This weekend's biggest cable marathon event isn't just a throwback to previous years. It's a flashback to last month.
That's when FXX concluded its nonstop marathon of all 552 episodes of "The Simpsons," run in the order they originally aired on Fox (1989-2014). Concluding on Labor Day, the 12-day round-the-clock, which might have sounded like overkill, became an overwhelming sensation. Fans dipped in and out of Bart and Homer's animated adventures, left them running in the background and generally immersed themselves in cartoonist Matt Groening's Springfield univer'se, thereby vaulting FXX to the top of Nielsen cable ratings among adults 18-49. The otherwise little-viewed comedy channel even beat ESPN.
So it's no wonder FXX is revisiting the scene of its success, with one of the "Simpsons" tentpoles over its 25-year run -- the annual terror trilogy known as "Treehouse of Horror." The 2014 installment debuted last Sunday on Fox, and now all 24 previous Halloween half-hours will be lined up on FXX on Sunday, running from noon to midnight, again in broadcast order.
Not that order or logic, even as applied to "The Simpsons," matters one whit in "Treehouse" territory. Each annual half-hour's fresh trio of stand-alone tales puts the show's familiar characters into fantasy realms that can incorporate elements of comic books, movies or TV shows. "Simpsons" writers have spoofed, or paid homage to, "Twilight Zone" plots, sci-fi flicks like "E.T." and even Edgar Allan Poe's poem "The Raven." The results can be scary or silly -- or both -- but they're almost always impressive.
Animators, too, are given the freedom to break the rules of the Simpsons' weekly suburban world. The opening sequence annually gets its own Halloween treatment, as do the closing credits, which assign the crew members some creatively creepy names (Bat Groening).
And, of course, "Treehouse" always features Kang and Kodos, the green space aliens that debuted in 1990's initial Halloween episode by kidnapping the Simpsons in the tale "Hungry Are the Damned." The power-hungry pair pop up somewhere in the tales or in wraparounds to maintain their string of annual appearances.