Every year for the last four or five years, I've found that I may not like every single Simpsons' episode, but that I must watch the annual Simpsons' "Treehouse of Horror" Halloween episode. This year was no different!
For those of you not familiar with The Simpsons' brand of crazy, the show is an animated series that began as a series of shorts for The Tracey Ullman Show in the late 1980s and received the green light for a half hour primetime animated series to start in 1989. Created by Matt Groenig, it provides a twisted parody on family life in the United States. Now in its 20th season, the show continues to provide hilarity, absurdity, and weirdness on the FOX Broadcasting Network's Sunday night lineup.
The family in question exists as follows:
Homer Simpson, the father of this fun, yet dysfunctional family, works at the Springfield nuclear power plant. If there's something stupid to be done, Homer's your man. He does stupid proud!
Marge Simpson, Homer's wife, loves Homer dearly, and does the best she can to manage their three kids as a stay at home mom. With her towering blue hairdo, she is the apple of Homer's eye and he always comes home begging for forgiveness.
Bart Simpson is the oldest of the three Simpson children. The troublemaker of the group, he's always playing pranks, skipping school, or otherwise causing mischief.
Lisa Simpson is the good child of the group, which always puts her at odds with her brother Bart. She plays saxophone in the school band, always does her homework, and does her best to help the world around her.
And lastly, there's Maggie Simpson, the baby of the group. She can be found with her pacifier in her mouth nearly all the time. She's just as smart as her sister Lisa I think, but keeps quiet about it.
In addition, there are all the various other characters that make up the Simpsons universe. Grandpa Simpson, Homer's dad, is good natured but always forgetting something. Santa's Little Helper is the Simpson dog and Snowball II is their cat. There are, of course for such a long running show, many, many other characters in Springfield that interact with the Simpson family.
This year's "Treehouse of Horror XIX" episode begins, aptly enough, with a segment lampooning electronic voting and the 2008 presidential election. Though the Republican and Democratic candidates are represented with streamers, posters, and park benches, my favorite part was Grandpa Simpson's sign stating "I Still Like IKE!"
In the voting segment, Homer, in traditional Homer style, goes to vote and, as he is a little overweight, can't fit into a traditional booth. He's then told to use the "double-wide" by the voting officials. There he finds trouble with the electronic voting machine and when he complains… well, let's just say he meets a bad end. Actually, I think he dies in most of this episode's segments, funnily enough.
The second segment was a riff on the Transformers movie from Michael Bay. Even the titles were transforming, they went from "Morf Transers" to "Trans-morfers" to "Snort Farmers" to finally settle on "Untitled Robot Parody." Bart is doing his Christmas shopping as the segment starts, and we all know that when Bart shops for Lisa (Christmas-gift or otherwise) it typically ends poorly. This trip is no different.
As his gift, Bart brings home a little pink car for Lisa that eventually transforms into a robot on a mission. This little pink robot turns other things (a lamp, an alarm clock, a boom box, and a sex toy) into Transformers and the invasion begins!
Homer and the rest of Springfield are enslaved by the robots, big and small, when the robots put aside their differences and join forces. By the end of the bit, the robots are playing foosball with the citizens of Springfield strapped to a giant foosball table. (I'd like to see Michael Bay have the Transformers play foosball in the next movie as a gag!)
The opening sequence for "How to Get Ahead in Dead-vertising" is a parody of the opening sequence for Mad Men, but I have to say it also made me think of all the cool James Bond movie opening sequences from over the years (Quantum of Solace comes out in two weeks). This segment focuses on a group of advertising executives finding a loophole they want to exploit in paying talent. For years they'd been pursuing live celebrities to hawk their wares, but had to get their permission, but they don't need a dead celebrity's permission.
When Homer accidentally kills Krusty the Clown (after Krusty makes Maggie cry) at Crazy Ethel's Daycare Center ("Where your child learns to trust strangers") by tossing him into a wood chipper (doesn't every daycare have a wood chipper in the play area?), the ad executives consider using Homer as an assassin for hire. Who knew Homer would make a good celebrity assassin!? Homer is then paid to kill a number of celebs, including: George Clooney, Prince, and Neil Armstrong (all set to the Talking Heads' "Psycho Killer" song, which had me in stitches).
This of course gets all the dead celebs in heaven riled up (who knew Heaven had a "Celebrity" wing?) and they get a posse together to take care of the man who put them there (poor Homer). By the end of the segment, Homer (now dead and in heaven), locks the pearly gates so the celebs can't get back in! Only in The Simpsons can you see that kind of weird justice!
But the coup de grace in the episode was the parody of the classic Charlie Brown Halloween special – It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown! If you remember the Charlie Brown special, it's about Linus waiting for the Great Pumpkin (who is like Santa Claus) all alone in the pumpkin patch while all his friends go to the Halloween dance and have a great time.
In The Simpsons' version, Milhouse believes in the Grand Pumpkin so much that the pumpkin comes to life on Halloween in the pumpkin patch. Milhouse, seeing the Grand Pumpkin, offers him a loaf of pumpkin bread. The Grand Pumpkin, thinking that it was a nice gift, asks what it was made of (pumpkin of course), the Grand Pumpkin goes insane and starts eating people. Homer, carving a set of pumpkins for Halloween, is of course one of those who gets munched.
To stop the Grand Pumpkin, Lisa asks Milhouse to imagine Tom the Turkey. And, much to everyone's surprise, Tom the Turkey comes to life and finishes off the Grand Pumpkin with a blast from his blunderbuss. To celebrate, Milhouse offers Tom the chance to carve the turkey at Thanksgiving… and that starts another round of running and screaming.
This section of the show has it all… all the crazy Simpsons characters, lots of blood, and the classic Charlie Brown trombone sound which that series used as the voice of adults. And the moral of the story? You choose… don't feed the Grand Pumpkin a loaf of pumpkin bread or don't offer Tom the Turkey the chance to carve the turkey at the Thanksgiving feast!
When the dancing began at the school Halloween party, I knew the Charlie Brown parody was complete. Where else would you see the classic Simpsons' aliens dancing with the rest of the gang?
Once again, Groenig and company has outdone themselves on their Halloween episode. It might not have been as "out there" as some of their previous "Treehouse" episodes, but "Treehouse of Horror XIX" is definitely worth catching if you're a Simpsons' fan!