Wednesday, October 2, 2013

All Hail the Roseanne Halloween Episodes

So, Roseanne is the best, right? Both the woman herself and her titular show. And of course, the best part of every season was always the Halloween episodes. Before Roseanne, most shows didn't do special Halloween episodes (a fact she addresses in the commentary on the above DVD); after Roseanne, it practically became a requirement. There are shows which are perfectly suited to Halloween, of course: The Addams Family, The Munsters, The X-Files, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, etc. But there are only two shows I can think of off the top of my head that were not spooky normally but consistently deliver(ed) totally awesome very-special-episodes every October: The Simpsons, with their annual "Treehouse of Horror" anthologies, and Roseanne. 

I loved Roseanne when it was on TV, and I love it even more now that it's in reruns. Every time I catch a Roseanne rerun on in the middle of the day - and trust me, they are on constantly, at different times and on multiple channels - I start to watch for "just a few minutes" and end up totally engrossed for at least 4 episodes. Woe to the person who works from home and happens upon a block of Roseanne reruns; you can kiss your day goodbye, friend. Anyhow, for those of us who constantly turn on the TV hoping to catch a glimpse of one of the series' many Halloween specials, 7 of the 8 have been compiled onto a handy and super-affordable DVD. I was feeling very Halloweenie yesterday, writing my Knott's post and flipping the calendar to October and all, so it seemed like the perfect moment to pop in this collection and enjoy.

Here's a rundown of the 7 episodes featured in this collection:
  • Boo! - This is the first Roseanne Halloween special, the one where we're introduced to the concept of "Halloween pranks" as a Conner family tradition - something I've always wanted to emulate in my own life. It's the one where Roseanne dresses like a witch and they set up a "Tunnel of Terror" in their house. For a funnier recap than anything I could write, here's a link to Dinosaur Dracula's post about this episode.
  • Trick or Treat: Here we have a Halloween episode that also examines misogyny and sexism, but with laffs! And Halloweenie goodness! This is one where Roseanne dresses up in drag and learns what men talk about when women aren't around; it's also the one where DJ wants to dress up like a witch but Dan has some serious hetero anxiety about it. Again, Dino Drac has a more detailed recap that you should read.
  • Trick Me Up, Trick Me Down: In this episode, Roseanne and Dan pull a prank on their uptight next-door neighbor; see: Dan splayed out on the kitchen table with his entrails exposed. It's also the episode where they dress up as an undead ventriloquist act for the Lodge party.
  • Halloween IV: Roseanne is bummed because Becky can't make it home for Halloween, so she decides to stay home on her favorite holiday. This is the episode that riffs on A Christmas Carol, with the ghosts of Halloween past, present and future showing Roseanne how important the Halloween spirit really is. Can I just say how awesome young Roseanne and Dan are in the flashback sequence? Perfect casting!
  • Halloween V: This is one of the weaker episodes - not that it means much, because all Roseanne Halloween eps are great. Darlene is away at school and Roseanne thinks she's going to cheat on David so blah blah blah, but also Nancy thinks Dan doesn't like her so blah blah blah. I can't even remember what they dress up as, and I just watched it last night!
  • Skeleton in the Closet: Leon and Nancy host an uber-gay Halloween party at the Lunch Box. Roseanne and Dan dress up as Prince and "the Duke" (John Wayne), respectively, and Roseanne suspects that Jackie's man is gay.
  • Halloween: The Final Chapter: A weird and kind of disjointed episode, but it still has some awesome moments, like the scene between Roseanne and Jackie posted below. It's a truncated version, but you still get Jackie's demented victory face at 0:32. Shame they cut off the Mrs. Butterworth part though!

The most frustrating part of this DVD is that it's not complete! Roseanne was on the air for 9 seasons, and there are 8 Halloween episodes, since the network wouldn't let them do one for the first season. This set does not include "Satan, Darling," the AbFab/Rosemary's Baby-themed Halloween special from the show's final season. Of course, it's probably the weakest of the bunch, but it's still pretty good and, as a completist, it irks me to no end that it's missing. Of course, you can just watch it on YouTube, but it's still annoying! 

The lone extra on this DVD set is a commentary from Roseanne on the "Trick Me Up, Trick Me Down" episode. It's actually pretty great; she includes some interesting factoids (Michael Fishman's Russian accent led everyone on the show to think he had a speech impediment for years! No one on the show apart from Roseanne thought George Clooney was anything special so they would only put him in the episode if he wore a moose suit for most of it!) and she is so over it and it's awesome.

What's your favorite Roseanne Halloween episode? Are there any other shows I'm forgetting that do consistently great Halloween specials besides Roseanne and The Simpsons?

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