The 90s was the decade of great T.V. shows. Network studios were churning out some of the most creative programming ever; the drama was engrossing, the comedy was funny and the choices were limitless. In a world of reality television and series remakes syndication is a godsend. The upcoming holiday season brings with it a fresh dose of inspiration as shows pull out all the stops for their famous “holiday themed” episodes. Kicking off with Halloween this October, things are about to get a little spooky. I now present you with my definitive Halloween countdown, featuring the coolest episodes from some sitcoms that reigned supreme in the 90’s.
#5. Roseanne, “Trick Me Up, Trick Me Down” Season 4; Episode 6, 1991
The Connors keep the Halloween tradition going strong with their third Halloween special. Roseanne spends her favorite night in a state of paranoia, convinced that neighbor Kathy Bowman wants revenge for nearly being scared to death by her and Dan. Once again they take the grand prize at the annual Halloween party with a freakish ventriloquist act while Jackie fumbles through the night without a date.
Most Memorable Scene: The opening of the show is killer, literally. Dan and Roseanne pull off a Halloween prank that is as disturbing as it is amusing due to Roseanne’s nonchalant execution, no pun intended.
#4. The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, “Someday Your Prince Will Be In Effect” Season 1; Episodes 8&9, 1990
This episode was orginally aired as a one hour special but was later divided into two parts. Low on the fright but heavy on the laughs, it’s a classic episode from one of the funniest shows to grace the airwaves. The show begins with the Banks clan headed to the mall to get costumes for Hillary’s Halloween bash. Will and Carlton see this occasion as the perfect opportunity to compete with one another, and make a bet to see who will land a date at the mall. It turns out to be a more than eventful day as Vivian unleashes her inner diva in a song recording booth, Hillary and Ashley are accused of shoplifting by security, and Will and Carlton run, cartwheel, and jump their way to one special lady. The episode is full of hilarious flashbacks highlighting key moments from Will’s chaotic assimilation into high society. Will looses the bet, but a Cinderella-esque beauty shows up at the party just in the nick of time.
Most Memorable Scene: When some late trick-or-treater’s come by the house Will treats them to a terrifying tale called “The Bel-Air Beast”.
#3. Family Matters, “Dark and Stormy Night” Season 6; Episode 6, 1994
The Winslow family had plans to go out and enjoy a night of partying and trick or treating, but a thunderstorm and black out keeps them homebound. To pass the time Carl suggests they play ‘pass the ghost story’ and what results is a fresh and funny spin on medieval vampire lore. Carl and Harriet are transformed into Count and Countess Von Winslow, the blood-sucking undead. Urkel joins the story as Sir Steven, a nobleman who’s carriage breaks down and is taken in for the night by the Von Winslows. The rest of the family gets in on the action as well with Grandma, Eddie, and Aunt Rachel as vampires and Laura as a helpless damsel in distress. Eddie’s best bud Waldo even makes an appearance as Valdo the big-foot butler. It’s a fantastical and comedic joyride with one of the crown jewels of ABC’s TGIF line-up. The characters we grew to know and love are entertainingly and seamlessly blended with the characters imagined for the story, a testament to a great acting by a great ensemble cast.
Most Memorable Scene: Sir Steven showcases his moves in true Urkel fashion as he and Count Von Winslow ready themselves for a climactic swordfight to the death.
#2. The Simpsons, “Treehouse of Horror V” Season 6; Episode 6, 1994
The Simpsons blended sophisticated themes and animation, creating a cartoon series that captivated adults and children alike. Their famed ‘Treehouse of Horror’ series is one of the most satisfyingly chilling Halloween specials on television. In the fifth installment, viewers are treated to three tales of terror. The first is an excellent re-imagining of Stephen King’s ‘The Shining’ aptly titled ‘The Shinning’, in which no T.V. and no beer makes Homer go crazy. We are then taken from prehistoric times to the present and back again in the Ray Bradbury influenced ‘Time and Punishment’, as Homer tries to correct the mistakes he makes which change the course of history. On his first trip Homer discovers that killing a mosquito has created a future where Ned Flander’s is the undisputed ruler of the world. Horrific indeed. The last tale ‘Nightmare Cafeteria’ is my personal favorite. Principle Skinner develops a cost effective way to reduce over crowding while enhancing the options for school lunch. Tasty. The episode ends with a visually disturbing choreography routine, that shows why this series is the king of boundary pushing humor.
Most Memorable Scene: A mob of hungry faculty members chase Lisa, Bart and Millhouse toward a giant blender. Lunch lady Doris is genuinely menacing with her zombie like eyes, bloodspattered smock ,and electric egg beater.
#1. Martin, “The Night He Came Home” Season 1; Episode 10, 1992
The number one spot goes to this brilliant and hilarious episode of comedic genius Martin Lawrence’s prime time hit. When I was a kid this was my favorite episode of the show, and I still get a kick out of it today. The episode opens with Martin chastising Gina, Tommy and Cole for getting frightened while watching the horror classic ‘Nosferatu’. After scaring Gina with a Halloween prank, Martin asserts that men don’t scare as easily as women, he even suggests that men just don’t get scared. Things take an eerie turn when Tommy tells Martin about Old Man Ackerman, a previous tenant of Martin’s apartment who was murdered there. Halloween night, Martin and the crew gather for a round of ghost stories and are surprised by a knock on the door. Mysteriously, no one is there. Pam, convinced that it’s the spirit of Old Man Ackerman, suggests a seance. What happens next is something straight out of ‘Poltergeist’, complete with demonic possession, flying objects, and ghouls in the closet. It turns out to be one of the most cleverly executed Halloween pranks in television history and Martin’s emotional superiority theory is proven false. The perfect blend of creepy moments and gut-busting comedy, this is Halloween themed T.V. at it’s finest.
Most Memorable Scene: A ghostly visitor helps Martin and Gina set the mood after the party is over. A fittingly creepy ending.