A RANKING OF ALL TWENTY “TREEHOUSE OF HORROR” SIMPSONS EPISODES BY QUALITY
20.) Treehouse of Horror XVIII. “E.T. Go Home” is one of the least impressive Kang/Kodos stories; it’s forced and relies a lot on the fact that everybody loves Kang and Kodos (or, in this case, pretty much just Kodos). “Mr. and Mrs. Simpson” is just another parody of a bit of pop-culture ephemera well past its time (over two years after Mr. and Mrs. Smith came out in theatres) and not a particularly great one, although not offensive. “Heck House” is just boring and not funny and relies too much on viewer knowledge to even be decent, let alone good.
19.) Treehouse of Horror XVI. “I’ve Grown A Costume On Your Face” is a very slightly more passable rework of “Island of Dr. Hibbert,” but it still mostly sucks – and the “what if people were their Halloween costumes” idea isn’t particularly original or fresh at this point, to say the least. “Survival Of The Fattest” – with Mr. Burns hunting down all the losers of Springfield for sport – is a reasonably good entry, with funny violent gags and a basic idea that actually makes sense for The Simpsons. However, “Bartificial Intelligence” is weak, weak sauce – both because it parodies A.I. (wow, there’s a cultural touchstone) and because it has a super-pathetic twist ending to cover up the lack of an ending to the bad original gag story idea.
18.) Treehouse of Horror XVII. “Married to the Blob” is like all the fat jokes The Simpsons normally does, except cranked up to eleven in terms of emphasis and three in terms of funny. “You Gotta Know When To Golem” isn’t a bad entry by any means: it’s a perfectly serviceable “celebrity guest appearance” segment for “Treehouse” and Fran Drescher showing up as the second golem is pretty brilliant. However, “The Day The Earth Looked Stupid” is both incredibly forced and just plain insulting to one’s intelligence – the Iraq War metaphor is both forced and kind of stupid, and it wasn’t even a good vignette to begin with.
17.) Treehouse of Horror XX. “Dial M For Murder Or Press # to Return to the Main Menu” is a loose collection of Hitchock references in search of something approaching humour which fails tremendously. “There’s No Business Like Moe Business” is a weird and frankly indulgent riff on Sweeney Todd that tries to be meta-comedy and similarly fails tremendously. Luckily, “Don’t Have A Cow, Mankind” is probably the strongest zombie story the show’s done in a very long time – a bit of a silly ending, but when Apu gets frustrated as the Simpsons drive off without him, it’s pretty damn funny.
16.) Treehouse of Horror XIV. “Reaper Madness,” with Homer taking over as Death, has some really inspired – even brilliant – gags, but unfortunately has a really weak ending in the standard “well, what now” mold (Homer evades the wrath of God on a motorcycle somehow). “Frinkenstein” earns points for having Jerry Lewis play Frink Senior, but even for a “Treehouse” story the plot really makes no sense and it similarly just kind of peters out. “Stop The World, I Want To Goof Off” is a riff on Clockstoppers, no matter much how Wikipedia might claim it’s inspired by a Twilight Zone storyline, and is about what you would expect from that.
15.) Treehouse of Horror XIII. “The Island of Dr. Hibbert” is one of the worst “Treehouse” segments of all time: it’s not funny and it’s not funny for a very, very long time. (Which in a way is appropriate for a parody of The Island of Dr. Moreau, but.) “The Fright To Creep And Scare Harms,” wherein Billy the Kid and Kaiser Wilhem come back from the dead once Lisa bans all guns in Springfield, is uneven and suffers from a bad case of “and then THIS happens,” which is pretty typical from a relatively mediocre period of The Simpsons. On the bright side, “Send In The Clones” would probably make my personal top ten list of best segments: it’s got a good premise, uses violence comedically without just delivering it for the sake of “it’s a Halloween episode,” and it’s clever and sharp (even with a well-deserved jab at Family Guy).
14.) Treehouse of Horror VIII. “The Homega Man” is a pretty good story in all respects, although if anything it doesn’t go far enough in letting Homer really go nuts after the end of the world. “Fly vs. Fly” has one gag, and it’s a pretty good gag, but it wears thin by the end of the six-minute story so maybe it wasn’t that good. “Easy-Bake Coven” is weird in that it’s pretty funny right up until Marge is revealed to be a witch (which is really the entire premise of the sketch) at which point it just starts to drag; it feels poorly conceived on a number of levels.
13.) Treehouse Of Horror XII. “Hex and the City” has a terrible title, but it’s a great little story that isn’t afraid to be gruesome in the best Simpsons Halloween traditions, complete with Bart dying really gruesomely. “House of Whacks” has not one but two of the best celebrity cameos for a “Treehouse” – both Pierce Brosnan’s feature role and Matthew Perry’s single line are great – and it’s a really funny vignette to boot. Unfortunately, the show ends with “Wiz Kids,” an absolutely terrible Harry Potter parody that feels forced and obligatory in just about every way you could imagine – even the great bit with the giant vomiting frog-mutant can’t save this one.
12.) Treehouse of Horror I. Maybe it’s a bit unfair to compare the first “Treehouse” to the others, as they were still finding their voice at this point (and trying to justify the Halloween episode as being in-continuity by claiming the vignettes were for-real stories). But nonetheless – “Bad Dream House” is inspired if a bit dated. “Hungry Are The Damned” certainly gains points for introducing Kang and Kodos, but they had better days ahead of them. And the retelling of “The Raven,” while certainly earning extra credit for being classy, isn’t really all that great.
11.) Treehouse of Horror IV. “The Devil and Homer Simpson” – wherein Homer sells his soul to Satan Flanders for a donut – is probably one of the most beloved “Treehouse” vignettes of all time, and rightly so. However, “Terror at 5/12 Feet” doesn’t have nearly enough gags to keep up the pace established by the first episode, and spends too much time with Bart getting frenetic about the gremlin and not nearly enough time coming up with good jokes. “Bart Simpson’s Dracula,” while certainly solid, suffers from a mediocre “huh?” ending and then a corny “g’night everybody” second ending.
10.) Treehouse of Horror XV. “The Ned Zone” shows that Flanders is in fact a pretty good Halloween story protagonist, and has probably some of the tightest plotting in any “Treehouse” segment ever – plus it’s really funny as both a Dead Zone parody and as a Homer/Ned vignette. Which is why it’s so weird to see it paired up with “Four Beheadings and a Funeral,” an average-at-best mishmash of Victorian sight jokes and Sherlock Holmes references, complete with tacked on twist ending. However, this “Treehouse” rebounds with “In The Belly of the Boss,” a Fantastic Voyage riff involving a trip into Mr. Burns that’s pretty entertaining on all levels – not one of the true greats but definitely solid.
9.) Treehouse of Horror IX. “Hell Toupee” is ludicrously silly, but fun. “The Terror of Tiny Toon” doesn’t quite have the payoff that the long-awaited-at-the-time Halloween story featuring Itchy and Scratchy should have: I mean, it hits all the beats (complete with chase through television channels), but just seems a bit lacking somehow. “Starship Poopers” is perfectly enjoyable, but at times I think that Kang and Kodos combined with Jerry Springer should have somehow been even more frenetic and crazed than it was. I may be ranking this one a bit low based solely on failure to meet expectations.
8.) Treehouse of Horror XIX. “Untitled Robot Parody” is a pretty standard parody segment – this time it’s Transformers – but it’s competent if nothing else, and has the right sort of dark ending (the heroic robots and evil robots decide to make peace – and then conquer mankind) that works in a “Treehouse.” “How To Get Ahead in Dead-Vertising” tries to shove a lot into six minutes and doesn’t quite make it, although the Rip Taylor cameo is perfect. Even though these two are reasonably good, they’re completely outshone by “It’s The Grand Pumpkin, Milhouse,” which isn’t just a very funny “Treehouse” segment (which it is) but almost a work of art in its own right, thanks to the complete redesign to try and make The Simpsons look like Peanuts.
7.) Treehouse of Horror X. “I Know What You Diddily-Iddily-Did” is pretty good right up until the ending, where Flanders reveals he’s a werewolf for no apparent reason. (However, it’s forgivable, because of Homer’s extended reaction and then the flash pan to the rest of his family running away.) “Desperately Xeeking Xena” has a bit of a convoluted setup but mostly justifies it with a lot of really dedicated geek humour. (And Lucy Lawless is great. “Wizard!) The standout here, though, is “Life’s a Glitch And Then You Die,” which is a wonderful sendup of Y2K hysteria and has one of the best endings in Simpsons Halloween history and a great cameo from Tom Arnold.
6.) Treehouse of Horror II. “The Monkey’s Paw” is probably still the gold standard for Halloween vignettes on “Treehouses” – so memorable that it inspired a pretty great webcomic, and “Enslave humanity, willya?” is one of my favorite lines from the series ever. However, “The Bart Zone” and “If I Only Had A Brain” can’t hope to match the heights of “The Monkey’s Paw” – the former is good but not amazingly so, and the latter strictly average.
5.) Treehouse of Horror VI. “Attack of the Fifty-Foot Eyesores” is definitely one of my personal favorites, if only for the enormous Kent Brockman monster killing the actual Kent Brockman and the best Kang and Kodos cameo of all time. (“Remember our cover story: we’re newlyweds on our way to Earth Capital.”) “Nightmare on Evergreen Terrace” is mostly decent with occasional flourishes of genius like the lousy Smarch weather. “Homer3” is perhaps more notable for the technology than the paper-thin excuse of a story to use it, but earns goodwill for being entirely willing to admit it’s a gimmick and nothing more, and in doing so with style.
4.) Treehouse of Horror III. “Clown Without Pity” is really great for the simple reason that an evil version of Krusty the Klown just seems natural somehow. “King Homer” is a bit broad at times, but it’s funny and it doesn’t ever drag. And of course, “Dial Z for Zombies” is one of the show’s classic Halloween bits, full to bursting of quotable moments. “You killed the zombie Flanders!” “He was a zombie?”
3.) Treehouse of Horror XI. “G-G-Ghost D-D-Dad” is one of the better “somebody dies” sequences in a “Treehouse,” if only for Homer’s excuse that Agnes Skinner was “the next Hitler!” “Scary Tales Can Come True” is one of the better alternate-universe-Simpsons riffs, and the fairytale-inspired gags are generally pretty sharp. But the standout here is “Night of the Dolphin,” which is just a brilliantly insane concept (the dolphins invade – and they’re pissed!) and executed just about perfectly every step of the way: it’s easily one of the best single “Treehouse” vignettes and a strong contender for the best one ever.
2.) Treehouse of Horror VII. “The Thing and I” isn’t one of the most-quoted Simpsons Halloween stories, but it should be: Dr. Hibbert’s explanation of Hugo and Hugo himself are chock-full of comic genius. “The Genesis Tub” is a very strong entry and often overlooked unjustly as well; the deification of Lisa is hilarious, as is the fleet of tub-men in their little space-laser ships attacking Bart. But these two get overlooked for a reason: “Citizen Kang” is the definitive Kang and Kodos story, and one of the high points of Simpsons satrical coverage of political culture for the series as a whole. “Go ahead. THROW your vote away!” is one of the most memorable lines of the entire series, not just the Halloween episodes.
1.) Treehouse of Horror V. Unlike all the other “Treehouses,” this one ties itself together and feels more like a complete episode rather than three unconnected vignettes (or going to the “we’re telling stories” well), even though those vignettes are unconnected, mostly because they pointedly kill Groundskeeper Willy in each one. “The Shinning” is probably the best Halloween-themed parody the show has ever done; “Time and Punishment” starts out being an alternate-universe story but then perfectly expands into something much, much crazier; and “Nightmare Cafeteria” is probably the darkest and blackest comedy the Halloween episodes have ever given us. Easily the best single “Treehouse.”