The Simpsons was not one of those situations where the show started out quiet and underrated, and gradually rose in ratings. That's the story of Cheers and Seinfeld, but not this one. I was there. It was an instant hit the second it began. Overnight, it was everywhere. Some people don't believe me because they look at the episodes from Season 1 and think "these are so flat; there's no way anyone could get into this."

Look, in 1990 the mere existence of this was impressive. It was a cartoon that grown-ups could enjoy. It was a cartoon in prime time. It was a cartoon with a bold, vibrant, never-before-seen visual style after decades of Hanna-Barbera and several years of "realistic" action figure shows. There had never been anything like The Simpsons before and for its first few months, it coasted entirely on its own lack of competition. That and Bart Mania, which was also instantaneous.

The Simpsons soon dominated talk in my second-grade class. I started drawing the characters, usually Bart, in my school notebook journal. This was expanded, briefly, into a Simpsons comic strip:

This joke was ripped off from a cold medicine ad where after being bedridden for days, a mom enters her living room to find it a mess. "Look! Mom's better! ....UH-OH."

Bart gets a drum set and annoys Marge with it. There would eventually be an episode where Bart plays drums, but it wouldn't happen for a decade and a half.

You might think I had been watching since December 17, 1989, maybe even during the Tracey Ullman years. Well, the dirty secret was, I was a fraud. I hadn't seen the show yet!

This is a common practice among children. If something becomes popular, you'd better pretend you're into it, or that you at least know what it is, or else. In a couple years Ren & Stimpy would get huge and I had to act like I knew the Log Song or who Stinky Wizzleteats was. They couldn't know I didn't actually have cable.

But The Simpsons was over broadcast, and there was really no obstacle to my watching it, save one: my mother. Anything I watched on the tube had to -- gulp -- meet her approval first. Fortunately, I had a letter of recommendation -- of sorts. My teacher wrote comments in our journals after we turned them in, and under one of my Simpsons strips she wrote, "The Simpsons is a good show because they are a lot like real life." My mom said "Oh really? We should give it a try."

And so on February 18, 1990, I got to watch The Simpsons for the first time.

A VHS copy of this airing, locally taped, has turned up at Goodwill -- so that means it's time for the FULL EXPERIENCE! The episode that premiered that day was "Call Of The Simpsons," the one where they go camping, only involuntarily.

Act I: Flanders has a new RV, and Homer is jealous, so he resolves to purchase an even bigger RV. If this were any other season, Homer would have just run out and bought one without consulting Marge, but this is the early Homer who actually thinks over his actions before committing them. I know it's weird.

The family chats with a smooth-talking salesman voiced by Albert Brooks, his first role in the series. As the giant-eared, cowboy-hatted man buttered Homer up and tried to push him into an impulse buy, Mom pointed at the screen and said "That's what car salesmen are like. They're EXACTLY like that." The show was meeting her approval already just for mocking an element of society she couldn't stand, which was good for me.

But it turns out Homer's credit rating is so bad not even the desperate salesman is willing to take a chance on him. Homer insists he can't leave the lot empty-handed, and so he's offered the junkiest RV around. Homer is still pleased with his purchase, even if no one else in the family is, and he pulls up to Flanders in the beat-up vehicle just to gloat.

I remember the first act more vividly than the rest of this episode, and it's for two things: the car salesman sequence, and what ultimately happens to the RV. Homer takes the family on a camping trip, and drives VERY deep into the woods until he finds a good spot to stop -- which turns out to be halfway off the edge of a cliff. The family screams in terror as the RV teeters back and forth. They race out of the car just in time to watch it tumble off and explode at the bottom of the canyon below. "The Simpsons have entered the forest," says Lisa stoically.

Even though there were a lot of kids watching The Simpsons, these ads targeted my mother way more than me. The first ad is for pantyhose and there are a lot of pitches for cleaning supplies after that. Is that Vincent Price shilling bathroom tile cleaner? We wouldn't have him on this Earth for much longer. They should've found a better use for him while they still could.

I still haven't seen Joe Vs. The Volcano, have you? Tracey Ullman still had her own series going, even if the only reason to watch it was no longer there (I kid, I haven't seen The Tracey Ullman Show either).

Mr. Belvedere is something I've had on the Dark TV Vault "to do" list for some time. It's not just that the show's about the Queen of England's snooty butler inexplicably living in the house of a suburban family -- that's just part of it. The show started getting REALLY WEIRD in its last season and that madness needs to be discussed at some point. Also: there was a lot of commotion over how much of a "brat" Bart Simpson was, but Wesley Owens was just as bad as him if not worse, and no one cared. Seems like a good place to point this out.

Act II: The family splits up. Marge and Lisa gather while Bart and Homer hunt. The girls do a decent enough job, but the boys are a disaster at everything. Meanwhile, Maggie wanders off and has her own story where she meets and somehow tames a family of bears.

Homer punches into a beehive for some honey, but finds a mouthful of the stuff prevents him from talking beyond annoyed grunts. Bart points him to a river where he can drink, but it turns out to be a mudpit that Homer falls into. Someone is filming the pit with a camera when Homer emerges, covered in mud and shouting unintelligible things. The man believes he's just seen Bigfoot and dashes off to spread the word.

These Geo cars are all over early 90s advertising. Chevy tries their best to make these small economy cars look cool, but it wouldn't be long before the Geo line was seen as a joke. There wouild be a Geo joke on The Simpsons eventually, where Flanders tries to outrun Homer in his car but can't because it's a Geo.

This has to be the worst "Did YOU say HONEY and NUTS?" situation General Mills ever cooked up. Good thing no one else was in that small plane. But then where did the driver-less thing land?

A Married With Children / GLOW crossover? I guess THAT happened. It's a pity the Netflix show was cancelled before we could get the dramatization of the day Al Bundy showed up.

Act III: The rumors of Bigfoot have attracted a large crowd to the forest. When Marge sees the photos in the paper, she tries to explain it's her husband, but that just leads to a second headline that says "I MARRIED BIGFOOT." When Homer and Bart finally make their way out of the woods, they're instantly spotted and Homer is shot down with tranq darts.

You might think they would notice after this point, but....this is Homer Simpson. He's actually kept in a lab for several weeks and Dr. Marvin Monroe says the results are "inconclusive." He may or may not be a beast, but he's allowed back into civilization.

You know what...that Married With Children GLOW episode is actually on the tape. How about we stick around and cover that too? This was something I definitely couldn't do at the time it was live; The Simpsons might have met my mother's approval (for now) but this series definitely wouldn't pass.

Turns out this is Part Two of a two-parter. We're quickly told that Peg Bundy took a trip to Las Vegas, and to pay for it she sold the family TV. Al does not notice Peg or the TV are gone until he plops on the couch and tries to use the remote on the box that isn't there. His kids have to tell him the "lousy reception" is because the TV is no longer in the house. For the sake of his TV, and by extension his wife, Al and the kids are heading to Vegas.

The "Clairol Computer" is not a flight of fancy this ad just made up. It was real. When I had to go with my mother to the drugstore and was forced to stand around yawning while she browsed the cosmetics department, I would try to alleviate my boredom by messing with this thing, which had a membrane keyboard and a dot-matrix text display. Interactivity was mostly limited to answering yes-or-no questions. I couldn't get very far because the machine kept demanding to know why I wouldn't wear mascara.

Peg and her friend have lost $5000 apiece. They're moping around a lounge, trying to think of ways to get the money back, none of them legal. They pose as the lounge singers while the regular players are on lunch break, vacuuming up the tips, but it's not nearly enough. Peg's friend is picking the pocket of a federal agent when Al catches up with her ("darn, they're not paid very much"). Peg begs for more money, Al says she spent it all, and they trade personal insults in the traditional Bundy fashion.

You know, "It's funny because marriage is terrible!" is viewed as a hacky, dated, decrepit source for comedy these days...and since this show has to be the uber-example of that, you'd think it would catch a lot of retrospective flak, but it doesn't. Why is that? Maybe it's because in this case the characters aren't meant to be audience surrogates. They're selfish jerks. A lot of bad things happen to Al, but he deserves all of it. He's made his own bed, which he has to refuse to pork Peg in.

Meanwhile Bud and Kelly are elsewhere in the casino, and Bud discovers Kelly has this unuatural ability to divine roulette wheel numbers from her own head. It may be the first talent Kelly has ever discovered. "All I have to do is let my mind go blank," she says, which earns a predictable remark about that not being hard.

I don't know who had the idea to get Magic Johnson to pitch for Lethal Weapon 2 VHSes, but it happened.

When the show returns Al is having a fantasy daydream where he's a suave, sophisticated superspy with multiple ladies on his arm -- basically the opposite of himself. Peg appears as a waitress. "Beer, shaken, not stirred," Spy Bundy quips. Peg's manager appears and starts getting rough with her, but Al turns around and slugs his lights out with barely a sweat. When Al finally snaps out of it, he attempts to bet everything he has -- eight dollars -- on a table, but is told there's a 20 dollar minimum. Al snarls and snatches the money back. "Who was that?" asks the wheel spinner, and Peg replies "Loser. Born loser!"

It's at this point Al runs into Bud and learns of Kelly's ability. Her predictions have resulted in winning bets for multiple bystanders already. Bud insists that his father bet on Kelly, but Al has a surprising moment of self-awareness regarding the tropes of a luckless sitcom character: "The moment I do it, she'll pick the wrong number!" Kelly guesses the number 2, and Al puts it all on that number....only to take it back at the last second. The number is indeed 2. Finally a believer, Al tells Kelly that the future of her ENTIRE FAMILY is riding on this next pick. Putting her on the spot like that causes her mind to slip out of its blankness and THEN she picks the wrong number. Hey, we have to get to GLOW somehow.

Just when all hope seems lost. Peg spots a sign that says "SURVIVE THREE MINUTES WITH A GLOW WRESTLER -- WIN $10,000." Al thinks that's the best idea ever: "You mean all I gotta do is wrestle with a beautiful woman for three minutes?" But you and I both know he's not going to get someone he'd be attracted to as his opponent: he's going to get "Big Mama," the closest thing to Sheila the She-Wolf the actual show had. Big Mama beats the complete tar out of Al, at one point slamming his head against the end pole 400 times. Despite never gaining the upper hand at any point, Al proves resilient long enough to last the entire three minutes.

The Bundys have all their money back...but being the Bundys, they're going to blow it all on gambling again in a minute. They run off to do just that, while a delirious Al, rendered even dumber than he already was, is left behind in a wheelchair, which freeze-frames just as it rolls off the stairs.

And that's all. Well...not entirely all. You might have noticed this recording was made with antenna reception. There's one more thing on the tape, an episode of 21 Jump Street -- but the entire hour looks like this...