“That doll is evil, I tells ya. Evil! Evil!” – Abe “Grampa” Simpson
“Grampa, you said that about all the presents.” – Marge Simpson
“I just want attention.” – Abe “Grampa” Simpson
I happened to find myself at my brother’s house yesterday, keeping an eye on three of his kids, two nephews (13 and 11) and a niece (8). Though they’re well aware that the new episodes are subpar, they wanted to watch the new Zombie Simpsons. When Homer farted for the first time my niece got a goofy grin on her face, but the boys only looked up from their laptops intermittently. Not a single one of them laughed out loud during the entire episode, and when it was done my niece said, and I quote, “That wasn’t very good.” Allow me to agree with the eight-year-old.
Of the various crimes against comedy that went into those four segments, the farting was the most tiresome, but the entire episode was an exercise in stretching weak jokes and weaker ideas to fill that unforgiving time requirement. The premise of the opening segment is Homer getting trapped a la 127 Hours, but even though that whole thing was supposed to be an introduction, it took nearly two minutes just to get Homer out into the boonies. Once he was there they dragged it out even more by having him chew off a limb three (3) times. The second segment had such a weak premise that it couldn’t make it through even its limited runtime without a classic Zombie Simpsons swerve, having Homer suddenly become Spiderman. The Dexter thing suffered a similar fate as it ran out of steam and needed divine intervention to make it to the commercial break. The Avatar segment, easily the longest, clocking in at nearly eight minutes, spent more than a quarter of its runtime on the goofy battle/action/whatever sequence at the end that was light on jokes, thought and satire and heavy on surprisingly boring cartoon violence.
There were a couple of lines I actually liked, notably Flanders telling the hooker to “Spend less time on your back and more time on your knees” and Chalmers’ windy but accurate “This is a delicate mission that requires utter loyalty. I can think of no better candidate than the resentful guy in the wheelchair who has just arrived.” But for each of those there were a dozen or more cringe inducing duds like the alien repeatedly screaming at Milhouse. When she yelled at him for kicking the rock my instant reaction was, “I wonder how many times they’re going to repeat this.” The answer was three.
All in all, this was about what to expect from Zombie Simpsons in a Halloween episode. Turned loose with no limits on their creativity, they hash together a few tepid pop culture references and call it a day.
Anyway, the numbers are in and they are the worst ever for a Halloween episode. Last night’s unworthy successor was silently endured by just 8.01 million viewers. That’s below last year’s 8.20, which was itself a record low for Treehouse of Horror. The Halloween episode is often one of the strongest numbers of the year, and if that’s the best Season 23 has to offer then it’s going to plummet to unheard of depths by the end of the season.