One of the unsung accomplishments in The Simpsons long run on Fox is its place in television Halloween history. The annual Treehouse of Horror episode, which debuted on Oct. 25, 1990, has to be considered one of the best and most successful Halloween traditions in TV history. The standard adopted on that initial ToH -- three vignettes mocking horror movies or ghost stories -- has never been altered, and along the way it has produced some of the most memorable Simpsons moments.
It's easy to associate ToH with Halloween, but in fact it has aired only twice on Oct. 31, in 1991 and 1999. Some seasons have even delayed the Halloween episode late in November (2004 was a lowpoint, with ToH airing on Nov. 7). No matter when it airs, it doesn't feel right to miss a new ToH episode, and some Fox affiliates still air a string of the Halloween episodes on the holiday's date. So in honor of The Simpsons' 20th season and Halloween, here are my 10 favorite Treehouse of Horror tales:
Aired: Oct. 27, 1996
Inspired by: The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Basketcase, Do You Know Where Your Kids Are? (Freddie's Nightmares episode)
Air date: Nov. 6, 2005
Inspired by: Halloween III: Season of the Witch, The Masks (Twilight Zone).
Air date: Oct. 27, 1996
Inspired by: V (tearing off aliens' masks)
Air date: Oct. 30, 1994
Inspired by: The Shining
Air date: Oct. 30, 1992
Inspired by: Pick your zombie movie.
"He was a zombie?"
The Simpsons served up hilarious zombie satire way before Shaun of the Dead made it cool.
Air date: Oct. 30, 1992
Inspired by: King Kong
Air date: Oct. 29, 1995
Inspired by: A Nightmare on Elm Street
Air date: Oct. 25, 1990
Inspired by: To Serve Man (Twilight Zone), This Island Earth
You could make the case for many of the entries on this list as No. 1, but this tale will always be at the top of my list. Like "Hungry are the Damned," it takes excellent source material and turns it on its ear, putting a genuine Simpsons stamp on a high-grade horror tale. Along the way there are many classic moments: Hans Moleman as the AMC Gremlin driver, Homer stealing an air horn and life jackets from the dock ("it was just sitting in some guys boat!") and the thoroughly satisfying ending ("right or wrong, you didn't follow the rules -- perhaps spending the rest of your life in an insane asylum will teach you a lesson!").