The Fox network was only a few years old in ’89. The Tracey Ullman Show and Married... with Children were the originals, along with 21 Jump Street, that I remember watching, mostly in college, on John’s little TV we had in the dorm room we shared.
That fall semester at BG, I took a music appreciation class of some kind (it’s a little fuzzy at this point) in the Moore Musical Arts Center. The first day of class, this cute girl and I chatted briefly and began a classroom friendship, but neither pursued anything beyond that until the end of the semester rolled around. Through small talk in class, we realized we were both from Northeast Ohio. She went to Central Catholic and grew up right in the geographic center of my high school social world. We decided to get together while home for the holidays.
I was at the peak of my punk phase at the time... my hair dyed jet black or blue-black or maroon or purple depending on the week, eyeliner, black nail polish and lipstick, my ears pierced a half-dozen times. She had a simple, girl-next-door beauty. And a boyfriend. Despite my appearance and her ties, her parents and I got along well-enough, and Maria and I spent a large part of those weeks home together. There were many late nights getting to know each other while we drank bottomless cups of coffee and I chain-smoked Marlboro Lights in a booth at the Denny’s on Everhard Road, and hanging out at her parents’ house.
The Jesus and Mary Chain album Automatic – released just a few months earlier – is forever linked to her and the time we spent together (it seems we listened to it constantly), and so is that first episode of The Simpsons, because I watched it with her at her parents’ house. Again, details are a bit fuzzy, but I remember her parents were out that night and that she was supposed to go out with her boyfriend, but we hung out together and, at my insistence, watched The Simpsons Christmas Special.
It could have been during the first showing of it on Sunday, December 17, but for a few reasons I tend to think it was the encore performance the following Saturday night that I watched with Maria: First, I don’t know why her parents would have been out on a Sunday night. Second, I’m pretty sure I viewed the very first broadcast of “Roasting” with my buddies because I remember watching the Married... with Children Christmas Special with Sam Kinison as Al Bundy’s guardian angel, which aired immediately after The Simpsons debut, with one or more of them. Third, it makes sense that I would have seen the original airing and then insisted on watching it again with Maria to share it with her.
There’s probably a good chance that later that night Maria went out with her boyfriend and I met up with my buddies, but that first taste of a larger Simpsons world, something sustainable beyond a one-minute bumper, is forever tied to a bitter cold Northeast Ohio night in North Canton. Somewhere around the eighth or ninth season I stopped watching The Simpsons regularly, and within a year or so of that stopped watching it altogether, but the nostalgia of that first special and the rose-colored memories associated with that period in my life were more than enough to get me to buy that Season One set when it was released on DVD. And every now and again I pop those discs in the player and ride the wayback machine to 1989.