Hope everyone had a suitably spooky day. Man, today was just so nuts at work that I got home and could barely function. And how lame is it that in the "real world," October 31st marks the day the rent is due ...? Ugh. But again, I can't really complain - it was an awesome few weeks of Halloween havoc - from KNOTT'S SCARY FARM to PAGE-O-WEEN, and everything in between.
Anyways, in honor of the holiday, here are my ...
TOP 10 FAVORITE HALLOWEEN-THEMED TV EPISODES:
10.) Family Matters - "Dog Day Halloween" - As a kid, I used to love this episode of one of my then-fav shows, in which Steve Urkel and Laura get caught up in a bank robbery and taken as hostages. Of course, Karl Winslow saves the day, and Steve, despite being dressed as a superhero, feels useless. But worry not, a classic sitcom pep-talk from Karl and a Tina-Turner-clad Laura help to raise his spirits. This pick is also kind of a general shout-out to all the many great Halloween-themed TGIF episodes from throughout the years. Say what you will about the likes of Family Matters, Step By Step, Full House, and Perfect Strangers, but those shows existed at a time when, dammit all, the networks knew how to do a good holiday-themed episode.
9.) Bugs Bunny's Howl-oween Special - I have very fond memories of watching this over and over as a kid. The short I used to particularly love was the one where Bugs and Daffy are constantly turned into different monstrous creatures by Witch Hazel -- so, so classic. I wish animation could still be this great and timeless.
8.) Curb Your Enthusiasm - "Trick or Treat" - a classic Curb ep in which Larry refuses to give two teens candy on Halloween, and is therefore labeled a "bald asshole," an accusation which Larry deems to be a hate crime -- classic. Only Larry David could so thoroughly disect the meaning of the phrase "trick or treat."
7.) Millenium - "The Curse of Frank Black" - This is a freaking amazing episode of one of my all-time favorite TV dramas, and it's also the rare episode of the series that moves away from the show's typical crime-solving formula and focuses the spotlight squarely on Frank Black, looking at his persona from the perspective of a bunch of kids telling scary stories on Halloween. A creepy yet strangely heartfelt hour of TV. I always try to revisit this one around Halloween if I can, as no show before or since has the same kind of atmosphere or immersiveness that Lance Henrikson and Millenium brought to the small-screen.
6.) The "Thriller" music video -- When I was a kid, as I've mentioned many times in this blog, I was a bit of an MTV fanatic, even though it was kind of this forbidden fruit. But man, whenever the Thriller video came on, I considered it a huge treat, and I remember excitedly calling my brother to come watch it whenever it aired. And MTV, I think, used to always run this hourlong special that included a "making-of" doc which I always found totally fascinating. Sure, Michael Jackson may now be a real-life freak, but at one time, Thriller was the epitomy of cool. And to this day, that AWESOME Vincent Price medley gets me pumped and instantly puts me in the Halloween mood.
5) Freaks and Geeks - "Tricks and Treats" - Such a classic episode of one of the best ever shows on TV. The shwo was all about these teens grappling with adolescence, and what better epitomizes that than Halloween, where there's that everlasting conflict between satiating our childlike impulses and being a real adult? From the geeks' costumes (Bionic Woman!) on down, this is a modern-day classic.
4.) The X-Files - "Post-Modern Prometheus" - Okay so this isn't explicitly a Halloween episode, but The X-Files is of course perhaps THE quintissential spooky show, and this is one of the msot fun eps to break out around Halloween for its awesome mix of creepiness, humor, and homage to old-school horror movies. If you haven't seen it, it's a great take on the whole Frankenstein theme, with a superb guest role by John O'Hurley as a mad scientist who creates a freakish monster that plagues a small town. The ending, set to "Walking in Memphis," is one of the most oddly moving things I've ever seen on TV.
3.) The Twilight Zone - "The Howling Man" - Like the last entry, this one isn't strictly Halloween-themed, but to me it's easily the single spookiest episode of one of TV's all-time eeriest series. The premise is that a traveler stays in a strange monastary where a mysterious prisoner is being kept, a prisoner who begs and pleads to be let free. The traveler eventually gives in, but he doesn't realize that the prisoner is in fact the Devil himself, and hell has just inadvertently been unleashed on the world!
2.) "It's The Great Pumpkin ,Charlie Brown." - I just re-watched this classic last night, and was no matter how old I get I don't think the brilliance of Charles M. Schulz's Halloween classic will ever fail to amaze me. The interactions between the Peanuts gang is simply priceless, and there's this whole existential theme that gives The Great Pumpkin a quiet sophistication rarely seen in television to this day, let alone in kids TV. An inarguable masterpiece, and a great piece of Halloween tradition.
1.) The Simpsons - "Treehouse of Horror" - Ah, but which one, you ask? Yeah, right. No way I can decide between so many classics, so I'm lumping them all together because The Simpsons is, without a doubt, the king of the Halloween special. From "You shot Zombie Flanders!" to "No beer and no TV make Homer something something ...", there are so many classically quotable lines from these eps over the years that I could write a whole blog entry just recounting favorite bits of Treehouse dialogue. "Has anyone seen that movie Tron?" "Take that you blasted dimension!" "Stupid Smarch weather!" And the lsit goes on and on and on ... Here's to The Simpsons -- without these Treehouse of Horror specials, I doubt I would ever have come to fully attain the twisted and geeky sensibilities I possess today - and there's a darn good reason why an episode or two of Treehouse is a staple of my annual Horror Movie Marathon.
Okay kids. You've entered THE TWILIGHT ZONE, passed THE OUTER LIMITS, and are on a crach course for THE DARK SIDE. See you on the the flipside, and don't fear the Reaper!