This episode of the Horror TV Shows We Miss video series was Written and Narrated by Niki Minter, Edited by Adam Walton, Produced by John Fallon, and Executive Produced by Berge Garabedian.
I’m always looking forward to that magical time of year. As I’ve gotten older things have changed, but the feelings I get have not. What I’m talking about is obviously Halloween. Not even just Halloween, special Halloween programming. For me, it all started with It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, the The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror and then just got better and better.
Anyone remember Snick or Treat? Each year there was some kind of game or call-in number and you could win cool prizes like glow in the dark shirts, video games, VHS tapes of your favorite Nick shows, Pizza Hut gift cards, a TV, a Nickelodeon jean jacket, and I think they may have even did the alarm clock/phone. There was just so much cool stuff. I remember calling in to try and do the haunted house game show where you would pick houses and knock on the door to win a prize. I was not one of the chosen ones. I was also always really excited for The Pizza Head Show. One year he dressed up as a pirate and got kidnapped by a vampire pizza cutter and then the next time he tried to get a Goosebumps pizza pack then was driven to a graveyard full of ghosts. He was an easily spooked little piece of pizza.
OH, what about Elvira’s MTV Halloween Party? Elvira ran around interviewing folks, giving Halloween party tips, played some of the best music videos from The Damned, Alice Cooper, X, Bauhaus, and just was her very snarky self. She even had that Mug Root Beer Commercial where you could win the opportunity to join her at the Psycho house at Universal Studios. I wonder which lucky soul got that experience? Yesterday I was actually looking for one of her cardboard standees and came across some other really cool ones with Spuds McKenzie as well as the Universal Monsters Doritos ads. I wish I would have snagged those up back in the day.
Speaking of MTV, I might age myself and possibly lose some of my viewers here, but anyone get a chance to see the Halloween episode of Headbanger’s Ball in 89 with Alice Cooper as host? He had special guests like Dave Mustaine, Iggy Pop. and Dangerous Toys. Mustaine spent some time in a straight jacket. Hello me, meet the real me. There was even a spot for Wes Craven’s Shocker with horror fave Mitch Pileggi as Horace Pinker. I love you, Skinner.
There’s so much goodness and badassness that we could talk about for hours, but now we’re going to explore some of my Halloween episode picks from TV, and yes, I did still include a couple of genre specific shows. Now, don’t be sad if I missed an episode you really enjoyed– we gotta save some for next year!
The Adventures of Pete & Pete “Halloweenie”- If I hold anything extremely close to my heart, it’s The Adventures of Pete & Pete. I feel this aching nostalgia every time I watch it– similar feels for My-So Called Life. Halloweenie is definitely a top 3 episode for me. I feel like my love of Halloween is unwavering like Little Pete. “Halloween is not a holiday but a holy day.” I feel slightly broken-hearted that Big Pete smashed a pumpkin, but he does eventually come back around. We all know that feeling of growing older and out of certain things. Little Pete’s quest to hit every house in Wellsville paralleled the kind of ambition that we all strived for, that and having an astronaut costume we could pee in. I think one of my favorite things about this episode is Endless Mike. I used to loathe him and yet, somehow found myself excited in anything Rick Gomez popped up in: Band of Brothers, Justified, and more recently, Silo. That one took a minute to realize it was him. I wish all my Halloweens looked and felt like this episode.
Boys Meets World “And then there was Shawn”- Cory and Topanga have broken up. During Mr. Feeny’s class, Shawn tries to defend his friend’s relationship, which at the time is weird and uncalled for, but winds up getting them all detention. This isn’t just any detention though, this is a trap. This episode is such a time capsule. There’s Eric’s “OH MY GOD YOU KILLED KENNY” references and then an appearance by Jennifer Love Hewitt (Jennifer Love Fefferman) who is by this time riding the Scream Queen high because of I Know What You Did Last Summer. She also happens to be girlfriend of Will Friedle at this point which is why it’s not too super awkward when Friedle smooches all over her when they first meet. There’s a million reasons this episode is great. The cast knew it was kind of ridiculous and goofy and apparently they just played that up. There are moments when it’s kind of creepy, like the singing over the PA. The reveal at the end where Shawn reveals the killer is him. Queue Smashing Pumpkins.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer “Fear Itself”- It was absolutely imperative that we throw an episode of Buffy in here. This one is rather delightful in so many ways. It will always be on my list of must watch Buffysodes. Buffy is sad about Parker so she tries to shove down her emotions by looking for a fight– on-brand for our favorite slayer. Let’s just get this out there– Parker and Riley are terrible. Everyone is going to a frat party including the Scoobies, but the frat guys have possibly one of the worst decisions– draw a demonic symbol for decoration. They do have a pretty bitchin setup though. All of a sudden, shit gets real and kind of spooky, again this what happens when you draw a demonic symbol and unintentionally splash it with a little blood. Anya’s fear of bunnies, Giles’ sombrero, and the reveal of Gachner are the highlights for me here. Remember, it’s tacky to taunt the little fear demon.
Roseanne “Boo”- For the record, Roseanne had excellent Halloween episodes. They were over the top, the costuming was great, and they really got into the spirit. Roseanne had that relatable charm. They were more like an average family of the era rather than something like Growing Pains or Family Ties. The Conners are constantly trying to get under each other’s skin, but in a fun way this time. Dan scares the crap out of Roseanne by making him think he cut his thumb off. Dan, Jackie, and Roseanne craft a story about a crazy lady that is getting released from the mental hospital. They have the coolest haunted house. Then there’s that iconic ending with Dan reviving the chainsaw and taking his title as The Master. You want a guaranteed trip down memory lane– take this one.
The Simpsons “Treehouse: VI”- I know there are a ton of these, but I feel like the favorite is subjective. It was extremely hard for me to just choose one, but hopefully we do this again next year so I can give you another favorite. I’ll let you guess what that is. Which stories round this one out? You’ve got Attack of the 50 Ft Eyesores, Nightmare on Evergreen Terrace, and Homer Cubed. When I think of Treehouse, the Homer Cubed episode is the 1st one I think of besides The Raven. Homer Cubed was a massive thing. I remember the commercials hyping it up and the ads in TV Guide. I think I actually still have one of the ads. Is it scary? Not necessarily, but it blended the traditional animation style with some good CGI. It also had the coolest ending I think I’ve seen of any show– Homer gets dumped into the real world and drools over some erotic cakes. Now pair this with the first two segments, one where Lard Lad comes to life and wrecks havoc on the town of Springfield only to later be soothed by Paul Anka and Lisa’s musical stylings then there’s Groundskeeper Willie who is transformed into Freddy because that was one of the most fitting things they could have done. I will say, sometimes I still get images of menacing Lard Lad randomly pop up in my brain.
Are You Afraid of the Dark “Tale of the Twisted Claw”- We have to include this one. I feel like if I don’t we haven’t gotten the full effect. I remember watching this the first time and the creepiest thing about it was the atmosphere. When they were walking in the neighborhood it’s almost like they were in a dream. Also, these kids were way more brave than I was which was also one of the best things about the series. These kids had the courage to take on their fears. If some old lady, a supposed witch at that, in a creepy house hands me a decrepit claw that grants wishes– that’s a big no. I’m not anywhere near that neighborhood! You know things are going to go wrong! Watching the episode I felt like I was having the same feelings when I first watched it. The worst part was when the cops tried to call to tell the kid his parents died in an accident. This is pre-The Craft. The kids are losing it trying to wish the claw away. The ending with the vase and that cackle the witch does is pretty great even if some of the Midnight Society aren’t impressed.
Salute Your Shorts “Ghost Story”- While this may not have debuted on Halloween, it did wind up being rebroadcast on Nickelodeon Halloween blocks. Zeke the Plumber, my friends. We could simply just end it there. Being a show centered around a camp, ghost stories had to come into the picture, right? Of course, Budnick is the one telling the tale. At one point Z.Z. asks, “What is this guy? The Freddy Krueger of custodians?” I mean, yeah, he kinda is. It seems silly at first– a dead guy just searching for his plunger who’s willing to kill any camper along the way even in their dreams. But the image of Zeke is downright traumatizing, at least it was then. Bitten off nose, lose burnt skin, that creepy voice. Thank you, Kirk Baily, you are so very missed. Camp Anawanna, we hold you in our heart and when we think about you, it makes me wanna fart.
BONUS: Spongebob “Scaredy Pants”- Someone extremely special to me wanted to make sure that we mentioned this episode. Funny enough, this actually comes up on quite a few lists. It was not the first thing that came to my mind as I’m a little removed. It leaves you feeling weird and unsettled, and it’s almost like you tripped on a creepypasta of Spongebob rather than an actual episode.
What’s left of these types of Halloween Specials now? Well, I hate to be that person but they’ve been steadily on the decline since the early 2000s. Shows still have their Halloween focused episodes, but there’s not any real kind of hype around them. We don’t celebrate this holiday like the holy day it is— well, not on television any way. When the Chiller Channel was a thing they did do Scariest Movie Moments which had guests like Greg Nicotero, Steve Niles, Ryder Strong, Tony Todd, Tom Savini, Bruce Campbell, Peter Jackson all talking about the scenes that got under their skin. I recently rewatched some of that and it’s just as awesome as the first time. Shudder recently did something similar, but it just doesn’t have that same feel… sorry. NOW, The Last Drive-In with Joe Bob did bring back that Halloween spirit. There’s nothing I enjoyed more than getting to experience my Halloween Eve with my favorite Drive-In buddies.
Roughly ten years ago, I would look forward to JustinTV streaming all the Halloween Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network stuff along with the old school commercials. Now I have to hope someone uploads something similar to YouTube, or I just build my own. I’m just glad the stuff I used to enjoy is still out there.
As I reflect on those nostalgic feelings and my ongoing pursuit of recapturing them, I can’t help but wonder if I’m chasing a past that no longer exists. The dreams of taking charge of Nickelodeon’s programming and having a say in those oh so awesome commercials lives rent-free in my brain. Yet, I must acknowledge that the landscape of television has evolved. But even if the past can’t be fully resurrected, the beauty of memories lies in their timelessness. I can still revisit those moments, episodes, and commercials that brought pure joy into my life. So, is it too late to get it back? I don’t know, but what I do know is that it’s never too late to embrace that very same spirit and carry it on into the future. Maybe it’s not about recapturing the past but channeling its magic into the present and imparting it to whoever will listen. At least that’s what I’m doing.
Until next Halloween, my creepy companions.
A couple previous episodes of Horror TV Shows We Miss can be seen below. If you’d like to see more, and check out the other shows we have to offer, head over to the JoBlo Horror Originals YouTube channel – and subscribe while you’re there!