Small screen sound-off: a love letter to Halloween specials


Bob's Burgers
Creative Commons
Crowd favorites such as, Bob’s Burgers, Modern Family and Buffy the Vampire Slayer get spooky for Halloween.

For a somewhat overlooked holiday, with less fanfare than Christmas and less commercialism than Valentine’s Day, Halloween brings a lot of great content to television each year. Tons of shows have Halloween episodes, and with them comes an outpouring of creativity. Why do I love TV episodes themed around the spookiest of holidays? Let me explain.

The costumes
While plenty of us dress up as TV characters for Halloween, the characters themselves tend to wear the most delightful of costumes. A character’s everyday wardrobe tells you enough about them and can even set trends, but their Halloween costume takes that a step further. Take “Bob’s Burgers,” for example. The ever-eccentric Belcher children come up with fittingly unique costumes, driving home the things we love most about them. Awkward Tina, a teen who can’t wait to grow up, chooses in one Halloween episode to be, “a mommy mummy – and I’m single, and I’m working two jobs and I’m just trying to get back out there.” That line is precocious, a little bit off-the-wall and includes a pun. See how Halloween brings out the best in an already great show?

The shenanigans
Everyone knows it. Halloween allows people to be someone else for a day, and it lets a show’s writers step away from their usual conventions and formats, too. Some shows will introduce a haunting occurence — one that will never be mentioned again. After all, it’s Halloween. Anything goes. My favorite, though, is when a Halloween episode fits seamlessly into the run of the show. “Modern Family” has always done this well. There is a memorable episode where the uptight and competitive Claire Dunphy tries to scare the crap out of trick-or-treaters with elaborate Halloween displays. It’s whacky enough to make a funny sitcom episode, but also gives the character a chance to cause a commotion and maybe – just maybe – learn and grow. “How I Met Your Mother” introduced “the Slutty Pumpkin” in one season, a woman who the main character, Ted, spots at a Halloween party. When Ted eventually finds and dates this unfortunately named woman, the show’s writers got several episodes’ worth of content out of what could have been a one-off holiday storyline. That, my friends, is the power of a Halloween episode.

They’re never actually scary
As someone who couldn’t handle a horror movie until a year or so ago, it’s nice to know that a sitcom or drama will keep the spooks to a minimum so they don’t scare away half their audience. Some of the least hair-raising episodes of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” took place on Halloween, a clever move for a show that wasn’t often frightening (unless you, like me, are a wimp) but did deal regularly in the supernatural. Unless you hate clowns, murder-of-the-week procedural “Bones” never offered up their most nightmare-inducing stuff for Halloween, either – it was exactly the opposite. When you don’t like horror movies but want to feel like you’re viewing choices are festive, Halloween TV is there.

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