Although The Simpsons season 34’s Treehouse of Horror will have a hard time measuring up to the show’s best Halloween specials, the welcome return of one tradition could help the episode succeed. The Simpsons has, for better or worse, been experimenting with its format in recent seasons. Season 33’s revelations about Homer’s mother Mona proved that The Simpsons is still not afraid to undo existing canon, while another episode from the same season mashed up two classic stories from earlier outings of the long-running show.
Although the change of pace resulted in better reviews for The Simpsons season 33, it was not all smooth sailing for the series. The Simpsons Halloween special “Treehouse of Horror XXXII” (season 33, episode 3) split its story into five segments instead of the standard three, a choice that resulted in shorter stories and a more chaotic tone. While this was an admirable and interesting creative choice, The Simpsons season 34 should bring back the show’s original three-segment Treehouse of Horror structure.SCREENRANT VIDEO OF THE DAY
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When The Simpsons season 33 broke a Halloween tradition by splitting up the Treehouse of Horror episode into five segments, this choice was an extension of a project that the series has been attempting for some time now. The last few Treehouse of Horror outings have been ambitious in their attempts to fit more than three segments into the show’s brief runtime, with "Treehouse of Horror XXX" (season 31, episode 4) featuring an extended opening segment as well as the standard three standalone stories. However, this has only led to shorter, less effective horror spoofs. Thus, The Simpsons season 34’s Halloween special should return to the traditional three-segment format and give the show’s parodies some time to breathe.
Why The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror Episodes Need Three Segments
As proven by The Simpsons' iconic Stephen King parody ”The Shinning,” classic Treehouse of Horror segments worked because their seven-minute runtimes gave the series enough time to establish an ambitious parody while still being short enough to stay punchy and snappy. In contrast, season 33’s Treehouse of Horror featured a segment wherein sentient trees took violent revenge on the people of Springfield, but this brief spoof was nowhere near as effective as an earlier sketch from “Treehouse of Horror XI” (season 12, episode 1) wherein dolphins wiped out much of the show’s cast. That Simpsons spoof worked because the segment had time to build suspense before the gory finale, whereas breaking a 20-minute episode into five segments left season 33 with a Halloween special that was far too fast-paced.
However, episode structure is not the only issue standing in the way of The Simpsons season 34’s Treehouse of Horror success. For the show to succeed, The Simpsons needs to revisit Treehouse of Horror’s origins as a parody of classic horror anthology stories, rather than spoofing movies that are only relevant because of their relatively recent success. The timeless spoofs of the best Simpsons Halloween specials are based on classic horror movies and vintage television anthologies rather than another recent genre hit, meaning the show knows where it needs to look for inspiration when it comes time to script the next Treehouse of Horror special.