There is no doubt that The Simpsons is one of the greatest shows of all time. This nitpick is one particular bit which I think is the greatest thing it has ever done and it’s one that fits with today’s halloween fun.
Back in 1990 The Simpsons was one of the biggest things around. A true phenomenon. Then for their first halloween episode they introduced a format which they would repeat every year; The Treehouse of Horror. In it they featured 3 stories as told by members of the family in Bart’s treehouse. The 3rd of those stories however, is just so perfect in my eyes that if you haven’t seen it I urge you to seek it out.
While the first two stories featured an amusing haunted house story and a very clever first appearance by Kang and Kudos, ‘The Raven’ is adapted for The Simpsons universe as Lisa reads it out. However as she does we hear it read by Darth Vader himself, James Earl Jones. We also watch as Bart takes on the form of the Raven who taunts Homer, finding himself as poem’s mourning widower - mourning after a painting of Marge of course.
The adaptation sticks so loyally to the original but gives it a Simpsons twist so perfectly it doesn’t matter that there really isn’t a single laugh in it. Show runner Sam Simon adapted it brilliantly but it’s director David Silverman, who would later go on to direct Monsters, Inc. for Pixar, that makes it all look fantastic. From the long shadows to the wonderful soaring camera angles to the great bit where several Bart/Ravens dance around Homer’s head it’s all done so beautifully.
Matt Groening has said that he was hesitant about doing it as he thought it would be ‘pretentious’ and there weren’t any jokes. Luckily it’s done so damn well that I doubt anyone would have thought that.
It’s a shame the show hasn’t tested itself as much as that again but maybe it was just one of those things that happened at the right time.
Give it a Halloween watch people!