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SideReel Isn't Afraid of the Dark

Television is an incredibly effective ghostbuster (except where Poltergeist is concerned)!

Sassy Rick GrimesHalloween can be a scary time, what with ghouls, maniacally grinning pumpkins, and roving bands of little kids. (Yes, that's right, kids can be creepy.) But there is a surefire way to banish dread into the shadows — and that way is to watch comedies! True, Halloween episodes have a less illustrious history than those for Thanksgiving or Christmas, but all the cool kids/shows are doing them now, and it's always enjoyable to see funny people in dumb outfits. So take a break from chowing down on candy corn and have a laugh or eight while waiting for that Sassy Rick Grimes costume to arrive.

 

Home Movies S3E13: Coffins and CradesHome Movies S3E13: Coffins and Cradles

This sardonic cartoon never really got its due (even on its second home of Adult Swim, whose offerings are increasingly stoner bait), but it was the most meta comedy in existence prior to the launch of Community. The Halloween edition, however, ditched the high concept in favor of accessibility. That doesn't mean it's stupid or unfunny (it is, in fact, the complete opposite of those things), but it manages to cram cults, identical costumes, heart attacks, and births into 22 minutes, and never once feels rushed.

 

Friends S8E6: The One With The Halloween Party

Friends S8E6: The One With The Halloween Party

Also known as the one with the worst costume in the world, namely Ross's attempt at a visual pun in Spud-nik (Half-potato. Half-satellite. All terror.). Concept: Chandler and Monica throw a party and all of the titular friends show up and have inoffensive and adorably funny concerns and arguments... it's a whole thing. I'll admit that this one is an office favorite, and not necessarily a personal pick, but it's enjoyable in the same way that all Friends episodes are. So there you have it. 

 

The Office S8E5: SpookedThe Office S8E5: Spooked

Holiday episodes of The Office were always series highlights, maybe because in a show that so often took its characters out of their comfort zones for no real reason, theme parties (Christmas, Halloween, birthdays) put them in identifiably awkward scenarios — after all, everyone who has ever been a corporate citizen can identify with the stilted interaction prompted by executive decree. Regrettably, "Spooked" takes place during James Spader's odd 15-episode run, but it's saved by the plight of Dwight, who must surrender parts of his costume in the name of office safety.

 

Community S2E6: EpidemiologyCommunity S2E6: Epidemiology

The paintball episode might have been the first time that we see Dean Pelton as having no real plan (he just wants to be a good dean!), but this is the episode that truly solidifies that trait. Greendale's Halloween party is pure Pelton: non-stop ABBA; rancid Army-surplus meat (with zombifying properties); and the willingness to lock all of the students inside at the request of men in uniform. So no, the Dean might not have a plan, but Harmon surely did, setting "Epidemiology" up as the start of the long game of Shirley's pregnancy, Jeff and Britta's secret sex, and Annie's infatuation with Rich.

 

NewsRadio S3E5: HalloweenNewsRadio S3E5: Halloween

Another show that deserved more praise and credit than it ever got was NewsRadio, a powerhouse comedy from the mid-90s NBC hit machine. After being disinvited from the company Halloween party for being "too cool for school," the WNYX crew acquiesces to dressing up with eyes collectively rolling the whole time. Dave Foley gets back into drag in a callback to his time on The Kids in the Hall, while, in an unintentionally tragic scene, Bill (Phil Hartman) is given an early date with death by a psychic. It's truly uncomfortable and sad in retrospect, but take my advice: ignore the pathos and join the cool kids radio club. 

 

The Simpsons S6E6: Treehouse of Horror VThe Simpsons S6E6: Treehouse of Horror V

And so we come to the grande dame of Halloween specials. The Simpsons started doing its Treehouse of Horror episodes in its second year and its first entry was strong right out of the gate. While each year has had its own particular strengths (1996's highlight, a Clinton/Dole-inspired vignette, still gets widely quoted every election cycle), this fifth edition is the most emblematic of the series between Homer's time travel travails, a terrific parody of The Shining,  and the underrated closer, "Nightmare Cafeteria." 

 

How I Met Your Mother S1E6: Slutty PumpkinHow I Met Your Mother S1E6: Slutty Pumpkin

More than any other season 1 episode up to this point, "Slutty Pumpkin" crystalized the How I Met Your Mother gang's individual characters. Ted spends his time pining for a woman he barely knew (the titular Slutty Pumpkin), Barney shows him the error of his ways in the meanest way possible, while Marshall and Lily try overzealously to combat Robin's fear of commitment. But despite showing all of their worst traits, the episode is light and sweet, like Halloween candy.

 

Curb Your Enthusiasm S2E3: Trick or TreatCurb Your Enthusiasm S2E3: Trick or Treat

Look, Larry David's awkward-a-thon of a series is not everyone's cup of tea, but it is my cup of tea and I identify with it totally and completely, so it should come as no surprise that I've got LD's back on this one. Why should he have to give candy to sarcastic teenage trick-or-treaters who won't even dress up? And why should they be allowed to spraypaint "BALD ASSHOLE" on his house? Sure, he might be a bald asshole, but not for the reasons they indicate!

 

Leah E. Friedman is the editor of SideReel.com. She went as Star Trek characters for Halloween decades before it was cool. You can follow her musings on Twitter.

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