By Meghan Lightle
People love to complain if their birthday is too close to Christmas but I think being a Halloween baby is almost worse. Unless you happen to love having a Halloween themed birthday party every year of your childhood. Thankfully, I love candy and dressing up like Wednesday Addams so it wasn’t so bad.
Most people have their own Halloween traditions, an Advent Calendar of Horrors as it were. My must-watches for October are Practical Magic, The Frighteners, and The Nightmare Before Christmas but mostly, it’s an excuse to dust off all my favourite Halloween episodes from sitcoms past.
Everyone has their canceled shows that they just can’t let go of, no matter how long it’s been. The televisual version of “The One That Got Away.” The one you lie awake at night picturing, wondering if they’re thinking about you too. I have it for a guy I almost dated in high school and I have it for Happy Endings.
We were together for three glorious seasons, from 2011-2013, which was a time of great personal growth for me. I had left Vancouver and was attempting for the first time to forge a new path for myself. Through this series, I found my voice and discovered facets of my character hitherto unknown. I fell deeply in love with the entire gang (even Dave!) and losing them was one of the most trying times of my life. But, we’ll always have season 2 episode 5 – “Spooky Endings.”
The idea of a Halloween party in a warehouse that has a buffet sounds too good to be true already, but there’s also a drag show. Everyone’s costumes are very on point for who they are as people. Dave, trying to show off how single he is accidently dresses up like Elton John. Jane, Bacon to Brad’s Egg and Brad, not wanting to waste his Denver Omelette costume on the suburbs wears no costume. Max, scrambling at the last minute, agrees to be the baby to Penny’s new mom which puts the friends at a disadvantage when they both meet guys they wanna hook up with. Max bonding with ZZ Top Gun over food is the meet cute I’ve always dreamed of and to this day I routinely refer to the Weird Gay Turkey Party.
Halloween as a subject can be a lot of fun but Community took it one step further and treated holidays as a genre. The season four haunted house episode was pretty good, as was the scary stories episode in season three, but my favourite, and what I consider to be the most fully realized, was the Zombie Movie episode.
Featuring a soundtrack of ABBA’s Greatest Hits and the Dean’s personal memos, the season two episode “Epidemiology” starts with the school’s Halloween party and everyone consuming weird taco meat from an Army surplus store. The costume gags are spot-on with the gang dressing up in ways that explain who they are and what they hope to get out of the evening. Jeff once again being “accidentally handsome” by wearing a $6000 suit, carrying a soccer ball, and explaining “David Beckham” like that’s a totally normal costume. Abed’s best costume was in season one when he was a spot-on Christian Bale-as-Batman but the buddy costume he fashions with Troy is fun and allows us to explore their dynamic. As best friends, they are an odd-couple and Troy worries about associating too much with Abed and coming across as a nerd. Mid-way through the party, he sheds his Exo-suit and dons a toilet set cover labeled simply “Dracula” leaving Abed as just a guy in a bike helmet. Abed isn’t hurt of course, he just wants Troy to be happy and not worry about what other people think. Britta doubles down on her cute squirrel costume from season one and this year, she’s a T-rex who needs help to eat and drink. The best, of course, is the Dean’s Lady Gaga costume which just starts to hint at who he’ll become in future episodes.
After half the school is turned, the tropes set in. Rick, AKA Chiquita MD, announces the symptoms as he himself is suffering from them and of course Britta thought she was too special to succumb to the virus. Luckily quick thinking Annie comes up with a plan to save everyone right before she is attacked which Troy successfully pulls off. The Army arrives and neurolizes everyone so they forget the whole night.
When it comes to Halloween, no show is doing what Brooklyn Nine-Nine has done: treating the holiday as a backdrop to its characters fighting over who is the most amazing Detective/Genius.
Gina is of course the best character so the best Halloween Heist is the one she wins, in season four. It also gives us the Boyle look-alike “Bill’ who shifts seamlessly into doubling as Gina by putting on a wig and a hoodie that says “GINA KNOWS BEST”. It also gives us the adage “Heists are Dumb” and a bewildered Terry being accosted by the squad. As much as I love grumpy Terry not being involved in the Heist, I do wonder what he would do to win.
The first Halloween Heist was so pure and fun I have to give it half marks for inspiring all that followed. Seeing the squad separate into teams and scheme to bring each other down is the best part which they really didn’t start until the third one so by the fourth it’s a well-oiled machine. I personally didn’t care for the one when Amy and Jake get engaged because I still don’t get their relationship (they have no chemistry! It’s weird!) and watching Holt beat Jake in season two is just kind of sad. When Gina wins, she proves that they’ve been underestimating her all along and it’s a triumph for everyone who feels overlooked because of their education or perceived skills.
This is merely a sample of the great Halloween sitcom episodes available. I didn’t even dive into Parks and Recreation or The Office which also did some fun holiday stuff. Halloween is about friendship, candy, and being scared out of your wits, but it’s okay to laugh too.
What are you watching this month?
You can read more of my baby’s words here.