Halloween is a time to watch It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, scary movies, as well as non-scary movies for wimps. For people who enjoy comedy, have a limited amount of binge-watching time, and have seen every Simpsons Treehouse of Horror episode 17 times each, it’s also a time to visit or revisit great half-hour Halloween sitcom episodes.
Here’s a list of ten to add to your rotation this weekend, all of which are streaming or available for purchase on Netflix, Amazon, or Hulu, plus an added hour-long bonus for extra All Hallow’s Eve pleasure.
Cheers, “Fairy Tales Can Come True” (streaming on Netflix)
There are other Cheers Halloweens to potentially enjoy, including “Diane’s Nightmare,” “House of Horrors With Formal Dining and Used Brick,” and “Bar Wars V: The Final Judgment.” But I’m partial to this sweet-natured third episode of season four, in which Cliff, emboldened by his Ponce de Leon costume, romances a lady dressed as Tinkerbell, then gets nervous when it’s time for the masks to be removed.
30 Rock, “Stone Mountain” (streaming on Netflix)
Another third episode of a fourth season, this installment finds the TGS writers attempting to throw a Halloween party, Tracy freaking out about becoming the third “rule of threes” celebrity to die, and Liz and Jack heading to Kenneth’s home town of Stone Mountain, Georgia, in search of the next great American comedian. That third story line — in which Jack asserts that the “real,” non-elitist, wholesome America can only be found in small towns like Stone Mountain, while Liz insists that people are both good and terrible in every part of this great nation — actually makes this a relevant episode for this election season. “You’re supposed to be better, nicer,” shouts Jack, played by Alec Baldwin, currently playing Donald Trump on SNL, to a crowd of Stone Mountainers. “But you’re all terrible, like the people of New York!” Yeah, definitely relevant.
Speechless, “H-A-L-Halloween” (streaming on Hulu)
One of the best comedies of the fall season delivers a Halloween episode in which the DiMeo kids bail on the family tradition of building a costume around J.J.’s wheelchair so they can celebrate the holiday on their own. Which is too bad. I really like the photos that Maya (Minnie Driver) shows off of their previous Halloween costumes, especially the one where they recreated the movie Titanic with J.J. in the role of sinking ship.
Black-ish, “Jacked O'Lantern” (streaming on Hulu)
This season’s annual Halloween episode of Black-ish is already on Hulu. But with season-two episodes set to expire in a few days, this is a good time to revisit last year’s Halloween riff, in which the Johnson family dresses up as the First Family, from Barack (Dre) right on down to Bo (Miles).
The Office, “Halloween” (streaming on Netflix)
The Office really started to hit its stride in season two, as evidenced by this episode, directed by Paul Feig, in which Michael, dressed as a two-headed version of himself, hastily has to decide who to fire to meet an end-of-the-month deadline. As always, Michael proves that the most unbelievable costume he could wear on Halloween would be one that, like his coffee mug, identifies him as World’s Best Boss.
Roseanne, “BOO” (available to purchase on Amazon)
This season-two episode was, at the time, the rare Halloween sitcom moment that showed a family embracing the ghoulishness of the holiday. In the first of what would become a Roseanne tradition, Roseanne and Dan are determined to play tricks on each other, while also uniting the whole family into turning the house into something haunted, right down to the sight of Aunt Jackie’s (Laurie Metcalf) head on a platter.
Square Pegs, “Halloween XII” (available to purchase on Amazon)
This comedy aired for one measly season on CBS in 1982 and 1983, and was such an anomaly for its time — it was a show about teenagers in which they actively talked about pop culture and both Bill Murray and the members of Devo showed up! — that there was no way it could last. It did give us a single Halloween episode, though, in which our scheming-to-be-popular protagonists Lauren (Amy Linker) and Patty (Sarah Jessica Parker) go to a cool-girls Halloween slumber party and wind up (shocker) seeming totally uncool.
Louie,“Halloween/Ellie” (streaming on Hulu)
The first half of this season-two piece focuses on a night of trick-or-treating that turns sinister when weird, costumed adults start following Louie and his two daughters. It’s proof that Halloween can turn from pretend scary to real scary in the blink of an eye, even for the grown-ups. It’s also proof that the real heroes are always, always, little girls in tutus.
You’re the Worst, “Spooky Sunday Funday” (streaming on Hulu)
It’s Sunday Funday, but with costumes and a creepy-ass house and Jimmy trying desperately to cheer up Gretchen while dressed as Heathsted from some weird British show called Buckle Your Shoes!
Parks and Recreation, “Halloween Surprise” (streaming on Netflix)
This fifth-season episode includes Donna live tweeting a screening of Death Canoe 4: Murder at Blood Lake, Leslie receiving a life-changing proposal, and, most importantly, Jerry having a fart attack. I’m not sure what else you could want from a Halloween half-hour of comedy, but if you’re asking for more than this, your standards are way too high.
Bonus Halloween hour of comedy: Freaks and Geeks, “Tricks and Treats” (streaming on Netflix)
If you've got more than 25 to 30 minutes, this Freaks and Geeks episode is funny and ultimately poignant, as the worlds of Lindsay and Sam collide on trick-or-treat night in unsettling, sobering ways. It’s also the only place, as far as I know, where you can see Martin Starr dressed as Lindsay Wagner from The Bionic Woman.