What is there not to hate about Halloween?
(Benjamin Stockham), and Will (David Walton)
You're probably thinking this is going to be one of those spoilsport anti-Halloween diatribes. And it's true that when a friend mentioned on the phone this afternoon that he might be venturing out this evening for the parade (meaning, of course, the world-famous Greenwich Village Halloween Parade), I didn't know what to say. However, with all those people so passionately devoted to the parade, there must be something there, right? I can't say I'm okay with it, exactly, but really, it's none of my beeswax.
No, I just want to point out the horribly debilitating effect this cursèd day has on our culture, as reflected -- where else? -- on television. I mean, if you were to string together all the Halloween episodes of as good a show as Roseanne and force an interrogation suspect to watch them all, you'd be hauled in front of whatever court enforces the Geneva conventions on torture. (Oh, no court does? Never mind.) But again, a lot of somebodies must have liked 'em, 'cause they kept on making 'em.
Now here's this week's Halloween episode of About a Boy, a show that, as I think I've mentioned, I'm trying hard to like, because it comes from Friday Night Lights and Parenthood TV creator Jason Katims. And there's something there. Anyway, here's our hero Will (David Walton), who might just as well have been named Peter, as in Pan, with his eccentric British next-door neighbor Fiona (Minnie Driver), who somehow manages to be both a hippie throwback and a stuffed shirt, but who is nevertheless enthralling because she's the enthralling Minnie Driver, and Fiona's 12-year-old son Marcus (Benjamin Stockman). Will has just abandoned his life-changing move to New York to be with his suddenly kindled flame Dr. Sam (Adrianne Palicki, our old friend Tyra from Friday Night Lights), and is planning for his Halloween blowout. Naturally, Fiona doesn't have any Halloween spirit, and seems to have confused the holiday with Thanksgiving.
FIONA: How many holidays do you people have?I get that the show seems to want us to think that if Will would just grow up a little, he'd be totally awesome, and if Fiona would just unstick a little bit, she'd be, well, a less stuck Fiona. But it does seem to be telling us that Will is pretty awesome already, when the evidence indicates that he's kind of a jerk. And this episode seemed to be pushing a little hard on Fiona's stuckitude, having her meet up with, of all things, a tall, good-looking, and -- yes == English architect and have herself some fun.
WILL: None as important as Halloween. I myself throw an annual party that is legendary, Will-o-ween.
WILL: Uh-huh. Anyway, the point is, I am going to the Halloween store to get even more of this wonderment, and you are coming with me, because you need to make your side of the porch less suicide-inducing. We're going to be loaded it to the gills with trick-or-treaters, and we need to be ready.
FIONA: Yes, no, we don't give out treats.
FIONA: It is a made-up American holiday invented to encourage obesity and diabetes.
MARCUS: Mom hasn't had sugar in 12 years.
WILL: That's not all your mother hasn't had in 12 years, Marcus.
FRANKIE: He-e-ey! Un-hear that.
On the other hand, Halloween-wise --
THE TRUE SPIRIT OF HALLOWEEN
Ghost of a Heck Halloween past -- from Season 3, we have Frankie (Patricia Heaton) with the male Hecks, sons Axl (Charlie McDermott), Brick (Atticus Shaffer), and Mike (Neil Flynn).
Parents Frankie and Mike Heck (Patricia Heaton and Neil Flynn) are in the kitchen on Halloween eve with younger son Brick (Atticus Shaffer).
FRANKIE: Hey, have you figured out what you're going to be yet? It's almost here, and I don't wanna be scramblin' around at the last minute lookin' for a costume for you. You can't be Paper Towel Man for a third time.It was quite a nice episode, actually, with each of the three Heck kids having a sort-of-transformative Halloween.
BRICK: Aah, actually, I've decided I'm not gonna go trick-or-treating this year.
BRICK: I don't know, I think I'm getting a little old for that.
FRANKIE: Aww, you're not going trick-or-treating? Ohh! Mike, he's not going trick-or-treating.
MIKE: Good! You hate trick-or-treating.
FRANKIE: Yeah, but if I'd know last year it was gonna be the last time, I would have made sure to enjoy it.
MIKE: You didn't even take him out last year. And the year before that, didn't Nancy Donohue take him?
FRANKIE: Whatever time I took him, whenever it was, I wish I'd known that was gonna be it. Okay?
Axl (Charlie McDermott), stranded overnight in (of all places) his college library (there's a phone there which could connect him to campus security, but the antique phone has no buttons, just "this wheelie thing"), and for the first time, at least the first time that we're aware of, he's facing the future with a fair amount of terror, having no idea what he's going to be. He imagines a couple of possibilities, which have to do mostly with how he's dressed, and speculates, "I just think maybe if I knew what I'd be wearing, I could work backwards from there, 'cause no one's telling me what I should do." Most alarmingly, he ventures, "I'm not sure my awesomeness is going to translate into the real world."
And as Frankie notes in her voice-over, while Axl is spending the night with books, Brick is spending the evening with a girl -- he actually has a female school friend coming over to the house!
Meanwhile undauntable Sue (Eden Sher), undaunted by her family's inability to pay for pretty much any college she might get into, is launching her own fund-raising crusade with a Halloween do -- an screening, with all the fixings of It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown in a pumpkin patch, for which no one shows up. She's even abandoned by her gay best friend Brad (Brock Ciarlelli -- okay, Brad doesn't know he's gay, but I think most everyone else has this one figured out) for the rival graveyard spookie-movie shindig hastily organized by Sue's old cheerleading nemeses, who after making fun of her idea have stolen and improved on it. But behold, one quaint geezer finally turns up (played by our old Rockford Files and X-Files friend Jerry Hardin), about as close to a Halloween miracle as the Hecks are likely to get.