It's become an integral part of late October, like costume shopping, binging on tiny little candy bars, and watching Courtney Stodden pose practically naked in a pumpkin patch. Yes, of course I'm talking about the annual Halloween episode of every series under the sun. This spooky holiday didn't always scare up as much attention as it does now, where every sitcom, cop show, and Ryan Murphy gay-centric singing and lesson-teaching extravaganza feels the need to have a special episode to celebrate the creepiest of days. It's as if we haven't lived until we've seen our favorite characters in outfits so ridiculously elaborate that no one without a wardrobe department (or a massive budget) could do it on their own.
There was a time before Halloween specials. I know, I know. It's harder to imagine than it is to get rid of the Dum-Dums at the bottom of your plastic Trick-Or-Treat pumpkin, but it's true. From my extensive research (which mostly entailed Googling, reading Wikipedia, and wishing that I could go back in time to watch TV waiting for a Halloween special to eventually show up) I have found the first special devoted to America's second favorite holiday (and gay men's first).
The first TV Halloween episode was a 1952 episode of The Adventures of Ozzie & Harriet that addressed the boys having a Halloween party at school and their parents throwing one for their friends. (The did a similar radio show four years earlier.) The costumes are quite simple, the gags are quite old (this thing is 50 years old), and no one wears anything as intricate as what you would see on a network sitcom these days (did you catch all those outfits on Modern Family last week?). The best gag of the episode is a joke about Ozzy's neighbor getting so drunk last Halloween that he tried to climb a tree, pretty racy for this notoriously goodie-two-shoes show.
Several series followed suit after Ozzie & Harriet, including The Honeymooners in 1953, Zorro in 1957, Lassie in 1958, Dennis the Menace in 1961, The Beverly Hillbillies in 1962, The Andy Griffith Show in 1963, and The Lucy Show (the follow up to I Love Lucy) in 1965, but it was a slow trickle to respectability and mainstream acceptance for this most pagan of celebrations.
1964 was a very important year for these spooktaculars, because that was the start of an annual holiday tradition for one particular show. Bewitched started to do an annual Halloween-themed episode, witch was fitting since, well, there were witches and devils and disappearing Darrens and all those things that creepy-crawlers love. This continued until 1969, two years before it was canceled. The show's first foray in the jack-o-lantern territory, "The Witches Are Out," is below.
Now Halloween episodes were becoming more common, but the trend really started with a very special, well, special. In 1966 CBS aired It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown which would become a childhood staple for generations. It's aired every year since then, on CBS until 2000 and then on ABC starting in 2001. It still continues to this day, like Lucy ripping the football out from under Charlie Brown's foot, but with a much more satisfying finale.
Charlie Brown started a cavalcade of Halloween specials geared toward children in the '70s like The Halloween That Almost Wasn't, Raggedy Ann and Andy in the Pumpkin Who Couldn't Smile, Witch's Night Out, Bugs Bunny's Howl-oween Special, and let us not forget The Paul Lynde Halloween Special, proving once again that October 31 really is Gay Christmas.
One that has been forgotten is Halloween is Grinch Night, a frightening special about the Grinch hating another holiday before his heart grew three sizes that one Christmas, even though this was aired 11 years after How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Guess we have to call it a prequel.
In the '80s everyone jumped on the Halloween bandwagon (broomstick?) and every show from The Cosby Show to St. Elsewhere got into the holiday spirit. It was the end of the '80s that brought us to the modern era of Halloween entertainment. While they were widespread, most shows only tackled the theme once or twice. Roseanne, groundbreaking in so many ways, picked up where Bewitched left off and started a Halloween tradition of doing an extravagant show every year around the end of the month. It was one of the first times the audience knew and looked forward to an inevitable Halloween episode and it became a series trademark. Below is the first episode from season two, where Roseanne and her husband Dan try to outscare each other.
The next year, in 1990, The Simpsons started their famous "Treehouse of Horror" episode that has become synonymous with ghostly programming and is television's longest-running annual special episode, airing their 23rd (or XXIII if you want to be classy about it) special this October. The most recent one is below (you try finding Simpsons clips online, it's harder than getting Maggie to say something).
And the tradition continues today on shows like Glee and The Office, where Halloween is as much a part of the characters' lives as it is ours. Just wait for the next 50 years, where, to keep up with the trend, there will have to be at least one show where it is October 31 for the entire season. We can all thank the Great Pumpkin.
Follow Brian Moylan on Twitter @BrianJMoylan
[Photo Credit: United Features Syndicate]
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It was a warm September afternoon in suburban Colorado. The Greendale Community College campus was abuzz with the fresh faces of anger-prone divorcees seeking redemption, and high school dropouts trying to get their lives back on track. The palm trees rustled with a hint of this-is-clearly-filmed-in-Californianity. Love was in the air. Not the fleeting, ego-driven love that exists between men like Jeff Winger and women like Britta Perry, but a more lasting, substantial, beautiful love. The love between two young men who would each soon become the most important person in one another's life. This is the story of Troy and Abed.
Why bring up this timeless ballad now? Well, TVLine has just reported that during the upcoming fourth season of Community, Abed Nadir will encounter fellow science-fiction fanatic Toby (Bridesmaids supporting star Matt Lucas) at an Inspector Spacetime convention. The longtime Internet correspondents will meet in person for the first time, bonding over their mutual love for and knowledge of the sci-fi genre.
To someone who has just caught a few of the pair's amusing raps in passing, this bit of news might seem shirk-worthy. So what if Abed is getting a new friend? What's the big deal? It's not like he and Troy are in love, or anything. But to understand the significance of the latest turn of events involving Community's power duo, you must first understand the exemplary value of their friendship. So I invite you all — devoted Human Beings, casual Community viewers, Childish Gambino fans, T-Mobile subscribers, and everyone whose computer froze before they could click out of this article — to embark upon the most powerful tale of human connection in contemporary televison.
It might seem as though Troy and Abed met by happenstance; both enrolled at GCC in the fall of 2009, both took introductory-level Spanish in their first semester, and both decided it would be a good idea to seek extracurricular tutelage with the "board-certified" Jeff Winger. But it's worth noting that none of these decisions should be taken at face value. As most know, Troy was at Greendale after losing his football scholarship thanks to a self-inflicted keg-flip injury. The worlds of athletics, of glory, of high expectations were all too much for him to take. As Annie poignantly identified in an early episode of Season 1, that's not the real Troy. At heart, he's a good-natured, humble, wide-grinning easy bleeder. But he never knew a world in which he could exist as such comfortably. Until Abed came along.
Abed himself wasn't exactly reigning supreme prior to his college days. His troubles meeting, relating to, and interacting appropriately with others, as well as his difficulties understanding certain common concepts, contributed to his repetition of the first grade and an eventual enrollment in Greendale. The polyglot that he is (Abed exhibits fluency in English, Arabic, and Polish), Abed would likely not have much trouble taking to Spanish, and would therefore not be in desperate need of a tutor. But what he did need, and quite desperately, was a friend.
Abed wrangled four other students to join Jeff's session: overachieving Annie, conscientious Shirley, also desperate for friendship Pierce, and Troy. A young man who was so compulsively adhered to his tough guy persona that he couldn't even take off his high school Letterman jacket, let alone admit he was looking for something more. Although Troy joined the study group under the pretense of getting someone to do his homework for him, it should be clear that what he was really looking for, what Abed was looking for — hell, what all seven of them were really looking for — was somebody to connect with.
Troy did not take kindly to Abed at first. He found his demeanor off-putting and his meta-references annoying. He instead preferred the company of the boisterous, simple-minded Pierce — someone deeply ensconced in a similar façade of bravado. But a gradual introduction to Abed's world made Troy recognize something about himself: this was the world in which he wanted to live.
A world of imagination, of innocent disregard, of self-acceptance. While Troy had spent his youth surrounded by adoring classmates, he was never honest about who he wanted to be. Abed, on the other hand, was nothing but forthright about his identity. He was himself, in spades. But as a result, he was alone. Abed had never met anybody who wished to be a part of his world before Troy; and Troy had never met anybody who could offer a world like Abed's. He could be himself, and still have someone right there with him. They both could.
It was a lesson learned overtime, thanks to rap collaborations, to prank competitions, to conversations about cannibalistic donuts, to Sesame Street reenactments, to the legendary creation of Troy and Abed in the Morning. The boys were having fun like they never had before. Troy was finally who he wanted to be, and Abed finally had someone to be that with. The transition was solidified by Halloween of 2010, when Abed taught Troy to embrace his identity full-force, and not find shame in being, in truth, a nerd. And although the entire student body's memory was wiped clean by the U.S. government in an attempt to cover up a zombie outbreak, the sentiment seems to have maintained: Troy has since exhibited sincere comfort with who he really is. And he and Abed have been authentically happy.
It seemed for a while that the pair's friendship was impenetrable — not even the beautiful school librarian who doesn't seem to accept the impact that the Saw franchise has had on the horror genre — but as the two grew more and more important to and reliant on one another, did they also grow more insecure about losing what they had. When Jeff appeared to be gunning for a position as Abed's new best pal right around the time of the latter's birthday, Troy grew envious and paranoid. When Abed embraced his "addiction" to pop culture via an overindulgence in celebrity impersonators (it's really hard to explain), Troy grew fed up and felt it necessary to lay down the law... something that Abed didn't accept wholly.
Around this time, tensions became the norm in the realm of Troy and Abed. The great Pillows vs. Blankets War of the Greendale campus wasn't simply a battle of egos; the self-fulfilling threat was consistently escalated by the very idea that something could come between Troy and Abed. Each young man was terrified, hurt, and hostile over the increasingly present presumption that they might, in fact, not be as invincible a force as they thought. Terrific friends and fantastic adventurers into the worlds of the unknown as they might be, they were and are also mere people. People susceptible to weakness, which can lead to loss.
Thanks to Jeff, Troy and Abed rectified the issues that tore them apart over the pillow/blanket fort debacle, but they hardly came away unscathed. When Troy began exploring his attraction to Britta, Abed locked himself in his Dreamatorium, playing out the disaster scenario of his closest friend no longer needing him to fill an emotional void. Whereas the presence of a romantic interest for Troy (the aforesaid librarian) seemed to serve no disconcertion to Abed previously, he now understood that Troy was not infinitely his own. Things could damage them. The honeymoon phase, for lack of a better terminology, was over: they were now in a true, heartbreaking, life-affirming human relationship.
It was no longer about the fun. It wasn't the fun that Troy missed when he was forced to enroll in air conditioner repair school; it wasn't the games that Abed was afraid to lose when his friend sought something exciting with Britta. Their friendship had grown beyond closing-credits games, and had turned into a genuine investment in one another as people, and as major aspects of each other's lives. Their love story had entered its most tumultuous chapter; but they knew they wanted to, and had to, stick it out. They might have formed a bond to find themselves, but they have maintained that bond in order to keep each other.
So yes, the entry of a third party does indeed pose a threat. On any other program, you could presume that Lucas will provide a one-off character who, at the end of the episode, is proven to not hold a candle to the power of the focal couple. And he very well might be just that — we're not sure what this new season of Community will offer. But the introspective world of the series has used its stories to really break down these characters as people. Maybe Toby won't be in Troy's and Abed's lives beyond a single episode, but his presence might create a lasting effect. Will Toby further prove that Troy and Abed are, like any couple in love (romantic, platonic, any kind of love), susceptible to destruction? Or will he illustrate that in the end, these two are meant to be together? Most of us are rooting for the latter, I'm sure, but you never know.
Either way, we'll always have... whatever this is:
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Halloween in an ordinary year is a force to be reckoned with as is. But Halloween in the Year of Penny is bound to be no holds barred. On Wednesday night, Oct. 26, Happy Endings is airing its Halloween episode (will they bump things up to a triple Snooki this time?). However, if Wednesday is just too far away for you to subdue your Happy Endings cravings, then you're in luck: YahooTV is streaming the full Halloween episode, and you can watch it right here (and if your appetite is that big, you might even give the multi-dinnering Max a run for his money).
This year's episode, "Spooky Endings," will see Jane (Eliza Coupe) and Brad (Damon Wayans, Jr.) involved in the horror tale of house-sitting in the suburbs, while Dave (Zachary Knighton), Alex (Elisha Cuthbert), Penny (Casey Wilson) and Max (Adam Pally) all have their own misadventures at a costume party. As this is their first Halloween since the breakup, Dave and Alex are finally free from the bounds of joint costumes. As such, both embrace their own individual (and out of touch) flares: Dave wears an Austin Powers costume, while Alex dresses as Marilyn Monroe. Meanwhile, Penny and Max team up once more to form the joint costume of a mother and her baby...to likely uncomfortable results.
Happy Endings airs Wednesday nights at 9:30 p.m. ET/PT on ABC.
Source: YahooTV via TVLine