in Shocktober

The David S. Pumpkins Halloween Special

Airdate: October 28, 2017

Whoops. I did not realize I was supposed to post this yesterday, but can you blame me? Days don’t matter, though I suppose it was nice to have something this month that imposed on the three of us what day it was. Which is a sentence that would make zero sense in a year that wasn’t 2020. Anyways, perhaps I’m stalling because it’s just hard to feel any particularly strong feelings about The David S. Pumpkins Halloween Special, a full-length special centered around the perplexing character that was featured in a pretty solid SNL sketch from 2016. It says something that David S. Pumpkins is a character that doesn’t quite have enough legs to fill 21-minutes, but that’s what happens when you have a character where nobody ever really knows what his deal is.

As you may or may not recall, the “David S. Pumpkins” sketch takes place at an elevator-themed haunted house. On one of the floors (and eventually most of them) a pumpkin-suit wearing weirdo (played by Tom Hanks) and his skeleton friends (played by Bobby Moynihan and Mikey Day) do various dances paired with some creative finger-pointing. The couple on the elevator ride keep asking what David Pumpkins’ deal is and why he exists, while only getting vague answers and that he’s “his own thing”. It’s a pretty funny sketch that doesn’t waste a lot of time or overstay its welcome, even though it is just a new spin on the possibly superior Kevin Roberts sketch.

The David S. Pumpkins Halloween Special begins with a brief introduction featuring a live-action Hanks and the skele-boys reprising their roles. We then quickly switch to animation, where a man named Kevin (voiced by Peter Dinklage) is sitting on his porch recounting the time he encountered a strange man one Halloween. We then flashback to Kevin as a kid on Halloween, where he’s being bullied by the Ditmeyer triplets. Later that night, Kevin and his sister are at a pumpkin patch and Kevin’s sister selects the worst, grossest pumpkin in the patch. This then causes an elevator to come up through the ground and who else but David S. Pumpkins comes out. He then sings a song about his whole deal, while also not really revealing what his deal is, ’cause that’s his deal. Get it?

There’s rumored to be a spooky villain known as the Raincoat Man that lives in the neighborhood that the kids keep passing around rumors about. Then, the night of Halloween, the Raincoat Man starts stealing candy from the kids. It’s quickly revealed that the Raincoat Man is the Ditmeyer triplets from earlier, while the special doesn’t even go to the trouble to make a decent “stacked kids in a trenchcoat” joke, which are objectively one of the best kinds of jokes. Anyways, David Pumpkins and Kevin track down the Ditmeyer twins at a haunted house and get everyone’s candy back and we get one final short appearance of live-action Tom Hanks before we cut to credits.

This special was supposedly created with the intent of appealing to children, since kids apparently were into the original David S. Pumpkins sketch after it made its way to YouTube. Which explains why this special is such a kid-friendly endeavor despite being a Saturday Night Live production. I guess I don’t have a problem with that, since it just gives it the feeling of some random Halloween episode of some random kids show that seems fine but I have no interest in. Still, it was written by SNL writers, so I would’ve assumed it would have sharper jokes in it than we get here, even if the possibility of writing raunchier material was off the table.

If there isn’t anything especially fresh here, the special is at least carried along by a tone that’s charming enough, if ultimately unremarkable. The special feels a lot like a scrapped FOX pilot, which isn’t surprising since the animation was done by Bento Box studios, who is responsible for shows like Allen Gregory, Duncanville, Bordertown, and most notably Bob’s Burgers. Which makes it all the weirder that the part of this special that loses its charm the quickest is David S. Pumpkins himself after the first 15-minutes or so. He mainly just spouts off the same catchphrases from the sketch he was in while him and the skeleton boys do basically the same schtick. When you get Tom Hanks to commit to being in something so silly and trivial, you gotta try a little harder than that.