13 Trivia Tidbits About Season One of ‘The Simpsons’

Harry Shearer wasn’t the original voice of Mr. Burns
13 Trivia Tidbits About Season One of ‘The Simpsons’

Looking back at the first season of The Simpsons, it’s hard to believe that it would go on to be one of the most important shows in TV history. The voices sound off, the animation is uneven and the stories are much quieter than those that would go on to define the golden age of the show. 

But they’re also not without their charm — and solid laughs. There’s also a lot of interesting, behind-the-scenes trivia associated with them. To that end, here’s one such tidbit for every episode from that first season… 

‘Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire’

According to Neil Arsenty of On This Day in Simpsons History on Twitter, “The show was originally intended to debut earlier in 1989 with ‘Some Enchanted Evening,’ but due to animation problems, the show debuted with this episode on December 17th instead. It was the eighth episode produced, but the first one aired.”

‘Bart the Genius’

Given the terrible animation problems with “Some Enchanted Evening,” producer James L. Brooks has said this episode determined if The Simpsons went any further. If it had experienced the same issues, the show would have stopped production right then and there. Fortunately, the animation was satisfactory enough, and The Simpsons has continued for the next 35 years.

‘Homer’s Odyssey’

Smithers is Black in this episode, though the reason why is unclear. Creator Matt Groening has claimed it was a simple animation mistake, but producer Jay Kogen has explained, “Originally (Smithers) was gay and Black. We thought it was too much, though, so we just kept him gay.” Meanwhile, director David Silverman has said that Smithers was made white because they wanted him to be “Mr. Burns’ white sycophant.”

‘There’s No Disgrace Like Home’

This was the first episode to feature Itchy & Scratchy. As Cracked’s Keegan Kelly has written, “The original idea for The Itchy & Scratchy Show came from the 1940s-1950s series of animated shorts called Herman and Katnip, which (producer/writer Mike) Reiss calls ‘a cheap, ultra-violent knockoff’ of Tom & Jerry.”

‘Bart the General’

Along with the Seinfeld episode “The Tape,” “Bart the General” was used in a study at Dartmouth College about the effect humorous content has on the human brain. 

‘Moaning Lisa’

Per Arsenty, “This was the first episode of the series to focus on Lisa. The idea for it was suggested by James L. Brooks, who wanted to do an episode where Lisa was sad but she didn’t know why.” 

Years later, Reiss, would refer to it as one of the four seminal episodes of The Simpsons, telling NPR, “When it was done, I think nobody had much faith in it. We put it on the air, and the public went nuts. Editorials were written about it, and everybody realized, ‘Oh, The Simpsons isn’t just this slapstick show. Oh, it’s not just this naughty show for boys. It’s got genuine heart, it can tackle complex emotional issues, it can look into the emotional lives of small children.’”

‘The Call of the Simpsons’

“Brooks suggested a plot twist for this episode that involved Homer being carried away to an eagle nest and being raised as a baby eagle, but they ended up going with Maggie being raised by bears instead,” explains Arsenty.

‘The Telltale Head’

This is the final episode featuring Chris Collins as Mr. Burns, as Harry Shearer replaced hereafter. According to Matt Groening, Collins was difficult to work with so he was fired and other cast members were given his characters.

‘Life on the Fast Lane’

Albert Brooks improvised most of his dialogue as Jacques, which resulted in the episode running long and required a shortened introduction with no chalkboard gag or couch gag.

‘Homer’s Night Out’

Homer’s weight is revealed to be 239 pounds in this episode.

‘The Crepes of Wrath’

“The writers were trying to figure out which country the foreign-exchange student should come from when they decided on Albania,” says Arsenty. “They hadn’t seen many uses of the country on television before and decided to make the episode a tribute to John Belushi, who has Albanian roots.”

‘Some Enchanted Evening’

Again, “Some Enchanted Evening” was the first episode produced, but the last to air in Season One. According to Arsenty, when Brooks got the episode back from being animated in Korea he said, “This is shit,” and 70 percent of it had to be fixed.

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