We should just make this a Halloween series... It's been roughly a year since the previous installment when Jess listed her favorite spooky shows, and I've been consumed with jealousy ever since. So now, here we are.
There's been no shortage of "Horror series" over the decades, but I always found it more exciting when the mainstream shows decided to get weird for a minute. Plenty of series were bold enough to have at least one "Halloween episode" (Roseanne certainly comes to mind), but once in a while, the laughter and love could get scary for no discernible reason other than the writers wanted to get creative. I liked when that happened, and so you're gonna hear about it.
Saved by the Bell
"Close Encounters of the Nerd Kind" (season 2)
Maybe the most overplayed episode of the series - but as a fan I didn't care. Actually, I was delighted; the entire premise (Screech is mistaken for an extraterrestrial by a U.S. government official) is rooted in makeup effects and rubber masks, and I was (and still am) all about that. And as much as I love that expensive-looking alien mask, I still wanna get my hands on one of those cheapo Kmart Dustin Diamond disguises.
"The Perils of Punky (Parts 1 & 2)" (season 2)
If you watched the series, you still remember what an assault this episode was on your expectations; anyone who saw it never forgot it. Punky gets separated from the group in a haunted cave, and they all periodically return to her in freakish, grotesque styles of their normal selves. It's got poltergeists, possession, body horror, and everything else kids love. The series already had a dark, melancholy tone, so when they hurled this at us, it demanded that we take it seriously.
The Ren & Stimpy Show
"Haunted House" (season 2)
Their drifter lifestyle finds the dog & cat team at a spooky old house, and they verbally agree that it seems like a good place "to kill twelve minutes." The bulk of the short is from the point of view of a mild-mannered (though arrogant) ghost who prides himself in his scare tactics. Of course, Ren & Stimpy are too dumb (or smart?) to fall for the traditional (and some wildly untraditional) haunted house tropes; my favorite (in a scene inexplicably cut from the DVD release) being a sequence in which the Bloody Head Fairy flies in to collect its aptly-named bounty and leaves to U.S. dimes in Ren's ear (resultng in the only time in the episode when either title character displays true terror).
Married... With Children
"Damn Bundys" (season 11)
This is a good time to point out that this particular list is certainly not my favorite episodes from each of these respective series, but rather notable moments of television that fit in with this time of year. Case in point: this final season farce that finds the Bundys and the D'Arcys in Hell after Al makes a deal with the devil (Robert Englund) was only slightly better than the quality of the content they were squeezing out of this last year of the show. All that aside, even though this aired in 1997, watching Al Bundy and Freddy Krueger try to out-ham each other is crossing the streams of the 1980s in a not bad way.
"Miserable" (season 1)
The series was about making fun of movies - that's why it spoke to me, it came out at just the right time. Typically most episodes would have an original story with satirical references to films here & there, but this particular episode is almost entirely a parody of Misery (specifically the movie version). So much so that I needn't describe the premise - you already know it. But like its creative parents (The Simpsons) the inventiveness and the humor came through in the gags more than the premise - like funny newspaper headlines or a well-timed fart joke.