Are you there, TV? It’s us, the faithful viewers who learned to navigate puberty, body-image issues and “stranger danger” thanks to your timeless guidance. Here’s to 10 “Very Special” sitcom episodes we’ll never forget.
Dudley gets molested, 'Diff’rent Strokes'
Arnold and his gullible bud Dudley fall prey to a neighborhood bicycle shop owner (played by loveable “Maytag Man” Gordon Jump) who has an unhealthy interest in… uh, “adjusting” their banana seats. (Watch the 'Bicycle Man's' creepiest, and possibly NSFW in a cheesy '80s way, moments below.)
Cherie gets stuck in a refrigerator, 'Punky Brewster'
Punky’s best pal Cherie and her high-top sneakers kick it in the danger zone when she chooses to stow away in an old refrigerator during a game of hide-and-seek. Luckily, the plucky Punky paid attention in school and performs some super slow-mo CPR to revive her friend. Whew! Tab for everyone!
DJ has an eating disorder, 'Full House'
Insecure teen DJ crash-diets to be ready for BFF Kimmy Gibbler’s upcoming pool party. DJ skips meals and exercises excessively … for like, two whole minutes AT LEAST! (Not to mention the calories she burns toting around that full head of booty-length hair.) Her tactics take their toll and she learns a valuable lesson about moderation. Somebody hand that girl a Pudding Pocket! She’s perfect just the way she is.
Jessie is a pill popper, 'Saved By the Bell'
In an episode that has become a pop culture classic, overachiever Jessie Spano gets hooked on caffeine pills in a valiant effort to get good grades and perform the Pointer Sisters classic 'I'm So Excited' with Lisa and Kelly. But girl’s gotta sleep eventually, and she epically unravels in the preppy arms of Zack Morris. She’s so excited! She’s so excited!! She’s so… scary impossible not to quote. It’s all gonna work out, Jessie. You have an illustrious career as a showgirl ahead of you.
Wesley is fondled by a camp counselor, 'Mr. Belvedere'
Things get pretty serious for the Owens Family's lovable jokester Wesley in this Very Special Episode when he reveals he's been inappropriately touched by his camp counselor. (A rare sitcom episode where the friend doesn't take the “creepy adult” bullet for one of the leads. Poor Dudley.) But fear not, by episode's end, Mr. Owens and Mr. Belvedere are back to their trademark bickering and Welsey has put superglue on his sister's hot rollers. Hey, it was the '80s. It's aaaaaaaallll good.
Will's dad doesn't want him, 'The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air'
“Now this is a story all about how … ” The Fresh Prince comes to terms with his absentee pop. When Will's hopes of a father-and-son reunion are inevitably dashed, his bravado and posturing crumble when Uncle Phil offers paternal solace in the form of a bear-hug. Uncle Phil bear hugs can cure anything.
Blossom “blossoms” as a woman, 'Blossom'
The charmingly-wacky teenage “every girl” Blossom Russo is ushered into womanhood when she gets her period for the first time in the appropriately titled episode 'Blossom Blossoms.' The catch? Poor girl lives in a household of fairly-inept men with no mother-figure in sight. Given the sensitive (and slightly icky) subject matter, classic sitcom hilarity ensues! Thank heavens Blossom can rely on numerically-named BFF Six to shed some like, light, on the subject. Like, totally.
Blair wishes she had cerebral palsy, 'The Facts of Life'
We took the good, we took the bad, we took ‘em both and there we had … the raddest all-girls boarding school on the PLANET! In this episode, snooty blue-blood Blair gets a visit from her comedienne-cousin, Geri, who happens to have cerebral palsy. When Blair starts acting funky, firm-but-fair house-mother Mrs. Garrett is concerned that she might be embarrassed by Geri. In a shocking character twist, we learn that Blair is actually just JEALOUS of her cousin’s successful comedy career. Those Eastland School girls always kept us guessing.
Homeless Leonardo DiCaprio meets The Seavers, 'Growing Pains'
The all-American Seaver clan makes room in its multi-generational nest for adorable homeless boy, Luke Brower. Did we mention Luke is played by a young Leonardo DiCaprio? ‘Nuff said. Who says killer baby blues and a scrappy attitude can’t open doors in this world?
Tom Hanks is a drunk, 'Family Ties'
Sha-la-la-laaa! The hippie-chic Keaton family is rocked when mom Elyse’s super-fun and “unpredictable” brother, Ned (Tom Hanks), comes to call. Turns out Uncle Ned isn’t just the charming life o’ the party — he’s also a hardcore alcoholic. Ned returned a season later, clean and sober but now on the run for embezzling funds from his company. Had Hanks' star not risen, we imagine Uncle Ned would've returned yet again as a junkie or an AIDs patient or as a vehicle for whatever other hot-button issue the 'Family Ties' writers wanted to tackle.
Theo is dyslexic, 'The Cosby Show'
America’s favorite big bro, Theo Huxtable, has a problem. The lovable slacker with the killer flat-top is struggling in school, and it ain’t from lack of tryin'. His scholarly parents, Cliff and Clair, don their finest patterned sweaters and shoulder-padded power suits to accompany their only son to a specialist’s office where he's diagnosed as (key dramatic music change) dyslexic. The specialist assures them that with special learning techniques, Theo can go on to read and write complicated words like J-E-L-L-O.
Punky and Cherie are offered drugs, 'Punky Brewster'
Thanks to her rad fashion sense, Punky is considered for admission into the totally, like, awesome Valley Girl club The Chicklets. But when one of the Chicklets pulls out an absurd amount of drugs (where does a 10-year-old get “nose candy”?), Punky and Cherie are faced with a tough decision. Will they “Just Say No,” or partake of the head Chicklets' stash in order to boost their popularity? Find out below.
Wesley's friend has AIDS, 'Mr. Belvedere'
'Mr. Belvedere' strikes again, this time giving Wesley's adorable little friend Danny AIDS. (Insert laugh track here.) Wait. WHAT?! Yes, a prime time TV show tackling a majorly intense topic such as AIDS is admirable. In this particular case, however, the manner of delivery was not AT ALL funny. Watch the bizarre moment below.
Mike Seaver is offered cocaine, 'Growing Pains'
When Mike and his pals Eddie and Richard “Boner” Stabone are offered coke (not the “New” kind) by some college girls, they are faced with the prospect of looking like “wimps” if they don't partake. Mike bails, leading to a scene where he confesses to his dad about almost “doing coke.” Watch the scene below, which ends in an awkward “breaking the fourth wall” moment of Kirk Cameron teaching kids at home about the dangers of drugs while the rest of the cast creepily stares them down.
Urkel raps about gun control, 'Family Matters'
The 'Family Matters' gun control episode is a perfect storm of “very special episode” cliches. Laura is faced with a tough choice when she almost buys a gun from the school dealer after being bullied by some tough girls. Urkel encourages students to turn in their weapons via an awful rap song. Finally, the cast (and special guest star, young Freddie Prinze Jr.) addresses the audience at the end, telling kids to “squash” guns. Unfortunately that catchphrase didn't turn out to be the next “Just Say No.”