556. Treehouse of Horror XXV

Original airdate: October 19, 2014

The premise:
In “School in Hell,” Bart and Lisa are transported to a school of the damned, where the former greatly excels. “A Clockwork Yellow” is a  Clockwork Orange “parody.” In “The Others,” the Simpsons are surprised to find themselves haunted by their Tracey Ullman-era predecessors.

The reaction: Another season, another subpar Halloween. Though to be fair, “School” is actually the strongest segment I’ve seen in a while. It’s got some promising ideas, like the hell school being more supportive and nurturing to Bart than Springfield Elementary, and there’s something wonderfully disturbing about the idea of the ending, where Homer willfully lets Bart horrifically maim him for his graduation. But despite the promise, a lot of it goes unfulfilled, with our usual collection of expository dialogue and surface-level jokes. “Clockwork” I’m pretty much in the dark about, having not seen A Clockwork Orange. But of course, parodies on this show used to stand on their own; fellow Kubrick homage “The Shinning” worked just fine when I saw it as a young lad, having never seen the source material. I know the basics of the plot, but nothing here really stands out as doing anything beyond just recreating bits from the movie. By the end, it seems like the writers lost interest and just started cramming in references to other Kubrick films, then ending with the director himself throwing a red pen in the air, it hitting him in the head, and him staring at the camera for a few seconds before cutting to black. I guess this is a reference, but  it certainly wasn’t funny. “The Others” is the most unfortunate, as the Simpsons meeting their crudely drawn and primitively behaved doppelgangers is a potentially neat idea. But, there’s absolutely no story; ghost Marge takes a shining to Homer, then Marge kills herself to get back at him, then the kids kill themselves, and it turns into a Homer-Marge schmaltz ending… and Marvin Monroe is there too. What an absolute waste. Wouldn’t it have been neat for the old Simpsons to want to take back their house and try to kill the family or something? Why were they haunting them to begin with? Upon the ghosts’ first appearance, Lisa claims that their time has passed, ghost-Bart belches, and she retorts, “That was unmotivated!” The show in its heyday could have excellently compared and contrasted the show from its roots, but nowadays, it’s a joke in and of itself. Character motivation, and other elements of good writing, have been hard to come by in this last decade of episodes.

Three items of note:
– Nothing’s better than a reference than you have to laboriously explain. In the hell segment, Bart pulls Hot Stuff out of a portal, an old Harvey Comics character from the creator of Richie Rich. As soon as he showed up, I was surprised, since he’s a pretty obscure character. But then he immediately talks about how lame his comic was, pulls out an issue and explains how bad it is. If you need to spend this much time explaining who this character is and why the joke is funny, wouldn’t it be better to just toss it and think of something else? I guess not.
– They use the famous Clockwork eye clamps to make a jab at how awful FOX is. How edgy. Not only have there been dozens of better digs at the network in the past, there have been plenty in classic Halloween shows alone. Plus, with stuff like “Empire,” “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” and “The Last Man on Earth,” there’s plenty on this network that are leaps and bounds above anything this show is churning out nowadays. Speaking of, there was another terrible FOX joke in the last episode too. So, so bad.
– The very ending is pretty cringe-worthy, when a parade of other Simpson families from other dimensions show up, in the style of Adventure Time, South Park, Archer, and others, including… [shudder]… the Minions. This show has inserted references to popular current shows and movies for the sake of just being references before, but this feels like the ultimate example, the most transparent instance of them trying to generate some light Internet buzz. Look, here’s a clip of Simpsons Minions! Homer as the Ice King! These are things that people like now! We can be like that too! Why isn’t anyone paying attention to us?

One good line/moment: Like I said, the hell segment has some good stuff in it. The designs of the creatures and the school are pretty neat, and there were some good jokes sprinkled throughout, like the hell chalkboard gag (Eternal Torment Is The Only Just Punishment for the Unbaptized) and the portal back from Hell being in Burns’ office.

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7 responses to “556. Treehouse of Horror XXV

  1. I never saw this, but I was aware of the “Simpsons in other styles” ending, which I had completely forgotten about until this post. More forgettable dumpster fire fuel.

  2. This is my favorite Treehouse of Horror HD (Maybe tied with THOH XX).

    XXVI and XXVII are pure garbage (except the second segment of XXVII).

  3. “The Others” is probably the most disappointing Simpsons segment I’ve ever seen. This had so much potential for comedy gold, the idea of the modern Simpsons pointing out the flaws of their older selves (and maybe vice versa) sounds like it practically writes itself and while there is a little bit of it at the beginning the idea just gets dropped for a boring story.

    I actually really like your idea of having the older Simpsons try to take their house back, though I feel that it would be even better if it was taken a step further into meta territory where the older Simpsons are aware of the modern Simpsons’ success and want to take it for themselves. There was so many possibilities for this plot and the writers did barely anything with it!

    Though one thing I will say is that I do like how fluid the animation is on the older Simpsons, and it makes me even more disappointed that this sort of effort isn’t put onto the regular animation.

    Also an odd thing that I noticed about this episode personally was that I don’t remember watching the “A Clockwork Yellow” segment at all. I remember watching the “School in Hell” segment, I definitely remember watching “The Others”, but I have absolutely no memory of watching the “Clockwork” segment. I’m guessing I either tuned out while that segment was on, or it was so boring that I didn’t leave any impression on me what so ever (and that’s saying something cause I usually have a pretty good memory when it comes to TV shows. I even forgot “Clockwork” was part of this Treehouse of Horror episode).

  4. The “clockwork” segment I only remember because the eye-clamp joke was a funny concept, but it was ruined by how laborious they make the joke, same way you describe the Hot Stuff joke.

    While I don’t like the show, at least when Family Guy did an obscure reference to an old cartoon character in a cut-away or some such, they didn’t go out of their way explaining who that character was–it was just assumed that the 1% of the audience who was aware would get it and greatly appreciate its reference while the rest would write it off as a “WTF moment”, something that the Simpsons of old also did (usually better).

    Now the show just spoonfeeds the audience every joke, neutering several potentially good ones.

    Though to that effect, the ending got some press among web fandoms because some of those references actually weren’t spelled out (a rarity for modern Simpsons) and are mostly only known to the younger viewers–namely those of “Naruto” and “One Piece” and a few others. Clearly characters that the writers must have had very little familiarity to begin with, but at least the effort was appreciated.

    • “it was just assumed that the 1% of the audience who was aware would get it and greatly appreciate its reference while the rest would write it off as a “WTF moment”, something that the Simpsons of old also did”

      Actually, the greatness of Classic Simpsons parodies was the absence of any “WTF moment”; if you knew the source you would appreciate it, if you didn’t know it you would haven’t even notice it. That was real genius writing.

  5. Kaiju no Kami

    You have never seen A Clockwork Orange or The Shining? o_O You need to go out right now and watch them. I saw them for the first time myself about 5-7 years ago and I have no idea how I lived without them in my life.

    With that said, you are dead on about the parodies. The Shining is my favorite Simpsons skit and I loved it from the moment it first aired. As I just said, I hadn’t seen the movie until in more recent years and I had no problem understanding it and loving it. I can’t imagine what the Clockwork Yellow skit would be if I hadn’t known Orange.

  6. “Not my Shmoo! Not my Shmoo!” *SHMOO!*

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