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Halloween television schedules promise fun for viewers

Tuesday, October 23, 2001

By Ricardo Baca, Scripps Howard News Service

Is Halloween an opportunity for escapism, and, if so, is TV the destination of choice for living a vicariously haunted life?

In the widening realm of genre-specific cable channels, networks such as Fox Family Channel and American Movie Classics revamp lineups to accommodate Halloween with spooky and seasonal programming.

But what is it that draws us to our TVs in search of a good shock? "It gives you a temporary thrill, that insecurity, but once it's over, you know you're solid and happy," said Sally Dryer.

Dryer knows a thing or two about Halloween. More than 30 years ago, she voiced fussbudget Lucy in "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown," and she's loved the holiday ever since.

The special is airing again this year (8 p.m. next Tuesday, ABC), but Dryer, 44, hasn't done voice work since she was 12.

"Great Pumpkin" represents the part of Halloween centered around the family. It's the way Dryer prefers her holidays; she just moved from the San Francisco area to Jerome, Ariz., population 300, where they throw an annual Halloween party and take a town picture. It helps, Dryer said, that Jerome is haunted.

"I think the ghosts are friendly here, though, so it's not about being scared," said Dryer. "It's a celebration of the town that I live in."

Although she watches the Peanuts holiday specials annually, she can take only so many scary movies -- unless it's "Silence of the Lambs," her favorite frightening film.

The 1991 film, most of which was filmed in Pittsburgh, is also one of Harvey Bernhard's preferred doses of scary cinema. Bernhard, who produced the cult triumph "The Goonies," also produced "The Omen" films, which brought the Antichrist to life in the form of a child.

Bernhard said the key to scaring people is verisimilitude, because the realer it is, the warmer we feel that breath breathing down our necks and the higher we jump.

"Frightening pictures are a catharsis," he said. "They take your mind off of everything."

Bernhard plans on staying home on his 75-acre ranch in southern Washington on Halloween, but is he expecting trick-or-treaters?

"They don't dare come here."

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