While 2020 seems to have imparted enough horrors on us this year, we selected the top 10 Halloween sitcom specials if you're looking for more gags than gore...
Unsurprisingly, judging by its name, Epidemiology reads like a pandemic prophecy.
The annual Greendale Community College Halloween party is in full swing and the goers are feasting on the old military rations Dean Pelton bought at an army surplus store for the buffet. But soon a severe sickness starts to spread, leading the study group and Doctor Rich to wonder: is it just food poisoning, or something a lot spookier?
Meanwhile, the dress-up is another cause for drama, especially with another unwittingly ambiguous effort from Shirley, and Troy’s costume change leaving Abed without his other half.
When the infected turn bitey, the study group try to escape, but the Dean, under special orders from the U.S. Army Special Operations, locks the doors to enforce a quarantine* until they arrive.
Will the study group save the day? And will Troy (sorry, Sexy Dracula) "be the first black man to make it to the end"?
The One With the Halloween Party
A giant pink bunny, an antennae-wearing potato and Cat Woman walk into a party; classic shenanigans from the six New Yorker friends ensue.
Monica and Chandler decide to host a costume party for Halloween, and Ross spends most of the evening trying to convince the gang that his ‘Spud-nik’ costume isn’t in fact ‘doody’ (as Joey eloquently puts it).
With Chandler already feeling emasculated by his pink fluffy bunny suit, he is left arm-wrestling for his honour when Joey and Monica claim Ross would beat him in a fight.
Rachel is on Trick or Treater duty and, after giving the whole candy bowl to a young girl who compliments her, resorts to handing out cash and cheques to the remaining costume-wearing kids.
Over the show’s 236-episode run, this is the only Halloween special and has been cited by Lisa Kudrow as her favourite Friends episode.
Halloween, a night when “everyone’s drunk, wearing a mask and carrying a fake gun”, is a night less than ideal for the 99th Precinct of the NYPD.
Nonetheless, in celebration, the Department is dressed to impress in their holiday “‘stumes,” all bar Detective Amy Santiago (Melissa Fumero), the Halloween scrooge, who Detective Charles Boyle (Joe Lo Truglio) attempts to win over with his charm and treats while undercover on street patrol.
Having overheard Jake Peralta (Andy Samberg) proclaim his potential for criminal mastermind, Captain Holt (Andre Braugher) bets his Detective that he will not be able to rob his Medal of Valor by midnight.
The pair inaugurate the annual Precinct Halloween Heist to decide who is the Ultimate Detective/Genius, one of the two winning running gags initiated in the episode that last to this day. Along with ‘Titles of Amy’s Sex Tape.’*
*“Kind, Sober and Fully Dressed”; “I’m Sorry About Tonight!”; “It’s Not Your Fault, I Was Terrible”
After two celebrities pass away on Halloween, Tracy is spooked to learn of the ‘Rule of Threes’: where celebrities always die in groups of three.
Determined to see out the day in one piece, Tracy attempts to scare Golden Girl Betty White to death and is confronted by an axe-wielding Jimmy Fallon.
After being accused of New York intellectual snobbery, Jack and Liz journey to small-town middle America to recruit a new cast member that will appeal to the average Joe.
A dodgy sandwich from Fatty Fats Sandwich Ranch strikes Liz with a terrible bout of food poisoning. As she spends the day slumped over the toilet, Jack pats her with a metre-long broom – inventing the socially-distanced consolation before it was cool.
Jenna meanwhile is threatened by the incoming new cast-member and decides to suck up to the writers: “I’m not going to be pushed aside and forgotten, like that time at my sister’s funeral”.
Tree House of Horror V
In response to complaints from Congress on the violence in the series, showrunner David Mirkin set out to make The Simpsons’ goriest episode yet. The result, in his words, was “the most disturbing Halloween show ever.”
In a side-splitting spin on The Shining, The Shinning sees the Simpsons hired as caretakers for Mr Burns’ mansion, built on an ancient Indian burial ground and previously the setting of satanic rituals, witch burnings and five John Denver Christmas specials. No danger there then.
Deprived of his two favourite things - beer and television - Homer gets an urge to kill and is spurred on by a phantom Moe.
In Time and Punishment, Homer accidentally turns his toaster into a time machine which transports him to “a time when Dinosaurs weren’t just confined to zoos." There he’ll have to do his darndest not to change anything to avoid a butterfly effect.
In the final chapter, Nightmare Cafeteria, when Lunchlady Doris starts serving Grade F meat due to budget cuts, and the detention hall becomes vastly overcrowded, Principal Skinner discovers a convenient solution to both problems: eating children.
It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia
The Maureen Ponderosa Wedding Massacre
“Why do you get married on Friday 13th? It’s a monster day,” Charlie rightly asks as the gang arrives at Maureen Ponderosa’s wedding, in an episode heavily inspired by the Friday the 13th franchise.
Portents of doom abound as there are bats and creepy McPoyles everywhere, and Liam McPoyle is somehow the groom.
In the present, Frank, Dennis, Mac and Charlie have been found by the police bloodied and running for their lives in a forest nearby and brought to an interrogation room. Why, the detective asks, are there 15 wounded wedding guests in the other room?
As none of them were invited, the gang are prime suspects. Especially Dennis given the bride is his ex-wife. But Dennis insists he was only there to ensure the wedding went ahead to free him from the alimony, so who or what was responsible? Was it bat rabies, bath salts, or foul play?
Horror hero Guillermo Del Toro guest features as Pappy McPoyle.
A Nightmare on FaceTime
Randy comes home bearing gifts and great news: the Marshes are now rich! He thinks, having just bought a Blockbuster Video store for the outrageous bargain of $10,000. “Streaming movies,” he reasons, “is not for everyone.”
In another Shining parody, Randy drags the family out to the isolated store in pursuit of the American Dream, but all they get for their efforts is a waking nightmare. At least on the sales front.
The family suspects Jack Torrance-like insanity as they watch him spend the long, client-less days wandering around the Blockbuster aisles (a source of nods to Kubrick with the use of one-point perspectives). All work and no sales makes Randy a dull boy.
When he forces the family to work on Halloween night, Stan resorts to trick-or-treating via FaceTime on his iPad to ensure he completes the boys’ Avengers-themed dress-up as Captain America/“Captain FaceTime Skateboard Guy”. Fortunately too, as South Park is crying out for heroes to capture the Redbox Killers.
Eager to impress at his new swanky law firm, Mitch overhears two co-workers discussing their Halloween costumes and is determined to show that he’s game. Horror sets in when he arrives the following day in his Spider-Man costume and sees everyone else in their suit and ties.
Meanwhile, Jay and Manny decide to point out Gloria’s mispronunciations when she goes to collect her husband's ‘Gargoll’ costume. The Columbian matriarch reaches her last straw when a box of ‘baby cheeses’ she orders arrive, filled with miniature Baby Jesus’s. In response, Gloria adopts her ‘most proper’ English accent to get back at her gargoyle husband, resulting in a British Bruja identity crisis.
The costume prize of the episode goes to Hayley, who wrestles with her mother Claire over how ‘cute’ an outfit she can get away with: ‘I’m Mother Theresa… back when she was hot’.
Parks and Recreation
A tale of two surprises on opposite ends of the enjoyment spectrum.
Pawnee Town Hall hosts a scary movie night to celebrate Halloween with a screening of ‘Death Canoe 4: Murder on Blood Lake’, with a quality catchphrase coined by Donna Meagle: “Get your foot out of the water, dumbass! It's ‘Blood Lake’!”
When Leslie’s plans to move in with Ben are thrown off course, Ann attempts to cheer her up by giving Tom a scare when he returns from the bathroom. Instead they accidentally spook Jerry, giving him a flatulence fuelled heart attack.
With a huge wad of medical bills to pay off, the Parks and Rec gang organise an auction to raise funds to support Jerry through his fart attack..
Leslie returns to her new house and admits to the estate agent she has to give up her lease. Cue one of the best sitcom romantic moments ever: Ben Wyatt surprises her from D.C and gets down on one knee. The rest, as they say, is Parks and Rec history.
With Schmidt in a deep funk about his double break-up with both Cece and Elizabeth, his destructive mood threatens to ruin Jess’s Halloween party in the loft.
In an attempt to lift his spirits, Winston, Nick and Jess decide to catfish, or rather, batfish Schmidt with a letter from his childhood hero and ‘old friend’, Michael Keaton.
In a tradition passed on from Schmidt’s mother to Nick in college, letters and emails would be written from Batman star Keaton advising and supporting Schmidt through tough times.
When Jess realises the incredible influence of an email from Keaton, she abuses this power to convince Schmidt not to attend her party by stealing a trick-or-treater’s Batman costume and imitating the iconic actor.
Dreams are crushed when Schmidt learns that it is Nick, not Michael Keaton, who owns the email address Keatonpotatoes@aol.com, and he has been talking to his roommates all along.
With his full douchebag jar in tow, Schmidt decides to move out of the loft and strike out on his own… to the flat across the hall.