The Simpsons (season 1)
|The Simpsons (season 1)|
DVD cover featuring the Simpsons family sitting on their couch watching television inside a TV
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of episodes||13|
|Original release||December 17, 1989 –|
May 13, 1990
The first season of the American animated television series The Simpsons originally aired on the Fox network between December 17, 1989, and May 13, 1990, beginning with the Christmas special "Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire". The executive producers for the first production season were Matt Groening, James L. Brooks, and Sam Simon.
The series was originally set to debut in autumn 1989 with the episode "Some Enchanted Evening", which was meant to introduce the main characters; during the first screening of the episode, the producers discovered that the animation was so appalling that 70% of the episode needed to be redone.
The producers considered aborting the series if the next episode turned out as bad, but it suffered from only easily fixable problems. The producers convinced Fox to move the debut to December 17, and aired "Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire" as the first episode of the series. The first season won one Emmy Award, and received four additional nominations. The DVD boxset was released on September 25, 2001 in Region 1 and September 24, 2001 in both Region 2 and Region 4.
Origin of The Simpsons
The Simpsons creator Matt Groening conceived the idea for the Simpsons in the lobby of James L. Brooks's office. Brooks, the producer of the sketch comedy program The Tracey Ullman Show, wanted to use a series of animated shorts as bumpers between sketches. He had asked Groening to pitch an idea for a series of animated shorts, which Groening initially intended to present as his Life in Hell series. When Groening realized that animating Life in Hell would require rescinding the publication rights for his life's work, he chose another approach and formulated his version of a dysfunctional family.
The Simpson family first appeared as shorts in The Tracey Ullman Show on April 19, 1987. Groening submitted only basic sketches to the animators and assumed the figures would be cleaned up in production. The animators merely re-traced his drawings, which led to the characters' crude appearance in the initial short episodes.
In 1989, a team of production companies adapted The Simpsons into a half-hour series for the Fox Broadcasting Company. The team included what is now the Klasky Csupo animation house. During the years of producing the shorts, everything was created in-house. Due to the increased workload of the full-length episodes, production was subcontracted to South Korean animation studio AKOM. While character and background layout is done by the domestic studio, tweening, coloring, and filming are done by the overseas studio.
The Simpsons was co-developed by Groening, James L. Brooks, and Sam Simon, a writer-producer with whom Brooks had worked on previous projects. Groening and Simon, however, did not get along and were often in conflict over the show; Groening once described their relationship as "very contentious". Groening said his goal in creating the show was to offer the audience an alternative to what he called "the mainstream trash" they were watching. Brooks negotiated a provision into the contract with the Fox network that prevented Fox from interfering with the show's content. Fox was nervous about the show because they were unsure if it could sustain the audience's attention for the duration of the episode. They proposed doing three seven-minute shorts per episode and four specials until the audience adjusted, but in the end, the producers gambled by asking Fox for 13 full-length episodes.
Simon assembled and led the initial team of writers, consisting of John Swartzwelder, Jon Vitti, George Meyer, Jeff Martin, Al Jean, Mike Reiss, Jay Kogen and Wallace Wolodarsky. Simon has been credited as "developing [the show's] sensibility". Ken Levine says he "brought a level of honesty to the characters" and made them "three-dimensional", adding that Simon's "comedy is all about character, not just a string of gags. In The Simpsons, the characters are motivated by their emotions and their foibles. 'What are they thinking?'—that is Sam's contribution. The stories come from the characters." Simon saw The Simpsons as a chance to solve "what [he] didn't like about the Saturday morning cartoon shows [he had] worked on ... [he] wanted all the actors in a room together, not reading their lines separated from each other. The Simpsons would have been a great radio show. If you just listen to the sound track, it works." The music for all 13 episodes was composed by former Oingo Boingo member Richard Gibbs, who would depart the show at the end of the season.
The series was originally set to debut in the fall of 1989 with the episode "Some Enchanted Evening", which was meant to introduce the main characters. A debacle erupted when the episode "Some Enchanted Evening", the first to return from animation in Korea, was screened in front of the production staff at the Gracie Films bungalow. The executive producer and developer James L. Brooks's initial reaction to the animation was "This is shit." After that reaction the room almost cleared. A heated argument ensued between Brooks and Klasky-Csupo animation studio head Gábor Csupó, who denied there was anything wrong with the animation and suggested that the real problem was the quality of the show's writing.
The problem with the animation from the producers' point of view was that it did not exhibit a distinct style envisioned for the show. At the time there were only a few choices for animation style. Usually, they would either follow the style of Disney, Warner Bros., or Hanna-Barbera. Disney and Warner Bros. cartoons had a universe that was bendy and the characters seemed to be made of rubber. The producers wanted a realistic environment in which the characters and objects could not do anything that was not possible in the real world. One example with the early animation being cartoonish was that the doors behaved liked rubber when slammed. The style of Hanna-Barbera featured the use of cartoon sounds, which they did not want either.
However, during the first screening of the episode, the producers discovered that the animation was so appalling 70% of the episode needed to be redone. The producers considered aborting the series if the next episode ("Bart the Genius") turned out as bad, but it suffered from only a few, easily fixable problems. The producers convinced Fox to move the debut to December 17, and aired "Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire" as the first episode of the series.
The half hour series premiere debuted on December 17, 1989 with "Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire" a Christmas special. The next episode "Bart the Genius" was the first to feature the series' full title sequence, including the chalkboard gag and couch gag. Matt Groening developed the lengthy sequence in order to cut down on the animation necessary for each episode, but devised the two gags as compensation for the repeated material each week. Groening, who had not paid much attention to television since his own childhood, was unaware that title sequences of such length were uncommon by that time. As the finished episodes became longer, the production team were reluctant to cut the stories in order to allow for the long title sequence, so shorter versions of it were developed.
In some of the episodes the characters act completely differently to how they do in later seasons; Lisa, for example, is undisciplined and short-tempered, while Homer is the voice of reason; these roles are reversed in later episodes. Mr. Burns was voiced by Christopher Collins in "Homer's Odyssey". Originally, the character was influenced by Ronald Reagan, a concept which was later dropped.
The first episode featured many new characters such as Seymour Skinner, Milhouse Van Houten, Sherri and Terri, Moe Szyslak, Mr. Burns, Barney Gumble, Patty and Selma, Ned and Todd Flanders, Santa's Little Helper, Snowball II, Dewey Largo, and Lewis. Snowball I is mentioned for the first time and Waylon Smithers can be heard over the speaker at the power plant, but he is not seen.
The following episodes in the season saw the introduction of several new recurring characters, including Martin Prince, Richard, Edna Krabappel, Dr. J Loren Pryor, Waylon Smithers, Otto Mann, Chief Wiggum, Jasper Beardley, Sam & Larry, Mr. & Mrs. Winfield, Sherri and Terri, Dr. Marvin Monroe, Eddie and Lou, Nelson Muntz, Herman, Bleeding Gums Murphy, Jacqueline Bouvier, Sideshow Bob, Reverend Timothy Lovejoy, Krusty the Clown, Jimbo Jones, Kearney Zzyzwicz, Dolphin "Dolph" Starbeam, Ms. Albright, Apu Nahasapeemapetilon, Lenny and Carl, Kent Brockman and Agnes Skinner.
- Dan Castellaneta as Homer Simpson, Grampa Simpson, Krusty the Clown, and Barney Gumble.
- Julie Kavner as Marge Simpson, Patty Bouvier, and Selma Bouvier.
- Nancy Cartwright as Bart Simpson, Nelson Muntz, and Ralph Wiggum.
- Yeardley Smith as Lisa Simpson.
- Harry Shearer as Mr. Burns, Waylon Smithers, Ned Flanders, Principal Skinner, Lenny Leonard, Kent Brockman, and Reverend Lovejoy.
The Simpsons first season was the Fox network's first TV series to rank among a season's top 30 highest-rated shows. It won an Emmy and received four additional nominations. Although television shows are limited to one episode per category, "Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire" was considered a separate special and nominated alongside fellow episode "Life on the Fast Lane" for Outstanding Animated Program; "Life on the Fast Lane" won. "Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire" was also nominated for "Outstanding Editing in a Miniseries or Special", while "The Call of the Simpsons" was nominated for "Outstanding Individual Achievement in Sound Mixing for a Comedy Series or a Special". The main theme song, composed by Danny Elfman, was nominated for "Outstanding Achievement in Main Title Theme Music".
On Metacritic, a site which uses a weighted mean score, the season scored a 79/100 from six critics, translating to "generally favorable reviews". However, the show was controversial from its beginning. The rebellious lead character at the time, Bart, frequently received no punishment for his misbehavior, which led some parents to characterize him as a poor role model for children. Several US public schools even banned The Simpsons merchandise and t-shirts, such as one featuring Bart and the caption "Underachiever ('And proud of it, man!')". Despite the ban, The Simpsons merchandise sold well and generated US$2 billion in revenue during the first 14 months of sales.
|Title||Directed by||Written by||Original air date||Prod.|
|1||1||"Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire"||David Silverman||Mimi Pond||December 17, 1989||7G08||26.7|
|While Christmas shopping, Bart sneaks off and gets a tattoo. Marge soon discovers this and uses the family's Christmas savings to get it removed. Meanwhile, Homer discovers that he will not be getting a Christmas bonus from Mr. Burns and thus the family has no money to buy Christmas presents. He decides to keep their financial troubles a secret and get a job as a department store Santa, but later discovers that the job does not pay enough. Desperate for a miracle, Homer and Bart go to the dog track on Christmas Eve in hopes of earning some money. He bets it all on a long shot named Santa's Little Helper, who loses. Angry that he lost, the dog's owner disowns him. Homer lets Bart keep him. Later, Homer attempts to come clean to everyone, but Bart exclaims that they have a dog and everyone happily welcomes the newest member of the Simpson family.|
|2||2||"Bart the Genius"||David Silverman||Jon Vitti||January 14, 1990||7G02||24.5|
Bart has trouble on an intelligence test and sneakily switches tests with Martin Prince, the class genius. After the results are tabulated, the school psychiatrist labels Bart a genius and sends him to the Enriched Learning Center for Gifted Children. Homer starts treating Bart with respect, but Bart immediately feels out of place among his new classmates and alienated from his former peers. He confesses that he cheated on the test and is subsequently sent back to Springfield Elementary School.Note: First episode to feature Edna Krabappel
|3||3||"Homer's Odyssey"||Wesley Archer||Jay Kogen & Wallace Wolodarsky||January 21, 1990||7G03||27.5|
Bart's class visits the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant and Homer, anxious to look like he is working, accidentally crashes his cart into a radioactive pipe, causing him to be fired. Depressed and unable to find a new job, he decides to commit suicide by jumping off a bridge. His family discover his plan and try to stop him, but in the process they are almost run over by a truck. Discovering his new purpose, Homer embarks on a safety crusade and eventually decides to go after the Nuclear Plant and holds protest rallies. To end Homer's furor, Mr. Burns offers him a job as safety inspector, with increased salary, which Homer accepts.|
Guest star: Sam McMurray
|4||4||"There's No Disgrace Like Home"||Gregg Vanzo & Kent Butterworth||Al Jean & Mike Reiss||January 28, 1990||7G04||20.2|
|Homer takes his family to the company picnic at Mr. Burns's manor. Marge, Bart and Lisa embarrass Homer and he notices that Mr. Burns seems to favour a family who love and respect one another. Convinced that both he and his family are pathetic, he takes everyone to a family therapy center. When standard methods prove useless in "civilizing" them, the doctor resorts to shock therapy. Soon the Simpsons start shocking each other, causing the whole town to lose power.|
|5||5||"Bart the General"||David Silverman||John Swartzwelder||February 4, 1990||7G05||27.1|
|Bart runs afoul of Nelson Muntz, the school bully, who begins attacking Bart every day after school. Homer suggests fighting back, which does not work. Desperate for a solution, Bart visits Grampa for advice. Grampa takes Bart to meet Herman, who suggests that Bart rally all the school children and declare war on Nelson. Bart and his army attack Nelson and successfully manage to convince him to give up his bullying ways.|
|6||6||"Moaning Lisa"||Wesley Archer||Al Jean & Mike Reiss||February 11, 1990||7G06||27.4|
Lisa becomes depressed, which begins to affect her performance in school. Neither Marge nor Homer are able to make Lisa happier. One night, she hears distant Jazz music and sneaks out of her room to follow it. She meets Bleeding Gums Murphy, who teaches her how to express her music through the saxophone. When Marge drops Lisa off at school the next day, she suggests that Lisa smile no matter how she feels. However, Marge sees that Lisa is being denied her creativity and realizes that is what is disappointing her. Marge tells Lisa to just be herself, and the entire family go to see Murphy perform at a local Jazz club.|
Guest star: Ron Taylor.
|7||7||"The Call of the Simpsons"||Wesley Archer||John Swartzwelder||February 18, 1990||7G09||27.6|
Homer becomes envious of Flanders' new RV and goes to "Bob's RV Round-up" to buy one of his own. Settling on a dilapidated camper, he takes the family camping and in the process destroys the RV. Leaving Lisa and Marge behind, Bart and Homer try to find their way back to civilization, but have little luck. Later on, Homer is mistaken for Bigfoot and captured. Marge, Bart and Lisa are saved and Homer is released, although scientists say they can not determine which species he belongs to.|
Guest star: Albert Brooks.
|8||8||"The Telltale Head"||Rich Moore||Al Jean & Mike Reiss & Sam Simon & Matt Groening||February 25, 1990||7G07||28|
Bart becomes friends with Jimbo, Dolph, and Kearney, a group of local troublemakers. Trying to impress them, Bart decides to cut off and steal the head of the statue of Jebediah Springfield. The next day, the entire town grieves for the vandalized statue and Bart discovers that his new friends want to attack the vandal. Feeling remorse, Bart confesses to his family and Homer and Bart take the head back to the statue after passing through the furious people.Notes: First episode to feature Krusty, Sideshow Bob, Apu Nahasapeemapetilon and Reverend Lovejoy.
|9||9||"Life on the Fast Lane"||David Silverman||John Swartzwelder||March 18, 1990||7G11||33.5|
Having forgotten about Marge's birthday, Homer rushes to the Springfield mall and impulsively buys her a bowling ball. Marge is not impressed with the gift and after discovering that he intends to use it, she decides to spite him by going bowling herself. While at the alley, she meets Jacques, a charming French bowling instructor, who offers her lessons. Jacques begins to fall for Marge and invites her to his apartment. Although she agrees, Marge undergoes a moral dilemma. In the end, Marge visits Homer at the nuclear plant.|
Guest star: Albert Brooks.
|10||10||"Homer's Night Out"||Rich Moore||Jon Vitti||March 25, 1990||7G10||30.3|
Bart purchases a mini spy camera and manages to take a picture of Homer dancing next to stripper named Princess Kashmir at a co-worker's strip club party. He gives copies of the picture to his friends, and eventually the picture starts to circulate around until eventually Marge sees it. She kicks Homer out of the house, but the next day explains that she is not upset about his dancing next to a woman, but rather that Bart saw it. She demands that he take Bart and go apologize to Princess Kashmir. Homer agrees and says he is ready to start respecting women.|
Guest star: Sam McMurray.
|11||11||"The Crepes of Wrath"||Wesley Archer & Milton Gray||George Meyer & Sam Simon & John Swartzwelder & Jon Vitti||April 15, 1990||7G13||31.2|
Principal Skinner finally becomes fed up with Bart's pranks and proposes that Bart be sent to France as part of the student exchange program. The family agrees and Bart is sent to the "beautiful" Château Maison, which is actually a dilapidated farmhouse on a neglected vineyard. Bart is treated like a slave by two unscrupulous winemakers, César and Ugolin, who eventually feed him wine tainted with antifreeze. Meanwhile, an Albanian boy named Adil starts to live with the Simpsons who, unbeknownst to Homer, is a spy sent by his country to obtain nuclear blueprints. Back in France, Bart learns French and reports the winemakers' crimes to the authorities.Note: First episode to feature Agnes Skinner.
|12||12||"Krusty Gets Busted"||Brad Bird||Jay Kogen & Wallace Wolodarsky||April 29, 1990||7G12||30.4|
While buying ice cream at the Kwik-E-Mart, Homer witnesses a robbery perpetrated by a man believed to be Krusty the Clown, host of "Krusty the Clown Show", Bart's favorite program. Krusty is sent to jail and his show is taken over by his assistant, Sideshow Bob. Bart is certain Krusty is innocent, and gathers evidence to support his claim, which he takes to "Krusty's bestest friend", Sideshow Bob. Bart realizes the robbery was actually committed by Bob, who was trying to frame Krusty. Bob is arrested and Krusty thanks Bart for saving him.
|13||13||"Some Enchanted Evening"||David Silverman & Kent Butterworth||Matt Groening & Sam Simon||May 13, 1990||7G01||27.1|
Marge, feeling unappreciated by Homer, makes a call to a radio therapist, which Homer overhears at work. Homer, wanting to make it up to Marge, decides to take her to dinner at a fancy restaurant and hires a babysitter to take care of Bart and Lisa. They are sent Ms. Botz, who Bart and Lisa soon discover is actually a burglar nicknamed "The Babysitter Bandit". They are captured by Ms. Botz and tied up but eventually are freed by Maggie. Bart and Lisa capture Ms. Botz and call the police. Meanwhile, Marge and Homer return home and find Ms. Botz is tied up. Homer, unaware of her true identity, frees her and Ms. Botz makes a clean getaway just moments before the police arrive.|
Guest stars: June Foray, Christopher Collins, Penny Marshall and Paul Willson.
The DVD boxset for season one was released by 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment in the United States and Canada in September 2001, eleven years after it had completed broadcast on television. As well as every episode from the season, the DVD release features bonus material including deleted scenes, Animatics, and commentaries for every episode. When the first season DVD was released in 2001, it quickly became the best-selling television DVD in history, although it was later overtaken by the first season of Chappelle's Show.
|The Complete First Season|
|Set Details||Special Features|
|Region 1||Region 2||Region 4|
|September 25, 2001||September 24, 2001||September 24, 2001|
- Richmond & Coffman 1997, pp. 16–17.
- Groening, Matt (2001). The Simpsons season 1 DVD commentary for the episode "Some Enchanted Evening" (DVD). 20th Century Fox.
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In millions of viewers ... The Simpsons Fox, 31.2
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