One of the great things about Halloween during the 80s and 90s was that television networks put in much more effort to celebrate the holiday. Not only did the big sitcoms feature special Halloween episodes, but the networks went all-in on unique branding and promotions. I was just as excited to go out trick-or-treating and collect candy as I was to come home, dump my candy out on the living room floor to sort through my loot, and watch all of the Halloween fun on television. One of the big promotions that always stuck out to me was the Fox Halloween Bash.
The Fox Halloween Bash was a week-long programming block that ran annually from 1991 through 1996 on the Fox Network, offering spooky movies and Halloween themed episodes in primetime. Better than just coming home after Trick-Or-Treating, this event lasted a whole week and gave us kids something to talk about in school the next day!
The Halloween Bash would use celebrity appearances, cross-promotional marketing, and special graphics to create a buzz for their shows and promotional partners. Using wrap-around segments between the shows, the celebrity hosts would get a few minutes for light banter and comedy, promote the sponsors, and then introduce the next show. They’d also use prerecorded scripted segments of the stars of the network doing Halloween themed things, such as pumpkin carving, haunted houses, and more. These little segments were enjoyable, and some of them quite memorable. These segments also served as a bridge connecting the unrelated shows of the week into one major event.
Some of the most memorable Halloween Bash’s for me as a kid growing up were from 1993-95. I would have been in the 3rd to 5th grade during those years, which is the perfect Trick-or-Treating age if you ask me. But my all-time favorite, one that I can clearly remember most of the bumpers and ads for, was the 1994 Fox Halloween Bash featuring the Mistress of the Dark herself, Elvira!
Elvira, alongside the Crypt Keeper from “Tales from the Crypt,” and legendary stand-up comic George Carlin hosted the 1994 Fox Halloween Bash. In 1994, the Bash was brought to you by Coors Light, Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida, U.S. Air, and ShaqFu, the Sega Genesis Mortal Combat ripoff featuring Shaquille O’Neal. Throughout the week, Elvira would remind you to go to “select stores” (but never say exactly which ones) to enter a contest and win free old school Universal Monster movies on VHS “videocassette” as well as other prizes.
Also during the week, scripted segments aired featuring the stars of Fox’s network lineup. Scott Wolf from “Party of Five” appeared several times during the week, reminding everyone that “Party of Five” was pre-empted on Monday night for special Halloween programming. Scott could later be seen riding the JAWS ride at Universal Studios with several other Fox actors, like Brian Austin Green of “Beverly Hills, 90210,” and David Faustino of “Married… with Children.” Martin Lawrence of “Martin” and others was shown being scared out of their wits while they walked through the haunted houses at Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios.
Faustino, who played Bud Bundy on “Married… with Children,” was featured in several segments. In one such clip, he was on stage at the legendary (to theme park fans) “Beetlejuice’s Rock and Roll Graveyard Review” live stage show at Universal Studios. George Carlin is later seen hanging out with Beetlejuice walking around the theme park in other promos.
Elvira brought her connection to Coors Light beer to the TV network, which made for a great sponsorship pair. During the mid-1980s, Elvira began shooting commercials for Coors, which became an instant success nationwide. Her Halloween promotions were everywhere. I was pretty young at the time, but I still remember seeing Elvira cardboard cutouts at the grocery store and gas station featuring the “Mali-Booo Beach” campaign. Unfortunately, in the late 80s, as the “Satanic Worship” hoax swept the nation, Coors abruptly cut ties with her in 1988. By then, Coors had become the unofficial “Official Beer of Halloween,” and sales tanked without the Mistress of the Dark. Coors brought her back from 1990 through the end of 1995’s Halloween season, dubbing Elvira the “Queen of Halloween.” Coors has since used rotating “Queens” from Salma Hayek to Pamela Anderson or Heidi Klum. In more recent years, they have used unknown young swimsuit models
I was, and still am, a giant fan of George Carlin. My best friend in grade school played one of Carlin’s albums for me after school, and even at that early age, while we surely didn’t understand all of the jokes, we definitely found him funny. I have very few regrets in life, but one of them occurred right after college graduation. My roommate and our friends were all going to go see him do stand-up, but it was about a two-hour drive, and I knew that I’d be the one stuck driving everyone. I also had work the next day, so I declined. They all randomly met him after the show and spent one-on-one time with him just hanging out. He got sick and stopped performing frequent live shows right after that and eventually passed away a few years later before I ever got to see him live.
In 1994, the Bash ran from Tuesday, October 25th to Sunday, October 30th. I double and triple checked my research because I found it odd that they chose to not run on Halloween evening. Typically, Halloween was a time when networks air their newest and best Halloween features. On Halloween night, they even preempted Party of Five for an awards show. In the end, it didn’t matter, because they went up against mostly non-Halloween shows from their network competition.
On NBC, they ran a non-Halloween related episode of “Fresh Prince,” a new episode of “Blossom,” and the NBC Monday Night Movie: “Roseanne and Tom: Behind the Scenes” mini-documentary about Roseanne and Tom Arnold.
ABC chose to air reruns of “Coach” and “Blue Skies” before Monday Night Football. Green Bay beat Chicago 33-6, by the way.
CBS aired an all-new lineup of non-Halloween episodes of “The Nanny,” “Dave’s World,” “Murphy Brown,” “The Five Mrs. Buchanans,” and “Northern Exposure.”
Fox kicked off the 1994 Halloween Bash with “Alien Nation: Dark Horizon” on Tuesday the 25th from 8 to 10 pm. “Alien Nation: Dark Horizon” was a made for TV movie that completed the saga of the 1990 one season Fox show “Alien Nation.” The original show ended with a cliffhanger, and this film wrapped up the story.
On Wednesday, October 26th, “Beverly Hills, 90210” episode titled Things that Go Bang In The Night aired at 8 pm. In this new Halloween themed episode, Donna becomes scared when Ray and Griffin cross paths at a costume party. At 9 pm, “Models, Inc.” aired an episode titled Clash of the Super Vixens. “Models, Inc” was a one-season spin-off that existed in the 90210/Melrose Place universe based on a modeling agency owned by the mother of Melrose Place’s Amanda (Heather Locklear.) In Clash of the Super Vixens, a new Halloween themed episode, Cynthia identifies her stalker as an ex who shows up at a Halloween costume party.
Thursday the 27th featured a Halloween repeat of “Martin” with The Night He Came Home at 8 pm, where Martin and friends perform a seance and spooky events begin to occur. Martin was followed by another sitcom “Living Single” in a Halloween-themed rerun titled Trick or Trust, where the group tries to scare Maxine. At 9 pm, the drama “NY Undercover” episode titled Tasha aired a new episode unrelated to Halloween about the murder of a Pediatrician.
On Friday the 28th, the Fox Halloween Bash kicked into gear as the network chose to air two episodes of “Tales From the Crypt” at 8 and 8:30 pm, instead of the usual M.A.N.T.I.S. Earlier in 1994, Fox had purchased 65 episodes of “Tales from the Crypt” from HBO and toned them down for a younger, more general audience. The two episodes Fox chose to air on this day were Let the Punishment Fit the Crime and Only Skin Deep. Following the Crypt Keeper’s spooky tales was a repeat of “X-Files” called Shapes. This episode resulted from Fox executives demanding the show feature more real monsters, leading the show writers to focus on Native American lore about shapeshifters as the subject of this episode. We didn’t get HBO, so I never watched “Tales from the Crypt” (and probably wouldn’t have been allowed anyway,) so it was a big deal for me to be able to talk with my friends about it after finally seeing my first two episodes here in the toned-down version on FOX.
On Saturday the 29th, the Halloween Bash continued its promotion, but FOX didn’t change its original schedule. “COPS” aired at 8 and again at 8:30 pm followed by “America’s Most Wanted” at 9 pm. What would a Saturday evening in the 90s be without COPS?
Sunday, the 30th, became the tentpole night for the Fox Halloween Bash. A promotion-within-a-promotion started at 8 pm as The Fox Halloween Bash presented the “The Simpsons Scare-A-Thon!” Any fan of “The Simpsons” can tell you that the early Tree House of Horror episodes are some of the most iconic episodes of the long-running show, and tonight, we’d get 4 of them! At 7 pm, they aired Tree House of Horror 2 and 3. At 8 pm, they aired the new Tree House of Horror (#5), followed by Tree House of Horror 4 at 8:30 pm. At 9 pm, a rerun of “Married… with Children” title Field of Screams aired in which Al opposes the destruction of his old high school football field while Bud suffers physical side effects after being sprayed by Kelly with a new pesticide. At 9:30 pm, a new episode of “The George Carlin Show” aired titled George Goes Too Far. Unfortunately, it does not have anything to do with Halloween, either. George, a taxi driver, is caught on camera ripping off an undercover news reporter and must face the consequences.
When you came in from Trick-Or-Treating on Monday the 31st, you’d find a new episode of “Melrose Place” at 8pm, followed by “The CLIO Awards.” If memory serves, they ran a few Elvira short bumper type advertisements for the Fox Halloween Bash, but other than that, there was nothing that noted the actual Halloween night as part of the Bash. “The CLIO Awards” was a prerecorded award show that celebrated the best television commercials of the year. Kind of disappointing for Halloween, isn’t it?
Hosted by an utterly bored Kelsey Grammar, the show ran for an hour airing the funniest and most popular commercials on television and “awarded” winners for different categories. Spoiler Alert: The Best Commercial of 1994 was the “Who shot Alexander Hamilton/Aaron Burr” ad for “Got Milk?”
The FOX Halloween Bash would run for two more years before fading into television history. The following year, The Crypt Keeper was joined by Shannen Doherty and Luke Perry of “Beverly Hills, 90210,” actor D. B. Sweeney, and pre-mega celebrity status Jimmy Kimmel as the celebrity hosts.
In 1996, the animatronic Crypt Keeper was the lone host in the Subway sandwich chain sponsored Fox Halloween Bash.
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