Instead of offering my usual round of apologies for the delay in posting again this time, I am skipping straight to the punch line and offering my two excuses for the tardiness. The first, and most obvious to anybody who reads this w/ any regularity, is that I have been pounding on a manuscript lately. When I am deep in a project I find it almost impossible to condone spending precious BIC (butt-in-chair…it’s a term of art, you can look it up) time writing posts as opposed to pages.

The second, hopefully (maybe? sorta?) better reason is that there was actually some leg work involved in getting ready for this one.

All that said…it is a well-known fact that far away my favorite holiday on the annual calendar is Halloween. I have held no bones about this, even once writing an entire post creating a holiday rank order. For me, there is nothing better than the combination of fall, pumpkins, costumes, and all the miniature candies a fella can eat.

It’s nirvana, w/ the occasional sugar rush.

Adding into the fun for me each year is the rash of Halloween related episodes of television that pop up.  By and large I am not a big television watcher (outside of college football…in which case all bets are off). I don’t avoid it, but between work and writing, and living in Hawaii, the hours were I feel comfortable (RE: not guilty) being in front of the television are precious few.

This year though, I decided to use said hours for the express purpose of ranking all Halloween-related episodes. It didn’t matter the show or the network, if the description onscreen mentioned Halloween, I watched it. For better or worse. (This is also part of the reason for the delay…youd be amazed how many of these things showed up this go-round! If not for the wonder that is on-demand programming, I never would have made it)

Before we get started here, the ground rules are pretty simple. It wouldn’t be fair to pit all episodes on a level playing field, tossing out perennial Halloween favorites (like Parks and Rec…they always come to play) against a show like A to Z (which used one of its four total episodes ever to offer some Halloween fare…more on this later).

For that purpose I have created four distinct categories: The Newbies, Ghosts of Halloween Past, Modern Day Heroes and a final category dedicated to The Once and Future King (youll understand when we get there).

Without adieu, and while remembering these are all my opinions and mine alone, we begin…

THE NEWBIES

1.)    NCIS: New Orleans

Anybody that has a pulse and a working television has at this point seen at least one episode of one of the three NCIS programs now on television. (For my money, NCIS: Los Angeles is the best) This is the newest addition to the canon, tossing together a team that seems like a homeless man’s version of the original and features some terrible accents. (Nothing drives a southerner, even a transplanted one like me, crazy like a poor accent)

So why the win? New Orleans is such a vibrant place, it pretty much lends itself to Halloween festivities. Against that backdrop, the rest of the show just had to make sure not to screw up, which it pretty much did.

(Enormous bonus points for Agent Brody successfully pulling off a Freudian Slip costume at the end)

2.)    Black’ish

I generally am against anything that celebrates race, gender, sexuality, etc. solely for the purpose of calling attention to that aspect, but this is a show that has already outgrown its title and is fast becoming a very solid weekly episodic. Headed by Anthony Anderson, who was made for television work (was I the only one sad when Fox yanked K-Ville a few years ago?), the show uses a strong supporting cast to show a new family drama.

This episode preyed on the fears of every parent, that being the year their child suddenly becomes too cool for Halloween. It was well done and entertaining, holding my attention for the full 30 even w/o the strictures of this exercise.

3.)    Marry Me

Oh, poor Casey Wilson. Put out to pasture when the amazing Happy Endings was so sacrilegiously slaughtered (wait…am I mixing metaphors again?), she made her way to this show, which I’ve read is already circling the drain.

Not to sound harsh, but it showed. This was definitely a program still trying to find itself, using Halloween more as a crutch than a vehicle. Solid effort on the zombie I love Lucy costumes, but after that it got a little stale.

4.)    Stalker

The costumes, and the use of a Halloween party to ratchet tension, give bonus points to a show that is still a long way from figuring out what it’s trying to do. Maggie Q is quite exceptional as the protagonist of the show, but Dermot Mulroney is clearly just playing out some contractual obligation and can’t decide what his role is or if he wants to be there.

 

5.)    Cristela

After 30 minutes of watching this, all I can say with any degree of certainty is…at least Gabriel Iglesias was in it. After that, I’m not entirely sure what was happening, beyond an extreme over-reliance on a John Oates costume for laughs…

 

6.)    A to Z

Sadly, this show has already been taken out behind the woodshed, being yanked from the air after just a month of episodes. If this showing was any indicator I can’t say I’m terribly surprised, after the entire thing was basically the two leads sitting and watching their typecast best friends bicker for half an hour.

(While we’re on this topic of ‘best friends in shows’…is there a contractual obligation somewhere in TV-land right now that every new offering must have a schlubby, bearded, early-to-mid 30’s male in a state of arrested development on the roster? Am I the only one noticing this?)

GHOSTS OF HALLOWEEN PAST (episodes from previous years that were aired again)

1.)    Community (multiple)

This one narrowly edges out both the second and third place finishers for two reasons…1) an undying devotion to Halloween every year, and 2) a willingness to be completely over the top in portraying it.

If you ever come across the Epidemiology episode, even if it’s April, stop what you’re doing and watch it. You won’t be sorry.

2.)    Parks and Recreation (multiple)

This was a close race, though Parks and Rec’s waning ability to jump in with both feet every year ultimately kept it from taking the gold. The Greg Pikitis episode from the first season was clearly their best, starting a trend of slight but noticeable downward output.

Gotta do better than that to take home the Halloween crown.

3.)    Brooklyn Nine-Nine

I may be a bit premature in handing this one out, but the first season’s episode was spectacular and the second’s displayed they intend to go after the elusive white whale each fall moving forward.

4.)    The Simpsons (multiple)

I have never been a huge Simpsons fan, but now that FXX has started showing every episode ever made around the clock, it bears to point out how long this show has been churning out quality work.

No Halloween season is complete w/o at least one Treehouse of Horrors episode, and this year getting to see almost all of them in order was a welcomed treat.

5.) The Big Bang Theory (multiple)

As most anybody can attest, this is a show that needs no help in gaining viewership. No small part of that has been their dedication to the annual holiday schedule, even if their best Halloween effort was in Season 1. Sheldon trying to explain the Doppler effect to drunken co-eds was gold…

6.) Modern Family

Nobody, and I mean nobody, comes to play on Halloween like Claire Dunphy. Her season 3 meltdown about “Halloween being a crazy-@$ holiday for a grown woman to care so much about” almost had me cheering. The follow-up the next year when she was shunned by the community for being too over-the-top was equally impressive.

7.) The New Girl (multiple)

This is where the pack tends to get a little weaker. The New Girl earns this spot by virtue more of quantity than quality, though the season 2 episode where Schmidt started as Abe Lincoln and ended as Matthew McConnaughey from Magic Mike was pretty good.

8.) Happy Endings (multiple)

In all fairness, this should have been ranked higher. It’s just too sad to do so though and dredge up the that this bastion of comedic gold was killed off far too early by a system that would now kill to turn the kind of ratings they earned every week. How is Community circling a 6th season and these guys…nevermind.

9.) The Middle (multiple)

Again, a vote more for breadth of work than anything standout. A bump for even going as far as to name each year’s episode Halloween I – VI (and counting), but still…

10.) Home Improvement

Our first Tim Allen sighting here, called up for a show that, at the time, was as close to some people got to appointment viewing (for shows not named Friends anyway).

11.) Mike and Molly

On the whole, this is a great show  that has been hampered only by Melissa McCarthy’s (deserved) burgeoning success…they just didn’t bring it on Halloween (though they did make a pretty good Mr. and Mrs. Frankenstein)

12.) That 70’s Show

I’m sure they did multiple related episodes over the years, though the only I saw involved an abandoned burned out school and some long-forgotten permanent records. Okay, though it didn’t play much into Halloween.

13.) Last Man Standing

More Tim Allen…this time around basically using a national platform to peddle his own political agenda. As I make it a point not to discuss politics in this space (I do way too much of it in my day job to even want to), I will not be touching this one…

14.) Reba

Can anybody say cheese?

15.) The Goldbergs

I have now seen exactly two episodes of this show. I’ll let you guess which ones they were and why I haven’t looked at any others…

MODERN DAY HEROES (New this year…)

1.) About A Boy

On a suggestion from my folks, I’ve actually quasi-come around on this show, which is a shame, as I don’t foresee it ever seeing season 3. That being said, the 3B party here (Booze, Babes, & Bro’s) was a very good entry into the Halloween canon.

2.) Brooklyn Nine-Nine

As mentioned above, this show is already showing a strong affinity for going after the holiday episodes each year. This one wasn’t as strong as the original, but it gets strong, strong props for putting Rosa in a leather cat costume as well. Nice to see her doing something besides being an overly stoic sidekick.

3.) Criminal Minds

This is one that probably benefits from own existing liking for the show (and my unabashed fondness for one AJ Cook), but this was a surprisingly strong Halloween showing for the procedural that has hung on for a decade plus.

4.) Modern Family

Seeing poor Claire neutered this year in favor of her quirky husband’s Awesomeland style was just wrong on every level. (The intro of the competitive new neighbors was a nice touch though)

5.) The Simpsons

I give them points for always coming up with something new and trying to tie it to current events, but I fear the annual rite may be losing a bit of steam.

6.) The Middle

Leaning on TOAFK below for a bump may be cheating, but in the cutthroat world of Halloween episodes, sometimes that’s what it takes.

7.) The Goldbergs/Last Man Standing/Melissa & Joey

 I apologize for putting these last three in a tie, but to be honest, had they not been Halloween related I can honestly say I would not have watched past the opening credits. Maybe not bad shows, but definitely uninspired episodes…

 

THE ONCE AND FUTURE KING

It’s The Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown

Come on…like there was any doubt on this one. We could be doing this same posting a decade from now, and I feel confident the crown would still reside in the most sincere pumpkin patch in all the land…

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