For anybody who has listened to the podcast for any length of time, you know that Shaun and I are rather large fans of The Simpsons. We actually feel weird if we don't make at least one reference to the show at some point in our random diatribes.
We're such large fans of the show, that we tend to write about it with some regularity. I mean, in my writing of this article, the only thing in our Guys From TV category are Shaun's top-25 episodes of The Simpsons. So this article will mark the third Simpsons subject in our diverse TV category. I'm sure, at some point, we'll write more on other TV but for now, here's another Simpsons article.
Before the internet ate our website for the second time, Shaun had written this segment. But with him working for iHorror, he felt like maybe he couldn't (or shouldn't) write it this time. So the task fell to me (which is perfect, because I was stymied for an article to write this week.)
Anyway, without further Apu (*swish*) here are my top-10 Tree House of Horror segments:
Honorable Mention: Send In The Clones (XIII)
This is the newest THoH that I reference in this blog. It's been well documented that I fell out of love with The Simpsons in the latter half of their seasons. That's not to say that I didn't appreciate episodes of their later seasons but they're more infrequent when I do. This is from the thirteenth THoH (which means it was in the fourteenth season) and I do thoroughly enjoy this one. Homer gets a new hammock and discovers that he can clone himself by sitting in it. He does this a few times to make his life easier. Sound familiar? Anyway, as Homer's schemes tend to do, things go awry and there are too many clones which end up threatening to take over the world unless the town does something drastic. They take a few army helicopters carrying massive doughnuts and lead the clones towards Springfield Gorge. Like lemmings, the clones go over the cliff and are eradicated. All is well, right? Well it turns out that original Homer was the first one over the cliff because of his love of doughnuts and the man in bed with Marge is a clone (we know this because all the clones are missing belly buttons and this fellow doesn't have one.)
It's a fun little segment with some pretty great jokes in it. There's a nice tip of the hat to the original Simpsons from the Tracy Ullman Show with one of the cloned Homers being the originally drawn Homer.
While not the best one, it's a decent segment in a show that (in my opinion) was already starting to decline. It's good, but not quite good enough to sneak into the top 10.
10) Terror At 5 1/2 Feet (IV)
The best part of the THoH episodes is many of them are references to other TV shows or movies. Many of them are Twilight Zone spoofs and this one is no exception. A reference to Nightmare at 20,000 Feet (which actually starred Captain Kirk, himself) Bart is on the school bus and sees a gremlin hanging on outside, slowly starting to destroy the bus. He tries to warn everybody but to no avail. People just assume that he's going crazy and restrain him. By the time the bus trip ends, the Gremlin has all but destroyed the bus and it was a mere lug nut away from losing a wheel and completely crashing.
They finally believed Bart but put him in an ambulance to take him to the hospital for care. As he's in the ambulance, the gremlin pops up in the back window and we know it's all going to start again.
This segment, being in the fourth installation of the THoH, is right in the thick of terrific episodes (across the board - not just Halloween related episodes.) The best part of this sketch is when Bart runs to Otto and tells him there's a gremlin on the side of the bus. Otto tells him not to worry, that he'll deal with it. We cut to an outside shot where Hans Moleman is driving a gremlin car and Otto runs him off the road. A delicious moment of comedy which is a large reason why this segment is in my list.
9) The Raven (I)
There's not really anything "funny" about this one. But I love Edgar Allan Poe. I think his bleak stories and poems are absolutely fantastic. Clearly the staff on the Simpsons love him too. There are many references to Poe throughout the long run of the Simpsons (The Fall of the House of Usher and The Telltale Heart to name a few) so why not start a run of Halloween themed episodes with a reading of The Raven (narrated by James Earl Jones). There's really nothing more I need to say about this one. It's just pure delight. I would rank it higher but... it's just not as good as 8-1.
Speaking of which...
8) Homer3 (VI)
Yet another Homer related one, he discovers an alternate universe when he hides behind a bookshelf to avoid a visit from the ever-repugnant Patty and Selma. When he steps through the wall, he finds himself in a world that he later describes as what looks like something from that movie Tron. It's weird and computer animated but nothing is too unsettling.
That is, until he gets poked in the butt from a cone and in his anger he throws it, causing it to land point down on the ground and basically ruptures the world. The world starts falling into itself, which causes Homer to panic. He calls for help and they can hear him in the house. They try to help him by any means necessary. Finally Bart comes into the world, tied to a rope and he just happens to be across the gaping hole from Homer. He tells Homer he has to jump (piece of cake, he says) and Homer makes it about 3 feet from his edge and falls into the void.
He lands in, what he describes as "the worst place yet" which leads me to believe he's probably in New Jersey. As the credits roll, a 3D animated Homer wanders through a real world, looking scared until he sees an erotic cake shop and wanders in.
It was fun to see Homer in a 3D world and I appreciate the random reference to Tron. It's not the only segment from the sixth THoH on this list, which is a testament to that particular episode. But that next one is a ways away.
7) Hungry Are The Damned (I)
I couldn't have a THoH list without at least one Kang and Kodos sketch. (In this one, there's another alien but in order to pronounce his name properly, he'd have to rip out your tongue.) I do love Citizen Kang, but this is the first one with the aliens and it's just so good.
After being abducted by the aliens while BBQing in the backyard, the Simpsons are treated like royalty by the aliens who feed them and feed them and feed them. That is until stupid Lisa ruins it for everybody. Being the lousy, inquisitive person she is, she wanders into the kitchen and sees a cookbook labeled "How to Cook Humans"
Naturally she panics and rats out the aliens. Well after some miscommunication, and much space dust it goes from
"How To Cook Humans" to "How To Cook For Humans" to "How To Cook Forty Humans" to "How To Cook For Forty Humans."
Because of her mistrust and the Simpsons' decision to listen to her, they get returned to earth and judged by the aliens. God, Lisa is the worst.
6) The Monkey's Paw (Lisa's Nightmare) (II)
In a terrific way of getting from segment to segment in this episode, the Simpsons gorge themselves on Halloween candy and then proceed to each have nightmares. This is the first of the three (spoiler: the second one is coming up next) and it's Lisa's.
One of the reasons I like this one so much is because in my Jr. High drama class, I did the final scene of the Monkey's Paw as a scene study and fell in love with it. I think it's a terrific story.
The way the writers of the Simpsons did it, though, is a thing of beauty.
Coles notes: they get a monkey's paw which grants wishes. The caveat being that the wishes come with misfortune. Everything they wish for, something bad happens (although, I guess Maggie wishing for a pacifier doesn't really have much bad luck.) Bart wishes for fame and fortune; the town grows weary of the Simpsons. Lisa wishes for world peace; Kang and Kodos invade earth and enslave the human race. Finally, Homer tries for a wish that can't backfire. A turkey sandwich, on rye with all the fixins. But he doesn't want to get turned INTO a turkey, it can't be mutant meat or anything. Poof, the sandwich appears but: THE TURKEY IS A LITTLE DRY! OH THE HUMANITY.
He tosses the monkey's paw and Flanders gets it. He wishes the aliens away (Moe finds a board with a nail in it, clever bastard) and then spruces up the Flanders homestead. That's basically the end of it.
The best part about this episode is the tongue-in-cheek reference to how massive the show got and how the characters were everywhere. Art imitating life. Love it.
5) The Bart Zone (Bart's Nightmare) (II)
I told you this was coming. Yet Twilight Zone reference; in this one, Bart has the ability to read minds and change things as he sees fit. Hence the picture of Snowball up there. As a result, the citizens of Springfield have to think happy thoughts all the time, else something bad happens to them.
Because of this, Bart can do no wrong which means when he writes a test, all his answers are correct, he can drive the school bus because Otto doesn't want to get turned into anything. What a life!
So anyway, because he and Homer have, what can only be called, a misunderstanding, he turns Homer into a jack-in-the-box. Marge yells at him, and sends Bart and Homer to therapy. Over the course of the time, they get a bond which results in Homer giving Bart a goodnight kiss. Which is when Bart wakes up screaming. I love that his nightmare was caused by parental affection.
Best part of the sketch? When Bart changes the name of The United States of America to Bonerland.
4) Clown Without Pity (III)
Homer forgets Bart's birthday and runs out to a weird occult looking store and finds a talking Krusty doll. The doll is cursed (that's bad), but it comes with a free frogurt (frozen yogurt.) (That's good!) The frogurt is also cursed (that's bad) but it comes with a free choice of toppings (that's good!) The toppings contain potassium benzoate... which is bad.
Bart loves the doll but there's one problem. It's crazy and tries to kill Homer. Regardless of where Homer is, there's the Krusty doll, attempting murder. Homer tries to get rid of the doll but it keeps coming back and once again, attempts murder.
After Marge calls the hotline to figure out the problem, a technician comes to inspect the doll. The simple problem of being switched from Good to Evil was all it was! A quick fix and Homer and Krusty are best pals.
The exchange between the store clerk and Homer is one of my favourite pieces of writing in any THoH and the various places Krusty pops up trying to kill Homer are all genius. Mass kudos to Al Jean & Mike Reiss who were the writers of this segment.
3) The Homega Man (VIII)
Now we're really getting into the best ones. Yet another Homer related one, but actually the last that really focuses on just him, this one is based on (surprise, surprise) The Omega Man. Mayor Quimby makes an off-coloured remark about the people of France and in retaliation, they nuke Springfield. As there was concern about this, Homer was investigating bomb shelters as the bomb happened to land.
When he comes out, he (eventually) realizes that the town is destroyed, along with everybody and everything that he loved. But he decides to live and laugh again.
He watches movies for free, he does whatever he wants, including listening to War by Edwin Starr while dancing naked in the church. (Because why not?) Well it turns out he's not alone. Many of the Springfieldians (Springfieldites?) just got turned into mutants who really just want to nibble Homer's skin. They end up chasing Homer back to his house where it turns out the family was safe all along (thanks to the layers of lead paint in the house creating a perfect bomb shelter). Marge and the kids blast the mutants with shotguns and the family lives happily ever after.
This segment is so, so funny. The amount of times I've yelled "earth to stupid guy" while sitting behind a dolt at a green light must range in the hundreds. It's actually kind of hard to believe it was written in season 9. It always seems like it should have been earlier. But it's not. And really, it doesn't matter. It's still one of the best all-time.
2) Nightmare on Evergreen Terrace (VI)
Holy crap do I love this one. Shaun and I have talked in the past about how much I love the original Nightmare on Elm Street movie. It's one of my favourite horror movies and the fact that there's a spoof of it in the Simpsons THoH makes me so ridiculously happy.
I really don't need to get much into it, as if you don't know this one or you don't know anything about Nightmare on Elm Street, well I can't help you, Sundance. (That's a random Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid reference for you.)
All you need to know about this is Do Not Touch Willy. It's good advice. Also, Smarch weather is the worst.
Holy crap do I want to watch this one right now. It would easily be my number one, except...
1) The Shinning (V)
If you have ever listened to the podcast, you know how much Shaun and I both love The Shining. Last week, when we discussed our favourite horror movies of all-time, The Shining was ranked number 1 for me. So the fact that they did it on the Simpsons? How could it not be my number 1?
The funny thing is, if I had to rank my favourite THoH episodes, V would be my favourite, despite the fact that neither of the other two sketches are in my list. They're all VERY good but I felt since I was ranking the Shinning as my number 1, I could leave the other two off. All three of the segments end up with Willy taking an axe in the back, which is half the comedy of the episode.
But when it all comes down to it, the reason the episode is as good as it is, is because of this segment. Like Nightmare on Evergreen Terrace, I'm not going to get much into the plot. It's the Shining done with Simpsons characters. Moe plays Lloyd the bartender, Bart plays Danny, Homer plays Jack. What more do I need to get into? It's just brilliant. End of story.
Well that's it, my friends. I made it. 10 segments, one honourable mention and a lot of words. I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.
I'm sure I've missed some, or people will dispute which selections I made so let me know what I effed up (in your own humble opinion.) While I won't go so far as to say you're "right," I'll certainly engage in a conversation.
Happy Halloween, kids.