Culture

A Handful of Horror: 7 Perfectly Spooky Halloween TV Specials

Alison Brie in Community/Photo © Trae Patton, NBC Universal, Inc

October’s grand finale is finale here, and to celebrate, we're revisiting some of our favorite Halloween TV specials. While there’s a mountain of material to go through, here’s a sampling of our must-sees.

My So-Called Life: “Halloween”

“When I was little I, like, worshipped Halloween. And truthfully, part of me still does. 'Cause it's your one chance all year to be someone else,” pondered Angela Chase --brought to life by Claire Danes -- in the episode’s opening voice-over. Angela’s teen turmoil takes a leap backwards when she borrows vintage clothing from her friend’s aunt and obtains an English textbook once assigned to Nicky Driscoll, a student that died in their gym in 1963. She begins to see Nicky looming in the halls, before finally coming into contact with him that night when she and her friends break into the school after it’s closed. Meanwhile, Angela’s parents rent costumes that seem to possess them with the vim and vigor they’d been missing in their marriage.

The Simpsons: “Treehouse of Horror V”

While it’s important to note that the creators of “The Simpsons” hit the nail on the coffin, err, head, with every Halloween special, number five is one of the all-time best. In its first third, America’s favorite animated family lampoons “The Shining,” taking several of the film's iconic images and playing them for laughs (“That’s odd. Usually the blood gets off at the second floor.”) It’s second third has Homer attempting to repair a toaster, only to accidentally turn it into a time machine, causing dinosaur extinction with a sneeze and making the world rain donuts. And the episode’s final installment has the children of Springfield turned into cafeteria food by the administration staff.

Boy Meets World: “And Then There Was Shawn”

Oh, the height of the mid-90s slasher craze with “Scream,” “I Know What You Did Last Summer,” and “Urban Legend,” the writers of “Boy Meets World” devised a clever half-hour, self-aware parody of the suddenly booming genre. While the gang’s all trapped in detention, a killer is on the loose. It’s up to the teenagers to survive -- and survival is contingent on the breadth of their knowledge of the horror genre --  and try not to die in the process. The clever cameo by Jennifer Love Hewitt as a new transfer student (named Jennifer Love Fefferman, or “Feffie”) really seals the deal on the darkly hilarious, tongue-in-cheek episode.

Community: “Epidemiology”

During Greendale Community College’s annual Halloween dance, a bad batch of military surplus food supplied by the dean turns everyone into zombies. The brilliance of “Community” stands out during its holiday episodes (and, of course, those paintball season finales), taking the shows razor-sharp wit to a whole new level. Aside from the hilarious happenings, the casts costumes in the episode range from Peggy Fleming to Ripley from the “Alien” series.

Pretty Little Liars: “The First Secret”

For those of you naysayers rolling your eyes, hold on a second – while many of the series soupy, overly-dramatic teen drama bits pop up here and there, the show’s core is built on mystery and suspense, and it delivers with chills! While ABC Family divides their television series season into segments, “Pretty Little Liars” took a break from their hiatus to film their first Halloween special back in 2011. The four lead girls and their now-demised, antagonizing ringleader engage in some creepy antics at a Halloween party before things get out of hand. It’s a great standalone episode, due to it’s non-linear placement in the show's events (the episode takes place prior to the events of the rest of the series).

Roseanne: “Boo!” and “Halloween IV”

During its eight season run, "Rosanne" saw seven Halloween episodes, showcasing that no one does Halloween better than the Connor family. The first Halloween episode, “Boo!” has the family members trying to out-prank each other throughout the day and finishing off the evening with hosting a neighborhood haunted house. “Halloween IV” pokes fun at “A Christmas Carol,” having Roseanne lose her holiday spirit and bail on a Halloween party, only to be visited by three spirits that showcase the past, present, and futures of Halloween.

It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown!

When Linus writes his annual letter to The Great Pumpkin, a Halloween figurehead on par with Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny, the Peanuts gang scoffs at his childish innocence. He skips trick or treating (during which Charlie Brown is given rocks instead of candy because of his lackluster ghost costume) to hang out in the pumpkin patch to wait for the Great Pumpkin, while the rest of his friends go trick or treating and attend a party.

Of course, this list could go on for days. Feel free to keep the list going with your favorite Halloween episodes in the comment section below!

  • Andrew Hanley

    Seriously?? No Buffy episodes?! I'm ashamed.

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