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The Top Television Episodes You Need to Watch for Halloween

With the cool weather, bulk candy lining the drug store shelves, and Spirit Halloweens popping up on every other block, signals that autumn has arrived. Halloween is just around the corner, but we don’t always have time to get into the holiday spirit with an entire movie. When I want to get excited about parties or reminisce about trick or treating, I love to turn to a good (or hilariously bad) T.V. episode. So whether you’re hosting a watch-party or recovering from the end of Halloweekend, here are eight of my favorite shows/episodes to tune into for the Halloween season.

It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown

A beloved classic, It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown is the ideal way to relax while soaking in the Halloween spirit. It’s not technically an episode of TV, but its 25-minute runtime qualifies it for this list. It’s a charming portrayal of Halloween as an adolescent and a melodramatic tale of a canine pilot rolled into one. While many shows aim to be terrifying through ghosts and monsters, no attack is more bone-chilling than receiving a rock while trick or treating. Between Linus’ hopefulness that the great pumpkin will reveal himself and Schroeder’s piano expertise, this special makes for a comforting and nostalgic watch.

Brooklyn 99, Halloween

Many sitcoms have made Halloween episodes over the years yet the holiday tends to feel like an afterthought in generally lackluster episodes. From Friends to New Girl, no one praises or remembers these underwhelming episodes, which is why the whip-smart and fast-paced Halloween episodes of Brooklyn 99 are so impressive. In their season one episode, Jake Peralta argues that he can steal Captain Holt’s Medal of Valor. The precinct is littered with incredibly stubborn characters and the challenge escalates to absurd heights with a satisfying conclusion. You can’t go wrong with the first installment but the succeeding episodes are consistently entertaining as well. So if you’re looking for less trick-or-treating and more cunning schemes, this is the show for you.

American Horror Story, Any Episode

While the show’s first season has a two-part episode on the holiday, any episode of American Horror Story deserves a spot on this list. I highlight the series’ fourth season, Freak Show, above for its bright color palate and gruesome murders. This season and the previous three have provided devoted fans and casual viewers with endless costume inspiration. So, if you get a last-minute party invite with nothing to wear, tune into any episode for a plethora of ideas.

Gravity Falls, Summerween

Any episode of Gravity Falls is an excellent way to settle into the October spirit, but “Summerween” is one of my favorite Halloween episodes on this list. For a cartoon that takes place over the course of a summer break, the foggy Pacific Northwest setting provides a gloomy and autumnal backdrop. Many monsters emerge from the forest, including the lanky child-eating Summerween Trickster. The episode is potentially oversaturated with morals (what is this, a kid's show?) but has plenty of laughs and a surprisingly malevolent villain.

A.N.T. Farm, MutANT Farm

If one Disney show isn’t enough, let us revisit this infamous episode of A.N.T. Farm. Less of a traditional T.V. episode and more of a jaw-dropping spectacle in poor writing and atrocious visual effects, this Halloween special transports audiences out of a gifted school and into a monstrous one. If you think children’s shows look lousy today, revisit this episode, which you might’ve adored as a child, and see if it holds up. It is not only a devastating blow to television as a medium, it’s also the perfect episode to throw on if you want to laugh at (and not with) a T.V. show. The only redeeming factor is its concluding song, “Calling All the Monsters,” which I admit is still a guilty pleasure of mine.

Freaks and Geeks, Tricks and Treats

If you’re looking for an earnestly relatable show, this episode can make you laugh and cry in 45 minutes. I gush about Freaks and Geeks whenever I get a chance, and the episode “Tricks and Treats” deserves it. Most Halloween episodes revolve around children or adults, but the most torturous Halloween comes in between when you’re finally too old to go trick or treating. Judd Apatow’s breakout project, Freaks and Geeks, is shockingly delicate. The characters are written with unparalleled authenticity and played by actors who’d just begun their careers (Seth Rogen is only 18!). It’s also potentially the only coming-of-age show where the parents are as engaging as the children (Becky Ann Baker as Jean Weir is devastating to watch). If October’s crisp weather gives you a chill, revel in your melancholy through this touching episode.

Glee, Rocky Horror Glee Show

If you’re looking for the opposite of authenticity in your binge, look no further than this campy and outrageous episode of Glee. Rocky Horror Picture Show is iconic for its salacious debauchery and strong sexual overtones. Naturally, it is the perfect musical for a group of underage high schoolers to perform. As a firm believer that some Glee covers are better than the originals, their rendition of Rocky Horror is mostly a nightmarish replica. However, it’s still a fun hell of a time! In a season filled with bone-chilling scary movies and shows, the most terrifying sight in this episode is a shirtless Matthew Morison (which is pretty frightening). This breezy and silly episode is perfect for a group watch, and following it with MutANT Farm makes for the perfect hate-watch double feature.

Scooby-Doo, Where are You?, A Gaggle of Galloping Ghosts

It would be a travesty not to include the iconic Mystery Gang on this list. A first-season staple of the original 60’s series, “A Gaggle of Galloping Ghosts” features the most recognizable and replicated Halloween costumes ever, from Dracula to the gang themselves. Shaggy, Velma, Daphne, Fred, and Scooby search through the seemingly haunted Franken Castle, and charmingly spooky hijinks occur (exactly like you hope they do). If you’re in search of the ultimate Halloween classic or a visually interesting cartoon to throw on as background noise at a party, look no further.

T.V. episodes about Halloween can be sweet, scary, and downright horrifying. You might be looking for a laugh or an outlet for self-reflection, so I hope there’s something on this list to scratch that itch. These episodes are chock-full of costume inspiration and guaranteed to get you in the spooky spirit.

Written by Mary Leer

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