Grab the candy corn.
The fall and winter holidays are finally on their way, and as the days get shorter and the air begins to chill, the best way to gear up and get hyped is through a hand-picked selection of the best Halloween TV episodes. Feature-length holiday movies may dominate December, but October offers a bounty of classic Halloween sitcom episodes. Bonus: The sub 30-minute shows are the perfect length for when you want to watch something festive but don’t have a full Halloween movie in you (no hate to Hocus Pocus). And, unless you take your sitcoms very seriously, you don’t necessarily have to be caught up on the shows to enjoy their Halloween-themed episodes out of order.
Just light a pumpkin candle, grab some candy corn, and take the rest of October to work your way through this Halloween comedy line-up.
30 Rock Season 4, Episode 3: “Stone Mountain” (iTunes, Netflix)
It’s unfortunate that “Werewolf Bar Mitzvah,” one of the best gags of 30 Rock, doesn’t find a way to be reincorporated into this Halloween episode — but at least there’s a Betty White cameo and a petrified Tracy Jordan fearful of being killed via the “Rule of Three.” Meanwhile, Liz and Jack travel to the American heartland — “real America” — to search for a new TGS cast member. The episode also features one of the most universal truths ever uttered, via Liz: “All anyone really wants in this life is to sit in peace and eat a sandwich.”
Bob’s Burgers Season 6, Episode 3: “The Hauntening” (Hulu)
The beloved animated show has a trove of holiday episodes, but “The Hauntening” is the best of the bunch. Unlike the others, it features the infectious Belcher dynamic in full. After Louise claims she can never be frightened, Bob and Linda put on an elaborate effort to scare her at a haunted house, only for things to backfire on everyone. It’s the perfect platter of wholesome spook.
Parks and Recreation Season 4, Episode 5: “Meet ‘N’ Greet” (iTunes, Peacock)
It doesn’t include a continuation of Leslie Knope’s feud with her arch-rival Greg Pikitis — the origins of which the first season’s Halloween episode detailed — but it does feature one of Leslie’s most memorable lines (with Tom being labeled a “butthead”). The episode also features a Halloween bash thrown by Andy and April and, as usual, some messy but ultimately heartfelt moments of bonding among the whole group.
The Simpsons Season 6, Episode 6: “Treehouse of Horror V” (iTunes, Disney+)
How can you choose one episode among the hundreds that make up one of the most iconic television traditions in history? You let the internet decide. The fifth edition of The Simpsons’ annual Treehouse of Horror series, from season six, has the highest iMDB rating of the bunch. Understandably, it sits smack in the middle of the show’s golden era. As with each Treehouse episode, it features a handful of vignettes (this one revolving around a parody of The Shining), a time machine, and murderous Lunchlady Doris.
BoJack Horseman Season 5, Episode 8: “Mr. Peanutbutter’s Boos” (Netflix)
Leave it to BoJack Horseman to have some goofy fun with a holiday episode while also creating a layered, long-arc look at a character’s entrenched human failings. This episode covers four different Halloween parties that Mr. Peanutbutter attends over 25 years, observing the labrador’s four different romantic relationships throughout. The episode plays out a lighter version of the show’s core question — can people overcome their self-destructive ways and change for the better? — on one of its more unlikely characters. If you want silly costumes and gags on dated references, along with the show’s typical devastating emotional punch, this episode is your answer.
Charlie Brown: “It’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown”
Charlie Brown holiday specials are synonymous with the holidays themselves, and this Halloween-themed episode is no different. It features everything adorable you’d want from the gang: trick-or-treating (including a sequence of hilariously heartbreaking scenes with Charlie Brown repeatedly getting rocks instead of candy); Violet’s exclusive Halloween party; and a near-appearance from Linus’s mythical Great Pumpkin, which just turns out to be Snoopy. It’s an absolute classic.
The Office Season 2, Episode 5: “Halloween” (iTunes, Peacock)
Among the trove of holiday-themed episodes that aired during The Office’s nine seasons, the Halloween ones have a surprisingly low batting average. A handful come in the later seasons, when the show begins to lose steam, and a couple relegate the festivities to cold opens. But the aptly titled second season edition is fantastic, featuring a quintessentially Michael Scott bind: For fear of losing popularity, he waits until the last possible day — which happens to be the day of the Halloween office party — to fire somebody.
Friends Season 8, Episode 6: “The One with the Halloween Party” (iTunes, HBO Max)
This is surprisingly the only Halloween-themed episode throughout Friends’s 10-season run, but it leans in delightfully to holiday antics. Monica throws a Halloween party, complete with competitions for the worst costume (Chandler as a bunny and Ross dressed as a technologized potato, an egregious play-on-words referring to the Russian satellite Sputnik) and of physical arm strength (Chandler letting Ross win an arm-wrestling match, followed by Monica beating Chandler). The episode shines as a bottle episode, with the entire cast in one room for the night.
Brooklyn Nine-Nine Season 2, Episode 4: “Halloween II” (Hulu, Peacock)
One of the most endearing Brooklyn Nine-Nine traditions is the Halloween Heist, a recurring holiday bet between Jake and Captain Holt on stealing an object before the night ends. Out of seven that have aired thus far, “Halloween II” knocks out the escalating twists of the rest, even the major proposal of season five’s heist. This one, which focuses on Jake stealing Holt’s watch, had the benefit of the premise still feeling fresh, while using the narrative of the first season’s heist to build up to the most satisfying Ocean’s Eleven-style twist of them all.