Monday, November 1, 2021

My Halloween TV watching last week

I geared up for the holiday with a mini-festival of Halloween-related TV episodes. Here's my ranking of what I saw:

7) Bewitched, "To Trick or Treat or Not to Trick or Treat":  The title is indicative of the lack of effort I think went into this one, but I never was a big fan of the series. Without Uncle Arthur, the Halloween episodes fall flat for me, and this one relies on the Endora/Durwood dynamic that always annoyed me.

6) Mork and Mindy, "A Morkville Horror": We already have the Jay Thomas era, the show is not quite the same as it was...and it's only the second season! I found this a routine episode with both the manic and the maudlin of the series on display. Tom Poston works hard in this, and Exidor fans get a lot, but I didn't get into this one much.  It is good for Halloween spirit, though, if you need it.

5) The Facts of Life, "The Halloween Show": The series was already on fumes by Season 5, and this is a by-the-numbers story of the gals thinking Edna has killed someone for meat. I know that sounds outlandish, but it plays out just as you'd expect. What elevates it over the preceding two sitcoms are Charlotte Rae at her most over-the-top lilting, a nice turn by veteran character actor Ian Wolfe, and one of my favorite TV cliches of all time:

Annoying side character Roy has a spooky costume on, and he jumps out and yells at Jo, who, continuing to munch her apple without breaking stride, gives him a casual, "Hi, Roy."
And then of course most good sitcoms will give you the aggrieved, "How did you know it was me?" from the person in the costume.

4) Murder, She Wrote: Fire Burn, Cauldron Bubble: Laurie and I stepped aside from our usual Murder Mondays to jump just a bit ahead to this Season 5 effort that isn't directly a Halloween episode but that does involve 300-year-old local lore; witchcraft; ghosts; and scariest of all, a young Bill Maher rocking a spectacular 1989 hairstyle.

It's an amusing episode also featuring Roddy McDowall as an arrogant author. The Cape Cod episodes don't always have the flashiest guest casts on paper--no offense to Maher and McDowall, who are both entertaining, nor to Dee Wallace and Christopher Stone and Brad Dourif--but they often provide the most amusing stories. This one was even funny on purpose sometimes, and I recommend it, though the supernatural stuff is more treated as a historical thing than a true Halloween thing. And, hey, that cast sounds a lot deeper now that I write the names down.

3) MASH, "Dreams": it shouldn't surprise you that this offbeat--nay, surreal--episode is directed and partly "conceived by" Alan Alda. The main characters, including not just the surgeons but Klinger and Mulcahy, experience haunting nightmares during an intense run of surgeries and ensuing sleep deprivation. This Season 8 installment of the show is distinctive and creepy, and while some might find it a tad pretentious, I say by the eighth season, why not do some different things?

2) Starsky and Hutch, "The Vampire": I think you're either with this show or you're against it, and this is a classic example: Saxon's compelling turn as the title character and moody atmospherics like cool Seventies spooky music coincide with comedy like Huggy selling vampire protection kits and the guys picking up women at a singles bar. Me, I love this one.

1) The Simpsons, "Treehouse of Horror II."  OK, we don't really consider The Simpsons in our timeframe, but we do consider it awesome, and it started in our era. This is the one with the Monkey's Paw story. 'Nuff said. It's a clear numero uno and still hilarious after 30 years.

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