Warning: Spoilers for The Simpsons season 34, episode 5.
While The Simpsons season 34 devoted its first Treehouse of Horror to an extended parody of Stephen King’s IT, the show still had time to reference one of its own earlier Halloween specials. It is tricky for a show like The Simpsons, which has been running for over thirty years, to keep its formula feeling fresh. However, The Simpsons’ “Not IT” (season 34, episode 5) managed this impressive feat by changing the format of the show’s annual Halloween special series.
While every earlier Simpsons Treehouse of Horror episode has been split into 3 short segments, “Not IT” devoted its entire runtime to one long parody of Stephen King’s It. As the upcoming It prequel Welcome To Derry proves, there was plenty of source material in King’s doorstopper novel to keep The Simpsons busy. However, The Simpsons still found time to reference a classic Treehouse of Horror episode when Krusty possessed a children’s doll, something he already did decades earlier in “Treehouse of Horror III” (season 4, episode 5).
In “Not IT,” Krusto the killer clown (Krusty’s Pennywise parody) takes on different forms to fit each kid’s fears. Interestingly, The Simpsons didn’t just recreate the forms that Pennywise takes in the movie adaptation of Stephen King’s It, instead creating new nightmarish entities for each character. In Moe’s case, Krusto became a sentient killer doll who cracked creepy jokes, an image that is instantly familiar to longtime viewers of The Simpsons. Long before The Simpsons’ Treehouse of Horror parodied Pennywise with Krusty, the show’s third Halloween special featured a segment where a killer Krusty action figure attempted to murder Homer. However, there were some superficial differences between Krusto, Moe’s killer doll, and the doll seen in “Clown Without Pity.”
For one thing, the Krusty doll seen in “Treehouse of Horror III” was a normal Krusty action figure that someone had set to “Evil” (as noted by the gruff repairman). For another, Krusto the clown has a Pennywise-esque appearance, with green-tinged skin and darker hair. However, the doll that terrified Moe was still clearly a nod to the earlier episode of The Simpsons, which was particularly obvious since there is no equivalent scene in the original novel. The second Simpsons season 34 episode to focus on Krusty, “Not IT” was evidently eager to remind viewers of the show’s glory days.
Since “Not IT” was the first Treehouse of Horror episode to feature only one long story, it is understandable that the creators of The Simpsons would include a playful reference to one of the show’s most well-liked Halloween specials. Krusto’s creepy doll form was a welcome throwback to “Treehouse of Horror III” and a reminder that, as much as The Simpsons has changed, the idea of a killer Krusty doll chasing down the citizens of Springfield would always fit in the show’s annual Halloween specials. Thus, the self-referential nod to an earlier episode of The Simpsons and its Treehouse of Horror specials let the show reassure viewers that the series wasn’t changing, even if the format of the Halloween special’s Stephen King’s IT did.
New episodes of The Simpsons air on Fox on Sundays.