Treehouse of Horror XIX

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"Treehouse of Horror XIX"
The Simpsons episode
Treehouse of Horror XIX.jpg
Episode no. 424
Production code KABF16[1]
Original air date November 2, 2008
Showrunner(s) Al Jean
Written by Matt Warburton
Directed by Bob Anderson

"Treehouse of Horror XIX" is the fourth episode of the twentieth season of The Simpsons. It first aired on the Fox network in the United States on November 2, 2008. This is the nineteenth Treehouse of Horror episode, and, like the other "Treehouse of Horror" episodes, contains three self-contained segments: in "Untitled Robot Parody", Transformer robots run amok in Springfield; in "How to Get Ahead in Dead-Vertising", Homer is hired by ad agents to kill celebrities so their images can be used for free; and in a Simpsons-style parody of It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown (called "It's The Grand Pumpkin, Milhouse"), Milhouse summons a demon pumpkin who goes berserk when it sees humans carving its brethren into jack-o-lanterns as part of Halloween tradition. It was written by Matt Warburton and directed by Bob Anderson.

A total of 12.48 million viewers tuned in to watch during its first airing, more than any other episode since "The Wife Aquatic". The episode received mixed reviews from critics, who generally regarded "It's the Grand Pumpkin, Milhouse" as the best segment. Shortly after airing, the episode was criticized by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) because a character (Nelson Muntz) casually uses the adjective "gay" to insult The Grand Pumpkin.

Plot[edit]

In the opening scene, Homer tries to vote for Democratic Senator Barack Obama in the 2008 American presidential election. However, the voting machine is rigged to turn his vote into one for Republican Senator John McCain. After six attempts to vote Homer heads out to report the mishap ("This machine is RIGGED! MUST TELL PRESIDENT MCCAIN!") but the machine sucks him in and kills him, then shoots out his body out of the voting booth. Jasper sticks a "I Voted" patriotic-themed sticker on Homer's forehead.

Untitled Robot Parody[edit]

In a parody of Transformers, Bart buys Lisa a Malibu Stacy convertible as a Christmas present. However, the car turns out to be a Transformer. The robot transforms all of the technology in Springfield into robots so they can wage war with each other. Just as two machines prepare to face off, Marge asks why the robots are at war with one another; as it turns out, they cannot even remember. Thanking Marge, the two sides declare that they will work together, only for Optimus Prime to shout "we shall enslave your planet!" The two factions of sentient machines work together to overthrow humanity in which use they Homer's idea of Springfield' residents in a game of foosball.

How to Get Ahead in Dead-vertising[edit]

In a parody of the television period drama series, Mad Men, plus its opening sequence [1], Homer takes Maggie to a daycare and encourages her to enjoy a mural featuring Krusty the Clown to make her feel better while she is away from her parents. However, Krusty arrives to have the images of his face sandblasted from the mural, as his likeness is trademarked and used without his permission. This left Maggie upset, and an outraged Homer shoves Krusty in retaliation, sending him flying into a wood chipper and shredded alive. Homer is later approached by two advertising agents who have heard of his deed and explain their plan to use celebrities' likenesses in advertising without issues over permission by simply killing the celebrities who refuse to lend their names to advertising. Homer is then hired as a celebrity assassin, taking out such famous faces as George Clooney (by replacing wet cement with quicksand), Prince (by strangling and stabbing him with his own guitar), and Neil Armstrong (by hitting him with a golf club, in the style of a Rube Goldberg machine). In Heaven, the dead celebrities are outraged by this and stage an attack on the living, with Homer as their main target. Ghost Krusty blasts Homer in the head with a shotgun, after Krusty tells him that the one true religion is a mix between Methodist and voodoo. Homer gets revenge by locking out all the celebrities in Heaven, but the joke is on him when an apparently gay Abraham Lincoln pretends to be Homer's friend so he can hit on him for all eternity.

It's the Grand Pumpkin, Milhouse[edit]

In a parody of It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, Milhouse waits in a pumpkin patch on Halloween for the Grand Pumpkin (which Bart made up) with Lisa. After Lisa sees everyone at school having a Halloween party, she grows tired of waiting and leaves in frustration. Milhouse starts to cry and his tears and childlike belief bring the Grand Pumpkin to life. However, the Pumpkin is appalled to find that his kindred pumpkins are being carved up on Halloween and made into pumpkin bread, originally thinking it was bread especially made for pumpkins until Milhouse revealed it is made from them, and vows revenge. He devours Homer as he carves a pumpkin, then marches to the school and eats Nelson who threatens to stab a yellow pumpkin. It becomes apparent at this point that the Grand Pumpkin is racist towards this type of pumpkin and then eats Groundskeeper Willie after being offered roasted pumpkin seeds. Realizing that Milhouse can bring things to life by believing in them, Lisa tells him about "Tom Turkey," a symbol of Thanksgiving. Milhouse starts to believe in Tom Turkey, who comes to life and kills the Grand Pumpkin, freeing everyone he ate. However, when Tom Turkey learns that people eat turkeys on Thanksgiving from Bart, he vows revenge and starts angrily chasing children around the school, devouring some of them whole as Marge wishes the viewers happy holidays.

Production[edit]

The opening segment of the episode, which was leaked onto the internet weeks before the episode aired,[2] features Homer voting for Barack Obama. Rather than taking sides in the election, executive producer Al Jean says it is "mostly a comment on what many people to believe to be the irregularities in our voting system."[3] "Untitled Robot Parody" is modeled on the live action Transformers film, rather than the cartoon.[4] Al Jean said it was "just really fun to do transformations [and] you can see why they enjoyed doing that film."[4] "How to Get Ahead in Dead-Vertising" featured a parody of the title sequence of Mad Men. Jean was a fan of the series and pitched the scene.[5]

The final segment is based on the Halloween cartoon It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown. It could not be titled "It's the Great Pumpkin, Milhouse" to exactly match its namesake because of a "big legal issue", according to Al Jean.[6] However, the characters were redesigned to resemble the style of Peanuts, and they also obtained rights to use Vince Guaraldi's music.[4] Jean said in 2011 that "For years we had never been able to parody Charlie Brown's Halloween special, which is one of the all-time top three animated shows ever. The Vince Guaraldi music is such a huge part of it, so we got to clear it. It was just a dream come true to satirize it. I thought it was a really funny idea that instead of not ever seeing the Grand Pumpkin, it comes to life, and he's really horrified at the way humans cook pumpkins into pies, and eat pumpkin seeds, which are basically pumpkin fetuses...."[7]

Cultural references[edit]

The first segment of the episode is a parody of Transformers.[8] The second segment features a parody of the opening of Mad Men and Homer kills several celebrities, including Prince, George Clooney, and Neil Armstrong, set to the song "Psycho Killer" by Talking Heads.[9][10] Other celebrities shown include Edward G. Robinson, John Wayne and John Lennon, who says "All we're saying is 'Let's eat some brains'", a reference to the chorus of "Give Peace a Chance" by the Plastic Ono Band.[11] The commercial "Planet of the Taste" is a parody of the 1968 film Planet of the Apes.[11]

The second segment's opening is a parody of the opening titles to AMC drama Mad Men.

The final segment, "It's the Grand Pumpkin, Milhouse" is a parody of It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown (and was supposed to be named "It's The Great Pumpkin, Milhouse," but due to legal reasons, was renamed) and contains several references to the Peanuts series. In the segment, Milhouse wears the same clothes and plays the same role as Linus van Pelt. Lisa is modelled after Sally Brown and Bart looks like Charlie Brown; he even says "good grief", echoing Charlie Brown's catchphrase. The main theme to Peanuts "Linus and Lucy" is played several times. A redesigned version of Santa's Little Helper can be seen sleeping on top of his dog house and Homer is seen sleeping on top of his house in a manner similar to Snoopy.[12] When Marge first speaks, she uses a muted trombone. This is a parody of the "wah wah wah" voice that is used for adults in the various Peanuts specials.[13] At the end of the segment, she says to the audience that they can send complaints to an address which she only says in more muted trombone noises. Milhouse' prayer to the Grand Pumpkin is similar to the Nicene Creed.[14] The dance scene during the Halloween party is a parody of the dance scene in A Charlie Brown Christmas right down to Kang and Kodos in a nonspeaking cameo as the twins 3 and 4.[15]

Reception[edit]

In its initial airing, the episode was viewed in 12.48 million homes and achieved a 4.9 Nielsen rating.[16] It was the highest rated episode of the night in the 18–49 demographic, the sixteenth highest rated show of the week, and the fourth highest rated on Fox after two airings of the World Series and House. It was the highest rated episode since season 18's "The Wife Aquatic".[8]

"Treehouse of Horror XIX" received mixed reviews from critics. Rick Bentley of the Seattle Times described it as a "paint-by-numbers episode".[15] Robert Canning of IGN gave the episode a 7.9/10, calling it "funny, entertaining and even nostalgic [which] only makes this yearly tradition that much better."[10]

"It's the Grand Pumpkin, Milhouse" was regarded by reviewers as the best segment in the episode. Canning wrote, "this segment may not be all that gory, but it's funny and, quite honestly, it will just make you feel good",[10] and Bentley described it as "a dead-on comedy assault of the Charlie Brown animated Halloween special."[15] Rob Owen of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette concurred, writing that it "succeeds because it offers sly cultural commentary."[14] Show Patrol wrote "The nostalgia factor makes “Grand Pumpkin” the best of these amusing bits for me, but they all lack that trademark “Simpsons” brand of satirical smartness."[9] Hal Boedecker of the Orlando Sentinel gave the episode a 4/5 and called the final segment a "witty parody of Charlie Brown's Halloween classic. [...] The best gag, though, is a subtle one. Marge plays a trombone, a loving salute to the way the Peanuts specials portrayed adult voices."[17]

Director Bob Anderson received an Annie Award nomination for "Best Directing in an Animated Television Production" but lost to Avatar: The Last Airbender.[18]

Controversy[edit]

The Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN), which was in the middle of running a campaign to prevent casual use of the adjective "gay", criticized Nelson Muntz's line "the Grand Pumpkin is super gay". A spokesperson for the GLSEN said "many people say gay without even realizing what they're saying is bad, we're trying to educate people that this is a term that is hurtful to young people when used in a negative way."[19] The spokesperson added, "Nelson should send an apologetic e-card to Milhouse."[20]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Listings - SIMPSONS, THE on FOX". The Futon Critic. 2008-10-11. Retrieved 2008-10-11. 
  2. ^ Stelter, Brian (2008-10-02). "D’oh-Bama". New York Times. Retrieved 2008-10-22. 
  3. ^ MacIntyre, April (2008-09-25). "'The Simpsons' Al Jean interview, new season begins September 28". Monsters and Critics. Retrieved 2008-10-22. 
  4. ^ a b c Topel, Fred (2008-09-10). "Simpsons Parodies Transformers". Sci Fi Wire. Archived from the original on 2008-09-13. Retrieved 2008-09-10. 
  5. ^ Elber, Lynn (2008-10-23). "'Mad Men' makes a splash bigger than its ratings". Associated Press. Retrieved 2008-10-24. [dead link]
  6. ^ Fickett, Travis (2008-07-15). "Fox Animation: The Future and Beyond". IGN. Retrieved 2008-07-16. 
  7. ^ Snierson, Dan (2011-10-28). "'Simpsons': 'Treehouse of Horror' Top 10!". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 2011-10-31. 
  8. ^ a b Stransky, Tanner (2008-11-04). "Ratings: Obama's ad, World Series clincher top the week". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 2008-11-17. 
  9. ^ a b "Simpsons' latest 'Treehouse' is less witty, but still worth visiting". Show Patrol. 2008-10-30. Retrieved 2008-10-31. 
  10. ^ a b c Canning, Robert (2008-10-31). "The Simpsons: "Treehouse of Horror XIX" Review". IGN. Retrieved 2008-10-31. 
  11. ^ a b Bates, James W.; Gimple, Scott M.; McCann, Jesse L., Richmond, Ray; Seghers, Christine, ed. (2010). Simpsons World The Ultimate Episode Guide: Seasons 1–20 (1st ed.). Harper Collins Publishers. p. 966. ISBN 978-0-00-738815-8. 
  12. ^ Vejvoda, Jim (2008-07-26). "SDCC 08: Simpsons Footage Screened". IGN. Retrieved 2008-11-17. 
  13. ^ Ponywether, Ariel (2008-11-03). "Review -- The Simpsons: "Treehouse of Horror XIX"". Firefox. Retrieved 2008-11-17. 
  14. ^ a b Owen, Rob (2008-10-31). "Another visit to the Simpsons' 'Treehouse of Horror'". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved 2008-10-31. 
  15. ^ a b c Bentley, Rick (2008-10-31). "A mixed bag of parody on "Simpsons Treehouse of Terror XIX"". The Seattle Times. Retrieved 2008-10-31. 
  16. ^ "TV Ratings: NFL, 'Simpsons' Lead the Way Sunday". Zap2it. 2008-11-03. Retrieved 2008-11-03. 
  17. ^ Boedecker, Hal (2008). "'Simpsons' offers us another Halloween morsel". Orlando Sentinel. Retrieved 2008-11-04. 
  18. ^ "2008 Annie Award Nominations by Category". Annie Awards. Retrieved 2008-12-01. 
  19. ^ Grossberg, Josh (2008-11-04). "D'oh! Simpsons Under Fire for Gay Crack". E!. Retrieved 2008-11-04. 
  20. ^ "Nelson Owes Milhouse Apology for "Gay" Slur". TMZ. 2008-11-04. Retrieved 2008-11-04. 

External links[edit]