The Simpsons’ annual Treehouse of Horror episodes are the high point of my TV viewing experience. I love Boardwalk Empire and remember the anticipation of every The Sopranos episode when it was still coming out new. But I look forward to nothing more on TV than Treehouse of Horror. No matter how shitty the season may be, The Simpsons shine on Halloween episodes. The Simpsons’ “Treehouse of Horror XXV” is no different. If the only joke was Stanley Kubrick saying “ow,” it already surpassed the first two episodes this year. Hope that wasn’t a spoiler but who cares?
This year’s “Treehouse of Horror” was broadcast live from Rigel 7, where the animators are superfast apparently. It had the special guest stars Jennifer Lawrence, Warren Beatty, John Travolta, Clint Eastwood, George Clooney (probably best known as Sparky the Dog on South Park), Prince, Taylor Swift, Sean Penn, Bruce Springsteen, Helen Mirren, Morgan Freeman, James Franco, Kanye West and Leonardo DiCaprio. It didn’t? Who was playing Stanley Kubrick?
School Is Hell
It’s good to see Beelzebart excel at school. Bart has something of a reputation for being an underachiever, but never on Treehouse of Horror episodes. Majoring in psychological torment really brings out the horns in him. Even Lisa can be proud, a cold day in hell, indeed. And it’s free. All free. Bart went to hell and came back a winner, like Jesus. It is quite an inspiring segment, Bart the Maledictorian. There is a running gag, for those who are uninitiated into The Simpsons, that Mr. Burns likes the cut of that cloven-hoofed fellow, Satan’s jib. In an early episode, when Marge’s mother, who was being woowood by Burns, laughs that he’s the devil himself, Burns accusingly demanded who told her; The Springfield Shopper had a headline “Burns Birthday Today: Credits Long Life to Satan,” and others. Seeing Burns with the upside down pentagram portal to hell, brought to you by Gulf and Western, was a genuine inspired no-brainer. Funny before the kids even popped up.
The Simpsons have a loving relationship with hell, going back to when Homer told Marge to hide Bart because the Rapture was coming. Marge takes a little convincing, but one look at that A in Quantum Satanics and she knows this is a school that will nurture his destructive side, not like Springfield Elementary which is suffocating him. Great gags throughout. Offering up Jimbo’s head in Show and Hell was the forbidden apple for the teacher, in a place where that doesn’t go unappreciated. Sure, cringe, but it’s hell.
A Clockwork Yellow
This was the best segment of the night. It is a classic spoof on par with “King Homer,” “Hungry are the Damned” and “Dial Z for Zombies.” The Simpsons have always had a fascination with A Clockwork Orange, Bart and Maggie have both worn the derby and the eyelash, and they really do it up in style. The opening music is original, but could have come from Wendy Carlos’ fingers. The alternative language is crudely parallel to Anthony Burgess’s Nadsat language and they never break reality. Kubrick reality, that is, because these are also the worst accents the actors have ever done, even in character. The Simpsons move from Kubrick film to Kubrick film until even Kubrick wouldn’t know the references, much less Comic Book Guy.
Moe Sizlak is a wonderfully repulsive Alex, just like it makes sense that Nelson would be little Alex when the young prey on the old. Homer was dim long before he was Dum and even though Lenny and Carl as the cops is a bit of a shortcut, it was Dim and Georgie in the movie and Dim and Billyboy in the book, it really could be done no other way. Well, it could but the Springfieldian perfection would have been lost. Only on a Treehouse of Horror episode can the Sharry Bobbins make a cameo, she was last seen being diced by helicopter blades, umbrella and all. Mr. Burns’ penile, no not penal and you didn’t get me to say penis, mask was probably the best visual gag of the night. That and they never miss a chance to take a shot at Fox.
The Simpsons are visited by the creepiest of guests. Ghost guests. And not just any ghost guests, these appalling animations look like they could have come from The Tracey Ullman Show. Horror of horrors, the milk shakes have vanished. What kind of afterlife is it where you can’t even strangle your dead kid? It’s one where The Simpsons can have a low-budget crossover. Nice to know they can still do the voices, though Castellenata has thrown it in once in a while, and it is better than teaming up with Legos or Griffins, but it’s also kind of masturbatory and incestuous.
The power of Chrysler compels me to say how far the Simpsons have come since their crudely drawn origins and not quite finalized voices. Watching the early episodes on FXX, it has become apparent that since some of the rougher edges have been smoothed, their rudimentary antics are missed. It’s not so much that The Simpsons have lost an edge, they are still by far the most subversive show on television. It’s that they are a little long in the tooth, except Marge. I hadn’t noticed how much work she got done. Groundskeeper Willie also has a unique fit in the alternative universe of the Treehouse of Horror episodes. There is a spooky uniformity, whether he is good or evil, saving or killing. The entire world of The Simpsons is skewered, some just fit better.
One odd note, the last “Yeah Bart” in the coda sounded like Sherry or Terry not Lisa. That was spooky.
“Treehouse of Horror XXV” is not the best of the Halloween episodes, but it’s in the top half. The A Clockwork Yellow segmentis a classic, the other two, however, great as they are, are middling great, but only when compared to Simpsons of Halloweens past.
“Treehouse of Horror XXV” was written by Stephanie Gillis. The Simpsons stars Dan Castellaneta as Homer Simpson, Groundskeeper Willie and Principal Skinner, Julie Kavner as Marge Simpson, Nancy Cartwright as Bart Simpson and Nelson, Yeardley Smith as Lisa Simpson. Hank Azaria plays Moe Szyslak. Guests: Jennifer Lawrence, Warren Beatty, John Travolta, Clint Eastwood, George Clooney, Prince, Taylor Swift, Sean Penn, Bruce Springsteen, Helen Mirren, Morgan Freeman, James Franco, Kanye West and Leonardo DiCaprio. Really? Not even Nicole Kidman?
But It All Went By So Fast: Hell’s Chalkboard: Eternal torment is the only just punishment for the unbaptized. Life is pointless. Never give up. Hellroads “Paved With Good Intentions” Report Card: Long Division; Show and Hell; Keeping the Yankees in first place (luxury tax – bad, stealing – small, market superstars – good); The Literature of Hell (Tender Are My Whipped Buttocks by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Fahrenheit 451,000 by Ray Bradbury; I’m Not Even Dead Yet by John Irving; The O’Reilly Factor for Kids by Bill O’Reilly.) Quantum Satanics.
Got Moloko? Non-fat moloko. Soundtracks at record store: Paths of Gravy, Dr. Strangelaugh, D’ohlita. Keep calm and carry mace. Shmoo what your great grandpa thought was hip. Make fun run unfun. Home invasion. Tell each Dr. Who he was the worst. Over-feed the birds.