Happy Halloween everyone! Or, more accurately for today’s episode, Merry fake Christmas! We’re back for another week of Lifetime of Simpsons, continuing to make our way through the fifteenth season of the Simpsons (by the gods that’s a lot of seasons), and we start out week off with a truly bizarre Christmas episode that was barely in my memory.
The episode starts off with the family watching some sort of Channel 6 Christmas special where Krusty, Sideshow Mel, a cardboard cutout of Kent Brockman, Tina Ballerina, Itchy and Scratchy somehow, and Mr. Teeny in a sweater have Thanksgiving dinner together before informing the people of Springfield that it’s now the Christmas season, and that everyone needs to start shopping! And as someone who worked retail for several holiday seasons, it sure is a joy knowing that mere hours after Thanksgiving dinner I was going to have to go work a 15 hours shift and hating my very existence.
But the Simpsons apparently aren’t down for door-buster sales, because they don’t head out to shop, they just start decorating their house for Christmas. We get some silly sight-gags with the family decorating the house, until we cut over to the Power Plant where there’s a secret Santa exchange happening. Homer makes out great when Carl gives him a DVD player and some box-sets of Magnum PI, but he’s a bit of an asshole when it becomes evident that he forgot he was supposed to get Lenny a present, and just gives him mints.
But Homer’s ridiculous display of selfishness is undercut when Mr. Burns arrives to give everyone their paltry Christmas bonus. Man is it awkward when people give the bonus in front of everyone else. Anyway, the actual bonus is basically nothing, but as a lark Mr. Burns gives Homer what he thinks is a trifle, and ends up being a rookie Joe DiMaggio card. Homer doesn’t really think much of it, but goes to the Android Dungeon and is baffled when Comic Book Guy just gives him all the money he has for the card.
So Homer heads home, having no idea why he’s suddenly flush with cash, and announces to the family that they’re going to the Springfield Heights shopping mall, where the richest people shop, to go on a shopping spree. They wander around the snooty stores, giving us silly gags. Like Bart playing some educational video game until he realizes that it’s educational and Marge shopping for giant underpants for Homer.
But things hit a snag when Homer’s in some sort of Sharper Image shop and finds some fancy $500 astrolabe. Now, I looked this up, and I still don’t exactly understand what an astrolabe is, especially in the context of this episode, but it appears to be a fancy clock that has a robotic voice that says random facts. Homer of course needs this, despite the fact that the $500 price tag makes it so that they can’t afford a Christmas tree.
But Homer doesn’t really care about that, and buys his fancy astrolabe before taking the family down to the sketchiest part of Springfield to buy the cheapest tree they can. The family get a little worried about Homer’s sudden thriftiness until they stumble upon the astrolabe, and realize that Homer put his own stupid wishes in front of the rest of the family, and they are not pleased. Everyone yells at Homer, and Marge doesn’t even let him sleep in the bed that night, making him camp out on the couch.
At first Homer’s down with this decision, remaining stubborn that he did nothing wrong. Plus he gets to watch TV all night! And since it’s Christmas, that means Homer’s going to end up finding some adaptation of a Christmas Carol. This time it happens to be a Mr. Magoo rip-off called Mr. McGrew, and Homer becomes enthralled with the cartoon, seemingly seeing the story for the first time. And it really hits him hard. He spends the whole night having nightmares about the moral of the cartoon until he wakes up the next morning.
He goes to have breakfast with the family, and tells them all about his revelations. The family explain that a Christmas Carol is nothing new, but Homer insists that it’s changed them. He vows to become the nicest person in Springfield, and immediately gets to work. He goes and gives his old clothes to homeless people, gives Lenny a thoughtful Christmas present, gives Marge the last pork chop at dinner, and builds an ice-rink in his backyard for the people of Springfield.
But not everyone is loving the new Homer. His sudden role as the nicest person in Springfield is rubbing the previous nicest person in town the wrong way. Ned Flanders. He’s super irritated that Homer is getting all the glory for the things he used to do, and quickly becomes incredibly jealous. Everything Ned thinks to do, he finds Homer has already one-upped him. And the people of Springfield are loving it.
Ned’s jealousy eventually reaches the point that he decides he needs to escalate things. And he does this by buying everyone in town a present, and delivering it to them while dressed as Santa. The people of Springfield are a little confused by this, but they’re down for free presents, so they don’t really mind it. But Homer is irritated. He’s enjoying his new role as nicest guy in town, and doesn’t want any competition from Ned.
Homer needs an idea how to beat Ned though, and asks Lisa for advice. She tells Homer that as a Buddhist she believes people will be happier without presents, and to gain enlightenment. Homer then takes that message and decides to pull a Grinch and steal everyone in town’s presents. So Homer and Santa’s Little Helper then go around town, stealing all the presents while singing a parody of “He’s a Mean One.”
And after a night of theft and chloroform, Homer has succeeded in stealing everyone’s presents, and goes to the town square to burn them. But as the people begin waking up and realizing their presents are gone, they aren’t exactly enlightened so much as enraged. They quickly form a mob and storm to the square to kill Homer. Ned tries to talk the crowd down, but they’re too bloodthirsty to listen. That is until a flare that Hans Moleman fired off in the mountain appears, and they mistake it for one of those Christmas stars. The town then realize what’s really important about the holiday, and they all spend a lovely Christmas together, exchanging presents and spending time together.
As far as Christmas episodes go, this is a pretty sweet one. I really remembered next to nothing about it, but I liked the idea of Homer really taking the message of a Christmas Carol to heart and trying to change himself for the better. Honestly, it seems like a type of episode that we would have gotten in the Golden Age of the show. A simple little tale about Homer trying to better himself, and Ned getting jealous. It’s a little too similar to “Homer Loves Flanders,” but it still works. It seems like a Christmas episode in the fifteenth season should have something more ridiculous, like the Funzo episode, but this was a simple and sweet episode that I really enjoyed.
Take Away: The holidays are about being together, and being nice to one another, not just presents. But you probably shouldn’t use theft to get that message across.
“‘Tis the Fifteenth Season” was written by Michael Price and directed by Bob Anderson, 2003.
Categories: Lifetime of Simpsons