Chauncey's Ten Best Halloween TV Specials
by Chauncey Telese
Once again HAPPY HALLOWEEN! Where, as Michael Scott would say, it’s a time where “Monsters are supposed to celebrate each other and friends aren’t mad at one another.” This is a great time for TV shows, as some of my favorite episodes involve Halloween.
This year “Glee” did an interesting tribute to “Rocky Horror,” “Community” did a send up of zombie movies (it was brilliant) and “Modern Family” featured Claire’s haunted house. None of these crack the top ten, but they were downright funny. I would love to do one on just “The Simpsons” but that wouldn’t be fair, so I will only use my favorite segment, ditto “Saturday Night Live”. Having said that, I’ve done my research (in other words dug deep on YouTube) and I hope you like this list.
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10. “Community: Introduction to Statistics”: This year’s episode was good but the sophomore sitcom’s first Halloween show was better. Chevy Chase’s Pierce dresses as the beast master and gets paranoid about being old. This leads him to accidentally take LSD and he ends up hallucinating Annie asking him about Sputnik and the Beatles. Meanwhile Shirley tries to help Britta get revenge on Jeff for dating his statistics professor and Abed totally kills with his Christian Bale as Batman impersonation “Chex Mix, Baby Carrots, predictable but delicious.”
9. “It’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown”: There are three things I don’t talk about: politics, religion and The Great Pumpkin. A classic Halloween mainstay, this tells the story of Linus waiting in a pumpkin patch for the Great Pumpkin. The rest of the kids go trick or treating (Charlie Brown gets a rock because he’s Charlie Brown) and then off to a Halloween party. Charlie and Lucy try to get him to leave but Linus is determined to see this mythical figure. This cartoon has been analyzed by a plethora of people over the years as an allegory for faith because even though the pumpkin doesn’t show, Linus is sure that he will be there next year, and while it makes sense, I enjoy it because it the Peanuts at their finest (ditto Christmas) and it takes me back to my childhood. This was also the basis for a good Simpson episode where Milhouse brings the Grand Pumpkin to life and he wreaks havoc on Springfield.
8. “Doug: Doug’s Halloween Adventure”: “Doug” was Nickelodeon’s first animated series and while it wasn’t as popular as “Ren and Stimpy,” “The Rugrats” or “Rocko’s Modern Life,” it was still a classic series at a time before Nickelodeon abandoned their animation. In this episode, Doug and Skeeter go to the midnight opening of the Funkytown’s new ride “Blood Stone Manor” and bully Roger decides to play a prank on the boys. The ride closes before they can get on but Roger convinces them to go on the ride anyway so he can scare them. Doug and Skeeter decide to get back at him and they do in spectacular fashion.
7. “The Adventures of Pete and Pete: Halloweenie”: In this episode of Nickelodeon’s surreal live action comedy, Little Pete wants to break the record of most houses visited while Big Pete reluctantly goes with him. This episode was wasted on little kids as the central theme of the episode was Big Pete thinking of joining the “Pumpkin Eaters” who would smash pumpkins, egg houses, and commit other acts of vandalism. The episode was about Pete giving up one of the last parts of childhood, trick or treating. Luckily, Big Pete decides to be loyal to his brother but since I’ve seen it I realize how much I miss trick or treating and remember the moment where I gave that up.
6. “Hey Arnold: Arnold’s Halloween”: I know Nickelodeon is showing up a lot on this list but hey, back in the ’90s, this channel offered some of my favorite programming. In this episode, Arnold and Gerald dress as aliens and do a rendition of Orson Wells’ broadcast of “War of the Worlds” as a prank and unfortunately the town is dumb enough to believe it, causing widespread panic. The kids are dressed as aliens and are almost met by an angry grown up mob until Arnold has to break it to them that they’ve all been duped.
5. “South Park: Spooky Fish”: The second “South Park” Halloween episode parodied creature movies and the idea of an Indian burial ground. Stan gets a fish that tries to kill him (it eventually kills Kenny), and more haunted pets wreak havoc on the town. Stan’s mom notices dead bodies in Stan’s room and assumes it’s Stan. She buries all of the bodies in the backyard and in desperation, keeps saying she has a good boy. Cartman has an evil twin who is actually nicer then the real Cartman and to the boys’ dismay, that version of Cartman is sent back to the evil dimension.
4. “Are You Afraid of the Dark: The Tale of Laughing in the Dark”: One of Nickelodeon’s mainstays was this “Tales of the Crypt” style show about the Midnight Society which were a group of kids that told scary stories around the campfire. Their best story was “The Tale of Laughing in the Dark” which was about a carnival clown who steals money, hides in a funhouse and burns it down by accident with one of his cigars. A group of kids go into the funhouse where the legend states “Pick the right door and you’re free, pick the wrong door and there he’ll be.” One of the kids opens the door to see Zeebo the clown and steals his nose. Bad move because the clown reaches him through a phone call, showing up in his closet, and other freaky tricks. This episode did a great job tapping into many kids’ childhood fears about clowns. I miss this show as it was allowed to scare kids in a way that is almost outlawed now.
3. “Aaahh! Real Monsters: The Switching Hour”: In the pilot episode of the Nick Toon, Ickus, Krumm, and Oblina are forbidden to go out scaring on Halloween because the Gromble feels that the class is underachieving. They feel it’s a national holiday and end up being the only monsters to sneak out. One kid they encounter was scared by Ickus and dresses up like him on Halloween leading to a series of events where Krumm and Oblina bring the wrong Ickus back to the Monster Academy. Ickus adapts to the human world quite well and later the Gromble finds out that the monsters snuck out, leading them to be severely punished. This show was so cool because like “Rugrats” it served as a commentary on the behavior of society through the eyes of monsters (or in “Rugrats” case, babies).
2. “Saturday Night Live”: One of my all time favorite shows is “Saturday Night Live” and every year they are able to do a show around Halloween. Some of the classic sketches included “Land Shark”, “The Coneheads Halloween show”, “The Presidential Costume Party” which had the participation of then Senator Barack Obama, and The John Travolta sketch where he tries to tell his victims that he’s Dracula but they keep thinking he’s gay. Also there is “Matt Foley Motivational Speaker” (my favorite character of all time) where he tries to tell teens that a life of egging houses will lead to you living in a van down by the river, and finally Adam Sandler’s cheap Halloween costumes was both stupid and brilliant because while Sandler was putting a newspaper on his forehead and calling himself “Crazy Newspaper Face” and yelling give me some candy, and other weird costume ideas, the sketch actually showed the audience how “SNL” characters are developed. I don’t have a favorite sketch because there are so many good ones, but if I had to pick I’d say Richard Pryor as the priest from “The Exorcist”.
1. “The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror V”: In the fifth installment of “The Simpsons” yearly tradition, we get the best sketch they’ve ever done, “The Shinning.” In this send up of “The Shining” Mr. Burns allows the family to take care of his isolated winter resort and to ensure an honest season’s labor, takes away the cable TV and the beer supply. Homer later writes all over the walls “No TV No Beer Makes Homer Go Crazy.” Bart has the Shinning and uses it to connect with Willie (who knows his father will kill the whole lot of them). Eventually Homer goes on his rampage and eventually the family finds themselves frozen with a portable TV and Homer’s urge to kill fades.
Thank You for Reading and stay tuned as we return to our regularly scheduled programming with a double-header of “Megamind” and “Due Date”.