Happy Halloween, all! Growing up, Halloween was a major holiday for me. I always had a little party in high school, and in college I went all-out, running one of the haunted houses in our campus-wide Halloween festival. I’ve gone soft in my dotage – I no longer think it’s appropriate to make small children cry – but I can’t help but smile when I see others geeking out unabashedly on Halloween.
And that includes on TV! I love me a good Halloween-themed episode, especially when it involves the celebration of Halloween itself. Here are a few favorites, prompted by a new recent one:
Yes, the show lends itself naturally to the spooky, but how to set it apart and really define it as being Halloween-themed? Well, this year, it was by using everyone’s favorite Blutbad geek, Monroe. We already know about his cultured taste in food and music, his appreciation for history and authenticity, always at war with his more base instincts; somehow it’s no surprise that he’s one of those guys who goes all out in the trick-or-treat experience, including authentic medieval weaponry and light-up cobwebs.
This blue-collar sitcom is one of the first shows I can remember that really went all-out every year for Halloween. Crazy costumes abounded, every year was an attempt to outdo the last, and I think it’s the first place I saw pumpkins carved beyond the standard toothy grin.
Buffy, the Vampire Slayer
Again, one might think that for a show that featured vampires, monsters and assorted Hellbeasts, Halloween week might be like any other. However, Halloween-themed episodes of Buffy did what Halloween does on a larger scale: plays with expectations and deviates from the norm. In the season two episode titled “Halloween,” Buffy is turned into a quivering 18th-century woman, meek Willow is turned into an actual ghost and has to step up to leadership, and it’s revealed that Giles is darker than anyone thought.
The Adventures of Pete and Pete
Rather like the kid brother of My So-Called Life, this Nickelodeon show has since been acknowledged as a little ahead of its time and perfectly embodying the time it was created, all at once. The episode “Halloweenie” captures a side of Halloween not frequently seen on TV: the trick-or-treat experience from the perspective of the kids. Little Pete tries to break a trick-or-treating world record, while Big Pete is torn about whether he should join a gang called the “Pumpkin Eters.” As is common with Pete and Pete, the plots are fantastical, but they capture the mundane parts of life that everyone can relate to brilliantly.
Like Roseanne, this show loved Halloween in a big way, and had a Halloween episode pretty much every year. Well, it makes sense, after all – a haunted house or mechanized gag is ripe for Tim Taylor’s “personal touch” (and he would probably have a few tips for Monroe). Yes, most sitcoms – most TV shows, really – had Halloween-themed episodes, but like Roseanne, this one stands out in memory because of the commitment and evident joy in making them.
Ah, yes. The grandaddy of Halloween shows. The Simpsons were willing to break the mold of their show entirely, to make a special-within-a-show. It was a tradition started early in the show’s run – the second season – and they’re still going strong! It’s been years since I sat down and watched a Treehouse of Horror, but the ones from my childhood remain etched in my memory.
Now, this is by no means a comprehensive list – other shows play with, say, the costuming aspect of Halloween brilliantly, like The Office (US) and Community – but honestly, when I saw the episode of Grimm the other night, I was flooded with warm memories of trick-or-treating and making my own scary yard, hallway or 19th-century house. These episodes were just some that came to mind first, probably because they’re ones that I saw at key times in my own life.
But what about you? What are some of your favorite Halloween-themed episodes and specials? Are you constructing your own haunted house this year, or going all-out for a costume? Share your plans and memories below!