Spooking, slaying and egging: 10 classic Halloween TV episodes
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Halloween’s not just a time for gobbling up bite-size candies by the fistful. It’s also a time for devouring large quantities of Halloween-themed TV episodes: some spooky, some silly, some classics that follow us and invade our thoughts like howls in the night.
Every year brings a new batch of wannabe classics, like “The Office’s” annual Halloween episode, ‘Modern Family’'s trick or treat escapade and the 21st installment in “The Simpsons’ ” creepilicious “Treehouse of Horror” series on Nov. 7, featuring a “Twilight” sendup in which Lisa falls for a vampiric new kid guest-voiced by Daniel Radcliffe. (Harry Potter as a cartoon vampire? There’s just no way that’ll suck.)
But there’s nothing quite like those old favorites, the ones that send you back to your youth -– or to, um, a couple of years ago. Here’s a list of 10 Halloween-themed TV episodes that rise up like zombies from beyond and demand to be remembered, and to be watched again and again and again. (Clips are embedded below if available.) They’ll leave you glowing like a jack-o-lantern.
And if you have a favorite that’s not included here, chime in and treat your fellow Showtrackers to it in the comments section.
1) The Simpsons: “Treehouse of Horror” (aka “The Simpsons Halloween Special”): It’s hard to pick just one installment in the annual “Treehouse of Horror” series, but the very first one, featuring a segment in which James Earl Jones reads Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Raven,” with an assist from Bart, Lisa, Homer and Marge, is in a class by itself. Will you be able to think of the poem the same way ever again? Nope, never more. (Original air date: Oct. 25, 1990.)
2) Peanuts: “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown”: Why save the best for last? This Halloween cartoon classic featuring the Peanuts gang has it all: depth, warmth, existential angst and unforgettable dialogue: “I got five pieces of candy!’ ‘I got a chocolate bar!’ ‘I got a quarter!’ ‘I got a rock.’ It even has a promo with Charlie Brown rapping -- but don’t hold that against it. (Original airdate: Oct. 27, 1966; airing Friday at 8 p.m. on ABC.) 3) Buffy the Vampire Slayer: “Halloween”: Early in this episode, Buffy tells us that Halloween is supposed to be “dead for the undead; they stay in.” Alas, that doesn’t turn out to be the case and Buffy ends up with some major vampire action. But first she must escape a spell that has transformed her into the wimpy, 18th century noblewoman she has dressed up as. (Original airdate: Oct. 27, 1997.)
4) How I Met Your Mother: “The Slutty Pumpkin”: Every year, Ted returns to a rooftop party at which he met a beautiful woman dressed in a pumpkin costume with strategically placed cut-outs, whose phone number he lost. Cute. (Original airdate: Oct. 24, 2005.)
5) Friends: “The One With the Halloween Party”: Chandler and Monica throw a Halloween party: Ross dons a potato suit and a metal antenna hat and goes as “Spudnik.” Chandler dresses as a pink bunny (thanks to Monica). Joey dresses as Chandler and makes this funny face and noise. Sean Penn guest stars. (Original airdate: Nov. 1, 2001.)
6) The Office: “Halloween”: Michael has to fire someone by the end of the month, and waits until the last day of the month, Halloween. Cue evil laughter. Or really, just laughter. (Original airdate: Oct. 18, 2005.)
7) Roseanne: “Boo!”: In this first of the show’s annual Halloween episodes, Roseanne and Dan do their best –- and their best is pretty impressive –- to scare the bejeekers out of each other. Snappy dialogue, funny pranks. (Original airdate: Oct. 31, 1989.)
8) The Addams Family: “Halloween, Addams Style”: Halloween with the Addams family is, not surprisingly, creepy, kooky, mysterious and spooky. It’s also altogether ooky: Perhaps you’d like to hand out bite-size salamander sandwiches to trick-or-treaters this year? Snap! Snap! (Original airdate: Oct. 29, 1965.)
9) Bewitched: ‘Trick or Treat’: Endora’s tricks, such a treat. Plus, who knew that, to sitcom witches, Halloween paraphernalia constituted “bigotry”? (Original airdate: Oct. 28, 1965.)
10) Freaks and Geeks: “Tricks & Treats”: Halloween in those awkward in-between years can be tricky, especially in Paul Feig and Judd Apatow’s hands. (Original air date: Oct. 30, 1999.)
-- Amy Reiter