Monday, October 22, 2018

Sabrina the Teenage Witch - All her Halloween Episodes

Most kids go through a transition from watching cartoon shows, then to watching sitcoms, and while still aimed for kids, they still felt like the next phase of growing up. Most of the sitcoms I grew up with were re-runs from the 80’s or early 90’s programs like “Family Matters” and “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air”, which were then followed by a number of popular shows on the Disney channel that I probably don’t need to name. However, before any of that, the very first sitcom I ever actively watched and couldn’t get enough of as a kid was the ABC series “Sabrina the Teenage Witch”.
Although, when I watched it, the show had moved to what was formally known as the WB station. While I can’t say with a strait face that this series holds up as anything great, it was still a lot of fun to watch as a kid, and I can’t help but have some hidden nostalgia reserved for it. Sense the show revolved around a family of witches living in a suburban environment, it allowed for more cartoony visuals and bizarre plots that no other sitcom had. More to the point, the annual Halloween episodes always stood out from the Halloween episodes of other sitcoms. Most other shows would certainly get decorative, but with our Witch main character, and her talking black cat, these Halloween episodes had no boundaries for how over the top, goofy and drenched in the holiday they could get. I’ll admit, I haven’t watched anything from this show sense I graduated from elementary, but I’m feeling nostalgic, and with the new, darker Sabrina series premiering on Netflix this October, I felt the time was right to look back on this show. I don’t know if anything has held up, or if it was even that good to begin with, but either way, here are all seven Halloween episodes from the seven seasons of “Sabrina: The Teenage Witch”.   

Season 1: Episode 5 – “A Halloween Story” 

It’s Sabrina’s first Halloween while living with her two aunts, and she finds herself needing to be in two places at once. Her overbearing aunts want her to attend a family social, while her high school crush wants her to join his Halloween party. Desperate to make sure she doesn’t loose her crush to her school rival, Sabrina duplicates herself and sends her absent minded second half to be a stand-in, while she goes to the family social. While there, Sabrina finds herself at the mercy of her bratty cousin Amanda, who isn’t beneath shrinking people down and stuffing them in jars for her own sick amusement. 
Meanwhile, Sabrina’s school rival takes advantage of her duplicate and aims to ruin her good name in front of everyone at the party. For an episode from a TV sitcom, this is passable at best, but it flounders as a Halloween special. The holiday is only a backdrop to a situation that really could have been staged during any episode. However, the one redeeming factor comes near the end, where thanks to all Hallows eve, Sabrina gets to spend one hour with someone from the dead. Thus, the episode closes on an emotional note when she spends some time with her late grandmother. The villain Amanda would also become a reoccurring character after this, and is played by Emily Hart, the younger sister of Melissa Joan Hart who plays Sabrina. Ironically, Emily would also supply the voice of Sabrina in the animated TV spin-off show.  

Season 2: Episode 31 – “A River of Candy Corn Runs Through It” 

With a ridiculous title like that, you can probably guess that this won’t be a very subtle episode. In an effort to upstage the high school bully, Sabrina’s best friend sets up an all-out High-school Halloween party at Sabina’s houses … unfortunately, Sabrina was the last person to get the memo, and her enchanted house might not be the best place for a large group of mortal school students. Well, the show must go on, and she decides to go through with the party, as opposed to letting down her school friends. What she hadn’t counted on was the sudden arrival of talking furniture with grouchy attitudes, robed ghouls emerging from the closet, nasty terminates making meals out of the houses wood, a talking black-cat looking for attention, and a magic cauldron that’s bowling over to the point where the house is literally flooded with candy corn. 
As one would expect, all the goofy oddities end up making Sabrina’s home the ideal place for a Halloween party. Some of the goofier highlights in this episode include Sabrina’s best friend being the only one who shows up in a costume, another character being transformed into a living pumpkin, Sabrina transforming into a classic Witch costume during the opening credits, and there’s even a random guest appearance from the band 10,000 Maniacs. All around, this episode is an improvement over its predecessor, it puts the holiday at the center of the attention, and has more of the silly oddities I’d expect from the show. However, with all the goofy things going on, I feel this episode could have been a little funnier. However, it is here that I must congratulate Melissa Joan Hart, and her ability to carry the show. Her energy and deadpan line-delivery is just a perfect contrast to the silliness surrounding her. 

Season 3: Episode 56 – “Good Will Haunting” 

It’s Halloween again, and another family gathering is upon the Spellman family. Sabrina this time is spared from going to a boring family social, and decides to host a double date at her house, where everyone watches “scary movies”. However, Sabrina’s great aunt Bula is determined to make sure she has some spooky fun, and thus mails her an evil doll named Molly. Once the dull comes to life, she terrorizes the house guests, locks them in the house, kills the power and unleashes all the classic monsters like Frankenstein, the Mummy, the Bride of Dracula and the Wolfman. Even the Invisible Man makes a cameo as a delivery guy. Meanwhile, Sabrina’s aunts find out that their family party is in-fact a facade to lure people into an insane asylum that no-one is allowed to escape from. Thus, the chase is on as Sabrina and friends try to survive being trapped in a house with an evil doll and killer monsters, while her aunts try to escape a loony bin full of crazies. Strait to the point, this is my favorite of Sabrina’s Halloween episodes by far, and it might just be my favorite of the show. 

Everything about this one just screams Halloween, from seeing all the classic monsters, to a musical chase set to Bobby Pickett’s “Monster Mash”, and the episode is even book ended with the talking black cat Salem acting like a TV horror host in a gothic setting. The Molly Dolly also makes for a great one-shot holiday villain, and is a loving homage to Talking Teena from “The Twilight Zone”. She’s also voiced by the great Tress MacNeille, who’s best known for voicing cartoon characters like Gadget from “Chip N’ Dale Rescue Rangers” and Dot from “Animaniacs”. Sabrina’s loony great Aunt Bula is also a very fun one-shot character. Other note-worthy guest appearances include the late Gary Owens, as well as the “then living” cast members of the comedy show “Laugh-In”. All in all, even if you have no interest in this show as a whole, and only care to binge watch Halloween episodes from select sitcoms, this is one I’d recommend checking out. The jokes are great, the premise is great, the villain is great, the holiday is present in every frame, and there’s no shortage of talented guest stars.    

Season 4: Episode 81 – “Episode LXXXI: The Phantom Menace” 

On her fourth year of high-school, Sabrina decides its time to grow up, plan for college, and stop celebrating Halloween like she’s still ten years old. In short, her holiday plans consist of managing a coffee shop for the night, much to the dismay of her school friends who want to go out in costume and have fun. While it’s not uncommon for young adults to turn their backs on such things when they reach a certain age, witches don’t have a choice, as they need to celebrate the holiday or else Halloween is going to come after them with vengeance. Thus, all through the night Sabrina finds herself plagued by ominous sounds, creepy visions and an army of flesh-eating zombie’s hell bent on breaking into her coffee shop. Meanwhile, Sabrina’s aunts are dying for a good scare, so they use their time traveling clock to bring back none other than Edgar Alan Poe, to read them frightening tales. 
This is yet another one of the stronger Halloween episodes on the show, with lots of d├ęcor, a zombie epidemic, some hilarious sequences and I really just love the concept of Halloween coming after someone who stops celebrating. My favorite joke revolves around Sabrina’s early flashes of the holiday coming after her, which lead to some great moments. It’s also amusing that in order to beat the curse, Sabrina needs to have fun for the holiday, and thus throws the zombie army a party. It’s all goofy fun, but the main song of choice really should have been Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” as opposed to Backstreet Boys “Larger Than Life”. This also marks the second and final time in which a Halloween episode was bookended by the talking black cat Salem, who this time is seen emerging from a coffin. All around, this is another fun one to check out.    

Season 5: Episode 103 – “The Halloween Scene” 

After years of being rebellious towards Halloween, Sabrina has finally excepted that the holiday is in her blood, and it’s time to really celebrate … besides, best to avoid another zombie crisis. So, the plan is simple, while her aunts are away, Sabrina will transform their house into the biggest Halloween party ever. Just to liven things up, Sabrina brings the Frankenstein monster, a cyclops and several other monsters to the event. It’s all good fun at first, but the monsters have connections, and soon the house is flooded with ghouls, and it’s only then Sabrina realizes that by the time the party ends … there probably won’t be much of a house left for their aunts. 
Following after two solid Halloween episodes, this one comes off as very mediocre, and contains one too many familiar retreads. Sabrina hosting a party at her aunts … seen it, Frankenstein and various monsters run amuck in the house … seen that before too, a Jack O’ Lantern comes to life to make wise cracks … well, I guess that’s something new. To be fair, there are some select little highlights. I like when they return Frankenstein home and everything goes B&W to represent a classic monster movie, plus a special appearance from The Bride of Frankenstein is a welcome bonus. On that note, this is at least a very decorative episode, with every character in costume, and the wild party at least conveys something of a holiday atmosphere. Still, not a very eventful or funny outing when compared to some of the others.  

Season 6: Episode 120 – “Really Big Season Opener” 

While the following season seven wouldn’t have a Halloween episode, season six gives us two, and it all starts with the premier. Sabrina and her college roommates are all putting together a horror movie about pretty cheerleaders and one sinister vampire. Everything for once seems to be going great, the production is good, the sets are solid, the script is finalized and the cast is complete ... that is with the one exception of their leading vampire. Thus, a casting call is put out for the right prince of darkness, but everyone turns out a dud. Then out of the blue comes one Vladimir Kortensky, who is absolutely ideal for the part. Unfortunately, the cast and crew got more than they bargained for, as Vlad turns out to be a real vampire who’s dead set on draining every last ounce of blood from the group. To make matters worse, this vampire is immune to magic, leaving Sabrina with her strengths and wits to fight him off and protect her friends. Everything builds to an epic fight to the death between Sabrina and Vlad. Seeing our hero battle a vampire while in her skimpy cheerleading attire is every bit as goofy and as awesome as it sounds. 
Full on action sequences rarely happen in the show, so it makes for a cool highlight. Also, this battle frequently spoofs “The Matrix”, and I distinctly remember watching this episode before I ever got around to seeing the actual film. When I finally saw the movie, I remember being like … “oh, this is where that Sabrina episode got all this slow-motion fighting from”. This is easily my second favorite episode behind the previously mentioned “Good Will Haunting”, and even though it’s not set on Halloween, this one putts me in the mood for the holiday better than most of the others. The decorations and monster appearances are all great, and even the sup plot with the aunts is fun as their sent to instruct child Witches on how to be scary. There’re also some very funny jokes, and I love this one gag in which Sabrina goes through various classrooms to find her friends, only to have one silly-spooky encounter after another. This is also a rare episode that has actual high stakes, and the evil vampire Vlad is definitely the best villain sense the Molly Dolly. Big laughs, big fights, a solid guest star appearance from Sisqo, and a bonus musical number make this a solid addition to Sabrina’s haunted gallery.

Season 6: Episode 123 – “Murder on the Halloween Express” 

Here it is, the seventh and final Halloween episode of “Sabrina the Teenage Witch”, and it’s something of a mixed bag. As usual, Sabrina is in charge of making sure that everyone has fun for Halloween, weather they want it or not. Thus, she and her friends board a murder mystery train, where they all are supposed to act as individual characters and solve a mystery. 
The catch is that the train is magic, all her friends literally become the characters from the story, and the stakes are raised as Sabrina’s boy friend had the misfortune of being castted as the murdered victim. Now Sabrina has to solve the mystery of the murder for real, chase down clues, and get it right, because if she fails, they’ll all be trapped on an eternal Halloween train that never stops. The premise of this episode is fantastic, as it’s completely different from any previous holiday episode, the setting is unique, there’s stakes involved, and there’s even a good twist at the end. The downside is that there’s really not much Halloween on display, most of the jokes fall flat, and for as great as the premise is, it’s also very one note and things get repetitive very fast. Plus, it feels like a drop in the water compared to the premier episode. While not a completely terrible episode, it doesn’t quiet put me in the mood for the holiday, and doesn’t do anything too special with its creative premise. 

 That wraps up all of Sabrina's Halloween episodes, and it's been a nostalgic little throw back. For those who also grew up with the series, I hope it was fun looking back, and if your someone just looking for any random Halloween special, maybe this will give you something to look into.


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