This post originally ran in 2016 and has been updated to include even more October-worthy episode selections.
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 twenty to add to your rotation this weekend, all of which are streaming or available for purchase on Netflix, Amazon, or Hulu, just in time for your All Hallow’s Eve festivities.
30 Rock, “Stone Mountain”
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. Available on Hulu.
Better Things, “Scary Fun” (Season One, Episode Eight)
This episode of the Pamela Adlon comedy places heavy emphasis on the “trick” part of trick-or-treat. Sam (Adlon), her mother Phil (Celia Imrie) and her middle daughter Frankie (Hannah Alligood) engage in an extended effort to prank each other, while Sam also tries to place some boundaries on oldest daughter Max (Mikey Madison) and her burgeoning romance. The whole thing culminates in a night of Halloween bonding when Sam and her three girls huddle together to watch a scary movie after Max gets dumped. Throughout, “Scary Fun” does what this FX series consistently does so well: use everyday moments to illustrate how mothers and daughters press each other’s buttons while holding tight to each other’s hearts. Available on Hulu.
Black-ish, “Jacked O’Lantern”
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). Available on Hulu.
Bob’s Burgers, “The Hauntening” (Season Six, Episode Three)
Our Angelica Jade Bastién declared this the best Halloween episode of Bob’s Burgers — and the second best holiday episode of the series — and it is indeed a goodie. The premise: Louise (Kristen Schaal) is completely jaded about Halloween and impossible to scare, but parents Bob (H. Jon Benjamin) and Linda (John Roberts) swear they’re really going to make it happen this year by creating a new haunted house that’s definitely terrifying … except it isn’t, not to Louise. But when the Belchers attempt to leave and have trouble doing so, Louise starts getting legitimately freaked. In addition to some smartly constructed surprises, this episode also features the return of the beloved Bob’s Burgers boy band Boyz4Now. Available on Hulu.
BoJack Horseman, “Mr. Peanut Butter’s Boos” (Season Five, Episode Eight)
This is another of BoJack Horseman’s great flashback episodes. In this one, we follow the events at four of the annual Halloween parties that Mr. Peanut Butter has insisted on throwing at BoJack’s house every year, always against BoJack’s will. The years covered — 1993, 2004, 2009, and 2018 — enable us to revisit Mr. Peanut Butter’s various romantic partnerships, as well as some period-specific dialogue and costumes. (“Can’t I just wear a dumb hat and say I’m Blossom?” Mr. Peanut Butter’s first wife, Katrina, asks in 1993, echoing a question many of us have asked ourselves every Halloween since then.) You also have to hand it to the writers of BoJack Horseman for knowing that someone would think it was a good idea to show up at a 2018 Halloween party as a sexy handmaid from The Handmaid’s Tale, a costume that actually, but thankfully briefly, became a real thing this season. Corporate America, baby: It never lets you down! Available on Netflix.
Brooklyn Nine-Nine, “Halloveen” (Season Five, Episode Four)
In keeping with Brooklyn Nine Nine tradition, the most recent Halloween episode focuses on the annual heist at the precinct, which pits cop against cop each other in an attempt to obtain the championship belt. (Captain Holt (Andre Braugher) calls it a cummerbund, because he fancy.) This is a very special episode of Brooklyn Nine Nine because the heist segues into a very sweet marriage proposal. It’s also very special because it gives us all the opportunity to watch Andre Braugher look at an adorable corgi and say, “You’re not Cheddar. You’re just some common bitch.” Available on Hulu.
Cheers, “Fairy Tales Can Come True”
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. Available on Netflix.
Community, “Epidemiology” (Season Two, Episode Six)
This is the episode for those who ever wished Community had just a tiny dash of Walking Dead in its DNA … and also a little Mamma Mia. At a Greendale Halloween party, some mysterious taco meat causes a virus to spread that turns everyone into flesh-eating zombies. The whole terrifying chomp fest unfolds to the iTunes mix queued up by Dean Pelton (Jim Rash), which happens to consist entirely of some of his personal voice memos and Abba’s greatest hits. Based on this episode, one can only conclude that every zombie movie or TV show would be better with more Abba. Available on Hulu.
Curb Your Enthusiasm, “Trick or Treat” (Season Two, Episode Three)
When two uncostumed teenage girls come to Larry David’s door on Halloween night, do you think he A) pleasantly gives them some fun size candy bars, or B) refuses to give them candy because dammit, they’re too old to be trick-or-treating? This is Curb Your Enthusiasm, so obviously the correct answer is option B, a decision that causes Larry even more problems and spurs him to go on a rant about how trick-or-treating has an age cut-off: “What are you gonna, be 40? Trick-or-treating at 40? I’m 40 years old, I want free candy!” Available on HBO Go.
Freaks and Geeks, “Tricks and Treats”
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. Available for purchase on Amazon.
Happy Endings, “Spooky Endings” (Season Two, Episode Six)
Couples costumes can be challenging, and this episode of ABC’s short-lived cult fave illustrates why. Jane (Eliza Coupe) dresses as a strip of bacon, but her husband Brad (Damon Williams Jr.) refuses to go as an egg when they house sit in the suburbs on Halloween night. The broken-up Alex (Elisha Cuthbert) and Dave (Zachary Knighton) finally get to dress up independently, but at a Halloween party, people still get the wrong idea about their ensembles. And then there’s the real highlight of this episode: Casey Wilson’s Penny and Adam Pally’s Max as a mom and infant in a Baby Bjorn, a costume that keeps them so literally joined at the hip that they can’t flirt with other partygoers. This is Halloween-based physical comedy that gives Charlie Brown running up and kicking a football in It’s the Great Pumpkin a run for its money. Available on Hulu.
Living Single, “Trick or Trust” (Season Two, Episode Eight)
There are so many ‘90s delights in this 1994 Halloween episode of the Fox sitcom. First there’s baby-faced Black Lightning, a.k.a. Cress Williams, as Scooter, the boyfriend of Khadijah (Queen Latifah); the fact that Khadijah gets mad at Scooter when she reads a fax — a fax! — that appears to be a love note; the related fact that Latifah wears a Little Bo Peep Halloween costume mainly so Kim Fields’ Regine can show her the fax and say, “Bo, you better peep this”; and a joke about a Tito Jackson “Unplugged” CD. This one really has it all. Available on Hulu.
New Girl, “Keaton” (Season Three, Episode Six)
When Jess (Zooey Deschanel) wants to dissuade a mopey Schmidt (Max Greenfield) from attending her Halloween party, she, Nick (Jake Johnson) and Winston (Lamorne Morris) send him fake messages from Michael Keaton, the actor, who Schmidt wrongly believes has been sending him supportive letters and emails for most of his life. That deliciously random premise yields some quality jokes about Keaton’s filmography — finally, a sitcom with the guts to make a Multiplicity joke! — as well as one of my favorite costumes ever featured on a TV series: Jess’s genius Joey Ramona Quimby. Available on Netflix.
The Office, “Halloween”
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. Available on Netflix.
Parks and Recreation, “Halloween Surprise”
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. Available on Netflix.
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. Available on Amazon Prime.
Scrubs, “My Big Brother” (Season Two, Episode Six)
The A-story in this half-hour of Scrubs is about the relationship between J.D. (Zach Braff) and his visiting brother Dan (guest star Tom Cavanaugh), a smart aleck bartender who still lives at home and causes J.D. some embarrassment. But those dynamics play out against a Halloween backdrop, which means that Dr. Cox (John C. McGinley) is complaining about the quality of the candy in the hospital, the janitor (Neil Flynn) is determined to scare the heck out of J.D., and someone in a gorilla costume is roaming the halls of Sacred Heart. Available 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. Available on Hulu.
Square Pegs, “Halloween XII”
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. Available for purchase on iTunes.
You’re the Worst, “Spooky Sunday Funday”
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! Available on Hulu.