The holiday season is upon us and that means it’s time for trick-or-treating, costumes, pumpkins, tiny chocolate bars, and Halloween-themed episodes of your favourite TV shows.
From Modern Family’s haunted house to The Simpson’s yearly Treehouse of Horror special, we’re looking at some of the best Halloween episodes ever. They’re so good it’s spooky.
“Halloween,” The Office
The Office has a long history of showcasing the awkwardness that comes with trying and failing to find appropriate costumes to wear to work during Halloween. The series’ first Halloween special came in Season 2, at the climax of Pam and Jim’s friendship-crush, with their famous kiss occurring at the end of the season. The Halloween episode focused on Jim deciding whether to leave the Scranton branch, while Steve Carrell was at his tone-deaf boss best with Michael Scott, who was tasked with deciding which employee to fire in order to cut costs. Throw in all the women dressing as cats, Michael’s paper mache head, and Jim’s typical zero-effort costume and you’ve got an emotional Halloween.
“Treehouse of Horror V,” The Simpsons
The Simpson’s and their annual Treehouse of Horror episodes have never disappointed, and while every episode is a winner, one that stands out is the famous “Treehouse of Horror V.” The Simpson’s ode to The Shining has Homer going stir crazy over his lack of TV and beer while house-sitting Mr. Burns’mansion. The three-segment episode also includes Homer traveling back in time and altering history in Time and Punishment, as well as Principal Skinner serving dead students as cafeteria food in Nightmare Cafeteria. The Simpson’s are known for paying homage to famous films and events and “Treehouse of Horror V” is the long-running series at its best. No TV and no beer make Home go crazy, after all.
“Halloween,” Modern Family
Modern Family was at the height of its social commentary in its second season, especially during the Halloween special. Julie Bowen’s ultra-organized and fanatical Halloween fan Clare is perfect in her agonizing quest to pull off the best haunted house while surrounded by a family who couldn’t care less. Plus, Jesse Tyler Ferguson’s Mitchell, and his visceral embarrassment after being the only employee to show up in costume at his new law firm feels so personal we wish we could climb out the window with him. It’s no wonder the episode and Ferguson scored Emmy nominations for “Halloween,” proving the academy is full of voters who get the awesomeness of the holiday.
“Tricks and Treats,” Freaks and Geeks
The short-lived ode to the 1980s only gave us one season, but what Freaks and Geeks accomplished in its short life still resonates with viewers. While most holidays simply get more expensive as we age (receiving gifts turns to buying gifts), “Tricks and Treats” looks at how Halloween completely changes as we pass from childhood to adulthood. The teen characters are smack in the middle of the most confusing Halloween transition period, with Sam (John Francis Daley) and his friends realizing they’re too old to dress up, while older sister Lindsay (Linda Cardellini) finds herself trying on teenage rebellion, assuming this is what adulthood feels like, when really she’s being more childish than her younger brother. Plus, Martin Starr’s Bionic Woman costume is an absolute scene stealer.
“Haunted,” The Vampire Diaries
Every episode of The Vampire Diaries is worthy of a Halloween viewing, but during the Season 1 Halloween special TVD killed off its first major character with Vicki and revealed that Bonnie was a witch, proving all bets were off with this new series. The episode was one of the final times we got to see some of the residents of Mystic Falls still enjoying their vampire-ignorance before most of the main characters ended up as vampires or werewolves or both (poor Tyler).
“Halloween Surprise,” Parks and Rec
Halloween episodes can be emotional, but those emotions are usually fear, trepidation and an all-over body sweat. With Parks and Rec’s fifth season, however, the Pawnee residents made us tear up with love, as opposed to tearing up with terror and wishing a show would be over. Jerry suffers a heart attack, Ron learns that he in fact does want a family, and Ben chooses Leslie over his career, with a highly anticipated proposal to end the episode. Plus, we got to see Rashida Jones and Amy Poehler dressed as the feminist kweens they are, and Aziz Ansari’s Tom found the inspiration for his hilarious but also pretty smart Rent-A-Swag. Who knew Halloween could be so meaningful and swaggy?
“This Is A Dark Ride,” Pretty Little Liars
A show about a murdered teen is already pretty creepy to begin with, but Pretty Little Liars reached uncharted territory with their terrifying Season 3 Halloween special, This Is A Dark Ride. When the Liars attended a Halloween party on a train, featuring handsome vampire Adam Lambert, Aria ends up bound and gagged in a grate. When she finally adjusts her eyes to her surroundings, she sees that the person sharing her small space is a newly-murdered Officer Garrett. Aria is saved by her friends, but the creepiness factor is at an all-time high. Time to grab the next train heading out of Rosewood.
“Halloween,” New Girl
New Girl’s second season Halloween special is the quirky comedy at its best. Clever costumes, like Nick’s ode to Bea Arthur and Jess’ inadvertent look as zombie-Woody Allen, are capped off with strong story lines for all five main characters. Love triangles, new love, old high school love, and the drudgery of working in a haunted house during Halloween all collide to create a special that is so funny and realistic it’s spooky.
“The Middle Earth Paradigm,” The Big Bang Theory
Way back during Season 1 of The Big Bang Theory, fans were still wondering whether Leonard’s feelings for his hot neighbor Penny would ever be reciprocated. When Penny invited her nerdy neighbors to her ‘dance’ Halloween party, the guys are initially hesitant, until they remember that Halloween means costumes. This episode in Season 1 would feature the first of many, many, many costumes throughout the long-running series. Unfortunately for Leonard, Penny was much more excited to see her ex-boyfriend Kurt than Leonard, but we all know he got the girl in the end.
“The Slutty Pumpkin” and “The Slutty Pumpkin Returns,” How I Met Your Mother
What happens when you fall for a girl dressed as a Slutty Pumpkin (strategically placed carved holes) and lose her number you wrote on a Kit Kat? If you’re How I Met Your Mother’s Ted, you wear the same costume to the same party every year and hope she resurfaces. Few shows in the history of television mastered the callback like How I Met Your Mother, with the Slutty Pumpkin resurfacing in Season 7. Ted finally finds the costume owner, but it turns out he and Naomi don’t have much in common. At least they’ll always have the Tootsie Roll.