The Simpsons’ pilot episode, “Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire”, wasn’t always intended to be the show’s first episode. Here’s what happened.
The Simpsons’ pilot episode, “Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire”, wasn’t the series’ original first episode – here’s what happened. Created by Matt Groening, The Simpsons began as a series of animated shorts in The Tracey Ullman Show, and after three seasons, it was developed into a half-hour prime time show, making its official debut on Fox in 1989. Since then, The Simpsons has become the longest-running American sitcom and has expanded to other media as well, and shows no signs of stopping soon.
The Simpsons follows the daily lives of the title family and their closest friends (and enemies) in the fictional town of Springfield, and the Simpsons are experts in getting into all types of trouble. Although the quality of the show has been in decline for years, it continues to be quite popular with the audience and holds a special place in the hearts of many, who even though they might not like the most recent seasons, continue to revisit old episodes. Among the best episodes of The Simpsons is the pilot one, “Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire”, a Christmas episode that served as the audience’s introduction to this peculiar family, though that wasn’t the original plan.
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“Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire” (also known as “The Simpsons Christmas Special”, as it’s the onscreen title of the episode), follows the family as they prepare for Christmas, but things don’t go as they hope: Mr. Burns plans to cut Christmas bonuses, Marge has to use their Christmas savings to get rid of the tattoo Bart got as a Christmas present, and Homer is forced to take a second job as a shopping mall Santa. The episode was very well received, earning two Emmy Awards nominations in 1990, and has gotten positive criticism since its first airing, and was even praised for raising awareness on the abandonment of racing dogs, as this is the episode where Homer adopts the family dog, Santa’s Little Helper. However, the team behind The Simpsons had another episode planned as the pilot one, but due to production issues, it had to be pushed back.
Season 1’s finale, “Some Enchanted Evening”, was going to be The Simpsons’ pilot episode, but the crew encountered a lot of obstacles during production, as due to budget restrictions, the background layout of the episodes was done in Los Angeles, while coloring and filming were done by AKOM, a South Korean animation studio. This resulted in poor animation quality and lots of mistakes, which didn’t fit the style the production team had envisioned for the show. The producers then asked Fox to delay The Simpsons’ premiere for a couple of months, and by the time the show was supposed to debut (for real this time), it was late December and so having a Christmas-themed episode as pilot felt more appropriate. As “Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire” was the eighth episode produced, its animation, the personalities of the characters, and overall quality are a lot more developed and polished than in subsequent episodes, especially “Some Enchanted Evening”.
Everything worked out perfectly for The Simpsons, as “Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire” is now a fan-favorite and did a great job in introducing its characters precisely because it was the eighth episode produced. While “Some Enchanted Evening” is not bad, it didn’t receive the same praise as “The Simpsons Christmas Special”, and it might have hurt the show in its early stages had it been used as a pilot episode, though it surely would have won the audience over anyway with its subsequent episodes.
Next: Every Simpsons Christmas Episode
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