10 Best Halloween themed TV specials

As ghouls and ghosts begin to invade our favourite television shows once more, we're taking a look back at our favourite Halloween specials in TV history. 

Friends, The One With the Halloween Party

This episode from season eight of the universally loved New York sitcom, Friends, is more funny than frightening, but it does feature all our favourite characters in costume as Monica and Chandler host a Halloween party. 

It's the outfits that make this episode so iconic. Phoebe and Monica size each other up as Supergirl and Catwoman, Joey dresses as Chandler, Chandler dresses as a giant pink bunny (the brown Velveteen Rabbit costume wasn't available) and who could forget Ross's pun-tastic 'spud-nik' costume?

 

Dad’s Army, Things That Go Bump in the Night

Dad's Army
Image via BBC

A miscalculation from Sergeant Wilson finds our platoon lost on a dark and stormy night. To make matters worse, they only have half a gallon of petrol left in Jones's van. 

Wet and weary, the men decide to stay the night in a nearby house. When they arrive, the door is already open, the lights are off and a fire is still burning. It looks to be deserted, but is everything as it seems?

This spooky episode is one of our favourites, especially for the hijinks of a terrified Pike. It was also notably the final episode to star James Beck as Private Walker. 

Buy Dad's Army DVDs

 

Modern Family, Open the House of Horrors

Nobody loves Halloween like Modern Family's Claire Dunphy loves Halloween. When husband Phil suggests that she could never really scare anyone then, he's asking for trouble. 

Meanwhile, Cam worries that nobody will notice his weight loss in his bull costume and Mitchell is forced to admit that he once told their daughter Lily that she's never met her mother because she is actually a busy princess. 

This is the sitcom's second Halloween special, and the show is at its strongest when focusing on the follies and fun of family holidays. Claire's prank in the video above might just be one of the funniest moments in the show's history. 

 

Jonathan Creek, Danse Macabre

Danse Macabre Jonathan Creek Halloween Special
Image via BBC

When your TV show already orientates around strange and twisted murders, how do you create a Halloween episode to top them all? By having the murder take place after a Halloween party with the killer still in full costume of course.

Danse Macabre was probably Jonathan Creek's most popular episode, but with the beloved BAFTA-winning series returning for its "spookiest ever" episode in 2016, watch this space. 

 

Simpsons, Treehouse of Horror

Treehouse of Horror

No other television show has mastered the Halloween special quite like The Simpsons. The sitcom has been airing its spooky specials religiously since 1990. The shows are always split into three segments, telling three separate stories, and have previously boasted three different writers and directors for a single episode. 

From Edgar Alan Poe's creepy poem, The Raven, to Dial Z for Zombies, Terror at 5 1/2 Feet and (most famously) The Shinning, no horror classic is safe from a Simpsons lampooning. 

There are several trademarks of Treehouse of Horror episodes. For example, the aliens Kang and Kodos appear in every episode. They often also include an introduction from one of the Simpsons family, notable Marge warning parents about the unsuitability of the show for young children and Bart in the style of Alfred Hitchcock Presents.

Amazingly, during the production of the first Treehouse of Horror episode, the show's creator, Matt Groening, was nervous about the now iconic Raven poem (see above), fearing that it might be "the worst, most pretentious thing we had ever done."

Can't decide which Simpsons special to watch first? Treehouse of Horror V is generally accepted as the best (and scariest) of the lot. 

 

Poirot, Hallowe’en Party

Nothing says Halloween like a good old fashioned murder mystery and David Suchet delivered scares aplenty in his legendary turn as Agatha Christie's Poirot.

This themed episode sees the Belgian sleuth grapple with a murder witnessed by a young girl so innocent, she didn't fully understand what she saw until years later. A girl who is later found dead…

Buy Poirot DVDs

 

Peanuts, It's The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown

This one's a classic. First aired in 1966 you'll find this family favourite repeated every October. 

The Peanuts gang are in full autumnal spirit as they prepare for Halloween. Linus writes his annual letter to The Great Pumpkin, a holiday figure like Father Christmas or the Easter Rabbit, except that Linus is the only one who believes in him. Will The Great Pumpkin pay the kids a visit, or forsake his own holiday?

After the show first aired, enchanted viewers sent sweets from all over the world "just for Charlie Brown".

So pervasive is The Great Pumpkin's effect on popular culture, that The Simpsons sent it up in a Treehouse of Horror segment entitled It's the Grand Pumpkin, Milhouse.

 

Charlie Brooker's Dead Set

Before Charlie Brooker brought us his acclaimed Black Mirror series, he created the genius Dead Set, chronicling a fatal zombie outbreak that leaves the housemates and crew of Channel 4's Big Brother stranded within the Big Brother House.  

At first, the housemates believe the outbreak to be a twisted trick from the production team, but they soon begin to fear for their lives as the zombie threat turns out to be very real indeed. 

As a one-off mini-series, Dead Set isn't technically a TV special, but as it's set in a post-apocalypse series of Big Brother we'll make an exception. 

Starring cameos from Davina McCall and Krishnan Guru-Murthy as well as several former Big Brother housemates, Dead Set was a hit with audiences and is often rescreened by E4 around Halloween. 

 

Buffy, Fear Itself

Buffy Fear Itself

Every episode of Buffy is worthy of a Halloween screening, but this seasonal special is one of the show's best storylines. 

Buffy and the gang find themselves up against a demon who is conjured at a Halloween party, wreaking havoc on the guests by forcing them to face their worst fears. 

Several of the fears the demon makes manifest foreshadow events for the rest of the series. Joyce Summers, for example, bears witness to a fear that will eventually kill her. Meanwhile Buffy's own fear—that being the slayer means she will be deserted by those she loves—is one that will haunt her throughout the series. 

The best line of the episode has to belong to librarian Giles, explaining why supernatural forces avoid showing themselves on Halloween: "they find it all much too crass".

There are four Halloween Buffy episodes in total, the other three being All the Way, Halloween and Life of the Party

 

Derren Brown, Apocalypse

Derren Brown's garnered something of a reputation for these creepy, spectacular illusions. Having performed a Russian roulette and convinced a man terrified of flying to take control of a plane, Derren Brown set about his largest scale illusion yet with Apocalypse. 

A man called Steven, selected for the show because he suffered from a "lazy sense of self-entitlement", is convinced through a series of subliminal messages and hypnosis that the world has ended. He awakes in an abandoned military centre, two weeks after the supposed meteorite has turned the world into a zombie-infested wasteland. 

From here, Steven is put through a series of challenges that Brown claimed would lead him back to a sense of what was truly important. 

The show divided audiences with some in awe at Brown's incredible feat, many sceptical about how truthful the show was being and others shocked that the show was allowed to embroil someone in such a large scale and perception altering illusion. 

 

What's your favourite Halloween special? Let us know in the comments below

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