Monday, October 26, 2015

Ten Classic TV Show Episodes Suitable for Halloween Viewing

Classic television shows are known for their Christmas episodes. The majority of them aired at least one episode devoted to the holiday. That having been said, they were also known for their Halloween episodes. While not nearly as common as those devoted to the Yuletide, Halloween episodes of TV shows were common enough in the Fifties, Sixties, and Seventies that one could compile a rather long list. To this end I have compiled a list of TV show episodes suitable for Halloween viewing.

Here I must point out that some of these episodes did not air around Halloween, nor do all of them mention the holiday. That having been said, all of them deal with subject matter suitable for the holiday. I have purposefully excluded shows in the horror genre as if I included them they could easily dominate the list. For those who are interested, at the end of the list of TV show episodes I have a list of classic horror TV shows, any episode of which would be fitting for Halloween.

Without further ado, in chronological order by debut of the show, here are the ten episodes.

1. The Phil Silvers Show "Bilko's Vampire" (original airdate: October 1 1958): This is a very amusing episode from one of the greatest sitcoms of all time. Master Sgt. Ritzik becomes addicted to watching horror movies on television. As if this doesn't cause enough problems for Bilko (Ritzik's horror movie addiction is disrupting their regular poker games), Ritzik becomes convinced that he is a vampire.

2. Alfred Hitchcock Presents "The Sorcerer's Apprentice" (made during the show's 7th season, but never aired on network primetime): Okay, given I said I was not including episodes from horror TV shows, some of you might question my choice to include an Alfred Hitchcock Presents episode, but strictly speaking Alfred Hitchock Presents was not a horror show. It was a suspense anthology whose usual fare would fall into the crime or mystery genres. That having been said, throughout its long run Alfred Hitchock Presents ran more than its share of episodes that were outright horror. "The Sorcerer's Apprentice" is one of them.

In "The Sorcerer's Apprentice" Brandon deWilde plays a mentally troubled youth who befriends a carnival magician and his wife with disastrous results. The episode was meant to be the 39th episode of the seventh season of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, but the show's sponsor Revlon found it so frightening and disturbing that it was not aired during the show's initial network run. It would first be seen in syndication. Several other Alfred Hitchcock Presents episodes are also suitable for Halloween viewing, including "Banquo's Chair", "Human Interest Story", and "Special Delivery", among others. There is also the Alfred Hitchcock Hour episode "The Magic Shop".

3. The Twilight Zone "Living Doll" (original airdate November 1 1963): Like Alfred Hitchcock Presents, some might question the inclusion of a Twilight Zone episode, but strictly speaking it was not a horror TV series either. Instead it was a fantasy series that occasionally delved into science fiction and even horror. "Living Doll" numbers among its most famous episodes, so much so it is regularly referenced in popular culture. It is also possibly the most frightening episode of The Twilight Zone ever. Quite simply, "Living Doll" deals with Talky Tina, a talking doll who is not only self aware, but also harbours murderous intentions.

Although episodes that could be considered outright horror on The Twilight Zone weren't actually as common as some people might think they were, the series did create some memorable episodes in the genre. Among the other episodes suitable to watch on or around Halloween are "The Howling Man", "It's a Good Life", "Nothing in the Dark", and  "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet".

4. The Andy Griffith Show "The Haunted House" (original airdate October 7 1963): Unlike the first three episodes I listed, "The Haunted House" from The Andy Griffith Show is not really frightening, but it sure is funny. It all starts when Opie and his friend Arnold accidentally hit a baseball into an abandoned house they believe to be haunted. When Andy, Barney, and Gomer go to investigate the house, hilarity ensues. "The Haunted House" was the only Halloween episode ever produced for The Andy Griffith Show. It also happens to be one of its funniest.

5. Route 66 "Lizard's Leg and Owlet's Wing" (original airdate October 26 1962):  It may not be the best Route 66 episode, but "Lizard's Legs and Owlet's Wing" is one of the most fun, especially for fans of classic horror. Boris Karloff, Peter Lorre, and Lon Chaney Jr. guest star as themselves, debating whether the horrors of old would be frightening to a new generation. Of course, Tod and Buz just happen to be working at the hotel where the three classic horror stars are meeting. The episode is very enjoyable, especially as it features the stars for the very last time in the makeup of the classic monsters they made famous.

6. The Beverly Hillbillies "Trick or Treat" (original airdate October 31 1962):  In "Trick or Treat" Granny is missing the hills and complaining that none of their neighbours in Beverly Hills come to visit the way they did back home. Jed suggests to Granny that they visit their neighbours. Of course, it just happens to be Halloween.

While "Trick or Treat" is a very funny episode, I do have one caveat with it. Given the number of Scotsmen who settled in the South and brought Halloween to the United States, chances are good that The Clampetts would then be very familiar with the holiday and would likely celebrate it themselves. That having been said, they probably would not be familiar with the custom of trick or treating (as the episode suggests), which did not really develop until the early 20th Century. Regardless, it is still a very funny episode and a historic one at that. "Trick or Treat" marks the first ever mention of Hooterville, later the setting for both Petticoat Junction and Green Acres!

7. The Addams Family "Halloween with the Addams Family (original airdate: October 30 1964): Okay, arguably everyday is Halloween for the Addams Family, but Halloween itself is, well, more Halloween. It should come as no surprise that the Addamses celebrate the holiday and are more than happy to welcome visitors to their festivities. Unfortunately two hold-up men show up just as the Addams Family are celebrating Halloween. As might be expected, the hold-up men experience what usually happens to people who partake of the Addamses' hospitality....

8. F Troop "V is for Vampire" (original airdate: February 2 1967): When a Transylvania count, Count Sforza, comes to town, the men of F Troop can't help be convinced that he is a vampire. After all, he drives a hearse, has pale skin, and keeps company with a crow. The fact that he is played by none other than horror legend Vincent Price probably doesn't help matters! This is a very funny episode and it is great to see Vincent Price on the small screen any time.

9: Star Trek "Catspaw" (original airdate: October 27 1967): One would not expect a straightforward science fiction show like Star Trek to do a Halloween episode, but it did. It also happens to be one of the best episodes of the show. Written by legendary horror writer Robert Bloch, "Catspaw" has all the trappings of classic horror movies: a black cat, a derelict castle, a dungeon, and what appears to be a diabolical wizard. Of course, everything has a rational explanation in the end, but it is all good fun.

10: The Monkees "I Was a Teenage Monster" (January 16 1967): You know The Monkees are in trouble when their latest gig just happens to be in a castle belonging to a mad scientist. "I Was a Teenage Monster" is a wonderful send-up of classic horror movies, with John Hoyt as mad scientist Dr. Mendoza and Richard Kiel as the monster of the title. Curiously for a comedy about a rock band, The Monkees actually featured several other episodes suitable for Halloween, including "Monkee See, Monkee Die", "A Coffin Too Frequent", "The Monstrous Monkee Mash", "The Monkee's Paw", and "The Devil and Peter Tork". Strangely enough, none of them aired at Halloween or even in October!

Of course, over the years there have been several shows that were dedicated to the horror genre. Here is a list of classic horror TV shows, of which several episodes would be worth spending Halloween watching:

Thriller (1960-1962): Thriller began as a straight suspense anthology and very swiftly changed formats to a show that rotated horror episodes with crime episodes. Eventually the horror episodes began to outnumber the crime episodes until Thriller was more or less a straight horror anthology. In fact, it produced what I consider the most terrifying hour of television ever, an adaptation of Robert E. Howard's "Pigeons from Hell".

Dark Shadows (1966-1971): Quite naturally a soap opera that featured a vampire as a lead character and included werewolves, Frankensteinian creations, witches, and, in one episode, what was obviously the Devil himself, would be suitable for Halloween...

Night Gallery (1970-1973): Rod Serling's horror anthology was not nearly as good as The Twilight Zone, and it could be very inconsistent in quality, but it did produce some good episodes. If you want to watch it, I would recommend getting the DVD sets, which feature the episodes restored as close to their original states as possible. Sadly, the episodes airing in syndication are highly edited, to say the least. Indeed, some of the so-called "Night Gallery" episodes in syndication actually belong to an entirely different show, The Sixth Sense...

Tales from the Darkside (1984-1988): This was a syndicated horror anthology created by George Romeo of Night of the Living Dead fame. Throughout its run the show adapted stories by such writers as Clive Barker, Robert Bloch, Fredric Brown, Harlan Ellison, and Stephen King.

Tales from the Crypt (1989-1996): Before Game of Thrones, Tales from the Crypt was the HBO show to watch. The show adapted stories from EC Comics, mostly from their horror titles (Tales from the Crypt, The Crypt of Terror, Haunt of Fear, and Vault of Horror), but also from a few others as well (Crime SuspenStories, Shock SuspenStories, and Two-Fisted Tales). Like the comic books Tales from the Crypt had a host, the Cryptkeeper from both Tales from the Crypt and The Crypt of Terror.

The X-Files (1993-2002): The X-Files was primarily a sci-fi show, but it featured more than enough episodes that veered into horror (more than The Twilight Zone ever did). It produced what I consider the second most frightening hour of television ever, the episode "Home".

Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1997-2003): Okay, Buffy the Vampire Slayer is not old enough to be a classic yet, but arguably it is on its way. The show was a supernatural horror series with continuing characters, setting it apart from the earlier anthology shows. It also produced several episodes worth watching. Its spinoff, Angel, is also worth checking out.


Hal said...

A great list. I'm particularly partial to the F Troop and Bilko entries. The Sorcerer's Apprentice scared the heck out of me as a child!

I might add One Step Beyond to the list of shows; John Newland was pretty creepy as the host too.

I'd have to strongly consider the Gilligan's Island episode "Up at Bat" too.

Night Gallery could frighten me as a child too, especially the first segment of the pilot (The Cemetary) but most memorably with Green Fingers (with Elsa Lanchester) and especially The Caterpillar (with Laurence Harvey)

Terence Towles Canote said...

I watched "Bilko's Vampire" the other day and it was hilarious as always. I love that they were being somewhat topical with that episode--the Shock! package of classic Universal horror movies was huge at the time. I think "The Sorcerer's Apprentice" might be my third most frightening episode of all time--it really scared me when I first saw it!

I forgot about One Step Beyond! None of the stations carried it when I was growing up, so I didn't see it until I was an adult. It doesn't come to my mind the way Thriller does then.