Thursday, October 31, 2019

Be Cool Scooby Doo : "Halloween"

Premiered September 27, 2017.

"Halloween isn’t about candy and dressing up as topical celebrities.  The ancient roots of the holiday are tied to the autumn equinox and the Gaelic harvest festivals."

"Is no one else bothered by the crass commercialization of Halloween?"

"Like, I just noticed without candy as a distraction, Halloween is utterly terrifying and filled with disturbing imagery!"

When Fred Jones (Frank Welker)  was a little boy, he went trick or treating at a house he had never seen before.

Fred (center) trick or treating as a young boy, dressed as his favorite detective.
The house was occupied by a witch who terrorized Fred.  He escaped and brought the police to the house...but it was nowhere to be seen, nor was the witch.  For the first time, Fred’s detective skills were unable to solve a mystery.

On Halloween eleven years later, Fred is visiting a town called Newtown with his friends Scooby Doo (Welker) Shaggy (Matthew Lillard),Velma (Kate Micucci) and Daphne (Grey Delisle).  Shaggy, Scooby and Daphne are all excited about costumes and candy.

Shaggy and Scooby dressed as a pocket and candy vending machine.
Velma is upset about the crass commercialization of Halloween and reminds her friends of its ancient Celtic origins. Since Velma isn’t dressing up, Daphne wears a “Zombie Velma” costume for Halloween to annoy her.

In contrast to his friends, Fred plans to skip the Halloween celebrations and stay in his hotel room.  His “failure” to solve the mystery of the disappearing witch house has taught him that Halloween is the one night when mysteries are impossible to solve.  However, Fred’s friends eventually talk him into joining them for trick or treating.

Shaggy and Scooby’s quest for candy leads them to a house in the woods.  Unfortunately, it’s the residence of a witch!  She chases the gang until Scoob and Shag create a diversion.

The witch scares the locals so much that Newtown’s Neighborhood Watch cancels Halloween.

Fred realizes the house (and the witch) is the same one he stumbled on in a different town eleven years earlier!  But how could the house move?   Velma recalls a Russian folk tale about a witch named Baba Yaga who lived in a house that had chicken legs which enabled it to move around.

When the gang returns to the house to search for clues, the house sprouts chicken legs and chases them once again!

Could this witch really be the Baba Yaga?  Can Halloween be saved from cancellation?  Will Fred finally solve the mystery that has haunted him for eleven years?

J.A. Morris says:

As you may have gathered by looking at the screencaps above, Be Cool, Scooby Doo featured redesigned versions of Scooby and friends.  In spite of these changes, the characterizations and the stories were very much in the spirit of earlier Scooby TV series.

"Halloween" is a very good holiday episode.  In addition to the usual seasonal trappings, Velma gives her friends (and the viewers) a lesson about the Celtic origins of Halloween.  I'm guessing her complaints about the "commercialization" of All Hallow's Eve are meant to remind us of the similar sentiments Charlie Brown expressed about Christmas.

Like most Scooby Doo episodes, we get a "monster of the week" and entertaining chase scenes.  Baba Yaga is a great antagonist and using a witch from Russian folklore is a nice touch.

The voice actors here are all A+ cartoon talents.  Frank Welker does great performing double duty as Fred and Scooby Doo.  It's worth noting that Scooby displays a much more varied vocabulary that we've heard in earlier incarnations.  He exclaims "the logic is impeccable" near the beginning of "Halloween."  That's a big leap from his usual "ruh roh!"

Matthew Lillard, who played Shaggy in the live action movies is also great as Scooby's best bud.  Velma is voiced by Kate Micucci, best known for her work in the comedy musical duo Garfunkel and Oates (and she's also voiced tons of other animated characters) is a great Velma.  Rounding out the cast, Grey Delisle has been voicing Daphne since 2001 and she instills Daphne with a little more sarcasm and depth than in earlier iterations.

However, one thing bothered me about this episode.  Velma mentions refers to Halloween as Samhain, the original Gaelic name for the occasion.  She pronounces it "Sam Hane."  This bugged me, because I believe Velma, the smartest and most resourceful member of the mystery gang,  would make an effort to research Samhain and pronounce it correctly.  It gives me the impression that the writers and producers didn't do their research on Samhain.

"Halloween" is a very enjoyable Scooby Doo episode that is recommended for every fan of Scoob and gang.  The mispronunciation of Samhain prevents me from giving it our highest rating.

J.A. Morris' rating:


3 and a half jack o'lanterns.

RigbyMel says: 

"Halloween" is a fun episode of what looks to be a generally series.   Be Cool, Scooby Doo!  is the 12th incarnation of the franchise and has lots of meta-fun going on in it.   The characters may be redesigned, but their traits hew pretty closely to the original 1969 series, with perhaps a bit more of a comedic slant with gags going to all the characters, not just Shaggy and Scooby. 

Shaggy and Scooby take their trick-or-treat planning VERY seriously!
There are some great little in-jokes, like 11 year old Fred dressing up as his favorite Nordic detective.  I think I also spied a visual reference to The Creeper - a villain from the original series - in a scene involving kids out trick or treating.

The character redesign is fun rather than jarring in this series. 
Shaggy and Scooby's costumes and quest for candy were much appreciated as well and I really liked their attempt to fool the witch by promoting a fake cereal called "I Can't Believe It's Not The Fear Of Children."

I quite enjoyed this episode's references to Baba Yaga and to the Celtic origins of Halloween.   Unlike J.A. Morris, I am going to attribute Velma's mispronunciation of  "Samhain" to "reader vocabulary" (i.e., having read the word only and not being quite sure of how to pronounce it) and not hold it against her, or the show!

The central mystery of the witch traveling from town to town over the course of years and causing Halloween to be cancelled in each town visited rings interestingly in the current age of "trunk or treat" and generally spurious Halloween candy paranoia.

Shaggy and Scooby are disappointed they only collected a "mound" of candy, rather than a "mountain"
This is a super-fun Halloween episode with trick or treating, candy, witches, zombies, folklore (of the Celtic AND Russian variety) and the Scooby Gang.  It's well worth a look should you have the time and inclination. 

RigbyMel's rating:

4 jack o lanterns! 

Monday, October 28, 2019

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend: "I Am Ashamed"

Premiered October 19, 2018

It's a few days before Halloween and Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom) is happily munching on candy corn and decorating for the spooky season, when her friend Paula (Donna Lynne Champlin) stops by and asks if she's been online at all today.

Rebecca learns that her recent mental health exploits,  like accidentally pushing someone off a roof and other not-so-good things from her past, have become fodder for a local gossip website. 

She's very upset by this and by the comments section on the article, but also acknowledges that most of what is being said happens to be true.   She experiences agoraphobia and is unable (or unwilling) to leave the house as she is afraid that everyone will judge & revile her. 

Her friends try to get her to come out to a special Halloween cemetery screening of Hocus Pocus - Kathy Najimy is even going to be there!  But even this is not enough to shake Rebecca out of her shame about her past. 

Rebecca receives a video message form her favorite witch:Kathy Najimy!
Additionally, the house that Rebecca and roomie Heather (Vella Lovell) are living in was the site of a grisly series of murders back in 2015.   Rebecca finds a book on the history of the town that has mysteriously fallen off the shelf and opened to an account of the murders.  She decides that this is a sign from the spirit of Devon Lee (Valerie Yu) - one of the murder victims whose demise was rather ... messy and embarrassing.

She enlists the enthusiastic aid of Valencia (Gabrielle Ruiz) and holds a seance to contact the spirit of  Devon.   Heather and Paula are less enthusiastic about the prospect, but play along because they love their friend and want to do what they can to help snap her out of her agoraphobia.

Meanwhile, back at the law firm where Rebecca worked,  Halloween costumed drama is brewing between Nathaniel (Scott Michael Foster) and no-longer-silent-partner Bert (Michael Hitchcock).

Additionally,  Josh (Vincent Rodriguez III) finds a koala bear costume for Darryl's (Pete Gardner) baby Heabecca,  and White Josh (David Hull) -- who hates Halloween -- gets roped into babysitting and handing out candy to trick or treaters.

Josh dresses up as a "weatherman" for Halloween!
Will Rebecca and Valencia make contact with Devon's spirit?  Will Nathaniel find dirt he can use against Bert?   Will there be dancing in a graveyard with J. Castleman (Patton Oswalt)?

RigbyMel says:

Full disclosure:  I was super-excited to learn there was going to be a Halloween episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.  One of my favorite TV shows taking on one of my favorite holidays, what could be better?1?  I was delighted that "I Am Ashamed" did not disappoint.

Vampire Paula!
I loved the way that the Crazy Ex-Girlfriend writers used the Halloween setting to highlight that sometimes the scariest things of all are things from our past that haunt us.

Maya (Esther Povitsky) dresses up as Katy Bear-y!  Get it?
This show is a musical, and the episode's 2 songs are great.  "Seize The Day" is a peppy number that's ultimately about Rebecca's inability to do so and we get a great "Monster Mash" takeoff in the form of "The Cringe," a song about foot-in-mouth moments set in a graveyard.

Patton Oswalt returns as creepy cemetery guard J. Castleman and does a creditable Bobby "Boris" Pickett impression.  Plus, the choreography and costuming are just fabulous.  Take a look, you won't regret it! :

I also love that other Halloween accoutrements are woven in, such as the "Friendtopia" favorite Hocus Pocus, seances,  ghosts, and costumes. 

Moreover, everything ties into Rebecca's journey to becoming a better person with all the "two steps forward, four steps back" that this sometimes entails.

Darryl's daughter Madison (Olivia Edward) goes trick or treating dressed as "Snailor Swift."
"I Am Ashamed" is a fun episode of a great series and it (and the whole Crazy Ex-Girlfriend series) is highly recommended.

RigbyMel's rating:

4 jack o'lanterns!

J.A. Morris says:
I don't have a lot to add, I'm in agreement with my co-blogger about "I Am Ashamed."  It's an excellent Halloween episode of a great series.

Tim (Michael McMillian) REALLY gets into the Halloween spirit! 
All the principles in the main cast are great and Patton Oswalt makes a very memorable guest appearance.  "The Cringe" is one of the best songs written for Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, and that's really saying something.

This episode also contains a brief cameo by Hocus Pocus star Kathy Najimy.  Her cameo is literally phoned in:

I loved "I Am Ashamed" when it first aired a year ago and I believe it'll be part of my annual Halloween viewing in the future.

J.A. Morris' rating:

4 jack o'lanterns!

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Night Court : "Halloween, Too"

Premiered October 31, 1985

It's four days before Halloween and Judge Harry Stone (Harry Anderson) is busy planning his annual Halloween bash.  Court bailiff Bull Shannon (Richard Moll) is experimenting with new methods of carving pumpkins.

In the middle of this, Harry meets a woman named Kim Daniels (Mary-Margaret Humes) and is instantly attracted to her.  The feeling is mutual and the pair begins dating.

The judge and Kim fall for each other fast.  Prosecutor Dan Fielding (John Larroquette) and public defender Christine Sullivan (Markie Post) are disgusted by Kim and Harry's public displays of affection.

Everything seems to be going great for Kim and Judge Stone.  However, things change on Halloween night.  Kim and another woman named Edna (Anne Ramsey) are brought before Harry for trial.  They are accused of building a bonfire and "dancing robustly" in Central Park.

Harry gets upset when Kim tells him she's a witch and that the fire was part of a Halloween ritual.  Since he's too close to the case, he recuses himself and holds Kim's case for the next court.

Christine tells Harry that continuing his relationship with Kim is a bad idea.  If anyone found out about it, she believes Judge Stone would be removed from the bench.  Harry will have to make choice between Kim and his career.

Is Kim really a witch?  If so, will Harry break up with her?  Plus, Dan's Halloween costume rental plans get complicated...

RigbyMel says: 

I have quite a few fond memories of Night Court in general.   Harry Anderson's goofy humor and magic tricks as Judge Harry Stone appealed to me as a kid, plus this was one of the first "workplace comedies" I remember watching on a regular basis.    The quirky characters and ensemble cast were always fun and the holiday setting allows things to kick up a notch.

Harry's dresses up as his idol, Mel Torme!
Often holiday episodes (like this one) feature a touch of the supernatural.  "Halloween, Too" definitely has lots of festive hijinks going on -- the main storyline of course has to do with witchcraft!

And in a non-supernatural vein, we see decorations and costumes around the courthouse and get a gander at wacky costume choices by our main characters.

Christine as a witch, Bull as a kangaroo!
I am not sure how actual practitioners of Wicca might feel about the portrayal of witchcraft in this episode, but I know that watching it now, I got quite frustrated that Harry wanted Kim to give up an important part of herself to be with him.   She rightly points out that asking her to do that would be like asking him not to be a judge.

There's also an amusing subplot involving Dan's desperate search to find a last minute costume for Judge Stone's annual Halloween bash -- if he doesn't come up with something, he could lose his parking space(!) -- and there's a great 1980s running gag involving Dan being unaware of what a Smurf is.   Needless to say, he does not go as a Smurf.

Some fun trivia:   Anne Ramsey - who plays Edna, Kim's Central Park partner in crime - was quite a busy character actor in the 80s.  She is probably best known for playing "Mama Fratelli" in The Goonies and for her Oscar-nominated role in Throw Mama From Train.

Mary-Margaret Humes, who charmingly plays Kim in this episode, has had a nice character actress career as well.  Some might remember her as Gail Leery aka Dawson's mom on the Dawson's Creek TV series

All in all, "Halloween Too" is an enjoyable episode of Halloween silliness from an enjoyable show.  Worth checking out, especially if one's 1980s nostalgia is in need of feeding!

RigbyMel's rating: 

3 jack o'lanterns

J.A. Morris says: 
Like my co-blogger, I was a big fan of this series and a regular viewer from the first episode.  It's a good Halloween episode with costumes, witches and a Halloween party.

Richard Moll is particularly funny in this episode.  There's a scene where Bull mixes up Halloween and Easter customs.  Moll really sells Bull's disappointment when Christine explains that most people don't dye pumpkins.

I agree with RigbyMel that Harry doesn't come off particularly well in this episode.  Nor does Christine, who is the first person to tell Harry that he must break up with Kim if he wants to remain a judge.

The episode ends on a high note, with the entire cast in costumes at the Halloween party.  The ending reminded me of lots of Christmas episodes where co-workers become a family and celebrate the holiday together.

Dan's costume: Humpty Dumpty!
It's worth mentioning that this episode has lots of reference to 1980s pop culture.  We get mentions of  1984 Olympic Gold Medalist Mary Lou Retton, the series TV's Bloopers and Practical Jokes, the Smurfs craze and the Moral Majority.  So you may enjoy "Halloween, Too" a bit more if you were alive in the 80s.

While it's not a classic, "Halloween, Too" is a funny, solid Halloween trip back to the 80s and is recommended.

J.A. Morris' rating:

3 jack o'lanterns