Halloween-themed TV specials are an essential part of Halloween. Sure, watching scary movies, carving jack-o-lanterns, and going apple picking are up there too, but no autumn is complete without watching the many Halloween-centric episodes that your favorite television shows have to offer.
Best Halloween TV Specials and Where to Stream Them
There are plenty of sitcoms and TV shows out there that have released some kind of Halloween-themed episode in the past. As to be expected, these episodes are all fun, entertaining, mostly lighthearted specials that include a few scary elements here and there without going all-in on the horror aspects (at least most of the time, anyway).
With how many shows there are in the world, of course, that means there are a ton of Halloween specials out there for your viewing pleasure. To narrow the possibilities down a bit, we put together a list of some of our favorite Halloween-themed episodes of TV shows that we recommend watching this autumn, as well as where they are currently streaming.
The Simpsons — “Halloween of Horror” (Season 27, Episode 4)
The Simpsons is one of the longest-running television shows of all time, and has made an annual tradition of releasing a Halloween-themed episode per season. These episodes, referred to as The Simpsons‘ “Treehouse of Horror” episodes, are short anthology episodes that are usually three segments in length, and take on a more horror, science fiction, or fantasy-based approach per episode.
As there are 30 seasons of the show thus far, you can imagine that there's a ton of Halloween-centered episodes The Simpsons has produced under the “Treehouse of Horror” banner. However, rather than listing any of the incredibly fun “Treehouse” episodes, we decided to go with The Simpsons' “Halloween of Horror” episode instead. Rather than taking on the anthology format of the typical “Treehouse of Horror” episodes, “Halloween of Horror” is more akin to any of the other Halloween-themed entries on this list.
After Lisa suffers a fear-induced nervous breakdown while attending a Halloween-themed night at an amusement park, the family tries to ignore the holiday altogether (much to Bart and Homer's disappointment). The family's calm Halloween is interrupted, however, by three vengeful Halloween store-workers who Homer accidentally got fired and who are now looking for revenge. It's a fun, heartwarming episode, and a refreshing change of pace from the regular “Treehouse of Horror” Simpsons episodes.
Other great Halloween Simpsons episodes: “Treehouse of Horror IV,” “Treehouse of Horror V,” “Treehouse of Horror VI,” “Treehouse of Horror III,” and “Treehouse of Horror II”
Streaming on Disney+
Bob’s Burgers — “Full Bars” (Season 3, Episode 2)
Like The Simpsons, Bob's Burgers has had an impressive string of Halloween-centric episodes over the years. While we loved classic Bob's Burgers spooky specials like Season 8's “The Wolf of Wharf Street” or Season 9's “Nightmare on Ocean Avenue Street,” we decided to go with Season 3's now-classic “Full Bars.” In this episode, the kids decide that they're old enough to trick-or-treat on their own, leaving Bob and Linda free to attend a holiday party thrown by Teddy (albeit reluctantly so).
However, the party soon turns into a murder investigation after Teddy's beloved hamster winds up dead after someone accidentally steps on her, leading a devastated Teddy to go ballistic and prevent everyone from leaving. As that happens, the kids head to an affluent island community where the residents hand out full-sized candy bars, only to find themselves targeted by mischief-causing teenagers.
One of the best Halloween-themed episodes of animated television ever, “Full Bars” might not have the best “burger of the day” name (that honor goes to “The Cauliflower's Cumin from Inside the House Burger”), nor does it have the best comedic costume idea (that would be Tina's costume in “Nightmare On Ocean Avenue Street” as “nun of your business” — i.e. a nun holding a briefcase), but it does make for a 100% entertaining Halloween special through and through.
Other great Bob’s Burgers Halloween episodes: “The Hauntening,” “The Wolf of Wharf Street,” “Nightmare on Ocean Avenue Street,” and “Fort Night.”
Streaming on Hulu
The Office — “Halloween” (Season 2, Episode 5)
The Office might have a better track record of holiday-themed episodes for their Christmas specials — I mean, just look at how great “A Benihana Christmas,” “Secret Santa,” and “Christmas Party” are — but the show still offers some great Halloween-centric episodes here and there.
Take, for example, the show's first special, Season 2's “Halloween,” which is now one of the better episodes in an already strong season. In this episode, the Scranton branch of Dunder Mifflin attempts to celebrate Halloween with their annual holiday party. The mood around the branch is anything but celebratory, however, when Michael is pressured by his superiors into making a last-minute decision that he's been pushing off about who to fire from the office.
While Season 1 of The Office admittedly had a bit of a rough start, with many people feeling the first season was too closely based on the earlier British series and that the humor wasn't adjusting very well to an American audience, its earlier episodes in Season 2 like this one that made the series a distinct counterpart to the original sitcom.
It's cringey, funny, and so tensely awkward at some points it's actually difficult to sit through — all essential features you'd expect to find in any good Office episode.
Other great Office Halloween episodes: “Costume Contest” and “Employee Transfer.”
Streaming on Peacock
Parks and Recreation — “Greg Pikitis” (Season 2, Episode 7)
It's really a shame Parks and Rec didn't have more holiday-centered episodes during its seven-season run. With a track record of memorable episodes like “Halloween Surprise” and “Greg Pikitis,” who knows how many other great Halloween-themed episodes the show could have produced. However, we can still remain thankful for the limited amount of specials we did receive, given how great episodes like “Greg Pikitis” truly are.
In Parks and Rec‘s first Halloween special, Leslie tries to stop a troublesome high school teenager who pulls an annual prank on the Parks Department every year. Meanwhile, Anne throws an underwhelming Halloween-themed party that only Tom is able to save from complete disaster.
One of the better episodes during the early seasons of Parks and Rec, “Greg Pikitis” is a fantastic, lighthearted episode that perfectly displays everyone's character — whether it's Andy shouting “5-0” and jumping into bushes to avoid being caught egging someone's house, Ron's boring Halloween costume, or Leslie taking her job way more seriously than it actually is.
Other great Parks and Recreation Halloween episodes: “Halloween Surprise.”
Streaming on Peacock
New Girl — “Halloween” (Season 2, Episode 6)
An earlier episode in this beloved hit series run, New Girl‘s Halloween-themed episode, “Halloween,” remains one of the show's best holiday-themed episodes period.
Focusing on the strange dynamic relationships that exist between the loft mates and their respective significant others (at this point, they're all dating or romantically pursuing other people), the episode finds each of the main cast facing some sort of relationship crisis that manifests on Halloween.
Jess, who has begun seeing a pediatrician, begins to develop more serious feelings for him than she initially thought, despite only wanting a non-committal fling at first. Nick reunites with an old college crush that he slowly grows more intimate with, only to have second thoughts about the whole thing. And then there's Schmidt of course (dressed in a young Abe Lincoln costume) as he continues pursuing Cece, despite her relationship with Robby, as well as Winston coming to terms with the end of his relationship with Shelby.
It's a bittersweet episode, tackling some pretty heavy issues like romantic mismatches and the characters confronting the kind of relationships they really want to have, making it one of more serious, albeit still very funny, Halloween- themed episodes on this list.
Other great New Girl Halloween episodes: “Keaton.”
Streaming on Netflix
Community — “Epidemiology” (Season 2, Episode 6)
This one was a hard choice. It came down to either this or “Horror Fiction In Seven Spooky Steps,” which is certainly a great episode that you should watch this Halloween.
Ultimately, however, we went with “Epidemiology” just because of how deep the show went investing itself in a more horror movie-like tone, all the while still preserving its signature comedic style. “Epidemiology” opens with Greendale Community College's annual Halloween party, which most of the main student body and faculty are attending. When a strange virus from the Dean's military surplus food causes some of the students to turn into zombies, the study group must try and escape before they too are infected.
Dan Harmon's cult-favorite Community has produced quite a number of episodes hilariously spoofing distinct genres. With “Epidemiology,” the showrunners turn their attention to the zombie movie, making an episode that is equally fun and lighthearted and actually quite a bit scary as well (if you liked zombie comedy movies like Zombieland, you'll love this episode).
Other great Community Halloween episodes: “Horror Fiction In Seven Spooky Steps” and “Introduction To Statistics.”
Streaming on Netflix
Modern Family — “Halloween” (Season 2, Episode 6)
The Emmy Award-winning sitcom Modern Family is one of the shows on this list to offer more than its fair share of Halloween-themed specials, featuring a total of seven episodes that are centered around the holiday. There are quite a few runners-up that may have earned the title of “best Modern Family Halloween special,” but far and away the most popular is the show's first Halloween-inspired episode, Season 2's “Halloween.”
Claire (whose love for Halloween becomes more and more evident as the series goes on) tries to plan her annual haunted house, only to realize the family might not be that into it this year. As she continues preparing for the big day, Phil faces a crisis of his own when his neighbor announces his sudden divorce, leading Phil to wonder about his future with Claire. Meanwhile, Gloria becomes mad at Jay for an insult about her frequent mispronunciations, and Mitchell wears a costume to work and finds himself as the only one dressed up.
Like most Modern Family episodes, there's plenty of fun and laughs in “Halloween,” but also some great tender moments the main characters share with one another, proving that — especially when they're dysfunctional — they still manage to pull through for one another in the end.
Other great Modern Family Halloween episodes: “Open House of Horrors,” “Halloween 3: Awesomeland,” “Halloween 4: The Revenge Of Rod Skyhook,” and “The Last Halloween.”
Streaming on Hulu
Malcolm in the Middle — “Halloween Approximately” (Season 2, Episode 2)
That's right, we're going old-school. While tons of older sitcoms have had Halloween-inspired episodes, from Cheers to Frasier to Full House, we decided to go with the cult classic sitcom, Malcolm in the Middle, because frankly, we feel it doesn't get as much credit as it deserves. With homages to the show paid on the hit MCU show WandaVision, too, we thought there's no better time to pay a nice little tribute to this underrated family sitcom.
In “Halloween Approximately,” the family's eldest troublemaking son Francis comes home from military school shortly after Halloween, putting the boys’ plans for causing mayhem on Halloween in jeopardy. However, the boys still attempt to cause a little mischief by building a large slingshot that they plan on firing at unsuspecting neighborhood residents. Meanwhile, Hal becomes obsessed with catching the owner of a blue sports car who has been racing down his street, soon recruiting Lois to help him find the obnoxious driver.
Nowadays, Malcolm in the Middle is most likely known for its breakout star, Bryan Cranston, whose role starring on Breaking Bad unfortunately tends to overshadow his earlier comedic work on shows like this one. However, as you'll see with this episode, Cranston's comedic style is still an impressive thing to watch, making the character of Hal one of the most hysterical television sitcom dads ever — not to take anything away from any of the other main cast, all of whom are equally hilarious in their own ways.
Other great Malcolm in the Middle Halloween episodes: “Halloween.”
Streaming on Hulu
South Park — “A Nightmare on Facetime” (Season 16, Episode 12)
As one of the longest-running adult animated series currently in production, South Park has released some incredibly memorable Halloween specials in the past, including the most recent holiday episode “Halloween Special” (named after a strand of weed that Randy Marsh has grown and is selling for the autumn season, and that plays a big factor in the episode).
It was a tough decision narrowing down which of the many entertaining South Park Halloween episodes we wanted to choose for this list, but ultimately, we thought the best one was “A Nightmare on Facetime.” In this episode, Randy buys a Blockbuster video store and has the family work the holiday shift, despite it being 2012 and no one renting movies on DVD anymore.
As he continues to deny the impact streaming services are having on video rental stores, Randy soon spirals into insanity, reminiscent of Jack Nicholson from The Shining. While this goes on, the boys dress up as the Avengers for Halloween, and are soon targeted by a group of criminals after they fail to stop a robbery while under the guise of their superhero counterparts.
Although South Park fans might view this one as a controversial choice — with such notable contenders as “Halloween Special” or “Pinkeye” also in the running for the series' best Halloween episode — “A Nightmare on Facetime” episode remains a hilarious spoof of notable movies like Avengers and The Shining, as well as then-current cultural topics like the continuing success of streaming services.
Other great South Park Halloween episodes: “Night of the Living Homeless,” “Pinkeye,” “Halloween Special” and “Sons a Witches.”
Streaming on HBO Max
Seinfeld — “The Frogger” (Season 9, Episode 18)
Technically speaking, Seinfeld doesn't have any episodes that are strictly Halloween-themed. However, there have been a few episodes in the series' run that are practically Halloween-themed except in name alone. The show has had a few darker episodes that might've earned a spot on this list, but some are just either too dark or downright creepy (as is the case of “The Opera”) to earn a place among the other, more lighthearted Halloween-centric TV show episodes on this list.
Season 9's episode, “The Frogger,” is probably the closest the series has come to producing a balanced Halloween episode. Equal parts funny as it is creepy (although definitely more of the former than the latter), “The Frogger” finds George trying to transport a vintage Frogger arcade game that he has the high score on from an old pizza restaurant going out of business, while Elaine tries to hide the fact that she has eaten her boss's expensive cake.
The true Halloween-centric element in the episode, though, is Jerry trying to stay one step ahead of an infamous serial killer in the neighborhood known as the “Lopper.” While that may sound a little dark, “The Frogger” still manages to retain the trademark sense of humor found in practically every Seinfeld episode without doubling down too heavily on the horror aspects of Jerry's subplot.
Regardless, it makes for a fun, easy watch this Halloween season, especially because it's the closest Seinfeld ever came to releasing a full-fledged Halloween-themed special episode.
Streaming on Netflix
The Halloween season is a time of year for tricks and treats, but it's also a great time for tuning into your favorite TV shows for some of the best seasonal Halloween specials there are. Balancing some classic scares with good old-fashioned laughs, there've been numerous TV shows (especially sitcoms) in the past few decades that have released some fantastic Halloween-themed episodes.
Hopefully, this list narrows down the endless possibilities of what to watch this Halloween season and where you're currently able to stream them. Additionally, we also really enjoyed Brooklyn 99‘s first Halloween special, “Halloween,” as well as the fan-favorite cult series Freaks and Geeks' “Tricks and Treats.”
Richard Chachowski is a freelance writer based in New Jersey. He loves reading, his dog Tootsie, and pretty much every movie to ever exist (especially Star Wars).
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