There are so many reasons to love Halloween: parties, gratuitous amounts of sugar and the opportunity to wear absolutely anything you want.
But when October comes around we also revel in the opportunity to re-watch some of our favorite television episodes of all time.
Just as Halloween offers maximum fun for kids of all ages in the real world, it’s an un-missable goldmine of comedic and spooky potential for TV writers. Take a look at the 11 shows that have forever secured a place in our ghoulish hearts by going above and beyond the call of duty for holiday-themed specials.
Buffy The Vampire Slayer: “Fear, Itself”
When a frat accidentally summons a terror-loving demon, the Scooby gang finds themselves trapped in a Halloween party-turned house of horrors. Buffy and friends must battle skeletons, zombies and bats as the decorations come alive along with their deepest fears. The episode expertly combines classic Buffy horror action and humor, and arguably comes out on top of all of the show’s Halloween ventures.
Pretty Little Liars: “The First Secret”
The series’ first-ever Halloween special was an epic flashback to the time before Ali’s disappearance. The Liars were in for more tricks than treats in this spooky episode – all endured in fabulous costumes. In the opening scene, Alison tells a little boy Hanna is babysitting an eerie tale about a murderous twin. When the group later attends Noel Kahn’s highly-anticipated party, they’re in for some real-life frights.
Parks and Recreation: “Greg Pikitis”
We didn’t think it was possible, but Leslie Knope’s (Amy Poehler) battle with her teenage arch-nemesis somehow made us love her even more than we already did. Her determination to thwart Halloween prankster Greg Pikitis (Cody Klop) at all costs is funny at first, and becomes sidesplittingly hilarious when the insane lengths Pikitis has gone to just to mess with her are revealed. The episode also gives Burt Macklin (Chris Pratt) time to shine (and sob) and puts a lovable twist on Tom’s (Aziz Ansari) showmanship-obsessed nature.
The Office: “Halloween”
The Office had a number of class-A Halloween episodes during its nine-season run. But its first crack at the holiday in season 2 is a veritable classic, with Michael Scott (Steve Carell) dealing with his managerial responsibilities with typical ineptitude and Jim (John Krasinski) and Pam (Jenna Fischer) teaming up on a superb Dwight (Rainn Wilson) prank. Costumes make the misadventures of the droll co-workers all the funnier.
Boy Meets World: “And Then There Was Shawn”
So “And Then There Was Shawn” originally aired in February, but we just can’t resist including it among our favorite comedy fright-fests to revisit around Halloween. When Mr. Feeny (William Daniels) sentences Cory (Ben Savage) and his gang to detention it leads to one of TV’s most memorable homages to horror movies. Nineties kids will remember being totally petrified by the killer sneaking around John Adams High, even as Shawn (Rider Stong) and co. drop hilarious one-liners left and right. A guest spot for slasher flick veteran Jennifer Love Hewitt as Jennifer Love Fefferman is the icing on the cake.
Greendale’s annual Halloween party becomes a nightmare after Dean Pelton (Jim Rash) makes the poor choice of turning to an army surplus store for catering. The study group’s struggle to survive sends up the zombie genre in the spot-on, witty way only Community could. It’s among the best of Community’s odes to pop culture and is easily one of our Halloween favorites.
Bob’s Burgers: “Full Bars”
“Full Bars” celebrates childhood’s best night with the level of hilarity we’ve come to expect from Bob’s Burgers. While Bob (H. Jon Benjamin) and Linda (John Roberts) contend with a guinea pig murder mystery at a Halloween party, the young Belcher trio heads to wealthy King’s Island to score the best treats of the season. Former kids everywhere can relate to their enchantment with a neighborhood that doesn’t mess around with “fun-size” candy nonsense and serves up the real deal.
The Simpsons: “Treehouse of Horror V”
Out of all the 28-year-old series’ “Treehouse of Horror” specials, the 1994 parody of The Shining is particularly memorable. Morbid and hysterical, the spoof of the horror classic admirably commits in its references to the film. We would gladly watch a full-length reenactment of The Shining with a maniacal, still bumbling Homer as Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson). The anthology episode also includes “Time and Punishment” and “Nightmare Cafeteria.”
Friends: “The One With The Halloween Party”
Friends only took the Halloween comedy bait once, but the foray had terrific results. The highlight of the episode is finally seeing what the crew would come up with for costumes. Chandler’s (Matthew Perry) reluctant turn as a bubblegum pink bunny is great, but the standout is Ross’ (David Schwimmer) “doodie”-resembling “Spud-nik” outfit.
Freaks and Geeks: “Tricks and Treats”
This short-lived but much-loved coming-of-age series nails the suburban experience of Halloween, with both Weir siblings (Linda Cardellini and John Frances Daley) navigating their evolving relationships to the holiday. From desperately holding on to trick-or-treating for as long as possible to ditching doorbell duty to become tricksters, few viewers can’t relate to Lindsay and Sam’s Halloween highs and lows.
How I Met Your Mother: “Slutty Pumpkin” and “The Slutty Pumpkin Returns”
In “Slutty Pumpkin” we find out that Ted (Josh Radnor) has worn the same “hanging chad” costume for four years in the hopes of reuniting with a mythical woman who once dressed as – you guessed it – a slutty pumpkin. Six seasons later he finally manages a reunion with the pumpkin (Katie Holmes), but realizes they weren’t so meant-to-be after all. We love that HIMYM followed through years later on the “slutty pumpkin” setup and used the opportunity to challenge the illusion of love at first site.
Peanuts: “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown”
No list would be complete without this classic 1966 Halloween special. Like the best of beloved Peanuts holiday fair, “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” has “nothing but sincerity as far as the eye can see.” We adore it even though watching poor Charlie Brown come away from trick-or-treating with nothing but a bag full of rocks was devastating as a child.