I am the author of three middle-grade children's books, and I blog on the side. My favorite topics are movies, writing, and pop culture.
Celebrating Halloween on TV
Nothing used to put me in the Halloween spirit like when my favorite TV sitcoms would air their Halloween specials throughout the month October. Unfortunately, it seems like those days are over. Not only are family sitcoms rare, but few sitcoms in general actually produce a Halloween-themed episode.
These episodes used to break from whatever arc was happening during that particular season. Or sometimes it would work in whatever current drama was happening to particular characters on a show to to create a fun, and sometimes even scary, take on the situation.
Because it was Halloween-themed, the episode could get as outrageous or unrealistic as they wanted with no lasting consequences. This often made for some of the greatest moments of the season, if not the show itself.
Below are 10 Halloween specials that I recommend you watch during the month of October for when you're feeling nostalgic or need help getting into the Halloween spirit.
And Then There Was Shawn
Boy Meets World
Boy Meets World did not produce a Halloween episode every year, but they had a few throughout the course of their series, and they were all pretty awesome. Each one took a break from normalcy and went all out, turning characters into werewolves, witches, and serial killers. Just like the rest of the series, they mixed humor and sympathy to create a fitting Halloween tribute.
My favorite Halloween episode, however, and many fellow fans would agree, is “And Then There Was Shawn." This episode actually aired in February 1998, but it was as Halloween-centric as they come. Its story borrowed from the popular slasher movies of the era, such as Scream and I Know What You Did Last Summer.
With Corey and Topanga having just broken up, Shawn grieves for the failed relationship as if he were their child dealing with his parents’ divorce. The anger and unnecessary guilt harbored over the events that led to the break up causes Shawn to land the primary characters in detention where they are stalked by a costumed killer who picks them off one by one. Eric is particularly hilarious in this episode, though every character gets a laugh at some point.
Why It's Great
This was a really thrilling and fun episode to watch as a teenager. Playing into my love of horror and relatable teenage experiences, the show had me both hiding under my blanket and rolling on the floor laughing.
And though it was a fantasy break from the events of the story line that was progressing that season, it still tied into the personal conflicts that the characters were currently going through that season. It's a remarkable feat that a network family show was able to pull off given its limits with both the horror and the humor.
Clip From Roseanne's First Halloween Episode
Nobody did Halloween like Roseanne. In fact, you could say that they started the trend of producing annual Halloween-themed episodes. They weren’t necessarily scary, but there were costumes, pranks, and other fun Halloween antics. They were also some of the funniest episodes of the series.
The first six Halloween episodes are nearly tied for first place. But my absolute favorite is probably the show’s first Halloween episode in season 2. In this one, the Connors set up a Haunted House for the trick-or-treaters. The girls aren’t into it, Dan’s busy trying to score a job, and Roseanne’s obsessed with trying to prank Dan.
Jackie’s haunted house performance will leave you in stitches. And the candy apple making scene involving a story about an escaped psycho neighbor that the adults use to scare the kids puts me back into the Halloween traditions of my childhood every time I watch it.
Crazy For You Clip
I’d have to say that Home Improvement matches Roseanne in the quality of their Halloween episodes. Like Roseanne, Tim Taylor is a prankster, and he always has the best Halloween costumes. They help to cushion the blow of the dozens of injuries he incurs on a weekly basis.
The “Crazy for You” episode gets my vote as their greatest Halloween episode. In this one, Tim is stalked by an obsessed fan which makes him paranoid beyond belief. Little does he know that the obsessed fan is really just a prank by Jill to get back at him for all of the Halloween pranks that he has made her endure throughout the years.
Even though you're in on the joke halfway through, the ending sets an unsettling, creepy tone that leads up to the big reveal. This is 90’s TV at its finest.
Even the reserved Winslow family weren’t afraid to get into the Halloween spirit. Their episodes were so scary that they were funny, full of special effects and creepy premises.
Any fan of the show remembers the “Stevil” episodes. There were actually two Stevil stories, but I’m going with the first one that aired in 1996. In this one, a doll of Urkel’s likeness comes to life and tortures the Winslow family. The deep, demonic voice was terrifying, but the puppetry was hilarious and over-the-top. Still, my brother, sister, and I watched this one with the lights on.
A Closet Full of Hell Clip
Dharma and Greg
Even if you weren’t a fan of the show, you have to admit that Dharma and Greg had some pretty funny and scary Halloween episodes. They often featured twists and turns that kept you wondering if it was all going to turn out to be a farce or a real paranormal encounter. Each time, it turned out to be both.
Again, the series sets the bar high with their first Halloween episode, "A Closet Full of Hell" (1998), and while their subsequent Halloween stories were great, they just can't catch up to this one.
In their first Halloween episode, the couple finds a hidden compartment in the bedroom closet of their new apartment that houses creepy dolls, including two which look exactly like them. This show was always about how two people who are exact opposites build a life together. Dealing with demonic dolls is no exception.
While Greg tries to ignore it, Dharma and her mom perform an exorcism to rid the apartment of evil spirits with disappointing results.The incident turns out to be a planned prank by Dharma’s best friend, Jane. But there is a little twist at the end to suggest a story line of which even Jane wasn't aware.
The Haunted Mask II
Goosebumps: The Haunted Mask II
If you’ve read the Goosebumps book series, you know that this is one of the scariest stories of them all. So, when they made a Halloween special based on this book, you just had to watch it.
In this story, Carly Beth is easily scared by her friends, family, and the neighborhood bullies. So, she uses Halloween as an excuse to get back at everyone who takes advantage of her.
After stealing a grotesque mask from a creepy man’s mask shop, Carly Beth comes to realize that the longer she wears it, the harder it is to take off and the more she begins to change into the hideous creature she is trying to emulate.
This is your classic Goosebumps story. And the fact that it takes place on Halloween makes it the perfect episode to watch in October.
The Great Pumpkin Intro.
It's The Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown (1966)
This is probably number one on everybody’s list, and it would have been wrong not to include it. The Great Pumpkin has everything from trick-or-treating, to bobbing for apples, to pumpkin patches, all of the traditional Halloween activities.
The Peanuts gang are both kid and adult friendly. Your parents love it. Your children love it. You love it. It has held up to the test of time, and it doesn’t feel like Halloween until you’ve sat in the pumpkin patch with Linus, collected a bag of rocks with Charlie Brown, and danced on the piano with Snoopy.
A Clip from Winnie The Pooh's Halloween Special
Boo to You Too! Winnie the Pooh (1996)
This half hour animated special of the 90's used to play after the annual airing of The Great Pumpkin. Geared towards the preschool age, this show gives younger viewers a tame version of a Halloween show to watch that won't give them nightmares right before bed.
In this adventure, Winnie the Pooh and the gang gets ready for Halloween while Piglet tackles his anxieties and fears of going out on the spookiest night of the year. It is heartbreaking to see his shame and guilt at disappointing his friends and being unable to join in on their fun. Like all Winnie the Pooh stories, however, it all works out in the end.
Rugrats Halloween clip.
Nickelodeon knew how important Halloween was to kids. So, they are responsible for some great animated Halloween specials. One such series that created some great spooky episodes was the Rugrats. How do you explain Halloween to a baby? These episodes proved just that.
The Candy Bar Creep Show/Monster in the Garage (1992) episode shows just how the gang of infants interprets Halloween as they explore the haunted house that their parents have set up in the garage. Their goal is to find Reptar Bars, but in the end, they get an education on all things spooky.
In the second segment of the episode, the babies search for whatever is making noise in the garage. This episode cemented the Rugrats as one of my favorite cartoons of all time, and it helps you to see Halloween from a different perspective.
Arnold's Halloween Episode
The Nickelodeon show Hey Arnold! included a few good Halloween episodes in its heyday as well. It was nice to see how Arnold and the gang celebrated in the city and what scary situations they would get themselves into.
In the "Arnold’s Halloween" (1997) episode, the gang re-enacts the panic created by Orson Welles’ "War of the Worlds" radio broadcast. The show sends the entire neighborhood into a frenzy, and Halloween chaos ensues. Alien invasions are a fun horror staple, but not always the most obvious. So, this episode gets extra points for uniqueness and creativity.
Own all of the Roseanne Halloween episodes with this DVD!
Do you remember a Halloween TV episode that you loved growing up? Leave your favorite memories below!
Geekdom on October 07, 2014:
I remember the Home Improvement episode and watch Charlie Brown every year.