You know, it’s always great to reminisce about The Simpsons in their heyday but in order to truly celebrate the Halloween holiday, we need to talk about some truly horrific things: The awful Treehouse of Horror specials. Sure I could easily talk about the best ones all day and night, but it’s not an appropriate way to show I care about this show.
After their latest Treehouse of Horror became a new exercise in banality, it got me thinking about all of the other times the specials have lacked effort. These aren’t just the average ones, these aren’t just the particularly unfunny ones, these are most certainly:
The ten blurst worst Treehouse of Horror stories The Simpsons has to offer.
Dis-Honorable Mentions: Wanted: Dead, Then Alive, Heck House, Oh the Places You’ll D’Oh, Tweenlight, There’s No Business Like Moe Business, Mr & Mrs. Simpson, Wiz Kids, Easy-Bake Coven, and The Fright to Creep and Scare Harms
10. Homer’s Nightmare (“If I Only Had a Brain”) (Treehouse of Horror II)
That’s right, the bad ones were actually off to an early start. In the same episode that brought us the great Lisa’s Nightmare and the so-so Bart’s Nightmare, we have the clunky Homer’s Nightmare. In this short, Mr. Burns is attempting to create a super worker but ends up putting Homer’s brain in that super worker so the end result is what you’d expect. I’ll chalk this one’s badness to growing pains as it was the first true sequel in the series. The show was still trying to figure out what to do with their Halloween specials and I’m sure every idea seemed viable.
9. Terror at 5 1/2 Feet (Treehouse of Horror IV)
As you’ll find out later in this list, The Simspsons doesn’t nail every spoof it tries. Taking on the Twilight Zone classic “Terror at 20,000 Feet,” this short gives Bart a little Gremlin problem. Sure there’s a good joke involving Hans Moleman, but the rest of the story is particularly rote. And in the same episode as The Devil and Homer Simpson and Bart Simpson’s Dracula, it’s egregious awfulness sticks out even more so. Maybe it’s just an average story caught in between two particularly great ones, but that’s just how the cookie crumbles. But at least it’s not as bad as everything else here.
8. The Thing and I (Treehouse of Horror VII)
Okay, now we’re getting into it. When Bart finds out he’s got a long lost, potentially evil twin named Hugo chained up in the basement, everything falls apart both literally and figuratively. I distinctly remember realizing these weren’t going to be that great anymore. The short’s so haphazardly thrown together that it’s obvious no one involved really cares about what’s going on in it. The jokes aren’t there, the premise isn’t strong, and it screams laziness. Yet, it isn’t the laziest story on this by far.
7. In the Na’Vi (Treehouse of Horror XXII)
You know how I mentioned that The Simpsons doesn’t nail all of its spoofs? This is what I was referring to. Several years after Avatar hit theaters (which made this short seem all the more depressing), Treehouse featured a terribly conceived Simpsons version with Bart in the lead role. Reading this list you’re probably thinking that Bart’s involvement has a lot to do with the poor quality of these stories and you’d be right for the most part. The show never really knows what to do with him outside of his normal parameters. That’s why Bart’s always in the background of others’ stories or is paired with Lisa so the writers have someone to bounce him off of. Without that, you realize how poorly Bart’s been written in the post 20s.
6.Master and Cadaver (Treehouse of Horror XXI)
While the post-20 Treehouse stories have been pretty bad all around, they’re more average and bland than outright terrible. But one story manages to tip over that line into a story that’s so bad it brings the rest of the special down. Sitting right in the middle of the pretty entertaining War and Pieces and regrettable Tweenlight, this short is based off the film Dead Calm (and guest stars Hugh Laurie) as Homer and Marge save this guy who may or may not have killed a ship full of people. In traditional Simpsons, but non-traditional Treehouse, fashion the man poised no real threat and it’s all a series of explainable coincidences. It’s just so darn boring. More so than season 20 era Simpsons, more so than weak Lisa episodes, I’m glad this story’s so short. The reason it’s not higher on the list is because it’s thankfully over before it’s begun.
5. Untitled Robot Parody (Treehouse of Horror XIX)
So here we have the laziest Treehouse of Horror short in series history. It’s so lethargic, they didn’t even think to give it a name. A terribly conceived Transformers spoof that’s neither funny (complete with a rote sex toy transformer joke) nor even has a reason to exist. This blurb is more attention that this short even deserves.
4. You Gotta Know When to Golem (Treehouse of Horror XVIII)
Introducing a little used movie monster to the Treehouse format seems fit for a good time but, like the 1915 film it’s based on, this story’s stuck entirely in the past. A story with jokes rooted in dated Jewish sterotypes ever further aggravated by casting Richard Lewis and Fran Drescher as caricatures of themselves, Golem is just a bad idea that somehow made it to air. I don’t even know who this short was for, but this kind of insular comedy is what deters fans from the series. Then again, thanks to bottom three stories, fans have walked away years ago.
3. Frinkenstein (Treehouse of Horror XIV)
2. Hex and the City (Treehouse of Horror XII)
It took me years to see this one all the way through because I hated this special so much. In fact, I never saw how XII ended until about six years ago when I decided to run through a good chunk of the Treehouse specials. In Hex and the City, Homer angers a gypsy and is cursed for life (resulting in Marge’s beard, Bart’s long neck, and Lisa’s horse legs). His response is to sick a lepraechaun on her resulting in their wholly gross union. It’s entirely asinine and coupled with the episode’s other bland shorts like Wiz Kids and this seemed even worse overall. It has to be the worst opening story in Treehouse history.
1. Starship Poopers (Treehouse of Horror IX)
Okay, so I’ve got quite the problem with Starship Poopers. First of all, it’s a terrible final story for a special that wasn’t bad so the nosedive is even more noticeable. Secondly, it was incredibly dated then (yes even more so than Citizen Kang, which was rooted in 90s politics) and even more so now. I mean, the short ends with an entirely too long Jerry Springer riff. By the time the short aired, Springer was already on his way out so it seemed even more desperate than I’m sure was intended. Thirdly, even after watching season 26’s frustrating “The Man Who Came to be Dinner” (which brought Kang and Kodos into the series proper, rather than just feature them in the non-canon Halloween specials) this is still the worst Kang and Kodos appearance by far. There’s so much more I want to say, but I just can’t do it anymore.