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I remember when the Treehouse of Horror was appointment TV

by Jason Hughes, posted Oct 20th 2009 10:02AM
The Simpsons - Treehouse of Horror XXEven after I'd given up on watching The Simpsons every week many years back, I continued tuning into their annual "Treehouse of Horror" specials, the most recent of which aired Sunday. After a few more years of watching just that one episode each year, I eventually let it go as well. But I've been watching this 20th Anniversary Season of the show, and reviewing it for the site, so I settled in to see what we'd be tackling this year.

As always, the special is broken into three parts. This year's batch: a send-up of Alfred Hitchcock films, 28 Days Later, and Sweeney Todd. That sounded promising enough, and yet ...

Maybe I'm too old for the "Treehouse." Or maybe they just try and do too much. Or maybe, as was the case with all three of this year's segments, they have decent enough set-ups, but their endings are all stupid.

"Dial M for Murder, or Press "#" to Return to Main Menu"
After Lisa accidentally kills Bart, she and Mrs. Krabappel walk away laughing.

"Don't Have a Cow, Mankind"
Everything is back to normal in Springfield. Bart is in a giant tub of soup and people are in line to eat it. So they have to eat Bart-tainted food forever?

"There's No Business Like Moe Business"
Well, this entire segment was kind of annoying. But the big finish with Homer jumping out of the cellar still attached to the distillery was even ridiculous for this musical send-up. It was kind of funny when he threw the clearly ragdoll Moe across the bar.

All in all, these endings were letdowns. They weren't particularly funny, which should kind of be the point if they're not going to be scary. The "Dial M" ending was Hitchcockian, sure, but it wasn't clever or unique or humorous or anything. It just kind of ended.

I really wanted to like "Cow," as I have a predilection for enjoying zombie flicks. I was loving the zombie denizens of Springfield feasting on one another. I enjoyed Homer's father meeting their same fate despite making it safely to the Simpson house, as well as the inadvertent abandonment of Apu. All was going along fine, with a perfect blend of humor and danger and then it ... was just over.

Part of the problem is that they try and pack too much plot into these little short-stories. They've become 100% dependent on you having seen the source material to fully understand the sequence of events happening in them, which is an incredible weakness. Maybe the kids just like the silly violence. Who needs plot structure when you have human impalement. They're turning into animated Scary Movie knock-offs.

It was good to see Kang and Kodos in the audience for "Business." They felt about the same as I did by the end, though.

You'd think that after 20 years, they'd be able to prepare just an amazing little sequence of short films for these "Halloween of Horror" specials. Groening's comics line at Bongo Comics has an annual "Treehouse of Horror" special, as well. It features differing art styles, complex horror send-ups, and a dramatic departure from The Simpsons norm.

Wouldn't it be something if the television iteration of the concept was just as innovative and different from a standard episode of The Simpsons in presentation and visual style? Family Guy had a lot of success having fun with their animation style in their season premiere. The Simpsons have a built-in annual vehicle to really stretch their boundaries. They're just not doing it.

I guess next year maybe I should just skip the "Treehouse of Horror" TV special and curl up next to the fireplace with the "Treehouse of Horror" comic special instead.

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What bugged me about it was that it didn't air in November.

October 23 2009 at 12:18 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Agree. Watched from force of habit & fond memories of when it was working. Didn't even bother to play with the various film takeoffs.
Pretty bad when baseball is better. And got more laughs from the guy in my apt building loaded up area outside of his apt even into the stairs. Has a big sign saying Welcome to
Just hope the entire Simpsons is heading for Big Bye Bye.
But things do have to change to get fresh. Monk going but
still have Burn Notice and such. Not sure about White Collar from trailer. Guess have to try it to see. Looked kind of yacky yack at first. Prefer a little action with my wit as in new NCIS: LA. Or at least quirky if not going to be hard edge. White Collar trailer acted like a Mad Men crimer, no?
We'll see.

October 22 2009 at 9:39 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Brett Alan

I mostly agree...overall it didn't impress me. Very good point about these no longer working without knowing the source material, and I was pretty oblivious on the last two. I, too, just thought they were doing Phantom on the last one--doing Phantom and Sweeney Todd while also doing the in-the-theater thing was way too much.

I did like the ending of the Hitchcock one. All this time Lisa seems like an innocent who only joined up with Bart because she thought he was just doing pranks, but actually she was double-crossing him, getting him to kill Hoover and Skinner and then killing Bart. That worked. And the Hitchcock cameo was the one big laugh I got from the episode.

They need to do Twilight Zone episodes again, if for no other reason than that it's easier to condense their plots into short segments.

October 21 2009 at 4:42 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I really liked the Hitchcock one. It was really true to the Strangers on a Train story for the most part. The twist ending was good too because it really does not end like the movie. It was surely the most enjoyable part of the episode. It was also the only part I thought was well written. It didn't just end abruptly or stupidly.

I didn't even get that the third act was supposed to be Sweeney Todd. I thought it was closer to Phantom of the Opera.

Don't even get me started on the crap that was the spoof of 28 Days Later.

October 20 2009 at 8:38 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Mike McNamara

I wasn't impressed with the 28 Days Later one at all, and the Sweeney Todd was just okay (though the songs worked better than many songs have recently on the show)

The many, many Hitchcock references though made the first one really work for me, especially since, even though it managed to squeeze in tons of other movies, it still pretty much stuck to the original story (Strangers on a Train) so much, with similar shots, stuff with the tennis court and lighter, and ending on the spinning merry-go-round (rather than carousel) made me like it. Also, there was something classic about Bart saying "criss cross" over and over again, probably because it really worked.

October 20 2009 at 11:26 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

This is season 21 actually, they didnt do the treehouse til season 2.

October 20 2009 at 11:24 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Wholeheartedly agree. Since I hadn't even seen "Sweeney Todd", the entire third act was lost on me. There's not enough other things going on in the world, like the economic crisis, that they couldn't come up with their own jokes, instead of stealing them from other stories?

October 20 2009 at 10:26 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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