When you're too old for trick-or-treating and too chronically (and, in my case, happily) sober for costume parties, Halloween-themed television becomes the best thing about the spookiest time of the year. And above all others, the show I wait to see most anxiously before Halloween is The Office. But "Spooked", particularly in the way of costumes, was neither frightening, nor particularly inspired, leaving The Office of the present in need of a time warp back to the episodes of All Hallow's past.
I long for the days of Pam's Charlie Chaplin or Dwight as a Sith Lord. For in this, The Office's eighth season's attempt at a Halloween episode, Dunder Mifflin did not present me with any costumes — excluding perhaps Dwight's out-of-left-field cross-dressing Kerrigan from Starcraft ensemble — that I would walk away recalling as a worthwhile memory.
The skeleton-ized Kelly, Toby and Gabe left something to be desired. While it made for a good promo and an interesting few seconds of odd glow-in-the-dark dancing, the effort seemed insincere. And overall, most of the costumes maintained that level of topical humor. Creed's Osama Bin Laden, though moderately shocking, was only good for a quick one-liner about fearing snakes. Stanley's chef made for an almost racist joke comparing him to a character from South Park. Even Meredith's fight with Kelly over a Kate Middleton costume created an awkward and unfunny moment that seemed unrepresentative of Meredith, who you might characteristically expect to dress up as Eve and not wear anything to a Halloween party rather than wear a wedding dress.
The costumes, rather than being the building blocks of the show, were carelessly used for jokes and then thrown away like afterthoughts. And unlike in years when Michael Scott's second head costume would take over the screen and dialogue for at least a few minutes of witty banter, "Spooked" gave each character only a second to shine for what they were wearing.
The worst mistake was in Jim's Chris Bosh of the Miami Heat. In the past he's been a three-hole punch, "Dave", "bookface" and Popeye. All of which qualified among the best costumes of The Office, as well as some of the most easily imitable on a tight budget and with minimal creativity. It's possible the joke was lost on me, but I will risk the fury of basketball fans everywhere and say that wearing a jersey does not constitute a well-formed costume idea from the character I always expect to impress as "Most Passively Awesome" at Dunder Mifflin Halloween parties.
In the way of story, the episode did not fail as much as it shocked. The title, "Spooked", seemed odd in the beginning, but by the end of the episode the theme was clear. Gabe's "cinema of the unsettling" proved an interesting flashback to a movie that still frightens me, The Ring. Pam's ghost story both literally spooked her and mildly spooked Jim (at the thought of his wife believing in the paranormal). And while Robert California's story was also quite spooky, the biggest spook was Andy revealing to Erin that he has had a relatively long-lived and steady relationship with some unidentified woman.
In advancing the overall plot of The Office, "Spooked" worked in every way. Characters had their moments, some with larger roles and some making cameos, as is essential to really drive the season. But as far as Halloween episodes, this one dropped the ball on what The Office has done really well in the past — the costumes.