Popular comedy “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” incorporates Halloween episodes into the series. Photo from Fandom.com
I love Halloween. The costumes are great, the music is classic and the discounted candy helps cement it as one of my favorite holidays. Yet, there’s one gripe I have with the season, and that’s Halloween movies. There just aren’t enough actually about Halloween.
I must admit that I haven’t actually seen a lot of “Halloween” movies simply because I hate horror movies, so if you’re thinking of all those classic slasher and thriller films and wondering what’s wrong with me, there’s your answer. I do love the family-friendly ones, like the “Halloweentown” series and “Twitches,” but I can only watch the same few movies over and over again. That’s why I turn to Halloween episodes.
Not only are Halloween episodes from TV shows actually about Halloween, so they capture what I love about the actual holiday, but there are new ones coming each season which means that there’s always a way to celebrate anew each year. Yes, there are Halloween movies that come out yearly, but as a college student, I’m not checking the family-friendly Halloween releases, so if there’s a great one that’s come out since around 2015, I’ve likely missed it.
There’s something about it being a special event too. The episodes revolve around the holiday and you watch characters you’ve gotten familiar with celebrate, or not celebrate, whatever the October night brings them. It reminds me of Halloween for myself each year, a special episode in a 365-day season of my life.
I can’t continue to make my argument for the superiority of Halloween episodes over movies without mentioning a few of my favorites, and you can’t begin that conversation without mentioning “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” and its epic Halloween heist episodes each season.
The comedy centers around a group of detectives in a precinct working together, so Halloween looks a bit different to them from what you might imagine. The characters usually are forced to spend the holiday watching out for the increased crime that comes with it, yet they find a way to have their own fun through Halloween heists. For the past seven seasons, each character fights for the title of Ultimate Detective/Genius, or Ultimate Human/Genius when non-detective Gina gets involved. Each episode there’s an object that must be stolen and kept within a character’s possession by midnight on Halloween. Whoever has the chosen item at that time is crowned the winner until the next Halloween.
After the first episode, which was aptly titled “Halloween” was followed by “Halloween II,” it became clear that this precinct tradition would become the most anticipated episode each season. There’s the excitement of finding out who the next winner will be, what item will be up for grabs, the bets and alliances made and even what costume Detective Boyle will be dressed in for the cold opens. This comedy has mastered the art of Halloween and is what inspired my love for Halloween episodes from its very first one.
I don’t tend to keep up with “The Goldbergs,” but the episodes that I do catch have been hilarious to me. It’s a network sitcom, so it follows the model that I standby: you don’t have to watch every episode to enjoy it and its characters. Five years ago, on a Wednesday night leading up to a Saturday Halloween, similar to this year (minus the pandemic), I watched the episode “Couples Costume.” In this episode, main character Adam decides he’s too old to wear matching costumes with his mom and wants to match with his girlfriend, Dana, and go to a haunted house for their first “adult Halloween.” His mom, hurt by this, decides to teach him a lesson in Halloween safety and puts razor blades in candy as a demonstration.
She then loses this dangerous candy, and dressed up as Ripley from “Alien,” runs around the neighborhood snatching candy from kids in fear that her husband accidentally gave it to one of the trick or treaters who stopped by their house. Watching this grown 80s suburban housewife running around in costume and stealing from kids is funny enough, but then there’s the added aspect of Adam being terrified at the haunted house, but trying to play it off to impress his girlfriend. The twist at the end just makes it even funnier and whenever I bring the episode up with my dad, we find ourselves rolling in laughter at the memories.
While comedic Halloween episodes have always been a favorite of mine and there’s many more I could’ve mentioned (see “The Office,” “Friends” and “Parks and Recreation” for more examples), there are also some thrilling dramatic Halloween episodes.
“Pretty Little Liars” looking back was an overdramatic, unbelievable and confusing mess of a teenage drama, but I still stand by their season three mid-season finale “This Is A Dark Ride” being a teen drama masterpiece. I’m not into horror, but I can do with some dramatic suspense and a touch of murder, and this episode delivers.
The Liars are celebrating the holiday in style on a Rosewood train excursion featuring performances by Adam Lambert (try not to question the realism on this show, there’s hardly any). We start off seeing some pretty amazing costumes on the girls and the attendees and some nice tension, but the night goes quite literally off the rails. Garrett is killed and Aria gets bound and trapped in a box with his dead corpse. Spencer is almost strangled to death and we get yet another flashback to the night Alison DiLaurentis dies that leaves viewers working on their fan theories for the next few months before the next episode airs.
For less murderous and haunting, yet still on the dramatic side of Halloween episodes, take a look at “One Tree Hill,” “Beverly Hills, 9021” or “Lucifer.”
If you’re still in doubt, remember that the classic “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown,” isn’t a movie, but a TV episode! So while you’re trying to have a safe, socially distanced Halloween, cue up your streaming service and check out some TV Halloween classics and greats.