When Roseanne debuted on ABC in 1988, it shined a light on the struggles of Middle America in a way that was not only relatable, but unapologetic and controversial—just like its lead, Roseanne Barr. Barr crafted her working class “domestic goddess” in years prior, and pulled off a nine season portrayal of a woman who wasn’t afraid of the patriarchy and never dared to be anything less than fierce.
With a revival in the works for 2018, the show is back in the spotlight and here’s to hoping the Conners have one more Halloween episode up their sleeves. When it comes to decking the halls with 50 shades of fright, Roseanne, Dan and their three ghoulish spawn were the top dogs of devious pranks, outlandish costumes and horror movie-level decor.
Starting with its second season, Roseanne delivered fine holiday fun once a year, all of which is collected in the Roseanne: Tricks & Treats DVD now available. To celebrate the show’s return (and the most wonderful time of the year!), here’s a complete ranking of all eight Halloween episodes from worst to best.
8. “Satan, Darling” – Season 9 (Airdate: October 29, 1996)
It’s impossible to put anything from Roseanne’s absurd ninth season over any episode that preceded it. (The Conners won the lottery, Roseanne battled ninjas. Shit got weird.) In the last of the Halloween bunch, Roseanne and Jackie meet up with Edina and Patsy of Absolutely Fabulous at a swanky party in New York City. The episode is full of forced celebrity cameos (like Kathleen Freeman, Ariana Huffington, and Jim J. Bullock), until a drunken, scantily clad Roseanne passes out on a bathroom floor. Only then does the underwhelming episode take a spooky turn as Roseanne dreams that Darlene is getting the Rosemary’s Baby treatment. This episode needed more demonic grandchildren and less flimsy walk-ons.
7. “Halloween: The Final Chapter” – Season 8 (Airdate: October 31, 1995)
This mostly plotless episode follows the Conners hanging at home one Halloween night, as the family has run-ins with trick-or-treaters, each other, and an Ouija board. It’s playful and light, but meanders without ever pinpointing a single story. Roseanne and Jackie play-fight in the kitchen, Sarah Chalke cameos as a random mom at the Conner doorstep, and Ed McMahon shows up foreshadowing the Conners’ lucky streak the following year. Nothing substantial happens until the Ouija board tells Roseanne she’s about to go into labor. The spirit of Jerry Garcia visits her hospital bed, so naturally, she names her fourth kid Jerry Garcia. Yeah, I don’t really get it either.
6. “Halloween IV” – Season 5 (Airdate: October 27, 1992)
In Season 5’s tale, Roseanne doesn’t feel like celebrating much. She’s suffering from a bout of depression when Becky, now moved out, can’t make the season’s pranks. Bummed out, she opts for candy and the couch instead of partying with her friends and Dan down at the Lobo. In a clever take on A Christmas Tale, Roseanne is visited by the Ghosts of Halloween Past, Present, and Future. It’s not a bad episode—we learn why Halloween is so important to her as we witness stories from her past (shoutout, Sara Rue!), and we see a young Dan and Roseanne meeting for the first time—but it’s still a very middle of the road episode compared to the series’ other Halloween bests. Roseanne does reclaim her crown as the Queen of Halloween though—she heads down to the Lobo dressed as the Statue of Liberty and sets off the sprinkler system with Lady Liberty’s torch. Serves everyone right for talking smack about her pumpkin cookies.
Costume Contest: Darlene’s homage to Tippi Hedren in The Birds. Costume is fire.
5. “Halloween V” – Season 6 (Airdate: October 26, 1993)
“Halloween V” has some of the series’ best pranks, but is light on the Halloween fare, which docks it a couple spots on the list. However, this is the year that everyone decides to take Roseanne down and watching everyone get the best of her is hilariously delightful. Dan plays a genius prank involving an armed mugger and a rat. The legendary Martin Mull makes for the perfect victim to Roseanne’s dysfunction, and David (Johnny Galecki) makes his first Halloween appearance when he starts spending time with another girl while Darlene is away. Darlene makes a surprise trip home and really freaks out her mom when she strangles and “kills” the girl. It’s a long con that turns out to be the episode’s best. There’s a B-story of Nancy finding out that Dan doesn’t like her which goes on far too long, but has a satisfying (and bloody) ending for Dan. The prank game is strong here, but we miss out on some of the amazing costumes and set design from episodes past.
4. “Skeleton in the Closet” – Season 7 (Airdate: October 26, 1994)
Roseanne was a series that was always ahead of its time, both in terms of deprecating humor and social trends. In “Skeleton in the Closest,” Mull’s Leon shines once again alongside Estelle Parsons’ Bev; both supporting characters get all the gold here. Bev tries to dupe Roseanne into believing that she’s going to go bald when she gets to Bev’s age. Both her daughters are Halloween pros and Bev wants in on the action. Meanwhile, Leon continuously hits on Fred which makes Jackie’s beau increasingly uncomfortable, playing into the episode’s ultimate get: Dan and Fred’s “affair” is outed when the two are caught in bed together. It’s a pretty gay-centric episode (amazing for 1994) that culminates in Roseanne’s priceless shocked reaction. Dan for the win, once again. It’s all moot because after a gag where everyone puts on a bald wig to taunt Roseanne, she blows up the family home with dynamite. Classic Rosie.
Best Quote: “Hey! Our lodge parties were not lame! The cops had to come every year!” -Roseanne
Costume Contest: Roseanne as Prince. Hands down. Though honorable mention to Leon’s Future President Hillary Clinton. Sigh.
3. “Trick or Treat” – Season 3 (Airdate: October 30, 1990)
“Trick or Treat” deserves its spot on this list. While it’s not the crème de la crème, it has a creepy-cool haunted house and some of the best costumes the series mustered. Dan sports a fantastic Three Stooges costume, Roseanne cross-dresses as a burly, beer slugging man, and Becky dons a half-dead prom queen with an eyeball hanging out. While Roseanne is at the bar taunting a few apes at the pool table, Dan refuses to let DJ dress as a witch, which later causes him to question his parenting skills. The episode raises a good point about gender norms and the absurdity of them. Why can’t a boy dress up as a witch? Though Dan’s intentions are good (he doesn’t want Deej to get teased), he ends up changing his tune leading to an adorably soft scene between John Goodman and Michael Fishman. Dan then ends up saving Roseanne just in the nick of time after the angry-bar-dude wants to knock her out. (Roseanne’s mouth + man-costume = hot water.) Dan for the win again, both in parenting and saving Rosie’s ass. John Goodman is a goddamn American hero.
Costume Contest: Becky. Great makeup, plus the Jekyll/Hyde aspect of her prom queen was hella cool.
2. “Trick Me Up, Trick Me Down” – Season 4 (Airdate: October 29, 1991)
There are so many great aspects to this episode, first and foremost being the stark contrast of The Bowman family to our abnormally endearing Conners. Roseanne and Dan play a ghastly prank on Kathy, making her think that Roseanne murdered Dan with a butcher knife. (Points for Meagan Fay’s blood-curdling scream here and also for all those exposed intestines. These are what horror dreams are made of.) Roseanne then spends the entire episode awaiting Kathy’s retaliation, spiraling into a cyclone of paranoia and anticipation, not being able to see that Kathy is too basic to function. The Lobo party is hopping this year and George Clooney returns to make one last appearance as Booker. And a real series highlight: Roseanne and Dan’s grotesque musical performance as Mortuary and Deadger. Best. Scene. Ever.
Best Quote: “Your sister…is insane.” -Kathy
Costume Contest: Roseanne and Dan forever. All the heart emojis.
1. “Boo” – Season 2 (Airdate: October 31, 1989)
The episode that started these shenanigans is the one that takes the cake. It’s the episode that started the ol’ Conner prank war, with Dan and Roseanne going head to head over who’s the master. The family turns its home into a Tunnel of Terror, which leads to some truly grotesque and smile-inducing stunts…like Becky being pulled down into a bubbling vat of green gunk, and Jackie’s ferocious, severed head on a platter. “Boo” is the epitome of the Conners’ Halloween spirit, from their diabolical joy over the holiday to their shared family traditions. It’s a blast watching them (as characters and actors) have so much fun and all those zany feels are incredibly infectious. Roseanne gets the last laugh by including Dan’s business associate in on the fun and ruining his $50 tie, which totally bugs Dan out. For this family, it doesn’t get any more heartwarming than that.
Best Quote: “This is a sick household.” -Jackie
Costume Contest: Jackie’s severed head.
Roseanne returns to ABC in 2018 for an eight episode run.