Category Archives: TV

Top 10 Simpsons Treehouse of Horror

I’ve been waiting a long time to do this list! The Simpsons is without doubt my favourite TV show of all time. I don’t watch it much anymore (lack of pay TV), but on the rare occasion I do catch it, it’s not that bad. Of course, the show is nowhere near as good as it was but I wouldn’t call it terrible. The characters are still there, I still laugh, and there’s the occasional good joke.

But of course, what we’re talking about today is the Halloween episodes. When I was growing up, Halloween was purely an American tradition, and all I really knew about it came from, you guessed it, The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror.
Even today, the Halloween specials are a must. From parodies to an all-out cartoon gore-fest, we wonder what the writers will do this year. And I’m going to count down the best segments today.

A quick disclaimer. This was probably the hardest list to select. They’re that good. ALL of the segments are great in their own way.
These are the ones that I personally enjoy the most. For a moment to qualify, I need to have seen it entirely.

What will be on the list? Let’s get started!

10. The Shinning (Treehouse of Horror V)

the-shinning

The family become winter caretakers at Mr Burn’s hotel. However, he has cut off the cable TV and destroyed any Duff Beer in the house, causing Homer to go crazy.
The Simpsons have done hundreds of great parodies over the years but this is one of their best. Even people who have never seen The Shining are able to appreciate the jokes.
From the blood in the elevator to the iconic “No TV and No Beer Make Homer Go Crazy”, there’s never ending laughs while still paying homage to Stanley Kubrick.

9. Easy Bake Coven (Treehouse of Horror VIII)

easy-bake-coven

In the year 1692, the town of Springfield is now Salem in the grip of the infamous witch trials. At a town meeting, Goody Simpson is accused of being a witch, and later at her kangaroo trial, it’s revealed that she actually is. Marge joins her fellow witch sisters Patty and Selma, and they plan to eat the town’s children. Thanks to the Flanders’ quick thinking, the witches start asking for treats instead, thus beginning the trick or treat tradition of Halloween.
Maybe it’s because The Crucible is one of my favourite plays, or maybe it’s the fact that as an Australian I never got to go trick or treating as a child. But this segment really does make me laugh years later, and I get more of the references now that I’m in my twenties.
Incidentally, is there an age restriction on trick or treating? Now that Halloween has come to Australia in a big way, I may just get my chance…

8. Time and Punishment (Treehouse of Horror V)
time and punishment.jpg

Remember this classic? Homer, while repairing the family toaster, accidentally creates a time machine. Despite his best efforts, he manages to alter the future in horrifying ways. Swatting a mosquito makes Ned Flanders the maniacal world dictator. Accidentally killing all the dinosaurs causes a seemingly perfect world, but donuts apparently don’t exist.
Yes, like everyone else, the scene where Homer misses that donuts rain from the sky absolutely breaks my heart every single time. And I will always laugh at “Oh, I wish I wish I hadn’t killed that fish,”
The scenarios the writers and animators come up with here are beyond ingenious and hysterically funny. James Earl Jones’ cameo as Maggie’s voice is great. And you really do wonder how Homer is going to get out of this mess. The ending of course, is perfect and while it’s unlikely any of my readers haven’t seen it, I won’t spoil it here. It’s just a wildly creative and fun segment.

7. Homer3 (Treehouse of Horror VI)

homer3.jpg

How could I not put this one on the list? It may be a tad dated now, but the computer animation of this episode was absolutely groundbreaking for 1995.
While attempting to hide from Patty and Selma, Homer stumbles upon the third dimension behind the bookcase, but sadly makes the world collapse on itself and he ends up in – how could we ever forget? – the real world.
The set up is great, the animation still looks cool, the background is crammed with in-jokes and easter eggs, and it’s still hilarious 21 years on. Homer’s foray into our world is probably the most memorable in the history of the show and despite the lack of closure in the ending, nobody really cares. It’s one of the most famous segments in all the Halloween episodes and for good reason.

6. The Devil and Homer Simpson (Treehouse of Horror IV)

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For a long time, this was my favourite Treehouse of Horror segment. While I may have changed my mind about that, I still adore this segment.
Homer, in sheer desperation, sells his soul to the Devil (Ned Flanders), for a donut. Later, when the Devil comes to claim what is his, Lisa asks for a fair trial. But Homer first has to spend a day in Hell, where he is subjected to eating all the donuts in the world (we all know where that would end up). By the end, Homer’s soul is legally found to be Marge’s property.
I love this episode for the set up, the clever jokes and the scenes where Homer is in Hell. Even the deleted scenes revealed in ‘The Simpsons’ 138th Episode Spectacular’ are a riot. I may have a new favourite now, but I will always have a special place in my heart for this one.

5. Nightmare on Evergreen Terrace (Treehouse of Horror VI)

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I will freely admit that I have never seen A Nightmare on Elm Street because I am too much of a coward. And when I first saw this episode at twelve, it did freak me out slightly (I was a sensitive child, ok?)
But now that I’m older and slightly braver (well, brave enough to not get spooked by The Simpsons), I can appreciate the merits of this segment. The parody. The hilarious indifference and bureaucracy of the parents and teachers at the school. The scenarios where the children die, and how Maggie ultimately saves the day with her trademark pacifier. It’s a ton of fun every time.

4. Nightmare Cafeteria (Treehouse of Horror V)

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Yeah, I know I’ve put all three segments from Treehouse of Horror V on, but hey, give me a break. It’s arguably the best Halloween Special of all.
Due to budget cuts and overcrowded detention halls, Principal Skinner and the faculty at Springfield Elementary start cooking and eating the misbehaving students, and soon only Bart, Lisa and Milhouse remain.
This one is just straight up funny. Despite the horrifying scenario and gore, the jokes come thick and fast. And they’re all great. The Joy of Cooking Milhouse. The free-range children. Grade F meat. And of course, one of my favourite jokes involving Marge ever!
“Listen, kids, you’re eight and ten years old now. I can’t be fighting all your battles for you…no buts! You march right back to that school, look them straight in the eye and say ‘Don’t eat me!'”

3. Bart Simpson’s Dracula (Treehouse of Horror IV)

bart-simpsons-dracula

The Simpsons are invited to dinner at Mr Burns’ mansion. Lisa begins to suspect that Burns is a vampire. Bart and Lisa stumble upon his secret lair, and Bart is turned into a vampire.
Vampires are a staple in horror, and The Simpsons take full advantage of all the possibilities here. And of course, there’s some of the most memorable jokes in the show’s history here.
“Kill my boss?!? Do I dare live out the American dream?”
Oh Lisa, you and your stories. Bart is a vampire. Beer kills brain cells. Now…let’s go back….to that building thingy…where our beds and TV….is,” the attempt to kill Mr Burns and then of course the ending where the head vampire is revealed.

2. Dial Z for Zombies (Treehouse of Horror III)

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While attempting to resurrect Lisa’s dead cat, Bart accidentally unleashes zombies….sorry, the living-impaired, on the town. The citizens are turned one by one and it’s up to the Simpson family to reverse it.
There’s little need to go into detail here. We all know this episode. We all know the jokes. We all know every single moment. It’s just a complete riot.

It’s time to unveil number one, which you may have already guessed, but first, some

Honourable Mentions

Monkey’s Paw (Treehouse of Horror II)

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Terror at 5 1/2 Feet (Treehouse of Horror IV)

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Attack of the 50ft Eyesores (Treehouse of Horror VI)

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Desperately Xeeking Xena (Treehouse of Horror X)

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1. The Raven (Treehouse of Horror I)

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Admit it. You all knew this one was coming. And how could I not select this as my number one? Ask anyone in my generation and I guarantee that this episode is how we know about Edgar Allen Poe’s The Raven.

A simultaneous parody and homage to a masterwork, The Raven manages to give us everything we love about the Halloween Specials right at the very beginning. It’s funny, full of clever references and still maintains that slightly spooky feel which keeps us on edge. It satirises the work but never to a point that’s insulting or degrading. It managed to give us a genuinely new take on a very old work and keep it alive in our memories to this very day.

With Halloween well and truly dusted and a nasty horror story looming over America for the next four years, I can’t help but wonder what the Simpsons will have in store for next Halloween….

Top Ten Simpsons Episodes Part 2

Bart’s Comet, A Streetcar Named Marge, Last Exit to Springfield, Rosebud, Cape Feare. What will be in my top 5?

5. Who Shot Mr Burns Part 1 & 2 (Season 6, Episode 25 & Season 7, Episode 1)

whoshotMrBurns

“Burns was rushed to a nearby hospital where he was pronounced dead. He was then transferred to a better hospital where doctors upgraded his condition to ‘alive’,”

I know it’s a bit of a cheat, putting two episodes in the same space, but hey, let’s be realistic here. When an oil well is discovered below Springfield Elementary, Mr Burns pirates the oil and builds a giant machine to block out the sun. The town goes into an uproar, with many swearing revenge. Mr Burns is subsequently shot by an unseen assailant.
The episode was famously a competition for the viewers to solve between seasons. The producers of the show went to incredible lengths to keep the culprit’s identity a secret. Even the director was kept in the dark, and only one animator knew. Thankfully this was before the days of the internet.
Aside from the fact that there’s a ton of great jokes and character moments, this is a genuinely good mystery. It’s well paced, nicely developed, there’s a great deal of suspense, and the mystery is actually solvable. There’s a ton of very clever clues peppered throughout Part One. It’s actually a lot of fun to go back and watch the episode to see the hints and red herrings.
But even if you know who shot Mr Burns (and come on, we all do!), it’s still an excellent episode which remains one of a kind. To date, this is the only two part episode The Simpsons has ever produced.

4. Hurricane Neddy (Season 8, Episode 8)

hurrican neddy

“Well my family and I can’t live in ‘good intentions’, Marge! Oh, your family’s out of control, but we can’t blame you because you have GOOD INTENTIONS!”

Hurricane Barbara sweeps through Springfield, but only the Flanders’ house is destroyed. The townspeople rebuild the house in the most inept fashion imaginable, and Ned Flanders finally cracks. His resulting breakdown causes him to commit himself into a mental institution, and it’s up to his childhood therapist to find the root of Ned’s trauma.
This was actually the very first episode of The Simpsons I ever watched, aged 6. I didn’t get three quarters of what was going on and I was genuinely worried that Lisa was going to be in a pie.
It might have been my age, but Ned Flanders and his outburst was completely lost on me. Of course, as I grew older, I realised what a truly inspired episode this is. My older brother used to say “Be a Christian, but don’t be Ned Flanders,”
The comedic value of Ned Flanders is his nauseating optimism, and his unshakeable faith in God. He’s the perfect neighbour, and Homer hates him for precisely no reason.
This is the episode where we finally see Ned become a three dimensional character. Sure, they’ve had a couple of other episodes where he shows an emotion other than optimism (When Flanders Failed, Dead Putting Society), but here is the first time he actually loses his temper. It’s hilarious to see Ned finally put the town in their place, and the flashbacks to his childhood are always a riot. Not only was it a milestone from a character point of view, it was the episode which sparked the fire in me, however insignificant it seemed to me at the time. But it’s a fire that rages inferno to this day.
Confession: Reciting Ned’s massive rant is currently my favourite party trick.

3. Marge vs. the Monorail (Season 4, Episode 12)

margevsthemonorail

“Mono….D’OH!”

This episode needs no introduction. Mr Burns is fined $3 million for illegally dumping nuclear waste in the park. A smooth talking con-man (Lyle Lanley) convinces Springfield to build a monorail, and Homer becomes the conductor. However, Lanley embezzles the money and creates a faulty monorail, putting everyone on board in danger.
Marge vs. the Monorail is the quintessential example of everything that makes The Simpsons great. Tons of jokes that hit bullseyes, a hilarious set up, parodies and pop culture references that actually work in the world of the story, and a perfect celebrity cameo from Leonard Nimoy.
I don’t need to say anything else about this episode. You all know the song, you all know the jokes, you can all quote these lines. It’s just brilliant from beginning to end.

2. Lisa’s Substitute (Season 2, Episode 19)

lisa's substitute

“Just because I don’t care doesn’t mean I don’t understand”

Lisa’s Substitute is usually touted as the most touching episode, the most dramatic episode, the most heartfelt. And….yeah. It really is.
Miss Hoover is replaced by  substitute teacher Mr Bergstrom while she recovers from Lyme disease. Mr Bergstrom nurtures Lisa’s intelligence and vivacity and she develops a crush on him.
Lisa is probably the most three dimensional character in the series. Creator Matt Groening has said Lisa is his favourite character as she is the “only one with a hope of escaping Springfield”. But that’s a discussion for another blog.
I identify with Lisa a lot in this episode. She feels isolated from people because she’s different. Her brain and creativity separates her from everyone. Mr Bergstrom teaches her that her uniqueness is something to be embraced, not hidden. He recognises her frustration with Homer. He encourages her. And when he leaves, it’s genuinely tragic.
We’ve all lost important people in a variety of ways, and seeing this episode can bring it all flooding back. Mr Bergstrom has to go, and he doesn’t ever reappear in the show. And you know what? That’s life. That’s how it works. People can appear in your life for only a season.
Homer of course has a beautiful scene with Lisa where he finally shows the kindness in his heart. But Marge has one of her finest parenting moments in this episode too, and it’s always overlooked. I would like to call attention to Marge’s brilliant line right here and right now.

“Homer, you’re not allowed to have hurt feelings right now! There’s a little girl upstairs who needs you. Her confidence in her father is shaken and no little girl can be happy unless she has faith in her daddy,”

Bravo Marge. Bravo. This is a mothering lesson to behold. She recognises Lisa’s need is far greater than Homer’s, and she refuses to let him wallow in self pity or elicit sympathy from her. She makes him step up and be a man.
Yes, Homer ideally should do this himself but that’s not the point. The point is that Marge sides with her daughter over her husband, and basically forces him to take responsibility. Go Marge.

With Lisa’s SubstituteThe Simpsons showed us why we love the show. They have this ability to splice crazy scenarios which could only exist in the world of animation with dramatic touching life lessons. This episode will always have a very special place in my heart, and the hearts of fellow fans.

you are lisa simpson


The time has come to unveil my number one favourite episode. But first, the runners up. 

HONOURABLE MENTIONS

Radio Bart

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Blood Feud

bloodfeud

Lisa vs. Malibu Stacy

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Bart vs. Australia

bartvsaustralia

The PTA Disbands

theptadisbands

Homer’s Enemy

homer'senemy

 

  1. THE CITY OF NEW YORK VS HOMER SIMPSON (Season 9, Episode 1)

“I’m getting out of this town alive if it kills me!”

cityofnewyorkvshomer

Barney is designated driver one wild night at Moe’s and afterwards disappears for two months with Homer’s beloved car. Homer discovers the car is illegally parked in New York, between the Twin Towers. Having had a bad experience years ago in New York, Homer reluctantly travels with the family to retrieve the family sedan. Marge and the kids have a magical experience in the big city, but Homer has the worst day of his life.

To be honest, I wasn’t aware of this episode for a long time. The episode was immediately pulled from syndication following the 9/11 attacks, and only appears on TV with several jokes permanently edited out.
All that aside, this is the episode which kills me. Homer stuck in New York doesn’t sound like a particularly funny concept, but believe me, it is. The simplicity of the setting allows for a number of hilarious scenarios pulled directly from real life. Homer is trapped with a car that he can’t drive anywhere. Having had my first flat tyre experience this year, I can now join the club of the Stranded Motorists. Homer has to wait for a government official. Again, we’ve all had to wait for someone to turn up who was taking their sweet time. And finally, he becomes increasingly desperate for the bathroom.

Raise your hand if you HAVEN’T been in that situation.

*looks around, crickets chirp* I didn’t think so.

The best kind of comedy comes from misery, and is based in truth. We have ALL been where Homer is in this episode. The pain of those memories allows us to laugh along with him and share his agony. Interweave Homer’s terrible situation with the rest of the family having the time of their lives, and you have an episode which is side-splitting. The way Homer gets the boot off his car absolutely kills me every time. No other Simpsons episode makes me laugh like this. And the really amazing thing is that it was the opening to season 9. What a way to open!
The City of New York vs Homer Simpson is just as hilarious now as it was the first time I watched it all those years ago. And that alone is enough to make it my number one episode.

Didn’t see your favourite episode here? Wondering why I didn’t talk about the Halloween specials? Well, stay tuned.  2016 will be kicking off with the Top Ten Touching Simpsons Moments.

Next week: Best and Worst Disney Princesses!

 

Top Ten Simpsons Episodes Part 1

Who of my generation remembers the years where The Simpsons was on at 6pm each night? Wasn’t that a great time of our childhoods? Every night, switching the TV to Channel Ten and trying to guess what episode would be on? Ok, ok, maybe only I did that. But I’m not ashamed to say that I love The Simpsons. Not so much the newer stuff, but the older seasons are comedy gold. It has great humour, razor sharp satire, unforgettable characters and defined so many people’s sense of humour. I for one, can quote entire episodes off the top of my heads, and I recently went through a phase where I watched entire seasons back to back, reliving the glory days (I was sick, ok? I had nothing else to do!).
Picking my ten favourite episodes is like trying to pick my favourite dog. But heaven knows, I have to try, so here goes.
By the way, the category I’m following here are the episodes I personally enjoy most. There’s a ton of great episodes that won’t make the list. You may not see your favourite episode here, and I’m not necessarily going by the general consensus either. These are my favourites. I will do other lists of Simpsons episodes in different categories. So if you don’t see an episode up here, there’s every chance it will appear in my future blogs about the show. Crack open a can of Duff beer, grab a donut and enjoy Part 1!

10. Bart’s Comet (Season 6, Episode 14)

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After a prank, Bart is ordered to assist Principal Skinner in his astronomy. Bart discovers a comet about to hit Springfield. With the only bridge out of town destroyed due to a failed attempt to stop the comet, all of Springfield crams into Ned Flanders’ bomb shelter in a panic.
Bart’s Comet is one of those episodes with a ton of great jokes. From the weather balloon prank Bart pulls to the townspeople kicking Ned Flanders out of the bomb shelter, it kills me every time. It’s not a particularly complex or deep episode. I love it because of the scenario, the animation and overall, it’s downright funny.

“So there’s a comet. Big deal. It’ll burn up in our atmosphere and whatever’s left will be no bigger than a Chihuahua’s head,”
“Wow Dad, maybe you’re right,”
“Of course I’m right. If I’m not, may we all be horribly crushed from above somehow,”
And let’s not forget, Homer was right about the comet.
I’m scared too.

9. A Streetcar Named Marge (Season 4, Episode 2)

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Despite a controversial song about New Orleans, this episode is simply a classic. Marge auditions for Oh Streetcar!, a musical version of A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams. She wins the role of Blanche Dubois and finds the character in her relationship with Homer. Like many others, the majority of my knowledge of the world came from The Simpsons and this is no exception. This was the episode that introduced me to Streetcar (and many of the other viewers), and they mirror the Stanley/Blanche dynamic with Homer and Marge so beautifully. However, Homer has a lovely redemption at the end as usual, and he definitely isn’t as bad as Stanley. The songs are hilarious, guest star Jon Lovitz steals the show, and Maggie’s Great Escape side plot remains one of her greatest moments. What’s not to love?

“I’m Lionel Hutz, and I’m filing a class-action suit against the director on behalf of everyone who was cut from the play. I also play Mitch,”

8. Last Exit to Springfield (Season 4, Episode 17)

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This episode usually tops Best Simpson’s Episodes lists, and for a long time, I didn’t really get why. I remembered watching this episode once or twice as a kid, and I didn’t find it especially hilarious or even that memorable.
Well, having re-watched it a few times through the more mature eyes of my early twenties, it is one of the most clever episodes they ever produced. Homer becomes head of the union at the nuclear power plant to save the dental plan. Through a series of very funny miscommunications, Mr Burns sees Homer as a legitimate threat, and the power plant workers go on strike.
There are so many great scenarios and potential for great jokes, and the writers take advantage of them all. From movie references and flashbacks to Mr Burns’ childhood, this is satire at its best. The episode is full of pop culture and historical references, but they never feel forced. Neither does the lack of a subplot, since Lisa needing braces is directly branched to the main story. Lisa’s dentist is a riot, and the climax mirroring How the Grinch Stole Christmas could not be more perfect.  If you don’t remember this episode being particularly funny, go back and watch it. Even if you do think it’s funny, go watch it anyway. I guarantee there’s a joke or two you missed.
There’s only one thing left to say.

“DENTAL PLAN!”
“Lisa needs braces”

7. Rosebud (Season 5, Episode 4)

Rosebud

Who doesn’t love Mr Burns? He’s one of the most enjoyably evil villains ever created for television. He concocts elaborately wicked schemes, his age makes for a lot of hysteria and his fawning assistant Waylon Smithers is a perfect sidekick.
Rosebud, from Season 5, shows us a hidden side to him. See, it turns out Mr.Burns had a happy childhood with a loving family and a teddy bear named Bobo, all of which he abandoned to live with a ‘twisted loveless billionaire,”. Years later, Mr Burns remembers Bobo and falls into a depression. When Bobo appears in the Simpson household, Maggie grows very attached to the bear and refuses to give it up.
The earlier seasons of the show had a great mix of heartfelt drama and comedy. The whole episode is obviously a parody of Citizen Kane, and it lends itself to a lot of hilarious scenarios. It’s really the first time we see Mr Burns as a human with feelings, and it’s over something we can readily identify with. Homer has one of his best parenting moments too, when he gives up a lifetime of riches so Maggie can keep Bobo.
Every joke hits the mark, the parody is great, Homer comes through for his daughter, and you actually feel a lot of sympathy for one of TV’s most dastardly bad guys. It’s the perfect blend of comedy and heart, and that alone makes it a classic.

6. Cape Feare (Season 5, Episode 2)

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When I think of episodes that had me laughing the whole way through and continues to make me smile just thinking about it, I look no further than Cape Feare, and everyone who has seen this episode will know why. In a parody of the movie of the same name, Bart receives death threats in the mail, and the culprit turns out to be Sideshow Bob (voiced by the great Kelsey Grammar). The Simpsons go into the Witness Protection program only to be followed by Bob who thirsts for nothing but vengeance on his spiky-haired nemesis.
The previous appearances of Sideshow Bob were both mysteries (framing Krusty the Klown for armed robbery and attempting to murder Aunt Selma), but this episode wasn’t. Of course, the best thing about Sideshow Bob is that while he is a bloodthirsty maniac, it is juxtaposed with his highbrow tastes and love of good culture. I am a HUGE Frasier fan, and Kelsey Grammar is so utterly perfect as Sideshow Bob you can’t imagine anyone else in the role. It’s like they were made for each other. Bob is an excellent comic foil while also maintaining his diabolical edge, and his desire to get Bart is riveting.
Every joke in this episode hits a bullseye and remains ingrained in pop culture, that other TV shows to this day try to replicate (I’m looking at you, Family Guy!). Sideshow Bob singing HMS Pinafore, “BARTDOYOUWANTSOMEBROWNIESBEFOREYOUGOTOBED?”, “Hello, Mr Thompson,” It’s a comedic goldmine, and I’ll never get tired of it.

And of course, need we forget the most famous joke in the episode? No words necessary, just the picture….

rakes

Next Week: Part 2!