Original airdate: October 30, 2011
The premise: In “The Diving Bell and the Butterball,” Homer is left paralyzed by a spider bite, but finds he can still communicate through his flatulence. In “Dial ‘D’ for Diddly,” Flanders becomes a serial killer under the belief that God is giving him orders on who to rub out. In “In the Na’vi,” Bart goes native on Rigel 7 to infiltrate an alien race for their precious resources, that may or may not resemble a Hollywood film that was a phenomena for about six months before becoming culturally irrelevant.
The reaction: A problem that would plague modern day Halloween specials is at its worst here, every single segment, including the opening, is a TV or film parody, none of which are of the horror variety. The opening and the first segment are allusions to 127 Hours and The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, two arty independent films that most of the regular viewing audience probably hasn’t seen. Having seen Hours and not having seen Bell, neither segment works at all. Why does Homer drive all the way to a canyon to eat candy? And who the hell thought it was a great idea to do an entire segment of Homer farting? And capped off with a now irrelevant Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark joke. How scathing! What does any of this have to do with Halloween? The middle story is the closest to actually being “scary,” with Flanders killing some of our regulars (boring and bloodlessly, I might add). But, again, if you haven’t seen Dexter, what would you make out of the section where they redo the opening titles? This section seemed very familiar; it’s a five minute version of a twenty second joke from “Radio Bart” where Bart tricks Rod and Todd with his radio claiming he’s God, a bit which had more laughs in it than entire seasons of this show have now. The final segment is the longest, a “parody” of the terrifying film Avatar, by which I mean it just retells most of the movie with some softball jokes when it can be bothered. The story of Avatar is so trite and cliched, it couldn’t be easier to rip it apart, but the show can’t even do that right. Instead we get Tress MacNeille doing one of her five voices as Zoe Saldana alien, and a humorless action packed battle finale. This has gotta be the worst Halloween special yet.
Three items of note:
– They actually got Aron Ralston, whose story 127 Hours is based on, to do a voice for the opening, as the 911 operator Homer calls when he’s stuck. But they don’t even give him a joke. I guess it’s supposed to be funny that he says help will be on the way in twenty minutes, but Homer can’t wait that long to eat candy. They seriously couldn’t think of anything better for him to say? No funny hold music or anything? Come on.
– For a segment all about Flanders murdering a bunch of people, the middle story is extremely tame. I never thought you could make a decapitation boring, but when Flanders cuts off Mr. Burns’ head, it’s just… dull. He slings a rock at Snake’s head (why Homer wanted him dead, who knows), and we get a little blood. It’s not like I’m thirsty for violence or anything, but Halloween shows used to be a little chilling, a little shocking. Now it’s just a venue for “modern” pop culture references that may or may not be Halloween related. We also get a Wile E. Coyote/Road Runner bit when Flanders drops a giant boulder on Patty and Selma. There’s no twist to this, they just reference the old cartoons, and that’s it. And Flanders holds up a sign like Coyote does. Remember Homer dropping the trampoline off the cliff in “Bart’s Inner Child”? Yeah, me too.
– It was pretty disconcerting to see a lot of screen time devoted to alien Bart having sex and impregnating the Grand Midwife… I mean, Tress MacNeille alien. I don’t think she actually had a name. I didn’t ever want to hear Bart shout, “I thought you were using birth control!” Also, I sure am glad we got Jackie Mason back as Rabbi Krustofski for one line, commenting on the deflowering of a ten-year-old.
One good line/moment: I hated the shit out of this one, but I’ll admit I chuckled twice. First in the first segment where Homer goes to decorate the house (“Ah, Halloween, the one time of year where the squalor of our home works to our advantage!”) and second in the final segment with alien Bart sometime post-coitus (“I can’t believe I’m getting combat pay for this!”)