A shorter batch tonight. My stamina is already waning. And yet so far I feel really engaged with this exercise. This is fun. This group reminded me that for such a topical show, The Simpsons can also feel extraordinarily fresh and relevant even two decades later. I tend to roll my eyes a little when people say stuff like that because I’ve never been quite the Simpsons devotee that many other people are. But sometimes a particular joke will reach out and shake you by the throat until you acknowledge the truth.
Not a single chuckle-worthy tombstone or framing device to be found tonight. I guess those are well and truly dead.
Simpsons Halloween Special VII (1996)
Couch gag: The grim reaper steals the family’s seat on the couch.
Stories: 1) The Thing and I (Bart finds his secret, formerly conjoined twin in the attic); The Genesis Tub (Lisa becomes god to a mini-civilization); and 3) Citizen Kang (aliens interfere with a presidential election).
Favorite quote: “Stop. We have reached the limits of what rectal probing can teach us.”
Notes: This marks the first of these specials I haven’t already seen at some point in the past. To be honest, the first two segments felt a little weak. Particularly because Rick and Morty took the microverse concept and improved the execution exponentially (even though one must acknowledge that there is no Rick and Morty without Homer and Bart). However, “Citizen Kang” redeems all. This episode seems notable because there’s nothing about it that really says “Halloween.” These are just a trio of weird, dark, violent, non-canon stories that happen in Springfield.
Simpsons Halloween Special VIII (1997)
Couch gag: Everyone gets electo-shock therapy on the couch.
Stories: 1) The Homega Man with Homer becoming the last man on Earth; 2) Fly vs. Fly, in which Bart learns the hard way to not mess around with teleportation; and 3) Easy-Bake Coven, which brings the Salem Witch Trials to Springfield.
Favorite quote: “This baby is called the Withstandinator. It can take a 6 megaton blast. No more. No less.”
Notes: The episode opens with a bit revolving around a Fox censor and a jab at the then-new television ratings system. In one segment, there’s a sick Gary Larsen burn. I genuinely miss The Far Side. Sigh.
Simpsons Halloween Special IX (1998)
Couch gag: A gruesome take on the normal credit sequence. Love it.
Stories: 1) Hell Toupee (an executed criminal haunts Homer’s transplanted hair); The Terror of Tiny Toon (Bart and Lisa get sucked into Itchy and Scratchy), and 3) Starship Poopers (Maggie turns out to be Marge’s alien lovechild with Kang).
Favorite quote: “It’s almost as if he’s killing from beyond the grave.” “I told you capital punishment isn’t a deterrent.”
Notes: I had some doubts at the beginning of the first segment, but this episode won me over. Big time. OMG, Regis and Kathie Lee have a live-action cameo! Also, Kang’s seduction of Marge is priceless, but that segment just keeps getting better when Jerry Springer appears. Maggie’s revised origin might just be my new favorite Treehouse of Horror segment. Watch out, “The Shinning!” She’s coming for you with her little baby tentacles.
Simpsons Halloween Special X (1999)
Couch gag: The Simpsons family watches the 10th Anniversary of the Kang and Kodos Halloween Special.
Stories: 1) I Know What You Diddily-Iddly-Did (Marge accidentally runs over Ned Flanders); 2) Desperately Xeeking Xena (Bart and Lisa become superheroes and meet Lucy Lawless); and 3) Life’s a Glitch, Then You Die (The Simpsons face a computer-facilitated Armageddon).
Favorite quote: “Whenever you notice something like that, a wizard did it.”
Notes: Is the framing device back? No! It’s just a fake out opener that leads into the couch gag. You got me, Simpsons. Lucy Lawless continues to flaunt her awesomeness across all formats. This is the only episode I watched tonight that I had previously seen, but for some reason I had wiped most of it from my memory. I only remembered the joke where a villainous Comic Book Guy wants to dip Bart and Lisa in Lucite. I’ve decided that references to the era of my youth are the best references. I saw I Know What You Did Last Summer, and then I reviewed it for my high school newspaper. And, dude… Y2K.