Hate Scary Movies? Watch These Halloween Shows Instead

Elizabeth Ann Entenman
Photo credit: HBO
Photo credit: HBO

From Cosmopolitan

When the calendar turns to October 1st, it’s officially Halloween season. It’s a time to carve pumpkins, stock up on Halloween candy (even if it’s just for you—we’re not judging), and watch horror movies. But what if scary movies aren’t your thing? Fear not: There are plenty of Halloween episodes on TV to get you in the spooky spirit. Instead of monsters, gore, and jump scares, there’s nothing but laughs and silly costumes.

Of course there are Halloween-themed episodes of American Horror Story and Scream Queens, but don’t forget that many non-spooky shows have Halloween episodes, too, from Friends to Parks and Rec. So, grab the fun-size candy bars and settle in for a Halloween marathon. These Halloween shows, Halloween episodes, and Halloween specials are way better than costume parties and trick-or-treating. Watch them all month long and enjoy, because Halloween only comes but once a year.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: "Fear, Itself"

Season 4, episode 4

There are a few Buffy Halloween episodes, but “Fear, Itself” is my favorite. Buffy (Little Red Riding Hood), Willow (Joan of Arc), Oz (God), and Xander (James Bond) attend a costume party at a frat house. It quickly turns into a house of horrors when some bros accidentally summon a demon by painting a symbol they found in an old book on the wall.

New Girl: "Halloween"

Season 2, episode 6

This episode is about Halloween, but it’s really about relationships: Jess catches feelings for Sam, her hookup buddy; Nick reunites with Amelia, an ex from his past; Schmidt can’t bear that Cece is getting serious with Robby; and Winston questions his relationship with Shelby. There are some excellent costumes in this episode, but our favorite is Nick’s lazy Bea Arthur costume, which consists of a bee antenna and a shirt that sloppily says “Arthur” in Sharpie.

Black-ish: "Jacked O’Lantern"

Season 2, episode 6

As Black-ish fans know, Dre loves Halloween—and he loves being one of the “best Halloween candy houses” on the block. The Johnsons always have the best family costumes, and Jacked O’Lantern shows maybe their best yet: They dress as the Obama family, complete with Jack as Bo, the First Dog. Top moments include Ruby handing out Bibles to trick-or-treaters and Michael Strahan guest starring as Dre’s cousin June Bug.

Parks and Recreation: "Meet N Greet"

Season 4, episode 5

This episode gets its name from Leslie throwing a meet and greet for Pawnee small business owners. But we can’t ignore that Andy and April throw a Halloween party (without telling Ben, their roommate at the time). Highlights from the party include Ron fixing up parts of their home, April throwing Chris’ car keys in the trash for displaying too much PDA with Jerry’s daughter Millie, and Ben being passive aggressive as hell about the party. And, of course, a brief but satisfying appearance from April’s creepy friend Orin.

Friends: "The One with the Halloween Party"

Season 8, episode 6

When you think of Friends holiday episodes, naturally, Thanksgiving comes to mind first. But the Friends Halloween episode stands on its own, too. Chandler and Monica throw a Halloween party and the costumes are epic: Monica is Catwoman, Phoebe is Supergirl, Chandler is a pink bunny, Ross is Spud-nik, and Joey is Chandler. But the best costume award goes to a pregnant Rachel: “I am a woman who spent a lot of money on a dress and she wants to wear it, because soon she won’t be able to fit into it.”

Dear White People: "Volume 1"

Volume 1, Chapter 1

This isn't necessarily the most Halloween-y episode on this list, but it's super important nonetheless. The series starts off with Sam, a college student, leading a protest against a blackface-themed Halloween party at her school. It only takes two seconds for her to completely dismantle any white person's rationale for wearing a racist Halloween costume. Enjoy!

American Horror Story: "Halloween"

Season 1, episodes 4 and 5

Pretty much every episode of AHS is a Halloween episode in its own way. But there is a dedicated Halloween story in season 1. In the two-parter, Zachary Quinto plays the man who owns the Murder House. He throws a Halloween party to stir up interest from prospective buyers, but unsurprisingly, things don’t go as planned when the Rubber Man returns.

Scream Queens: "Halloween Blues"

Season 2, episode 4

Speaking of Ryan Murphy, pretty much every episode of Scream Queens is a Halloween episode, too. But we have to mention the dedicated Halloween episode in season 2, where they attempt to catch the Green Meanie by luring them to a Halloween party at the hospital. Surprisingly, this is the only episode in the season where the Green Meanie doesn’t kill anyone. Happy Chanel-O-Ween, losers!

Brooklyn Nine-Nine: "Halloween"

Season 1, episode 6

The Brooklyn Nine-Nine Halloween Heist episodes are legendary. But if we had to pick one, we’d take things back to where it all began in season 1. Captain Holt bets Jake that he can’t steal his Medal of Valor before midnight without getting caught. And thus, the greatest running Halloween bit in TV history was born.

Insecure: "Lowkey Distant"

Season 4, episode 2

Okay, yes, this episode has a lot more to do with Issa and Molly's friendship than the actual holiday of Halloween, but there is one scene in particular with some truly epic costumes. I mean, Molly as Gabrielle Union's Bring It On character? Truly chef's kiss.

30 Rock: "Stone Mountain"

Season 4, episode 3

This episode takes place partially in Kenneth’s hometown of Stone Mountain, Georgia—which should be a clue that things are going to get weird. But the real Halloween story is that Frank, Toofer, and Lutz are trying to score an invite from Jenna to a gay Halloween party, because that’s where all the hot girls will be.

Happy Endings: "Spooky Endings"

Season 2, episode 5

This Happy Endings Halloween episode is a perfect episode of TV. Brad and Jane spend Halloween house-sitting, dealing with unruly trick-or-treaters. Meanwhile, the rest of the gang attends a warehouse costume party. Alex and Dave go as Marilyn Monroe and Austin Powers, but the real laughs come from Penny and Max. They’re literally joined at the hip as a mom-and-baby two-in-one costume, which proves to be a terrible idea when they start hitting on the same guy.

Gilmore Girls: "Twenty-One Is the Loneliest Number"

Season 6, episode 7

Gilmore Girls has plenty of episodes to get you in the autumnal spirit, but there’s only one true Halloween episode. The main focus is Rory’s 21st birthday, but there are some Halloween undertones: Morey and Babette’s yard display and Lorelai’s big idea to put on a skit where she pretends to electrocute Luke, cut him open, and pull out sausage links. If you can deal with the Rory/Lorelai fight, Logan (#TeamJess, sorry not sorry), and the general nonsense of the later seasons, you’ll be rewarded with a Gilmore Girls Halloween episode.

The Office: "Halloween"

Season 2, episode 5

There are many Halloween episodes of The Office, but the first one is the best. The episode has a storyline like any other: Michael must fire someone by the end of the day. But the Halloween backdrop makes it all the more amusing. It’s also the episode that inspired the most popular Jim/Pam couples Halloween costume: Pam is a cat, and Jim is a three-hole punch version of Jim.

How I Met Your Mother: "Slutty Pumpkin"

Season 1, episode 6

It’s Halloween, and Ted is up to what we learn is his annual tradition: Attending the same costume party, wearing the same hanging chad ballot costume, and hoping to meet the same girl he met in 2001. He lost her number, but he remembers that she wore a slutty pumpkin costume, studied penguins, and made a drink of Kahlúa and root beer called the Tootsie Roll. Ted doesn’t reunite with her this time, but if you want to skip ahead and see what happens, watch season 7, episode 8 next. This episode is also our first introduction to Marshall and Lily’s epic couples Halloween costumes. Here, Marshall is Captain Jack Sparrow and Lily is a parrot.

Community: "Epidemiology"

Season 2, episode 6

Community wasn’t afraid to think outside the box. One of its best concept episodes was “Epidemiology,” the Halloween episode from season 2. At a costume party, the gang accidentally ingests a biohazardous substance from some old food that turns them into zombies. Jeff is David Beckham, Britta is a T-rex, Pierce is Captain Kirk, Annie is Little Red Riding Hood, Chang is a figure skater, and Dean Pelton is Lady Gaga.

It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown

You can’t go wrong with a classic. Every year, we watch It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown. And every year, it’s the perfect dose of fall nostalgia. The special focuses on Linus, who decides to wait in the pumpkin patch for the Great Pumpkin to arrive. It’s fun to see how the Peanuts gang celebrates Halloween—and we always relate when Charlie Brown finds a rock in his trick-or-treat bag instead of candy.

The David S. Pumpkins Halloween Special

When Tom Hanks played David S. Pumpkins in the “Haunted Elevator” sketch on Saturday Night Live, nobody could have predicted that the character would become larger than life. But lo and behold, he got his own animated Halloween special the following year. It tells the story of the time a man named Kevin, played by Peter Dinklage, met David S. Pumpkins and his skeletons as a kid. Any questions?

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