No matter when it is scheduled, Halloween is always right on time for "The Simpsons" and its annual "Treehouse of Horror" episode.
Airing three weeks ahead of the spooky holiday, "Treehouse of Horror XXIII" (8 p.m. Sunday, WTNZ, Channel 43) is a grand example of what this animated comedy series does best.
It's smart, edgy and fun — everything you've come to expect from "The Simpsons."
Clocking in at a wee past 20 minutes, it's also a fleeting treat. But that's a relatively minor quibble.
"Treehouse of Horror XXIII" is worth every second.
Three vignettes are perfectly constructed. The first one has the Simpsons housing black hole.
"Can we call it that?" Homer asks his family.
"Yes," says Lisa. "It's the preferred term."
The entire town of Springfield just likes watching the small, pet-like black hole suck in things — using its gravitational pull like an inter-dimensional garbage dump.
The second installment — the best of the three — is a send-up of the "Paranormal Activity" movies and wrings its laughs from Homer's amorous side while a digital camera is rolling in the bedroom. The ending sight gag is hilarious as Homer and two demons come to an understand on a kinky level.
The third story is a little less engaging, another time-traveling tale in which Bart goes into the past to buy a valuable comic but ends up interfering with the romance between Homer and Marge, changing the course of the Simpsons' history.
What can be gleaned from this is that, after a couple of dozen seasons on the air, "The Simpsons" can still manage moments of sugar-coated, borderline adult-theme treats.
Score: 4 stars (out of five)
Terry Morrow may be reached at 865-342-6445 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
© 2012, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
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