When it comes to Halloween episodes of your favorite live action TV sitcoms, the world is your oyster. It almost seems as if every sitcom has done at least one Halloween episode and some sitcoms–like “Roseanne” and “Home Improvement” among others–seem to make producing a new trick for a treat every year a tradition. Of course, it is also true that just because a sitcom does a Halloween episode that does not mean that it does it well. Leaving aside those sitcoms that did multiple Halloween episodes, here are some examples of funny TV shows that did Halloween right.
What better way for the furry little alien from Melmac familiarly known as Alf to meet new people and get out of the kitchen when company comes over than to pass himself off as wearing a Halloween costume. The only Halloween episode of “Alf” features Gordon Shumway putting a zipper on his chest and pretending to wear a costume. This Halloween episode provides a showcase for the comic interaction between Alf and Willie Tanner and ranks as one of the best episodes of the series.
“Take Me to Your Loudon” is the title of the only Halloween episode that “Newhart” ever did. And it also qualifies as one of the greatest episodes of the series. The title does not really give enough indication that what you are watching here is also one of the best parodies of the Orson Welles “War of the Worlds” scare of the 1930s. Newhart’s Dick Loudon is a reluctant Tin Woodsman hosting a Halloween party at his Vermont inn. Pretty much all of the sitcom’s recurring cast of characters show up in costume. When one of them arrives in a panic as a modern day Paul Revere warning about an alien attack being broadcast on TV, this Halloween episode really kicks into gear. When local TV station producer Michael Harris denies that the the movie for tonight is the original “War of the Worlds” with Gene Barry because “The Boogens” was supposed to scheduled, viewers are treated to yet another example on “Newhart” of how the tightly woven fabric of rationality so easily comes apart under the weight of fear and suspicion.
The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet
If you think “The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet” was just another craptacular sincerefest like “Leave it to Beaver” then read my article on how it is really America’s first postmodern sitcom here. The Halloween episode of “Ozzie and Harriet” that is a terrific example of a Halloween episode of a sitcom is the one in which Ozzie and his neighbor Thorny take the task of putting together a Halloween party out of the hands of the women to show them how its done. They do everything right as far as getting everything together. The only mistake they make is forgetting to decide on a location for the Halloween party. Two things make this “Ozzie and Harriet” Halloween episode memorable for me. Ricky Nelson’s little dance in his skeleton costume and a joke by Ozzie about he and Thorny showing up at the party dressed as devils.
“Stevil.” He is a dark and angry little ventriloquist puppet based on Steve Urkel. “Family Matters” did a handful of Halloween episodes but by far the most memorable were those involving Stevil. He was just a ventriloquist dummy until, like Frankenstein’s Creature, lighting brought him to life. Not only are the Stevil stories some of the most memorable Halloween episodes ever broadcast, but they also rank among the creepiest sitcom episodes of all time.
The Halloween episode is rather unimaginatively titled “Halloween” but that’s the only flaw in this excellent example of a sitcom doing Halloween right. I mean, you get Mitchell wearing a Spiderman costume under his business suit to work and managing to get his business suit stolen and having to attempt to climb down the outside of the building. You’ve got Claire and Phil dressed up as the Corpse Bride and Groom. A story of Halloween trauma from childhood that drives the character of Cameron. A cool haunted house. And, best of all, one of the few minutes of “Modern Family” in which Gloria is not yelling in that irritating accent.