Anyone who knows me knows that since it first aired on The Tracey Ullman Show in 1987, I’ve found The Simpsons to be the greatest thing since sliced bread (sliced bread having been invented the previous winter). While the show has been average or worse for over a decade now, it still ranks as the greatest television program of all time in my eyes due to its flawless golden years.
Since Season Two, a Simpsonian staple has been its yearly Halloween episode entitled “Treehouse of Horror”, which features three short holiday themed segments. Well we here at Everyview have began doing various Halloween lists and I, ever the conformist, have decided to compile my top five favorite THOH segments of all-time.
After watching all episodes from up until I stopped buying the show’s DVD sets (post-season nine), compiling a list of 14 possible candidates whose potential chances ranged from “long shot” to “sure thing” and compiling three pages of notes (welcome to my Friday night, everyone), I have made my list of what I feel are the five most deserving segments. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.
Honorable Mention: Nelson slugs Martin at a Simpsons Halloween party (THOH III)
In the opening moments of the series’ third Halloween installment, Martin, Bart’s prissy, brainiac classmate, gallops towards Nelson, the vicious school bully, dressed in a fairy costume and declares “I am Callipoe, the muse of heroic poetry.” Nelson, dressed like a pirate, retorts “no kiddin’!” before slugging Martin in the stomach and sending him to the floor.
This is not only one of the greatest “Treehouse” moments in show history, but possibly my all-time favorite series moment period. Unfortunately it occurred before an official segment, and since it wasn’t one of the episode sketches, it doesn’t qualify for the list. That being said, it still deserves recognition, as it sends me into hysterics every time I watch it.
No. 5: “Terror At 5 1/2 Feet” THOH IV
Like many Halloween Special segments, “Terror At 5 1/2 Feet” parodies an old episode of that twilighty show about that zone. Since I have seen this show exactly zero times, many of the specific references are lost on me and the show must appeal to my senses with its own comedic abilities.
Luckily, “Terror,” which focuses on a gremlin that only Bart sees, tearing apart the bus on his way to school, does just that. It begins with the opening of hilarious Krusty The Clown trading cards (“Krusty visits relatives in Annapolis, Maryland”) and ends with the gremlin taunting Bart with the decapitated head of Ned Fladers (pictured right), with various funny moments in between.
The highlight of the episode again comes from oft-bullied Martin. Many times you feel pity for him, as he gets beaten simply for being smart and a bit on the effeminate side. But when you wear a shirt that reads “Wang Computers” to school, you are just begging to have a lit emergency flare stuffed into your pants.
No. 4: “King Homer” THOH III
This is a total surprise to me, as I haven’t really been much of a fan of this King Kong parody for much of my life. But it’s really cast its spell on me in recent years and after watching it again, I can’t deny how much it makes me laugh.
I loved bits such as “Candy Apple Island, what do they have there?,” Mr. Burns’ brief “I was strolling through the gas one day” musical number and a great parody of the epic Empire State Building conclusion of Kong where fat Homer can’t make it to the top and the pilots decide they’d “better re-fuel.” And at the end when they flash the newspaper headline “Dick Cavett Born,” I had no choice but to officially declared this segment list worthy.
No. 3: “Citizen Kang” THOH VII
“Kang,” involves a plot where alien invaders Kang and Kodos, regulars in the “THOH” episodes kidnap and steal the bodies of Bill Clinton and Bob Dole just days before they squared off in the 1996 Presidential Election. It features some great comedic bits, such as the aliens dousing Homer, who witnesses the body swap, with rum so no one will believe his story, and a frustrated Homer finding the massive alien ship as proof, but spotting it in their hiding spot…a very tiny bush (the gag’s funnier when actually seen).
I also like this episode because it speaks to my political philosophy. There is a line where Clinton says to Dole that “partisan politics are tearing this country apart.” This is a belief I hold very strongly and is the main reason I have no interest in following the workings of the political world. (The real reason is actually that I’m a dumb fuck who doesn’t have the attention span to understand anything of global importance, but when you commit intellectual fraud on a daily basis, you need to have intelligent reasoning to justify your apathy).
And ultimately, for anyone who remembers the campaign of Ross Perot, it’s just amusing at the end to see the citizens of Springfield elect Kang, thus choosing a life of slavery over putting Perot in office.
No. 2: “The Monkey’s Paw” AKA “Lisa’s Nightmare” THOH II
The plot of this segment involves the Simpson family going to Morocco, where Homer purchases a Monkey’s paw that will grant him any wish he desires. He buys it despite the shopkeepers warning that each wish comes with a dire consequence attached.
What I love most about this bit is the way the show mercilessly lampoons its own popularity. This was at the height of “Simpsonsmania” and after they obtain the paw, Bart wishes for the family to be rich and famous, leading to mass over exposure, including, among other things, a CD entitled “The Simpsons Go Calypso,” and Bart on a billboard encouraging women to “get a mammogram, man.” Not only was this funny, but it showed the show’s writers weren’t taking themselves too seriously.
Ultimately, Lisa’s wish of world peace backfires, as a now weaponless Springfield is left ripe for the plucking from Kang and Kodos, when their “superior intellect” becomes no match for the aliens’ “puny weapons” which include a club and a sling-shot. After Moe obtains a hidden weapon, he chases the aliens out, and I can think of fewer lines that make me laugh harder than when Kodos cowardly yelps “ah, he’s got a board with a nail in it!” Priceless.
No 1: “The Devil and Homer Simpson” THOH IV
Season Five is probably my favorite season of the show, so it’s only fitting it would not only be the only season to produce more than one segment on my list (“Terror”), but would also produce my favorite, in which Homer sells his soul to the devil (who it turns out is ultra-religious Ned Fladers) for a doughnut.
I love this segment. Love it, love it, love it. I love the fact that instead of throwing out the final piece of soul doughnut, Homer keeps it in the refrigerator with instructions saying it is not to be eaten. I also love the inspired choice of having goody two shoes Flanders turn out to be Satan (as Bart would say, “the ironing is delicious”).
But the largest dosage of credit goes to one of the all-time great Simpsons supporting characters, Lionel Hutz. Hutz, who was voiced by the late, great Phil Hartman, stole nearly every scene he was ever in, and “Devil” is no exception. Standouts here include him preparing for the trial by watching Matlock in a bar with the sound turned off, and, in my favorite Hutz moment ever, trying to argue Homer out of his contract with the Devil by adamantly stating “what is a contract? Webster’s defines it as an agreement under the law which is unbreakable. Which is unbreakable!” A DVD deleted scene shows that there was so much Hutz hilarity, some of it even had to be taken out (“Trials won in 30 minutes or your pizza’s free”).
The Simpsons lost a lot of momentum after Hartman’s death, and while I would hardly argue it was the reason the show ran out of gas, it’s hard not to notice how the timing syncs up.
Well, my massively over-worded official list is over, but naturally, that’s not the end of things. As is normally the case with my reviews, I don’t feel the piece is complete until I’ve become so vague I’ve completely alienated anyone who doesn’t know exactly what I’m talking about. In that vein, I’ve decided to include the other 9 listed entries and my favorite lines/moments from them. Enjoy.
- “The Bart Zone” THOH II- “I’m a stupid moron with an ugly face and a big butt and my butt smells and I like to kiss my own butt!”
- “Clown Without Pity” THOH III- “I was a fool to think anyone would want nude photos of Whoopi Goldberg.”
- “Dial Z for Zombies” THOH III- “Find Waldo-Yet Again.”
- “The Shining (pronounced shin-ing) THOH V– “Oh, goody, the Sea Monkeys I ordered have arrived.”
- “Time And Punishment” THOH V- “I’ve gone back to the time when Dinosaurs weren’t just confined to zoos.”
- “Nightmare Cafeteria” THOH V- “You might say, we just ate Uter and he’s in our stomachs right now!”
- “Nightmare on Evergreen Terrace” THOH VI- “No, not into the Kindergarten!”
- “The Homega Man” THOH VII- “It can take a six megaton blast. No more, no less.”
- “Easy Bake Coven” THOH VII- “She’s a witch!”