When the Halloween season arrives, there’s nothing better than turning on your television and learning what your favorite characters will dress up as for their Halloween festivities.
Ironically, Halloween television is rarely about scaring viewers and almost always ends up focusing on Halloween parties. There are so many Halloween episodes out there that crowning ten best would be impossible.
Instead, here are nine favorites with one The Deadliest Warrior entry added for good measure.
Roseanne – “BOO!”
There are many great Roseanne Halloween episodes, but the first remains the best. The costumes aren’t as outlandish as they’d later become, but nearly every joke hits on one Halloween theme or another and it’s delivery is totally earnest and fun. Even before the big party, we have all the wonderful pranks and dark puns. Plus, you have to love a show where a mother asks her Halloween-resisting daughter, “Do you want to go upstairs and get dressed, or do you just want to go to Hell?”
Community – “Epidemiology”
Can a weekly sitcom about community college pull off a zombie episode without resorting to an ending where Star-Burns wakes up and finds it was all just a bad dream? Community’s great halloween episode, “Epidemioligy,” argues “yes” as the entire school (except for Dean Pelton) runs into a form of food poisoning that turns victims into zombies before frying their brains (or something). No one can remember what happened afterward, but the show never forgets as this episode introduced Shirley’s season two pregnancy plot. Chang, you sly dog.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer – “Halloween”
The first season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer is fun, but the show doesn’t kick into high gear until season two, especially during this episode which supplies both laughs and drama while introducing major elements to the Buffy mythology.
Sunnydale unravels as everyone magically takes on the personality of their costume thanks to mischievous Ethan Rayne. Xander learns military training which comes in handy for the rest of the series. We get our first indications of Giles’ dark past. Plus Willow totally takes control of the Scoobies. It’s everything you’d want from an early Buffy episode, and it’s plenty Halloweeny as well.
The Simpsons – “Tree House of Horror V”
Like Rosanne, The Simpsons has a reputation for awesome Halloween episodes thanks to their annual Tree House of Horror anthologies. We may all have our pet favorites, but the hands-down winner has to be “Tree House of Horror V,” which includes a story where the Springfield school system consumes children literally as well as a parody of The Shining, and Ray Bradbury’s time travel mind-warper, “A Sound of Thunder.” It doesn’t get much cooler than this.
It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia – “Who Got Dee Pregnant?”
Judging from the title, you wouldn’t think this Rashomon-style episode would have anything to do with Halloween. But since the story of who got Dee pregnant takes place at a Patty’s Bar Halloween party, we get our first ever It’s Always Sunny Halloween episode. The costumes aren’t as clever as on other shows because the people wearing them aren’t as clever. It’s worth it just to hear Charlie’s cannibalistic misinterpretation of The Phantom of the Opera or everyone’s inability to name Viggo Mortensen when referring to Mac’s Aragorn costume. And that’s saying nothing of the moment where we’re treated to a real life ostrich in Dee’s place.
The Office – “Halloween”
Every generation needs a sitcom to really knock it out of the park on Halloween, and right now that title goes to The Office. Annually, fans prepare for witty costumes galore and uncomfortable hijinks usually in some way revolving around said costumes.
This season two episode marks their most memorable attempt, simply because the story is so sad and horrible. Michael has to fire one employee before November and of course waits until the last day to make his choice. So while everyone has a good time on Halloween (relatively) one worker will be going home with their life ruined. Also, Michael has two heads.
The Walking Dead – “Day’s Gone By”
The Walking Dead’s opening episode, “Days Gone By,” was not the kind of Halloween episode where all your favorite characters dress up in really creative costumes for you to steal a week later as your own costume. Instead it was a chilling, gory feature-length episode of zombie apocalypse that just so happened to premier on Halloween night. So, actually, it’s more a Halloween episode than any other episode on this list. Plus: Disassembled horse!
American Horror Story – “Halloween 1 & 2”
American Horror Story is so cartoonishly dark and bizarre that almost every episode counts as a Halloween episode. And in pure American Horror Story fashion, the show’s first season aired not one but two Halloween episodes, one right on time, the other a week late. I could tell you what they were about, but it likely wouldn’t make any sense and might even over-titilate (it had something to do with American Horror Story’s wonky rules setting Halloween as the one day a year where ghosts can walk around like normals, so Rubber Man can finally go see Marilyn Manson or whatever). Let’s not kid around: American Horror Story is not a very good show. But it’s also the most awesome show.
The Deadliest Warrior – “Vampires vs. Zombies”
This particular episode of The Deadliest Warrior may have aired in September, but you’ll never convince me a show quasi-scientifically examining who would win in a fight between vampires and zombies does not belong on this list. Their methods may be hilariously arbitrary (vampires apparently have the strength of ten men; zombie hands are somehow three times human strength), but it’s still pretty awesome to see mock vampire jaws rip open a mock zombie skull jam packed with mock zombie blood and brains.
Family Matters – “Stevil II”
You might think the original Stevil episode, in which Steve Urkel gets a dummy version of himself that terrorizes the Winslows, was crazier than it had any right to be (Laura gets dismembered, after all), but the sequel, Stevil II, is even better. Not only is the dummy just as oddly terrifying as before, but this time there’s a scary Carl Winslow to join the child-traumatizing fun. Neither episode offers an explanation as to why Stevil looks like Urkel yet speaks with the voice of an evil bodybuilder, though.