While plenty of shows offer spook-filled Halloween episodes that bring the thrills and chills, they also allow viewers to see how characters would dress up as characters they love. Check out the most inventive and creative costumes that have been seen on TV through the years.
The Johnsons as the Jackson 5
Almost everything is a family affair when it comes to the Johnson family, which means that a big group costume is almost a given. And if the Johnsons dressing up as the Jacksons wasn’t an amazing idea to begin with, their color-coordinated outfits make this ensemble’s, well, ensemble an instant classic.
Howard and Bernadette Wolowitz as Papa Smurf and Smurfette
Show: The Big Bang Theory
After attending countless convention cosplays and Halloween parties, it’s no surprise that both Howard and Bernadette would commit fully to a couple’s costume in the Season 6 ep, "The Holographic Excitation." Right down to spending three hours painting themselves blue. This makes it all the more understandable when Bernadette overrules Howard’s desire to skip out on Stuart’s Halloween party, insisting they go together so no one mistakes her for a short version of the Na’vi from Avatar.
Leslie Knope as Rosie the Riveter
Show: Parks and Recreation
If there was ever a television character who summed up Rosie’s “We can do it!” spirit, it’s Pawnee’s Leslie Knope. With her feminism-informed go-getter attitude and willingness to take on any job, it was fitting that Leslie chose the female pioneer costume for the Parks Department Halloween screening of Death Canoe 4 during Season 5. Bonus points: Her BFF Ann chose a topical (at the time) costume, dressing up as Olympic gymnast Gabby Douglas.
Ted Mosby, Marshall Ericksen and Lily Aldrin as the Lady and the Tramp and their Bowl of Spaghetti
Show: How I Met Your Mother
Three really is company with this creative—and sweet—costume that let best friends Marshall, Ted and Lily celebrate their friendship. All this without making Ted feel like too much of a third wheel in Marshall and Lily’s relationship.
Mindy Lahiri as Lil Wayne on the Prairie
Show: The Mindy Project
Faced with the daunting task of picking a good Halloween party costume, Mindy questions why she has to choose between being funny or attractive, opting to go with witty instead. Cue a montage of two amazingly punny mash-up costumes: the genius Tinkerbell Tailor Soldier Spy and the slightly offensive Lil Wayne on the Prairie.
Charles Boyle as Mario Batali
Show: Brooklyn Nine-Nine
As the Nine-Nine’s resident foodie, it made sense that Boyle would pick a food-related costume to wear. Unfortunately for him, no one else on his squad recognized him as the “ginger prince of Little Italy”—despite the wooden spoon and Batali’s trademark orange Crocs.
Dipper and Mabel Pines as Peanut Butter and Jelly
Show: Gravity Falls
Peanut Butter and Jelly go together only half as well as the Pines twins. And Dipper and Mabel’s different personalities complement each other so well that their duo Summerween costume—much like all their previous Halloween costumes—is both adorable and a perfect representation of their friendship.
Sue Heck as the Pink Crayon
Show: The Middle
Sue’s sunny attitude exceeded the finishing touch on this classic Season 1 Heck Halloween costume, which saw her unexpectedly receive her first kiss on a church-organized hayride. Later during Valentine's Day, the same optimistic confidence would see her don the colorful costume again in search of her mystery kisser at the school dance.
Troy Barnes and Abed Nadir as Calvin and Hobbes
Sure, the study group’s close friendship often led to epic shenanigans, but those didn’t come close to the tight bond shared between best friends and “morning show” hosts, Troy and Abed. So it's only fitting when they dress up as Bill Watterson's iconic mischief-makers in Season 4, with Troy as the silly tiger, Hobbes, and Abed as the precocious Calvin.
Richard Castle as Mal Reynolds
Castle went meta in Season 2 by having Richard Castle dress up as a “space cowboy,” in a homage to actor Nathan Fillion’s other beloved TV character, Mal Reynolds, from Firefly. And even more meta: the costumes that Ryan and Esposito wore to Castle’s Halloween party also referenced previous characters both actors played in real life.
Ross Geller as "Spudnik"
Ross’ nerdy costume during Season 8 was a fun word play on the Soviet space satellite, Sputnik. The costume, worn to Chandler and Monica's Halloween party, was not a big hit with his friends who mistakenly (and later, purposely) call him a “space doody.” But when Ross’ then-girlfriend, Mona, identified his costume within a few seconds of seeing him, it underscored how much she was suited for him.
Gabe Lewis as Lady Gaga
Show: The Office
Gabe’s general gawky demeanor and all-round awkwardness was a frequent source of comedy in the later seasons of the beloved workplace comedy. Which meant that viewers were guaranteed some Halloween hilarity in Season 7 when the lanky guy chose to dress as one of pop’s most iconic and fabulous performers, Lady Gaga, for Dunder Mifflin/Sabre's costume contest.
Bill Haverchuck as the Bionic Woman
Show: Freaks and Geeks
Sometimes a character is so awesome that it defies gender boundaries—and such is the case with Bill, who decided to dress up as the Bionic Woman for trick or treating. While it does earn him some laughs and ridicule, the painfully earnest teen still got to be a character he clearly loved.
Alan Harper as Duckie
Show: Two and a Half Men
This John Hughes-inspired Halloween costume was also another meta moment in a show. For fans of the seminal ‘80s classic movie Pretty in Pink, Jon Cryer stepped into his old pointy-toed shoes to reprise his role as everyone’s favorite Otis Redding lip synch-er, Duckie. All that was missing: Molly Ringwald as Andie.
Dan Connor and Jackie Harris as Marie Antoinette
It’s hard not to lose your head over this extremely inventive costume, which saw in-laws Dan and Jackie team up to portray the decapitated French queen, with Dan as the gilded “body” and Jackie as the chopped-up “head.” Considering the all-out annual Halloween eps, this Season 5 stunner might have been the show’s most extravagant getup.