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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The Glee Project, Oxygen's open casting call for the Fox song-and-dance series, is one of the better reality shows if only because it has a prize worth winning. Not only does the winner get some cash, but, more importantly for these showbiz upstarts, they get a job. A real live job on Glee! It's what every 17 year old wearing a red sequin bowtie and cumberbund in a show choir dreams about.
Here's a rundown of all 14 of the new contestants and how I think they'll do on the show based on absolutely nothing but my own prejudices, assumptions, guesses, and Glee's voracious need to find the most impossibly diverse people in the world. You can check them all out here.
Cast Member He Resembles: Mike Chang's Abs
Do They Need Him: This show needs more badly died hair like it needs to sing more Katy Perry songs.
Potential Storyline: Mike Chang's younger brother tries to steal his spotlight.
Odds of Winning: Not good. He's only been performing for a year. Look for him to be headed back to law school by episode five.
Cast Member He Resembles: Artie
Do They Need Her: It looks like they might.
Potential Storyline: Artie's love interest.
Odds of Winning: Well, she doesn't have to worry about dancing, but if she can sing, she might have a shot.
Cast Member She Resembles: Santana
Do They Need Her: Yes, of all the colors in the Glee rainbow, Middle-Eastern is not one.
Potential Storyline: A new love interest for Brittany.
Odds of Winning: It sounds like she has lots of singing experience, but can she act? Also, she looks a little bland. She'll end up in the middle of the pack.
Cast Member He Resembles: Finn
Do They Need Him: Between Finn, Rory, and Puck, all the goofy white boy slots are taken.
Potential Storyline: Does Finn has a younger brother we didn't know about?
Odds of Winning: This parrot salesman has never had a singing lesson. He'll be out quick.
Cast Member He Resembles: Becky
Do They Need Him: Well, they haven't had an ADHD/Autistic person, so maybe.
Potential Storyline: He has ADHD/Autism and teaches everyone a lesson.
Odds of Winning: That's kind of a limited story, but he has acting and singing experience. Might be a stealth threat.
Cast Member She Resembles: Justin Bieber
Do They Need Her: This show needs more ladies who love ladies like the Dinah Shore weekend needs more Crocs.
Potential Storyline: Hooking up with either Santana or Brittany or both.
Odds of Winning: She's also a singer/songwriter (of course) and was on America's Got Talent. She should easily breeze past the early rounds.
Cast Member She Resembles: Lauren
Do They Need Her: The show is lacking in the plus-size department these days.
Potential Storyline: As Quinn's nurse when she's all maimed after her car crash.
Odds of Winning: She's only 18, so she might now have the chops of some of the other contestants.
Cast Member He Resembles: No one on earth.
Do They Need Him: He is a blind triplet whose mother died when he was an infant. Glee will not be able to resist itself.
Potential Storyline: I think he's living it right now.
Odds of Winning: If he can sing and dance as well as they say, he'll make it to the end for sure.
Cast Member He Resembles: Sam
Do They Need Him: The world does not need another bland white male country singer.
Potential Storyline: Yawn.
Odds of Winning: Sadly, good. Ugh.
Cast Member He Resembles: Blaine
Do They Need Him: If Glee gets any more gay, it will have to change its name to the Paul Lynde Hour.
Potential Storyline: Kurt's new boyfriend after Blaine dumps him for that evil Warbler twink.
Odds of Winning: Probably not that hot. He's cute, but also very young.
Cast Member She Resembles: Tina
Do They Need Her: She doesn't seem to have any spark. So no.
Potential Storyline: The girl who teaches Rachel to have some soul.
Odds of Winning: She's a singer songwriter who works as a barista and likes to perform at open mic nights. She's gonna be way too granola for Glee.
Cast Member She Resembles: Quinn
Do They Need Her: She's a cute girl who also plays sports. That could come in handy.
Potential Storyline: A new Cheerio or, even better, the star of Roz Washington's swim team.
Odds of Winning: Her backstory seems a little bland. She's really gonna have to bring something special to go far.
Cast Member She Resembles: Mercedes (minus the voice)
Do They Need Her: No.
Potential Storyline: I can't even think of one.
Odds of Winning: This girl who never performed for a casting director and has never been on a plane is going to be out first.
Cast Member He Resembles: Oh my god.
Do They Need Him: This guy is Glee's wet dream.
Potential Storyline: He is going to rule McKinely High with his diversity.
Odds of Winning: From his cast bio: "Tyler is half black, half white, Jewish and transgender." Ladies and gentleman, we have a winner!
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In the grand tradition of modernizing classic brands, MTV2 announced that they will revive the game show property Hollywood Squares with a 21st century spin. Hip Hop Squares will feature familiar names like DJ Khaled, Fat Joe, Mac Miller, Machine Gun Kelly, Ghostface Killah, Nick Cannon while throwing in the occasional associated panelist, including Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker LaMarr Woodley and Jackass/Wildboyz star Bam Margera. Speaking to EW, MTV2's programming chief Paul Ricci the goal was to "refresh an iconic format and create a fun, dynamic series that's unpredictable, heavy on personality and much more 'party' than 'game show'."
That line-up carries serious weight, but there's a missing piece of the puzzle that helped the show's previous incarnations become milestones. Based on the released hip hop-centric panelists, there's a complete lack of diversity — specifically on the sexual-orientation front. That may not seem like a big deal, but for all of the game show brand's kitsch and silliness, Hollywood Squares pushed the envelope; in 1968, the original version anchored the show with Paul Lynde, who, while never revealing his personal sexual preferences, but retroactively became a gay figurehead. In the 1998 revival, comedian Bruce Vilanch was a permanent fixture, routinely cracking innuendo jokes that spoofed his sexuality. There's no written rule that Hollywood Squares needs a gay cast member to function or be properly executed, but it's boldly hosted them with little audience resistance and always for entertainment-driven reasons.
The hip hop industry is notoriously narrow and there history with the gay community has rough patches. Currently, there aren't openly gay rappers working with mainstream labels. But Hip Hop Squares panelist Fat Joe believes there are plenty working in the industry. In a 2011 interview, the rapper told VladTV that he believed there was a large gay community in the hip-hop world — but that they weren't coming out. “I think I’ve done songs with gay rappers. I’m pretty sure of that … I happen to think there’s a gay mafia in hip-hop. Not rappers — editorial presidents of magazines, the PDs at radio stations, the people who give you awards at award shows … They’re in power … So why wouldn’t a guy come out and say, ‘Yo, I’m gay’ and get that type of love? " Author Terrance Dean corroborates the idea in his 2008 book Hiding in Hip Hop: On the Down Low in the Entertainment Industry — from Music to Hollywood. Gay hip hop artists exist — and may even be stars — but the industry pressure doesn't allow them to be open.
Even if gay artists aren't prominent in the big labels, they are working, and thriving, in the US. MC Big Freedia is breaking out in New Orleans, helping expand the Sissy Bounce genre out of its regional confines (he appeared on Jimmy Kimmel Live! earlier this year), while Cazwell has gained notoriety through the True Color Tour and LOGO promotion — but you won't find his music videos running in regular rotation on Viacom's sister site MTV.
In a strange way, MTV2 has an opportunity with Hip Hop Squares. Bring in the audience that comes for Ghostface Killah, Nick Cannon and a handful of NFL stars then expose them to some wonderful gay talent. Based on the announced line-up, the show already sounds homogeneous. The rap world is dying for a breakout, an equality game changer that even the media seems unable to crack (The New York Times is profiling MC Big Freedia and yet few have heard of him). The new Hollywood Squares needs its Paul Lynde, its Bruce Vilanch, its diversity. And there are plenty of choices.
Thanks to @JenniMiller and @gmorse for additional research.
Find Matt Patches directly on Twitter @misterpatches and remember to follow @Hollywood_com![EW]
What with the arrival of the new Winnie the Pooh movie, I've begun thinking back to my childhood. Some of my earliest memories, dating back as far as my second and third years of life, are movies...and I'm not just saying that because my assignment was to come up with the best movies for young children. I do mean it, movies shaped my life. Right around when I should have been developing social skills, I was actually setting the foundation for lifelong obsession with movies. Naturally, my tastes back then diverge slightly from those of present day (although my pre-Kindergarten self did have a strange penchant for Oliver Stone). As I do now, I had my small group of films that I’d watch over and over without ever becoming bored with them. Some, I now recognize, were crap. They offered nothing to my growing mind, did a shoddy job of highlighting the ideas of character, story or a moral in a constructive way, or were just really inappropriate. But some, let me tell you, were gold: really wholesome, plausibly educational, and genuinely good, worthwhile entertainment for young children. Hollywood.com has compiled a list of these types of movies for every one of our readers who has access to a child through which to earn an excuse to watch them:
Let’s kick this off with a classic Disney film, since I’ve been programmed from birth to associate the corporation with happiness. A movie that I would consider one of the greatest achievements of Disney animation, specifically for young children, is Peter Pan. Starting with the surface value aspects: it’s a comical, colorful journey in a magical imaginary land with flying fairies and children dressed in rabbit-eared coveralls. The whole story is about what it means to be a kid, which, as a kid, you’d never really consider or appreciate; but you’d enjoy watching a movie about it the same. The thing that really sells this for me over other Disney cartoons is its lack of severity. Captain Hook thinks of himself as a tyrant and a menace to justice, but he’s actually a pretty big goof, constantly being chased around by an alligator (who had a clock in his stomach for a reason I don’t remember). For older kids, the more threatening villains of Scar and Jafar of Disney films that came out in my lifetime might present a more legitimate story—but for toddlerhood, I think a comical, non-scary villain will do just fine.
There’s too much to say about Charlotte’s Web to do it justice in a short summation. It is rife with depth. It’s at once about friendship, identity, mortality, responsibility, growth, time and the circle of life (but it's not all in your face about it like some movies I know). The complexity of the themes and the plot, which is more or less episodic teamed with a sort of archaic, rural vernacular used by the majority of the characters (or maybe that's just the Long Island snob in me talking) did keep me from a complete understanding of what was going on throughout the movie. But as a kid, I wasn't so hung up on following every detail. The likability of each of the characters, especially Paul Lynde's snide derelict,Templeton the rat, and the triumphantly catchy songs were enough to convince me to watch this movie on a weekly basis.
BIG ROCK CANDY MOUNTAIN
This is one of those kids’ movies that was like a freaking acid trip. A couple of children get teleported to a mountain after chasing a couple of bears, or gremlins, or something—there were fairies and creatures and insane colors and people singing…it was a pretty wild adventure. But I remember it being ample entertainment. The film culminates with an allegory about a rabbit transforming into a “goon” as punishment for unkind behavior, which provokes the following wordplay delivered by a Boston Brahmin owl: “Hare today, goon tomorrow!” Now, as a kid, I had no idea why the entire cast broke out laughing when he said. But as a young adult, I finally understand. Comic genius.
THE CARE BEARS MOVIE
It’s really hard to take a definitively positive stance on Care Bears. The films were not particularly well-written or fertile with any sort of artistic merit. Personally, they didn’t leave as lasting an impression on me as did the other movies I’ve listed here. But, when it comes right down to it, they’re nice. They’re simply about the value of love. Happiness. Kindness. Caring. And I guess, in principle, I don’t particularly oppose any of those things. It’s good to instill morality in children—even you are beating them over the head with it like this movie is. But truly, The Care Bears Movie and each of its sequels are a decent watch for children. They’re certainly better than the other extreme, anyway.
FOLLOW THAT BIRD
I recently tried to impart Sesame Street onto my nine month-old nephew (which might make up for having read him the first chapter of Fear & Loathing on the Campaign Trail). He took to the show pretty well—I think the focus was on the letter 'G'. Did you know they’re still doing letters? And you know what else? Maria is still on the show! What a trooper.
But I digress. Follow That Bird is the tops. Familiar, beloved characters stepping out of their ordinary setting to take on a more exciting adventure—I think that’s what makes an epic childhood movie. For those unfamiliar, Big Bird is relocated to a family of birds somewhere out in the boondocks by an antagonistic but generally well-intentioned social worker who deems Sesame Street an unfit home for BB, due to his lack of bird companions. I do remember struggling with the idea that Big Bird doesn’t have a literal family of his own—which is pretty heavily what the plot was about—which conjured up some solemn wonderings on what might have happened to them. But this passes pretty early on, as there’s a ton of funny stuff going on with all of the Sesame Street residents, who take to the road in a It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World style to bring Big Bird home. There’s also a tangential plot wherein a couple of sleazy carnival-runners kidnap Big Bird to use him in an act—but the bad guys here are way too goofy to be threatening in any way. The best part about this movie, which I found out while doing research for this article: one of the two "bad guys" was played by Uncle Trevor from Arrested Development, which I guess makes this movie…for Birdish eyes onlyyy!
I am SO sorry for that.
MY NEIGHBOR TOTORO
Roger Ebert has called this one of his all-time favorite movies. I don’t know if that validates anything, but it can’t hurt. Maybe it can... forget I brought it up. My Neighbor Totoro is a Japanese film about two young sisters' friendships with woodland sprites. It has been genuinely revered by pretty much every movie critic out there since its release in 1993; all of whom seem to praise especially the authenticity of the two girls, aged approximately ten and four. My Neighbor Totoro creates a world of beauty and whimsy instead of peril and dangers to be overcome, as do many children's cartoons, inscrutably. The film is more about conveying the wonder of and promoting an appreciation for life than it is a means to tell a linear story; the provocation of a child's senses of fascination and imagination is something that can never be overdone.
MILO AND OTIS
This might very well be the greatest children’s movie ever made. I found it in the discount bin at Wal-Mart in my sophomore year of college—that was a big Wal-Mart year for me—bought it and watched it with one of my housemates: absolute GOLD. Milo is a cat, Otis is a pug, Dudley Moore is the comic genius who voices them, and pure, unadulterated glory is what they deliver. It has everything a kid needs: is a story, narration, dialogue, the works. But for kids who may get confused by plotlines or have trouble focusing on stories (I was one… I remember having no idea what the hell was going on in Aladdin), this movie is still enjoyable, thanks to the adorable animals exploring fascinating forests, teamed with funny exchanges in goofy voiceover. Mostly, it’s about friendship: one of the best values you can instill in a child. Through all their adventures, Milo and Otis never give up on each other. Despite an innate tendency toward enemyship between cats and dogs which has been propagandized via every cartoon ever made, Milo and Otis stick together, get each others' backs, compliment one another's characters, and prove to all audiences that there is some good in the world. And THAT is the kind of thing we all want our kids to believe. Probably. I wouldn't know, I'm just an uncle.
I know that everyone who reads this article will lament my overlooking of his or her childhood favorite. I've even left a few of my own preferences out: Toy Story, Homeward Bound, 101 Dalmations, The Muppets Movie, Brave Little Toaster, Platoon...we were all touched by different masterworks of cinema at early ages, so to each of us, there will be different Classic Childhood Movies.
But we can all agree on one thing: Fantasia was freaky as hell.