Every year for the past 23 years, The Simpsons has done a Halloween special. I was three years old when the first special aired, making the “Treehouse of Horror” the third most certain thing in my life after death and taxes. As a youngin, watching the Treehouse was every bit as important a Halloween tradition as trick-or-treating. But, just like carting a candy-filled pillowcase around my neighbourhood, the Treehouse tradition became less important as I aged, as did watching The Simpsons in general. We grew apart, but I was happy to find while watching “Treehouse 23” that all was well in Springfield.
As with the annual television episode, the “Treehouse of Horror” concept allows for stories that involve horror and parody and, basically, whatever is needed to tell the story and amuse people. The variety of stories in this issue is the advantage as some are just simple twists on standard “Simpsons” fare, while others are out there fantasies. In this case, that means a parody of “The Three Little Pigs,” a story where Moe builds himself a woman, one where Milhouse just can’t stop killing people, and a half dozen more. And every story is laugh-out-loud funny to boot.
Lisa convinces the city to invest in the Springfield Subatomic Supercollider, which — unlike the actual Large Hadron Collider — creates a cute little black hole that sucks in Ralph Wiggum, elongates Homer’s fingers to transform him into “nature’s perfect choking machine,” and eventually transports all of Springfield to a distant planet where banana peels are a delicacy and the Zune is worshiped as a technological godsend. Naturally, the town’s fate is ultimately Milhouse’s fault.
The first segment, “The Greatest Story Ever Holed” is the one that should have been dropped entirely from the show. It’s a boring and largely unfunny tale about the Large Hadron Collider creating a miniature black hole that Lisa briefly brings home before it eventually destroys Springfield and sucks nearly everyone in town into it. Admittedly, I did enjoy the use of Disney’s The Black Hole and the Zune joke. However, the ending of the segment landed with a thud and just wasn’t funny at all. There was some nice animation in the segment, but that wasn’t enough to save it.
Next is “UNnormal Activity,” which starts out in the style of Paranormal Activity (nighttime spookiness seen through surveillance cameras) and turns into a make-a-deal-with-Satan story. This segment certainly doesn’t need to be any longer than it is, but it’s always nice to see Patty and Selma, and the closing gag outdoes South Park in its smuttiness. Also, Homer pees continuously from 4:32 to 5:14 a.m.
Watch Simpsons – Treehouse of Horror XXIII Online
Simpsons S24E02: Treehouse of Horror 23
“Bart & Homer’s Excellent Adventure” suffered from the same kind of go-nowhere do-nothing plotting as the segment before it, but benefited from a much better ending. I can’t say it started off well, though. Back to the Future has been done to death, and I groaned as soon as “Close To You” started playing. This show has gone back to the well of Homer and Marge’s courtship a thousand times by now, and it never ends up as successful as the first time, in season 2?s “The Way We Was.” Fortunately, it undercut the sweetness quickly (as a Halloween episode should) and got to business creating an alternate future, where Bart’s dad is the insufferably grating Artie Ziff.
The biggest laughs of the act came from Homer, who first tried to use Flanders’s camera to create a sex tape, then saved Maggie by agreeing to a Demon-Demon-Human threeway with Moe and his demon buddy. Homer had a good time with it and wanted to experiment, something that got Moe desperately screaming “CINNAMON,” their safe word, over and over. The whole act was pretty risqué, but the “Treehouse” episodes always pushed boundaries. Perhaps it was all a reflection on how sexualized the TV landscape has become. So much so, in fact, that it has spilled over into family programming.
There’s not much to do with this story, so we get 1974 Homer also traveling to the present, then versions of himself from various historical periods teaming up to win back Marge. As with the characters being pulled out of shape in the black hole story, this is just an excuse to go wild with the visuals, and it is fun to see the multiplicity of Homers. Any chance we can follow one of them back in time instead of returning next week to regular old Springfield?
My personal favorite story is Ben Jones’s “Boo-tleg,” which has Apu and Sanjay kill off almost everyone in Springfield with poison bootleg candy and then replace the dead bodies with bootleg people that are hilariously wrong. Ralph’s use of bootleg shampoo leads to the obvious, but still funny joke of “This shampoo smells like real poo.” Jones’s bootleg citizens are inventive and funny as Springfield becomes a very strange place to live -— and a city where dogs are hunted for their tasty, tasty meat.
Was seriously the best Treehouse of Horror in a long time. I guess it was because each of the three segments were allowed a chance to breath and be it’s own thing and not just one clumped together mess. And I noticed there was not self aware joke in the whole half hour, yeah big fan of that keep that going in future Treehouses.
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