And yes, Halloween specials of beloved TV shows are a longstanding tradition, not confined to everyone's favorite nostalgia decade of the moment. However, in the interest of narrowing things down and revisiting the spooky joys of my youth, we're confining this particular best-of to the 1990s. Truly, it was a golden age for this stuff. Plus, as long as the internet is up and the MTA is down, you'll need something to keep you busy during this (spookily named) Frankenstorm.
The Simpsons, "Treehouse of Horror V" — 1994
Every single "Treehouse of Horror" Simpsons episode is an instant classic, but if we had to choose one to take with us to a desert island for whatever reason, it would unquestionably be seasons six's installation. This would take the top spot for it's brilliant Shining parody "The Shinning" alone, but the episode also features the short where Homer unsuccessfully time travels (a genuinely formative influence on my thoughts re: time travel), and the one where Springfield Elementary's staff eat all the students. It's almost too good to be true.
My So Called Life, "Halloween" — 1994
Upon revisiting, this episode isn't exactly as scary and romantic as I found it when I was a kid, but still. Angela and her friends breaking into the high school to chase the ghost of a sexy, dead greaser (and Angela's younger sister doing a spot-on costume of her sulky older sibling) still holds up, and perfectly toes the line between the show's usual tone of 90's angst and a more holiday-appropriate one of outlandish ghost sightings. Plus, we learn that Halloween costumes are a really deep metaphor for an identity crisis. Who knew?
South Park, "Spooky Fish" — 1998
Another series with a strong track record of excellent Halloween episodes (Satan's Halloween Party is another must-see), South Park did some of its best work early on with 1998's "Spooky Fish." Presented in so-called "Spooky Vision" (which consisted of pictures of Barbara Streisand on both sides of the screen), the episode unleashes characters from an evil, parallel universe, including a murderous goldfish and a bearded, creepily nice iteration of Cartman. "Spooky Fish" also features a then-timely treatment of the word "hella," the hot new slang sweeping the nation at the time. How quaint.
Roseanne, "Halloween IV" — 1992
See, not all of these are just nostalgic '90s kid picks. Roseanne was always on its game when it came to Halloween episodes, and this one where she loses her holiday spirit and is paid a visit by the ghosts of Halloween past, present, and future is especially solid. Also, did you know Roseanne and Dan first met at a Halloween dance? Aww.
Freaks and Geeks, "Tricks and Treats" — 1999
Being cool on Halloween is surprisingly hard when you're a teenager, and to date, no one has addressed this problem better than Freaks and Geeks. While Lindsay ditches her mom to hang out with her friends, Sam decides that just because he's in high school doesn't mean he's too old to slap on a robot costume and go trick or treating. It doesn't go well for either of them.
Pete and Pete, "Halloweenie" — 1994
An arguably more whimsical treatment of the age-old "how old is too old to trick or treat?" conundrum, "Halloweenie" sees Big Pete stepping up to go house-to-house with Little Pete after Nona's dad (Iggy Pop) refuses to let her go out, for fear of a vicious gang known as the Pumpkin Eaters who are threatening to end Halloween altogether. As the Petes set out to break the town record for most houses visited in a night, the Pumpkin Eaters try to track down and publicly shame Big Pete. Who will win? Will Halloween as we know it survive?! Is it even possible to commit crimes while wearing a pumpkin on your head? You'll have to watch and see.
Follow Virginia K. Smith on Twitter @vksmith.