On Christmas Eve, Marge admonishes the family not to open presents until 7 a.m. the next morning. Bart finds a way around the directive and opens his gifts at 5 a.m. However, his prized gift - a remote-controlled fire truck - overheats and causes a fire that engulfs the tree and presents. The family investigates and Bart tells them that a burglar has struck. As a result of Kent Brockman's human ... See full summary »

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Cast

Episode credited cast:
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Marge Simpson (voice)
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Bart Simpson / Ralph (voice)
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Lisa Simpson (voice)
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Chief Wiggum / Lou / Moe Szyslak / Apu / Kliff / Store Clerk / Carl / Jeopardy Judge / Comic Book Guy / The Sea Captain (voice)
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Poor Violet (voice)
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Miss Hoover (voice)
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
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Himself (voice)
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Mrs. Krabappel (voice)
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Storyline

On Christmas Eve, Marge admonishes the family not to open presents until 7 a.m. the next morning. Bart finds a way around the directive and opens his gifts at 5 a.m. However, his prized gift - a remote-controlled fire truck - overheats and causes a fire that engulfs the tree and presents. The family investigates and Bart tells them that a burglar has struck. As a result of Kent Brockman's human interest story, the entire town donates gifts and cash to the Simpsons for their "misfortune." Eventually, Bart admits the truth, angering his clueless family but angering the town even more (when Brockman finds out the truth). The family is made into outcasts, and Marge's attempt to win the needed funds on "Jeopardy!" (to pay everybody back) fails miserably. Eventually, the townspeople loot the Simpsons' home ... save for a dust rag.

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Animation | Comedy

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TV-G | See all certifications »
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21 December 1997 (USA)  »

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1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

As Chief Wiggum leaves the Simpsons' house, he is carrying a doll of Binky, a character from the "Life in Hell" comic strip by series creator Matt Groening. See more »

Goofs

When Bart opens the envelope, he says, "Aunt Selma. Always good for a fin." A "fin" is five dollars but he's clearly holding a one-dollar bill. See more »

Quotes

Moe: Sounds like you're having a rough Christmas. You know what I blame this on the breakdown of? Society.
Homer: [drunk] Yeah, you're right, Moe. You're always Moe.
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Connections

References It's a Wonderful Life (1946) See more »

Soundtracks

Here Comes Santa Claus (Right Down Santa Claus Lane)
(uncredited)
Written by Gene Autry and Oakley Haldeman
Performed by Dan Castellaneta, Julie Kavner, and Yeardley Smith
See more »

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User Reviews

 
A Christmas Classic? Maybe not. But it's not 'crap-tacular'
24 December 2015 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

I'm willing to accept that 'The Simpsons' has had its ups and downs. While I don't believe the show has steadily gone downhill since the late '90s, I would say its quality has varied considerably since then, with episodes from the early Millennium being the most deplorable. Season nine (1997-1998) isn't the best season either, but having read the other two reviews completely slamming this episode, I feel the need to say something in the episode's defence. No, it's not exactly a favourite of mine either, but considering how far the show plummeted with the frankly insulting season eleven, this episode is far from the worst episode of The Simpsons' extensive canon.

In this episode, Marge refuses to let the family open their Christmas presents until 7 A.M. Christmas morning, but Bart manages to force himself to wake early. After unwrapping a fire truck toy, he then manages to ironically start a fire, causing the tree and all the presents beneath it to melt into a solidified, molten glob. He proceeds to bury the tree in the snow outside, and spontaneously invents a lie that a burglar broke in and stole their items. This eventually escalates, until the news spreads around the town, inviting all the townspeople to help them out.

This episode is sadly indicative of the changes to the show that were only just getting underway. For starters, the story is much less cohesive than the likes of what is arguably The Simpsons' best Christmas episode 'Marge Be Not Proud'. From the outset, its focus appears to be on Bart, leading to the assumption that it will build up to a heart-warming (if somewhat clichéd) ending. But then the plot takes a major diversion, instead focussing on the lie's effect on the family, and the reactions of the townspeople. The ending is also rather unsatisfying, and a little *too* mean-spirited to be considered funny. And we see the continuation of the emergence of what has since been referred to as the 'Jerkass Homer' of Mike Scully's tenure as showrunner. Sure, Homer's behaviour has been far worse, but there are instances throughout when his hostility towards his own kids becomes a little hard to swallow.

But while the story is a little disjointed and lacking in warmth, the humour (for the most part) remains intact, and aside from Homer's occasional spitefulness, the main ensemble remain more or less in character. The problem is that up until about halfway through, this had the potential to be a touching Holiday classic, but the plot takes far too many by-ways for any emotion to be realised. And the (rather cynical) conclusion, though amusing, is, again, too mean-spirited to see the episode out on a high note, and it consequently falls a bit flat.

That said, the episode is inexplicably memorable, and it remains enjoyable even if it's not a classic. While it's true there are much better Christmas episodes (before and after this season), there are much worse episodes, and I'm rather surprised at the negative reaction it arouses, as much as I detest the Scully era overall myself. This episode, and season nine generally, contains glimmers of greatness, with aspects of what the show once was, while at the same time previewing what it came to be. Is it the perfect Christmas special? No. But it's hardly what I'd call a turkey.


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