Halloween Laughs: Andy Burns On Sitcom Spookiness

imageJust a little under two weeks from now another Halloween will be upon us. I don’t know about you, but this is really one of my favourite times of year. The dress up, the scariness, the appreciation for ghosts and goblins and things that go bump in the night – how you can you go wrong?

Growing up, I watched a lot of television and I always got a kick out of the sitcom episodes that featured a Halloween theme. For starters, situation comedies aren’t typically where you’d find anything particularly horrific so the spookiness was always a change of pace. Then there was the fact that the supernatural elements were always played for laughs, which meant fewer nightmares for me (key word there – fewer).

On that note, today I offer you a look back at some of my favourite spooky sitcom moments. There are lots of them, mind you, including episodes of Kate & Allie and Cheers, but the ones below are episodes that immediately sprang to mind. Some are Halloween themed, but a few get in just because I found them genuinely creepy when I first saw them. Let’s begin, shall we?


I don’t think any sitcom celebrated Halloween with more love and fun than Roseanne. Nearly every season of the series had a special theme episode and the entire cast always seemed to have a ball with them. None of them ever sent chills down your spine, but somehow they always captured the spirit of the season. I especially liked the Season 3 episode where Rosie dressed up as a lumberjack and got to experience life as a man. However, like the show itself, by the time we got around to Season 8 with the ghost of Jerry Garcia visiting, the shark had indeed jumped when it came to Roseanne and Halloween.


Now, this was not a Halloween episode at all, and there were far scarier episodes of Different Strokes throughout its run (just about every “very special episode” or the one where Sam and Arnold wound up being pseudo-ghostbusters, which was just scary bad). However, Hooray For Hollywood was my first experience with Psycho and Universal studios, a magical place my father would take me too not long after seeing this particular two-part episode. Check out the memorable scene in question, in a slightly different format from how you and I first watched it back in the early 80’s.


Did you know that The Facts of Life did multiple Halloween episodes? I had no idea. The only one that’s stuck with me was a great Twilight Zone parody that featured a Rod Serling-esque narrator and the entire post-Mrs. Garret cast getting bumped off, one by one. It’s creepy, kind of kooky and, oh yeah, it’s got George Clooney. And Tootie. Tootie. I just like typing…Tootie.


My final selection is once again not a Halloween episode per se, but one that features a fairly creepy scene in a house straight out of The Addams Family (minus Thing Or Lurch). I remember watching this episode of Webster and being absolutely enthralled by the Victorian House that Ma’am, George and Web were looking to move into after their apartment burned up. Hidden passages, ladders, dumbwaiters oh my! But the spooky doll scene below was genuinely eerie, as is the track suit that Emmanuelle Lewis is sporting.

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