It is time to go Nick or Treating, Nickelodeon fans. With Halloween fast approaching, memories of the network's Halloween specials of days gone by are surely already dancing through your head. If you grew up watching Nickelodeon, you likely remember Halloween as one of the best times of the year to be a fan of the network thanks to the unforgettable Halloween episodes of your favorite shows. While I love all the ghoulish treats Nickelodeon served up, if you only have time to watch one Nickelodeon Halloween episode this year make it "Arnold's Halloween."
Hey Arnold! is in the process of making a major comeback thanks to the new TV movie premiering on Nick in 2017, but that is not why you need the show's classic Halloween episode in your life. "Arnold's Halloween" is inspired by one of America's most surreal historical events: the panic caused during Orson Welles' radio broadcast of War of the Worlds on October 30, 1938. In the episode, Arnold and Gerald try to prank Grandpa with a fake broadcast about aliens landing in their neighborhood. Unfortunately, the broadcast goes out to the entire town who become convinced it is true when they see Helga and the rest of Arnold's classmates roaming the streets dressed as aliens.
Watching the episode for the first time back in the '90s, the idea of a simple radio broadcast causing an entire town to have a collective meltdown surely sounded far-fetched. However, now that we're all older and know about the very real event that inspired the episode, it's easy to fully recognize how well-crafted the mounting hysteria in "Arnold's Halloween" really is. Hey Arnold! was always one of the more realistic Nicktoons, and it is the show's realism that gives the Halloween episodes its scares.
Helga and the rest of the gang are in real danger because of the prank Arnold and Gerald pulled, creating three levels of fear. First, there's the genuine panic Grandpa and the rest of the people who live in the boarding house are experiencing, then there is the confusion and fear Arnold's classmates experience as they find themselves being pursued by a mob of terrified adults, and the finally, Arnold and Gerald's realization that their prank has spiraled way out of control and someone could actually get hurt. These three subplots combine to create an intense half hour no matter how old you are.
There are no ghosts or monsters in this Halloween episode, and it is all the scarier for it. In "Arnold's Halloween" irrational fear is the scariest monster of them all. The confusion created by Arnold and Gerald's broadcast is not only plausible, something very similar happened in recent American history. And, it has to be said, in an election year when the future might as well have aliens lurking in it for how unclear it is, "Arnold's Halloween" remains weirdly prescient.
Nickelodeon specialized in airing the very best Halloween specials during its golden years, and "Arnold's Halloween" may very well be the best of the best. Thanks to the wonders of Hulu the episode is at your fingertips anytime you feel like watching it, so grab your favorite Halloween treat and settle in for an evening of old school paranoia and fun with "Arnold's Halloween."
Images: Nickelodeon; Giphy (2)