It's hard to believe that it's now been 22 years (December 17, 1989, to be exact) since "The Simpsons" first spun off from "The Tracey Ullman Show" into its own entity. I still remember watching "The Simpsons Christmas Special" (also known as "Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire") for the first time and realizing that cartoons would never be the same.
When "The Simpsons" returned in January 1990 as a regular series, I recorded every episode on my family's old VCR. Those first season episodes are so different from what we now consider The Simpsons, and seem so slow-paced and tame -- but it was nothing short of a revolution in 1990. It was the moment that the Big 3 networks stood up and realized that they had a real competitor on their hands.
Some basic info via Wikipedia:
In the episode, Homer discovers that he will not be getting a Christmas bonus and thus the family has no money to buy Christmas presents. He decides to keep their financial troubles a secret and gets a job as a shopping mall Santa, but later discovers that the job does not pay enough. Desperate for a miracle, Homer and Bart go to the dog racing track on Christmas Eve in hopes of earning some money.
The episode was written by Mimi Pond and directed by David Silverman. "Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire" was nominated for two Emmy Awards in 1990, and has received positive reviews from television critics. It was viewed by approximately 13.4 million viewers in its original airing.
Above, a KTTV/Channel 11 promo from 1989, touting a rebroadcast of the initial "Simpsons Christmas Special."
Also found on YouTube: A collection of commercials that ran during the original airing of the special:
And here's a promo touting the Jan. 14, 1990 official launch of "The Simpsons":