Commentary

Numbers Game: 'Simpsons' Halloween Episode Is No. 666

When it comes to “The Simpsons,” the numbers tell the story.

Now in its 31st season, it is by far the longest-running scripted TV show in the history of television. Its closest competitors: “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” at 21 seasons, and “Gunsmoke,” which ran for 20.

This coming weekend's annual “Simpsons” Halloween horror anthology is the show's 30th -- “Treehouse of Horror XXX,” designated as always with Roman numerals, just like the Super Bowl.

In its promotions for this year's Halloween show, Fox is pointing out that this episode will clock in at number 666. As incredible as it might seem, this coincidence appears to be true.

It is also noted several times in the episode itself. In one of them, baby Maggie appears to be possessed by the devil, and next-door neighbor Ned Flanders is preparing to perform an exorcism.

In the process, he reveals to Maggie's parents, Homer and Marge, that imprinted on Maggie's scalp and concealed by her hair is the mark of the devil -- which at first glance turns out to be Mickey Mouse.

The sight gag is a hilarious jibe at Disney, the new owners of “The Simpsons.” A moment later, a second mark is shown, 666 -- a reference to the show's episode number, and also a nod to “The Omen” (1976).

As always, movie spoofs form the basis for more than one of this anthology's segments this year. “Heaven Swipes Right” is a takeoff on “Heaven Can Wait,” in which Homer is accidentally killed before his assigned death date, and is then sent back from heaven to Earth to occupy the bodies of various residents of Springfield.

Another segment titled “When Hairy Met Slimy” is not a spoof of “When Harry Met Sally.” It is actually a “Simpsons” version of “The Shape of Water,” only here, it is one of Homer’s loathed sisters-in-law, Selma Bouvier, who falls in love with an exotic creature held captive in a laboratory -- the slobbering extraterrestrial Kang (photo above).

Kang and his outer space companion Kodos always appear in this annual horror anthology. Sometimes they are easy to spot, and sometimes nearly impossible -- but they are always there.

Another segment in next Sunday's show is not a movie spoof, but a TV satire titled “Danger Things,” in which the Simpsons family, plus three of Bart’s friends, are seen living in the 1980s that is depicted in the Netflix series “Stranger Things.”

In this “Treehouse of Horror” segment, it is Milhouse Van Houten who takes up the role of the boy on his bicycle who goes missing.

It should go without saying, but I will say it anyway: This year’s “Treehouse of Horror” episode is another gem in a very long line of them. This annual show, and “The Simpsons” in general, remains a great constant in our ever-changing world.

“The Simpsons: Treehouse of Horror XXX” airs Sunday (Oct. 20) at 8 p.m. Eastern on Fox.

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