Roseanne was a pretty great show, but none of the episodes were as genius as the annual Halloween specials. It always brought me joy to see one randomly in syndication on TV, and then last year I was delighted to find that Amazon sells a DVD collection of all 8 Halloween episodes*. And you know what? They’re all good.
There is something so classic about these episodes. They are the archetype of The Halloween Episode–the perfect mold from which others were later cast. For me, watching these gives me an immediate feeling of nostalgia. It evokes memories of the late 80s/early 90s, when I was a preteen and the show was still on the air. More importantly, it reminds me of that special feeling of this time of year. It’s not business as usual anymore, even for shows like Roseanne that had continuity in their story lines. There is an occasion–something special–going on, and the creators of this show spent time and energy paying tribute to it.
And this is one of the great wonders of Halloween: effort. People collectively paying attention to something and putting effort into making it special. We see traces of human thought , creativity, and planning in all different forms of tribute: whether it’s a decorated doorstep of a house, the colorful candy-and-masks aisle in a store, or an original costume. It’s something different, something that doesn’t blend into the background of normal life.
On one of the special features of the DVD, Roseanne herself gives commentary during an episode. In it, she says that her show was the first sitcom to officially have Halloween episodes. She claims that at first, the network totally fought against the idea, but eventually she prevailed. So even if Roseanne’s grating voice gets on your nerves, you gotta give her credit for starting an amazing television trend.
*Side note: When the hell is the Simpsons going to finally put out a collection like this?