At the time, Groening was working for the L. A. Reader, a free weekly newspaper. He began working on Life in Hell, a humorous comic strip consisting of people with rabbit ears.
The L. A. Reader picked up a copy of his comic strip and liked what they saw. Life in Hell gradually became a common comic strip in many free weeklies and college newspapers across the country. It even developed a cult status.
(Varhola, 1)Life in Hell drew the attention of James L. Brooks, producer of works such as Taxi, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, and Terms of Endearment. Brooks originally wanted Groening to make an animated pilot of Life in Hell. Groening chose not to do so in fear of loosing royalties from papers that printed the strip.
Groening presentedBrooks with an overweight, balding father, a mother with a blue beehive hairdo, and three obnoxious spiky haired children. Groening intended for them to represent the typical American family “who love each other and drive each other crazy”. Groening named the characters after his own family. His parents were named Homer and Margaret and he had two younger sisters named Lisa and Maggie. Bart was an anagramfor “brat”. Groening chose the last name “Simpson” to sound like the typical American family name.
(Varhola, 2)Brooks decided to put the 30 or 60 second animations on between skits on The Tracy Ullman Show on the unsuccessful Fox network. Cast members Dan Castellaneta and Julie Kavner did the voices of Homer and Marge. Yeardley Smith (later to star in Herman’s Head) did the voice of Lisa. Nancy Cartwright did the voice of Bart. Cartwright previously supplied the voices for many cartoons, including Galaxy High, Fantastic Max, Richie Rich, Snorks, Pound Puppies, My Little Pony, and Glo-Friends. Tracy Ullman later added Cartwright to her cast.
(Dale and Trich, 11) Brooks, Groening, and Sam Simon, Tracy Ullman’s producer, wanted to turn the Simpson family into their own show. The Fox network was looking for material to appeal to younger viewers. The only show they had that drew a young audience was Married With Children. To Fox’s pleasure, The Simpsons saved the network from nearfailure. (Varhola, 3)On December 17, 1989, The Simpsons got their break. The Christmas special, “Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire” aired.
(Dale and Trich, 19) In the episode, Bart got a tattoo, much to Marge’s dislike. She quickly spent all of the family’s Christmas money to remove Bart’s tattoo with a laser. At the same time, Homer, still on his morning coffee break at 4:00 in the afternoon, learns that he will not receive a Christmas bonus. When he learns that Marge is relying on the money for Christmas, he decides that he will do the Christmas shopping for the year.
He quickly buys Marge panty hose, Bart paper, Lisa crayons, and Maggie a dog toy. When he realizes that he is not doing very well, he gets a second job as a mall Santa for the extramoney. On the way home from work, he steals a Christmas tree. The next day at the mall, Bart sits on his Dad’s lap and pulls down his beard. Homer responds by choking Bart and making him help make Christmas better.
On Christmas Eve, Homer receives his check, $13. 70 for over 40 hours work. Homer takes Bart to the dog track as a finalchance for Christmas money. They discovered a gem in the third race, Santa’s Little Helper. How could this dog lose on Christmas Eve? The odds were 99 to 1, they were going to be rich.
Homer put all of his money on Santa’s Little Helper, and to his horror, he never even finished. As Homer and Bart were scouring the parking lot for winningtickets into the night, they saw the track manager throw