I love Halloween. It is easily my favorite Holiday (the perfect Fall weather, getting to dress-up, the excitement of trick-or-treating, haunted houses, vampire movies, etc.).
I think it is my birth-right to love Halloween, since my name graced the box of every Halloween costume everyone, currently 30-45, had as a kid. That’s right. Those plastic-suit costumes you got at the grocery store as a kid (you know, the ones that caused heat stroke) were Ben Cooper costumes . . . no kidding (see above).
So it only makes sense for me to come up with a list of the best TV Halloween specials (similar to my top Christmas Specials here).
So, in no particular order:
Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids Halloween
This 1977 special, includes all the characters from the show who decide to dress up and trick people around town. Their antics result in getting kicked out of the neighborhood theater, and a visit to a somewhat creepy old man results in him eating all of the gang’s treats. They then decide to visit the notorious Old Lady Blackwell’s place, where one of the gang’s sisters disappears. They are convinced she is gone forever. However, they are very surprised to find out that not only is she okay, but happy to be with Old Lady Blackwell. The episode features the ever popular Brown Hornet and Mushmouth. How can you not love Mushmouth and his linguisitic abilities.
Simpsons Tree House of Horrors (all of them)
I am a HUGE Simpsons fan. I have a theory on life – any event/situation in life can be related to an episode of The Simpsons or Seinfeld. Go ahead, try and prove me wrong. Anyway, I won’t dive into the brilliance of the Tree House of Horrors Halloween specials, but I do have one gripe. The episode almost always airs the Sunday after Halloween. This is a travesty since the “magic” of Halloween is gone like so many smashed pumpkins by Nov. 2.
Garfield Halloween Adventure
This one follows the tried-and-true formula of “put the characters in a haunted house”. After some debate, Garfield and Odie decide to dress like pirates, end up talking to some creepy old man (another common Halloween special theme) and have a run-in with ghost pirates. I can’t remember, but I also think there is lasagna in this episode.
Witch’s Night Out
This one is a little trippy. A babysitter is watching over two kids on Halloween night, and they run into a real-life witch. The witch isn’t really a bad witch…not really a good witch…just a witch (I guess that could describe most people). The witch looked like a transvestite, which was a little disturbing as a kid (gender amiguity is a tough concept for kids). The kids and sitter decide to make the witch transform them into their favorite movie monsters, as they’re later going to a costume party.
Frankenstein, the Wolfman, and a ghost (the kids and sitter), head off to the party with the witch as their guest. Everyone at the party ends up begging the witch to turn them into “their” favorite monsters. The results are the least scary, lamest, pseudo-pschycedelic monsters ever (see pic above). Most of them look exactly like they did before – only green or red. The rest of the town, forms a lynch mob to “kill the monsters”. The result? Your typical Halloween-special-happy-ending (I can’t quite remember how they got out of it, or what the moral of the story was).
The Halloween Tree
This one, written by Ray Bradbury, actually won an Emmy. Eight boys set out to go trick-or-treating on Halloween, only to discover that a ninth friend, Pipkin (an unfortunately named child), has been whisked away on a journey that could determine whether he lives or dies (I told you, this one won an Emmy). With the help of the mysterious Moundshroud, they look for Pipkin across time and space – learning about the origins of Halloween along the way. Ancient Egypt, Greece, Rome, Celtic Druidism, Notre Dame Cathedral in Medieval Paris, and The Day of the Dead in Mexico are all stops along the way. The Halloween Tree itself, with its many branches filled with jack-o’-lanterns, basically serves as a metaphor for the historical confluence of these traditions. This one isn’t suitable for really young kids (since it does deal with death, etc.)
NOTABLE EXCEPTION LEFT OFF THE LIST: It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown
Why was this left off? Because there is no payoff. We never actually get to see the Great Pumpkin. I’m all about the “reveal”