Charlie and I watched The Simpsons for the first time together yesterday afternoon.
Season 1, episode 1. All 32 seasons are now available on Disney+.
Thank you, Mickey Mouse.
It took some doing to get him to watch at first. He kept asking me, “”What are those yellow creatures?”
“People,” I would say. “Human beings.”
“They don’t look very human to me,” he would reply.
Clara repeatedly declined my offer to watch, but eventually Charlie agreed, so when I arrived home from work yesterday, he was ready and anxious to watch. We plopped down, side by side on the couch, and I clicked play.
Charlie thought the show was hilarious. He cackled throughout the entire episode.
I was so relieved.
I had worried that he might not be old enough to appreciate the show, or that after 32 years, it wouldn’t appeal to his more modern sensibilities. I was concerned that my deconstruction of Kwik-E-Mart proprietor Apu Nahasapeemapetilon as a racial stereotype might steal away some of the humor and joy for him.
I was so terribly wrong. Damn did that boy laugh. We watched two episodes before having to stop so I could cook dinner, but I could’ve watched with him for hours.
It was unforgettable.
I watched that inaugural episode of The Simpsons when it first aired on December 17, 1989, sitting alongside my friend and former roommate, Bengi, in the home we affectionately referred to as the Heavy Metal Playhouse in Attleboro, MA. It was a Christmas special – a strange way to launch a new television program – and Bengi and I had heard that it was going to be good. We hadn’t seen any of The Simpson’s sketches on the Tracey Ullman show, but the upstart Fox network was promoting the show quite a bit, so all of our friends were aware of its debut.
We sat on hand-me-down couches and watched a small television sitting atop an old baby changing table and laughed just as hard as Charlie did when he watched that first episode. Immediately after the show, “Ouch. Quit it.” – a gag from the episode – became a constant refrain in our home. Soon after, a poster of Bart Simpson would be affixed to the wall over the TV and baby changing table, where it would remain until the Heavy Metal Playhouse was no more.
Every Sunday night for years, we would gather and watch The Simpsons, sometimes just the two of us, but oftentimes with a group of people.
Fifteen years later, while sitting beside Elysha on a futon in my apartment in Newington, CT, enjoying what we would eventually consider our first date, Elysha would stop our conversation mid-sentence to say, “The Simpsons are coming on. Do you mind if we watch?”
Greatest pick-up line in all of human history.
Little did I know that more than three decades after I first watched that inaugural Simpsons episode, I would be sitting with my son on a much more comfortable couch, watching an enormous screen mounted on the wall, as a streaming service made all 639 episodes of The Simpsons available to us with the push of a button.
It’s these full circle moments in life that I appreciate so much. The intersection of the past with the present – two moments that somehow seem both identical and completely divergent – that make the past come alive and the present all that more important.
Two down. 637 episodes to go. I’m not sure if we’ll get through all 32 seasons, but we are going to have a lot of fun trying.