Halloween and sitcoms. It has been proven time and time again that those two ingredients can come together and make for unforgettable and hilarious television. Long-running sitcoms outdid the previous year’s Halloween specials with bigger and better costumes, spooky and spookier plotline’s. Everyone’s familiar with the 8 out of 9 original seasons of Roseanne that had a Halloween episode, each one upping the ante on the pranks and tricks that could be done by the Conner‘s.
Pinpointing just five Halloween Specials was a pretty hard task. It was like picking 5 of the best candies out of my trick ‘r treat pumpkin, and having to label those 5 my top 5 candies for the rest of my life. Okay, so it wasn’t that dire, but I took treat ‘r treating seriously, and I take my Halloween sitcom picking seriously.
The following 5 choices were picked based on nostalgia, or were picked based on the amount of bafoonery, trickery, and Halloween love the episode showcased. Because if you don’t have those three things, you don’t have a Halloween sitcom episode.
5. Major Dad, Sn 4, ep 5: “There’s No Place Like Farlow” (1992)
Not many remember this CBS sitcom that ran for four seasons between 1989 and 1992. To be honest, I don’t remember anything about it aside from Season 4’s Halloween episode. In it, the youngest daughter of the Major Dad family, Casey (Chelsea Hertford), isn’t having the best Halloween. A) She has bad cold so trick ‘r treating is out. B) She accidentally deletes a project that her dad and his employees have been working on. Her guilt gets the best of her when she falls asleep, and wakes up to every one of her family members and dad’s employees having become monsters out to get her. Vampires, the Phantom of the Opera, Frankenstein‘s monster, ghosts, snakes, and a very convincing Wicked Witch of the West portrayed by Beverly Archer are among the baddies that haunt her nightmare.
It’s the final baddie that stood out the most to me as a young kid. Major Dad (Gerald McRaney) is a werewolf, and his werewolf makeup was so spot on that when I think of a creepy werewolf, my mind goes to that makeup. It’s so simple, yet eerie. Those few seconds that he is onscreen as a werewolf is why this ranks as number 5.
4. Modern Family, sn 2, ep 6: “Halloween” (2010)
The cast of Modern Family were continuously put in crazy situations, and there wasn’t a lack of that in the sitcom’s first Halloween episode. No nightmare or supernatural occurrences here. Just some daily life mishaps on Halloween that turn life upside down. Most hilarious is Mitchell (Jesse Tyler Ferguson) showing up to his new law firm decked out as Spiderman because he thought everyone there dressed up. Watch Mitchell as Spiderman do whatever a spider man can to get out of a sticky situation involving squeaky thighs, a restroom, and false biceps. Listen as Cam (Eric Stonestreet) explains why he hates Halloween so much (it involves Quasimodo, stolen candy, townspeople, and wetting his pants). Everything culminates into the family’s haunted house where nothing goes right, and everyone’s Halloween plights catch up with them. I can only dream of having a house as decked out as their’s was.
3. Roseanne, sn 7, ep 6: “Skeleton in the Closet” (1994)
It’s hard to make a list of this sort without one of the Conner‘s Halloween episodes making the list. Every Halloween episode from the show has always been based around one huge prank that either Roseanne pulled off, or one that was pulled on her. Season 7’s Halloween episode is a stand out due to not one but two pranks being pulled on Roseanne. The first being her mother, Beverly (Estelle Parsons), tricking both Roseanne and Jackie (Laurie Metcalf) that she has gone bald, and that eventually – given the same genes – they will also go bald. The big coup here, though, was everyone pulling together to have Roseanne believe that Jackie‘s husband, Fred (Michael O’Keefe), is gay. The two pranks don’t really sound too Halloweeny, but the spirit of Halloween drips from every scene and set.
2. The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, sn 4, ep 7: “Hex and the Single Guy” (1993)
This was always a favorite as a kid, and it’s still a fun and hilarious watch. The Banks family gathers for a séance to summon Hilary’s recently deceased boyfriend, Trevor, for her final goodbye. The séance doesn’t go as planned, and Will (Will Smith) begins to mock the medium who led the séance which results in a hex being placed upon him. The rest of the episode showcases horrible things happening to the lives of the Banks family. Will returns to the medium to apologize, and set things straight, but there is no medium! Cue Will waking up from a nightmare. Cue to the episode starting all over, and Will freaking out because he will have to relive the experience again!
There’s a constant jovial Halloween spirit throughout the episode as the family pranks each other, and responds to their Halloween surroundings. My favorite being Geoffrey (Joseph Marcell), the butler, answering the door to greet trick ‘r treaters in a fish monster mask, screaming bloody murder at the kids, and being 100% satisfied as he mockingly yells out, “You forgot your candy!” Another fun treat in this episode is that the medium is portrayed by Glenn Shadix who most will remember as one of the dinner guests from Beetlejuice.
1. That 70’s Show, sn 3, ep 4: “Too Old to Trick or Treat, too Young to Die” (2000)
How shall I describe this one without truly giving anything away? I want to explain every single Hitchcock reference that is available in the episode, but I believe this to be experienced with no prior knowledge. That is if you haven’t already done yourself the Hitchcockian Halloween favor of already having viewed this gem of television history. The gang of That 70’s Show all somehow find themselves in situations that characters from Vertigo (1958), The Birds (1963), Psycho (1960), Rear Window (1954), and North by Northwest (1959) found themselves in, except this time, the results are highlarious rather than Hitchcockian. I will also let loose that the detail to each scene as it refers to Hitchcock’s films are so precise, right down to the toilet flush from Psycho.
There you are, Halloweeners – five of the plethora of Halloween episodes that sitcoms have graced us with over the many years of television. I have one episode left that is my definitive number one, but I have been graced with the opportunity to pay my respects to it with an upcoming article. Keep an eye out for that, and all of the other Halloween musings that Nightmare on Film Street will be bringing you throughout the month of October!