Halloween is usually the time to indulge in a classic horror film or a newer, gory thriller that will keep you at the edge of your seat. If that's what you want to watch, we have recommendations for new horror movies and spooky TV series, but if you've had enough of jump scares, or if the current state of the world makes you crave something lighter, our writers have rounded up some of their favorite Halloween-themed episodes. Several of them are family friendly, and some are for an older crowd, but all are episodes that you can put in your queue tonight and are guaranteed to make you laugh.
— Maira Garcia, television editor
What’s more scary than a bunch of elementary school kids high on sugar from Halloween candy? Probably not knowing where that candy is. This episode has the right mix of characters, including Ashley, my favorite aloof teacher’s aide; a love triangle (for all my Gregory and Janine shippers); chaos (keywords: baby Thanos) and some well-timed thunder and lightning.
I cannot tell you the number of times my jaw has dropped watching "Abbott Elementary" simply because it is too realistic. The show’s first Halloween episode taps into that nostalgia of what public school is like. My teachers and I did not dress up too much, but if I could go back in time, I would definitely brainstorm some of these creative costumes: Quinta Brunson dressed up as 76ers star James Harden and a mini-Mr. Johnson janitor. — Helen Li, Times fellow
"Nightmare on Ocean Avenue Street" (Season 9, Episode 4) | Streaming on Hulu
You really can’t go wrong with any “Bob’s Burgers” Halloween episode and the earliest ones (“Full Bars,” “Fort Night,” “Tina and the Real Ghost”) are still among my favorites. A slightly more recent standout is Season 9’s “Nightmare on Ocean Avenue Street.” The episode not only features one of my favorite costumes — Tina, who admits she might be a bit too old for trick-or-treating, dressed as Nun of Your Business — it blends ‘80s slasher flicks with a dash of “Scooby-Doo.” This Halloween sees the Belcher kids and friends having to face down a costumed candy thief targeting young trick-or-treaters during a street fair. The culprit might be obvious, but it’s no less funny. The episode also includes plenty of pop culture references, increasingly excessive decorations and even a haunted house. Plus, the parody song paired with the end credits is top notch. Hint: It relates to Tina’s costume. — Tracy Brown, staff writer
'Buffy the Vampire Slayer'
"Halloween" (Season 2, Episode 6) | Streaming on Hulu
"Buffy the Vampire Slayer" always took Halloween seriously, even if that's when the series could be at its cheekiest. But it was the spooky season namesake episode, Season 2, Episode 6 — who am I kidding, I loved them all, even "Fear Itself" — that quickly cemented the series' GOAT status . A still-fresh slayer gets a comeuppance of sorts when she and some of her fellow demon fighters become the costumes they've chosen for the night's festivities. And they all — except Cordelia, who got her costume from a less-spelled shop — fall into disarray, as does the bulk of the town. Brash, violent protector Buffy turns to into a delicate damsel and stays in distress for much of the episode. Aimless (and a little slow on the uptake) Xander morphs into a military tactician. Shy Willow doesn't stray far when she becomes a ghost after she uses her costume as a shield between her and the world's prying eyes. And that's just the beginning of the mayhem. The character development in this episode is so rapid-fire that you almost needed to keep score. But that just means this episode did its duty. "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" at its best was always layers upon layers, and there are not many holiday episodes stacked higher. — Dawn M. Burkes, assistant editor, Fast Break
Rapid-fire gags, pop culture references out the wazoo, episode-long character arcs, stories that lean into the surreal — there is perhaps no better episode than Season 2’s “Epidemiology” that demonstrates “Community’s” greatest strengths. The episode, which is built on the ripe premise of a costume party the study group attends at Greendale Community College, expands the show’s scope by becoming an action comedy riffing on zombie movies like “Night of the Living Dead.” From Troy and Abed’s (Donald Glover and Danny Pudi) “Aliens” costumes to Dean Pelton’s cost-cutting that leads to the zombie outbreak, “Epidemiology” — despite only lasting 22 minutes — has more setups and payoffs than most movies. — David Viramontes, audience engagement editor
'Freaks and Geeks'
It's an early episode, so the show is still finding its feet (Seth Rogen doesn't get to do much more than grumble), but it's already audaciously and ambitiously real and goes right to the heart of the series' central theme. Lindsay (Linda Cardellini) is trying to grow up, while her younger brother Sam (John Francis Daley) is not ready to. She ditches her mother (Becky Ann Baker, heartbreaking) to go on a date and cruise with her new friends, committing acts of minor vandalism; he persuades his old friends to join him in one last fling at trick-or-treating. As Bill, whose choice of costume is Jaime Sommers, the Bionic Woman, Martin Starr announces his brilliance; Joe Flaherty calls back to his "SCTV" character, Count Floyd. To say that not everything works out well is only to say, you're watching "Freaks and Geeks." — Robert Lloyd, TV critic
To me, "Modern Family" dominated Halloween episodes the way "Friends" owned Thanksgiving episodes — each of them are good for a different reason, and it's genuinely difficult to pick a favorite. Beginning with its second season, the long-running ABC sitcom leaned heavily into how competitive Claire (Julie Bowen) gets about pranking her family members. Over the years, the series used the spooky holiday to play out plots like grieving a loved one, being a supportive partner or wishing time would slow down so parents can spend the annual extravaganza with their teenage kids. And though the costumes get better and better every year, there's something that can't beat Mitchell (Jesse Tyler Ferguson) wearing a muscly Spider-Man costume under his suit to work. — Ashley Lee, staff writer
'Over the Garden Wall'
“Hard Times at the Huskin’ Bee” (Episode 2) | Streaming on Hulu
The second episode of Cartoon Network's miniseries "Over the Garden Wall," oozes big Halloween energy. It has an abandoned town, dancing pumpkins — and Elijah Wood.
"Hard Times at the Huskin' Bee'' is a slightly chilling, yet whimsical take on the afterlife. Wandering brothers Wirt (Wood) and Greg (Collin Dean) stumble upon the town of Pottsfield, where its squash-headed residents warn they might be a "little too early" to be among the crowd. Just when things seem grim for Wirt, Greg and bluebird Beatrice (Melanie Lynskey), "Over the Garden Wall'' breaks the tension with playfulness.
The episode combines the cozy feel of fall with classic Halloween imagery — with little to no nightmare fuel. Of course, lingering threads about life, death and what comes after aren't necessarily lullaby material either. The best part about “Over the Garden Wall”: All 10 episodes move quickly with 11-minute run times. — Alexandra Del Rosario, staff writer
While it isn’t Halloween in this episode of the long-running animated series, it does center on supernatural happenings. Butters is convinced that vampires have taken over South Park Elementary, and everyone seems to ignore him about it. He eventually discovers the South Park Society of Vampires, a group of kids who wear fangs, dress in black and drink blood, which is actually Clamato juice. As part of his initiation into the club, they take him to Hot Topic — the retail store known for its goth-inspired wares — newly installed at the South Park mall, where they outfit him to look like a vampire. Meanwhile, the Goth Kids come to the fore of the episode as other students begin to mistake them for vampires. They aren’t having it. The episode culminates with the Goth Kids burning down the store, giving us the deliciously silly and '80s-inflected tune, “Burn Down Hot Topic.” — Maira Garcia, television editor
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.