October 31st: Are You Afraid Of the Dark?

Heppy Helloween

With Halloween falling on a Saturday this year, I felt it only appropriate to stick the landing with this series by taking you back to the Saturday nights of yore. Yes, in the 80s and 90s, Nickelodeon was not only hooking kids on the pleasures of green slime and impossible-to-navigate Hidden Temples, but also occupying your Saturday nights - known as "Snick" - with some sketch comedy, some old favorite franchise-characters, and some Canadians saying things in ominous voices. So... at this point, I feel obliged to ask you...

Are You Afraid Of the Dark?

Don't answer that, it's rhetorical. Also, I can't hear you, this is a computer. The point is, the title is a backhanded taunt, saying "Come, listen to Canadian teens weave their tales of despair in an anthology format!" And so, having answered the rhetorical question despite reassurances that we don't actually need to, we shall go listen to those Canadian teens.

Space: Sleepy Hollow, NY
Time: January 8th, 1994
Episode: "The Tale of the Midnight Ride" Season 3, Episode 1

It's not an ep of AYAOTD? without your campfire bookends. This is the first episode of the third season, so we're getting a little rollover with the cast, meaning some of the indistinct, flannel-ensconced teens you were used to have been swapped out with other indistinct, flannel-based teens. Oh, worry not - the Canadian accents remain, but certainly the cast photo has changed... forever.

One of these switcheroos is Head Wizard Gary's kid-brother, Tucker - the generation gap is made clear by his brazen lack of flannel and surplus of sleeveless yellow denim:

Everyone (I don't know their names, and I watched this show for, like, five years - they're that indistinct) leaps out of their seats in protest. They're borderline unhinged at the prospect of Gary's brother being a part of their clandestine ceremonies (and yet no one questions mega-nerd Gary's presence...), reacting as though Tucker had slept with each of their respective spouses at some point.

Gary tells them that they either accept Tucker into the Order (it's gotta be an order, right?), or his parents won't let him come out to summon pagan spirits of the forest and dance around the fire wearing masks. I'm kidding of course, they just tell scary stories, but if I'm Gary's parents, I don't know what the hell my kid is up to out there, and I certainly wouldn't send my other son out to be indoctrinated. Maybe Gary's parents are the lynch-pin to the whole goddamn Midnight Society, and this is but a tier of their new world order pyramid scheme? I truly hope so.

So, Tucker begins to weave his tale, by which I mean "Washington Irving's tale," with a beat for beat summary of what the Legend of Sleepy Hollow is. From there, we'll get a retelling of the same story, beat for beat, from one character to another, and then a full-on re-enactment of this story, again, beat for beat, but with bicycles.

Our hero is the "new kid in town," Ian, who is suffering from a severe case of early-90s hair and having a body made out of almost 100% Adam's apple:

Hey, Ian, Ellen DeGeneres' stand-up act from '92 called and would like its wardrobe back. This is him meeting local girl, Katie, whom he soon finds to be afflicted with being Canadian. Indeed, the whole of this incarnation of "Sleepy Hollow, NY" just oozes maple syrup and Mountie hats. Everyone wishes everyone else a "Heppy Helloween," and is either "Sorey," or "Sceered," and all of them are wondering if the Leafs won last night.

Reading between the lines of this encounter, Ian decides to log some serious friend-zone time with Katie, decorating for the school's Helloween Dance, introducing us to Brad Brom Bones, Katie's ex and an all-around jackass.

I'm not saying it's impossible to bully while wearing your button-down shirt tucked into your stone-washed jeans, but I am suggesting this might not be the most intimidating of looks if you're looking to compensate for your Canadian citizenship and your shortness by acting like a big-wheel.

From the looks of things, Brad 1.) Doesn't understand what the phrase "We're not going out anymore," means, and 2.) Doesn't like having plastic pumpkins dropped on his bean by a beaky ganglefitz like Ian. Fortunately, no decorations were harmed in the making of this scene, because the next thing we know, we are so enjoying this high school dance!

At least until Ian shows up, dressed like - would you believe it? - a colonial-era guy who looks a lot like Ichabod Crane might have. He brings with him a key element of early-90s dances, which consisted of two things in great abundance: sweaty palms and plenty of New Jack Swing (I'll leave it to you to determine which dish Ian brought to pass). And then it devolves into your typical bully-fest, with Brad retelling Tucker's initial retelling about the Legend, while Ian does what he can to look fearless.

He's sent to retrieve the pumpkin, which gives the best performance of the episode. He's made a bold choice in having his innards glow green, but it turns out to be the best choice.

Something-something-something, Brad shows up, taking advantage of his shortness by doing your classic Headless Horseman fakeout, which invariably portends an appearance by the real thing.

Having won the day with his prank, Brad caveman-grunts for Katie to join him, but she (not unlike the aforementioned jack o' lantern) makes a choice as well: she chooses to stand by her stork. I mean, "man." I mean, "awkward boy." Brad sneers himself away, leaving Ian and Katie to deal with an actor who must be teething, as he completely gnaws the scenery as a spectral Ichabod Crane.

They give him some directions home, not realizing they've put a fold into the fabric of the space-time continuum. This might be an issue, but there's no time to reflect, as we're then led into a dizzying labyrinth of her being walked home and Ian walking back to the school, and her following him back to the school, and them then going back towards home... fucking hell, in or out, you two, make up your minds, already! But wait, are you seeing this?

Oh, Brad - you are such a committed prankster, renting a horse and projecting your shadow on the building like that! Ha ha, Brad, very funny - you can come out now, you jokester...

Oh shit! That shadow just jumped out of the wall, what're you gonna do now!?

I have to give the showrunners some credit - too often we're promised a haunted rider, only to be teased with fleeting glimpses of such a terror. I assume this is to avoid our scrutiny of the practical effect of headlessness, but they really deal some major haunted rider here. Oh, are you as worried about the innaccuracy of that pumpkin head as I was? Worry not...:

Oh yes, he popped that pumpkin-head right off without blinking (because he has no eyes, you see) - nice. Anyway, something-something-something, they get chased around a bit, just as the retelling of the retelling of the retelling foretold (now retold), and the Headless Horseman, his headless-effect still preserved and intact through careful use of editing and video toasting, erupts into a charmingly-bad, horse-shaped fireball.

And so ends our tale, just as our time traveling sojourn comes to a close as well. What a time we've had, eh? I would suggest we learned something at some point, but I highly doubt it. As the season ends, I shall now douse the campfire, deactivate the chronopod, and fold my domino mask neatly back into the sock drawer, where it belongs. We'll regroup momentarily, but for now, I declare this meeting of the JZ'sTT31DOHDDYTIH-adventure closed. Heppy Helloween, broomheads.