‘Treehouse of Horror XXVI’ scares away the funny

(Left) Sideshow Bob and (right) Bart Simpson in “Treehouse of Horror XXVI” which airs on FOX Sunday, Oct. 25 at 8 p.m. (Courtesy of Fox)

Twenty-six years and running strong, but does “The Simpsons: Treehouse of Horror” have what it takes to compete with its past iterations?

The biggest struggle “The Simpsons” has had is finding a way to balance children’s humor with adult humor. As a child, it’s easy to see characters Bart and Lisa as the main protagonists, but as an adult, it’s clear that Homer and Marge are the true protagonists.

Back on Oct. 25, 1990, the first edition of “Treehouse of Horror” a Halloween-themed episode aired near the beginning of the second season of the show. It had three stand-alone stories that had no basis in the show’s canon, and it saw characters getting into violent and often spooky shenanigans.

The tradition carried on, and now, in 2015, “The Simpsons” is broadcasting its 26th annual episode of “Treehouse of Horror.”

The problem that has consistently plagued these special episodes is the writers are always groping for the middle-way.

This year’s episode is chock full of these problems but still manages to be charming.

The first segment has the triumphant return of Sideshow Bob, Bart’s nemesis from season one who has popped in from time to time trying to kill him.

Finally Bob gets his way.

The entire first story is Bob killing Bart. Bob builds a machine to bring Bart back to life and repeatedly finds new ways to kill him.

It’s funny, and actually quite disturbing, to see the level of violence shown when Bart is killed over and over.

However, it’s something that means more to a 30-year-old who grew up watching the show than it would to a 10-to-15-year-old who was born after the golden age of the show came to an end.

Bart always managed to evade Bob, and even more important, always managed to mess up Bob’s master plans Scooby Doo-style.

On top of that issue, the story has absolutely no point. There is a weak, one-scene explanation of people looking for Bart, but the whole part is simply his brutal killing.

After the several-minute package of Sideshow Bob and Bart, it’s hard to know where to go from there. Where they decided to go isn’t great.

Suddenly the show tries its hand at making Homer Simpson into Godzilla. While there were a few jokes here and there worth a laugh, the overall segment was pretty terrible.

Springfield being in Japan wasn’t clever, and they had to resort to black and white to make it feel more authentic. It didn’t work.

Finally, there’s a bit about Bart, Lisa and their friend Milhouse getting super powers after finding a bunch of toxic waste. It starts off as a point-of-view, or found footage, scene. But quickly it just devolves into the kids just using their powers to be silly.

Milhouse gets power-hungry and must be stopped.

All in all, the presentation is not great, and the storytelling is not as good as it could be. Despite the first act with Sideshow Bob being strong (even though it lacked a plot), it wasn’t enough to bring up the rest of the episode.

“Treehouse of Horror XXVI” airs at 8 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 25, on Fox.

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