The traditional Simpsons "Treehouse of Horror" has reached its XIX installment. And if I've learned anything from the Rocky movies, it's that XIX is a really big number. Multiply that big number by the three shorts in each episode and you get… a lot of "Treehouse of Horror." As any Simpsons fan knows, this is a chance for the series to tell a few short tales of the strange and bizarre, and usually the gory and gross. This year is no exception.
The opening segment, once simply an introduction/warning from Marge, has evolved to become almost a fourth short story in the episode. This year it's a mini-adventure with Homer going to vote. Doesn't sound very frightening, until you realize the electronic voting machine is changing votes. That, and it's eating people. It's a quick, surprisingly timely segment that serves its purpose of setting the tone for the rest of the episode.
Overall, this is a highly entertaining installment of "Treehouse of Horror." Of course, I have my favorites so it's not likely that these three segments will immediately be considered top-tier. But, really, they get the job done, providing some laughs and grossing me out just a bit. It is Halloween, after all. The first segment is an enjoyable parody of the Transformers. Heck, even the title of the segment transforms with humorous results. The story itself is rather predictable, but seeing transforming robots destroying Springfield is never a bad thing.
The second segment is the one I'm most disappointed in because the idea had so much potential. Homer accidentally kills Krusty (one of the best deaths in "Treehouse" history) and is then touted as an expert celebrity killer. An ad agency then hires Homer to kill celebrities so they can use their likenesses in their commercials. Great idea, right? Well, its execution doesn't quite live up to that potential. There are still some laughs, but their choice of some of the celebrities is a little strange: George Washington? Golda Meir? It was also disappointing that no actual celebrities did a guest voice. This would have been a great opportunity for some self-deprecating. Still, a number of the bits are entertaining, and you should definitely check it out if only for the fun, shot-for-shot homage to the Mad Men opening credits.
The last segment, as is often the case, is the best this year. Another great homage, it tells the tale of Milhouse waiting for the appearance of The Grand Pumpkin. This parody of the classic Peanuts Halloween special earns points right off the bat for the nostalgia factor. To see the Simpsons characters that I have loved for 20 years filling the roles of the Peanuts characters that I've likely loved even longer is just too good not to enjoy. This segment may not be all that gory, but it's funny and, quite honestly, it will just make you feel good. I won't say who plays whom, though some are fairly obvious, but there's one specific choice that works incredibly well.
Whether or not this year's "Treehouse" is up to the standards of past outings is up for debate, but I can't deny the fact that missing it would make the Halloween season feel incomplete. The fact that XIX is funny, entertaining and even nostalgic only makes this yearly tradition that much better. And as the years move on, I might just find myselff adding one of these segments to my own personal list.