By Rick Bentley
This year’s installment includes some hits and some misses.
It’s time for the annual “Treehouse of Horror” special featuring the Simpsons. This year’s edition, number XIX, is like going trick-or-treating and getting a huge candy bar and two apples. There’s nothing wrong with apples. It’s just the other offering is much sweeter.
As usual, the special — which airs at 8 p.m. tonight on Fox — includes macabre looks at some familiar television shows and feature films. The two near misses are the parodies of “Transformers” and the Emmy-winning cable series “Mad Men.”
In the “Transformers” episode, “Untitled Robot Parody,” Bart buys Lisa a toy that transforms into a killing robot. Other killing robots show up and they get into a battle. The sequence ends with Springfield in shambles, a popular theme of the animated show. And those left alive in Springfield get tortured.
This is a looks like paint-by-numbers episode. Just because a TV show has been on the air a couple of decades does not give the creative team a free pass to be lazy.
A rule of parody is that the audience has to know the subject that is the brunt of the jokes. The second sequence, “How to Get Ahead in Dead-Vertising,” misses because the humor comes out of jabs at “Mad Men.” That’s a great cable show but does not have a large audience.
And except for the opening sequence, the parody falls flat.
What saves the special is “It’s the Grand Pumpkin, Milhouse.” This is a dead-on comedy assault of the Charlie Brown animated Halloween special. In this case it is Milhouse who decides to wait in the pumpkin patch for the Halloween visitor. The results are quite different.
The entire segment is a treat, especially a spoof of a dance scene from “A Charlie Brown Christmas.”