“Very Special” Episodes of Sitcoms

Please tell me if I’m wrong, but doesn’t the “com” part of “sitcom” stand for “comedy?!?!” When I was a kid, sitcoms ruled television. I grew up watching shows like Cheers, The Cosby Show, Full House, and One Day at a Time, to name a few.  There wasn’t one night of television where a sitcom could not be found on at least one of the networks.

cheers cosby one day

They’re making a comeback now with great shows like The Big Bang Theory, Modern Family, Mike and Molly, and Community, to name a few more.  These programs delight us with light-hearted fare and lots of laughs.  I love to watch sitcoms because I know I can relax for a while and have a good time.

community mike and molly modernbig bang

That being said, sometimes sitcoms masquerade as dramas.  When I was a kid, the promo would come on for a certain sitcom (very often it was a sitcom with teenagers in it like Who’s the Boss, The Facts of Life, or Blossom) and it would say “tonight, on a very special episode of …..”  I knew right away that this was not going to be a funny show.  They would tackle things like teenage pregnancy, bullying, emotional disorders or even such hard topics as eating disorders or rape.  These were not comedies.  They were “very special” in that they ignored their fan base and decided to be serious for a while.  If I wanted serious, I would skip watching TV and live real life for a while!

facts      boss      blossom

I suppose it’s nothing new for sitcoms to want to tackle real-life issues (even shows like Leave it to Beaver, Father Knows Best and The Brady Bunch tried to tackle real issues, but they did it while still holding true to the comedy of the show.  I remember the “do not lie” episode of The Brady Bunch, where the boys were playing basketball in the house and broke “mom’s favorite vase.”  The episode was about how bad it is to lie to your family and, in the end, the boys came clean about the broken vase.  During the episode, however, there were some big laughs.  For example, the scene were the vase started to leak on the table, and the kids just kept eating and ignoring it while Mike and Carol tried to plug it with their fingers was hilarious!

broken Brady boys leaking

The reason I chose to write this post today is because I recently saw an episode of Modern Family, a program I normally love.  It’s one of the funniest and smartest programs on television today.  In the recent episode, there were a bunch of funny things that went on (the dodgeball game made me laugh), but a side story was that of Alex (a high school junior) having a small nervous breakdown and seeing a psychiatrist.  In the session she learned that she feels very alone in her family and that her family doesn’t understand her need to be perfect at everything.  In the end, her mother makes a comment about how nerve wracking Alex’s life is and she hugs her mother and cries.  This is not funny, people!!  This is real life, dramatic, get me the tissues programming.  It was so out of the ordinary for Modern Family to air an episode like this.  They totally veered from the expected comedy and hijinks to something depressing and saddening.  I was extremely disappointed in Modern Family this week.

Sitcoms are our only release form real life.  We watch them to escape for a while and watch other people in comical situations that make us laugh.  When that joviality is hijacked, and we are forced to watch a “very special” episode where we have to deal with real-life problems that we may be facing ourselves, we have been deceived by the very thing that was supposed to be our trusted friend.  These episodes have to end, or we have to end the program itself by not watching!


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