Scullyfied Simpsons: "Treehouse of Horror IX" (Season 10, Episode 4)

Airdate: October 25th, 1998

Last October, I reviewed “Little Gift Shop of Horrors”. The November before (which is close to October), I reviewed “Treehouse of Horror VIII”. Three Octobers ago, this blog didn’t exist. Since we are coming up on Halloween, I figure it’s time we review the ninth Treehouse Of Horror trilogy. (SPOILERS BELOW.)

First Segment: Hell Toupee

Snake gets arrested for smoking inside the Kwik-E-Mart. As per Springfield’s strict three-strikes policy, he is executed (live on FOX), but not before declaring his intention to get revenge on the witnesses – Apu, Moe, and Bart. Shortly after the execution, his hair is grafted onto Homer as part of the transplant. That night, the hair takes over his mind, giving him the mentality of Snake.

“Hell Toupee” actually has an interesting idea behind it – that of the impact appearance has on behavior. Even if this episode handled it in a science fiction-y way, it does pose the question – can changes in one’s appearance create an impact, direct or not, in the way they interact with people? If so, what in the name of psychology is the end result? It’s a very cool idea, which science fiction and fantasy can examine on a literal and figurative level. Since THOH is SF/Fantasy/Horror, they essentially have carte blanche to do so to their hearts content.

It wasn’t the stronger of the specials, however. You have a decent amount of plot, examined rather thinly. That, and the suspense wasn’t as strong with this one as it was with other halloween specials – once Homer turns into Snake the first time, it’s rather predictable. Had they not shown the hair literally takeover the brain, I think there could’ve been more suspense as to where the plot would’ve gone – whether the murders were psychological, or caused by the hair itself.

Still, there were quite a few funny scenes (c’mon, World’s Deadliest Executions is GOLD) and lines (“That was self-defense!”) that make this worth at least a look.

Score: 7.

Second Segment: “The Terror of Tiny Toon”

Defying Marge’s edict to not watch the Itchy and Scratchy Halloween Special, Bart and Lisa decide to add plutonium to the remote control. (To quote Homer, “Mama took the batteries, size AA.”) However, the plutonium gives the remote and the TV properties that send Bart and Lisa into the special. There, they laugh at Scratchy’s pain… causing the cat and mouse team to team up to eradicate Bart and Lisa. No amount of cartoon cliches can save them.

Another segment with an interesting premise – that which examines cartoons and the various insanities and cliches within. Through the Itchy and Scratchy, there are many things that don’t make too much sense, such as a sudden shift in locations, completely unnecessary violence, and strange unnecessary cameos by characters that are supposed to have died on their way to another planet. I’d like it… if this wasn’t the track that The Simpsons took from, well, this point on. This segment comes of as kinda hypocritical, in fact, given what would come later – a show that lost the balance between cartoonishness and realism (or at least, changed the balance so haphazardly.)

This episode also contains a minor plot hole in the beginning of the episode – why didn’t they just use the knobs on the TV? They were right there! No evidence to suggest that they’re broken. This irritated me a bit. Granted, people often act without thinking, but this stretches believability. There’s also the idea that Marge still might not have gotten the message from the last time she banned the kids from Itchy and Scratchy. (Granted, THOH isn’t canon, but still, try and keep the characters at least somewhat in character).

As far as Itchy’s reasoning for joining up with Scratchy to “teach the kids a lesson” about laughing at Scratchy’s pain, I think this was an attempt to showcase a bit of hypocrisy on his part. I hope. Worst case scenario, the writers just wanted a reason to see Bart and Lisa get chased by the cat and mouse duo, and put down the very first thing that came to their mind.

Ah, at least there were a few funny jokes. Regis and Kathie Lee, anybody? (“Dom Deloise can interview himself!”) That, and I did laugh at the quick appearance of Poochie, amongst other things. (A bit ironic, given what would happen to Homer through this season. Foreshadowing, or just irony?) Still, not the most tightly-produced outing in the THOH canon. You might like it more than I did, though, and I welcome an alternate opinion.

Score: 6.5, mainly because it made me laugh quite a few times.

Third Segment: “Starship Poopers”

Maggie loses her “baby legs”, sprouting tentacle legs in their place and confusing Dr. Hibbert (he suggests fire to remedy the situation). While the rest of the family is perplexed, she sends out a signal via a pacifier to a UFO. There, Kang and Kodos fly themselves to 742 Evergreen Terrace, to meet their daughter. Forced to confront “the truth”, Marge notes that she was impregnated (via a scanner to the brain, thank god) after being kidnapped by Kang and Kodos for a cross-breeding program. Before the situation can get more insane, Bart suggests that the two parties take their claims to Jerry Springer. Read, the lowest form of TV.

Finally, a segment I liked quite a bit. There is a bit of psychological tragedy to this, realizing that your child isn’t actually yours, per se, but there’s also more genuine horror with the reveal that Maggie is an alien (the alien fang, the tentacle legs, etc.) Also, the show manages to balance the horror of Marge being kidnapped for breeding purposes with some fine, fine comedy (especially the scanner that seals the deal). Oh, and as strange as it may seem, I personally liked the Jerry Springer segment – it is a near-perfect send up of the stupidity of the show. Granted, The Simpsons isn’t that much better nowadays, and it does seem like an attempt to be a bit topical (which still works, given that trash TV is still occupying the airwaves), but I’ll give it a pass.

Score: 8.5.

Overall Review: Yeah, this was a bit of a step down from last year. The first two segments, while having some very good jokes, were a bit too awkwardly written for my tastes – the first being a tad predictable, the second a bit hypocritical and plot-hole-y. I wouldn’t discount it entirely, but it’s definitely not a good sign for the season that the storied Treehouse of Horror is a bit off.

Honestly, though, the scariest part of the entire special is the fact that the next episode up is that one with Kim Basinger and Alec Baldwin.

Happy Hallowe’en!


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