1990’s Sitcom television’s version of Halloween depicts how I feel Halloween should have been in real life. Dressed up in cool costumes, the characters on the show attended heavily decorated Halloween house parties and were just so filled with Halloween spirit. Cobwebs, pumpkins, skeletons, witches, and black cats were more than just a backdrop on our favorite sitcoms. Halloween was special on those shows.
Last year, I chronicled the holiday episodes of my family’s favorite sitcom when I was growing up, “Home Improvement.” Please CLICK HERE to go back and read last year’s “Halloween on Home Improvement” feature.
This year, let’s cover the self-described (apologies to Elvira) “Queen of Halloween” and star of the sitcom that arguably had the most Halloween spirit, Roseanne Barr, and her show “Roseanne.”
I didn’t start watching “Roseanne” until I was much older, but there’s no arguing that she and her show’s writers took Halloween and the end-of-year holidays seriously.
“Roseanne” was a family-oriented, yet adult-skewing, comedy that ran on ABC from 1988 to 1997 for a total of 222 episodes. In 2016, the show was briefly revived with 9 new episodes before being canceled. It was reborn “The Conners,” without the star of the show, Roseanne.
For the uninitiated, the “Roseanne” series focused on a fictional blue-collar, working-class family in the fictional suburban town of Langford, Illinois. The show, and its namesake star Roseanne, were heavily praised for their realistic portrayal of a working-class family in early 90s America. Roseanne, both the series and the human being, also received immense praise and adulation for being progressive, groundbreaking, and for not being afraid to push the boundaries of social norms.
“Roseanne” was so popular it became number one in the Neilsen ratings only a few episodes into the second season. In 2002, “Roseanne” was ranked number 35 on TV Guide’s “50 Greatest TV Shows of All Time” list, and a decade later, in 2013, TV Guide ranked it 32.
Like what we found with “Home Improvement” last year, the Halloween-themed episode tradition didn’t begin until Season 2. The focus on the holiday was stronger some years rather than others, but millions of viewers tuned in each October to see how the Conner family celebrated the spooky holiday! Each year was filled with incredible costumes, great decorations, elaborate pranks, and the occasional classic horror film homage.
Here’s a look back at the Roseanne Halloween episodes in chronological order. Fair warning, even though it’s been nearly 30 years, there are spoilers below:
“We’re in the Money!” (S1, E2) Originally Aired October 25, 1988
This episode would typically have been the holiday-themed episode. Since it’s only the second episode of the entire series, it understandably has other plot points to get across than Halloween. I only included it in this list as it’s an essential episode in the grand scheme of character development. This episode does a great job of introducing the audience to the true Conner family, a struggling blue-collar suburbanite family busy trying to make ends meet while keeping up with the Joneses.
Dan receives an advance payment of $500 for a drywall job, and the family fights over how to spend the money. Roseanne and Dan struggle to not spend the money frivolously instead of paying down debt, and trouble arises when they each take a part of that money and secretly buy themselves something.
“Boo!” (S2, E7) Originally Aired October 31, 1990
Similar to what we discovered with “Home Improvement,” Roseanne’s initial foray into Halloween was also, in my opinion, hands down, its best. During this episode, we have the standard Halloween fare of caramel apple making and costume selection while Aunt Jackie teaches the kids about the pranks they used to play, like soaping windows or egging houses. Roseanne declares herself the “Master of Horror,” but Dan begs to differ. Later on, Roseanne tries a fake electrocution gag, but Dan isn’t scared because “the lights didn’t flicker.” That afternoon, Dan gets Roseanne back with a fake work injury and squirting blood that puts him in the lead for “Master of Horror.”
The Conner household puts together a haunted house in their living room that they dub “The Tunnel of Terror,” complete with incredible decorations and music. As trick-or-treaters arrive for their candy, they are invited in, and Roseanne gives tours of the “Tunnel” dressed as a witch. The whole family pitches in to scare the crap out of the neighborhood kids and their parents. During a lull in foot traffic, Roseanne and Jackie plot to finally “get” Dan.
When the night is over, Roseanne sits at the kitchen table talking to her parents on the phone. Dan has been listening to the conversation and grows agitated. When she hangs up and tells her husband that her parents are on their way over for a three-week-long stay, he’s beside himself. Roseanne breaks up into laughter, having become the “Master of Horror” with a prank of her own that truly frightens Dan.
“Trick or Treat” (S3, E7) Originally Aired October 30, 1990
There are quite a few Halloween costumes in this episode but compared to the previous year, it leaves a lot on the table when focusing on Halloween. In this particular episode, written by famed sitcom producer Chuck Lorre, the holiday takes a back seat to a discussion on gender roles.
As the episode begins, Dan’s poker game wraps up. His son, DJ, tells him he wants to dress as a witch for Halloween, and Dan gets angry because boys shouldn’t be witches. Roseanne feels that DJ can be whatever he wants to be. Later, Becky has a fantastic disfigured prom queen costume while Dan shows off an inventive Three Stooges costume. Dan makes one last unsuccessful sales pitch to get DJ to change his costume into a “guy warlock” rather than a “girl witch.”
Meanwhile, Roseanne, dressed as a male truck driver, arrives at the Lobo Lounge with Jackie. She calls home to tell Dan that the car broke down and they need a ride. While they wait, they belly up to the bar, and the bartender mistakes Roseanne as a man. Seeing this, she tries to be a stereotypical chauvinist pig, partly for laughs and somewhat to get other men to talk like “one of the guys” around her. She works her way into a conversation of guys playing pool to better “understand” them but winds up making fun of them to their faces. Her trip to explore the men’s room is pretty darn funny.
When DJ goes missing, Dan is worried. When DJ reappears, Dan comes to grips with his son’s costume choices. Back at The Lobo, Roseanne stands up for a friend of hers against one of her new pool-playing “buddies.” Roseanne is about to get into a real fight, but the other guy backs off when Dan shows up to save the day.
“Trick Me Up, Trick Me Down” (S4, E6) Originally Aired October 29, 1991
To kick off this year’s episode, Roseanne’s next-door neighbor and “frenemy” Kathy Bowman sneaks up to the Conner house late one night. She hears screams and groans coming from inside the house and walks in to investigate. A disemboweled Dan is stretched across the kitchen table, and Kathy lets out a horror film-worthy blood-curdling scream. Turning to flee, she runs right into a knife-carrying Roseanne, who eventually reveals it’s just a prank.
Later, Roseanne, Dan, and Jackie attend a costume party. They all do their best to avoid Arnie for the first half of the night. Arnie, you’ll remember, is played by Tom Arnold, who had weaseled his way onto the show by this point.
In the most memorable part of the show, Roseanne and Dan perform a stage act as “Deadgar Bergen and Mortuary Snerd,” a dead ventriloquist and dummy act. Jackie continues to hunt for a new man and thinks the man in the moose costume she’s been connecting with all night is future husband material. He takes off the moose hood to reveal a young George Clooney, appearing for the last time as her former boss and ex-boyfriend, Booker.
“Halloween IV” (S5, E7) Originally Aired October 27, 1992
First, a little “Roseanne” history. Earlier in Season Five, Roseanne and Dan’s eldest daughter, Becky, had run off and eloped with Mark, causing a giant rift in the Conner family. In actuality, the “original” Becky, Lecy Goranson, had left the show to pursue a college education. The character Becky has an interesting history from there on out. Becky would return to the show during Seasons 6 and 7, but played by Sarah Chalke. When Goranson wanted back in on the show on Season 8, Chalke would occasionally fill in when Goranson could not film due to her school schedule. Goranson quit the show for good at the start of Season 9, and Chalke would finish up the series run as Becky. However, after the 2018 reboot, Lecy Goranson returned as Becky, while Chalke appeared as an entirely new character named Andrea.
Roseanne is depressed over not having Becky at home as this year’s Halloween edition kicks off. Having just started her new diner with Jackie and Nancy, Roseanne is simply exhausted and emotionally drained and not in the Halloween spirit at all. Dan and Darlene try to cheer her up with Halloween pranks to no avail. Darlene has a great costume of a crow-covered Tippi Hedren from “The Birds.” As the kids go out trick-or-treating, Roseanne falls asleep on the couch.
While sleeping, she’s visited by the Ghosts of Halloween’s Past, Present, and Future. The Ghost of Halloween Past takes her back to see herself as a baby and young girl, completing pranks on family and friends. The Ghost of Halloween Present takes her to the Lodge and the annual costume party to overhear Dan and Jackie talking about her. The Ghost of Halloween Future shows Roseanne a terrifying version of herself in the future. Without the Halloween spirit, she’s become a dull June Cleaver parody of a happy housewife who doesn’t find anything fun or funny.
Awoken from her dream, she decides to stop feeling sorry for herself and joins her family at the costume party down at the Lodge. Dressed as the Statue of Liberty, she uses her torch as one final prank on everyone.
“Halloween V” (S6, E6) Originally Aired October 26, 1993
This is one of my least favorite of the Halloween episodes of “Roseanne.” The pranks and jokes in this episode are generally all just mean-spirited and not that funny.
The Lunchbox Diner is decorated very well for Halloween, and that’s about my favorite thing in this episode. At the Diner, Nancy is upset and tells Roseanne that she thinks Dan doesn’t like her. Roseanne denies this but quickly learns at home that he indeed does not like her because she’s superficial and selfish. Roseanne tries to force Dan to talk to Nancy, but he refuses, so Roseanne tells Nancy it’s just one of Dan’s Halloween pranks.
Darlene and David (Johnny Galecki) are working together to “prank” Roseanne into thinking David is cheating on Darlene with a girl from school. Even after the reveal, I’m not sure how it’s related to Halloween or even funny… but, I digress.
Meanwhile, a customer at The Lunchbox scares everyone when he holds the place up at gunpoint. Roseanne immediately assumes it’s her husband’s Halloween prank, and she turns out to be correct. Meanwhile, Nancy overhears Dan talking about her and accidentally breaks his nose when she comes through the swinging kitchen door. She assumes, incorrectly, that the blood was his prank, and she forgives him.
“Skeleton in the Closet” (S7, E6) Originally Aired October 26, 1994
After last season’s weak showing, this season would be toward the top of any best “Roseanne” Halloween episodes list.
Leon hits on Jackie’s husband Fred at The Lunchbox while declaring himself the “Queen of Halloween.” Sorry, Leon, but that’s Elvira. He continues to lay it on thick and asks Fred on a date to a Halloween party, but Fred turns him down and storms off. Roseanne is amused until Leon suggests that Fred is, despite being married to Jackie, secretly gay because he “protests too much.”
Meanwhile, Roseanne and Jackie visit their mother’s hair salon and discover that their Mom wears a wig. Leon hosts a party at The Lunchbox, and many of the guests are men dressed in drag or Chippendale outfits. Dan worries that the men are looking at him sexually until one dressed as Diana Ross smiles at him. He then gushes with excitement… much to Roseanne’s dismay. Bev arrives wearing a ridiculous-looking wig, convincing Roseanne that her mother is indeed bald.
Roseanne confides in Dan that she believes Fred is gay, and Dan thinks it’s Roseanne’s annual prank. Back at home, Roseanne tries to tell Jackie that she suspects her husband to be gay. Arguing, Jackie and Roseanne walk in on a surprised Dan and Fred in bed together. Before long, Leon and Nancy pop out of the closet to tell her that they all worked together to win this year’s prank war.
At the close of the episode, Roseanne confronts her mother about the wig. Not only is she bald, but everyone reveals a shaved head in one final prank on the family’s matriarch. Not to be outdone, Roseanne pulls out a box labeled “TNT” from under the sink and blows up the entire Conner house. Seriously.
“Halloween: The Final Chapter” (S8, E5) Originally Aired October 31, 1995
This season’s Halloween episode definitely gets the title of “weirdest.”
We open as a pregnant Roseanne is leading a seance as “Queen of the Gypsies.” We get a topical OJ Simpson joke before Dan pretends to be an upset Elvis who just found out his daughter married Michael Jackson. This is followed by an odd 2-minute play fight between Roseanne and Jackie that featured everything from flashlights to maple syrup.
Roseanne tries to scare the kids with another seance while trick-or-treaters arrive. Sarah Chalke, the “2nd Becky,” comes to the door, not as Becky, but as a neighborhood mother with her two children. The writers wink at the dual Becky situation when Mark (Becky’s husband) claims to have Deja Vu. Roseanne agrees and comments that she wishes her daughters were as pleasant as the lady at the door. David tries to hand out apples and other fruit despite Dan’s warnings. He quickly finds out what kids tend to do when they get fruit instead of candy.
Roseanne goes into labor and, at the hospital, begins to fall asleep. She has crazy dreams like the entire staff are dinosaurs and giant lizards. She then has several flashbacks of Halloween episodes over the years, from the “Tunnel of Terror” in Season One to finding Dan and Fred in bed together from the previous season.
She then hallucinates an entire conversation with the deceased singer from “The Grateful Dead,” Jerry Garcia. They talk spirituality, connections, and vibrations before a group of tie-dyed clad dancers perform a dance routine in Roseanne’s hospital room.
Roseanne wakes up from her psychedelic trip to find that she’s already given birth to her new baby boy, who she names Jerry Garcia Conner.
“Satan, Darling” (S9, E7) Originally Aired October 29, 1996
This episode is definitely not my favorite Halloween one, and as a matter of fact, I’m willing to call it my least favorite. This episode occurs during the final dream-like season of the series, where Dan is recovering from a heart attack and the Conner family strikes it rich on a lotto ticket, winning $108 million. Well… I won’t spoil it for you.
Roseanne, Jackie, and Nancy attend a high-society party in New York City’s Upper West Side. They mingle with the rich and famous and eventually get invited to visit Martha’s Vineyard by a woman they meet named Astrid Wentworth. A crossover of sorts from the show “Absolutely Fabulous” went over my head when Edina Monsoon and Patsy Stone appeared.
Edina, Patsy, and Roseanne have a little too much to drink, leading to a drunk Roseanne hallucinating a “Rosemary’s Baby” parody that featured a pregnant Darlene. Weird things begin to happen, and strange people start to surround the Conner family. Eventually, Darlene gives birth, and Roseanne is convinced that, like in “Rosemary’s Baby,” the baby is the spawn of Satan.
Thankfully, the episode comes to an end as Roseanne is awoken from her drunken stupor in the Ladies’ bathroom. Yeah, not good.
Thanks for sticking with me through 9 seasons of “Halloween on Roseanne.” I’ll be back covering the next major holiday on “Roseanne”… Thanksgiving!
Please leave a comment below about what episode was your favorite, your least favorite, or anything else you’d like to discuss!