(originally aired November 7, 2004)
I’m thinking last season’s special was just an anomaly, since now we’re back to them being bland and mildly irritating. In “The Ned Zone,” a freak accident causes Flanders to foresee people’s deaths by touching them. Y’know, just like that movie, The Dead Zone! Except it’s “The Ned Zone” because it’s about Flanders! I feel sometimes they just choose the parody title then make it work afterwards, since there’s really no point in specifically giving Flanders this ability. Homer manages to squeeze his jerkass behavior into Halloween shows now too: he’s the one who gives Ned a concussion, then is basically responsible for Dr. Hibbert’s death, all to get back his stupid frisbee. When Ned witnesses a future of him shooting Homer dead, he is about to leave town when Homer throws a gun in his hand and incessantly taunts him to shoot him. He is so unbelievably annoying and aggravating in this scene that you really do want Ned to shoot him. When he destroys the gun, Ned then sees that Homer will cause an explosion at the plant, killing everyone in town. Which is like Dead Zone too. Even in their most extensive parodies like “The Shinning” and “Nightmare on Evergreen Terrace,” it seemed the series always had a unique spin on things. Here it’s just going through the motions. Everyone ends up dying, and Homer is rewarded for his intolerable buffoonery as God gives him back his frisbee. Wonderful.
“Four Beheadings and a Funeral” brings us back to 19th century London, as Lisa and Bart step in for Sherlock Holmes and Watson as they try to track down the elusive Muttonchop Murderer, who’s been offing streetwalkers with the mystical Seven Swords of Osiris. British accents are attempted for the Simpsons, some work (Castellaneta), some don’t (Kavner), but for some reason no one else has an accent. Seeing what all the characters are up to in this new reality is kind of interesting: Comic Book Guy runs an exotic antiquities shop, Moe’s is now an opium den, and Apu is a local merchant, whose pigmentation makes him automatically suspicious (“Lock ’em up until we find someone darker, boys!”) The end twist of Wiggum being the killer for the most childish of reasons is pretty good, until they extend it and extend it with Kang and Kodos, and having it all be Ralph’s dream. But whatever, I guess if I had to pick, this segment is probably the best: it’s self contained in a fantasy, a few of the jokes work, and best of all, we don’t see a lot of Homer and he’s not an asshole.
“In the Belly of the Boss” is a parody of the famous scary movie Fantastic Voyage. Maggie ends up shrunk down and ingested by Mr. Burns, leaving it up to the rest of the Simpson family to save her in Professor Frink’s miniature vessel. Homer’s a dickhead in this one too, loudly ignoring Frink’s instructions and delaying their mission to save his infant daughter. When they finally do get Maggie, the ship becomes to heavy to pilot back, so someone must stay behind. The baby can’t weigh that much, there’s nothing else on that ship they can leave behind? But whatever, after suggesting one of his kids sacrifice themselves, Homer begrudgingly stays behind, and ultimately ends up regrowing to normal size within Mr. Burns’ flesh. This is the only thing in this segment, and really in this whole episode that I really like; seeing him grow and stretch out Burns’ flesh is wonderfully disturbing, as is him going out to dinner and the final dance number. It’s sort of reminiscent of the family going inside-out and dancing to “One” in “Treehouse of Horror V.” But I feel that’s giving this show way too much credit. Nothing in this show is really too awful, it’s just kind of… blah. And if there’s any show that shouldn’t be ‘blah,’ it’s the Halloween show.
Tidbits and Quotes
– I like the cheesy sitcom opening with Kang and Kodos (“A fine meal like that deserves a hyper-galactic promotion.” “Hyper-galactic?!”) and the Perfect Strangers outro.
– The writers really like that frisbee bit, carrying it through the entire segment. I hope they were amused, because I’m not.
– Hibbert saying “Welcome back, dawg” to Ned really bothers me. It’s like when they had him, Carl, Lou and Tatum drive in the same car so Homer could do the black power salute, or when Tatum punched him and said black-on-black violence must end… it’s like Hibbert being black is now a “thing,” whereas before it didn’t matter what the fuck skin color he had.
– The Rosie O’Donnell musical gag is so labored and obvious; my brain groaned loudly the second I saw that marquee.
– If Homer pestering Ned to shoot him wasn’t enough, we have Bart and Lisa talking about how everyone in town wants to shoot their father, and Lisa giving her approval for it. I know at this point Homer is no longer just an ordinary citizen like he used to be, but it just bothers me that we’re at the point where everyone in town hates Homer and wants him dead. Yeah, this is a Halloween show, but it’s no different than in “The Great Louse Detective” when everyone was attacking the Homer effigy, including Homer himself. Ugh.
– “I did it! I changed the future!” “What have I done? I’ve changed the future for the worst!” Thanks for narrating, Ned, I’d be lost unless this show explained everything for me.
– At least the show gets its tired British jabs out of the way quickly with the Scotland Yard motto sign and Marge’s dialogue.
– Homer throwing skinny, scraggly addicts to slow down Bart and Lisa is a pretty good gag (“Opium ruuuuules!”)
– I like Wiggum’s last words as his balloon pops (“Remember me for my police work and not the murders!”)
– Nice R. Crumb-inspired drawing of the “retro-virus” (“Seriously though, touch one and you’re dead.”)
– Normally I’m all for gratuitous nudity, but the jokes with Marge and her swimsuit… ehh.