October 23rd – “Treehouse of Horror XX” (S21E04)

Opening:

Timeless

Timeless

A bunch of Universal monsters walk the streets on Halloween, but Jimbo and the other bullies mock their “cheesy costumes”. These classic characters dress up like Spongebob and Iron Man the like before hitting a Halloween party at the Simpsons house. I guess this opening wasn’t bad, but it’s a real weird choice. I feel unnerved when segments focus on characters that don’t “belong” to the show.

Dial “M” for Murder or Press “#” to Return to Main Menu

21-2Lisa’s desire for revenge on Ms. Hoover leads to a series of murders in this black-and-white parody of Strangers on a Train.

I’ve never seen Strangers on a Train, and coming from my point of view, this segment is weird to the point of near-incomprehensibility. Some jokes work and some are really annoying (Bart saying “criss-cross” over and over was particularly grating), but overall I just kept asking myself what the hell was going on, especially during the climax.

Memorable Gag: “My horoscope told me I’d see something interesting today, but I thought that meant the horoscope itself!” – Skinner

Don’t Have a Cow, Mankind

21-3Tainted meat at Krusty Burger spreads a zombie (or “muncher”) virus throughout the world. Since this is a 28 Days Later parody, Bart turns out to be immune and must be taken to a safe zone in hopes of creating a cure.

Want to see the Simpsons fight the undead? Dial “Z” for Zombies is over there. Want to see Homer turn on his family? The Shinning is also over there. So why would you want Don’t Have a Cow, Mankind?

Memorable Gag: I A background theater marquee — “Madea Goes to Hell”.

There’s No Business Like Moe Business

21-4In this segment (presented as an on-stage musical complete with audience, visible hoisting harnesses and actor flubs), Homer ends up bloodily attached to a machine full of beer during an accident at Moe’s. The sleazy bartender uses this opportunity–and a tasty brew made with Homer’s blood–to woo a heartbroken Marge until Homer returns for revenge.

This one is stunning, and not entirely for good reasons. The concept of a play-with-the-show is pretty out there even by Treehouse standards, and combining that with a ton of original music and unique visuals makes this segment very memorable. On the other hand, it’s overlong and not very funny (some portions, like Homer’s extended musical number about being gay, are just awful). Still, I have to recommend checking this one just to see how baffling it is.

Memorable Gag: No real memorable jokes, but definitely a memorable segment all the same.

Overall Thoughts:

Guys, this Treehouse is weird. I didn’t enjoy anything here as much as Heck House or It’s the Grand Pumpkin, Milhouse, but if you’re looking far enough into the Treehouse well to end up in the twenties, you may as well give this one a look for how off-the-wall the first and last segments came out.

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October 22nd – “Treehouse of Horror XIX” (S20E04)

Opening:

19-1During the 2008 presidential election, Homer casts his ballot using an electronic voting booth that changes his votes for Obama to votes for McCain. The machine also eats him. Wow, this one is a blast from the past, huh?

Untitled Robot Parody

19-2While Christmas shopping (?!?!??!), Bart buys Lisa a Malibu Stacy convertible that turns out to be a robot in disguise from another world. The “Positron” begins converting other toys, appliances and vehicles into robots, which then wage war against their equally-robotic enemies.

This segment has a solid start with some good jokes (though the Christmas setting is really bizarre), but the story doesn’t really go anywhere. A big problem is that the robots aren’t memorable at all. Similar to the Michael Bay Transformers they’re parodying, these guys have no personalities or quirks or anything interesting about them. They’re just generic robots, not really worth centering a segment around.

Memorable Gag: The ultimate fate of the human race: stuck as players on a giant foosball table for the robots’ enjoyment.

How to Get Ahead in Dead-Vertising 

19-3After accidentally killing Krusty, Homer is hired by an advertising agency to murder celebrities. Then all of the dead celebrities get angry, come down from heaven, and try to kill Homer? And then I think Abraham Lincoln is gay. This one was weird.

I have no idea what they were going for with this segment. The story is weird and disconnected, the Mad Men intro parody is some Family-Guy-at-its-worst stuff, and the deaths–especially Krusty’s–are weirdly gory and unsettling. Bad and bizarre.

Memorable Gag: I guess the implication that Abe Lincoln and Homer are going to bang in heaven is memorable.

It’s the Grand Pumpkin, Milhouse

19-4Milhouse skips the school dance to wait for the Grand Pumpkin’s arrival. His Gourd God does arrive…but turns violent when it discovers just how poorly humanity treats pumpkins.

I’m a sucker for Peanuts (I teared up upon seeing footage of the new movie), so even though this isn’t an objectively amazing segment, the cuteness really won me over. The “evil Grand Pumpkin” twist is surprising, and the foul gourd gets most of the best lines here (though Nelson and Milhouse have some great ones, too). Not amazing, but a “comfort food” segment for me.

Memorable Gag: “Pumpkin segregation forever!”

Overall Thoughts:

Similar to Treehouse XIII, everything outside of the final segment is totally skippable. Check out It’s the Grand Pumpkin if you’re a Peanuts fan or just want to see a cute modern Treehouse segment.

October 21st – “Treehouse of Horror XVIII” (S19E05)

Opening:

lol, mid-2000s TV

lol, mid-2000s TV

Marge attempts to introduce the episode, but she’s interrupted by constant on-screen ads for other FOX shows…until she kills them.

E.T., Go Home

18-2

When Bart discovers Kodos stuck on Earth, the two become best friends. Except they don’t–Kodos is only using Bart to help his people take over the planet. Whoops.

It was nice of Kodos to visit Earth…too bad he didn’t bring any good jokes. This segment doesn’t doesn’t commit any television sins or feature bad British accents, but overall it comes off as not very funny–few of the gags hit at all. “Evil E.T.” is a fine concept, but the writers forgot to make it funny. I don’t hate E.T., Go Home, but I can’t find any reason to recommend it.

Memorable Gag: Homer’s unnecessary disguise when trying to fool the government agents:

18-3Mr. and Mrs. Simpson

18-4An uninspired parody of an uninspired movie that, by this time, had been parodied by a dozen other shows.

What the hell does this have to do with Halloween?

Memorable Gag: “Marge, I won’t be home tonight. I’m going to…Midnight Monkey Madness at the zoo.”

Heck House

18-5With Springfield full of Halloween mischief, the adults enlist Flanders to scare their kids straight with threats of eternal damnation. When the kids are unimpressed by his depictions of terror, Ned summons the power of Satan himself to strike true terror into their hearts.

Let’s run through the checklist. Elements of Halloween and horror? Our favorite characters in cute costumes? Callbacks to Devil Flanders and Plopper from The Simpsons Movie? Great jokes? A fun plot? Check, check, check, check and check. A real treat (especially in an episode otherwise full of tricks), Heck House is easily one of my favorite Treehouse stories in years.

Memorable Gag: Pretty much every line out of Nelson’s mouth is gold.

“Scaredy-cats not wanted? Then I’m wanted!”

Overall Thoughts:

Skip the first two mostly-wasted segments, but be sure to check out Heck House.

October 20th – “Treehouse of Horror XVII” (S18E04)

Opening:

17-1Mr. Burns plays the Cryptkeeper, introducing the episode with the help of a similarly-styled Smithers. Then they kill Moe. I’m on board.

Married to the Blob:

17-2A meteor full of green goo crashes in the family’s backyard. As expected, Homer eats the goo and soon finds himself filled with an unceasing hunger. He grows larger and larger while devouring everything from food to people, becoming a gargantuan monster and terror to all.

This segment is a total mixed bag. Some of the gags–like the one below, or the ending–are fantastic, but others are total disasters. Particular loathing needs to be lobbed toward the Dr. Phil cameo (remember the mid-2000s, when Dr. Phil was considered comedy gold for some reason) and the embarrassing “Baby Likes Fat” Sir Mix-a-lot parody. Is having some great gags but some unbearable ones better or worse than just being a middling, inoffensive segment?

Memorable Gag: “And to make matters worse, we’re also being attacked by a 50-foot Lenny!”

You Gotta Know When to Golem

17-3Bart discovers a living clay Golem (voiced by Richard Lewis) through Krusty and begins using it do his mischievous bidding, but the Golem quickly grows bored and unsatisfied with his new life.

I don’t even know what the joke is here. Is it that the Golem is annoying? Well, he is, and not in a funny way. You Gotta Know When to Golem could best be compared to Frinkenstein in that it is stuck focused on a celeb-voiced character who gets old fast, but at least that segment featured a minor character who usually works. Who cares about this Richard Lewis Golem? Why is he the focus of a Treehouse story? I guess I’d rather take this concept than a non-horror-movie parody, but the execution sure is lousy.

Memorable Gag: Homer mistaking the Golem for Milhouse, followed by Milhouse doing Bart’s bidding just as a Golem would.

The Day the Earth Looked Stupid

17-4In 1938 Springfield, the War of the Worlds radio drama whips everyone into a riotous frenzy. Then Kang & Kodos show up.

Halfway through this segment I said to myself, “This could easily be part of a classic Treehouse episode.” Then, because of poor writing or an ironic curse placed upon me, things collapsed as the characters spontaneously decided to strip off their clothes, wallow in the mud, and make animal noises to no comedic effect. The story never recovered, and the ending–a long, sad shot of bombs exploding in a barren city after dialogue blatantly paralleling the Iraq War–is haunting in an unwanted, uncomfortable way.

Memorable Gag: Orson Welles messing with the radio foley guy by demanding more and more elaborate sound effects.

Overall Thoughts:

Despite some better-than-expected jokes throughout, I can’t really recommend this episode. There’s too much genuinely annoying content (including an appearance by Fran Drescher), and it’s the only Simpsons episode to make me genuinely uncomfortable and unhappy. Treehouse of Horror XVII is one tree you shouldn’t climb or something whatever.

October 19th – “Treehouse of Horror XVI” (S17E04)

Yo, I’m back.

Opening:

16-1Kang & Kodos complain about baseball pre-empting the Simpsons Halloween Special. Pretty much the same gag as last time, but it goes on for way too long.

B.I. Bartifical Intelligence:

16-2The family replaces Bart, rendered comatose in an accident, with a robot boy. When Bart wakes up, he’s exiled from the house in order to keep the robot around and then seeks revenge.

This may be the most dated Treehouse parody yet, but most of this segment hold up pretty well even if you aren’t familiar with A.I. Artificial Intelligence. Having Bart as a human boy abandoned by his family is a funny twist on the movie’s plot that allows for solid jokes, but they really biffed the ending. It’s got two endings–neither is any good, and the second is a blatant rip-off of the “fog that turns people inside-out” bit. Shame!

Memorable Gag:

“You told me [Bart] was at culinary school!”
“You wanted to believe it!”

Survival of the Fattest

16-3Mr. Burns invites Homer and many of Springfield’s other recognizable men to a weekend of hunting at his mansion, only to reveal ill intents: he’s decided to hunt man, the world’s most dangerous game.

An average segment brought down by a truly awful recurring gag–the Terry Bradshaw stuff, which is another clear example of pointless celeb cameos messing with an episode. The concept allows for a lot of uncommon interactions between characters, and I do enjoy seeing Burns reach complete psychopath-levels of evil.

Memorable Gag:

“I shoot one bird and I have to go to a psychiatrist.”
“Hmmm. He still thinks that homeless man was a bird!”

I’ve Grown a Costume on Your Face:

16-4The citizens of Springfield gather for a costume party, but a witch–enraged at being disqualified from the costume contest–casts a magic spell to turn everyone into their costumes.

Anyone following this blog knows I love seeing Halloween happen in Springfield, so this segment is a personal favorite. The different costumes are interestingly matched to their characters (I love Grandpa as a gorilla and Lisa gaining super-intelligence as Albert Einstein), and the conclusion–where the characters turn and thank the viewer for joining them on Halloween–comes off as cute rather than cheap. I do wish this segment was a bit longer, though–it really flies by.

Memorable Gag: 

Nelson’s low-rent Lone Ranger costume being mistaken again and again as a racoon, even by a magic spell.

16-5Overall Thoughts:

Survival of the Fattest shakes out to be pretty forgettable, and none of the segments are perfect, but Treehouse of Horror XVI offers more good than bad. If you’re looking for later-season Treehouses you may have missed out on, this one is worth a look.

October 15th – “Treehouse of Horror XV” (S16E01)

Opening:

Me, watching these episodes.

Me, watching these episodes.

Kang & Kodos star in a sitcom, “Keepin’ it Kodos”. As it turns out, calling attention to bad jokes doesn’t make them any better. We’re not off to a good start.

The Ned Zone:

15-4A blow to the head gives Ned Flanders a Stephen King superpower: when touching someone, he sees a vision of their deaths. Touching Homer leads to a vision of, what else, Homer destroying Springfield with a nuclear explosion. Can Flanders stop his oafish neighbor before it’s too late?

Here’s a real Halloween surprise: this segment isn’t half bad! There aren’t a lot of gut-busting jokes here, but they’re at least chuckle-worthy throughout. Flanders makes a much better protagonist than, say, Frink or Snake–pitting his good-naturedness against Homer’s ignorance makes for a great story. I never really see this segment discussed–and I’d forgotten all about it, too–so I’d call this one pretty underrated.

Memorable Gag: “Oh, another setback.” – Hans Moleman, about to be eaten by alligators.

Four Beheadings and a Funeral:

15-2

Bart and Lisa are Sherlock Holmes and Watson, alright?

Here’s a milestone: the segment that, upon watching it as it aired, made me say “Oh, Treehouse of Horror isn’t that great anymore.” This is another of those segments that feels totally out of place in a Halloween episode, which is unfortunately going to become more and more common as we hurtle toward the present. But the biggest problem with Four Beheadings, other than the lack of comedy, is that all of the Simpson characters have been given unbearable British accents. This awful voicework choice makes a dull segment unwatchable. I would watch any segment so far over Four Beheadings. I hate Four Beheadings.

Memorable Gag: Nope.

In the Belly of the Boss:

15-3When Mr. Burns accidentally swallows a shruken-down Maggie (wait, what?), the rest of the family must go on a fantastic voyage inside of Homer’s boss to save her.

If The Ned Zone is better-than-expected and Four Headings is bottom-of-the-barrel, In the Belly of the Boss stands firmly in the middle. Not awful, not amazing, but a fun adventure. The only thing I find truly offensive is the weird sexualization of Marge….

…oh, and the fact that the ending is just a much-worse version of Homer’s Nightmare!

Memorable Gag: 

“Captain!”
“Science Officer!”
“Security!””Marge!”

Overall Thoughts:

Skip the middle segment and this is a serviceable Halloween treat. It’s one of those candy bars you eat long after the Reese’s or Hershey’s, but before the candy corn.

October 14th – “Treehouse of Horror XIV” (S15E01)

Opening:

14-4The Simpsons murder each other for some reason. Then Kang and Kodos show up to complain about the Halloween special being aired in November, which is much funnier.

Reaper Madness:

14-1The plot.

Didn’t think I’d say this again, but clearly Reaper Madness slipped my mind: your time would be much better spent watching the Family Guy episode. This segment offers nothing it doesn’t, the jokes are much worse, and they are way too similar in their first act for that to be a coincidence.

Memorable Gag:  “This is for Snowball I and JFK!” – Homer, attacking Death.

Frinkenstein:

14-2Prof. Frink brings his father, John, back from the dead, but “Frinkenstein” goes on a rampage through town as he assimilates more and more organs into his monstrous body.

Jerry Lewis as John Frink is perfect casting, but these are not two characters who can carry a story. Maybe with different characters at the forefront, a segment about a back-from-the-dead Springfield resident murdering his way through town could’ve been more captivating, but as it stands, this is another swing-and-miss.

Memorable Gag:

“Nice posture.” – John Frink
“Thank you! Mother always said a curvy spine is the Devil’s roller-coaster!” – Skinner

Stop the World, I Want to Goof Off:

14-3Bart and Milhouse order a time-stopping watch from the back of a comic book, and hey, it turns out to work. They use their temporal power to cause mischief across town, but end up getting in over their heads when the watch breaks and leaves time frozen around them.

I’d call this the best of Treehouse XIV’s offerings. The simple setup works here, and Milhouse is a really funny character to see wield such awesome power over the world. The story doesn’t drag and the ending is pretty original, even if it does taper off at the last few seconds into a bunch of random sight gags.

Memorable Gag:

“Do you know what this means?” – Bart
“We could get really far ahead on our homework! Wait until the other kids see we’re already on the Red Unit of Adventures in Reading!” – Milhouse

Overall Thoughts:

Frinkenstein  is pretty unbearable, but Stop the World is solid (for a double-digits Treehouse episode) and Reaper Madness is passable, despite how hard I was on it above. This episode isn’t required viewing, but I’d definitely revisit it before XIII.