It's unsurprising that light-hearted sitcoms sometimes choose to go dark and take on the drug and alcohol demons that many people face in reality. When done poorly, the episodes feel heavy-handed, inauthentic, and can become a meme:
Everyone remembers Jesse Spano's epic breakdown in the face of her newfound speed addiction on Saved By The Bell as fairly laughable.
But sometimes television gets it right, showing shows the devastating effects of drug abuse and addiction in ways that feel accessible and mimic reality.
Withdrawal.net is a site that offers resources to those struggling with addiction or the addictions of a loved one. The staffers recently created an in-depth infographic that spans decades of popular "after-school-special"-style television episodes and is incredibly fascinating.
Check out some of our favorite takes below:
It's Always Sunny is probably the most absurdist show on the list, as every episode follows the peculiar squad of misfit adults on outlandish adventures. Without fail, each episode starts with a poorly-crafted scheme that ends badly for most — or all — of the characters as it unfolds. The episode featuring experimental crack use obviously goes awry very quickly.
On this particular episode of Modern Family, older sister/hot mess Haley gets in trouble with the law after underage drinking. Her character is often used to illustrate the height of teen rebellion, whether that be with sex, drinking, reckless driving — you name it. Still, the very real fear of gaining a criminal record surely does something to discourage underage drinking, right?
Roseanne is my favorite guilty-pleasure show. It's a slice-of-life '90s sitcom about an accessible midwestern family and their resilience through poverty, the joys of parenting, and loving each other despite all obstacles. This episode flipped the script: Rather than zeroing in on high school peer pressure, it featured an adult using drugs and facing the consequences. The series had episodes about underage drinking, too, but this take worked because it avoided the condescension in many addiction episodes geared to younger audiences.
There are way more addiction-themed episodes to reminisce about here.
Images c/o: withdrawal.net
Akilah Hughes is a comedian, YouTuber, and staff writer and producer for Fusion's culture section. You can almost always find her waxing poetic about memes and using too many emojis. 🍕