (considering the age of these shorts) while the sound is standard DD2.0 Stereo". It adds that "it is a teaser for something we will supposedly never see (all 48 shorts on DVD)" and wishes they had chosen a short that hadn't been featured in a future episode (The 138th Episode Spectacular), and therefore released on the Season 7 Box set. Planet Simpson says "the drawing and animation were blatantly crude, thick-lined, and primary-colored" and that "the vignettes were far too short for anything as sophisticated as 'character development'". It adds that the "central gag [of] kids finding ironic horror in bedtime platitudes" was very simplistic, and doubts many people even watched the airing of the short. However, the book explains the significance of Good Night as "the first baby steps of an institution that would become one of the most-watched TV shows on earth and the most influential cultural enterprise of its time".
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