Original Air Date: Sunday, November 2, 2008
A Jab at the Republican Party
'The Simpsons' once again uses the upcoming Presidential Election, this time between Barack Obama and John McCain. When Homer tries to vote for Obama, we learn very quickly that the machine is rigged in McCain's favor. When Homer realizes it, the machine sucks him in and grinds him up to keep the truth hidden. The blood spills out on the floor, and the machine spits Homer out. Jasper then walks by, sticking an "I Voted" sticker to Homer's forehead, and 'Treehouse of Horror XIX' drips down the screen in red, white and blue.
'Untitled Robot Parody'
So... you know my perpetual beef about Halloween episode segments not having much or anything to do with Halloween? Well, here we have one that fully embraces its November release date by having it take place on Christmas. That is honestly about as far away from Halloween as you can get, and quite honestly... you'd think it would bother me more than it actually does.
This one's a parody of 'Transformers' in which Bart buys Lisa a Malibu Stacy convertible as her Christmas present. The car turns out to be a "Pos-i-bot", or "Transformer", if you'd like a more literal translation. He zaps the surrounding technology, awaking several other Pos-i-bots with funny names like a three-way lamp named Threeway and an alarm clock named Snooze. The plot here is essentially the same as the basic plot of 'Transformers' in which our planet plays host to an intergalactic war among these robots. Perhaps the best moments of this segment have to do with the robots themselves, and it's loaded with great visual gags during fight scenes. For example, a plane gets punched in its "stomach" and throws up a bunch of passengers.
It even takes a jab at the 'Transformers' movie, and Michael Bay's directing capabilities when Marge suggests they don't need to destroy their town and one of them says "that does not compute". It all ends with a funny lesson about what teamwork means, although the teamwork here occurs between the two battling robot races, and the goal is to enslave humanity. It all ends with the citizens of Springfield rigged up as a foosball table for the robots to play with. All in all, the visuals just make it funny enough to pass even though it's so far separated from Halloween itself.
'How to Get Ahead in Dead-Vertising'
To be perfectly honest, I have to give this one at least some credit for being pretty original. It does start with a parody of 'Mad Men' for its intro, but the story here is much more about the use of likeness rights in general. It's actually one of the more clever segments they've done in quite some time.
When Homer and Marge try to drop off Maggie at her daycare, she gets fussy about her parents leaving her. Homer tries to console her by pointing out the Krusty the Clown images on the walls; all very friendly and warm and doing the trick. Krusty shows up, however, sand-blasting his face off the walls due to unauthorized use of his image, and makes Maggie cry. This results in Homer confronting him and accidentally tossing him into a woodchipper. After this, two advertising agents approach Homer with a plan to use dead celebrity likeness rights to their advantage, having Homer be their killer.
Again, this is one of those "just Halloweenish enough" segments. While most of it is pretty far-separated from the holiday, the context of the segment still involves Homer being a killer. I have to give it some generous credit for its overall originality, and even using the idea of certain likenesses 'The Simpons' have used over the years within the segment to their advantage. It's surprisingly entertaining, and manages to get a generous rating from yours truly.
'It's the Grand Pumpkin, Milhouse'
I actually kinda love this one. I have been a life-long fan of 'It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown', so when this segment came along, it was very hard for me to turn my nose up at it. It was more as though they finally got around to it, and upon doing some homework I learned that's basically true. It took them a while to get certain rights to spoof the beloved family classic, but hey, it worked out and worked out well.
Things open up very similarly to the 'Peanuts' classic, with characters and even setting given a more 'Peanuts' look to it. Bart is Charlie Brown, Lisa's Sally and Milhouse is Linus who, of course, sits out on Halloween night awaiting the "Grand Pumpkin" (one of those name rights they couldn't quite get their hands on here). What would be the original special plays out to about the half-way point, but here, Milhouse's tears actually bring the Grand Pumpkin to life. He's friendly to Milhouse at first, but then Milhouse stupidly offers him pumpkin bread which eventually leads to the Grand Pumpkin seeking revenge on humans for cooking pumpkins.
The segment isn't without a touch of controversy though, in which Nelson uses the word "gay" as an insult. To a lesser extent we also learn that all pumpkins are racist, but I find the idea so ridiculous it doesn't fully matter. With Nelson, I could see an upset, but I'd hope people would see more about the clever spoof they're pulling off as opposed to a single moment of controversy (although I do understand). For me, despite that awkward moment, this is definitely one of my favorites, and it even hits that nostalgia button ever-so lightly for me.
Everything ends with Marge closing out the episode by suggesting, to paraphrase, that "anyone offended by their take on a beloved children's classic should write to" - and then she uses her trombone to cover her voice just like the adults in the 'Peanuts' cartoons always did. Marge wishes an appropriate "Happy Holidays" to the audience, fitting the theme that the episode seems to roll out several different holidays as it goes. Even Thanksgiving pops up in the last segment. Then it all closes with a truly eerie theme music, bringing us back to that Halloween spirit. Despite a few minor nitpicks for me, I think it's the best Halloween episode in quite a while... even if the first two segments are that far from Halloween. Could it be that I'm getting used to this?
Overall Episode Rating: 80%