Halloween episodic television output can be really great. You know the ones. Roseanne, The Office, Tales from the Darkside, Beverly Hills, 90210, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Sabrina the Teenage Witch, Freaks and Geeks. Hell, I even have a season three Halloween episode of Cheers playing in the background right now.
So, what about the lesser-known ones? We all have underdog favorites—and that’s what this piece is about. A little early 80s show called Square Pegs.
Chances are you’re at least a little familiar with this cult-status sitcom. But if not, here’s the gist. Un-cool high school freshmen Patty (a super-young Sarah Jessica Parker) and Lauren (Amy Linker) are determined to get in with the cool crowd—through a series of comically-driven mishaps. Created by early Saturday Night Live writer Anne Beatts, Square Pegs lasted one season from 1982-83. It received high praise for its earnest teenager insight, but failed due to shitty ratings. Sound familiar?
Its non-sitcom filming and added laugh track is a little jarring and different, but by and large, if you haven’t checked it out—do so. But hey, it’s October and you came for spooky talk, so let’s get to it.
As most perfect TV shows do, Square Pegs embraced the holidays. So, depressingly enough, on November 1, 1982, it aired its Halloween episode, wonderfully titled “Halloween XII.”
In this fine story, Weemawee High School’s resident goody-goody, Muffy (Jami Gertz) spent all of the Halloween dance budget on superfluous decorations—so, the dance got cancelled. As a means to make up for it, Muffy coerces one of the school’s teachers, Ms. Loomis (!), to invite the girls over for a Halloween sleepover.
Patty and Lauren go all out by purchasing new nightgowns — “stylish” ones that only bring them closer to their middle-aged teacher, and most certainly not the popular kids.
And speaking of these so-called cool kids, Weemawee’s popular freshmen girls are Jennifer (Tracy Nelson — you may know her from that Seinfeld episode where Jerry dates a girl with his face, Tracy’s face) and LaDonna (Claudette Wells). And if I’m being honest, these chicks aren’t very cool. In fact, they’re kind of terrible.
Jennifer and LaDonna only attend the lame sleepover because they think it’ll get crashed by boys — namely Jennifer’s sweet, but dim beau Vinnie (Jon Caliri). Patty and Lauren’s crew — Johnny (Merritt Butrick) and Marshall (John Femia), spoil the party first — and contribute to a round of Ouija gameplay. And later, as expected, Vinnie shows up.
While the sleepover isn’t as superficially impactful as a 90210 episode (and it can’t be at a 22 minute run-time), Lauren and Patty make small strides with Jennifer and LaDonna.
It’s sweet, silly, and sits well with those looking in from the outside. If you were an uncool kid who dressed weird and listened to anything but the top 40, Square Pegs feels like nostalgic home — even if you’re new to it. This Halloween, embrace your unpopularity of yesteryear by sacrificing a half hour to hang with some TV kids. “Halloween XII” is a good glimpse into this time capsule, so have a peek…