Top 4 Nostalgic TV Show Halloween Episodes/Specials
This is not for what necessarily are the most “Halloweeny” episodes out there.
We’re not here to honor what scared us the most when we were younger, that is another list for another day. Some are just good episodes that just happen to be set on Halloween and they should be acknowledged so here we go.
4.) “Legend of Sleepy Hollow” (“Wishbone”)
“Wishbone” was a show on PBS and is one of those I’m always shocked to learn how many other people my age watched it. I’m not sure why it surprises me so much it just does. For those who don’t know it was about a family with a Jack Russel Terrier named Wishbone. He was the family dog and could actually read. Typically something was going on with his owners and Wishbone would either read or just remember a story that paralleled it as the family story would just kinda work itself out. The adaptations of the stories were the highlight of each episode. They’d normally try to be quite faithful except the main character was played by the dog. Not in animation or anything, just real actors who have to act against a cute little dog in costumes. I always like to imagine what’s going on in these actors’ heads, getting their big break playing (in some episodes) roles in Shakespeare and they have to play second banana to a dog in the lead role whose voice was added in later. I joke about it but it honestly was a smart idea for a kids show. Teaching them about literary classics but you don’t have to worry about it losing the kids attention because at all times, DOG! And who doesn’t like dogs?
This particular episode was the first of the second season. We have a fairly accurate adaptation of “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” in that it’s about as accurate as most other versions in that they make Ichabod Crane much nicer than he is in the book. It’s one of those weird things to think about how we as a culture have completely changed the point of that character. The “real world” of the episode is about the kids participating in a scavenger hunt and I had forgotten how much I never really cared about the owner’s stories, but once “Wishbone” would go back to the story (like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde) then my interest would return. And upon re-watching the episode after all these years I was reminded of what was probably my favorite part or at least the most influential. At the end of each episode they would take a few minutes to explain some of the filmmaking and how they did it. As it’s a kids show, it’s of course not going to get really deep into it, but I think between this and the end of the Eyewitness videos, it’s probably what planted the idea of making movies in my head. And for that I really have to thank it for setting me on that path. Now if you’ll excuse me, I best move on to the next entry before I can’t get the theme song out of my head… what’s the story Wishbone… dammit!
3.) “Night Ghoulery” (“Tiny Toon Adventures”)
It’s one of the hardest specials to find nowadays. It’s technically the last episode of “Tiny Toon Adventures,” but has never been released on home video other than a VHS tape that is now extremely rare. You may call this cheating since it actually didn’t air until May but it was intended for October and is Halloween-centric through and through. For those who don’t remember, “Tiny Toons” was a cartoon show produced by Steven Spielberg about a new generation of Looney Tunes being taught by the originals (Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, etc.) in school. Despite different names, colors, and the occasional cameo by the teachers, many people saw this as a prequel series back in the day. It probably didn’t help that the characters were all analogs to the original Looney Tunes characters and after the show ended they’ve sort of faded away. But as many others before me have noted, when I went back and re-watched the show as an adult I was shocked how well it (and the similar “Animaniacs”) held up over time.
This special is very good. Not the greatest thing, but it is a very good special. ESPECIALLY the animation. I briefly mentioned it in my TMS article, but it bares repeating here. TMS does AMAZING work in this special. Honestly it’s better than some actual films that make it to theaters. There are a number of good jokes throughout, but honestly I would have been just as satisfied watching it on mute. The backgrounds look as good as anything Disney ever produced and the angles, camera/character movements, and transitions are so unique and add a ton of visual flair. As is typical with “Tiny Toons” it’s all built around parodies of famous movies and TV shows. And good lord do they put an insane amount of detail into each parody. Cars are difficult to draw in general, especially from different angles. In the “Duel” parody segment “Fuel,” they not only completely recreate the famous truck down to every little detail, but then also do stuff like having it sit at the bar drinking a soda. It’s jaw-dropping. I particularly loved the Abbott and Costello spoof, “Hold That Duck” which goes the extra mile by actually having an opening credits sequence that perfectly copies the type of opening credits from those films before. “The Devil Dog on the Moors” is probably the best in terms of writing as it builds tension of a creature trying to break into the house while still being quite silly. They even manage to throw in some cameos from lesser known classic Looney Tunes characters like Witch Hazel, Gossamer, and the gremlins from “Falling Hare.” It is a joy to see the professionals at TMS animate them.