10 TV shows with the best Halloween specials

Halloween specials are a long-standing trope of the classic TV sitcom. While lesser shows may simply resort to crummy costumes and stereotypical spooky plotlines, others go all out to ensure that their Halloween specials are some of the most creative and memorable episodes of the entire show’s run. Of all the TV shows to ever air, here are the ten that had the best Halloween specials.

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10 ‘How I Met Your Mother’

How I Met Your Mother has only had one full-fledged Halloween special, but it was a doozy. Titled Slutty Pumpkin, the special aired during the show’s first season and brilliantly lampoons the mother of all Halloween specials – It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown. Instead of staying up to validate the existence of the Great Pumpkin, however, Ted sits atop his roof annually hoping to get another glimpse of the Slutty Pumpkin – a girl he met in that location years earlier. Add in Barney’s revolving door of costumes and a bunch of great one-liners, and this is easily one of the best Halloween specials in recent years.

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9 ‘Scooby Doo’

Pretty much every episode of Scooby Doo could easily air on Halloween. However, the show has done a number of Halloween-specific episodes over the year. Of them all, the classic one we all grew up on is the Headless Horseman of Halloween (first aired in 1976). The episode starts out innocently enough with the gang heading out for a good time at a normal Halloween party. However, the headless horseman shows up to ruin the festivities…with traditional Scooby Doo hi-jinks to ensue. The episode is also one of the first appearances of Scooby-Dum – Scooby Doo’s dumber, inbred cousin.

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8 ‘Saved by the Bell’

Among all the memorable Saved by the Bell episodes, the Mystery Weekend episode has always stood out in my mind. Part of this is likely because it takes place wholly outside of Bayside High – revolving instead around a theatre-type murder mystery at an old-timey mansion. In classic Clue form, hidden passageways, disappearing guests and a big “murder” reveal at the end all add up to a particularly campy whodunit.

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7 ‘The Office’

So far, The Office has graced its audience with three different Halloween specials (a fourth airs this week). The great thing about all of them is that the show’s writers use the holiday as a complement to more traditional storylines – a fact that helps make The Office Halloween specials some of the most realistic and relatable. For example, in the show’s first Halloween special (Halloween, 2005), the episode revolves around Michael struggling to fire someone and Jim and Pam’s still-budding romance. Add in classic costumes like Two-Headed Michael Scott and Three-Hole Punch Jim, and The Office is a great place to spend your October holiday.

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6 ‘The Adventures of Pete and Pete’

In its short run, The Adventures of Pete and Pete only managed to produce one Halloween special (dubbed Halloweenie). However, the episode serves as a classic example of the show’s quirky amazing-ness. Though the episode starts out with two wholly different storylines – Little Pete wants to break the trick-or-treating record for most houses visited and Big Pete fears being terrorized by the “Pumpkin Eters” (yes, Eters) teen gang – they eventually intersect to create a completely unique and satisfying conclusion.

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5 ‘Beavis and Butthead’

We have the epically titled Beavis and Butthead episode Butt-o-ween to thank for the introduction of Beavis’ Great Bungholio. After stealing candy from some kids who come their door, the two decide to go trick-or-treating themselves. After ingesting way too much candy, Beavis’ sugar rush transforms him into his oft-quoted alter ego.

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4 ‘South Park’

Every time South Park chooses to do a Halloween special, they succeed in typical hilarious fashion. Whether it’s a bottle of Worcester sauce causing a zombie invasion or a classic Scooby-Doo-inspired visit from the band Korn, the show’s Halloween episodes are easily some of its best. Of course, put Cartman in a Hitler costume and Stan in a Raggedy Andy costume, and you’ve got a whole lot of icing on the cake.

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3 ‘Home Improvement’

Home Improvement is a sitcom that doesn’t really stand up to the tests of time. However, during the 1990s is was a ratings juggernaut that committed to doing a full-fledged Halloween episode every single season. For this commitment to the holiday, we must take a moment to honor the Taylors and their annual attempt to outdo each other in terms of costumes and home decorations.

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2 ‘Roseanne’

Every year, the Connors went all out on Halloween to deliver a truly memorable holiday special. Despite their perennially empty pocket books, the family always managed to pool enough money together to dress up in epic costumes and deck their home out in true haunted house fashion. Much like The Office, the pranks and plots in the episodes didn’t seem contrived or out of character for the Connor family. Of course, seeing Dan chase after Roseanne with a revving chainsaw is always a good time.

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1 ‘The Simpsons’

When it comes to a number one for this list, there really is no show that comes close to The Simpsons. For over twenty years, The Simpsons’ Treehouse of Horror has become an institution of global television. While there are far too many classic moments to list here, a few that spring to mind include the Evil Krusty Doll, The Shinning, 3D Homer and Homer selling his soul to Devil Ned for a donut.

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(Originally published on October 30, 2011.)