As the spooky season has rolled around, sitcom fans are going back and rewatching the best Halloween-themed episodes of their favorite shows. From Bob’s Burgers’ “The Hauntening” to Curb Your Enthusiasm’s “Trick or Treat” to The Simpsons’ “Treehouse of Horror” specials to Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s Halloween heist episodes, there are plenty of great sitcom episodes to watch this Halloween. Way back in its third season, Ray Romano’s hit TV vehicle Everybody Loves Raymond aired what has held up as one of the best Halloween episodes ever made: “Halloween Candy.”

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Not only is “Halloween Candy” a fun-filled Halloween romp full of spooky Easter eggs; it’s also a perfect Everybody Loves Raymond episode that exemplifies what made the show so popular: wringing laughs out of the relatable foibles of marriage, parenthood, and suburban middle-class existence. The Oregonian ranked it as the seventh best episode of Everybody Loves Raymond, while IMDb lists it as the eighth highest-rated Halloween-themed TV episode of all time.

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Everybody Loves Raymond always worked best when it mined comedy from relatable everyday situations. On the surface, “Halloween Candy” revolves around the Barones’ Halloween celebrations. As with most Halloween-related sitcom installments, there are plenty of great costume gags, like Peter Boyle reprising his role as Frankenstein’s monster from Mel Brooks’ Young Frankenstein and Doris Roberts dressing as the Bride of Frankenstein opposite him (with Boyle’s beautifully timed deadpan one-liner, “Doctor make bad bride – Frankenstein sue doctor!”). But, like all great Raymond episodes, it also explores something deeper.

The episode isn’t really about Halloween; it’s about the struggle to find the privacy, free time, and intimate mood to maintain a sex life while married with kids. After weeks of difficulty, Ray and Debra finally set aside Halloween night as the perfect time to have sex. In anticipation of the big night, Ray picks up a pack of colorful condoms and hides the bag in the kitchen cupboard. While Ray and Debra are out trick-or-treating with the kids, they leave Frank in their house to give out candy to trick-or-treaters. When he runs out of candy in the designated bowl (partly because he ate as much as he handed out), Frank searches the kitchen for more sugary treats until he finds what he mistakes for chocolate coins in brightly colored wrappers.

In his book You’re Lucky You’re Funny: How Life Becomes a Sitcom, series creator Philip Rosenthal wrote that since the first season, the goal of Everybody Loves Raymond was “to do an adult show about families.” The series explored grownup themes while remaining appropriate for parents to watch with their kids. In the days before premium cable and streaming, comedy writers had to get creative with their approach to risqué material. Seinfeld famously made a whole episode about masturbation – season 4’s “The Contest” – without a single use of the word “masturbation.” In Everybody Loves Raymond itself, the writers explored the topics of virginity and premarital sex by using the euphemism “good girls” in the aptly titled season 2 episode “Good Girls.” In “Halloween Candy,” the show got around a storyline about accidentally giving prophylactics to kids with some clever writing.

According to Rosenthal’s book, a storyline in which Frank unwittingly hands out colorful condoms to young trick-or-treaters on Halloween night was pitched to CBS by writer Steve Skrovan in the first year of Raymond’s run. Back then, the network rejected the raunchy premise because the show aired in a primetime slot on Friday nights. The producers weren’t allowed to go ahead with the episode until season 3 when CBS moved the series to the 9pm slot on Monday nights. Suffice to say, it was well worth the wait, and ended up being remembered as one of the strongest shows from the series’ entire nine-season run.

Like every great sitcom episode, “Halloween Candy” ends with the perfect punchline to wrap up its narrative. The last laugh of the episode needs to be the biggest one, and that’s certainly the case here. Desperate to break the dry spell, Ray races out in the night to hunt down kids dressed as Dracula before he finds the one he’s looking for, pays him off, and brings a colorfully wrapped circular item back to the bedroom, where Debra is losing the battle to stay awake – only to find that, lo and behold, it’s a chocolate coin. Cue the piano theme music as Ray’s best-laid plans once again blow up in his face.

When sitcom lovers are getting into the Halloween spirit this year with all the classic ghoulish half-hours from the best of TV comedy – from The Office’s “Costume Contest” to BoJack Horseman’s “Mr. Peanutbutter’s Boos” to Parks and Rec’s “Greg Pikitis” to It’s Always Sunny’s “Who Got Dee Pregnant?” to Friends’ “The One with the Halloween Party” to Community’s “Horror Fiction in Seven Spooky Steps” – Everybody Loves Raymond’s “Halloween Candy” is well worth checking out.

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