Very Special Episodes
Didi & Summer cover Very Special Episodes from sitcoms Boy Meets World, All in the Family, Diff'rent Strokes, Full House, and Fresh Prince of Bel Air.
The term “very special episode” refers to comedy sitcoms that featured episodes that contained really dark or controversial themes. The usage of the term peaked in the 1980’s but there are earlier shows with episodes like this. In this episode, Didi & Summer cover Very Special Episodes from sitcoms Boy Meets World, All in the Family, Diff'rent Strokes, Full House, and Fresh Prince of Bel Air.
*This is not an exact transcript, but rather an outline of my notes.
So this episode is different from the usual. A Very Special Episode indeed. The term “very special episode” refers to comedy sitcoms that featured episodes that contained really dark or controversial themes. The usage of the term peaked in the 1980’s but there are earlier shows with episodes like this.
I’m going to give you a few examples. Who remembers Boy Meets World? Boy Meets World was a popular sitcom that aired on ABC from 1993 to 2000. It most closely followed the main character, Corey Matthews (Ben Savage), his family, his best friend Shawn, and his girlfriend Topanga. This show was very light-hearted, family friendly, and it was funny. Corey’s nextdoor neighbor, Mr. Feeny, was also his teacher and principal throughout his childhood, and he was played by William Daniels.
While this show was typically really warm and sweet and dealt with teen romance, it had a couple of Very Special Episodes.
Boy Meets World (1993–2000)
"Dangerous Secret" (Season 4, Episode 8, aired November 8, 1996), Cory Matthews and Shawn Hunter discover that one of their classmates, Claire Ferguson, is being abused by her father. After confiding in Cory's parents, the boys inform the police of the situation and send Claire to live with her aunt, in order to keep her safe.
"Cult Fiction" (Season 4, Episode 21, aired April 25, 1997), Shawn is under the influence of a sinister cult.
There’s also the Halloween episode which, idk if it’s a VSE because it’s not all that controversial, but it’s notable because it was not the same as the rest and I don’t know anyone who wasn’t legitimately scared of that episode as a child. Plus it’s kind of psychological in nature too, because it says a lot about what Shawn was going through.
All in the Family (1971–1979)
All in the Family was a bit older, airing on CBS from 1971 to 1979. It was based on a british sitcom named Till Death Do Us Part. It starred Carroll O'Connor, Jean Stapleton, Sally Struthers, and Rob Reiner.
Carroll O’ Connor and Jean Stapleton played the main characters, Archie and Edith Bunker. Sally Struthers played their adult daughter, Gloria, and a young Rob Reiner played Gloria’s husband, Michael, or as Archie liked to call him “Meathead”.
The main character, Archie, was known as a “lovable bigot”. He represented the American blue-collar, working class man. He’s a WWII vet and he’s seen as lovable because he’s just kind of nostalgic about the older days and learning to adapt to this changing world.
His wife, Edith, was ditzy but very kind hearted. She often endured insults from her husband but would stand up to him once in a while, and they were portrayed as being deeply in love despite Archie being kind of an ass. Edith was almost childlike with how innocent and sweet she was. She was naive and it seemed like maybe thats why she always followed Archie’s lead.
The show often dealt with issues like racism and homophobia, but it was usually pretty lighthearted. All in the Family’s VSE was called "Edith's 50th Birthday" (Season 8, Episode 4, aired October 16, 1977). Edith Bunker, believing a serial rapist to be a police officer, lets him into her home and is almost sexually assaulted by him.
For the curious: this scene was shot in a single, uninterrupted take in front of a live studio audience. That’s part of the reason the viewers explode with cheers and screaming when Edith successfully escapes—the audience watched the entire scene happen in “real time.” The producers later said that the atmosphere was so tense, and Jean Stapleton’s acting so convincing, that they genuinely thought the audience might rush the set to save Edith
Diff'rent Strokes (1978–1986)
Diff’rent Strokes ran on ABC from 1979-1986. The series starred Gary Coleman and Todd Bridges as Arnold and Willis Jackson, respectively. Arnold and Willis were black boys from Harlem and they had lost their mother and were taken in by her employer, Phillip Drummond, who also had a daughter named Kimberly. The show was funny because it showed like a clear divide between the rich white people and the black kids from Harlem. There was a lot of slang and white people doing and saying goofy white people shit. You know what I mean, like back in the day when white people didn’t know how to talk to black people, so as soon as they go to speak to one they try way to hard to seem “cool with black people”, like they’ll blurt something ridiculous out like “My cousin had a black neighbor once!”
Gary Coleman rose to fame during this show, known for his one liner, “Whatchu talkin’ bout, Willis?”
Early episodes mostly addressed typical family sit-com issues, but as the series progressed, it began to focus on more serious topics, including drug abuse, alcoholism, hitchhiking, child abuse and crime.
"The Bicycle Man" (Season 5, Episode 16/17, aired February 5, 1983, and February 12, 1983, in two parts), Arnold, along with friend Dudley, are targeted by a pedophile who owns a local bike shop and has sexually abused children in the past. Arnold's would-be abuser is arrested after Arnold confides in his father.
"The Hitchhikers" (Season 6, Episode 14/15, aired January 28, 1984, and February 4, 1984, in two parts), Arnold and Kimberly hitchhike home for their father's birthday party. They are picked up by a man who plans to rape Kimberly. Arnold manages to escape and alert the police just in time.
Full House (1987–1995)
Full House was the show that brought the Olsen twins to fame. It aired on ABC from 1987 to 1995. It was about Danny Tanner (Bob Saget), a single father, raising his 3 young daughters– DJ, Stephanie, and Michelle. He’s joined by his brother-in-law, Jesse (John Stamos), and his lifetime friend, Joey (Dave Coulier), who help him raise the girls. This show is the most heartwarming of all of them. They literally hug in like every scene.
"Shape Up" (Season 4, Episode 8, aired November 9, 1990), DJ, in preparation for an upcoming pool party, stops eating and start exercising vigorously, both common symptoms of anorexia nervosa.
"Silence Is Not Golden" (Season 6, Episode 17, aired February 16, 1993), Stephanie learns that her classmate is a victim of child abuse by his father and feels conflicted as to whether she should tell an adult.
The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air (1990–1996)
"Mistaken Identity" (Season 1, Episode 6, aired October 15, 1990), While driving to Palm Springs in a Mercedes-Benz that belongs to Phillip Banks, Will and Carlton are picked up by two white police officers that accuse the two of being car thieves.
"Just Say Yo" (Season 3, Episode 19, aired February 15, 1993), Will is given speed to stay up. At the senior prom, Carlton, mistaking them for vitamins, takes them, and collapses on the dance floor. He covers for Will, who comes clean to Phillip and Vivian, breaking down.
"Bullets Over Bel-Air" (Season 5, Episode 15, aired February 6, 1995), Will and Carlton, while withdrawing money from an ATM, are robbed at gunpoint, and Will is shot and hospitalized, causing Carlton to suffer from posttraumatic stress disorder, and leading him to purchase a handgun for his own protection, which Will disapproves of.
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Photos & Videos
"And Then There Was Shawn"
"Edith's 50th Birthday Pt. 2"
"Just Say Yo" clips
"Bullets Over Bel Air" clips
All in the Family "Edith's 50th Birthday"
Diff'rent Strokes "The Bicycle Man"
Full House "Silence is Not Golden"
Fresh Prince of Bel Air "Mistaken Identity"
"Just Say Yo" clips
"Bullets Over Bel Air" clips