292. Treehouse of Horror XIII

(originally aired November 3, 2002)
Here’s the part where I talk about how depressing it is that these Halloween shows are declining in quality, since I can’t think of any new way to start these. Or I could just jump in immediately. That’s a better idea. “Send in the Clones” is a decidedly goofy segment where Homer buys a magic hammock only to find it creates mindless clones of himself. At first he reaps the benefits of them, able to fulfill multiple boring family and work duties at once, but when he finds the clones are capable of terrible things, he abandons them all out of town… with the hammock. Soon an army of Homers is created and starts destroying the town, and they must be stopped. I kind of like the first half of this, with all the dummy Homers subbing for the real one, but leading up to the end things feel kind of lazy. The Homer clones eat everything and all go to the Duff brewery? Come on, that’s too easy. It almost seemed like they were setting up the clones were going to off Homer, which could have been interesting, but then they turn it into a joke (“It would take three clones to kill the original Homer! …I mean, four!”) That’s another odd thing about this segment, everyone acts so casually and jokey when there’s strange or horrible things afoot. It’s like a normal episode when the characters don’t seem to care, but even more bizarre here given the fantastical things that are happening. Oh, and the ending was completely obvious too.

“The Fight to Creep and Scare Harms” is really strange, I’m not even sure what to make of it. Lisa sees a tombstone of a young man killed by gun violence, and is inspired to plead with the town to ban all guns. Her wish is granted, but when Springfield is defenseless, gunmen of the old west rise from the grave, led by said young man William Bonney, aka Billy the Kid. I get the idea here, that without guns, five men are able to completely take over the town with their six shooters, but it really doesn’t feel right. Why can’t they get help from another town over? Then there’s the scene where they’re all at Moe’s, and the whole Simpson family is there of course, why couldn’t anyone else just ambush them with giant bats? Or torch the place? I dunno. South Park unintentionally took this idea (Simpsons did it!) in their “Pinewood Derby” episode, but it works a lot better there. Then Homer steals Frink’s time machine, goes back and has everyone repeatedly shoot the graves of the dead ghouls, causing them to rise and run like hell, and Lisa cops that guns are the answer. I can’t even say I hate this one, even though I want to, because I feel I really don’t understand what they were going for. I’m still puzzled.

“The Island of Dr. Hibbert” is the only segment that kind of works… kind of. The Simpsons vacation on an island resort run by Dr. Hibbert, who had long ago gone mad. Turns out it wasn’t the best idea, as Hibbert has been spending his days turning humans into animals, and the Simpsons are next on the chopping block. Seeing all the animal-ized characters is visually interesting, and neat how it reflects their characters, like Agnes Skinner as a kangaroo with Skinner in her pouch, Wiggum as a pig (not much to change to the model there), and of course Disco Shrew. But why is Dr. Hibbert doing this? He has one mad spiel about how he feels humans should never have evolved, but it doesn’t really fit who he is. It’s basically they wanted to do a Island of Dr. Moreau parody, and figured they had to go with Hibbert since he’s the doctor. I almost feel like an idiot talking about reason or sense in a Halloween show, but you need at least some in there. Burns and Willie work as villains since they’re already crass and mean, Hibbert not so much. But it’s the best of the three, though that’s not saying an awful lot. Definitely the worst one so far, though I have a creeping feeling I’ll be repeating that in later seasons.

Tidbits and Quotes
– The opening seance with Maude, voiced again by long last by Maggie Roswell, felt uncomfortable to me, and really showed how the writers really had no concern about dealing with offing Maude. To create such crass comedy based on senselessly killing the wife of an important character (“Maude! You look as pretty as the day I buried you!”) It just kind of made me cringe. And not much has changed: the latest Halloween show where they pathetically tried to parody Dexter showed a devilish Maude apparently being Satan’s love slave. What the fuck, guys?
– Really, why didn’t the first segment end with the Homer clones trying to get rid of Homer? It was set up, it makes the most sense, hell, they even released a promo card of the clones ganging up on the original. They could intimidate him with their dumb clone voices, and it could be creepy and weird, but still funny since they’re mindless Homers. But instead we’ll end with getting rid of them with helicopters carrying giant donuts. The potential for creepiness and scares in a Halloween show is basically gone, and been replaced by the same sad attempts at comedy we see in the show proper.
– The only joke in the segment I like is the slow bit where Homer shoots the clones that know how to get back into town. It’s pretty well timed. I didn’t even laugh at Peter Griffin in the sea of clones; any pot shots the show makes at other media nowadays feels kind of pathetic, given how poor the series has gotten.
– Going off of “Brand New Badge,” I bizarrely didn’t mind Maggie shooting all the mobsters, but her apparently being a mass shooter would become one of her personality traits is something that’s not so cool with me. So here we are, an episode later, doing a gag showing a giant box labeled “Maggie’s Guns.” It’s a Halloween show, but still, what?
– The only joke in this segment I like is when Billy gets upset when Homer starts playing piano. He said to play pian-ee, which is more like jangly old Western-type music.
– Why does Frink pull Homer aside to tell him about the time machine? Why the fuck didn’t he just go back in time himself? They didn’t even bother to explain it.
– Frink’s dying speech as a turkey is good, but kind of went on too long.
– I love whenever Marge actually attempts to be funny (“‘House of Pain’? This must be where you pay the bill!”)
– Cat creature Marge I’m sure set off signals for a lot of furries out there. Even though it’s so dumb that he didn’t notice, I love how shocked Homer is by it after the fact (“Oh my God! She’s become a monster! Which I have to admit, I sort of suspected during the sex.”)
– Why would Hibbert turn Flanders into a female cow? Because we need a joke where Homer has to milk someone he doesn’t like. Why not make it Patty or Selma? Actually… no, that would be incredibly creepy…
– I like that Comic Book Guy is the leader of the manimal clan, it kind of fits him that he, normally an social outcast, would be on top in this fantastical situation.
– Kang and Kodos get wedged in at the end. It’s feeling more and more like an afterthought lately (“Look at that island! It’s shaped like our number four! Makes you think.”)

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18 responses to “292. Treehouse of Horror XIII

  1. Furfag here. Yes Cat Marge did turn me on.

  2. The billy the kid gun violence thing is stupid since there already did a VERY similar story with the monkey paw segment where Lisa, again, wishes for world peace and the aliens invade with primitive weapons.

    Peter Griffith being there is hardly a pot shot. It’s just a funny stupid joke. I liked that one.

    I recall being alright with the first two segments and really not liking the last one. Probably because it’s so goddamn stupid. The parody segments and Simpson parodies in general in this era are piss poor and serve less as an homage and more of a way to fill up a few minutes with a story that has a built in outline already written.

  3. Yeah, my opinion of this show is about the same as Patrick’s. I remember this episode running a lot in syndication; during that crucial 2002-2005ish period where I paid most attention to the Simpsons I already found the third segment profoundly meh, although I remember particularly enjoying the first one. Mostly on a pseudo-pubescent “heheh Homer is dumb” level, but still.

  4. I HATE everything about Segment 2. I refuse to use it’s actual title…what a steaming pile of awfulness that is! And, shouldn’t Lisa be SMART enough to know Billy the Kid’s real name? It sure seems like it, especially is such a famous outlaw were buried in her hometown. Fuck this one.

  5. *its actual title

    Damn English nerd in me won’t allow that to stand!

  6. Man, I think you may be just primed to hate the show at this point. This is the last of the THOH episodes that I actually find more good than bad, with the clone short being the best of the three. Yeah, there is no horror element to it, but the gags work for me. The second segment is weaker, but has some memorable bits such as Kaiser Wllhelm trying to convince everyone he’s a cowboy. The third act doesn’t do much for me at all. It feels the most “Jean era” of the segments.

  7. I think “Send in the Clones” is great, even with the ending as it is. It reminds me of “Time and Punishment” or Homer’s nightmare from THOHII where they make things go back to status quo ever so slightly. It also had a good balance between “normal” and “bizarre magic,” where people just accept what is happening, like in many classic THOH’s.

    Segment 2 is not a THOH segment. It is a mistake that ended up on screen.

    And Segment 3 would have been great and, dare-I-say, classic had they made one simple change. Five words: “The Island of Dr. Monroe.”

    • Hey, that would be great! Monroe could have faked his death to go to the island, and have some bullshit psychoanalytical theory about how all humans wish to be more primal like animals… that makes a lot more sense.
      Wow, I guess I’m alone in not digging on “Clones.” I wanted to like it, it started with promise, but I think it just kind of took the easy route.

  8. I always thought SEND IN THE CLONES was earlier cuz it’s actually good.. really good. Easy, like you said, but just really entertaining. The next 2 segments aren’t very good but send in the clones is fantastic, for real….

    • Yeah I recall seeing it first run, and at the time I was loving Family Guy, and it seemed like a titan giving a nod to a dinky show (that ended up cancelled).

      Seeing for sure where this one falls in terms of quality of the show itself and the season (we are in bad season territory) is a little strange.

      I think a lot of us were inoculated from the badness of new simpsons by the constant syndication of the old good eps. we had airing at 6 and 10 in addition to the sunday show.

      I think I bailed when bad, late era simpsons began to show up in syndication more often than good, older ones.

  9. I remember there was a big deal made at the time that “Send In the Clones” used digital animation to do all those duplicate Homers. And then the entire series went digital just a few weeks later. For a few weeks, the No Homers Club was flooded with confused fans asking “Digital? So, what, the show’s going to be CGI from now on? Whose dumb idea was that?”

    I recall that the initial FOX press release about this episode did mistakenly identify the title of the third segment as “The Island of Dr. Monroe”. And yes, if it actually had been Dr. Marvin Monroe, I do think it would have worked a lot better.

    Oh God, the shitstorm that flew after “The Fright to Creep and Scare Harms” aired. About 50% of it was “What the fuck does the title even mean?”; the other 50% was “They already did a zombie story ten years ago! This tarnishes the memory of Treehouse of Horror III!”. Personally, my only gripe with it is how unfunny it all is. And then it takes a left turn with Frink’s time machine and ends with Moe saying “Now to get me some caveman hookers!” Like…the fuck?

  10. “South Park unintentionally took this idea (Simpsons did it!) in their “Pinewood Derby” episode, but it works a lot better there.”

    Wait, what do you mean? They originally took the idea at first, but then deleted it all and changed it to something new at the last minute according to the commentary. Can you see the original on the dvd or something?

    • Well some of it stayed in the episode, like with the alien holding up the entire planet with one pistol. There’s still that basic idea in there; watching this segment just kind of reminded me how much better that episode was.

  11. I agree about Hibbert. I don’t understand why they didn’t use Marvin Monroe since he came back in like Season 15. The only reason I like that segment is because I like the story of The Island of Dr Moreau. In fact, just on the name alone, Monroe would have been better than Hibbert. Overall though, the entire episode is just lackluster, and yet, it is better than three specials before it.

    • Monroe’s sudden re-emergance was so goddamn stupid, wasn’t it?

      “I’ve been very very sick.” or something, the end. Then never seen since then. The fuck?

      Like, really, I kinda want to know what they’ll say on the probably-never-to-even-be-released season 15 dvd commentary for that one…

  12. Hell, it’s not like they ever cared about consistency before either. I mean look, Dr Nick dies in the movie, but he is back next season. Plus, this is a Halloween special, so there is no need for continuity to even exist.

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