207. Treehouse of Horror IX

(originally aired October 25, 1998)
The Halloween shows are always really special, truly indicative of how creative and sharp the series can be. One of the greatest bummers for me was when what were once slam-duck installments became disappointments year after year after year. If they can’t make these episodes that have absolutely no logical or in-universe restrictions at least somewhat interesting, then there’s a big problem. But this issue is probably best saved for another time; this year’s Halloween episode isn’t bad, but definitely doesn’t feel all too memorable. The first segment is “Hell Toupee” (a clever play on words, I’ll admit); following petty thug Snake’s execution, Homer ends up with his hair surgically implanted on his scalp, a procedural that seems to have some adverse side effects. He’s now possessed by the spirit of Snake, and seeks to get revenge on all those who were accessories to his final crime: Apu, Moe, and Bart Simpson. Kind of intriguing, but a lot of it feels kind of dry. You know exactly where the plot’s going, the order of the murders, and the resolution, so there’s no real suspense; you’re just kind of riding out the seven minutes. There are some laughs to be had, but when Marge cuts off her daughter explaining the scenario with, “Oh, please, Lisa, everyone’s already figured that out,” it’s very telling on a number of levels.

Now “Terror in Toon Town” is memorable for me in one respect: I remember watching it as a kid and having my mom shut it off at about the same time as Marge turned off the Krusty show. She was pretty skeptical as the show, thinking it would pervert my young mind, but it wasn’t long before I browbeat her into letting me watch. I was quite the persuasive youngster. Anyway, Bart and Lisa get sucked into an Itchy & Scratchy cartoon. Yeah. Again, it just feels kind of empty on the whole. And call it splitting hairs to nitpick plot holes in a Halloween show, but rather than scour for batteries for the remote, Bart and Lisa are already sitting right up to the TV; couldn’t they just, y’know, turn the knob? The Itchy & Scratchy antics take up most of the time, which ultimately isn’t that funny. The best bits occur around the main stuff, like the peculiar live action Regis & Kathie Lee cameo. And the twist at the end is okay. I guess.

“Starship Poopers” is one I can say I really like though. Firstly alien Maggie is a pretty neat design, and seeing her limbs just pop out is genuinely disconcerting. Also the first part is like a build-up to the inevitable appearance of Kang and Kodos; once you see her green tentacles, you know they’re coming… Marge reveals that Kang is actually Maggie’s father, the result of a bizarre abduction/in-breeding program Marge was part of against her will, told in a spectacular flashback (“Oh, you look lovely this evening. Have you decreased in mass?”) Unable to come to a compromise regarding Maggie’s custody, Bart steps in, assuring only one man can resolve the conflict: Jerry Springer. The show segment is certainly memorable, albeit at this point a little hackneyed, but at the time having Jerry on and doing this spoof was topical, I’m sure. Plus Homer and Kang exchanging blows and bleeped curse words is pretty fantastic. There’s a sort of genius attributed to making bleeps funny; they need to be timed just right. Anyway, I’d say this is definitely the weakest “Treehouse” thus far, but there’s nothing terrible about it. But save the last segment, there’s not a whole lot to highly recommend either.

Tidbits and Quotes
– The bit with Snake using nacho cheese to slick back his hair is pretty gross. Then you have old crusty cheese in your hair. Gross, dude!
– Nice set-up where Moe asks Moe for a cereal for people with syphilis, then later we see him eating the wonderfully named Penicill-O’s.
– Troy McClure was originally supposed to host FOX’s “World’s Deadliest Executions. I believe he even recorded the part too, but the writers wisely considered recasting the part following Hartman’s death. Ed McMahon is a well suited replacement, if only to have him doing his patented “Hi-yohh!” immediately following Snake’s death.
– Great moment with Dr. Nick performing the surgery on Homer, well-prepared with a syringe of drugs that will make the operation feel like a wonderful dream. He proceeds to punch Homer to knock him out, then inject himself, and drowsily utilize a pizza cutter to tear at Homer’s scalp.
– Chief Wiggum is as incompetent as ever here, busy sucking on a Squishee and disregarding Apu’s mangled corpse shoved inside the machine (“Jeez, Lou, how long were you going to let me keep drinking this thing?”) and later in his attempted arrest of Homer (“You’re under arrest for the murders of Moe Syzslak and Apu Nahassa… passa… well, just Moe, just Moe.”)
– I do like the animation of the sentient hair piece, and how many bullets it takes for it to stay down.
– The reveal of Homer’s tattered hobo clothes to not be a costume is an easy joke, but I do like his harmonica-assisted lament of Bart and Lisa’s plight (“Mama took those batteries/she took ’em away/Mama took those batteries/Size double-A!”), swiftly cut off by Bart slamming the kitchen door, a door we’ve never seen before or since.
– Random and pointless, but I still like the reappearance of Poochie, if only to have him mowed down mercilessly.
– I guess Regis and Kathie Lee are the only guest stars to appear in live action. Can anyone prove me wrong? They make a pretty sweet cameo, with Kathie Lee as bitchy as ever (“That’s it! I’m going home! Dom DeLouise can interview himself!”)
– Homer and Marge take alien Maggie to Dr. Hibbert, who offers up his humble prescription (“Fire, and lots of it!” “Oh, that’s your cure for everything.”)
– Love the censor subversion of Kang’s exclamation “Holy flerking schnit!” If you’re not really paying attention, it basically sounds like the genuine article.
– Two great moments of male insecurity: upon finding Marge has “made it” with an alien monster, Homer sobs uncontrollably, only to quickly snap back and ask, “Was he better than me?” Then in the flashback we see the “mating” consisted of Kang shooting a ray gun at Marge’s head for a split second. She comments how fast it was, to which Kang defensively responds, “What are you implying?”
– Kang and Kodos pull out all the stops for their breeding program (“To put you at ease, we have recreated the most common spawning locations of your species. You may choose either the back seat of a Camaro, an airplane bathroom, a friend’s wedding, or the alley behind a porno theater.”) Marge remains indignant (“I absolutely refuse to go along with this… but since I have no choice, I’ll take the alley.”)
– Fair share of great lines on the Springer show: Homer’s response to Jerry asking how he felt about the situation (“It made me angry, Jerry. Angry and tired”), Kang’s “I hear all!!“, and the final bit of Maggie killing Springer, with Kang and Homer exchanging blows, to which Marge laments, “I’m so [bleep]ing embarrassed…”
– Rather dated ADR line when Kang and Kodos leave to wipe out all of Earth’s politicians, Bart comments, “Don’t forget Ken Starr!” Yeah, because Bart totally knows who that is.

17 thoughts on “207. Treehouse of Horror IX

  1. When I was a kid, I thought Moe was eating “Pencil-O’s.” That really confused me.

    Yeah, we’re pretty much at the point where the TOH segments are no longer hillarious, but compared to the rest of the seasons, they might as well be highlights. I think it’s about Season 15 or 16 where they start to blend in and become just as mediocre as the rest of their seasons.

    1. Originally, the “Regis and Kathie Lee” part was going to be “Ally McBeal” (which would explain why Regis and Kathie Lee was airing at night instead of in the morning), but Calista Flockhart (the actress who plays Ally McBeal) turned down an appearance.

      1. No disrespect intended, Canais – but I *do* think that most people who have heard of Calista Flockhart know that she played Ally McBeal. And that she’s Mrs Harrison Ford, too. 😉

  2. ” swiftly cut off by Bart slamming the kitchen door, a door we’ve never seen before or since”
    WELL ACTUALLY (major nitpicking here) the door appeared in Lisa the Vegetarian, when Bart gets accidentally slammed by Homer, and in a season 5 episode (can’t remember each one), where Marge makes everyone clean up only for them to walk through that door and everything become a dump again.

    1. Well la-dee-dah, Professor Braniac. I guess I was just exaggerating, since we’ve seen a door there maybe five times out of five hundred episodes. Also, said season 5 episode is “Bart Gets An Elephant.”

  3. The Jerry Springer episode is to me where the Halloween shows fell apart. I enjoyed Hell Toupee and the Itchy and Scratchy one, but after the third segment, all of the specials from then on were meh to down right dreadful. Sadly though, the next truly good special is not until XX’s Hitchcock take on Dial M for Murder.

  4. Ironically the maggy bit is the only one in this one I really enjoyed, and despite it being a blatant guest appearence by springer it’s just so much fun. I particularly love Maggy’s deep kodos voice “I’ll drive!” at the end.

    I’d wager this one even works if you don’t know who Gerry springer is, though being as I remember the point that most everyone I knew at school was laughing at Springer Antics, that is only a guess.

  5. Funny, I like the first two segments a lot, but feel the third one is kinda weak. The Jerry Springer stuff just doesn’t do it for me(other than Lisa’s great “And now he is dead” line) and the ending was pretty lame

  6. I’ve gotta say that my thoughts on this episode are the exact opposite of yours Mike. I think “Hell Toupee” is the best of the trio. Sure, it’s predictable and not great, but it does have a lot of hilarity to it.

    Tiny Toon is all right, nothing spectacular, but nothing horrifying either. I do like the animation for when Bart’s body is eaten by pirahnas. Oh, and Homer’s blue song about the batteries is pretty funny.

    On the other hand, “Starship Poopers” was the beginning of the end of an era for me. Yeah, the episode with Xena the year before was pretty dumb, but this is where it all went downhill. This was without a doubt the worst Halloween segment at the time and when I knew the magic was gone (at least for the Halloween episodes). Then would eventually come “Night of the Dolphin,” followed by “House of Whacks” and whatever the hell that Harry Potter shit was, and so on.

      1. lol Oops, my bad. That’s what I get for watching some of these out of order. :-p Yep, you’re right. Not sure why I thought it was before this one. Either way, the Xena episode is still pretty awful.

  7. This Halloween special was pretty meh, honestly. I don’t even feel like talking about the individual segments because all three were just kind of average. There wasn’t anything infuriating about them, but considering this is the Halloween special, you’d think it’d be less innocuous than this. There’s glimmers of good ideas, for sure, and there are plenty of good jokes here and there (I always got a laugh at Chief Wiggum giving up on trying to pronounce Apu’s surname), but overall, this Halloween special just didn’t do it for me. Although, thankfully, from what I remember, TOH 10 was better.

    1. “I don’t even feel like talking about the individual segments because all three were just kind of average.”

      That’s… pretty scathing, IMHO. (No disrespect intended, of course.)

      I don’t think many can disagree that TOH IX is the weakest of the first ten TOHs (although, truth be told, I don’t have as much love for TOH X as others seem to have). The intro is pretty weak too – just a Halloween version of the regular intro, with Bart using blood on the chalkboard and Homer failing to get out of the way of Marge’s car (which, of course, is now the case in the regular intro – and I wouldn’t be too surprised if it turned out this wasn’t a coincidence).

      But compared to much of the shit in the TOHs of the last twenty years, things like Snake’s hair coming to life, Regis and Kathie Lee, and Alien Maggie seem almost like gold – if, obviously, still not as memorable as things like Jack-in-the-Box Homer, Devil Flanders, and Hugo.

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