The Simpsons

As synonymous with Halloween as pumpkins (even if they do air after the holiday), the celebrated annual "Treehouse of Horror" episodes of The Simpsons (8 pm/ET, Fox) are always a treat. "It's a tradition, like the Macy's Thanksgiving parade — only more violent," says executive producer Al Jean. "This is where we can do those jokes you can't do the rest of the year — the things that are unreal." Like many of its predecessors, tonight's "Treehouse of Horror XVIII" offers a mix of film parodies, pointed satire and genuine scares. This year's trilogy opens with "E.T. Go Home," a send-up of the 1982 Spielberg classic that charts Elliott's — er — Bart's friendship with a stranded alien. Unfortunately, Bart's new friend is the decidedly uncuddly and diabolical Kodos. Next up is "Mr. and Mrs. Simpson," a spoof of Mr. and Mrs. Smith that casts Homer and Marge in the Brangelina roles of married assassins. (Their target: Kent Brockman.) And in the finale, "Heck House," Bart and Lisa's Halloween pranks anger pious Ned Flanders, who tries to scare the kids and their friends into behaving themselves. But when the youngsters mock his feckless efforts, Flanders appeals to the Almighty for assistance. "Then it becomes incredibly scary," explains Jean. "If you're a fan of Hieronymus Bosch, there's a lot in it for you." Heck, there's a lot here for everyone.

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