I think it’s safe to say that no show has done Halloween better than The Simpsons. Even with an arguable drop in quality in the past decade or so, they usually manage to put out an installment of Treehouse of Horrors that is, at the very least, worth checking out.
I’ve wanted to be a television writer for a long time and one of the reasons is that I always wanted to write a holiday episode, whether it be Christmas or Halloween. It seemed to me that the episodes that seemed to be the most fun were the ones revolving around one unifying event like a holiday. Friends usually made a great Thanksgiving episode, Home Improvement always pulled out the stops come Christmas, and these five shows gave us great Halloween episodes.
5. South Park, “Pink Eye”
Long before South Park became some of the greatest satire on television, South Park was just a foul-mouthed cartoon that took the baton from The Simpsons and ran with it. In its infancy, they put out what is arguably their best Halloween episode to date: the zombie homage “Pink Eye”.
They’ve had some great Halloween episodes afterwards, including the genius haunted Blockbuster Video episode from last year, but “Pink Eye” still holds a place in my heart. It’s a pure Halloween episode and nothing more. The outbreak starts by Kenny, in his latest death, being embalmed with Worcestershire sauce, which for some reason causes a zombie outbreak. The rest of the episode is a legit zombie story, complete with an homage to Michael Jackson’s Thriller. Oh, and back then, the show was simple enough to get a chuckle out of saying Cartman’s mom was on the cover of Crack Whore Magazine. Simpler times.
4. Roseanne, “Boo!”
You won’t see a lot of these 5 For Fridays with entries from Roseanne, but in reality, I feel it’s one of the most underrated sitcoms of its generation; at least, the first handful of seasons, anyway. One thing they managed to do almost as good as anyone was their Halloween episodes.
I’d have to believe that Roseanne (the person) loves Halloween because each of these holiday episodes are so fun and completely get what the pseudo-holiday is all about, especially in “Boo!” For the Conner family, Halloween usually meant elaborate costumes and trying to scare everyone else in the family and that tone was set in this, the very first Halloween episode the show did. Turning their home into a haunted house gave the show a unique opportunity to show off each character’s unique character, especially when everyone is trying to outdo each other’s latest prank.
3. The Adventures of Pete & Pete, “Halloweenie”
My generation currently hates the children’s television current tweens are growing up on. Why? For a variety of reasons, but I think The Adventures of Pete & Pete is a big reason for the disdain. Today’s kids are watching shows that, when they aren’t pandering, just seem to be vehicles to create the next child star. Sure, we had shows that pandered to us and tried to make us buy stuff (Transformers, GI:Joe), but we also had The Adventures of Pete & Pete, a show so off-the-wall and at times, so sincere, that nothing will ever come close to how special it was.
Case in point: “Halloweenie”. This episode is not one of those episodes where it takes time out of the usual storyline to tell a ghost story, where the canon is unaffected. This is an episode about real fear that you would face as someone caught in between age groups and how that affects how you view Halloween. I’ll talk about a similarly-themed Halloween episode later on, but what makes this so special is that this was a show made specifically for kids and no other show seemed to talk to them the way The Adventures of Pete & Pete did, especially on the issue of growing up.
In this episode, Big Pete is at odds with the holiday. He’s starting to recognize that he’s becoming too old for the festivities, but doesn’t want to let his brother down, who is on a mission to break the record for most houses visited on Halloween night. If teen angst isn’t enough to get Big Pete down, there’s also a matter of the Pumpkin Eaters: a group of jack-o-lantern wearing high schoolers who are out to make the holiday no fun for anyone they see trick or treating.
The chemistry between the two Petes was always central to the show and this episode exemplifies it as much as any other. The show always managed to balance humor and real heart and this one does it, as well, but with a little Halloween spookiness thrown in.
2. Community, “Epidemiology”
Community is usually at its best when it’s doing some sort of concept episode, whether it be a game of paintball (“Modern Warfare”), paying homage to Goodfellas (“Contemporary American Poultry”) or in the case of “Epidemeology”, making one great zombie episode. The events of the episode unfold after the students at Greendale Community College eat tainted food at a Halloween party. From there, the study group has to go into survivalist mode and must stick together in order to ward off the infected student body.
Like the mentioned South Park episode, what makes “Epidemeology” so good is that it essentially takes a zombie movie template and fills it in with characters and relationships that we have already grown accustomed to. It’s fun to see the characters in a new dynamic and they all manage to stay true to themselves while satisfying the archetypes of the genre. It’s a fun episode and it shows Community when it was at its best.
1. Freaks and Geeks, “Tricks and Treats”
If there was any show that was able to have a great Halloween episode, while at the same time, encapsulate the entire theme of the show, it was Judd Apatow’s criminally short-lived Freaks and Geeks. “Tricks and Treats” was one of the first episodes and it summed up the conflict that Lindsay and Sam would deal with for the entire run of the series.
A common storyline for Halloween episodes (as seen in The Adventures of Pete & Pete, as well) is that there is a point where you are too old for the holiday; more specifically, there is a point when you are too old for trick or treating. Such is the case for Sam and Lindsay. While Sam is still trying desperately to hold on to the younger, non-high school version of himself, in an effort to stay within his comfort zone, Lindsay is doing the opposite. She wants to fit in with the kids she deems cool and one thing they don’t think is cool is Halloween and the geeks who go around trick or treating. This leads to the gang pelting eggs at costumed kids until Lindsay accidentally eggs her own brother. It’s one of the most sincere episodes involving a brother-sister relationship and one of the very best in the show’s short run.