Monday, October 5, 2015

The Splat Debuts - Halloween Throwbacks

Tonight marks a very special occasion for those of us who grew up in the '90s.  At 10PM ET on the TeenNick channel, Nickelodeon is launching "The Splat!"  In case you didn't already hear, The Splat is similar to their last block of 90s programming, "The 90s Are All That."  Every night, from 10PM - 6AM, kids of the 90s will be able to relive their childhood memories by sitting back, maxin', relaxin' all cool.  Everything from "Doug" and "Rugrats" to "Hey Arnold" and even "You Can't Do That on Television" will be featured as part of the nostalgic lineup of vintage series'.  Of course, we all wished The Splat would be a 24/7 network, but this block of programming is a nice change of pace from the lackluster "90s Are All That" and promises to showcase much more of what we all remember.

This got me thinking of all the fantastic memories I have of growing up watching Nickelodeon and Snick, especially in October, when they first aired all those classic Halloween episodes.  Back then, Halloween was a true celebration and everybody joined in on the hysteria.  Almost every series paid homage to Halloween in their own way and, more than any other network, Nickelodeon truly made themselves a destination for kids in their quest for all things spooky on TV.  So, today, in honor of The Splat going live at 10PM, we take a look back at some of the greatest Halloween episodes of the 1990s!

When I think back to my earliest memories of Nickelodeon, Doug Funnie is right there with me.  Writing in his journal with Porkchop by his side, I remember countless hours upon hours spent in front of the TV watching Doug.  For as many episodes as I've watched over the years, one that always stood out to me and most likely played a role in my love for Halloween premiered in 1993 when I was 6-years-old - "Doug's Halloween Adventure."

Doug, who can't wait to go out trick-or-treating on Halloween night, is persuaded by his best friend, Skeeter, to skip a night filled with free candy for the amusement park "Funkytown."  The newly opened Blood Stone Manor attraction has just opened and Skeeter can't wait to check it out.  Doug, being the good friend that he is, agrees to join Skeeter on Halloween night and they venture out together.  After getting in line and waiting their turn, Blood Stone Manor cuts them off before they ever get on leaving Doug and Skeeter utterly disappointed.  They had just wasted their Halloween night, a night that only comes once a year, on absolutely nothing.  Enter: Roger!

Always up to no good, Roger convinces Doug and Skeeter to go on the ride, anyway.  Roger figures, unless they're a bunch of chickens, they'll have no problems going on after hours to make up for their lost Halloween.  Roger is absolutely right and, while inside, the ride comes to an abrupt stop at 10PM.  The park is now officially closed and the three amigos need to find their way out.  Roger, being mischievous, uses this as an opportunity to truly scare Doug and Skeeter out of their shoes.

Before Roger is able to pull off the prank, a hooded character lures Doug and Skeeter into a room and reveals that Roger is up to no good.  Now, the tables have turned and these two best friends are able to get revenge.  But who is this hooded hero?  You need to watch "Doug's Halloween Adventure" for the whole story!!

I was a bit older by the time Cat Dog premiered, but it was always one of my favorite 90s Nick shows.  For Halloween, I distinctly remember watching "Catdogula" in 1999.  The story begins as all the best do - on Halloween night.  After watching a movie about vampires, Dog hides under the blankets before Cat convinces him that there's no such thing as vampires or blood-suckers.  He says it's all make-believe and this confirmation from Cat leads Dog to dart outside and begin trick-or-treating.  Oh, how wrong Cat is!

After an eventful night, Cat Dog cut through the graveyard as a shortcut to get home faster.  What they don't realize is they're being watched by a swarm of Peruvian Vampire Ticks.  Looking to feast on the blood of Cat Dog, they charge the brothers and manage to bite one out of two and transform Dog into a vampire.  Yes, now they are - Catdogula!

The only thing protecting Cat from the Peruvian Vampire Ticks and the newly transformed Dog is a garlic necklace wrapped around his neck.  Dog, who would love to bite his own brother, is thwarted by the odor and Cat understands he now has time to figure out a solution.

The ticks, which have feasted on and transformed multiple characters, have now caused a vampire epidemic and it is up to Cat to change them back to their original form.  Can he pull this off, or is Dog destined to remain a vampire until the end of time?  Find out by watching Catdogula!!

Salute Your Shorts was a series that I always watched in re-runs and absolutely loved.  Every camper had a unique personality, but I think we could all agree that Bobby Budnick was the one we most loved to hate.  Always causing trouble, similar to Roger Klutz of Doug, he and his ghost story in episode 2 of Salute Your Shorts are to thank for the unforgettable Zeke The Plumber.

For those of you who don't remember Zeke The Plumber, consider yourself lucky because, as a kid, he was absolutely terrifying.  Billed as the Freddy Krueger of Custodians, he was a watered down horror movie for the kids who weren't allowed to watch the popular rated-R flicks.  Whether he was meant for children or not, Zeke the Plumber goes down in history as one my favorite childhood horror icons of all-time.  This guy was scary!

As Budnick states in his ghastly tales, the ghost of Zeke the Plumber still wanders the campgrounds of Camp Anawanna.  After returning from the war where his nose was chewed off by a parrot in the Philippines, he became a janitor at Camp Anawanna.  Unable to smell the toxic gas fumes, he made a big mistake by lighting a match, making him a human party popper.  Only his upper lip was found in the debris and, to this day, he walks the earth in search of his now cursed plunger.

For as cheesy as that story might look on paper, Salute Your Shorts manages to make it very creepy.  Once Zeke the Plumber is revealed in various nightmares that the campers have throughout that night, It's realized just how visually frightening he is.  With a face of leather, a bleeding nose, and a haunted plunger - you can guarantee I wouldn't want Zeke fixing my toilet!

In an attempt to get even with Budnick for bringing Zeke to life, the campers make a bet that he can't survive one night alone in the spot where Zeke expired.  Budnick takes them up on their challenge, but comes to realize that Zeke the Plumber may not be just in their imagination after all.  What happens when Zeke the Plumber and Bobby Budnick come face to face?  Find out by watching my favorite Salute Your Shorts episode of all-time!

When it comes to Nicktoons, I think it's safe to say that Rugrats is probably the most legendary of them all.  Some would argue that Spongebob Squarepants is the true king of slime, but Rugrats made Nicktoons a term and paved the way for all that followed.  In my opinion, it's the reason why 2D animation can still survive and thrive on Nickelodeon, today.

Throughout the years, Rugrats did their best to celebrate every holiday as the seasons passed.  Whether it was Christmas, Hanukkah, or Halloween, the babies had a new tale to tell.  One of my favorite episodes from the series comes from season one when they celebrate "Hollyween" and Reptar bars!

On Halloween night, the Pickles Family go all-out on Halloween decorations, candy and, of course, their traditional Haunted House for visiting trick-or-treaters.  Everything about this episode, from the colors, costumes, and even Didi's skull earrings, pay homage to the traditions I grew up with.  The atmosphere and environment created within a cartoon does enough to make you feel as though you're actually there with them.  Rugrats, more than most cartoons of the 90s, always did a fantastic job of drawing in kids and adults alike.

In search of Reptar bars, the chocolatey delight, Angelica convinces the babies that they're too young for Halloween and only she can eat them all.  The Rugrats, whom have no idea why people are wearing two faces on this night, pay close attention to the world around them.  What they begin to realize is that once you somehow make it through the scary tent and take off your second face, you're rewarded with delicious Reptar bars.  That's all it takes for Tommy to convince the babies that they must be brave enough to venture through the haunt.

By the end of the night, once the grown ups close their haunted house for another year, the babies take their opportunity and break free.  In the meantime, so is Angelica who wants all the Reptar bars to herself!  Being in the same place at the same time, happenstance leads the babies to cause nothing but terror for Angelica and, eventually, Grandpa Lou.  But in the end, Reptar bars are all that matters.  Who do you think end up with the green tongues on Halloween night?

Rocko's Modern Life, known for having much more of an adult theme than we realized in the 90s, was always one of my favorite Nick series.  I enjoyed the weird imagery and sometimes disgusting visuals.  It reminded me of Ren & Stimpy, which I always loved, but with characters that I enjoyed a bit more.  So when you take that and combine it with Halloween, you're guaranteed to have one hell of an episode.

Sugar Frosted Frights focuses on, as usual, trick-or-treating on Halloween night.  With Rocko and Heffer all decked out in their costumes, they go to meet Filburt before they head out for the night.  To their surprise, they find Filburt hiding from Halloween in an attempt to restrict himself from eating even one piece of trick-or-treat candy.  Rocko and Heffer, bewildered, wonder why.

Filburt's old Aunt Gretchen told him a story as boy that stated Halloween candy was poisoned and if he merely touched just one piece of candy, The Hopping Hessian would come after him.  Who is the Hopping Hessian?  The ghost of a mercenary who lost his leg in the war and rises up on Halloween night in search of his missing limb.  Despite being terrified of such a horrific tale, Rocko and Heffer convince Filburt to join them, anyway.

This was a huge mistake!  After giving into temptation and eating one piece of Halloween candy, Filburt can't contain himself.  All hope is lost and, like a mad-turtle, Filburt has given up on all control he once had and eats everything in sight.  Now, they've unleashed the phantom that is The Hopping Hessian and must escape with their lives.  But is it really The Hopping Hessian looking for his leg, or just an imposter?  You know the drill - find out by watching Sugar Frosted Frights!

Aaahhhh Real Monsters, at it's very core, is a series designed to scare children and celebrate everything that is spooky.  Associate that theme with Halloween, and you simply can't go wrong.  Growing up, this was never one of my favorite series', but it did it's job perfectly in October and I was sure to collect all the action figures to decorate with on Halloween.  I even had the Krumm with armpits that really stunk.  Believe me, for as cool as that might have been for a weirdo like me, that was one smelly toy!

"The Switching Hour," which is the first episode to ever air, is perfect for Halloween and I'd highly recommend you throw it on your watch-list this season.  Introduced to us for the first time are Ickis, Oblina, and Crumm, whom all attend the same Monster Academy taught by The Gromble.  On normal nights, they are to go out into the human world and scare children.  But on Halloween, they are forbidden and anybody who does so will be severely punished.  Of course, that disappoints our threesome.

Nicky, the boy who Ickis scared the night before, was so taken by the experience that he decides to dress up as Ickis on Halloween night.  Although he's made fun of for looking like a rabbit, Nicky knows just how truly scary his costume could be.  Breaking the rules, our three Real Monsters escape from the academy and enter the human world only to find out they can't be taken seriously because all the humans just assume they're in costumes.  Unable to tell the difference between macabre and reality, Nicky ends up with the Monsters and Ickis with the humans in a classic switcheroo scenario.

Ultimately, the two are brought back to their respective worlds and order is restored, but who ended up being scared most and by whom?  Also, did The Gromble punish the Real Monsters or reward them for possibly pulling off an unattainable Halloween scare?  Watch episode one of the series to find out!

"Trick or Treat, Gut Bucket!"

The Adventures of Pete & Pete is a Nickelodeon classic.  There are millions of fans throughout the world, all clamoring for a full-time return and salivated over the recent reunion.  I, my friends, am not one of them.  To be perfectly honest with you, I hated Pete & Pete.  I thought maybe I was too young to appreciate the series as a kid because, really, it wasn't meant for kids and we all know that, but even as an adult I simply can't enjoy it.  Nothing about the red-headed brothers appeals to me and I always thought their neighborhood was a bit too weird for me to understand.  I may be in the minority on this one, but I'll never be a fan of the show.

However, if there was ever an episode that I could sit through and actually appreciate, it's "Halloweenie."  First of all, I always remembered laughing at the word "Halloweenie" and I'm pretty sure I went around taunting my friends with the disrespectful term.  It also probably confirms that I was just too young to enjoy this series.  Secondly, there is a plot line that involves Big Pete losing his love for Halloween and Little Pete attempting to reignite that flame.  That's something I can relate to because, for a very short period of time, even I called Halloween boring.  I got to that certain age where everything that was cool wasn't allowed to be anymore and I turned my back on Halloween.  I turned my back on my childhood and the nostalgia I love so dearly, today.  Perhaps that's why I cherish it all so much now, but I understand why Pete was struggling with this issue.  Kids don't always want to be kids until they're adults who find a way to make kid stuff cool again.  Get it?

Throughout this episode, the brothers are dealing with two big issues.  Every year, Wellsville is assaulted by four mischievous teenagers who make it their mission to destroy Halloween and all that it symbolizes.  They call themselves - The Pumpkin Eters.  While the brothers have to put an end to their terror, Little Pete also has his eyes on breaking the record of trick-or-treating at 374 houses in one night.  To help break the record, Big Pete agrees to assist Little Pete, putting an even bigger target on their Halloween night.

Do the Pumpkin Eters destroy Halloween?  Does Little Pete break the record?  Does Big Pete find new love for Halloween?  I'm beginning to sound like an episode of Batman, but find out by watching "Halloweenie."  Same Pete time, other Pete channel.

Cue the scary music and bring in the clowns as we celebrate the king of all Nickelodeon series' and the absolute greatest tribute to Halloween on a weekly basis - Are You Afraid of the Dark?

AYAOTD is, undoubtedly, my favorite Nickelodeon series of all-time.  As a kid, my cousins and I would all sit around the TV, atop a blanket covered in chips, candy, and soda, to enjoy Snick with AYAOTD being the ultimate Saturday attraction.  As soon as Ren & Stimpy ended and the credits rolled, you knew what came next.  Connected in my mind forever, that spooky music began to roll and we were in for 30 minutes of horror.

Say what you want about the acting, but I believe AYAOTD still holds up pretty well in 2015.  Maybe the dialogue is a bit corny, but the stories were absolutely terrifying.  Because there are so many to choose from, I couldn't pick just one for you to watch this October, but I highly recommend watching as many as you can.  Whether it's "The Ghastly Grinner," "The Crimson Clown," "The Frozen Ghost," or "The Tale of the Twisted Claw," you simply can't go wrong with any AYAOTD episode.  They'll bring back memories of the good old days and remind you of why you loved it so much!

The first videos I ever searched on YouTube were Are You Afraid of the Dark episodes in full.  So if you don't own the DVD's or are unable to watch them on Amazon Prime, you can always find the classics online!

Finally, when looking back on all the greatest Halloween offerings Nickelodeon made to us, I'd be remiss not to mention "Snick of Treat."  Remember that?

For those of you who don't, Nickelodeon featured live segments during Snick programming that invited you to call in and virtually go trick-or-treating by picking a number to digital houses.  Once you picked your digits, the screen would rapidly zoom in toward the house and ring the doorbell.  A Nickelodeon character would answer the door and you'd either receive a treat, like the newest VHS tape, or a trick being nothing but an insult.  The contestant was allotted a certain amount of time to get to as many houses as possible before it running out and the game was over.  It was a fantastic way to engage viewers in a time well before social media.  In 1995, kids had to actually - ya know - dial a telephone!

Well, believe it or not, Nick or Treat returns in 2015 to The Splat!!  Beginning October 26 to Halloween night, The Splat will be welcoming viewers to call in and once again travel through the neighborhood in hopes of scoring the latest and greatest in Nickelodeon prizes.  Personally, I hope they're throwbacks.  I'd love to see Gak, Pogs, and light-up sneakers be included.  How awesome would that be?

There's no official schedule of events or programming lineup for the month of October, but we can all hope that Nickelodeon comes through and brings us these classic Halloween episodes in addition to many more.  For as long as I can recall, Nickelodeon has been a mainstay in my Halloween culture and I hope to see them capitalize on this opportunity and continue that trend for myself and others, children and adults, with The Splat.

Don't miss The Splat when it premiers tonight at 10PM ET on TeenNick!

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