The leaves are turning, pumpkin spice is in the air, and grocery stores are stocking candy by the pound: it must be Halloween. If you grew up in the halcyon days of the '90s then you remember the glut of amazing Halloween TV specials that filled the airwaves. The '90s were a decade when you could always count on at least a couple of funny or scary Halloween shows for kids every week in October.
The best '90s Halloween episodes are those that stick in your memory like a dream that won’t dissipate throughout the day. But what were the very best programs?
Perhaps the most well-known Halloween special of the '90s is the first "Treehouse of Horror" episode from The Simpsons. This second season episode featured three short stories that were a complete break from the family comedy aspect of the series.
The episode included riffs on The Amityville Horror, The Twilight Zone, and Edgar Allan Poe's The Raven. In spite of Matt Groening's worry that the Halloween episode (specifically "The Raven") was too "pretentious," it was a massive hit, and it inspired pretty much every animated show that followed to do something similar.
This Disney Channel special introduced a generation of kids to the magic of Halloween. The TV movie follows the Piper family as they get lost in Halloweentown. Rather than focus on one aspect of Halloween, the town has a little bit of everything: sassy skeletons, weird goblins, and witches galore.
The story is prime '90s Disney, complete with a magical talisman and a wimpy villain who's easily defeated by a group of kids.
Roseanne's first Halloween episode shows the pure joy of being an adult on Halloween. While Darlene and Becky snipe at each about a 10th grader's party, Roseanne and Dan compete to find out which one of them is the master of Halloween. John Goodman is especially unhinged in this episode, showcasing a knack for comedic timing.
In the midst of a silly set up, Roseanne manages to help Becky get over her party problems with one of the greatest lines of the '90s: "There's no chocolate in Hell, that's why it's Hell." The highlight of the episode features Roseanne leading a group of children through her haunted house.
"BOO!" set a high bar for sitcom Halloween episodes, and few series ever managed to ever match it.
This VHS was a big deal in the '90s. This special plays similarly to "Treehouse House of Horror," but it's perfect for younger kids who aren't ready for the Harvard in-jokes peppered throughout The Simpsons. There's some fairly edgy '90s animation humor in this special, and a very spot-on parody of The Nightmare Before Christmas.
If you want to know what 1993 was like, this is it. The special touches on horror touchstones with vignettes and parodies of Casper the Friendly Ghost, The Tell-Tale Heart, The Twilight Zone, and more. The art in this special is top notch, and remains a high point for Warner Bros. animation.