The Simpsons’ Thanksgiving Episodes Prove the Show’s Evolution | Pages Da

The Simpsons — steadily approaching its 750th episode in Season 34 — has been many things over the years. The Fox series first evolved from its original form as a series of shorts. Since then, it has morphed from a grounded and subversive take on the traditional sitcom to an ever-changing exploration of pop culture and family life in America.


While The Simpsons has lots of Halloween and Christmas themed episodes, it hasn’t done much with Turkey Day. Its two most notable Thanksgiving storylines happened several years apart – Season 2’s “Bart vs. Thanksgiving” and Season 31’s “Thanksgiving of Horror.” Fittingly, the two highlight how much the show has changed over the past three decades.

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How The Simpsons Celebrates Thanksgiving Then and Now

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Season 2, episode 7, “Bart vs. Thanksgiving”—directed by David Silverman with a script by George Meyer—focused on a busy holiday season in the Simpsons house. In the midst of all the brewing tension between the family and their respective in-laws, Bart got into a fight with Lisa that destroyed her exquisitely designed cornucopia. Sent to his room to “ruin” Thanksgiving, Bart ran off and explored the city on his own. While the family became worried about Bart, his travels across Springfield highlighted the privileges he enjoyed with his family that other less fortunate people did not have. Returning home and making good with Lisa, the couple eventually came back into the house to share Thanksgiving leftovers.

Season 31, Episode 8, “Thanksgiving of Horror”—directed by Rob Oliver and written by Dan Vebber—was an anthology episode in the vein of the series’ iconic horror tree house Episode. “A-Gobble-Ypto” recast the central family as turkeys during an early celebration of the holiday in a parody of Apocalypto. “The Fourth Thursday After Tomorrow” had an AI duplicate of Marge fighting the real version of herself. “The Last Thanksgiving” was a send-up of sci-fi horror films that Alien and Lifeand followed the children of Springfield Elementary on a spaceship that became much more dangerous when a gelatinous creature derived from a jar of cranberry sauce came to life and began devouring the bones of everyone on board.

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How The Simpsons’ Thanksgiving Episode Showcases Its Development

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When The Simpsons formally began in 1989 after a three-year stint as shorts on The Tracey Ullman Show, it was a largely grounded series. The subversive attitude of the era’s saccharine sitcoms provided The Simpsons an edge that other shows lacked — and even in something as emotionally heartfelt as “Bart vs. Thanksgiving,” that was clear. That episode didn’t pull any punches on the tensions that can be brought out by the holidays, nor did it hold back from highlighting the selfish nature that people can focus on instead of family. The episode’s sweet ending — with the family taking “a new crack” while spending the holidays together — came with a subversive gag about Homer taking credit for Bart’s emotional growth.

In contrast, “Thanksgiving of Horror” was a much sillier affair. The most subversive parts of the episode – found in the second segment – hit home far harder, befitting their inspiration in the newly renewed Black mirror. The episode was more overtly silly and overall darker, including some particularly gruesome on-screen deaths in the first and third segments. In addition to reflecting modern television’s more general acceptance of violence on television, the anthology episode spoke to the way The Simpsons has evolved to be willing to buck tradition and genre for a quick laugh. Both episodes were solid entries in their respective seasons, but they prove that the series has become a more ambitious and loosely animated show than it was decades ago.

The Simpsons is now streaming on Disney+.

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