This month, many of us Geekaders will be talking about some of our favorite movies to watch around this time of year. Before I do my movie write up, I thought I’d take a little detour to TV town (I am on a TV podcast now, after all) and talk about one of the best Hallowen specials ever to grace the small screen. I’m talking about The Simpsons: Treehouse of Horror V.
Halloween specials have been a tradition on The Simpsons for almost as long as it’s been on the air, but for my money, the fifth installment was the best. This episode was broken into three segments; The Shinning, Time and Punishment, and Nightmare Cafeteria. All three of these mini-sodes are infinitely quotable, and still damn funny after all these years.
The Shinning is probably my favorite of the bunch, because Homer is relentlessly hilarious here. If you couldn’t tell by the title, it’s a parody of The Shining. The plot centers around the Simpsons heading to Mr. Burns’ estate as caretakers. It seems like a normal weekend away until Homer realizes that there is no television to watch, and more importantly, nary a Duff in sight. As Homer slowly loses his mind, Bart is confronted by Groundskeeper Willie, who informs him that he possesses The Shinning, which is some sort of psychic ability he can use to summon Willie if he’s in trouble. Elsewhere, Homer is confronted by Marge in a room where he’s written “No TV and no beer make Homer go crazy” all over the walls, which is followed by one of the best exchanges in Simspon’s hisorty.
Homer: No TV and no beer make Homer something something
Marge: Go crazy?
Homer: DON’T MIND IF I DO!!!
In the end, Groundskeeper Willie is stabbed in the back with an axe, Homer finds a TV, and the family is more or less safe. There’s so much fantastic about this episode alone that would solidify it in the canon of best TV ever, but there’s still more brilliance on the way.
Time and Punishment begins with Homer trying to fix his broken toaster. Somehow during his process, he accidentally turns the toaster into a time machine. Homer then travels back to the age of dinosaurs, where he quickly realizes that he shouldn’t touch anything for fear of a butterfly effect drastically altering his future. Of course, being Homer, he screws this up several times, each time returning to his present with hilariously bizarre results. There’s one alternate reality where Ned Flanders is the supreme ruler of the world, one where his kids are giants, one where Groundskeeper Willie tries to help and Maggie has a very deep voice, and one where everything is great except for the fact that donuts don’t exist. (rain, on the other hand…)
In the end, Groundskeeper Willie is stabbed in the back with an axe, Simpson life returns to a state of normalcy, and humans have lizard tongues, which Homer deems “close enough.” This is another standout episode, and is still absolutely hilarious to this day. But we still have one more to go.
Nightmare Cafeteria is a parody of Soylent Green, where Principal Skinner believes the detention hall is too full, so he needs to find a way to thin out the student body. His solution is to team up with Lunchlady Doris to murder the excess students and feed them to the remaining kids. The kids start suspecting something’s wrong when students go missing one day, and the next they’re served meals like Uterbraten and Sloppy Jimbos. the students confront the teachers, chase scenes ensue, Groundskeeper Willie attempts to save the day, and the students fall to their demise.
In the end, Groundskeeper Willie is stabbed in the back with an axe, Bart wakes up realizing it was all a dream, a mysterious green fog seeps in through the windows which turns everyone inside out, and the credits roll while a disgusting looking inside out Simpson family performs an unsettling yet hilarious song and dance.
Everything that happens during these 22 minutes is comedy gold. From the opening where Marge warns the audience about the excessive violence, to the ending where Santa’s Little Helper drags an inside out Bart off the screen to presumably devour his delicious master, Treehouse of Horror V is everything a Simpson’s Halloween special should be. And while there have been a great many fantastic Treehouse sketches over the years, this episode sets the bar. It’s a classic in every sense of the word, and an absolute must watch this time of year.