One of the dorky things I’ve been doing lately to ring in the season around my favorite holidays is to check out holiday-themed episodes of various TV shows. Because I’m a glutton for punishment, I decided to check out the Halloween episodes for a bunch of 80s shows. It turns out that I’m not the first dope to have this idea, but since I’ve already watched the shows, I figured I’d give my readers the skinny on a few of these shows (and there’s not total overlap, so there is that). It being the 80s, there are lots of recurring motifs and tropes that seem to have disappeared. Notably, many of these shows seem to feature a rational protagonist refusing to believe the seemingly supernatural happenings of the day and being vindicated right before having their legs cut out from under them by a piece of unexplained evidence. Most of the episodes follow this formula, and the ones that don’t tend to fall a bit flat. Anywho, enough preamble, let’s hop to it:
- Quantum Leap – S3E5 – “The Boogieman – October 31, 1964” – First and foremost, the opening of quantum leap, where a disembodied female voice explains Dr. Sam Beckett’s predicament, is surprisingly effective and really generates empathy. I probably haven’t seen an episode of Quantum Leap in 25 years, but I was immediately back in the swing of things. It helps that this is probably the best of the Halloween episodes (though another one stuck out in my mind for reasons that will be discussed below). So Sam leaps into Joshua Rey, a horror novelist referred to as a second-rate H.P. Lovecraft (so… Brian Lumly? Zing!). He is, of course, dressed in a ridiculous getup and his house seems abnormally… Gothic.
It turns out that it’s Halloween and he’s working on Church’s haunted house and of course this is going to be the best one ever, right neighborhood boy? Right! Naturally, really bizarre things start happening and bodies are dropping like flies and a suspicious goat starts showing up and there’s a Black Mamba snake for some reason and Al and Ziggy are acting all funny and is the devil really the culprit here and oh look, all work and no play make Joshua a dull boy. This one has great Halloween atmosphere and thus makes for a good episode, and there’s enough tricksy stuff going on that you’re not quite sure what’s going to happen. Plus, we’re treated to two stingers, one about an unexplainable supernatural event, and the other a sorta cameo, both pretty good. I’m pleasantly surprised by how well Quantum Leap is holding up here. Not exactly “Golden Age of TV” stuff, but really fun and still emminently watchable. I’m told this fans consider this episode ccccurrrsed, as countless VCRs were destroyed in attempting to record or playback this episode. The author of that article mentions she had trouble with Hulu as well, but come on, it’s Hulu. Anyway, I had no troubles, and it’s worth watching.
- Quantum Leap – S5E15 – “Blood Moon – March 10, 1975” – So this episode is one of the reasons I actually wanted to go through this whole rigamarole and watch these 80s shows. I have a very distinct memory of the stinger in this episode where the rational protagonist is suddenly confronted with something unexplainable. For some reason, I had attributed this in my head to MacGyver (more on him below), but it turns out that this Quantum Leap episode was what I was thinking of… Sam leaps into Nigel Corrington, who lives in an English castle and sleeps in a coffin and is thus, obviously, a vampire (Al is convinced, Sam is of course not). Indeed, it appears to be the night of The Blood Moon, a night that commemorates one of the earliest vampires, and Nigel is entertaining two visitors intent on observing the vampiric tradition of murdering Nigel’s freshly minted, commoner wife. Nice gothic atmosphere and an entertaining tale, also worth checking out. And that stinger is great fun!
- Quantum Leap – S4E16 – “Ghost Ship – August 13, 1956” – Alright, so this one apparently isn’t an actual Halloween episode, but come on, Sam flies into the Bermuda Triangle in this one, and is there anything more 80s spooky than that? Of course the instruments go all haywire and Al has trouble maintaining contact with Ziggy (and, for that matter, Sam) and of course one of the passengers on the plan has her appendix burst, so it’s vitally urgent that they find their way to nearby Bermuda (and it’s hospital) rather than turning around and making the long trip back to the mainland. Again, nothing particularly Haloweeny about the episode, but it’s got the main formula in place, with plenty of spooky things happening and, of course, a neat little stinger that seemingly confirms the Burmuda Triangle’s bona fides. Another fun episode that is totally worth checking out.
- MacGyver – S4E1 – The Secret of Parker House – This doesn’t explicitly take place on Halloween or anything, but it concerns a haunted house (and was aired on Halloween), so that seems like enough. So Mac is inexplicably friends with the rather daffy Penny Parker (played by Teri Hatcher), who has just inherited her aunt’s old mansion. It is, of course, rumored to be haunted. Some mysterious happenings, a convenient lightning strike, and a strange facial reconstruction later, and we find that it’s not quite haunted. It turns out that the house was built in prohibition days and had a hidden distillery, and a simpleton groundskeeper was hiding in there (and thus causing some mischief). It’s a decent little episode, and of course it turns out to be completely rational. Or does it! This doesn’t hold up as well as the Quantum Leap episodes, but it was a decent enough watch.
- MacGyver – S5E6 – Halloween Knights – So this one actually does take place on Halloween and even features a costume party, but otherwise does not take on anything even remotely spooky. It turns out that one of MacGyver’s arch-nemesi, one Murdoc, wants to enlist MacGyver’s help in taking down his SPECTRE-like organization of killers (there’s a funny and goofy name for this that isn’t really worth looking up). Again, there’s a costume party and Mac gets dressed up in not one, but two costumes (including a Jester costume, which is fun), but the episode is frankly absurd. There’s this ridiculous obstacle course with motion detecting guns and of course Mac defeates this using SCIENCE, but whatever. The episode just kinda ends, no stinger, nothing spooky at all. Maybe a good MacGyver episode, but not a great Halloween episode…
- Cheers – S3E4 – “Fairy Tales Can Come True” – It’s Halloween at Cheers, and the no-name regulars are giving Cliff a hard time because they never see him making the moves on women. But when he’s in costume as Ponce De Leon, he doesn’t seem to be as tongue tied or nervous as when he’s himself, and thus meets the woman of his dreams. Or something, as I don’t think she shows up again, but this is a nice enough episode, worth it for the costumes (but then, not really spooky either).
- Cheers – S4E5 – “Diane’s Nightmare” – Diane dreams that “Andy Andy” has escaped from a mental institution and is coming to kill her (is he a guy from a previous episode? I don’t remember that, but it’s easy enough to follow.) Then she wakes up, and has to face “Andy Andy” again. It’s a neat little episode, not quite spooky but certainly on the spectrum and enough to make it a nice Halloween experience. These sitcom episodes don’t really follow the formula, but this one has a funny stinger at the end (albeit, not a supernatural one).
- Cheers – S5E5 – “House of Horrors with Formal Dining and Used “ – Carla finds a great house in her price range. The only catch is that it’s built on top of a 17th century prison graveyard and the dead prisoners have vowed on their revenge. Being ever superstitious, Carla decides that if she can spend the night there without incident, all will be well, and Cliff helps out. A funny take on the tired premise, it works well enough for sure. No real reference to Halloween, but enough hints of murderous ghosts that it seems worthwhile.
- Cheers – S10E7 – “Bar Wars V: The Final Judgement” – Another in a long line of prank episodes between the folks at Cheers and rival, Gary’s Olde Towne Tavern. This one involve’s Gary’s death and Sam’s refusal to believe it isn’t a prank, which it isn’t. Or is it? All the prank episodes are fun, and while this one takes place on Halloween, it only involves a couple of seasonal-related gags (albeit, pretty good ones). Good times, as usual with Cheers…
So there you have it. If you’re looking for some 80s Halloween chills, check out those Quantum Leap episodes (and there are a couple of others that I didn’t get to as well), as they hold up pretty well. MacGyver was less successful (though I didn’t watch the “Mac Wrastles Fucking Bigfoot” episode, so keep that in mind). Cheers is fun, but not particularly Halloweeny… I’m told there are lots of other 80s shows with great Halloween episodes, but I wasn’t able to get to them (maybe next year… if Netflix still has them)… Anywho, stay tuned for, well, I’m not sure what’s up for this weekend. Either old-school slashers or new school Blumhouse stuff… come back on Sunday to find out!