As a kid, I often got sick on Halloween, so I rarely got to go trick-or-treating. But don't feel sorry for me, because staying home meant I got to watch Halloween-themed episodes of my favorite TV shows! Here, for your perusal, is a round-up of the best eerie October episodes from the 1980s and 1990s. So set your Netflix instant queue to "spooky" and get ready for some gimmicky and gory television!
The Cosby Show, "Halloween" (1985)
Dr. Cliff Huxtable gets roped into taking Rudy and her friends trick-or-treating, and he is NOT happy about it. What a grouch! Meanwhile, Vanessa hosts a Halloween party and invites Robert, the cutest dude at school, who she's majorly crushing on. Vanessa gets so nervous around Robert that she spills a tray of drinks on him. Whoops! Robert doesn't seem to mind and asks Vanessa to go steady, despite her klutzy ways. Then everyone eats some JELL-O pudding with Dr. Huxtable while carving jack-o'-lanterns. (Just kidding about that last detail.)
Cheers, "Diane's Nightmare" (1985)
In this mid-eighties fright night feature, Diane dreams that one of her ex-beaus "Andy Andy" (the inspiration behind our theater critics, Andrew Andrew?) has escaped from a mental institution. She wakes up to find that Andy Andy has in fact been set loose from the nut house, and has come to confront her. Ted Danson does not appear without his hairpiece in this episode. That would be truly frightening.
Beverly Hills. 90210, "Halloween" (1991)
In this second season gem, the 90210 gang attends a costume party in a big ol' mansion and serious high-jinks ensue. Donna, being the blond dumb-dumb of the Beverly Hills High bunch, wears a mermaid costume that limits her movement. Oof. Kelly wears a revealing costume which leads to some unwanted advances from some bozo at the soiree. Dylan and Brenda go as Bonnie and Clyde, and Steve, the show's lovable goober, dresses as Zorro. In the episode's subplot, Brandon wants to be a good boyfriend, so he takes Emily's niece and nephew trick-or-treating. He turns out to be a terrible boyfriend when he loses them.
Roseanne, "Trick Me Up, Trick Me Down" (1991)
Yes, that is an Almodovar reference in the title of this Halloween episode. The Roseanne writers just wanted to let everyone know that they were hipper than other sitcom scribes. Also, George Clooney guest stars as a moose at a costume party. Do you need to know anything else? This has "Halloween classic" written all over it.
Beavis and Butt-head are back on MTV starting this week (hooray!) but this classic episode from the series' original run is worth revisiting before Halloween. In this Devil's Night doozie, Beavis eats too much candy and turns into his alter ego, Bungholio, and goes in search of more candy. And, of course, t.p. for his bunghole.
Family Matters, "Stevil" (1996)
Steve Urkel, everybody's favorite suspender-sporting nerd, gets a ventriloquist dummy named Stevil that gets struck by lightning and comes to life. Basically, it's a straight-up sitcom rip-off of Child's Play. At some point, Steve Urkel says, "Did I do that?" Guaranteed.
Walker, Texas Ranger, "The Children of Halloween" (1998)
On this spooky episode, Walker finds a satanic symbol at a crime scene, and it leads him to believe that a group of children will be kidnapped and sacrificed on Halloween. Believe it or not, but his crazy hunch turns out to be true! Not to spoil the ending, but Walker stops the children from being sacrificed to Satan; this is Walker, Texas Ranger, after all, not a Tom Six gorefest. And in case you were wondering, the German title for this episode is "Der Satanskult."