After 23 years of Halloween themed-episodes — the most recent one aired earlier this month — Bart, Marge, Kang, Kodos and the rest of the “ghoulish” Groening gang have given us plenty of options from which to choose. Of course, the easiest thing to do is simply view the first five or six “Treehouse of Horrors” in a row since those are clearly the best ones. But I believe it’s possible to mix it up a bit more to come up with eight devilishly d’oh-y installments that make the perfect complement to a night of jack-o’ lantern carving or, if you’ve lost power courtesy of Sandy, to watch on a battery/generator-powered DVD player. As always, if I’ve neglected one of your very favorite Homer horrors, please feel free to speak up in the comments.
(Note: All of these episodes can be found on DVD, and many also are available via Amazon Instant Video. Netflix and Hulu, unfortunately, aren’t streaming most of them because, crazy as it sounds, Fox presumably wants to make as much money as possible off of “The Simpsons.”)
The original “Treehouse of Horror” from season two
Start your marathon where this entire series started: with the very first “Simpsons” attempt to celebrate Halloween. The animation may be somewhat primitive and the jokes not as daring or hilarious as they would get in subsequent October episodes, but it still stands as a classic, as well as an episode that may have helped many people memorize Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven.”
“Treehouse of Horror IX,” from season 10
The notion of a killer toupee (segment one) and an alien pregnancy that lands the Simpson family on “The Jerry Springer Show” (segment three) are amusing. But the second vignette — which plops Bart and Lisa into a taping of “Regis and Kathie Lee” — is one of the more inventive moments in “Treehouse” history. (Don’t worry, I’ll get to the even more inventive moment from “Treehouse VI” in due time.)
“Treehouse of Horror III,” from season four
In which Krusty the Klown is an evil doll (clown dolls — shudder), everyone in Springfield has gone all George Romero and Homer is — officially, instead of just metaphorically — a big ape who manhandles Marge.
“Treehouse of Horror XIX,” from season 20
This one’s a bit uneven, a problem with many of the more recent “Treehouse of Horror” episodes. But the final third, a spoof of “It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown”dubbed “It’s the Grand Pumpkin, Milhouse,” is just smart (and disturbing) enough to compensate for that. It also makes a nice segue into watching the actual “Great Pumpkin,” which airs, in all its Linus-bashing glory, Halloween night on ABC.
“Treehouse of Horror XI,” from season 12
What’s the best way to follow an angry, oversized, racist pumpkin? With hordes of killer dolphins, as found in perhaps the most random “Treehouse of Horror” vignette ever, the third one in the 2000 iteration.
“Treehouse of Horror IV,” from season three
Now comes the part where I focus on the three best Treehouse of Horrors ever made, starting with this one, which casts Flanders as the devil, Bart as William Shatner in a very famous “Twilight Zone” episode and Mr. Burns as Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Mmm ... forbidden doughnut.
“Treehouse of Horror VI,” from season five
In which Lisa and Paul Anka ward off corporate monsters, Groundskeeper Willie makes like Freddy Krueger, and a Simpson (Homer) pops into a portal, becomes three-dimensional and enters the real, live-action world for the first time.
“Treehouse of Horror V,” from season four
Nerdist posted a list Monday of the five best “Treehouse of Horror” vignettes. No. 1 on its list: all of “Treehouse” No. 5, which sounds exactly right. “The Shinning”? A toaster that becomes a time machine? Young children at Springfield Elementary eating themselves for lunch? It’s all great, and made even greater by an ending that features the Simpsons family performing a song from “A Chorus Line” with their bodies flipped inside out. Let’s see the Dunphys try that one in “Modern Family’s” next Halloween episode.