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Great Television Episodes to Watch at Halloween

By Edited Aug 7, 2016 0 0

When it comes time for Halloween, it's always fun to get into the spirit with a little festive viewing. While there are plenty of movies fitting for this time of year, many television shows also like to get in on the fun. Home Improvement made a tradition of its prank-riddled Halloween episodes, and you can always count on a spooky sketch or two from Saturday Night Live. Either of these would be a great place to start for some creeptastic entertainment.

The Simpsons, which is coming up on its 21st Treehouse of Horror episode, is probably the master when it comes to depicting this particular holiday on television. Each installment generally contains three short stories, most of which are spoofs of some pre-existing horror classics. I'm too squeamish for most horror myself, but through these episodes, I feel like I've gotten a pretty good overview. Probably the most memorable segment for me is The Shinning, a parody of Stephen King's The Shining, but the shorts are almost unfailingly clever and include spoofs of E. T.: The Extra-Terrestrial; Soylent Green; The Twilight Zone; Nineteen Eighty-Four; The Raven; It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown; King Kong; The Exorcist; and The War of the Worlds, among others. If you want a crash course in traditional Halloween fare with plenty of laughs to go along with it, look no further.

For most series, however, Halloween-themed episodes only come up occasionally, if at all. Here is a list of some of my favorite individual Halloween episodes.

Family Matters - When I was in elementary and middle school in the 1990s, TGIF was a staple for me and most of my classmates, and this show was a cornerstone of that Friday night viewing block. Despite his ear-piercingly annoying voice and accident-prone nature, I loved the endearingly dorky Steve Urkel, the cheese-loving neighbor of warm-hearted but grumpy cop Carl Winslow, whose daughter Laura is the apple of Steve's eye. In the season two episode Dog Day Halloween, after going out to get more candy to pass out to trick-or-treaters, Steve and Laura find themselves trapped as hostages in a bank robbery while Carl tries to diffuse the situation. Though Steve has lofty dreams of heroically rescuing Laura from their predicament, they don't quite come to fruition, making it one of many memorable Halloween episodes that is ultimately a downer.

According to Jim - I haven't watched this show starring Jim Belushi much, but I did catch the season four episode Dress to Kill Me once, and it stuck with me. In this episode, Jim's son Kyle is determined to dress as Cinderella for Halloween. For most of the episode, the manly Jim protests this choice, but ultimately he realizes that he is squelching his son's individuality, leading him to reverse his decision in a dramatic fashion. This episode has a nice message about being true to who you are. It also offers the memorable sight of Jim Belushi in a princess gown!

The Big Bang Theory - It's little wonder that four guys who spend so much of their time talking about superheroes would have a field day with Halloween. When Penny invites her neighbors across the hall to her Halloween party in season one's The Middle Earth Paradigm, each of them independently decides to go as The Flash, with the result that each must come up with a new costume. Leonard goes as Frodo, which warms my hobbit-loving heart, while Raj dresses as Thor. Howard gets annoyed when people keep mistaking his Robin Hood for Peter Pan, but that's nothing compared to the funny looks Sheldon gets with his visual representation of the Doppler Effect.

Frasier - This sophisticated sit-com features a much more sedate costume party in season nine's Room Full of Heroes. Frasier's stuffy idea of a fun time sends most of his colleagues fleeing his invitation, so when Halloween arrives, his little shin-dig is limited to five people, all dressed, as requested, as their personal heroes and prepared to answer intellectually stimulating questions in character. Frasier is Dr. Sigmund Freud, and he can't help feeling as though none of the other costumes carry enough gravitas. There's Martin as Joe DiMaggio, Daphne as Elton John and Roz as Wonder Woman. But what really gets under his skin is Niles, who becomes the golden boy of the night by dressing as Martin - at least until the results of a little too much alcohol cause the tide to turn against him. An amusing side story involves Frasier's reputation among the children in his condo for being a brain-eating madman. Ultimately poignant, but with some pretty hilarious stuff along the way.

Freaks and Geeks - When it comes to great Halloween television, only the annual tradition of It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown beats the melancholy Tricks and Treats as far as I'm concerned. Both of them are steeped in existential malaise as the main characters face disillusionment and cruel behavior. Sam, the naive high school freshman who revels in geekery with his pals Neil and Bill, thinks that he's outgrown trick-or-treating and plans to attend a movie marathon instead, but his nostalgia-ridden mom encourages him to reconsider, and disgust with English class assignments trying to make him grow up too fast makes him change his mind.

This results in the three of them going out on Halloween night in costume - Sam as Gort, the alien robot from The Day the World Stood Still, though he keeps getting mistaken for the Tin Man; Neil as Groucho Marx; and Bill as the Bionic Woman. None of them receive a very enthusiastic reception, and a traumatic event at the end of their trick-or-treating excursion confirms that Halloween has lost its luster. Meanwhile, his older sister Lindsey struggles with whether to join her friends for a night of Halloween rabble-rousing or spend it with her mother, passing out candy in matching costumes. Lots of humor in this episode, but like Frasier, the primary tone is wistful as Sam, Lindsey and their mother realize that they can't recapture the glory of days gone by.

Most of these episodes are available either through Netflix or Youtube, so do a little looking and treat yourself to some quality seasonal TV this Halloween.



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