249. Treehouse of Horror XI

(originally aired November 1, 2000)
Ah, the first Halloween episode to be aired after Halloween. It became almost a tradition in itself; it always came as a result of FOX’s baseball coverage running to the end of October, and it always infuriated me. It became so predictable that even the show itself started commenting on it (“Remember Halloween? It was last week.”) Eventually FOX started their Sunday shows back in September again, but that was a year or so before I gave up on the series. And plus it’s not like it made the Treehouse of Horrors any less terrible. This one is absolutely the weakest so far, especially coming off the heels of the awesome one last year. There’s nothing particularly offensive about them, they’re just overall not terribly clever or funny. “G-G-Ghost D-D-Dad” is indicative of that, where Homer dies and must perform one good deed as an apparition to get into Heaven. There’s one or two smile-worthy moments, but is really nothing special. Homer is stuck in jerkass mode here. The opening where he acts nonplussed after almost getting killed numerous times is kind of aggravating; while I acknowledge that’s the point of the joke, it just reminds me of this new characterization of him feeling he’s invincible and awesome.

“Scary Tales Can Come True” is an amalgam of riffs on fairy tales as peasant Bart and Lisa traverse through the dark woods encountering trolls, the three bears and a wicked witch seeking to eat them. Again, nothing all too memorable. I’ll say particular to this segment, and also the one after it, a lot of really graphic violence. Goldilocks getting mauled, Rapunzel getting scalped, the witch getting cooked alive, there’s some brutal stuff in here. I feel later Treehouse of Horrors would ramp up the gore factor, I guess as a result of TV standards being more and more lenient, but that doesn’t make the shows any better or more scary. In fact, it kind of hurts it, since a lot of times the violence is so ridiculously cartoonish that it sucks any dramatic tension out of the scene. Compare Martin’s death in “Treehouse of Horror VI” to anything here and you can see the difference. Sometimes violence is best left to the imagination.

“Night of the Dolphin” features Lisa’s humanitarian effort in freeing a captive dolphin backfiring on her, when the aquatic creatures mobilize and come ashore, seeking to take back the land from the humans. This segment is just as violent, with decapitation, bashing faces in, skewering through torsos, and much much more fun. I sound like I’m some kind of harpy media watchdog complaining about the “offensive” content, but just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should. There’s nothing really funny about the over-the-top violence, at least the way it’s done here, so it all kind of feels for naught. On the whole the segment just felt very silly. When head dolphin Snorky reveals he can talk, it felt like too much, even though that’s the only way they could convey the story point. Made even worse is there was like no lip sync, so it felt like someone poorly performing a puppet. There’s a nice The Birds reference and a few chuckles around, but a lot of it just fell flat. “Treehouse of Horror X” really felt like a last hurrah for Halloween shows, and this episode does more to prove that. Hopefully there will be a few shining segments in the future, but given what I can remember about them, I’m not all that hopeful. But who knows…

Tidbits and Quotes
– I do like the Munsters opening, the character parallels really do work, and I love that show. The townspeople arrive to do the family in, save Lisa of course, as a purebred human, who walks off as nonchalantly as possible.
– Nice bit at the kitchen table where Marge has cut out Beetle Bailey from the paper, tired of her husband ogling Miss Buxley. She suggests he read Cathy, which Homer declines (“Too much baggage.”)
– It’s really dumb, but I do like Hibbert’s explanation of broccoli being deadly (“Why, it tries to warn you itself with its terrible taste.”) Also great are the medical attendants, who have to tone it down in front of the kids (“Sure is easy when they’re stiff like this. …and very sad.”)
– This may feel like the nittiest of picks, but I kept trying to figure out to what effect ghost Homer could affect objects on Earth and vice versa. He can touch and hold things, which is necessary for the end, but he has no organs as evidenced by the Squishee scene. Nelson is able to attack him, but how can a real person physically touch a ghost? I know this is so nit picky, but it’s just what I was thinking while watching.
– I like Bart’s solution to the immortal hot-cold porridge dilemma: just mix the two together and you get the perfect temperature (“This doesn’t take a genius.”)
– Bart and Lisa dash out of the three bears’ house, and Bart bars the door shut with a chair. But we saw twice that it opens out the other way. Yet when Goldilocks tries to open the door to escape, it doesn’t budge. I sure hope someone gets fired for that blunder.
– Nice homage to The Brady Bunch in the witch’s seemingly fake boyfriend George Cauldron (“Maybe he can set me up with Ed Ladle!”) And good callback when he’s shown to be real at the end (“Is Suzanne ready yet?” “Almost, just give her another 20 minutes.” “But the concert’s at eight.”)
– The only thing I liked in the dolphin segment was Sideshow Mel’s over dramatic set-up to Snorky talking, which almost saves the bit (“Surely, he cannot speak!”) Then later Homer mentions one of man’s greatest accomplishments to be the glory hole. Um… now, a glory hole is a furnace used in glass blowing, but I doubt Homer knows what that is. But I don’t want to know why he knows about the other kind of glory hole either. What the fuck’s with that?
– Kang and Kodos get squeezed in at the very end, annoyed they were left out of the show (“Do we want to do a commercial for something called ‘Old Navy’?” “Work is work.”)

13 responses to “249. Treehouse of Horror XI

  1. “but just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should. ”

    I know I’m alone in this, but that’s how I feel about most South Park episodes. Usually clever and stuff, but kinda just boring and usually too thin to spread over half an hour. They have some good ones though.

    As for this episode of the Simpsons… UGH. First segment is sorta watchable, the other 2 suck big time.

    • Also “This may feel like the nittiest of picks, but I kept trying to figure out to what effect ghost Homer could affect objects on Earth and vice versa. ”

      hah, that’s the whole concept of the game GHOST TRICK!! You’re dead and the only thing you can do is manipulate objects. Actually, it seems like that’s a pretty common and popular ghost convention, which is sorta odd and nonsensical…

      • Ah! Nuts to watching the Simpsons slowly drown into absurdity, let’s all play Ghost Trick again.

  2. I recently rewatched the Treehouse of Horror that had “Send in the Clones,” and found it to hold up surprisingly well. It felt like a classic era THOH. The other segments were disappointing of course. And I remember enjoying “It’s the Grand Pumpkin, Milhouse.” So, don’t worry, there are still a couple good THOHs out there.

  3. Eh, but most of them from here on out are just exercises in how many characters they can slice apart or impale in 22 minutes.

  4. The “Snorky speak man” bit becomes funnier when you translate it to Spanish:

  5. One other sex joke they slipped in was “Mmmm….sugar walls.”

  6. The bitch who writes this blog never stops complaining

  7. I like the first two segments well enough. Ghost Homer dying a second time by eating the broccoli is pretty great. The dolphin one is just too silly and dumb and isn’t funny.

  8. After the good Halloween special last year, this one was somewhat dull. None of the segments really stand out as great compared to previous ones. The last two also have tons of extreme violence as well, which would be fine if they didn’t go overboard with it. The Mirkin era Halloween specials had the right amount, this just goes too far. Not a very good Halloween special.

    Also, who on earth decided to air the specials in November? Just air it on the last Sunday of October, doesn’t that work?

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