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Celebrating the Many “Roseanne” Halloween Specials


Few television shows in history were more ahead of their time than Roseanne, which premiered on ABC back in 1988. Never afraid to tackle hot button issues – many of which are as “hot button” today as they were back then – the series was quite unlike anything else on the small screen at the time, documenting the day-to-day lives of a fictional family that probably wasn’t all that different from your own. The Conners looked like us, they acted like us, and they faced the same struggles we all do, so it was only natural that they quickly became one of the most beloved television families of all time.

And like us, they LOVED Halloween.

The show’s creator, Roseanne Barr, is herself a big time fan of Halloween, and if it was up to her, the very first season of Roseanne would have explored the Conner family’s love of the holiday; it wasn’t, however, until the second season that Halloween episodes became an annual tradition for the show. To make a short story even shorter, ABC just wasn’t into the idea of celebrating Halloween, fearing that some viewers would be turned off by the satanic implications of the holiday. Of course, Roseanne went on to become a show that defied any and all political correctness, and by the time Season 2 came around, the network caved and allowed Barr to do what she wanted to do one year prior.

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Premiering on Halloween night of 1989, ‘BOO!’ was the very first Halloween episode of Roseanne, and many viewers to this day consider it to be the best Halloween special ever made. The episode, which perfectly captured small town Halloween, saw the Conner family embracing the holiday to the fullest extent of the law, notably turning their modest home into a wonderfully over-the-top haunted attraction for trick or treaters. The episode also established Dan and Roseanne’s Halloween tradition of attempting to out-prank one another, which carried over into several of the subsequent episodes; eight in total, from Season 2 through 9.

Following all the rules of Halloween to a tee, the Conner family of course also dressed up each time the calendar flipped over to October 31st, and their costumes were always one of the most fun aspects of the annual episodes – sometimes, they were even a bit controversial. In 1990’s ‘Trick or Treat,’ young son DJ’s costume choice saw the show, in typical Roseanne fashion, bravely confronting something no other show would have dared at the time. DJ decided to dress up as a witch for Halloween, which concerned Dan; “Boys shouldn’t dress up like girls,” Dan says to Roseanne, worried about the implications of the costume.

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The Halloween costumes were all around a highlight of ‘Trick or Treat,’ the show stepping up the game big time from the previous year. Dan dressed as the Three Stooges, with dummy heads on each side of his own; Becky was a mangled prom queen (Prom Night 2, anyone?); Darlene, in one of the show’s most GIFable moments, had a chest-bursting creature underneath her sweatshirt; and Roseanne went as a lumberjack man for a hilarious and insightful trip to the bar. The rest of the family that year attended a local haunted attraction rather than putting on their own, presumably because Lanford cracked down on that sort of thing.

The prank wars continued in ‘Trick Me Up, Trick Me Down,’ which kicked off with a neighbor being fooled into believing that Roseanne had brutally butchered Dan; the Conner family patriarch’s flair for DIY practical effects was often quite impressive. A bit older by the time the 1991 Halloween season came around, Darlene and Becky had no interest dressing up that year, but Dan and Roseanne donned their most extravagant costume ever for a local Halloween party: they played Deadgar Bergen and Mortuary Snerd, a ventriloquist and his dummy. The episode also featured a young George Clooney dressed as a moose, making a return to the series as Jackie’s ex-boyfriend Booker.

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But Halloween wasn’t always fun and games for the Conners.

Appropriately titled ‘Halloween 4,’ Roseanne’s fourth Halloween special saw Roseanne struggling to get into the Halloween spirit (we’ve all been there, am I right?), and the cure came in the form of a dreamlike visit from the so-called ghosts of Halloween past; even various family pranks, which included Dan grinding up his hand in the garbage disposal, failed to do the trick. Roseanne visited Halloween experiences from her past, present and future, ultimately leading her to reclaim her throne as the Queen of Halloween by dressing up as the Statue of Liberty and setting off the sprinklers at the Lanford Lodge’s annual party.

‘Halloween 4’ featured some of the show’s best costumes, including Dan and Jackie as a decapitated Marie Antoinette and her severed head; Darlene as Tippi Hedren from The Birds; and DJ as Hannibal Lecter.

roseanne halloween 5

The 1993 episode, ‘Halloween 5,’ mostly took place at Roseanne and Jackie’s diner The Lanford Lunchbox, where the pranks were taken to the next level. Dan hired work a buddy to faux rob the diner at gunpoint, and shortly thereafter, the blood flew when a door slammed on Dan’s nose and broke it; unfortunately for him, that was not part of his prank. Things got even gorier when Darlene literally ripped the head off of a girl her boyfriend was apparently hooking up with, though it was of course an elaborate prank on Roseanne. Like mother, like daughter.

‘Skeleton In the Closet,’ the seventh season’s Halloween episode, centered on a party held at the Lunchbox, hosted by gay co-owner Leon Carp (Martin Mull). Homosexuality was a big topic of discussion in the episode, and one of the main storylines saw Jackie suspecting that her boyfriend was gay; it ended with him being “caught” in bed with Dan, which was another good old fashioned Halloween prank. The party that year was, needless to say, a little bit different than the ones we had come to expect from the show, with Roseanne dressed as Prince, Dan as a cowboy, and Jackie as Batman sidekick Robin. A running gag about Roseanne’s mother wearing a wig culminated in an Emmy-nominated sequence that saw every character pulling off their hair to reveal bald domes underneath. Roseanne one-upped them, blowing up the family home.

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Common in the world of horror, ‘Halloween: The Final Chapter’ actually was not, but the second-to-last Halloween special was quite a bit different than all the others. Roseanne, who was pregnant at the time, goes into labor while playing with a Ouija Board on Halloween, and the drugs given to her at the hospital send her on a psychedelic trip that ends with the birth of the newest family member: Jerry Garcia Conner. The episode’s highlight is a montage of memorable clips from past Roseanne Halloween specials, which mostly reminded how good the show’s Halloween episodes used to be.

The true final chapter of the Roseanne Halloween specials was Season 9’s ‘Satan, Darling,’ which aired in October of 1996. By that point, Dan and Roseanne had struck it rich in the lottery, completely changing the direction of the show – in the eyes of many, including myself, for the worse. The final Halloween episode saw Roseanne and Jackie attending a fancy party with New York socialites, the second half playing out like a tribute to Rosemary’s Baby – Roseanne imagines that Darlene is pregnant with the spawn of Satan. The less said about this one, the better.

They may have gone on long enough to eventually jump the shark, but the Roseanne Halloween episodes remain a high watermark for television Halloween specials, paving the way for all subsequent shows to celebrate a holiday that was once completely absent from the small screen. There are few shows nowadays that don’t acknowledge Halloween in October, and Roseanne did it both first and, if you’re asking me, best. Particularly in the early seasons, the Conners’ celebrations showed that it was okay to get crazy, let loose, and have a whole lot of spooky fun on Halloween, and to this day, Halloween just doesn’t feel like Halloween until I’ve revisited their annual tricks, treats, and hijinks.

On Halloween, we should all aspire to be more like the Conners.

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  • The Drucifer

    My favorite one was where Rosanne married this coked out psycho and gave him a movie career…oh wait

    • J Jett

      LOL! 🙂

    • Creepshow

      I like the episode where she had cosmetic surgery, and looked nothing like herself…oh shit, wait.

  • J Jett

    i can not properly express just how much i hate this show and every character in it. it hasn’t aged well at all either.

    • ScriptGiverTJ

      You forgot to add “in my opinion”.

      • DannX68

        While I like Roseanne, it really shouldn’t be necessary to write “in my opinion” every time you state something. You can figure it out yourself because 1: he wrote it and 2: TWICE he used “I”.

        • ScriptGiverTJ

          His last sentence infers that their opinion of it not aging well is a fact. But thanks.

          • J Jett

            Hi Rosanne…erm…i mean ScriptGiver. LOL.

          • ScriptGiverTJ

            Her name is spelled Roseanne. Your adorable when you’re ruffled.

          • OhYouAteOneToo

            OH LOOK EVERYONE!!!! J J ETT MADE A FUNNY!!!!!!!!!! He has such a talent for making people laugh.

        • J Jett

          Dannx68, exactly! thank you! 🙂
          it’s hilarious that ScriptGiver need people to post IN MY OPINION in their comments. LOL.

          • OhYouAteOneToo

            He was breaking your balls a little. If you weren’t so childlike and naive you would have gotten the joke.

      • J Jett

        ScriptGiverTJ, oops, i mean Rosanne (you must be her since you are so hypersensisitve about anyone saying anything against your beloved show) you’re ridiculous AND pathetic if you expect everyone to write IN MY OPINION before any and all statements. and that IS a fact and not my opinion.

        • ScriptGiverTJ

          You forgot to add “in my opinion” here too.

          • OhYouAteOneToo


        • OhYouAteOneToo

          Kind of funny J Jett given that you pitched a fit and started calling people all kinds of names the other day for not liking the idea of several sequels that you wanted to see get made. You are quickly becoming known as the bitchy spazz of the boards.

  • Grimphantom

    We gotta give to Roseanne on making some fun Halloween episodes which honestly that’s what i like about a show where they make Halloween specials that are obvious more entertaining than the Christmas specials by a long shot.

    “ABC just wasn’t into the idea of celebrating Halloween fearing that some viewers would be turned off by the satanic implications of the holiday. ”

    Seriously? One of the reasons why i also like when someone make fun of the people who run networks

  • These episodes are the closest thing there is to actually going back in time and reliving suburban Halloween in the 90’s.

    • Tigernan Quinn

      ’80s, doll.

      • ScriptGiverTJ

        One Halloween episode in the 80s, 7 in the 90s, doll.

  • I love their Halloween episodes. I don’t think I’ve ever seen Satan, Darling. I might track it down out of curiosity.

  • Jonathon Knight

    I rewatched the entire series recently and both Season 8 & 9 are god awful. 9 is worse but good god I’ve never seen a series shoot itself in the foot so badly. 1-7 are still brilliant of course.

    • Season 8 was still pretty good. Season 9 was almost bad except it ended so brilliantly that it made the entire thing worth it – one of the best sitcom finales ever.

    • ScriptGiverTJ

      My least favorite season is actually season 7. 9 is not good but I rewatched recently and it’s clearly her attempt to recreate AbFab for American audiences. Watching it with that in mind made it entertaining at least.

    • Khy

      From what I heard Season 8 was supposed to be the final season(one reason why Lecy Goranson returned to share the role of Becky with Sara Chalke) but at the last minute a significant spike in the ratings made the Network decide to renew it for a Season 9. Big mistake, by then most of the cast had signed on to other projects- which is why S9 was mostly centered around Roseanne and Jackie.
      Horrible season. I wish the first two episodes of S9 were the season finale. Both were a perfect ending.

  • Frankie Ramos

    Always found this show really funny, but haven’t gotten around to watching the whole series. Would definitely love to at some point though. Of this list, I’ve seen “Trick Me Up, Trick Me Down” and “Skeleton in the Closet,” which I thought were really good, but this article makes me want to check out the rest of these! Thanks for that John!

  • Mehliens

    The birds costume is great

  • Satanzilla

    Wow, news to me. Never watched on episode of that show.

  • Frank Lloyd Jr

    It’s funny there were episodes titled Halloween 4 and 5 considering Danielle Harris had a recurring role during season five of Roseanne.

  • w0undedmagic

    YES. I watch these every year (minus Satan, Darling). While Roseanne is def number one, I’d have to say Home Improvement’s Halloween episodes are a CLOSE second, imo.

  • Khy

    I consider the first two episodes of season 9 to be the series finale. They won the lottery, got their happy ending and should’ve ended right there. Last shot of Roseanne and Dan laughing on the bed at the end of episode 2 of S9 was PERFECT.

    Everything that came after was an abomination. ;(

    • Private s baldrick

      To me the series ended when there was an episode on a train with Steven seagal…..I just couldn’t carry on anymore.

  • Nick

    Definatly a part of my viewing pleasure every October.

  • DJV1985

    Just got hold of all the Halloween episodes for this and Home Improvement (Tim Allen show, not that you should need to be reminded) although I’ve watched all the Home Improvement Halloween specials and the Christmas ones and will be holding off watching Roseannes until October. I’m always looking for shows and films for my Halloween weekend marathon.

    Speaking of which, anyone know any good up coming horrors for release on VOD not cinema (don’t go cinema it’s become a rip off) that releases around about October.

  • Dee-abolik

    Thanks for bringing back the memories. Those episodes were second only to the Simpsons Halloween-specials.

    • Thurisaz

      Ah, Treehouse of Horror! Watching those are an annual tradition. Most, anyway. They’re very reflective of the series itself. Starts a bit rough, reaches a near perfect pitch for many years before declining into mediocrity. I mean, how the hell is a Mr & Mrs Smith parody even remotely horror themed?

      • Dee-abolik

        That happened? I am out of the loop regarding the later seasons. I think my favourite Treehouse episode is the one with Shining and time-travelling grampa.

  • disqus_lwmRUN3eIt

    Man, must be a slow day at BD?

    Not to be disrespectful to everyone who has contributed here, but honestly who gives a flying Halloween crap about Roseanne. Moreover, on website dedicated to horror who gives a crap.

    Why not go on about The Simpson’s Halloween specials? I’d argue they were more innovative and self-reflexive than anything Roseanne did.

    But seriously in 2016 nobody cares about The Simpsons or Roseanne.

    Not saying Roseanne was a bad show, but it annoys me that BD put more effort into this than a recent article re-visiting John Carpenter’s Ghosts Of Mars.

    Hey, I’m pretty sure that Beverly Hills 90210 had some Halloween episodes, maybe an in-depth analysis Tori Spelling in next on the cards for BD. Wow, I just looked it up. Would you believe that Steve dressed as Zorro and Donna dressed a mermaid. Cutting edge.


    • You ask, “who gives a flying Halloween crap about Roseanne?”, well, if you venture into the comment section, you’ll see that people here care.

      If you don’t, you can always choose not to read the article. There’s a bunch of stories on BD that I hold no interest in, but I don’t expect them to alter their content based on my personal interests. The sense of entitlement is real.

      • disqus_lwmRUN3eIt

        Forgive me for thinking a website dedicated to horror would stick to horror and that the majority of BD readers would want to read about horror rather than some 90’s sitcom. I don’t think that is a stretch. No sense of entitlement, just a fairly reasonable expectation.

        And honestly I don’t expect anyone to alter anything for me, it is an opinion. I think in the context of a dedicated horror website it is a fair one.

        I think I was clear that I did not intend to offend anyone and that it was an opinion. Like your suggestion that I don’t need to read the article, you probably don’t need to read people’s comments and opinions.

  • John

    Ha. Roseanne. Dan Connor was my favorite TV dad. One of the best episodes is when Dan is bitter at Roseanne for making him settle down and have kids instead of becoming a founding member for Blues Traveler.

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