Too old to trick or treat but not popular enough to get invited to a Halloween party? Fortunately, we have the perfect solution to keep you in the spirit of the holiday while keeping your brain occupied enough to forget how uncool you are: a list of 31 great Halloween episodes from throughout TV history. It’s not a complete list, of course, and we’ve left out specials, so leave your complaints about the exclusion of “It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown!” at the door. Instead, just embrace the fact that we’ve found as many clips and complete episodes for your viewing enjoyment as we possibly could. You’re welcome…and Happy Halloween!
1. The Addams Family, “Halloween with the Addams Family”: The Addams family are all busy preparing for their favorite holiday, but their celebration is bolstered by a pair of bank robbers…one of whom is played by Don Rickles…who they welcome as trick-or-treaters.
2. The Andy Griffith Show, “The Haunted House”: Maybe it isn’t officially a Halloween episode, but it first aired in October 1963, and it focuses on Barney and Gomer trying to retrieve a baseball from a supposedly haunted house and finding some strange goings on inside. As far as I’m concerned, that’s close enough for jazz.
3. Angel, “Life of the Party”: Lorne throws a Halloween party for all the firm’s clients and employees, but during the gathering, his advice to his friends starts happening literally: Fred and Wesley get drunk after Lorne tells them to loosen up, Spike and Harmony dance the night away, Angel and Eve do the horizontal bop, and, Gunn, uh, relieves himself after being told to “stake out his territory.” Good times.
4. Beavis and Butthead, “Butt-o-ween”: It starts simply enough, with the guys trying to master the concept of trick or treating, first without costumes, then wearing Beavis’s “monkey sheets” and going as ghosts. Eventually, however, Beavis + Halloween candy = Cornholio. The equation was ever thus, and here it leads to a quest for more candy…and, y’know, some T.P. for his bunghole.
5. Beverly Hills 90210, “Halloween”: The stock line is that Halloween costumes allow a woman to bring out her inner slut, and when the gang from West Beverly goes to a Halloween party, Kelly’s seductive costume leads a college student to translate “no” as “yes.” It’s absolutely inexcusable, of course, but – whew! – you can’t say she doesn’t make an impression. Meanwhile, Brenda and Dylan go as Bonnie and Clyde, Steve is Zorro, and Donna comes as a mermaid, a move which seriously hinders her dance moves.
6. The Big Bang Theory, “The Middle Earth Paradigm”: Penny throws a great Halloween party, and she makes a pretty kitty, too, but it’s hard to top the meeting of the four Flashes.
7. Bones, “The Mummy in the Maze”: Booth and Brennan are called in to investigate after the mummified remains of a teenage girl are found in a Halloween-themed maze. Then the mummified remains of another teenage girl are found at a Halloween amusement park funhouse. Basically, when the team finds out a third teenage girl is missing, they realize that they’ve got an Oct. 31st deadline. But who am I kidding? The best bit about this episode is seeing Emily Deschanel filling out a Wonder Woman costume.
8. Boston Legal, “Witches of Mass Destruction”: Shirley and Denise represent two groups of parents – one Christian, the other Wiccan – who are suing to get rid of a school’s Halloween pageant, specifically because of the witch involved. The Christians feel their faith is being marginalized by a satanic symbol, and the Wiccans claim that Halloween images stereotype them. If this sounds like heavy stuff, don’t worry: the sight of William Shatner and James Spader dressed as pink flamingos does wonders to lighten the mood.
9. Buffy the Vampire Slayer, “Halloween”: Damn that Ethan Rayne! This was the first appearance of Rupert Giles’s nemesis within the Buffy-verse, and the contents of his costume shop led the Scoobies to become that which they were dressed as…which is to say that Willow became a real ghost, the gun Xander bought combined with his existing military fatigues to grant him valuable military knowledge, and Buffy’s beautiful 18th century dress makes her think that she’s actually from the 18th century. Bonus points for the Oz / Willow storyline (“Who is that girl?”), even if we now know that their relationship was doomed from the start.
10. Curb Your Enthusiasm, “Trick or Treat”: Are you kidding me? One of the world’s great curmudgeons has to deal with a bunch of punk trick-or-treaters who turn up at his door without costumes and demand candy. You know it’s comedy gold.
11. Everybody Hates Chris, “Everybody Hates Halloween”: One of the most underrated sitcoms of the ’00s offered up a classic Halloween episode in its first season, where Chris is asked by his mother to accompany his siblings while they “trick or treat” on Halloween. Later, when Drew is invited to a party by Keisha, Chris goes in his place, dressed as Prince. Meanwhile, Julius buys inexpensive generic brands of candy – you know, like Two Musketeers?…which leads to a counterattack from Rochelle. Unfortunately, the episode isn’t available online, but at least YouTube has a couple of clips. The first one shows off Julius’s cheap-ass candy choices…
…but, unfortunately, I can’t embed the second one, which shows off Chris’s Prince costume, so you’ll have to click here to see it.
12. Freaks and Geeks, “Tricks or Treats”: In the great transition from child to teenager, there are few losses greater than that of the rite of trick or treating, so you can understand why Sam kind of freaks out and decides to go out and score one last haul of Halloween candy. As with most Halloween episodes, just seeing the characters getting into their costumes is half the fun (especially when a concerned Neal looks in the mirror and muses, “Looking for Chaplin, only seeing Hitler”), but there’s also an equally classic subplot with Lindsay getting involved in the dark side of the holiday: vandalism.
13. Friends, “The One with the Halloween Party”: Hey, Monica’s throwing a Halloween party! Highlights: Joey does his impeccable Chandler impression, Chandler gets stuck in a giant pink bunny costume for the night (thanks for nothing, Mon), a pregnant Rachel gives all the candy away to the first little girl who says, “I love you,” Ross dresses as Spud-nik, and Phoebe finds herself torn about whether or not she should tell her twin sister’s fiancee (played by Sean Penn) how awful a person Ursula really is.
14. Home Improvement, “Crazy for You”: Annual Halloween episodes were a staple of this Tim Allen sitcom, but if you have to pick just one for inclusion, this one – where Jill gets revenge on Tim for years of pranks – is probably your best bet. It all starts when Tim gets cookies from a fan named Rose, who starts calling him. Stalker alert…? We’ll never tell. But we will say that it probably couldn’t hurt if Tim watched his back.
15. How I Met Your Mother, “Slutty Pumpkin”: It was four years ago…oh, wait, I don’t want to ruin Ted’s story if you haven’t heard it yet, but this first-ever Halloween episode for the series features a storyline which, knowing this show, still has significant potential to come back into play in a future episode. (Creators Carter Bays and Craig Thomas have never been afraid to loop back and reference past scenes.) Lily and Marshall have some awesome couple costumes – one in the present, one in flashback – and what a surprise: Robin isn’t couple-y enough to follow her new boyfriend’s lead and go with his idea of dressing up as Hansel and Gretel. That’s almost as not-shocking as Barney’s costume. Wait, was that devil outfit a costume?
16. Little House on the Prairie, “The Monster of Walnut Grove”: I have “Little House on the Prairie: The Complete Series” sitting on my shelf, and I’m not afraid to admit it. Why? Because if I never watch a single other episode, at least I’ll forever have access to this one, which completely creeped me out when I was a kid and, frankly, still does even now. I never did trust Mr. Oleson…
17. M*A*S*H, “Trick or Treatment”: There’s an oft-repeated blanket statement that the last few seasons of “M*A*S*H” were too damned serious for their own good, which is a fair cop, but they still managed to slip a classic in once in awhile, and this one definitely qualifies. Everyone’s decked out in their Halloween best – Hawkeye is Superman, B.J.’s a clown, Margaret a geisha girl, Colonel Potter a cowboy, and Klinger’s Al Capone – but the arrival of more wounded causes an end to the celebration. Best remembered for two moments: one funny (Winchester helps George Wendt get a billiard ball out of his mouth), one serious (Father Mulcahy saves a life when he realizes that a supposedly dead soldier has shed a tear).
18. My So-Called Life, “Halloween”: Angela takes a long, strange trip back to 1963 for Halloween, and Graham and Patty get Medevial on your asses, but this is still very much a definitively ’90s show, as evidenced by Rayanne showing Angela the Rolling Stone cover declaring Kurt Cobain’s death at one point. Some say this is the weakest episode of the series’ brief run, but I say that, merely by being an episode of “My So-Called Life,” it’s a must-see nonetheless.
19. NCIS, “Chimera”: I don’t mean to undercut this episode by writing very little about it, but when it comes down to it, you only need a mere two words to explain why it’s a must-see: ghost ship.
20. NewsRadio, “Halloween”: Joe may say that the whole point of Halloween and the holiday’s associated parties is to sit in the corner and make fun of all the dorks wearing costumes…and, yes, this is where you’d insert a joke about Matthew’s gay biker costume from last year (“The label clearly said ‘motorcycle enthusiast'”)… but, as Dave rightly points out, “An open bar really rekindles the childhood spirit.” Obviously, the gag about Bill McNeal learning the date of his death from a psychic isn’t as funny now as it was then, but, really, you can’t go wrong with any “NewsRadio” episode from the Phil Hartman era. That this is a Halloween episode is really just a bonus.
21. Night Court, “Safe”: The title comes courtesy of Judge Stone, who – while practicing an escape act for his Halloween party magic act – accidentally locks himself inside a safe and nearly suffocates to death, but Dan Fielding has the best plot line, selling his soul for $100 to a man in a devil costume but then getting antsy when the guy seems to know way too much about him. Sure, it’s funny, but it’d be a whole lot scarier if we hadn’t already seen Dan do dozens of things during the previous four seasons that’d get anybody consigned to Hell.
22. The Office, “Halloween”: Is there any better time to lay someone off than All Hallow’s Eve? Talk about the perfect day to give someone a scare. But who to let go? “It’s not a popularity contest,” admits Michael. “Although it does makes sense to fire the least popular, because it has the least effect on morale.” There are some classic costumes on display, including Kelly as Dorothy from “The Wizard of Oz,” but if you’ve only seen Dwight’s Joker attire from last year’s Halloween episode, then you absolutely need to go back and see him rockin’ the Darth Schrute look.
23. Reaper, “Leon”: Even as great as this series already was, there is no show that can’t be made at least 75% better by a guest appearance from Patton Oswalt, who plays a demon with a gun for an arm. Sure, he spends half the episode trapped in a snow globe, but even when he’s in there, we still get to hear his voice. Oswalt totally dug the experience of “getting to work with those actors, all of whom are so cool and really intelligent,” though he admitted that they were all bummed because they’d just gotten word that The CW had declared that, instead of crafting a mythology and doling it out in a serialized fashion, the producers were to stick to a more self-contained episodic format. In closing, allow me to offer my most profound apologies that the only available clips of the episode are found within a CW-sponsored recap that’s totally tainted by a complete douche named Jason C.
24. Roseanne, “Boo!”: The first in a long line of Halloween episodes for the series, which may be why it feels like the freshest of the bunch. Parents will enjoy watching Dan and Roseanne torture their kids with a claim about a psycho neighbor who escaped from the mental institution, whereas husbands and wives will enjoy battle of parks between the two of them. Dan may well be “the master,” as he claims throughout the episode, but only Roseanne would utter a line like, “Now clean up this blood and finish your breakfast,”
25. Route 66, “Lizard’s Leg and Owlet’s Wing”: This suggestion comes to us courtesy of Bob Westal, and although this was the first I’d heard of it, now I feel like I need to head to Netflix so that I can see it. It’s a pretty flimsy premise – Tod and Buz are working as guest liaisons at a motel just outside of Chicago where Boris Karloff, Lon Chaney Jr. and Peter Lorre are meeting to discuss whether the old monster costumes they used in films will still scare a TV audience today – but the idea of seeing the three horror icons together is really all you need, anyway.
26. Saturday Night Live, “Host: Donald Pleasance, Musical Guest: Fear”: This episode is historic even before the theme song plays, as the cold opening features the final appearance of John Belushi on “SNL” (all he does is look into a mirror and raise his eyebrows, but it’s more than enough to elicit a roar of approval from the studio audience), but in addition to having an icon from the original “Halloween” franchise hosting the show, Fear brought more punk to the show than has ever been seen before or since, including a mosh pit full of skinhead slam-dancers. According to Dennis Perrin’s book, “Mr. Mike: The Life and Work of Michael O’Donoghue”…
During the slow, opening chords of ‘Beef Baloney,’ the skinheads stirred at the front of the stage, ready to explode. When the band broke open at high speed, the slamming, diving, stomping, and shoving commenced with a vengeance. Fear played a set of three songs during which band members dodged and at times collided with the dancers. Lead singer Lee Ving dove into the frenzied crowd while bodies spilled across the stage, the action oddly in sync with Fear’s driving rhythm. It all seemed to be taking place in an abandoned warehouse on teh edge of town rather than in the confines of NBC. “SNL”‘s traditional music segment was thus beautifully vandalized in front of millions of onlookers.
O’Donoghue was elated. Now this, he felt, was good television. (Producer Dick) Ebersol, however, was sickened by the sight before him. At the peak of the action he crouched near the skinheads and tried to direct their movements, but to no avail. Someone yelled “New York sucks!” into a microphone that had fallen to the stage, and Ebersol raced to the control room and ordered a fade to black. As Fear launched into “Let’s Have a War” and a dancer was about to smash the show’s Halloween pumpkin, the mikes went dead and a short film filled the screen. In the studio, Fear ceased playing at the skinheads walked off the set. Ebersol remained angry and reportedly raged in the control room. But for sheer drama, nothing could top the New York Post, which ran an item the following Tuesday in which “inside” sources spoke of “a riot, mindless, out-of-control destruction of property,” and other horrors. “This was a life-threatening situation,” said a source. “They went crazy. It’s amazing that no one was killed.” Ebersol responded swiftly and seriously to the Post’s fabrications, but O’Donoghue simply laughed away the negative reaction to Fear. “They’re just a band like the Carpenters,” he said.
I’ve read about this episode for years, but I’ve never actually seen it, so if you know of anyone who has a copy that they’d be willing to dub for me, just leave your contact info in the comments. Yes, seriously.
27. The Simpsons, “Treehouse of Horror III”: Really, you could go with any of the early ‘Treehouse’ episodes, and we’ll gladly admit that the industry standard is probably #5, what with the “Shining” parody and Homer’s time-traveling mishaps, but #3 has the classic “King Kong” spoof (“King Homer”), an imminently quotable riff on zombie flicks that’s capped off with a joke at television’s expense (“Man fall down. Funny.”), and the hilarious “Clown without Pity.” (“Help, Marge! The doll’s trying to kill me, and the toaster’s been laughing at me!”) If it ain’t the best, it’s as good as.
28. South Park, “Korn’s Groovy Pirate Mystery”: Best Scooby Doo parody ever…well, except for “Night of the Living Doo,” that is…and one of the few legitimate excuses for liking Korn. The only possible competition for this episode within the “South Park” canon is “Spookyfish,” but while it earns bonus points for its “Star Trek” parody, the “Spooky Vision” concept – which involves putting pictures of Barbra Streisand at the bottom corners of the screen – is less funny than just distracting.
29. Square Pegs, “Halloween XII”: The Halloween dance gets canceled when Muffy spends the entire budget on decorations, so an alternative plan is brought into play: a slumber party at Ms. Loomis’ house. (Too bad nobody told Mrs. Loomis.) Patty and Lauren decide to attend, but when the night is crashed by a few members of the opposite sex, it all goes downhill. “Great, now we’re being seen by an actual boy in these nightgowns,” says a horrified Lauren. “Will the horror of this evening never end?” asks Patty. Take a tip from Stanley the Safety Elephant: you won’t want to miss this one.
30. That ‘70s Show, “Too Old to Trick or Treat, Too Young to Die”: Great Jethro Tull reference in the title, but this is mostly a tribute to Alfred Hitchcock, including unabashed homages to “Rear Window”, “Vertigo”, “The Birds”, “North By Northwest,” and “Psycho.” Shame about having to see Fez dressed in Dr. Frank N. Furter’s old lingerie, though.
31. Two and a Half Men, “Hi, Mr. Horned One”: Charlie’s Satan-worshiping girlfriend has a knack for the supernatural and seems to be the cause of some strange happenings around the Harper house. Shockingly, Charlie at first ignores Alan’s suggestions that he get rid of her…not that you can blame Alan for making them, given that she’s threatened to put a curse on his manhood…but he begins to change his tune when she tries to blackmail him to impregnate her with “the horned one.” Even if you’re not a big fan of the show, this is definitely a classic episode, with Jake coming within an inch of selling his soul for some candy, Evelyn’s true identity at last revealed, and a money shot of the guys’ costumes to wrap it all up.