A Fool's Utopia 10.11.12: Best Halloween Episodes
Posted by Ron Martin on 10.11.2012
This week in one man's utopia we take a look at the best Halloween episodes of our favorite TV programs past and present. Also, we talk about Halloween themed macaroni and cheese, In Search Of..., Nick and Treat as well as teh lawsuit against Disney and Fox's premature Animation Domination Halloween.
There are a number of movies and TV specials that I have to watch every Halloween season in order to get my Halloween on. At the top of the list, of course, is It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown. Add to that A Garfield Halloween, Hocus Pocus, Trick R Treat and at least one day with my Haunted Evening atmosphere DVD on my TV usually while I write this column. Of course, a secondary need this season is to watch my favorite TV shows do their Halloween thing. I think this season I might go back and re-watch some of my favorite Halloween episodes from some of my favorite shows. Here's a prospective list of what I might be looking at:
Buffy the Vampire Slayer, "Halloween"
This season two episode was in reality a niche episode to take advantage of the Halloween holiday. Turns out all the ghouls and vampires take Halloween off. However, that doesn't include evil humans and we first introduced to Ethan Rayne, the archnemesis and old running buddy of Giles. Rayne sells Halloween costumes that make the person wearing them turn into whatever their costume is. This is a good thing for Xander (a decorated army soldier) and not so good for Buffy (a medieval princess) or Willow (the ghost of a prostitute). It's a brilliant concept with the usual Buffy humor, the debut of a recurring villain, gives Xander army knowledge and kicks off a romance between Willow and Oz- sort of. What more could you want from an episode? One of my top ten Buffy episodes from the entire series.
South Park, "Pinkeye"
Believe it or not, kids , there was a time when South Park was a big player in the Halloween episode battle. For a few years, I anxiously anticipated the newest South Park Halloween special. While some were good, none were better than the first "Pinkeye." Kenny dies pretty early on in the episode and is infected with Worcestershire sauce, which causes zombieism. Of course, it is diagnosed as Pink Eye. As the townfolk become zombies and the kids try to stop the zombie apocalypse, the viewer is laughing his or her ass off. Special ups to Zombie Chef and his "Thriller" routine.
Community has only been around for three seasons, but it has given us great Halloween episodes when given the chance. In season two, due to some army surplus meat gone bad, the students at our favorite community college are turned into zombies one at a time. What's great about this episode is that it parodies classic zombie movies and you get to watch our favorite study group get zombie-ized one by one. It should be mentioned that Jeff is still cool as a zombie as he just constantly texts or attempts to. Toss in a completely random but hilarious voiceover by George Takei and what's not to like?
Facts of Life, "Seven Little Indians"
Sue me I like The Facts of Life. In fact, there are times when I get the theme song stuck in my head even though I haven't watched an episode in a decade. I watched plenty of episodes when I was a kid and this was one of my favorites. This was late in the show's run when Edna Garrett had left for greener pastures and Cloris Leachman had taken her place. In this 1987 episode, a Rod Serling wannabe narrated the show as all of our favorite characters met their demise one by one. Well, all of them except for Tootie because well, she's Tootie! Don't worry, I didn't spoil the ending for you. Like all the other episodes listed here, you can find "Seven Little Indians" on the internet to watch for free. And you should. Damn, I should have saved this one for a RETRO segment. Oh well, maybe I'll use it next year when you have all forgotten that I ever wrote about it or my readership has turned over completely.
Home Improvement, "The Haunting of Taylor House"
Home Improvement was one of those shows that became known for its Halloween episodes. There was a time in my life where if I wanted to invoke the feeling of Fall, I would find a Home Improvement episode on TV and hope that it was an Autumn themed episode. They just nailed it so well. My favorite Halloween episode isn't the scariest, but it is the most fun as Tim builds a makeshift haunted house in the basement of the Taylor home for Brad's big Halloween party where he hopes to impress the girl he has been crushing on and made him dress like Raggedy Andy. In my podcast's Halloween episode, I talk about Halloween ambience and Home Improvement was always a show that knew hoe to bring the ambience.
Like Home Improvement, Roseannealways brought the good when it came to Halloween. Again, I always appreciate that as some shows seem to far stuck up their ass to lower themselves to do a Halloween show. Roseanne's first attempt at a Halloween show was their best (and that's saying a lot because they had some really good ones). This is a must see episode in which Dan and Roseanne try to decide who can scare one another the most. In true Roseanne style, things get wacky pretty quick. Like the Taylors, the Conners turn their house into one of doom and you get Jackie's head on a platter literally. What more could you ask for?
FIVE RANDOM THOUGHTS
1. I don't understand why FOX blew their Halloween load on the first Sunday in October. Their entire Animation Domination lineup was full of Halloween episodes including the annual Simpsons' Treehouse of Horror. There are three more Sundays in October. You would think that the network would want to put the Halloween episodes as close to Halloween as possible when people are geared up and ready for the holiday. I've seen the Treehouse of Horror run the first weekend in November before so why the rush this year? It's not as if the shows are being pre-empted the rest of the month. What's so important about the next three shows that they have to go after the Halloween shows? Not that I hated watching the Halloween shows a little early, I just don't understand the strategy.
2. SPORTS THOUGHTS:
a. The Colts got that win back that they let go in Jacksonville. I'm a full on believer in Andrew Luck at this point. In just four games, he has led game winning or game leading fourth quarter drives in three of them. That's a good sign for the future. As I said at the beginning of the season, RG3 will have the better rookie campaign, but I think in the long run, Luck is going to be the better quarterback. He'll struggle some more this year and I still don't think more than 5 or so wins are attainable, but all we're really looking for in Indianapolis this year is the progression of both Luck and 3-4 defense. Next year will be a different story.
b. I'm kicking myself for throwing Reggie Wayne back into the free agent pool in my keeper league. The man is a beast. The announcers on Sunday alluded to a career that would find Wayne enshrined in Canton. I wonder about that. He will have the numbers that a lot of other receivers in the Hall have, if not better, but I think his chances will be hurt by playing a significant portion of his career across from Marvin Harrison and the number of quality receivers that are already backed up and waiting to get in.
c. I took a beating in my fantasy leagues this week, scoring a whopping 1-3 record. That puts me at 4-1 in two leagues and 3-2 in the other two. I just traded Alfred Morris in a league straight up for Greg Jennings. In that league I am deep at running back, but weak at receiver so it seems like a no brainer. If Jennings can get back to 100%, I'm going to feel pretty good about my team.
3. My fears that South Park may be done for may have been premature. The latest episode, which poked fun at fat people and Honey Boo Boo was a good one, though not good enough to cover for the abortion that was "Sarcastaball." I was going to write about "Sarcastaball" last week, but never got around to it. Let's put it this way I can't think of 5 episodes worse than that one in all the seasons that South Park has been on the air.
4. I guess that I understand why a company who thinks they own the rights to certain Marvel characters would sue seeing how FOX and Disney has made a lot of money off of these characters in recent years. However, if this was about the integrity of property that you owned, wouldn't said company have sued before the movies were made or at the time of the sale of Marvel to Disney? The timing and amount seem very odd. My guess is that since this company that supposedly owns the rights to these characters went under there was something in the agreement that allowed Stan Lee to regain control of the characters. It's silly to go after Disney, who most likely has the best entertainment lawyers in the business. First of all, your beef would be with Lee, not Disney. Secondly, you have no chance of winning this battle. I understand it's a quick money grab by someone who is desperate and they are hoping Disney will just toss them a couple of million under the table to settle out of court. I guess we will soon find out the validity of this lawsuit by seeing how Disney reacts.
5. HALLOWEEN THOUGHTS:
a. I went Halloween shopping again last weekend, like I have most weekends since the beginning of September. I went to a couple of places I hadn't been because sometimes you can find some good deals at those type of places. I've decided that you can decide how well a store is doing by how much Christmas stuff they have out in early October. For example, K-Mart has about four times as much Christmas stuff as Halloween stuff. Big Lots literally has an aisle of Halloween items and a quarter of their store already dedicated to Christmas. Bigger, more successful stores have some Christmas out, but it's limited to an aisle or so for now. Of course, during the last week of October, all the Halloween items will be clearanced to move and Christmas will dominate. Hey, I love Christmas as much as the next guy, but for me Christmas can start to be celebrated on November 1. Well, November 3, anyways. I still want to know who buys Christmas items (decorative, not gifts) in September.
b. I'm getting a little leery of the pimping out of It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown. It's my favorite holiday special (this includes all the Christmas specials as well). I think it perfectly captures the mood of Halloween like nothing else has. I don't even mind the Red Baron sequences anymore. I am starting to take offense at all the marketing using The Great Pumpkin name that has nothing to do with the program. You can buy everything under the sun with The Great Pumpkin name on it, but you'll get Charlie Brown in a pirate hat or Snoopy dressed as a mummy. What?!! Did these people every see It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown?! If you have the rights to use the name, it would seem to me that you have the rights to use Charlie Brown as a ghost with too many holes or Lucy as a witch. Why is this so hard for advertisers to understand?
c. Onto my Halloween item of the week Halloween macaroni and cheese!
As you can see Kraft decided to go all out this Halloween season by making their macaroni into various traditional Halloween shapes. I love it when a company goes the extra mile to give us their usual product with a holiday twist. It makes your day 17% more Halloweeny. It must feel weird for the people at the Kraft factory to be making pumpkin macaroni in the middle of June, but it is appreciated. Kraft didn't get crazy with the box design, just adding a pumpkin at the bottom with a "Trick and Cheesy" tagline that probably took an advertising company three weeks and $200,000 to come up with . If it were just a pumpkin on the box, this would not have come home with me from the grocery store. Nope, it's the noodles that bring you that 17%.
As you can see, the noodles vary in shape from pumpkins and bats to ghosts. As macaroni characters go, these are high up on the list in terms of likability and you know, actually looking like what their supposed to look like. That's important when it comes to macaroni. Here's the finished product:
I wish I could say that this macaroni was the best macaroni I ever ate, but that would be a Halloween lie. I need to keep things sincere around here for obvious reasons. The truth is the shapes of the macaroni cause them to need longer to cook and as I am not a patient man, my macaroni was a little on the tough side. I'm okay with that. It wasn't crunchy and that's good enough for me. Halloween macaroni and cheese = great success!
USELESS TRIVIA AND SHAMELESS PLUGGING
LAST WEEK'S USELESS TRIVIA
Yeah, I'm an idiot and totally forgot to provide a trivia question last week. My age is finally catching up to me.
THIS WEEK's USELESS TRIVIA
Which actor or actress from a favorite horror based sitcom co-starred with Vincent Price in 1953's House of Wax?
As always, check out our latest episode of The Resurrection of Zombie 7 Podcast on iTunes. We just posted our 12th episode covering the horror darling Pumpkinhead, starring none other than the great Lance Henriksen. This will begin our trek through the entire series, with the next installment covering Pumpkinhead 2 being released late Saturday night as I will be travelling Sunday and will have no time to post the new episode on that day. Check us out. It's a good podcast. Or at least I think so.
We've already recorded the next podcast, THE BATTLE FOR VINCENT PRICE which pits Last Man on Earth vs. House of Wax. It's scheduled release date is October 17. If you're feeling froggy, check out the facebook page, watch the movies and join the discussion!
THIS WEEK IN RETRO
I'm going to talk about a couple of things today, but I'd like to being my Halloween rantings with the Godfather of paranormal television, In Search Of . What you see in the video above is part of the In Search Of episode in which Leonard Nimoy narrates the search for the Lost City of Atlantis. In today's world, in Search Of would be just another paranormal show, but back in the 70s and early 80s, it was the only paranormal show. It was documentary style trying to solve/enhance the unsolved mysteries and paranormal events we've always wondered about.
Bigfoot? Check. Loch Ness Monster? Check. The mysterious disappearance of Amelia Earhart? Check. Salem witches? Check. Werewolves? Check. Over six years this show covered everything you can imagine about the paranormal. It started with a couple of hour long specials hosted by the late great Rod Serling. It evolved into an hour long weekly show hosted by none other than Leonard Nimoy himself. It was revived shortly in 2002, but by then we had been swamped with paranormal shows. I've written about In Search Of before, but there's a reason I bring it back. Before I pouted because the series had never been released on VHS, DVD or any other form of home entertainment. October 23, 2012 (just in time for the Halloween and Christmas seasons) that all changes. The entire series plus the Rod Serling specials plus the short-lived revived series plus a bonus documentary on the show hosted by Nimoy becomes available to the general public. I don't care how expensive it is, I will have this. The only question left is will I buy it when it comes out or save it for a Christmas list? Who are we fooling, I'm buying it as soon as I can. You should as well.
Not too take away from the excitement of a full In Search Of DVD release, but I do have other things to talk about. For example, the Nick or Treat Halloween contest that Nickelodeon ran back in 1985. This is not the Halloween special that ran in the mid-90s. This is not the bastardized version of Nick or Treat that is around today. This was a contest in 1985 that was supposed to be "annual" but I think only ran the one year.
For those of you too busy to watch the video or can't watch the video for some reason or another, let me paraphrase. For the price of a stamp and your name and address on a card you (as a child) could be entered into a contest wherein the prize would be a trip to Hollywood with a fancy hotel, limo, your weight in M&Ms and a Gremlins viewmaster gift pack. Outside of Gremlins (which takes place at Christmas), it doesn't sound too Halloweeny, does it? The Halloween catch comes in when you get a trip to visit special effects master Tom Burman who will do you up in a one of a kind Halloween costume. It angers me to think that some little girl won this, went to the Burman Studios and declared she wanted to be a princess. Stupid girl. I hate her.
One hundred runner up prizes included Gremlins viewmaster gift packs. They must have somehow got stuck with a shit ton of Gremlins viewmaster gift packs. What would be included in a Gremlins veiwmaster gift pack, anyways? The viewmaster and a couple of Gremlins reels? I don't think I've ever covered the viewmaster in RETRO. I think I have a mid-November RETRO segment waiting to happen.
Regardless, I never entered the Nick or Treat contest because I am a complete pessimist and knew that I wouldn't win. I don't if I have any readers old enough to have entered, but if I do and you did let me know!