Halloween is on a Thursday this year, which is a goddamn tragedy. A midweek All Hallows Eve ensures that no one enjoys it. Trick-or-treaters are going to come home from school and either put on their costumes or hang out in them until it’s time to go hit up strangers for high fructose corn syrup. Then they’ll go out, get their loot, come home and… eat their candy while doing homework? Have their parents tell them that they can’t have all that sugar on a school night?
And the adults, who will be celebrating what Dan Savage has dubbed Straight Pride Night, have the awkward conundrum of deciding which weekend to make the de facto night to get drunk in impractical clothing. So our options are Halloween parties on October 26th or November 3rd. It’s unAmerican. Until the dipshits in charge of the Gregorian calendar realize that October needs to be curtailed/elongated accordingly in order to ensure that Halloween always falls on a Saturday*, what are we to do on a weekday Halloween? Stay home and watch scary movies?
(*I realize that a simpler solution would be to make Halloween the final Saturday in October, but I had already typed and fallen in love with the idea of a month that ranges from 27 to 33 days.)
Absurd. We have to wake up early tomorrow for work. And our attention spans have somehow been simultaneously shrunken and elongated in a strange paradox where we can only binge watch 3 hours of 40 minute episodes at a time.
“But Denn-denn,” I hear you whispering to your phone, “It’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown is the only decent Halloween special. Christmas has that shit on lock.”
Yes, dear reader, Christmas does have a fierce grip on the holiday TV special, both in terms of volume and quality, but I’ve still go three Halloween specials to get you through the night. I won’t even burden you with my The Great Pumpkin is overrated hot take.
Halloween: Witch Magic – Witch’s Night Out is a Canadian production from the 1970s with a unique animation style. All of the humans are monochromatic. There’s a purple guy with big lapels, a green lady with large breasts and no clothes, and some other people who seem to have fur. It uses the tried and true conceit of people forgetting the true meaning of a holiday and someone trying to remind them what it’s all about.
Two little kids who have become disillusioned with trick-or-treating wish to become a real ghost and werewolf. Their wishes are granted by a witch who has fallen out of practice. The gang then descends on what appears to be some sort of key party causing a stampede. Gilda Radner and Catherine O’Hara star.
Sid and Marty Krofft Retro Appeal: High
This Halloween special legitimately creeped me out as a kid. Rewatching it now, I’m pretty sure that the Mr. Boogedy make-up with its weird sheen and open sores is what scared me.
Starring the uncle from My Girl, Kristy Swanson, Mimi Kennedy, and David Faustino, Mr. Boogedy is about a family that moves into some creepy house in a new town.
The dad intends to open a joke shop or something equally lucrative in 1986. The catch is that the house has a colonial ghost child trapped in it, being held hostage by Mr. Boogedy, a demon-type thing whose vocabulary only includes the word “boogedy.” The kid ghost hostage is trying to get back to his mom—a pink pilgrim lady ghost who lurks outside the house trying to reunite with her ghost son.
The family agrees to help and defeats Boogedy through hijinks and a wet-dry vac. Everyone in the family is way too comfortable with physical contact with supernatural beings.
The video I found includes TV commercials, which is where the most disturbing moment lies. At 42:45, there is a Juicy Fruit commercial with a very sexual jingle. “Take a sniff, pull it out. The taste is gonna move you when you pop it in your mouth.” Jesus Christ. I recently found out that Mr. Boogedy will be available on Disney’s streaming platform, so who knows if it’s still on YouTube.
Drinking Game Potential: 3 out of 5 Pumpkin Ales
This special apparently was made in 1979 and ran on the Disney Channel every year for a decade, which is how I encountered it. The Disney Channel used to be cool.
The Halloween That Almost Wasn’t stars Judd Hirsch as Dracula. Yes, that Judd Hirsch. And he’s very good. Watch it and tell me that you don’t love his delivery of “Keep my tomb door open at night and closed in the day. Open at night. Closed in the day.” and “Teeny tiny bat teeny tiny bat.” Also appearing: Frankenstein soft-shoe dancing, a sassy witch, and heartwarmingly low-rent special effects.
Halloween is in danger of disappearing forever, so the Count summons the world’s greatest monsters for a meeting of the minds. This information is broadcast on the news. A family in late 70s fashion discusses the history of Halloween and whether or not it will be discontinued. The special has sky high production value, too—with dramatic cuts between a family and Dracula, both watching the same news broadcast airing in Transylvania. Except the family members don’t have hokey-ass Romanian accents.
It seems that the monsters have sold out and the public no longer finds them scary. So, everyone is losing the Halloween spirit. But also, the Witch is tired of playing second fiddle to Dracula, so she refuses to participate until she gets more control over… um… things (?) and her face on official Halloween merch.
Halloween is apparently contingent upon the witch flying over the moon on her broom. I’ve never heard of such a thing, but in the world of this 25-minute special, this ride is what keeps October 31st from being a regular-ass fall day. Somehow the kids show up at the witch’s castle to plead for her to fly over the moon, because if she doesn’t, there will be no more dressing up in costumes, no more jack o’lanterns, no more trick-or-treating. This makes no goddamn sense. Why would this witch staying at home prevent me from putting on my slutty bee costume and doing Jager bombs at Gregg from HR’s house party?
Children Who Should Not Have Survived Their Encounter With Dracula, The Wolfman, a Zombie, and a Mummy: 2.
If the title alone isn’t enough to hook you, what if I sweetened the pot by throwing out these phrases: appearances by Florence Henderson and Betty White, written by Bruce Vilanch, the first prime time TV appearance by KISS, and Donny and Marie Osmond in non-speaking roles? Is that something you might be interested in?
What a silly question, of course it is. But there’s more. Margaret Hamilton reprises her role as the Wicked Witch of the West. Billie Hayes reprises her role as Witchiepoo from H.R. Pufnstuf. Roz Kelly reprises her role as Pinky Tuscadero from Happy Days. There is no logic.
The only thing Halloween about this is that Lynde is visiting some witches in a creepy looking manor house, where they inexplicably put on a variety show. He sings a song from “Bye, Bye, Birdie” with the words changed to be about trick-or-treaters, but other than that, the variety show aspect strays from the theme. Lynde plays a sheik who seduces Florence Henderson. Then he plays a rhinestone trucker who wins the love of Roz Kelly, who he refers to as Kinky Pinky. These are wishes he is granted (????).
Witchiepoo and the Wicked Witch bring on KISS (I guess because KISS is a scary band), but they sing Detroit Rock City and then Beth. Beth! That isn’t spooky at all. It’s adorable. I would be remiss if I didn’t address how terrible KISS are at pantomiming their performance. Like many TV performances of the era, they are not really playing. And I don’t understand how people tolerated it. When people watched musical acts on TV, were they fooled? Anyway, KISS sucks real bad at faking it. The fake audience clapping doesn’t help either.
There is a laugh track added to the special and it really highlights how weird it must have been to perform this to an empty soundstage.
The Paul Lynde Halloween Special is so insane that I’m just now bringing up Carol Brady singing a disco song. It is a glorious mess that I cannot recommend highly enough, if for no other reason than when Lynde says to Gene Simmons “Why don’t you push the down button on your elevator shoes?”
Times You Will Mutter to No One in Particular “What is Happening?”: 50.
Times You Will Remember that Paul Lynde is a Treasure: 50
Running Time: 50 min.
(Not available on the internet)
As you are hopefully aware, the classic comic strip For Better or Worse was made into a series of cartoons. The Halloween special was called “The Good for Nothing.” I cannot locate a video of it on the internet, but, if memory serves, it involved the teenage brother, Michael, being forced to take his kid sisters trick-or-treating. This prevented him from going to the cool kids’ party where there was booze. Some blonde, tough guy gives Gordo and Michael some trouble. No fights break out, but the parents are very concerned in a wholesome, suburby way. This also has a very Canadian feel to it.
Wholesome Factor: Watch it with your weirdly religious friends/relatives.
There you have it. Three low-grade halloween specials you can find of YouTube, and one wholesome treasure that seems to be lost to time, but I swear it’s real. Which is what you need in a made for TV holiday special: something that doesn’t challenge your brain, which allows you to watch it every year for the rest of your life out of sheer force of habit while eating food you probably shouldn’t. It’s a perfect warm-up for Christmas.