Terrifying Television: Halloween Episodes

October 31, 2009

With Saturday the 31st upon us, this TV enthusiast will be gathering a collection of her favourite Halloween episodes and settling in to celebrate with some beloved fictional characters. If you’re planning a marathon of your own, or simply looking to kill an hour or two before trick or treating or a Halloween party, here are some of my favourite episodes of Halloween television for your consideration.

How I Met Your Mother, “The Slutty Pumpkin”

how i metBarney: Flight-suit up!

An instant classic from the first season, this episode sees Lily and Marshall attempting to win a costume contest at the bar and Robin having trouble “putting on the girlfriend costume” to please her date. However, the episode revolves around Ted’s annual tradition of attending the Halloween roof party at his building in hopes of meeting “the slutty pumpkin”, the one who got away four years earlier. This has all the heart and all the laughs you’d expect from How I Met Your Mother, and Barney is his usual awesome self. You’ll come away with a few fun new variations on “suit up!” as well as a fun mixed drink recipe!

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, “Fear Itself”

gilesGiles: It’s a sombrero.
Buffy: And it’s on your head.
Giles: It seemed festive.

Buffy has a grand total of three Halloween episodes, but this one is my favourite. “Fear Itself” is full of memorable moments, from Anya’s choice for a scary costume to the now unemployed Giles getting into the Halloween spirit. As Willow, Oz, Xander, and Buffy attend a Halloween party in a frat house, the house comes alive and plays upon the fears of its inhabitants. What really makes the episode are the last five minutes though and the appearance of the fear demon itself.

Dexter, “Let’s Give the Boy a Hand”

dexter hallDexter: “I love Halloween, the one time of year when everyone wears a mask, not just me. People think its fun to pretend you’re a monster. Me, I spend my life pretending I’m not.”

I believe that Dexter is one of the most consistently good series on television, which means that it has few weak episodes and this is not one of them. A fan of the holiday because he’s no longer the only one hiding, Dexter celebrates Halloween with Rita and her kids, while also deciphering disturbing recreations of his past left by his fellow serial killer, who has been leaving severed body parts in the locations of childhood memories. The theme of masks and hiding is continued throughout the episode, as is the question of what makes a monster.

Supernatural, “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Sam Winchester”/”Pilot”

super hallSam: “For us, every day is Halloween.”

I can’t decide which Halloween episode of Supernatural I enjoy more. The pilot has the distinction of being the episode that started it all and as far as pilots go it’s a great one. Twenty-two years after the mysterious death of his mother, college student Sam Winchester has a girlfriend, an interview to get into law school, and no desire to join the family business. Then brother Dean shows up, revealing that their father went missing while hunting demons and Sam rejoins Dean for a one-time deal and a show was born. The pilot manages to hook you in and sets up a season long hunt for John Winchester (played by Jeffrey Dean Morgan).

Fourth season episode “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Sam Winchester” is worth watching for entirely different reasons. In it, the angels tell Dean that he must find a witch and stop the raising of the demon Samhain or they will smite the town and all of its 1200 inhabitants. The opening of the episode uses the urban legend of razor blades in Halloween candy, but it’s the end, where the audience begins to see the humanity in the angel Castiel that makes this one a Halloween must for me.

Dead Like Me, “Haunted”

dead like me hallGeorge: “It’s not so bad, being dead like me.”

My favourite Halloween episode to date has to be the brilliant series finale of Dead Like Me. The grim reapers prepare for Halloween and George Lass, dead one year in her home town, learns about a reaper legend that says all reapers can be seen as themselves on Halloween. As Mason goes on a candy gathering mission, with George along for the ride, a serial killer is on the loose. Meanwhile George’s family gather in the graveyard to pay their respects on the Day of the Dead. There are few cancellations more upsetting than this one, which was never really explained and caught the writers and producers of the show off guard, meaning some loose ends were never tied up, but the show did go out on a high as George begins to accept her life as a reaper at last.

Happy Halloween Everyone!

Advertisements

Terrifying Television (non-Halloween episodes)

October 31, 2009

If you’ve already exhausted your collection of Halloween episodes, or plan to take advantage of the holiday falling on a Saturday to pack in more television, there are a number of options. A marathon of any genre-themed show, such as Buffy the Vampire Slayer, True Blood, or Supernatural, could make for a spooky Saturday, but if you’re looking for a variety of choices, here are a few of my favourite non-Halloween-themed hours of terrifying television.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, “Hush

hushSince it originally aired, I’ve included this fourth season episode in my annual Halloween marathon. The largely dialogue-free hour features the creepy gentlemen, who glide above the ground in tuxedos and politely applaud each other’s efforts to remove human hearts. The episode combines humour with drama and danger, and as fans of the show are aware, “Hush” is also the first appearance of Wiccan Tara, who would become a recurring character. It’s one of the best episodes of an above average show and also one of the scariest… perfect for Halloween!

Supernatural, “Monster Movie”

monster movieAlthough it isn’t the actual Halloween set episode of the season, this ode to monster movies is filmed entirely in black & white and provides a lighter hour perfect for any Halloween marathon. In a more comedic turn, the Winchesters take on an odd case involving the classic silver screen monsters, including the one and only Dracula. The humour comes from the juxtaposition of details from the 1940’s movies and the contemporary, which results in a memorable moment where Dracula flees on a moped.

Jekyll

jekyllI’m cheating a little here because Jekyll is not one hour of television, but a six hour BBC miniseries. However, I couldn’t write about monsters without mentioning this delightful take on the The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde set in the present day. I’m often skeptical of anything updating a period piece, but the creators have described this as a sequel, rather than an adaptation of the novella by Stevenson. This version of the story utilizes modern technology to cleverly continue Stevenson’s tale, and James Nesbitt is wonderful as Dr. Tom Jackman and his alter-ego. Jekyll was also written and executive produced by the brilliant Doctor Who scribe Stephen Moffat. I can’t wait to see what Moffat will do with his contemporary take on Sherlock Holmes, which he is adapting with Mark Gatiss.

Doctor Who, “Blink”

sally sparrowSpeaking of Stephen Moffat, there’s my favourite episode of Doctor Who, “Blink”. It’s extremely well-written, and even though the episode is “Doctor-lite” (referring to episodes where the Doctor and his companion have very little screen time to allow two episodes to be filmed simultaneously), it has a likable protagonist in Sally Sparrow. The episode is truly terrifying, especially if, like this TV enthusiast, you watched it with a group of friends at 3:00AM in an otherwise empty house. Trust me when I say that you will never look at a statue the same way ever again!

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, “Conversations With Dead People”

conversationsIn my second Buffy pick, four completely separate stories are told, all of them occurring on one night. While on patrol, Buffy encounters an old classmate who has been turned into a vampire, while Dawn spends the night home alone, believing that her mother is trying to communicate with her. Meanwhile, Willow receives a message in the library, and Spike picks up a woman in a bar. The episode has its spooky moments but also some great humour and is one of the best from Buffy‘s final season. The dead and undead theme makes it a great choice for Halloween night.

Supernatural, “Bloody Mary”

bloody maryAlthough I was close to sticking the one with the clowns on this list, purely because clowns are truly terrifying, this early episode is a great choice for Halloween. What Supernatural does so well is make urban legends real and few legends are more well known than ‘Bloody Mary’. If “Blink” makes you think twice about statues, then “Bloody Mary” will make you wary of mirrors!

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, “Buffy vs. Dracula”

buffy vs“Buffy vs. Dracula” is a new edition to my annual Buffy marathon. The slayer was bound to face off against the greatest vampire of all time at some point and although this isn’t one of my favourite episodes of the show, it doesn’t disappoint. In it Xander becomes Dracula’s manservant, while even Buffy seems to fall under The Dark Prince’s thrall. What could be more ideal for Halloween than our favourite slayer meeting Count Dracula? I really can’t think of a thing.

 

Happy Halloween Everyone!


Thanksgiving in TV land

October 12, 2009

slapsgivingAlthough American Thanksgiving isn’t for another month, Canadian Thanksgiving is celebrated on the second Monday of October each year, and as a dedicated TV enthusiast, I choose to celebrate the holidays by watching some of my favourite television characters attend multiple turkey dinners, fight Native American vengeance spirits, and pardon turkeys. Unfortunately the difference in dates between Canadian and American Thanksgiving means that any themed episodes for this television season will air well after “real Thanksgiving”, as Robin Scherbatsky dubs the Canadian holiday. Yet this lack of new Thanksgiving-themed entertainment shouldn’t discourage the Canadian TV enthusiast because there are plenty of classic ‘Turkey Day’ episodes worth re-watching. Below are a few of my favourites.

Gilmore Girls, “A deep-fried Korean Thanksgiving”

gilmoregirlsRory: How do you feel?
Lorelai: I ate tofurkey! How do you think I feel?
Rory: Tofurkier?

This third season episode saw Lorelai and Rory Gilmore committing to four separate Thanksgiving dinners, a feat which tests even their spectacular appetites. The vastly different dinners include tofurky at the Kims’, a deep-fried turkey with Sookie and Jackson, dinner at Luke’s Diner, and Thanksgiving with Rory’s grandparents, where she reveals that she has applied to Yale, much to Lorelai’s horror. Meanwhile, Kirk gets a cat, and Jess and Rory navigate their new relationship.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, “Pangs”

buffy pangsAnya: Well, I think that’s a shame. I love a ritual sacrifice.
Buffy: It’s not really a one of those.
Anya: To commemorate a past event, you kill and eat an animal. It’s a ritual sacrifice, with pie.

This fourth season episode featured Buffy deciding to have her first Thanksgiving away from home, but her attempts to have the perfect Thanksgiving are foiled when a Native American spirit begins killing authority figures. While Willow sympathizes with the Native Americans and tries to find a non-violent solution, Xander, who has contracted various diseases experienced by the Natives, has a different idea. Spike, who is no longer able to harm humans, approaches Buffy for help, offering information about the mysterious organization who took him, and Angel returns to Sunnydale to keep an eye on Buffy after his friend has a vision of her in danger.

The West Wing, “Shibboleth”

west wingCJ: They sent me two turkeys. The most photo-friendly of the two gets a Presidential pardon and a full life at a children’s zoo. The runner-up gets eaten.
Bartlet: If the Oscars were like that, I’d watch.

This second season episode is a reminder of what was so great about The West Wing. In it press secretary C.J. has to decide which of two turkeys will be pardoned, and Charlie goes on a quest to find the perfect carving knife for the President. Meanwhile, President Bartlett has his hands full dealing with a ship of illegal immigrants from China who are seeking asylum as persecuted Christians.

Friends, “The One Where Ross Got High”

friendsChandler: Ross sure is a great guy. You know, I’ve always felt that how a young man turns out is a reflection on his father.
Mr. Geller: I always thought that too. Tell, me, what does your father do?
Chandler: He’s a head-liner of a gay burlesque show.

In this sixth season episode, the Gellars come for Thanksgiving, unaware that Chandler and Monica are dating. Chandler attempts to charm his girlfriend’s parents into liking him so he can tell them the truth, but doesn’t realize that the reason the Gellars dislike him is that Ross smoked pot in college and blamed the smell on Chandler when they walked in. Additionally, Rachel inadvertently prepares a disgusting dessert by fusing the recipes for Shepherd’s Pie and English Trifle.

How I Met Your Mother, “Slapsgiving”

marshallMarshall: See what I got going on here, they’re turkeys but they’re also hands. Because later we’re going to eat turkey, and then I’m going to slap you in your face.

When it comes to How I Met Your Mother, the Slap Bet introduced in the second season episode of the same name is perhaps the best thing to happen to the show. I consider all three episodes involving a slap to be classics and this third season episode is no exception. As Marshall and Lily prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving as a married couple for the first time, Marshall creates a new holiday called Slapsgiving, described as “the one day we set aside each year to gather together and give slaps.” As Marshall psychs out Barney over the impending third slap, Ted and Robin realize how hard it is to be friends with your ex, and wonder if they can make it work. If you only have time for one Thanksgiving episode make it this one. You won’t be disappointed.

More Thanksgiving Choices:

This is by no means a complete list. How I Met Your Mother also has the first season episode “Belly Full of Turkey”, where Robin and Ted volunteer at a homeless shelter for the holiday and Lily visits her future in-laws in Minnesota, while The West Wing also has “Indians in the Lobby”, in which the President is disgruntled that he must spend the holiday at Camp David instead of his home, and C.J. deals with two Native Americans camped out in the lobby. The O.C. , known for its Chrismukkah episode, has a Thanksgiving episode in which Summer balks at coming home for the holidays and Ryan seeks revenge on Volchok for the death of Marissa. “Turkeys Away”, an episode of WKRP in Cincinati won an msnbc.com poll for favourite Thanksgiving episode. Certainly the King of Thanksgiving episodes though is Friends, which also featured a memorable episode in which Brad Pitt (married at the time to Jennifer Aniston) guest starred as President of the “I Hate Rachel Green” Club.

Whether you choose to watch or re-watch some of these Thanksgiving-themed episodes, or decide to digest a turkey dinner with the many choices available in new Monday night TV, I wish all my fellow Canadian TV enthusiasts a Happy Thanksgiving!