Do They Know It’s Hallowe’en?

The Hallowe’en weekend of festivities is upon us, and I hope that you were all already aware of- and prepared for- that fact.

If not, I fear that the North American Hallowe’en Prevention Initiative hasn’t been doing their job too well…

Remembering that costumes are in order is only part of the planning, however. You have to also decide what you’re going to dress up as. And if you haven’t yet made your choice, why not plunder television shows for inspiration?

Here are some of my favourite Hallowe’en themed TV episodes, you never know there might be an outfit you want to rip off for yourself! And if not, at least you can amuse yourself laughing at the sadder sartorial selections.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer

When Ethan Rayne set up shop in Sunnydale he created chaos by making people’s Hallowe’en costumes take over their wearer’s personality. Thus Buffy ended up transformed into a useless (if pretty) noblewoman, Willow a non-corporeal ghost (adorned in whatever the skimpy outfit Buffy convinced her to put on was supposed to be) and Xander a solider with a real gun. The episode explored both the positive side of coming as you aren’t, Willow and Xander gained confidence and Buffy got to deal with her jealousy over the girls her vampire boyfriend Angel knew when he was human, but also the problems inherent in subsuming your real identity and feelings.

Later seasons featured other fun guises, such as Willow’s well-crafted Joan of Arc accoutrements, accompanied by her boyfriend Oz’s claim that he was dressed as God- by coasting on their close relationship (and a name tag). And the unbelievably adorable little witch from season six (who can be seen in the episode promo) was pretty good too.


Although the season one Hallowe’en/Dia de los Muertos episode was a lot of fun (it featured Pierce’s trip/meltdown as well as some great costumes, including Abed as Batman and Britta as a squirrel), the second season’s ‘Epidemiology’, with its lampooning of zombie movies, is even better. And some of  the characters’ wardrobe choices provide more than amusement. For example, the fact that Chang and Shirley understood who each other had dressed as (Peggy Fleming and Glinda the Good Witch respectively) led to them connecting- which ended up shaping a large part of the season’s story arc. Britta’s inability to use her hands because of her bulky outfit also turned out to be significant, according to Abed’s later recollections of the party.

And Dean Pelton’s Lady Gaga homage was clearly streets ahead of the Glee and Pretty Little Liars attempts.

How I Met Your Mother

Perhaps the fact that no one could understand Ted’s Hanging Chad costume is a sad comment on society. It’s certainly a sad comment on Ted’s boring personality, at any rate. As is the fact that he spends every year hanging about on the roof waiting for his Slutty Pumpkin to reappear, as if he was some sort of reverse Cinderella. As usual, however, his awfulness is more than made up for by the awesomeness of his friends. Marshall and Lily make a cute double act however they’re dressed, Barney’s over the top Top Gun references and costume changes were hella fun, and Robin’s complete lack of effort made me really like her character for the first time.

To be fair, Robin’s date wanted the two of them to dress as Hansel and Gretel. Given the potentially incestuous undertones I’m not surprised she refused.

Freaks and Geeks

Although Lindsay and her friends seemed to think they were too mature for trick or treating and costumes, at least her younger brother Sam managed to convince his friends to get dressed up. A lot of the people they hit up for sugary treats seemed to think they were too old to be doing it though. They were just trying to recapture the joy of childhood, which seems to be a large part of what dressing up and Hallowe’en in general are about, so I don’t think their 1980s suburban neighbours needed to be so judgemental! Perhaps their ill-chosen ensembles didn’t help their case, however.

Sam’s childish cardboard outfit and Neal’s moustache issues might have made them targets for mockery (and tricking, as opposed to treating) but nowhere near as much as Bill’s Bionic Woman costume.

Modern Family

Of course control freak Claire would want to meticulously plan the ultimate Hallowe’en experience. In typical sitcom fashion everything went wrong thanks to a load of misunderstandings and general obstinance. Normally all of that would get on my nerves, but the costumes provided enough of a distraction. What can I say? I’m shallow.

Plus there were some genuinely funny bits- such as Gloria’s attempts to hide her accent (when’s a better time to play with how you present yourself to the world than at Hallowe’en. after all?) and Hayley’s determination to utilise the excuse the day presents to dress sexily…even in a Mother Theresa outfit.

The Big Bang Theory

When they got invited to Penny’s fancy dress party the gang were overwhelmed. Not because they’d been invited to a party (though that would have been understandable) but because the lack of theme meant they could come as anything. Being presented with too many options can be mentally exhausting, which perhaps explains why they all ended up dressing as The Flash. They all reluctantly agreed to get changed into something else, resulting in Leonard as Frodo, Howard as Robin Hood (even if he looked suspiciously like Peter Pan), Raj as Thor and Sheldon as the Doppler effect.

Perhaps the lesson here is that obscure is better (because Sheldon is clearly better than his short friends), and/or that coordinating with your friends is a must.

My So-Called Life

I actually thought that the ghost story element of the Hallowe’en episode was a little lame, but I enjoyed Angela, Rayanne and Rickie running around with Brian in tow. Meanwhile, Sharon (Angela’s ex-best friend)’s yearning for the simplicity of childhood was adorable. It fuelled not only her costume enthusiasm but also her decision to go trick-or-treating with Angela’s little sister, Danielle, whose Angela get-up (and impression) lightly satirized the gloomier aspects of the show.

The real scene stealers though were Angela’s parents with their Rapunzel and pirate garb, which led to a lot of sexytime, and the pair not even making it to the party they’d rented the outfits for. The fantasy couldn’t last, however, and it uncomfortably tapped into some of the problems in their relationship, such as Graham’s feelings of emasculation and Patty’s struggle to see herself as both strong and feminine.


The amount of Firefly references peppered through the seasons of Castle makes me think that they’re either really into their intertextuality, or that they think their audience is mostly made up of die-hard fans of Mal Reynolds (Castle star Nathan Fillion’s role in Firefly and the spin-off film Serenity) who ought to be pandered to. Either way, I don’t think any of the references have been quite as blatant as trotting Fillion out in his Captain Mal outfit, so he could dress as a “space cowboy” for Hallowe’en.

It was fan service at its best (and least creepy), especially with his daughter’s response- pointing out that he wore it, like, five years ago and that he ought to move on. Boom!


Although the Glee kids didn’t don their Rocky Horror outfits for Hallowe’en (it was for the planned high school musical) the episode aired at the end of October, and you can’t do much better than riffing on this classic musical for your costumes. They all looked fantastic- even the kids who didn’t get to do much because they were doubling up on minor roles- but Finn was eerily well-cast as Brad, Kurt was amazing as Riff-Raff, and Mercedes brought a fresh take to Frank-N-Furter.

However some elements of this 70s production were deemed too risqué, both within the show (so the musical was eventually cancelled) and for Glee itself. The lyrical changes, the glossing over of the themes of sexuality and transvestism, and the decision to add more clothes to Sam’s Rocky costume all seemed like a damn shame.


The Friends episode ‘The One With the Halloween Party’ serves as an important lesson. (Sadly not one about remembering the apostrophe.) When Monica and Chandler announced their plans to have a fancy dress party last-minute they were met with dismay from their friends, because demanding that level of effort from people without giving them enough warning leads to bad things happening. Or at least highly dubious dressing up.

Chandler’s bunny suit (which he didn’t pick for himself) was embarrassing enough, but not a patch on Ross’ attempt at a punny Spud-nik ensemble. Plus Joey’s Chandler get-up was a little lame, and while Rachel did in fact embody her woman-who-spent-a-lot-of-money-on-a-dress-and-wants-to-wear-it-because-soon-she-won’t-be-able-to-fit-into-it apparel, it wasn’t exactly the most original choice in the world.

Hopefully you’ve all been inspired to come up with something a little better than Rachel’s laziness for your own Hallowe’en plans! And if not, you can always dress as me. It’s easy, you just have to look tired and clutch a bottle of rum.

One thought on “Do They Know It’s Hallowe’en?

  1. You have reminded me about the awesome things fave shows can do with Halloween! I’m probably going to have to pull a Rachel/Robin – ie nice dress or no effort. Dressing up is hard!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s