By Cameron White
Season 2, Episode 7: “Boo”
Original airdate: Oct. 8, 1999
If production codes are to be believed, “Boo” and “Fountain” (respectively the Halloween and Christmas episodes of So Weird) were produced one after the other, and right before the mid-season finale “Strange Geometry.” That makes sense: if Disney Channel came to them late in production and asked for some holiday shows, they would need to be done quickly, and before any major shifts in character dynamics, such as what happens in “Strange Geometry.”
So Weird in particular has a challenge with regards to Halloween. Television shows typically go with one or two main routes when asked to do such an episode: they make a suspense-filled horror episode, leaning on horror movie cliches and artful lighting and camera techniques for a plot that ultimately may or may not contribute to the show’s actual goals; or they run their characters out for trick-or-treating and talk about the rituals involved in the holiday, its history (though not with as much contention as, say, Thanksgiving), and the dangers of going door-to-door asking for candy from strangers. Supernatural-themed shows like Supernatural, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and So Weird tend to do well by mining plenty of humor out of the fact that, for the characters on those shows, every day is Halloween. Supernatural‘s “It’s The Great Pumpkin, Sam Winchester” doesn’t quite land on that front, weighted as it is with on-going plots involving both Castiel and Ruby 2.0. Buffy Summers, meanwhile, makes a point about how Halloween is a quiet night for demons due to the excessive appropriation of the holiday for non-bloody purposes; this is followed by an episode where a certain shop’s Halloween costumes are cursed, turning everyone into the literal version of the costume (“Halloween”) and a mood piece that pushes the college fraternity haunted house to eleven for the sake of a silly punchline (“Fear, Itself”).
So Weird opts out of anything serious; considering the deep emotions involved with “Fountain” and the stakes already at work for Fiona and her family, that’s probably wise. “Boo” is mostly light-hearted, low-stakes, which serves as a nice breather before the show really digs into its dark pathos. But it’s also light-hearted and low stakes for another reason entirely: Henry Winkler. Astute television fans looking back on So Weird will note Henry Winkler’s name as an executive producer. In fact, Winkler’s production company, Winkler-Rich Productions, was one of several involved in the making of So Weird for its three seasons. It wasn’t too much of a stretch, then, to get the Fonz to guest star for a day.
The plot of “Boo” revolves around Winkler’s character, who rises from the grave on Halloween (or as Fi properly identifies it, the day of Samhain, tracing the holiday to its Celtic origins as only a woman of Celtic witch lineage would do) in order to come back from the dead for good. To do this, he steals the keys to the tour bus in the hopes that exchanging someone from the bus for his own soul will be enough to appease the Celtic spirits. The idea is that if the group doesn’t leave the town by midnight, they’ll join the creepy spirit children in the Celtic afterlife.
Yeah, this episode is bizarre. No less bizarre is the reason why Fergus McGarrity, Henry Winkler’s character, is dead in the first place. It wasn’t some tragic accident or purposeful murder; he was just locked out of the only house in town with locks by his wife. On the list of conflicts useful for a Halloween episode, “marital dispute” is not very high, but it works principally because Winkler imbues his character with a kind of balance between a man who’s done wrong and wishes to make up for it, and a man who’s been dead for a year and just really wants back into his house, and back into the realm of the living.
Still, “Boo” is a weird episode. It’s tonally weird, especially with the dark on-going stories of So Weird‘s second season. It’s visually weird, which helps with the story (Carey gets everyone mocked up in make-up to scare Winkler’s character into giving the keys back, which is a hilarious way to show how Carey’s time on the KISS Reunion Tour with Ned helped him out). And it’s weird because it was shot before two of the most heartwrenching episodes of the entire show.
The biggest problem with that last part in particular is how the episode focuses on the desire to return to the living, an aspect that could have shed a lot of light on Rick’s current situation and how it affects Fi. It’s a missed opportunity that hangs over every scene, as if Rick himself was standing just off-camera wondering when it was his time to make an appearance. Fortunately for us, he’ll be seen again soon. Unfortunately for the Phillips, it’s going to be very painful.
Cameron White is a freelance writer currently residing in Arkansas. He writes about television over on his blog, Wayward Television, and tweets about Grey’s Anatomy, SERIOUSLY. His obsession with television was founded in 1996 by The Disney Channel and fostered by his discovery of Firefly in the summer of 2007. He’s gonna be the very best, like no one ever was!