Throwback Thursday—Retro TV: Halloween Shows

As hard as it is to believe, Halloween is almost here again. Halloween is my favorite holiday. Some might say it’s because I’m really a witch…and I’m not saying I’m not. Others might say that—based on my aversion to bright lights—it’s because I’m actually a vampire…and I’m not saying I’m not.

What I am saying is that Halloween is the best holiday in my world. Why? So many reasons. It’s the season of beautiful foliage, pumpkins, horror stories, costumes, trick or treating… And the fact that my birthday is just a couple of weeks before Halloween tells me that it was meant for me.


Another reason I love it is because we are free to enjoy ourselves as we please, with no family obligations (unless you have kids), and we can even be other people. Whoever we want to be, good or bad. What other time of year can you do that?

Anyway, this is Throwback Thursday, and so I’d like to share with you some of the best Halloween specials of the past.

Many shows throughout TV history have had regular Christmas specials, and some shows had the occasional Halloween-themed episode. Halloween has been a touchy subject among network TV honchos because many conservative viewers consider it evil, Satanic, and blasphemous. So, most Halloween episodes that were made were very light on the subject. Costume parties, yes. Crazy occult or mass murderer stuff, no.

But there were two shows that began celebrating Halloween each and every year in all its ghostly glory.   

Roseanne — If you were a Roseanne devotee, you know that she had a Halloween special every year. Halloween was Roseanne Barr’s (and Roseanne Conner’s) favorite holiday, and she reveled in doing it up. The crew and cast of the show went all out to make some of the best Halloween episode on TV.roseanne

My favorite, though, was the first one, the year they had a haunted house. They would open up their door and invite unsuspecting trick-or-treaters to enter the “Tunnel of Terror.” The visitors would be treated to various ghoulish displays by the Conner family. And then, in the kitchen, Becky would be stirring a smoky pot of something…and the something in the pot pulls her in. The best part of this episode, and what makes it my fave, is when Roseanne pulls a serving platter cover up from the kitchen table and exposes…her sister Jackie’s head! Laurie Metcalf’s delivery is the best and makes the whole show.roseanne-halloweenThe Simpsons — This long-running cartoon (now in its 29th season) continues to have a Halloween special every year. These episodes are collectively known as “Treehouse of Horror.” Each one is a trilogy of shorts that tell a different spooky story. From Homer doing Poe’s “The Raven” to spoofs of classic movies (such as The Fly and The Shining, and even It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown) to the characters becoming ghosts, witches, werewolves, and zombies, these episodes run the gamut of tales. (By the way, Bart Simpson is the raven in that Poe dramatization—and you can just imagine what that’s like.)simpsonscouch(By the way, as a side note—Simpsons aficionados will know this—The Simpsons began
 as serial cartoons on The Tracey Ullman Show in the 1980s. In between Ullman’s skits, we’d see snippets of the Simpsons in whatever storyline they were telling. Below is what they originally looked like. I miss The Tracey Ullman Show—it was beyond hilarious.)originals

great pumpkin

It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown — This is a Halloween classic that first debuted on CBS in 1966, and it has become a staple of Halloween viewing ever since. Linus is convinced that The Great Pumpkin, a benevolent being along the lines of Santa Claus, comes to good little boys and girls on Halloween night to deliver goodies. So he finds the “most sincere” pumpkin patch he can find and waits in it all night, while the other kids go out trick-or-treating (except for Sally, who he’s convinced to wait with him, her Sweet Babboo).

For many people, the Halloween season simply wouldn’t be complete without this half-hour special. For many of us, it takes us back to our childhood with its innocent, sweet storyline. Yet, within that sweetness, is still Charlie Brown’s marginalization among his peers, which makes it more “realistic” for viewers. Adults can get a laugh at the part where the characters are treat-or-treating and when they look in their bags to see what they got, Charlie Brown keeps saying, “I got a rock.” I’m not sure that kids today would get the humor in that, but it’s always been one of my favorite parts.i got a rockbewitched2

Bewitched — I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Bewitched, the 1960s-era sitcom starring Elizabeth Montgomery. This show had several Halloween episodes. Well, how can you have a show about a witch and not have Halloween episodes? This show managed to get past conservative America’s paranoia about witchcraft and the occult by its cuteness, and the fact that Samantha Stevens was willing to give up her witchcraft (most of the time) to please her husband, Darrin. (Well, fuck that. If I had been Samantha, I’d have used my powers to zipper his patriarchal mouth shut. But that’s just me. )bewitched

Other memorable Halloween episodes were offered by M*A*S*H* (which had a bit part played by a very young Andrew Dice Clay), Friends, Prince of Bel Aire, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Cheers, Frasier, Bewitched, Family Matters, Addams Family, Cosby Show, and Home Improvement.

You can catch all the Roseanne Halloween episodes on and The Simpsons “Treehouse of Horror” episodes on

By the way, if you like a good Halloween story, Dirt Road Books has 4—yes, four—stories FREE for download:

“Never After” by Jove Belle
“Devil’s Bargain” by Andi Marquette”
“Apple” by Gill McKnight
“Lizzie Borden Took an Axe” by R.G. Emanuelle

Get them HERE.

I hope everyone has a fun, safe Halloween, and that only good things haunt you this year.halloween-02




  1. I love Halloween, always have, for all the same reasons you do. That Roseanne first Halloween was so perfect – I was watching like the rest of America, I still remember the rush of adrenaline when she lifted the lid from the platter and Jackie roared – such good TV!

    I’m trying to download the short stories you mentioned, but for some reason when I hit the Purchase Now button I get a popup window saying my cart is empty and only a Continue Shopping button showing. I’ve tried a couple of times and don’t know what I’m doing wrong. I’m looking forward to reading them, though, if I get it to work.


  2. Hmm, I don’t know why you’re having this issue. You’re clicking the “Buy Now” button and then you get a “checkout” window, right? And then next to the little cart, it says “0”? It should say “1”. Are you putting in your email address? Try again and if you’re still having problems, let us know. We want you to have your Halloween stories!!


  3. Great post! I loved all of these shows too but the Roseanne Halloween episodes were my favorites. Firs of all, my mom? Totally Roseanne and she’ll tell you that. Second, love everything about Halloween and that haunted house episode is the best. I also loved the carved pumpkins at the end of each of her Halloween specials. They were doing the fancy carvings before anyone else.


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