360. Treehouse of Horror XVI

(originally aired November 6, 2005)
FOX airing the Halloween show in November had become almost an aggravating tradition now, enough for the series itself to acknowledge it. The opening sequence was so, so cathartic when I first saw it, with Kang and Kodos desperately trying to speed up time during baseball season so they can air the Treehouse of Horror, but end up going to far and accidentally obliterate all of existence. If that’s our beginning, then the rest of the show must be pure gold! Well, not exactly. While there are some entertaining moments throughout, this is just another mildly disappointing Halloween show. First up, “Bartificial Intelligence,” where the Simpsons adopt a robot boy to replace Bart when he falls into a deep coma. I like the vague not-so-distant future setting, and there’s some great direction by David Silverman to give a bit of a creepy atmosphere, but ultimately it’s not extremely interesting. I kind of like the ending where Bart ransacks the discarded robots who took him for his revenge, but everything else feels kind of blah.

“Survival of the Fattest” is definitely the worst, where Burns invites a group of people to his lush estate in order to hunt them for sport. This is a conceit that feels like a one-off gag from the show proper than an entire Halloween segment. There’s nothing really spooky about it; it’s just an exercise to see how many beloved secondary characters we can kill off in six minutes, which I guess is good enough for the writers at this point. And when I think Halloween, I think Terry Bradshaw. The last one “I’ve Grown a Costume to Your Face,” a scornful witch curses the citizens of Springfield to become whoever, or whatever, their costume is. This is the most Halloween-y of them all, and it still doesn’t feel right. Some people are happy with their new personas, some aren’t, and it all comes to a spectacular non-conclusion, which is admittedly kind of amusing. The biggest problem I’m seeing with these recent Treehouse of Horrors is tone. The non-spooky content in some segments also shares some blame, but even when it was being comical, Halloween specials in the past always had this really unique quality to them. Whether they be playing up the tension or mimicing suspenseful music cues or camera moves from the movies they were parodying, they didn’t feel like the regular episodes. Conversely, despite their impossible content, each of these three segments would work fine if put in regular rotation.

Tidbits and Quotes
– The Kang and Kodos opening is definitely the best part of the show. The animation of the entire universe (including God Himself) being sucked up in a vortex is pretty awesome.
– The pacing in the first segment is kind of odd. Bart has just gone into the coma when Hibbert suggests she get a robot boy to replace him. He then jokes about being glad that Bart isn’t dead so now he can keep billing them, twice, and gets mad at Homer and Marge for not laughing. Their kid’s in a permanent coma, what’s his damage?
– Now we have music montages in Halloween shows too, with Bart and David fighting for family and friend’s affections to the tune of The Eagles. Again, this does not feel Halloween-y to me.
– Really well timed bit where David uses Homer as a buffer for robo-Bart’s buzzsaw, but then has absolutely no problem ripping through them both (“Ohhh, those were my good pants!”) Then, I don’t know why they tagged on the weird exorcist ending, you could have just ended it on Homer and his new small robo-legs giving out.
– The second segment is really a big dead zone. The only thing I smirked at was the Blue-Haired Lawyer tying up a legal document to defend Burns’ human poaching, and then Burns shoots him. Terry Bradshaw doesn’t do a bad job, it’s just a role that doesn’t fit in a Halloween show.
– I don’t know if this is the first time it’s mentioned, but the Crazy Old Man’s new moniker is Old Jewish Man, which feels way too on-the-nose. And that’s not another Jew joke, I swear.
– I laughed hard at Sideshow Mel’s “Burn her… gift certificate!” It’s just like “Surely he cannot speak!” in the dolphin story, I love whenever Mel makes a grand announcement in the middle of a crowd scene.
– Wiggum is now Jared from the Subway ads (“I’m only a little overweight and sexually ambiguous!”) I don’t entirely get this gag. Did it seem like Jared was gay? I believe he’s married. It just feels like a weird shot.
– Maggie turning everyone into pacifiers and flying off to the Bewitched theme is a pretty good out. Moe’s PSA for adult illiteracy, with guest star Dennis Rodman… not so much. I like the idea of characters breaking the fourth wall for the Halloween show, but it just felt kind of random how they did it here.

13 thoughts on “360. Treehouse of Horror XVI

  1. ^I heard that, too. Actually, Jared lives about 15 minutes away from me hah. I’ve only ran into him once, but he has (or had…?) these huge parties in his apartment (which is above a Subway, no joke, in Bloomington) every night. He seems like a decent dude, someone told me all he does is play NES games and watch porn all day.

    While I know hunting humans isn’t a new theme, “Survival of the Fattest” reminds me of that awful John Leguizamo movie THE PEST so fucking much, and that’s awful.

    1. Hey, my dad lives in Bloomington too, and one of his friends went to college with Jared when he was still 300 pounds.

  2. I concur about the lack of Halloween-ish tone to the last few THOHs. They basically feel like regular episodes except with more gratuitous violence and fantastical situations. It would only get worse in future specials, with shorts like “Mr. & Mrs. Simpson”, which felt very out-of-place.

    The third segment was probably my favorite, though in fairness it doesn’t really amount to much. I did appreciate David Silverman’s direction throughout all three segments, though.

  3. You know, David Silverman really is a super talented individual. Just imagine some of these zombie era episodes without his direction, or at least his influence. They’d be even more worthless, since the direction and the (often-overdone but still good) sound design/musical cues are about the only “high-quality” elements of the episodes at this point.

  4. “– I don’t know if this is the first time it’s mentioned, but the Crazy Old Man’s new moniker is Old Jewish Man, which feels way too on-the-nose. And that’s not another Jew joke, I swear.”
    For the record, his name technically always was Old Jewish Man, at least in the scripts and to the writers. He was only referred to as Crazy Old Man once, and even then it could have been referring to the group (The Crazy Old Man Singers) and not the man himself. The implication from the commentaries is they used that name as a place-holder, but then James L. Brooks got annoyed by it, so the writers kept it.

  5. “I’m only a little overweight and sexually ambiguous!” Oh, he WAS certainly ambiguous, we know that now.

  6. I never really got the baseball bit being as I’m in the Uk and airing is weerd here, so I never exactly folloed what was going on with that.
    In general though I did find some of this one refreshing, particularly the comment that homer and marge making love would be not fit to be seen on tv but lots of people being shot by burns would be fine (a shame they had to undercut it a moment later).

    the Ai parody I also liked for it’s very bart esque ending, then again having read the Brian aldis short story the film Ai is based on, I probably had more background amusement to see this one simpsonized.

    the final costume sequence however i did rather like, particularly hibbard as Dracula’s wonderfully creepy “Off we go to the gorilla hospital” and apu d2.

    No where near the classics of course, but certainly at least a treehouse of horror that does something different as opposed to just same old shlock.

    1. Major League Baseball’s playoffs and the World Series air on FOX and run into October, with the final game possibly being on the last Sunday of the month. This conflicts with The Simpsons trying to air their Halloween episode on Halloween weekend. For quite a few seasons the show would air the Sunday after Halloween. Now that their are a bunch of FOX Sports channels airing the playoff games, the THOH episode can usually air in mid-October before the actual World Series starts.

  7. For as bad as it is, at least Survival of the Fattest is based on a horror movie compared to the other two. I mean, really, an AI parody? I guess I shouldn’t be surprised given this show has done Jerry Springer and whatever the hell you want to call that crap in XII, but come on. At least put something interesting into the mix. It dragged on for way too long and was ultimately boring. As for the third segment, it was pretty much just a rehash of Easy Bake Coven without any of the fun. The ending had to be the biggest pile of pandering I have ever seen from a Halloween episode though. Dennis Rodman, really? You went there?

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