When they really want to make horror fans happy, TV sitcoms and dramas take time out to celebrate Halloween. A lot of times these episodes are standalones, indulging in the spirit of the holiday with laughs and/or scares. Here are a select five of my favorites; of course, the “Treehouse of Horror” episodes don’t count, since they warrant a list all their own.
Feel free to post your own favorite Halloween episodes in the comments!
Roseanne: Boo! (1989)
While the Simpsons always reigned supreme with yearly Halloween episodes, “Roseanne” had its fair share of great Halloween episodes. Their best is the first, titled “Boo!”. Airing in season two, Roseanne is preparing a haunted house attraction for Halloween, and is trying to get oldest daughter Becky in the spirit. Meanwhile, she and Dan are in a Halloween prank contest, providing some of the funniest bits this show ever produced. The episode is more of a stand alone from the rest of the season, but it’s an unabashed celebration of everything that’s great and sinister about Halloween. Hell, there’s even a fun Jason nod thrown in for good measure.
Freaks and Geeks: Tricks and Treats (1999)
Sadly, we all must grow up sometime and move on from childish things. In this episode of “Freaks and Geeks,” young Sam Weir isn’t ready to stop his traditions and convinces his friends to go trick or treating one last time. Meanwhile big sister Lindsay manages to dodge her yearly tradition of handing out candy with her mom to ride around with her new group of friends. Mom Jean also gets a rude awakening when the mothers of trick or treaters refuse her home made cookies for fear of razor blades or pins. The episode is a mix of sad and funny, as Sam and his friends get beaten up for their candy, Lindsay fails spectacularly at smashing pumpkins, and we even get a nice nod to Joe Flaherty’s SCTV character, Count Floyd.
Dead Like Me: Haunted (2004)
In the series finale, main character and reaper Georgia learns that on Halloween, all the facades that reapers wear to blend in come down. Afraid of being recognized, Georgia has to wear a mask, and unfortunately has to work on Halloween, reaping some souls with pal Mason, who is hell bent on trick or treating. As co-reapers Roxy and Daisy go around reaping souls, Georgia is unaware that there’s a serial killer lurking about who is breaking into people’s houses and viciously murdering them.
With absolute little ability to intrude, Georgia and Mason can only watch as he walks to various doors, preying on victims while they claim the souls. Meanwhile, like the great pumpkin, Georgia’s little sister Reggie intends on visiting Georgia’s grave, convinced she’s going to visit her on her favorite holiday. “Haunted” is a great Halloween episode teeming with the holiday aesthetic. It’s a shame Showtime yanked this off the air before any real resolution. Fun fact: Britt McKillip, who plays little sister Reggie, also co-starred in “Trick ‘r Treat.”
Family Guy: Halloween on Spooner Street (2010)
One of the funniest episodes of “Family Guy” involves Stewie’s first ever Halloween, and it’s a night filled with a lot of antics and some great sight gags. Stewie goes out for his first trick or treating trip with Brian, and they run afoul a group of kids that steal Stewie’s bag of candy. When Brian tries to intervene, they paint him pink. Meanwhile, Meg plans to go incognito at a party with her friends hoping to score, while Peter, Quagmire, and Joe indulge in a vicious prank war.
There are so many laughs to mine here, from Chris’ inappropriate Bill Cosby costume, the hilarious fight involving two dwarfs Joe has to break up, and the ultimate resolution where Lois takes retribution a bit too far. The final gag involving Stewie giving Brian generic candy that skirts copyright infringement is a great bit of icing on the cake.
Gravity Falls: Summerween (2012)
Gravity Falls, Oregon is so great that they have their own holiday called “Summerween.” They celebrate it on June 22nd, or the second to last Friday of the month. See, they love Halloween so much that they celebrate it twice a year. Genius. Since Dipper and Mable are in Gravity Falls, they get a taste of Summerween, but end up butting heads when Dipper decides to skip trick or treating in favor of going to a party with crush Wendy.
But that’s the least of their troubles as the Summerween trickster decides to stalk and terrorize them thanks to Dipper’s lack of the “Summerween Spirit.” Now they must collect a ton of candy before the last Jack-o-Melon goes out for the night, or else they’ll be devoured by the monster. “Summerween” was a clever and creative way for “Gravity Falls” to sneak in a Halloween episode, and it’s a total blast. It’s a stellar Halloween episode that invokes the holiday with a ton of hilarious gags, laugh out loud dialogue, excellent Halloween spirit, and a very spooky villain.