382. Treehouse of Horror XVII

(originally aired November 5, 2006)
Another year, another Halloween show. I’ll once again say that my biggest issue with these specials is the tone; despite the fantastical and insane things that are happening, characters seem to be nonplussed and crack wise like they would in any other episode. Take the first segment, where Homer, infected by an alien spore, gets an insatiable hunger and grows into a gigantic blob creature. Not only does he not seem very surprised or affected by his gross transformation, neither does anyone else, really. The family just sits and watches Homer, now a gargantuan green blob, slug through downtown with not even a single comment. Throw in a random appearance by Dr. Phil and it just feels like any old episode. The second segment has a similar issue, where Bart takes control of Krusty’s giant stone Golem to do his biding, but upon being given a voice, becomes a Jewish guilt-ridden mess. This ancient monster is fretting about the Simpson dining room and no one is really batting an eye about it. The last segment, told entirely in sepia tone, features a Great Depression-era Springfield being horrified by Orson Welles’ infamous War of the Worlds broadcast, believing it to be real. When the misunderstanding is revealed, this leaves Kang and Kodos an optimal opportunity to strike and lay siege to the planet. It’s an idea with promise, but what we got is everyone wallowing naked in the mud making animal noises, and a beaten-to-death final gag about the alien invasion mirroring the Iraq War. Another disappointing Treehouse of Horror. At least I don’t have many left to sit through.

Tidbits and Quotes
– Even the opening feels wrong. Once we get past the awkward CG cel-shaded stair case and corridor, we get Burns as our Cryptkeeper surrogate, this whole thing being a reference to Tales of the Crypt. It’s cheesy and lame, but then all of a sudden ends with Moe being gruesomely shut in an iron maiden. Though I do like his astonishment of his blood spelling out the episode title (“Woah, look at that! My blood’s a genius! With fancy Roman numerals and everything!”)
– The very light, cavalier tone of the first segment isn’t helped with a Sir Mixs-a-Lot remix of “Baby Likes Fats” as Homer gobbles down a group of umpires and the guests at the Facts of Life reunion.
– I’ll admit, I laughed at Dr. Phil’s outro line (“Food does not equal love!”) He’s a good sport. Then again, he also did Scary Movie 4, so I’m pretty sure he’s up for doing just about anything.
– I kind of like Richard Lewis as the neurotic Golem (“This is the voice I’ve got? Sounds like I should be selling egg creams at Brighton Beach! …that’s what we call Jewish humor. You don’t have to understand it because the words sound funny!”) And who better to play his Jewish bride than Fran Drescher? I like the concept of this segment too, but not much was really done with it.
– A lot of the jokes in the last segment really fall flat: Grampa referring to the First World War, Homer flat-out calling it a “war of the worlds,” Krabappel handing the kids cigarettes, Homer randomly killing people in a panic, and later feeling proud of it, and of course the horrible bit of the townsfolk nude in the mud, an idea that Marge of all people pitched. There’s a few jokes I did like though (“Astronomers say the ominous capsules originated from Earth’s closest neighbor.” “Flanders?”)
– The great Maurice LaMarche voices Orson Welles, and does a spectacular job as always. Though it’s kind of lame, I like the inclusion of “Nose bud…” Another good gag is his live sound effects artist quitting upon being given an overly complicated stage direction (“Now they’re playing the xylophone while bowling near an airport!” “SCREW YOU.”)
– I feel the ending with the Iraq allusion could have worked if they had cut it off short. Kang lamenting how he thought they would be greeted as liberators, and the hearts and minds gag all work, but then it keeps going with talk about Operation Enduring Occupation and weapons of mass destruction and it kind of ruins the bit. Also, I swear I remember in the original airing, over the final shot of the decimated city, there was a voice-over by Kang saying, “This is just how Iraq will be.” Or something like that. I remember being furious after watching that; the joke had been made some incredibly obvious, and they felt the need to clarify in case any dummies in the audience didn’t get it. It’s not in the version I have, so maybe they cut it out of future airings. An unusually smart decision from Zombie Simpsons? How odd.

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7 responses to “382. Treehouse of Horror XVII

  1. Ohh… Down to one paragraph now!! Shit!

    This episode is AWFUL. I thought the War of the Worlds segment had a clever bit (and was generally pretty well-produced overall), with the showing-the-sound-fx and whatnot but eh… and the Tales from the Crypt thing? I love that show, and it’s cool that Danny Elfman did the theme for it and the Simpsons so that’s nice but yeah…. sucks. Sigh.

    Funny you coined HOMER THE FOOD MONSTER for last episode and then the very first segment of this episode could have that as the alt. title, easily..

  2. I liked the opening, myself.

    The blob segment was so-so; again, it didn’t really feel spooky, the ending also felt cruel (kill all the homeless people? Seriously?). But I did like Dr. Phil’s appearance (“Homer, your family’s here. And you’ve gotta help me help them help you help me help you!”).

    The second segment was pretty forgettable, but I did like wrinkle-heavy, bloodshot-eyed Krusty in HD (“That’s right, LOOK AT YOUR HERO!”).

    “A lot of the jokes in the last segment really fall flat: Grampa referring to the First World War, Homer flat-out calling it a “war of the worlds,” Krabappel handing the kids cigarettes, Homer randomly killing people in a panic, and later feeling proud of it, and of course the horrible bit of the townsfolk nude in the mud, an idea that Marge of all people pitched. There’s a few jokes I did like though (“Astronomers say the ominous capsules originated from Earth’s closest neighbor.” “Flanders?”)”

    I actually thought a lot of that stuff was pretty funny. And the townspeople wallowing in the mud is classic screwed up logic. I’d also add “What’s so great about this depression?” and this bit, by Wiggum: “Yeah, we’re being invaded… by a POMPOUS RADIO HAM. How does that feel?”

    About the ending: I saw this on initial broadcast and didn’t hear the Iraq line. IIRC, this episode was leaked before the premiere and because of the backlash from that incredibly obvious line, the producers omitted it at the last minute. It was a good decision.

  3. I could have sworn I read somewhere (I thought it was SNPP.com but I can’t find it there now) that the “Tales from the Crypt” opening parody was originally written for “Treehouse of Horror VI”. They probably abandoned it the first time around because it would have been too hard to animate on a TV budget in 1995. Add it to the pile of deleted material that Zombie Simpsons has felt compelled to drudge up and use when they run out of ideas.

  4. Sadly, this Halloween special is better than all of the ones since X.

    For me, the Halloween specials stopped being Halloween stories when they put Jerry Springer into one of them and made Maggie the daughter of Kang. It felt like they wanted to do something with Jerry just for the sake of doing something, but the only way to do it was to throw it into a Halloween episode. As such, THoH X is the end of the Halloween specials and they just wanted to do random crap they couldn’t fit into a 20 minute episode for whatever reason.

  5. I absolutely love how quickly and casually Homer is ready to chop up the female golem.

    Incidentally, I know they don’t have much time for the Halloween stories, but I’d be interested to know how in the hell Krusty managed to get the Golem of Prague.

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