For anybody that has been reading this w/ even semi-regularity the last couple of years, or who happens to know me at all on a day-to-day basis, can attest, I am an unabashed lover of all things Halloween. The way some folks get at Christmas time, or on their birthdays, or at the birth of a new child? Yeah, that’s me every fall.
Going back through the archives, this fact can be traced through postings detailing my best costume work of all time, some of the favorites I have seen others come up w/, and even a rank order for holidays in general crowning All Hallow’s Eve as the champ. For my money, one simply can’t beat the combination of sweatshirt weather, foliage, pumpkins, football, and all the candy a person could possibly hold.
To paraphrase Field of Dreams, “Is this heaven?” “No, it’s the Midwest in October.”
Living in Hawaii, sadly, my exposure to this most sacred annual rite becomes a bit limited each year. Much like w/ Christmas, the islands do try their darnedest, but there’s only so much that can be done w/ palm trees and 80 degree days. To combat this I rely on two things each year to get me through, which seems to provide some modicum of the things I miss the most.
First, and most obviously, I go home. Fall is one of the few times each year that flights from Oahu aren’t oppressively expensive, so I make a point to head out and spend Halloween w/ my niece. It’s become quite a tradition for us that I hope continues well into the future.
Second, I take full advantage of the free on-demand programming my apartment building provides to devour every Halloween themed episode in sight. For the most part, I don’t spend much time watching anything that isn’t college football, but for this one two week stretch a year, all bets are off.
As some of you may remember, last year I went so far as to set aside the better part of a month, even rewatching classic favorites such as Community, Parks and Rec, etc. and putting them all into rank order. (For those that don’t, feel free to check it out HERE) This year, the combination of my travel schedule and a work conference meant I was gone for the entire back half of the month, missing much of the lead up. Instead, this go round I am sticking exclusively to the brand new shows, all of them coming from the big four networks and available to me during the first week of November.
(This also eliminates lazy networks shows such as Modern Family, who make a new episode every other year and hope we won’t notice when they run it in consecutive years. Oh…we most certainly notice.)
And with that, and bearing in mind that all opinions are mine and mine alone, we begin…
Honorable Mentions (no particular order)
Criminal Minds ~ Big fan of this show, even long before I had any reason to be. (Did anybody ever foresee more than a decade of topnotch work coming from this brand?!) Am a huge fan of all things AJ Cook, and the writing here has been surprisingly strong for a basic procedural w/ more than 200 episodes under its belt.
That said, if you advertise a Halloween episode and then don’t even give it a passing mention, you’re getting dinged. Sorry…them’s the rules.
Bob’s Burgers ~ I have friends that swear by this show, and even know a guy that now writes for them, so I am more than willing to give them the benefit of some future viewings. This particular episode though, under the very narrow constructs defined here, just wasn’t that impressive. (Points for some excellent voice casting choices though…)
Family Guy ~ I dunno why, but I’ve just never gone all-in on Family Guy. As w/ most everybody at this point, I’ve seen several episodes, given that the show was here, and then gone, and now back again for what seems like a decade and a half. Some of their cutaway jokes are good, but…
This one involved Peter and his friends as the predominant story line, a construct that never seems to make for excellent viewing. Stewie and Brian, long since the best parts of the show, we’re reduced to a subplot, which is what landed the show here.
The Simpsons ~ I know it seems that I’m picking on animated shows, which isn’t the case. This one actually pains me, as The Simpsons and their Treehouse of Horrors episodes have long been a Halloween staple, but this one just kind of felt like they had run out of steam.
Come on guys…I know you can make it to thirty years. Just keep plugging away…
The Top Ten
10.) Last Man Standing
Actually, this show should probably be ranked higher given that they were the only ones smart enough to combine college football and Halloween together. As per usual w/ this show though, they get knocked down just a bit for never being able to resist throwing in a little political commentary.
9.) The Goldbergs
As alluded to above, this one hit dangerously close to home, involving the nightmare of when a child becomes a bit older and by default too cool for Halloween. As my niece is just six I have to have at least, what, another five years before this is an issue, right? Maybe? Hopefully?
8.) Dr. Ken
Two enormous pluses in favor of this freshman offering from Dr. Ken. First, the fact that in just their fifth ever episode they went for it on Halloween. Second, seeing Ken Jeong dressed as Judge Ito in a mid-nineties flashback proposing to his wife.
Taken together I have but one word for this new show….RESPECT.
7.) Hawaii Five-O
I come and go on this one, largely because chasm between the Hawaii I live in and the Hawaii depicted on here are such vastly different places. I'm sure that can be said for every show, but…
That said, they usually do a pretty decent job of acknowledging Halloween and Kalikimaka both (just like in real life, Thanksgiving gets overlooked), and this year was no exception.
(As I was/am a big Catherine fan, slight ding for bringing in Lynn, but still…)
I’m kind of enjoying the whole live studio audience thing Undateable is bringing back this year. Not only does it remind us all of years gone by, the cast seems to really be enjoying it, even playing around w/ the fourth wall some.
Enormous bonus points for the live musical guests, and while I would have never called myself a Meghan Trainor fan, she did a great job here, even popping in for a cameo. Surprisingly good job from a show that I fear is on borrowed time.
5.) The Middle
Alright, so maybe this one gets an unearned bump due to nostalgia points, but I have long been a fan of this show for both their insistence on clinging to the holidays each year and their spot-on portrayal of growing up in small town Midwest.
Using Brick as the intro narrator a la The Twilight Zone was a stroke of genius, the perfect kind of thing for his character to do.
4.) Fresh Off The Boat
I admit to not watching a single episode of this last year, but after the urging of my entire accounting department at work (all Chinese, all insistent that this tongue-in-cheek look at things is actually quite well done) I decided to give it a shot for round two. While the End of the Road episode is still the best, this was pretty good….and the father’s whole hearted embracing of Halloween kind of reminds me of a certain someone…
Are you seeing a trend here? Seven of the top ten call ABC home, proving that network understands holidays better than any other. (That number would be eight had they not foolishly canned Perfect Endings, but that’s another talk for another time)
This year the crew really upped their game, bringing in Michael Strahan as a lisping cousin w/ a bully concept and having the family pull off another fantastic group costume. Bow as FLOTUS? Amazingly well done…
2.) Brooklyn Nine-Nine
As predicted, this was the year of the leap for the Nine-Nine. They came out hot in season one, regressed a bit last year, but rebounded huge this time. Involving Santiago as a central figure in the annual Jake-Holt Halloween bet was just solid writing, as was the opening teaser, involving, among other things, Rosa as Little Bo Beep.
If not for the next entry on this list, you would be the proud owner of this year’s crown…
1.) It’s The Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown
Okay, so maaaaaybe this doesn’t count as a new episode, but it still gets primetime airings every year and no Halloween is complete without paying homage to the once and future king.
Extra bonus points for this being The Niece’s favorite Halloween viewing as well. Taken together, that’s gospel. We have a winner.