One of my favorite posts from last year’s Countdown was this tribute to Roseanne’s first Halloween special, titled “Boo.” The Emmy-nominated second season episode kicked off a tradition that would last until the end of the series. Every year, you could always count on the Conners to do SOMETHING Halloweeny.
“Boo” was by far the best of the show’s Halloween episodes. Most of the others had their moments, but you’d do fine scanning only through the highlights. It’s a case where the legend may exceed the reality, because even if Roseanne *probably* still tops all other sitcoms for Halloween goodness, nearly all of that reputation was won during their first at-bat.
…which isn’t to say that the others aren’t worth a glance. Actually, I like the Conner’s second Halloween adventure almost as much as the first, even if I’m probably in the extreme minority on that. From the third season, let’s take a look at “Trick or Treat!”
I could best summarize this episode as “the one where Roseanne dresses like a lumberjack.” That’s all most people remember, anyway.
After her car breaks down, Roseanne and Jackie are trapped at the Lobo Lounge on Halloween night. Jackie’s simple cat accessories are easy enough to shed, but Roseanne has no choice but to wait around in full bearded costume. At first embarrassed, Roseanne soon realizes that she has a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to infiltrate “male territory,” and spends most of the episode seeing how men act when they think that there aren’t any women around to hear them.
And that’s the last you’ll hear about Roseanne’s gender-bending adventures, because they’re not at all why I’ve chosen to feature this episode. No way. This one’s all about THE LODGE.
The LETHAL lodge.
The particulars aren’t very important, so I’ll cover them from memory and hope I’m not wrong. The folks at Dan’s lodge (a men’s club or whatever) are running their annual haunted house, assumedly to raise funds for more wall-mounted taxidermy. Clues in the episode indicate that the Conners have been going to this event for years.
Before we get there, let’s check out the rest of the family’s costumes.
Dan’s dressed as The Three Stooges, with dummy heads representing Moe and Larry on his shoulders. (I’d need to watch the episode again to determine if Dan’s head was meant to be Curly or Shemp.)
DJ has decided to dress as a witch, giving the episode its main subplot. See, Dan, Dan the MAN, cannot come to grips with his son’s decision to dress like “a girl.” He’s opposed to it in a general way, but the fact that DJ’s gonna be carrying that broom in front of his lodge buddies just makes it all the worse. Boy, Dan. Don’t take this stance to Tumblr; they will FLAY your ass.
You have to feel bad for DJ, here. He’s innocently excited about his costume, and there’s mean old Dad, making him feel all ashamed about it. Dan tries the subtle approach at first (hoping to transform “witch” into “warlock” by replacing DJ’s broom with a fireplace poker), but when that doesn’t work, he pulls the “witches are girls” card. Confused and pissed, DJ just leaves all of the accessories behind, and storms off to the car for what will assuredly be an experience retold over too many beers when he’s in his mid 20s.
And then there’s Becky, rocking one of the best costumes seen in any of Roseanne’s Halloween episodes: The half-dead prom queen! Huge bonus points for the dangling eyeball, which is ten times too big to be any normal eyeball. Given Becky’s attitude later in the episode, it’s surprising that she wore any costume, let alone one this incredible. A+.
Most famously – at least with me – is Darlene’s costume. With a dummy arm letting her real one control things under a sweatshirt, Darlene pushes a horrific demon puppet out of her stomach, evoking everything from Aliens to Total Recall.
The rubber monster is amazing, looking like a halfway-converted Cenobite. The puppet even allows Darlene to make it pump its fist in what’s either agony or glee, depending on what the situation calls for. As if this isn’t great enough, Darlene even busts out her raspiest voice to let the mutant baby TALK. (And when it does talk, it’s only to poke holes in Dan’s bullshit story about why DJ should be a warlock. Awesome.)
With the introductions out of the way, we can finally visit THE LODGE.
The LETHAL lodge.
So the deal is that Dan’s once-a-week clubhouse has been transformed into a haunted house. You pay the undisclosed entrance fee, walk through the decorations, and maybe score a free cup of cider on the way out.
Ready? WE’RE GOING IN.
Now, here’s the weird thing. The few images above represent the entirety of the “haunted lodge’s” appearance in this episode. It’s onscreen for barely two minutes, and now that I look at it again, I’m wondering what drove me to make such a big deal about this.
I’m sure it’s partly because of the memories it sparks. I went to public school, and for a few years, I was even in the Boy Scouts. I’ve seen my share of shitty-but-endearing haunted houses. They didn’t have this many lit candles, nor much in the way of artificial fog, but the idea of transforming a random hallway into Castle Dracula is a concept that I’m totally familiar with.
Becky and Darlene are unimpressed. Even when masked monsters hop out to scare them, they recognize ‘em for who they are, exchange casual greetings, and move on to remark about how the whole thing gets lamer every year. Actually, it wasn’t getting lamer: It’s just that Becky and Darlene were getting older.
It’s another reason why this episode means so much to me. I understand the sisters’ apathy. Halloween is something I loved as a kid, only to completely stop caring about for the longest time. Only as an adult did I rekindle those flames.
It’s easy to forget the depressing era when you couldn’t love Halloween even if you wanted to. If the cool kids invited you to their costume parties, that was one thing, but for most of us, all of the activities that made Halloween great almost instantly became things we couldn’t touch with a stick. Trick-or-treating, random monster costumes? Forget it. Even if you continued to eat Franken Berry, you probably didn’t advertise that at school.
That’s how it seemed around here, at least.
Anyway, for as simple as it’s supposed to be, the LETHAL LODGE still adhered to Roseanne’s Halloween tradition of a bloated budget. You’d need several thousand dollars to recreate this scene, and even then, you’d still need to find the right guy to play Dracula.
Dan suggests DJ!
Oh, and I needed to mention this.
Exiting the haunted house into one of the lodge’s common rooms, Becky and Darlene walk past some other costumed guests… including that WHATEVER THE FUCK on the far right.
What is that thing? The bathrobe seems to betray a “bag lady costume” (a lazy classic of its time), but the ridiculously oversized monster mask indicates otherwise. It looks like a Tor Johnson mask meant for an elephant. And the hat just adds more confusion.
On the other hand, we’ve all had costumes like that. Not exactly like that, but costumes with the same mentality behind them. The “oh shit, it’s Halloween… let me run around the house and find enough random nonsense to pass as a costume” mentality. That’s how I spent one Halloween dressed as a spoon-wielding car mechanic in a hockey mask.
In the end, Dan offers to help DJ find a broom, effectively ending their twenty-minute war. Elsewhere, Roseanne is pretending to piss in a urinal.
“Trick or Treat” wasn’t the ultimate “idealized ‘80s Halloween experience” that the previous year’s special was, but I still love it. Mainly for Darlene’s baby demon, but also because…
No, it’s really just that.
Close it out for me, Darlene.
PS: You can pick up a DVD full of Roseanne’s Halloween episodes for dirt cheap. (Is six bucks dirt cheap? Maybe it’s just close to dirt cheap. I dunno.)