Last week, after the throat punch that was the “Dauber NOOOO!” episode of How I Met Your Mother, Rowles spoke of the saddest episodes in sitcom history. The other day, while watching Full House at 5am (I don’t need to explain what I do in my free time to you people), I realized the entire series hinges on the plot of “dead mom.” That’s the entire basis for the show. “Your mom’s life is over, but the laughter is just beginning!” Three little girls lost their mother, a man lost his wife, but it’s totally fine because Dave Coulier can do a passable Bullwinkle impression.
We all have certain episodes of various television shows that melt our faces into teary redness. But, when you really stop and think about it, what about entire series predicated on incredibly depressing notions?
6. Grace Under Fire
One of those infamous shows where, not unlike with Diff’rent Strokes, any sadness within the confines of the plot are made that much more so by the real-life sadness around it, Brett Butler’s mid-’90s sitcom was the tale of a recovering alcoholic who leaves her abusive husband to start over with her three kids. This would be all well and good if the abusive husband didn’t show up rather frequently as the comic relief.
While the show itself comes from sad beginnings, nothing was helped by the title character, who, to reiterate, is a recovering alcoholic, being played by a recovering alcoholic who developed a debilitating painkiller addiction over the course of the show, leading to a number of casting changes, crew firings/quittings, an an infamous incident in which she flashed her breasts at the twelve-year-old playing her son.
5. Teen Angel
No one remembers this show. I, on the other hand, am unable to forget it, and it is really, really not due to its quality. Airing for but one season on ABC’s TGIF in the late ’90s, Teen Angel is the story of a young man named Steve who loses his best friend to a tragic burger incident (no, I am not joking). He falls into a deep depression, due to the death of his only friend following his father leaving. Also, everyone at school hates him, making it a little too easy to believe the entire plot of the show is not “Dead Friend Hangs Out With Live Friend” but “Boy Suffering From Severe Nervous Breakdown Hallucinates Dead Friend Simply To Have the Ability To Get Through the Day and Not Set Himself On Fire In a Shower Stall.”
4. Full House
As I said before, this entire program hinges upon “The Dead Mom.” But it’s not just the basis for the program. It’s almost something we’re challenged to be grateful for. “Yes, mom’s dead. But if she wasn’t so dead, the girls wouldn’t get the integral life lessons that can only come from being raised by three men, one of whom plays with puppets, one of whom spends more time on his hair than watching the baby. Not only are you entirely unnecessary, but we’re actually better off without you and will only mention you in two or three subsequent episodes over the course of eight seasons, woman. SANDWICH. Go fetch. Oh, sorry. You can’t. You’re dead.”
Not only is mom dead, but she died a victim of a drunk driver, with three small children, one of whom is only 9-months-old. She died alone and scared, never to see her kids grow up, or even grow into teens. But it’s all fine, because John Stamos is very attractive. You win some, you lose some.
3. Punky Brewster
When I was six or seven, my mom lost me at Venture, a now-defunct Midwestern retail chain. Enterprising child I was, I screamed like a busted tea kettle until a clerk found me and took me to the PA system where I managed to terrify and humiliate my mother in the same three minute timespan.
Punky Brewster experienced a similar ordeal, except her mom never claimed her, and in fact left her there on purpose, after her father had already abandoned them. She wanders into an abandoned apartment with her dog, and the two of them, lonely yet plucky, strike up a friendship with an older man. This older man would later have his studio burned down, develop a bleeding ulcer, and deal with all manner of bureaucracy that comes with finding a small child in an abandoned building and keeping her like a stray cat.
2. Boy Meets World
In theory, Boy Meets World was about a curly-haired kid and his wacky life. But it was also about his best friend. And that best friend was Shawn Hunter.
For those of you who never watched, let me paint you a picture of Shawn Hunter. Shawn was a trailer park kid. His mom leaves, then his dad leaves to go find the mom, then Shawn has to live with a teacher for a while, then the dad comes back, then the dad dies of a heart attack, not too long after Shawn finds out the dad had another son Shawn never knew about. He has bouts of alcoholism, severe depression, tons of abandonment and intimacy issues, and is prone to violence. And that, my friends, is the road that leads to a cabin in the woods with Eli Roth. Some of you, take heed; others, take notes.
1. Drop Dead Diva
SHE’S FUCKING DEAD. This awesome, smart girl, who did nothing wrong except die in an untimely fashion, is erased in favor of the hot blonde, and she doesn’t even get to become a hot blonde. Instead, she’s a normal looking big girl who is also really stupid and annoying. But it’s okay, because the dead dipshit gets to learn lessons. Really important lessons, considering how dead she is.
Perhaps it is my unwavering positivity, but, to me, the entire message of the show is, “Life is all about second chances. But only it you’re a vapid model. Smart fatties don’t get second chances. They stay dead. Brought to you by Lifetime: Television For Women, Made By Men and Women Who Want You To Die On the Inside Like a Dying Star or Failed Souffle.”