2/21/14

10 Highly Disturbing Sitcom Episodes of the 70s and 80s


The trouble with American situation comedies in the 1970s and 1980s was that you never knew what you were going to get when you tuned in: was it going to be light-hearted entertainment or tales from the darkside?  There was nothing worse than sitting on the couch, ready for 30 minutes of laughs, and instead being served a smorgasbord of human suffering.

In their lust for an Emmy, sitcom writers got it into their heads that there just had to be “special episodes”.  With these stories, the comedy came to a screeching halt in favor of some of the most brutal narratives imaginable.   What made it so nefarious is that these shows generally were fun and silly…. then they turned on a dime, delivering terrifying accounts of sodomy and molestation.  You never knew what you were going to get, so you were unprepared for the nightmare unfolding before you.

Click the link to my Anorak post to begin with the most infamous example of them all…

15 comments:

  1. You forgot the episode of Family Ties where Alex's (whom you never saw before but was apparently his bestest friend ever, sorry Skippy) dies in a car accident and the entire episode is Alex talking to a psychiatrist in a dark room.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think the precursor to that "Family Ties" episode was an episode of "Maude" from the early 70s where Maude is solo for the entire episode, in a darkened psychiatrist's office pouring out everything about her troubled childhood. No one else is seen in the episode.

      By far the best, and least melodramatic of these "solo" type episodes was one of "MASH" where an injured Hawkeye seeks refuge in the home off a Korean family neither speak nor understand English, and he must keep talking (to their amusement) in a soliloquy for the entire episode to keep from passing out. The "MASH" episode is far more watchable and less cringeworthy than those of "Family Ties" or "Maude".

      Delete
  2. Nice one..... I'd forgotten about that one.

    And thank you for the nice comment - unlike @ Anorak where my brand of humor is apparently not for everyone. The last comment over there: "My god, you are a prude. Lighten up and stop being so bloody earnest about everything."

    Damn.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah, I've sensed that some of the readers over there don't "get it".

      Delete
  3. Next on a very special Different Strokes - Arnold is duped into sending nude photos of himself to a "friend" on his smartphone. Next on a very special Facts Of Life - Mrs G is given rohypnol at a high school reunion ~ with deadly consequences. Next on very special Silver Spoons - Ricky learns that Kate has an account on CougarLife and may be cheating on Dad

    Prude? I saw that. One look on the right side here says your no prude. He just doesn't understand what the 'Very Special' episodes did to us.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Correcting myself - it's "you're" dummy. And I also thought of that Family Ties episode first thing too.

      Delete
  4. I love this! Haven't seen all of them, but they seem pretty damn terrifying. Especially that last one... And "prude"?! Are you kidding me, no, anyone who feels ok with these episodes must be a shady character him/herself....

    ReplyDelete
  5. YIKES the 'special episodes'! There were so many of them - there were two Family Ties episodes that come to mind - remember the one where Tom Hanks plays the family friend who turns out to be raging alcoholic and even pummels Alex across the room? And the one where a friend of Stephen's (the dad) hits on Mallory?

    Or the Facts of Life where Tootie almost gets lured into prostitution on a visit to the city? Or when one of the girls (don't remember which - one of the blondes, not Blair) had anorexia?

    GADS, these shows were messed up! 1980s Facts of Life and Different Strokes were the worst, I think...seemed like every other episode was 'special' XP

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I meant "a" raging alcoholic - my bad :p

      Delete
  6. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  7. One nice thing about the 60s sitcoms is you never had these types of episodes. You never saw "Tonight, on a very special "Green Acres", Hooterville deals with the news that Arnold Ziffle has cancer..." Also, does anyone else remember at least one episode of "Different Strokes" where Conraid Bain had a special message before the show, telling the audience that we'd be exposed to some rather serious or controversial topic? Whenever I'd see one of those, it was "Oh, man! Not one of those lame episodes!"

    BTW, back around 1987 or so, our local CBS affiliate ran re-runs of "Too Close for Comfort" in the afternoons and they did show the infamous Monroe rape episode. It was the only time I'd ever seen it, in syndication. Never watched it much when it was on ABC

    ReplyDelete
  8. The prude comment makes me want to smack the guy, but I refuse to sign up for Disquis.

    But I am with the fellow on Monroe. I never got the "gay" vibe from him. I got a perpetual man-child who wanted to get with one of the girls but they weren't interested because he just wasn't up to snuff mentally and emotionally.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Did everything bad on Facts Of Life only happen to Natalie and Tootie? I remember an episode where a photographer takes risque pics of Tootie.

    Have you ever thought of doing an article on Asaad Kelada? It seems that he directed an episode or ten of every tv show that aired during the seventies and eighties.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Tom Hanks played Alex's uncle and I think he's in two episodes, each time he brings complete havoc and not in a comedy way. Still, Hanks deserves credit for being the one actor to blow Michael J Fox off the screen in that show.

    My heart used to sink whenever I read the words "written and directed by Alan Alda" on an episode of MASH. Yes, I know it's a show about war and war is hell but, let's face it, the best episodes were the ones that involved a practical jokes rivalry. Alda's most serious one was the episode told from the point of view of a patient with a little clock in the corner. Very worthy, very experimental, completely dull.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Asaad Kelada actually directed an Office episode!

    ReplyDelete