The Simpsons might be hanging on to dear life by the fingertips nowadays. I do not know a single person who tunes in week in, week out to watch a brand-new episode of The Simpsons, which recently came back for the thirty-second season. I stopped watching The Simpsons weekly a long, long time ago, certainly since that ‘Lisa Goes Gaga’ episode. Since then, I have watched the new episodes sporadically, and most of the episodes I have watched are duller than a November in Ireland. Oh look, Homer is working as (insert new job)! Oh my god, is that special guest star (insert random celebrity)? An episode solely focused on (insert minor character)? Incredible! It is all the same nowadays. The only episodes that can break away from this long-running formula, however, are the Treehouse of Horror specials.
The Simpsons: Treehouse of Horror specials have been a yearly tradition since 1990, when the very first one premiered on the 25th of October of that year. Ever since that show, consisting of our favourite family moving into a haunted house, the introduction of Kang and Kodos, and the surprisingly serious retelling of Edgar Allen Poe’s poem “The Raven” that was narrated by James Earl Jones himself, fans instantly grew attached. That episode became one of the most important of the show’s 688 episodes run thus far. Following that episode, there would be a new Treehouse of Horror every year released around Halloween time, some even after Halloween.
The Treehouse of Horror specials allow the Simpsons writers to have fun and put their characters into situations that would never be allowed in normal episodes. The episodes are obviously a lot more gory than a standard Simpsons episode (save for a few Itchy & Scratchy shorts) but there is also the chance to take the mick out of the shows and movies that are massive in the horror and thriller genres. Any of those flicks you can think of, from Nightmare on Elm Street to The Shining to even Stranger Things. Anything horror-related that has achieved massive popularity or has earned cult status, expect it in a Treehouse of Horror episode.
The Simpsons has a lot of traditions and an abundance of episodes to go with them. You have the Christmas episodes, the Thanksgiving episodes, the family travelling all around the world and those episodes set in the past or the future that just spit on all of the episodes based on the past or the future that preceded them. Those are just occasional. They happen every once in a while, when the writers have an idea about them. Unlike them, Treehouse of Horror is yearly. There has not been a year without a new Treehouse of Horror. It has become a staple for Halloween, and until the Simpsons gets put out of its dear misery, there will be a new Treehouse of Horror every year. With the 31st edition released this month, there have been a whopping 93 segments for this tradition.
Treehouse of Horror has brought us some memorable segments throughout the years that all of us remember. Some iconic ones being “Dial Z for Zombies” (III), where Homer shoots the zombie Flanders without knowing that he was even a zombie, “Homer ³” (VI) containing the show’s first foray into 3D animation, as well as Homer in the real world, and “Wiz Kids” (XII), which was a fun, magical Harry Potter parody, which had Mr. Burns playing the Voldemort role like he was created just for that purpose. Even the more recent ones like “A Clockwork Yellow” (XXV) and “Coralisa” (XXVIII), where the homage to the films that inspired the segments were expertly manoeuvred, are golden generation quality. Hard to believe, right? I watched all of them throughout the week before writing this, and I was gobsmacked by the quality of those segments.
It is unlikely that the actual day of Halloween this year will be the same as previous years, but the build up to it can be the exact same. We can get ourselves pumped by watching all of the Halloween specials that television has to offer. If you have Disney+, all of the Treehouse of Horror episodes are available to stream. If you do not, they are bound to show a handful of them throughout the likes of RTÉ2, Sky One and Channel 4 over the coming days. If you are looking for an easy laugh and maybe a good bit of nostalgia, the Treehouse of Horror episodes are a great twenty minutes of entertainment. I will always get a kick out of Homer selling his soul to the devil Flanders for just one doughnut. The newer ones may have a drop in quality here or there, but they are still a harmless piece of comedy, like Moe’s Tavern parodying Sweeney Todd. If Treehouse of Horror still is not your style, then there is always Hocus Pocus, I guess.