(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.