I’m one of those awful people (some call us “hardcore Simpsons fans”) who thinks the series should have ended with “Homer’s Enemy,” the Frank Grimes episode near the end of season 8. It’s The Simpsons‘ best satire of itself and its viewers, and it’s the episode where the series untethers itself from its own reality, as it finally asks, “Ok, how would an actual real life person perceive Homer Simpson?” I’ve always imagined the show as not truly existing after that episode.
Except there has been a whole person who can drive now since that episode aired, which leaves us with 26 editions of “Treehouse of Horror.” I just watched all of them, and with Sideshow Bob finally offing Bart a few days ago, it feels appropriate to make a list, but then when isn’t it appropriate to make a list. Here they are from worst to best:
26. Treehouse XVIII, 2007 (E.T. Go Home, Mr. & Mrs. Simpson, Heck House)
In “E.T. Go Home” Bart finds Kodos in the backyard and adopts him. Starts strong with Kodos’ “Oh of course I’m not here to kill everyone” lines, but they keep making that same joke for the next five minutes. There’s an awful rape joke in there as well. Early Simpsons never pulled MacFarlane-esque shit like that.
You know the series has lost something when a Kodos and/or Kang bit doesn’t work.
“Mr. & Mrs. Simpson” is a Mr. & Mrs. Smith parody, which, wasn’t that movie wholly underwhelming and non-worthy of parody? Homer and Marge are competing assassins. Nothing funny at all here. Marge and Homer having sex on Chief Wiggum’s corpse is supposed to be a larf?
In “Heck House,” the kids learn a lesson about vandalism from Ned Flanders, who uses the seven deadly sins to demonstrate. One or two ok Ned lines, and a nice moment from Krusty who is in hell for stealing jokes (the one time I smiled in 22 minutes), making this the best of the turd pile that is the eighteenth “Treehouse.”
Best Segment: “Heck House.” Meh.
Best Moment: It didn’t infect my computer with whatever virus the writers were suffering from.
Best Quote: “Please Lord, grant me the power to psychologically torture them into loving you.” -Ned Flanders. (Appropriate that the best quote I could find is a little on the nose.)
25. Treehouse XXII (2011) (The Diving Bell and the Butterball, Dial D for Diddly, In the Na’vi)
Laboured, three minute opening with a weak 127 Hours parody. Homer cuts his arm off because he wants food. The Homer eating bits never really did it for me.
In “The Diving Bell and the Butterball,” Homer gets bitten by a spider and can only communicate through flatulence, so, a bit I would have written in Grade Four. It’s a weirdly effective way of laterally poking fun at Homer’s obtuseness, as he farts once for “no” to communicate he doesn’t understand the implications of Lisa discovering he can communicate. That’s the only clever part of any of this. Homer discovers he can fart spider webs, he nabs some bad guys, Yawn.
“Dial D for Diddly” is a Dexter parody, where God tells Ned to become a serial killer. I wanted this to be a good parody; while I liked Dexter enough, there’s much that one could make fun of, but nope. They lampoon the Dexter opening credits but have Ned making a PB&J and doing the laundry. Cutting edge stuff, there. They could have had God showing up in James Remar-esque visions; that would be funny, but instead it’s Homer pretending to be God on a voice recorder. Then it turns out the Devil is sleeping with Maude. Kay. At least have the Devil make a gross Masuka joke? No? Did the writers just Wikipedia Dexter?
“In the Na’vi” is an Avatar parody, and it’s two years too late at this point. Also didn’t South Park already do this? The influencers become the copiers. Circle of life… It could have parodied the awkward indigenous tropes in Avatar, but instead it just reproduces them without analysis. Also at one point alien Millhouse bangs his head against a rock and is told he’s actually having sex with it…yeah?
Hoo boy Harry Shearer is phoning this one IN. I would too if I was in my late sixties and had been doing this shit for two decades.
Best Segment: “Dial D For Diddly.” I suppose.
Best Moment: I thought a spider was on my wall but it was just a thumbtack hole. I should really put something over that.
Best Quote: “I used to think murder was a sin. Then I got instructions from the Lord in his favourite language: English.” -Ned Flanders (Flanders is weirdly not that stale in later seasons)
24. Treehouse XXI, 2010 (War and Pieces, Master and Cadaver, Tweenlight)
Opens with Homer and Bart in a fight scene. The Simpsons just can’t get enough domestic violence for some reason. Late-era Simpsons looks less, well, cartoony in glorious HD, which makes these moments a bit too real.
“War and Pieces” is a Jumanji parody where a bunch of board games come to life and take over Springfield. Homer being stuck in a Chutes & Ladders game is sorta funny. That’s about it. The writers can’t figure a way out of the bit so they just have Bart & Millhouse get hanged in a Wheel of Fortune/Hangman mashup. Bart has a line that goes, “Must remember the lesson I learned from video games…oh right, kill, kill, kill.” Deep satire there, guys.
“Master and Cadaver” is a parody of an Australian horror film set at sea that came out in 1989. Is this Wikipedia roulette? One good sight gag when it looks like someone is touching Marge’s chest, but it turns out they’re just tuning a radio. Ends by zooming out and having it just be what Maggie imagines while having a bath, inexplicably dressed as Alex from A Clockwork Orange. How ominous…
“Tweenlight” is a Twilight parody, and like many late-era Simpsons parodies, it’s not much of a parody. They could have lampooned the utter blandness of the Kristen Stewart character with Lisa in that role, but nope. I did snicker when Homer asks if a mosquito turns into a Vampire when it bites one. Mostly really unfunny vampire jokes, though, including a very predictable Sesame Street Count bit. He likes to count. We understand.
Best Segment: “Tweenlight.” I guess.
Best Moment: My Neo-Citran got cold so I microwaved it and it was a lot better.
Best Quote: “Pretty ironic, a cross being used to kill someone.” -Homer
23. Treehouse XXV, 2014 (School is Hell, A Clockwork Yellow, The Others)
In “School is Hell,” Bart and Lisa are transported to hell, which is a school. Hence, “School is Hell.” Yeah? Gee, tough crowd. I did laugh once at this exchange:
Skinner: “You’ll be locked in detention until you graduate to the penal system.”
Skinner: “Stop laughing! I said penal, not penile.”
(Bart laughs again)
Skinner: “It’s not like you made me say penis.”
It’s dumbed down as heck, but whatever. Penis. Heh.
It is a nice touch when Bart finds he does very well in the class where you’re tested on coming up with torture techniques. But like much late-era Simpsons, they decided “Omg we found something funny, let’s do an additional scene of the same thing with the same jokes.”
“A Clockwork Yellow” has Moe, Lenny, Carl, and Homer in a Clockwork Orange style gang. It’s an homage to all things Kubrick, and it’s pretty paint-by-numbers. Slow motion beating here, orchestral music there, masked orgy also there. There’s no reason for any of it, and it’s not funny, save for the one moment where Homer is doing the ape/tower bit from 2001, and it turns out the tower is just an iPhone in the extreme foreground. There’s also a fake-out non-rape joke in there, which, no, just don’t.
“The Others” is a parody of the Nicole Kidman film by the same name. The Simpson house is haunted by the old Tracey Ullman Show Simpsons. Neat idea; shame about the lack of laughs. There’s A Married With Children joke that’s identical to one the show did two decades ago — I know the writers are going for recycled humour, but it’s not funny recycled humour. Groundskeeper Willie implicitly killing Maggie falls very flat and is just gross. Nice moment at the end when replicas of the Simpson family from other mainstream cartoons show up — why in the Sam Hell was that not the entire bit.
Best Segment: “School is Hell”
Best Moment: Minion Simpsons. (Yes there will be only slightly less snark from here on out)
Best Quote: “Ha ha, your heresies were venialized by the council of Palermo.” -Nelson
22. Treehouse XXVI, 2015 (Wanted: Dead, Then Alive, Homerzilla, Telepaths of Glory)
Neat little opening with Ren & Stimpy style animation. Not funny, but neat.
In “Wanted: Dead, Then Alive,” it finally happens: Sideshow Bob kills Bart. In a non-canon Treehouse bit, mind you, but come on, The Simpsons is very old and needs attention and you haven’t even called. For shame.
So, Sideshow Bob trying to kill Bart is entertaining because you know he’ll never actually do it. When he actually does kill Bart you’re sitting there and it’s just…huh, he killed a ten year old. Okay then. He pulls out Bart’s large intestine and wears it as a scarf. Hey remember when The Simpsons was cultured?
Sideshow Bob realizes he’s unsatisfied if there’s no Bart around to chase, so he keeps reanimating and then killing him, until Bart manages to turn the tables. The only funny part of the bit is Sideshow Bob working as a college professor, and it is quite funny. Kelsey Grammar is magic if you can just pretend he’s not a raging Republican.
“Homerzilla” is a Godzilla parody, obvs. It’s interesting how the actors only make their voices ever so slightly Japanese sounding, like they’re clearly uncomfortable with what they’re doing. The bit switches to a Godzilla remake, and then has movie executives dumping everything at sea because it’s testing as a flop. So, it takes seven minutes to make a tired joke that there aren’t any good Godzilla remakes, and other than a great Star Wars gag from Comic Book Guy there’s not one laugh.
“Telepaths of Glory” parodies the movie, Chronicle. Three year old reference, but, sure. Couldn’t homage Guardians of the Galaxy? Lisa and Millhouse get superpowers and Millhouse is out of control. Eventually Maggie stops him because she got superpowers, too. Some meh sight gags. Another Apu getting held up gag — that is me having watched 26 of these tired. There are a couple good moments when Maggie uses her powers to set everything right, like putting a shirt on Putin and making it so that when American tourists ask Parisians in broken French where the Eiffel Tower is, the Parisians just say how nice it is that American tourists are trying to learn their language. Kodos & Kang’s cameo is wasted at the end in a bit where they say they’ve been wasted at the end. Lazy writing.
Best Segment: “Wanted, Dead Then Alive”
Best Moment: Sideshow Bob as a college professor trying to deal with everyone having mobile devices. That’s some funny shit.
Best Quote: “Oh I didn’t buy my ticket for this. I just wanted to get a good seat for the next Star Wars, which will stink to high heaven.” -Comic Book Guy
21. Treehouse XX, 2009 (Dial M for Murder Press # to Return to Main Menu, Don’t Have a Cow Mankind, There’s No Business Like Moe Business)
“Dial M for Murder, Press # to Return to Main Menu” is a Hitchcock-esque parody involving pranks that turn into murder. The black and white animation looks nice. There’s a nice self-referential joke about how the show uses the word, “snuggle” as a code for sex. Other than that a lot of non-funny things and boring slasher bits.
“Don’t Have a Cow, Mankind” opens with a nice joke involving Krusty Burger feeding beef to cows and then making burgers out of those cows (trust me it’s funnier than my description of it). Nice dig at Arsenio Hall, though I don’t think anyone younger than 30 would have gotten it. The rest is a run-of-the-mill “everyone’s a zombie” bit. It’s better than much of the last decade of The Simpsons, but that’s not saying much.
“There’s No Business Like Moe Business” is a Sweeney Todd-esque musical. A few funny moments, like when Marge and Moe have a semi-romantic moment and Marge says “This is the least creeped out I’ve ever been by you.” I’ve always appreciated that Moe’s creepiness is somewhat nuanced, where as with Quagmire it’s just “Look he’s a rapist, how cute.” The reveal that the segment is a play the other characters are watching needed to happen later in the bit and end with it, but what do I know, I’m not a late-era Simpsons writer…
You can really hear the not giving a shit creeping into Hank Azaria’s voice in this “Treehouse. He was a bit of a holdout in that respect.
Best Segment: “Don’t Have a Cow, Mankind”
Best Moment: Krusty introduces the all-new Krusty Burger.
Best Quote: “What kind of civilized people eat the body and blood of their saviour?” -Marge
20. Treehouse XII, 2001 (Hex and the City, House of Whacks, Wiz Kids)
In “Hex and the City”, Homer is cursed by a gypsy fortune teller (I doubt Roma folk would appreciate this very much). Marge getting a beard as punishment? Nope. Just nope. Marge saying “The best thing about a gypsy wedding is I’m not the hairiest one here?!” That’s racist as fuck. One funny moment when Homer tries to bury Lucky Charms to lure a leprechaun, but he realizes he used Trix when a bunch of white rabbits show up. One good Kodos line, too. Other than that, garbage fire of a segment. An actual Sex and the City parody would have been way funnier.
“House of Whacks” is a 2001 send-up, in which a Hal-esque robot voiced by Pierce Brosnan does all the housework for the Simpsons and then of course turns out to be evil. The one funny moment is Hal attempting suicide when Patty and Selma bore him with their stories. Brutal bit.
“Wiz Kids” is a Harry Potter parody, and it’s pretty thin on actual parody. Smithers as a snake cry-eating Burns is pretty funny, as is the poor barfing frog creature, but other than that, meh. It seemed like the writers Wikipedia’d Harry Potter instead of reading it. Perhaps they should have waited a year for the movie to have been out.
First “Treehouse” in the series where all three are weak.
Best Segment: “Wiz Kids”…I guess.
Best Moment: Kodos & Kang at a wedding.
Best Quote: “I always secrete ocular fluid at weddings.” -Kodos
19. Treehouse XXIV (2013) (Oh, the Places You’ll D’oh, Dead and Shoulders, Freaks, No Geeks)
The opening was apparently conceived by Guillermo del Toro, and it mashes up his own films with The Simpsons’ opening sequence. I will not lie, it’s great stuff.
“Oh, the Places You’ll D’oh” is a Dr. Seuss parody, where, get this, instead of The Cat in the Hat, Homer is “The Fat in the Hat.” Class A writing there… The Seuss-ified animation is quite good. But seriously, how many times has The Simpsons done “the prices are high at the Kwik-E-Mart” jokes. That shit is me old.
“Dead and Shoulders” is a parody of a 1972 sci-fi film, which of course you’ve seen, right? Bart is decapitated and has his head attached to Lisa’s body. I’m gonna just poll myself for a second: Has me ever found “siamese twin/people attached at the something” jokes actually funny? No? Cool.
“Freaks, No Geeks” is a parody of an obscure 1930’s film, so, fine I guess the writers don’t care if you’ve seen the source material. It’s the old-time circus, and Homer gets Marge to marry Moe, the leader of the freak show, because he’s in possession of an emerald. Couple funny moments. Old-timey Krusty making everyone laugh by saying “No seriously we should really stop this Hitler guy” definitely got me. Surprisingly decent bit bumps this “Treehouse” up a few pegs.
Best Segment: “Freaks, No Geeks”
Best Moment: The Guillermo del Toro opening.
Best Quote: “Of all the kisses I’ve ever gotten, that was the first.” -Moe
18. Treehouse XVI, 2005 (B.I. Bartificial Intelligence, Survival of the Fattest, I’ve Grown a Costume on Your Face)
Opens with an outstanding baseball joke — that then gets stretched out for two minutes.
“B.I. Bartificial Intelligence” has Bart waking up from a coma to find his family closer to their new robotic son. I laughed at one point, and I can’t even remember what it was and I’m writing having just watched it. Rest was thoroughly unfunny.
“Survival of the Fattest” is a parody of The Most Dangerous Game, with characters being hunted by Mr. Burns. A great premise that would have worked a lot better in earlier seasons than it does here. Nice joke with Bart complaining that Homer gets to go hunting but he shoots one bird and has to go to a psychiatrist. Another great one with Moe thinking they’re at a time share pitch. It goes off the rails with a horribly racist “I smell fear mixed with curry” line (I’ll leave it to you to figure out who is involved). I understand the writers are attempting to make a joke about racism rather than a racist joke, but it takes a level of care to pull that off. A clue that humour dealing with racism isn’t working is when PoC characters are only used for racialized jokes or plot points, and are given no other nuance in addition to that.
In “I’ve Grown a Costume on Your Face” a witch turns the people of Springfield into their costumes, and the only one who can save them is Maggie, as she was wearing a witch costume (nice touch). A few cute moments like Bumblebee Man as an actual bumblebee, but not very funny.
Best Segment: “I’ve Grown a Costume on Your Face”…I guess.
Best Moment: The baseball joke right off the hop. No big standouts after that.
Best Quote: “You have previously claimed killing people as part of your religion, I think I can draw something up.” -Blue-Haired Lawyer
17. Treehouse XIX, 2008 (Untitled Robot Parody, How to Get Ahead in Dead-Vertising, It’s the Grand Pumpkin, Millhouse)
Great opening bit with Homer trying to vote in the 2008 presidential election and the computer being rigged.
In “Untitled Robot Parody” Lisa gets a toy car for Christmas, which turns a bunch of things into Transformers that take over Springfield. One funny moment with a sex toy Transformer and then another with the Transformers using the citizens as a foosball table. Other than that, totally uninspired parody.
In “How to Get Ahead in Dead-Vertising,” Homer accidentally kills Krusty and then finds himself being hired to kill other celebrities so advertising companies can use their images to sell things. Yes, the bit itself is as shitty as the premise. I almost smiled when Jimmy Stewart showed up, but that’s it.
“It’s the Grand Pumpkin, Millhouse” is a Peanuts parody. I admit it, I get a sick thrill out of trashing late-series Simpsons, but I really wanted this parody to be good. The animation is good but the jokes just aren’t. It could have been better if it actually parodied Peanuts story-wise, but it doesn’t. And Nelson using “gay” as a pejorative with no comment or consequence? Nope. Just nope. There’s a moment where the Grand Pumpkin bashes through a wall and there’s an opportunity to take the piss out of Family Guy’s Kool-Aid man gag, but the show doesn’t. So many opportunities lost with this bit.
Best Segment: “Untitled Robot Parody”
Best Moment: Homer trying to vote for Obama.
Best Quote: “Ok who’s the idiot that taught them what foosball was.” -Moe
16. Treehouse XVII, 2006 (Married to the Blob, You Gotta Know When to Golem, The Day the Earth Looked Stupid)
“Married to the Blob” is a parody of The Blob, with Homer as The Blob. I’ve never found the Homer eating a bunch jokes at all funny, and this is seven minutes of it. Dr. Phil makes an excruciatingly unfunny cameo. The whole thing is Fatphobic and boring, and the solution of feeding Springfield’s homeless to Homer just isn’t okay.
“You Gotta Know when to Golem” is a parody of The Golem from Jewish mythology. Millhouse has a couple funny moments. A couple cute moments with Richard Lewis as The Golem and a very nice gag at the end with Chief Wiggum and latkes. Pretty much the definition of mediocre.
“The Day the Earth Looked Stupid” has Springfield’s citizens being fooled by Orson Welles’ War of the Worlds broadcast in 1938. Opens with a great gag involving Grandpa Simpson cryptically referring to the then 20 year old world war as the “First World War”. Nice to hear Maurice Lamarche doing Orson Welles again. When the citizens get wise to the ruse they become less vigilant, opening the door for an invasion from Kodos & Kang. Cut to three years later and a nice line from Kang, “You said we’d be greeted as liberators.” Decent (if unfocused) bit.
You can really hear the giving less of a shit in Harry Shearer and Dan Castellaneta’s voices at this point in the series.
Best Segment: “The Day the Earth Looked Stupid”
Best Moment: Grandpa Simpson’s “First World War” gag.
Best Quote: “I don’t know, I’m starting to think Operation Enduring Occupation was a bad idea.” -Kang
15. Treehouse XIV, 2003 (Reaper Madness, Frinkenstein, Stop the World, I Want to Goof Off)
In “Reaper Madness,” Homer kills Death, and so becomes the new Death. Family Guy did this already; it was way funnier, and that’s coming from someone who isn’t the biggest Family Guy guy. I snickered inaudibly once or twice but that’s it.
“Frinkinstein” sees Frink’s father (voiced by Jerry Lewis) as a reanimated Frankenstein’s monster. The Jerry Lewis cameo is neat though it doesn’t really soar. Some decent one-liners here. As many cringe-worthy unfunny moments.
In “Stop the World, I Want to Goof Off,” Bart and Millhouse get a watch that stops time. The results are some decent sight gags that do get old after about three minutes. A great twist is seeing Millhouse and Bart trying to fix the watch (now broken with all of Springfield frozen) and fifteen years passing. That should have happened earlier in the bit because young adult Bart and already balding Millhouse are hilarious.
This Treehouse suffers from the first thoroughly unfunny Kodos & Kang appearance of the series, though it picks up steam in the latter two segments. Kodos & Kang are best used for Statler and Waldorf-esque commentaries on humanity; their gag about The Simpsons doing a Halloween episode in November is below them.
Best Segment: “Stop the World, I Want to Goof Off”
Best Moment: Bart and Millhouse try to fix the time-stopping watch, and 15 years pass. Millhouse then quips that he works better in a structured environment.
Best Quote: “I did finish first in the walk for the cure…for homosexuality.” -Ned Flanders
14. Treehouse XIII, 2002 (Send in the Clones, The Fright to Creep and Scare Harms, The Island of Dr. Hibbert)
The intro with a seance to contact Maude Flanders is kinda awkward, but, hey, we’re getting into the decidedly non-awesome Simpsons years, so…
“Send in the Clones” is a Multiplicity parody, which, ok…but oh wait, it’s actually pretty funny. Homer gets a hammock that spits out clones, which Homer gets to do chores for him. Clone Homer listening to Grandpa Simpson is particularly good, as is Homer shooting the clones who know the way home when he abandons them in a field. Weirdly, a horde of obtuse later-series Homers is far less annoying than one obtuse later-series Homer.
In “The Fright to Creep and Scare Harms,” Lisa succeeds in getting guns banned in Springfield, and Zombie Billy the Kid and his gang take over the city. A couple funny moments, but the show already used this basic premise during “Lisa’s Nightmare” in the second “Treehouse,” and did it better and in about five minutes less time with more laughs.
In “The Island of Dr. Hibbert,” the Simpsons visit Hibbert’s island, where the show’s characters are being turned into humanized versions of animals. Seeing all the characters as various creatures is pretty neat, particularly Comic Book Guy as a satyr. The Sea Captain calling Homer a half man, half gorilla when he hasn’t even changed is a nice moment.
Best Segment: “The Island of Dr. Hibbert.”
Best Moment: Homer releasing his clones in a field.
Best Quote: “Easy. Easy. Oh I guess it has been a while. Okay, okay, that hurts more than it tickles.” -Homer
13. Treehouse IX, 1998 (Hell Toupee, The Terror of Tiny Toon, Starship Poopers)
Our first dip into the nineties! Everything from this point has least one or two healthy belly laughs. Starts with a nice couch gag. I can’t remember what it was, but it was good.
In “Hell Toupee,” Snake gets the electric chair and his hair is transplanted onto Homer. But the hair turns Homer into Snake, who goes on a murderous rampage. The only really funny part of this bit is the “World’s Deadliest Executions” TV show.
“The Terror of Tiny Toon” has Bart and Lisa transported into an Itchy & Scratchy cartoon. It opens strongly, with Krusty starting his show with “Tonight I’m going to suck…your blood!” From there it’s mostly Itchy & Scratchy chasing after Bart and Lisa. I didn’t laugh again until Scratchy comes out of the TV and then falls in love with Snowball. Marge picks him up and says he’ll have to be neutered now. The Regis & Kathie Lee spot is particularly groan-worthy.
I find “Treehouse” is stronger when it’s doing send-ups of psychological or campy horror than it is when it’s doing slasher-type stuff.
In “Starship Poopers,” Maggie starts teething, and then develops tentacles. It turns out Kang is Maggie’s real father, and that Marge had been selected for a cross-breeding program (I guess the plan wasn’t just cooking for forty humans). As usual, the Kang & Kodos bits are the best in the “Treehouse” episode as a whole. A lot of great one liners from them, making this the only standout bit. It does go off the rails when everyone goes on Springer.
Best Segment: “Starship Poopers”
Best Moment: Kodos & Kang show up at the Simpsons’ doorstep. Homer says “Oh great, Mormons,” to which Kang replies, “Actually, we’re Quantum Presbyterians.”
Best Quote: “Ensign Kodos, set co-ordinates for the obscure t-shirt producing planet known as Earth.” -Kang (Gold I tells ye)
12. Treehouse XV, 2004 (The Ned Zone, Four Beheadings and a Funeral, In the Belly of the Boss)
In “The Ned Zone,” Flanders is hit by a bowling ball and can now see how everyone will die. Good sight gag with Ned getting hit. Stellar gag with Ned seeing a Rosie O’Donnell musical poster and envisioning a “cancelled” sign over it. Ned wants to change the future by not killing Homer and succeeds, but it means Homer now destroys humanity. Nice touch there. This might be the strongest “Treehouse” segment of this century.
“Four Beheadings and a Funeral” has Lisa and Bart as Sherlock and Dr. Watson. Wonderful sight gag with Scotland Yard’s motto being “What’s all this, then.” Adolescent Peter Pan going to jail and Comic Book Guy being Comic Book Guy are funny, but that’s about it. There’s a racism gag with Apu that requires an extra level of analysis to be more funny than problematic.
“In the Belly of the Boss” has the Simpson family shrunk to microscopic size to save a microscopic Maggie inside Mr. Burns’ stomach. A couple decent one-liners from Burns. Great retrovirus joke from Frink. Marge’s space suit is *cough* actually kinda hot. It’s ok as a bit. Homer having to stay behind could have been funnier with an Armageddon joke. The end gag with Homer and Burns becoming conjoined is just the same gag as the end of “Homer’s Nightmare” in “Treehouse” II.
Best Segment: “The Ned Zone”
Best Moment: Ned envisions the death of Rosie O’Donnell’s musical.
Best Quote: “Don’t tempt the Gods. I mean God. There’s one God. Only one. Well sometimes there’s three.” -Ned Flanders
All right folks, from here on out, it’s safe to say everything ranges from non-controversially decent to fuck you if you don’t think this is amazing.
11. Treehouse XXIII, 2012 (!) (The Greatest Story Ever Holed, Un-Normal Activity, Bart and Homer’s Excellent Adventure)
It opens with Springfieldians as ancient Mayans getting a sacrifice wrong, causing the end of the world in 2012. It’s…surprisingly good. My favourite is a vendor called “Quetzals Pretzels,” but I happen to know a quetzal is a South American bird, so…
In “The Greatest Story Ever Holed,” Springfield gets a particle accelerator, which works, but doesn’t really tell us anything interesting. It does create a mini-black hole, though, which Lisa hides in the basement. It’s…surprisingly funny. People catch wind of it and the first idea everyone gets is to put their trash in it. That is good satire. The hole gets big enough that it eats all of Springfield. They end up in a universe where alien beings worship human trash. This bit belongs in a “Treehouse” from a decade and a half earlier.
In “Un-Normal Activity,” strange things have been happening in the Simpson house, so Homer sets up a camera and finds a demon is haunting the place. It turns out to be Moe. There’s a flashback with Patty & Selma summoning the devil. Homer has a three-way with two demons. Yeah, we’re back to late-era Simpsons.
“Bart and Homer’s Excellent Adventure” has Bart going back in time to 1974 so that he can buy a comic for 25 cents. Ok, clever premise. Nice joke about no one being mad at George Lucas. Trash joke about Homer and boobs. Decent joke about segues. Great joke about Richard Dreyfuss playing Indiana Jones. Bart alters the future so Marge marries Artie Ziff. Hey, it’s Jon Lovitz!
This “Treehouse” is better than it has any right to be.
Best Segment: “The Greatest Story Ever Holed”
Best Moment: The particle accelerator works, but doesn’t tell us anything interesting. That’s Monty Python good.
Best Quote: “Professor Frink will now throw a switch, which will either answer certain obscure questions of sub-atomic physics, or destroy the Universe.” -Mayor Quimby
10. Treehouse VIII, 1997 (The Homega Man, Fly vs. Fly, Easy-Bake Coven)
“Homega Man” sees Homer unwittingly survive a nuclear blast. There’s a great moment with him sitting in traffic not moving, not realizing what has happened. My favourite is when he finds his family at home completely fine because, as Lisa puts it, “All the layers of lead paint made this the perfect bomb shelter.”
In “Fly vs. Fly,” Homer finds a teleportation machine at Frink’s garage sale, which Bart uses to mix his DNA with a fly. There are a few cute moments, like when Lisa hears fly-Bart by having him speak into her saxophone, but overall it’s not super funny, save for the beginning bits with Frink. Frink is generally better in small doses, but they could have used him more here, as the family-centred stuff is bland.
“Easy-Bake Coven” is a parody of The Crucible, in which Springfield carries out a witch hunt. At this point we’re in an era where a Simpsons parody actually parodies. Marge being an actual witch (in addition to her sisters) is a nice twist. A fantastic moment is when Maude Flanders expresses fear that the witches will have her do carnal acts and Ned mutters, “That’ll be the day.” Turning the bit into a Halloween origin story is a decent touch, too.
Best Segment: “Easy-Bake Coven” (I’m not as high on “Homega Man” as some are)
Best Moment: Comic Book Guy reading Aquaman as the bomb hits.
Best Quote: “If you’re innocent, you will fall to an honorable Christian death. If you are, however, the bride of Satan, you will surely fly your broom to safety. At that point, you will report back here for torture and beheading.” -1649 Chief Wiggum
9. Treehouse XI (2000) (G-G-Ghost D-D-Dad, Scary Tales Can Come True, Night of the Dolphin)
“G-G-Ghost D-D-Dad” has Homer meeting his maker, and then coming back as a ghost, as he must do a good deed before being allowed into Heaven. Very funny stuff with Homer reading the horoscope predicting his death and then narrowly avoiding death in spectacular ways before finally choking on a piece of broccoli. Good stuff with Homer trying and failing to do good deeds, too.
In “Scary Tales Can Come True,” Bart and Lisa are left in a fairy-tale forest Hansel & Gretel style. Some good moments, like Bart combining the too-hot and too-cold porridge instead of having the just-right porridge, Goldilocks failing to escape the three bears, and Homer being turned into a strange bird-fish creature. Not great, but good. You can see the overall quality of The Simpsons starting to wane here.
Okay, here’s where I start to gush ever so slightly:
In “Night of the Dolphin,” Lisa frees Snorky the Dolphin from captivity, but, unbeknownst to Lisa, Snorky is actually a Dolphin king, and he declares war on humanity. One of the reasons Lisa is in my top five favourite Simpsons characters is because her intellect and idealism, while providing many powerful insights and lessons, can also get her and others into trouble. She’s always the brilliant one in the room, but she’s every bit as susceptible to making bad choices as all the other characters. It’s what makes her so human. The segment has some funny bits here and there, too, like Lisa taking the plastic soda can rings off a young dolphin’s nose, who then just smacks her. Hilarious ending with Krusty floating in front of Marge as she says things will be fine, and we get a lovely little epilogue from Kang & Kodos.
Best Segment: “Night of the Dolphin”
Best Moment: Kang & Kodos’ cameo.
Best Quote: “Kang and Kodos productions. Uh-huh. Yes. Just a second. (To Kang) Do we want to do a commercial for something called Old Navy?” -Kodos
8. Treehouse X (1999) (I Know What You Diddily-Iddily-Did, Desperately Xeeking Xena, Life’s a Glitch, Then You Die)
Nice little Kodos & Kang opener.
“I Know What You Diddily-Iddily-Did” is a send-up of I Know What You Did Last Summer. Marge accidentally kills Ned Flanders while driving on a foggy night (after a very funny Homer line about forgetting to put the fog lights in). Homer trying to get Maude to see him faking Ned’s death is darkly funny. In the end it turns out Ned was still alive and is a werewolf. It’s not the best ending, but a lot of strong little moments.
In “Desperately Xeeking Xena,” Bart and Lisa gain super powers and try to save Xena: Warrior Princess. Two great moments right off the hop with Lou getting jealous when Wiggum says his son Ralph is the cutest little police officer, and then when Lisa mocks Millhouse’s terrible Radioactive Man outfit. Frink complaining to Xena about inconsistencies in Warrior Princess episodes is hilarious. Lucy Lawless guest stars, by the way, and she’s fantastic.
“In Life’s a Glitch, Then You Die,” Homer forgets to Y2K proof the power plant’s computer system, causing havoc throughout the world. Not as many funny moments as the other two, though Chief Wiggum excitedly telling everyone the mall is being looted is great, as is Lisa not hesitating to only take Marge to Mars, leaving Bart and Homer to the ship headed for the sun with mediocre celebrities like Pauly Shore and Tom Arnold. Great ending with Bart and Homer ejecting themselves into space rather than listening to Rosie O’Donnell sing for the five remaining minutes before they all hit the sun.
Best Segment: “Desperately Xeeking Xena”
Best Moment: Lucy Lawless could undo her breast plate to get away from Comic Book Guy’s magnet, but chooses not to because gross nerds are everywhere.
Best Quote: “Stop right there! I have the only working phaser ever built. It was fired only once to keep William Shatner from making another album.” -Comic Book Guy
7. Treehouse V, 1994 (The Shinning, Time and Punishment, Nightmare Cafeteria)
“The Shinning” is, naturally, a parody of The Shining. Bart can communicate telepathically and Homer is on a murderous rampage sans beer and TV. There are a lot of funny moments, like the Simpsons forgetting to lock the front door and having to do the intro several times. Burns, Homer, and Groundskeeper Willie have some great one liners, too. This bit is number one on a couple “Treehouse” segment lists, but for me slasher Homer just isn’t that funny.
In “Time and Punishment,” Homer accidentally turns a toaster into a time machine while trying to fix it. Lots of laughs here, too. The Mr. Peabody & Sherman references are great. Abe Simpson’s advice to Homer on time travel is random and delightful. The alternate universes Homer creates are mostly funny, the best being a Big Brother-esque world where Flanders is supreme ruler.
“Nightmare Cafeteria” is a Soylent Green parody, where the teachers end up eating misbehaving students due to cuts to the cafeteria budget. The kids eating Uterbraten after the German exchange student gets detention is a great moment. Willie getting axed as a running gag is pretty great, too. I love the “Surely something will save the Simpson children” line after Millhouse gets the grinder, and the musical ending is fun.
There isn’t a dud in this Treehouse, I just find it on the whole underwhelming compared to other early seasons.
Best Segment: “The Shinning”
Best Moment: Homer panics about the otherwise perfect no-donut universe and reactivates the time travelling toaster, just before it starts raining donuts.
Best Quote: “You just use that “Shin” of yours to call me and I’ll come a running. But don’t be reading my mind between four and five. That’s Willy’s time!” -Groundskeeper Willie
6. Treehouse VI, 1995 (Attack of the 50 Foot Eyesores, Nightmare on Evergreen Terrace, Homer Cubed)
In “Attack of the 50 Foot Eyesores,” giant advertising mascots come to life, and Homer raises the ire of a giant donut shop statue when he steals its giant donut. The donut statue showing up at Homer’s house and being redirected to Flanders’ is a nice moment, though my favourite is the brief Kodos & Kang appearance. It’s ok overall. Some love the message about advertising; I find its execution a bit too on the nose.
“Nightmare on Evergreen Terrace” is a parody of Nightmare on Elm Street. The kids of Springfield discover Groundskeeper Willie is trying to kill them in their dreams, so they all have to stay awake. Martin’s dream is extremely funny, with Martin being Martin. Homer’s “Lousy Smarch weather” quip is hilarious. Willie’s giant bagpipe soldier is actually genuinely scary. Even the music in this bit is great. Again Simpsons parodies are better when they actually parody.
“Homer Cubed” is another Twilight Zone parody, with Homer finding a 3D world behind the bookcase while trying to avoid a visit from Patty and Selma. The 3D world looks like an old Windows screensaver now, but for 1995 it’s some darned innovative stuff. Homer’s “This place looks expensive” quip is hilarious, as are Professor Frink’s explanations of quantum physics. The ending is fantastic and a bit of a mind fuck, as Homer gets sucked into a black hole and ends up in our world, walking into an erotic cake shop.
I appreciate that this “Treehouse” actually makes a genuine effort to get inside the viewer’s head with some weird/spooky shit.
Best Segment: “Nightmare on Evergreen Terrace”
Best Moment: 3D Homer walks into a real life erotic cake shop.
Best Quote: “He came to life…good for him.” -Homer
5. Treehouse III, 1992 (Clown Without Pity, King Homer, Dial Z for Zombies)
In “Clown Without Pity” Homer buys a cursed Krusty Doll for Bart’s birthday. His exchange with the shopkeep is comedy writing at it’s finest:
Shopkeep: Take this object, but beware it carries a terrible curse!
Homer: Ooh, that’s bad.
Shopkeep: But it comes with a free frogurt!
Homer: That’s good.
Shopkeep: The frogurt is also cursed.
Homer: That’s bad.
Shopkeep: But you get your choice of toppings.
Homer: That’s good!
Shopkeep: The toppings contain potassium benzoate.
[Homer looks puzzled]
Shopkeep: …That’s bad.
Grandpa has an all-time great line when he gives Bart a bunch of money he got from the Government: “I don’t need it, but if they miss one payment I’ll raise hell!” The evil/good switch reveal is funny stuff, and Krusty cozying up to Malibu Stacey at the end of the bit is gut-busting. This is the one slasher “Treehouse” I really love.
“King Homer” is your basic King Kong parody with a few big laughs I’d forgotten about. Smithers, for example, has a line about seamen I did not understand when it first aired, so I hollered my ass off on a re-watch. Homer eating Shirley Temple is a great moment, and Burns has a smattering of good quips.
“Dial Z for Zombies” sees Springfield overrun with the walking dead when an attempt to resurrect Lisa’s old cat goes awry. Zombie Skinner, Krusty, and Flanders provide great moments. Zombies cornering Homer and then losing interest after examining his head = very funny, and I didn’t realize I’d stolen this joke from The Simpsons many times. Two John Smiths getting confused about which grave is theirs is an all-time great moment. The final moment with the Simpsons sitting watching TV, zombie-like, commenting how it’s nice the zombie threat is over is a great moment too, if not quite as sophisticated a critique as a couple moments in the first two Treehouse specials.
Best Segment: “Clown Without Pity”
Best Moment: Homer purchases the Krusty doll.
Best Quote: “Your doll is trying to kill my husband! …Yes I’ll hold.” -Marge
4. Treehouse I, 1990 (Bad Dream House, Hungry are the Damned, The Raven)
Marge’s “This episode isn’t for kids” opening is delightfully charming. It’s also my earliest vivid memory of the series. I remember seeing this when it first aired and being positively giddy about still getting to watch it. I was hooked from then on. Clever reverse psychology, Simpsons writers. Clever.
“Bad Dream House” is a pedestrian take on the tired and frankly racist “house on an ancient Indian burial ground” trope. This bit really hasn’t aged well; the line, “This kitchen could use a woman’s touch” is particularly embarrassing.
“Hungry are the Damned,” fortunately, has aged like a fine scotch. The Simpsons get abducted by aliens, who feed them like kings, fattening them up. Lisa gets suspicious, and finds a cookbook which seems to be on how to cook humans. The ensuing bit with space-dust obscuring the actual title is as funny 25 years later as it was when it first aired.
More than any show I’ve seen, The Simpsons (in early seasons) is fantastic at giving you a laugh per minute while also conveying meaningful parables. Fear and mistrust undo humanity in “Hungry are the Damned,” and I love that Lisa is the agent of this message, as it speaks to how the very intelligence and sophistication that makes us human can also make us beasts.
The Simpsons’ take on Poe’s “The Raven” is fantastic, and I wish more TV shows did things like this. Like when South Park just up and decided to do Great Expectations. It was awesome. Of course they added robot monkeys, because South Park, but that’s the beauty of animation. The depth and imagination of early Simpsons was truly something to behold.
Best Segment: “Hungry are the Damned”
Best Moment: “How to Cook For Forty Humans.”
Best Quote: “Well if you wanted to make Serak the Preparer cry, mission accomplished.” -Kang
3. Treehouse VII (The Thing and I, The Genesis Tub, Citizen Kang)
In “The Thing and I,” Bart discovers he has a conjoined twin named Hugo living in the attic. It’s fun to see a young Dr. Hibbert discovering one twin is evil, and it’s not a great surprise when it turns out Bart is actually the evil twin, but the twist still works, and it’s a nice non-canon development for Bart’s character. It’s the weakest bit of the three, though Homer humming the obscure song, “Fish Heads” is pretty stellar.
“The Genesis Tub” is a favourite “Treehouse” bit of mine. Lisa discovers her science fair project involving a tooth and some Coke has spawned a miniature civilization. Lots of nice little moments like Bart proving nerds conduct electricity, Lisa wanting to ruin soda for everyone like how she ruined Chinese food for everyone, and Lisa showing she’s Homer’s daughter with the line, “I’ve created life…Ooh, waffles!” “I created the universe, give me the gift certificate” is another great Lisa line.
Lisa’s civilization building a shrink ray without thinking of inventing the reverse technology is a beautiful little commentary. Also the annoying citizens demanding to know why Lisa (God, to them) allows bad things to happen to good people very nicely takes the piss out of Atheists, in a good-natured way. It’s only fair given how much The Simpsons makes fun of religion.
Citizen Kang is goddamn gem. Kodos & Kang abduct Bill Clinton and Bob Dole and then run against each other for President. Every Clinton and Dole line is hilarious, and the satire of American political campaigns is both dead on and still timely. The lines, “We’ve reached the limits of what rectal probing can teach us” and “Abortions for some, miniature American flags for others” are two of the best lines of the entire series, and neither of them are my favourite in this bit. Top form Simpsons here.
Best Segment: “Citizen Kang”
Best Moment: A citizen says they’ll vote for a third party candidate, and Kang says “Go ahead, throw your vote away.” Ross Perot puts a fist through his hat.
Best Line: “Don’t blame me, I voted for Kodos.” -Homer
2. Treehouse II, 1991 (Lisa’s Nightmare, Bart’s Nightmare, Homer’s Nightmare)
In “Lisa’s Nightmare,” Homer purchases a monkey’s paw in Morocco, which, of course, gets way out of hand (heh), as Lisa wishes for world peace, which leaves Earth ripe for an invasion by Kodos & Kang, now that all humanity’s weapons have been destroyed. What seems like a cynical message beautifully wraps around itself at the end of the bit, with Ned getting the paw and wishing the aliens away, and Moe then chasing them away with a board with a nail in it before Kodos’ final vision that humans will now build bigger boards with bigger nails in them, eventually destroying themselves. That’s a lot of nuance packed into a fast-paced bit. I’m gonna call this the best segment in “Treehouse” history, though on the whole I do think one episode is better.
Bart’s wish for the Simpsons to be rich and famous is noteworthy as well, as the Springfieldians quickly get bored of the Simpsons and their merchandise being everywhere. Wonderfully self-referential (and prophetic, considering the Keith Richards of TV shows is still on the air somehow).
“Bart’s Nightmare” turns Springfield into a Twilight Zone-esque dystopia where Bart can read everyone’s thoughts and punishes anyone who isn’t thinking positively. Hilarity ensues. Marge’s “Oh good! The curtains are on fire!” = gut-buster. Krabapple’s “America was now discovered in 1942 by Some Guy” = outstanding. 346 consecutive hours of Krusty = hysterical. I love the way this segment captures how I feel around positivity police.
“Homer’s Nightmare” is a Frankenstein parody with Homer as the monster and Mr. Burns as the Doctor. It’s funny enough with some nice Burns and Smithers banter, though nowhere near as sophisticated as the first two segments, which vault this “Treehouse” into the top two.
Best Segment: “Lisa’s Nightmare”
Best Moment: Moe fights off an alien invasion with a board with a nail in it.
Best Quote: “That board with a nail in it may have defeated us, but the humans won’t stop there. They’ll make bigger boards and bigger nails. Soon they will make a board with a nail in it so big, it will destroy them all.” -Kang
1. Treehouse IV, 1993 (The Devil and Homer Simpson, Terror at 5 1/2 Feet, Bart Simpson’s Dracula)
The intros with Bart presenting spooky paintings are awesome, particularly when Homer freaks out at “Dogs Playing Poker.” I remember howling when I first saw that.
“The Devil and Homer Simpson” sees Homer selling his soul to the devil (Flanders, because why not) for a donut, and then being on trial once he has eaten the whole thing. This is one of those laugh-a-second bits where everything is so tight, and the end where it turns out Homer’s soul is the property of Marge is actually quite touching. Capping it off with Homer’s head as a donut is great. This bit perfectly combines horror, absurity, and sincerity just as everything peak Simpsons does.
“Terror at 5 1/2 feet,” a Twilight Zone parody, has a gremlin on the school bus, which only Bart seems to see. Like the last bit, it’s quite literally a laugh a second. The opening moment with the Krusty trading cards (one being “Krusty visits relatives in Annapolis, Maryland”) is damned hilarious. Martin’s “Wang Computers” shirt killed me. One liners like Skinner’s “The only monster on this bus is a lack of proper respect for the rules” and Groundskeeper Willie’s “Me mule wouldn’t walk in the mud so I had to put seventeen bullets in him” come at a breakneck pace. Season 5 is, in my view, the best of the series, and this is why.
“Bart Simpson’s Dracula” is what it sounds like. Mr. Burns is Dracula, and the Simpsons are invited to his castle for a midnight dinner. Lots of funny moments, like Lisa informing Homer he’s drinking blood and Homer replying “Correction, free blood.” Many great sight gags, like Burns’ shadow yo-yoing, the “Super Fun Happy Slide,” and Homer driving a stake through Burns’ nether regions. The head vampire twist at the end is great, too, as is the random Peanuts ending. Easily the weakest of the three, and yet it’d be the strongest in other seasons.
Best Segment: “The Devil and Homer Simpson”
Best Moment: Police wait outside the Simpson home for Homer, whose head has been turned into a donut.
Best Quote: “Hello, Simpson. I’m riding the bus today because mother hid my car keys to punish me for talking to a woman on the phone. She was right to do it.” -Skinner
And that’s all, folks. Tune in next time for my ranking of the top 54 Christmas episodes of As The World Turns.