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Top 10 Darkest Sitcom Moments



Script written by George Pacheco These are the darkest moments in a sitcom! For this list, we'll be ranking the most troubling, disturbing or emotionally impactful scenes from television sitcoms. These moments could involve situations happening to or between characters, as well as those scenes which featured some incredibly powerful acting from otherwise comedic shows.
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Top 10 Darkest Sitcom Moments

It's time to get real. Welcome to MsMojo, and today we're counting down our picks for the Top 10 Darkest Sitcom Moments.



For this list, we'll be ranking the most troubling, disturbing or emotionally impactful scenes from TV sitcoms that dealt with unusually serious content.



#10: Jackie Reveals Abuse

"Roseanne" (1988-97; 2018-)




Some sitcoms have been seen by fans as handling heavy subject matter with too light of a tone. This isn't the case with "Roseanne," as evidenced by this powerful pair of episodes from the show's fifth season. "Crime and Punishment" and "War and Peace" follow Aunt Jackie's experience with domestic abuse, and the narrative doesn't shy away from confronting the subject head on. There's nothing awkward or cheesy about Jackie's painful description of the incident, nor how it affects those around her as they search for a solution. It's a prime example of why "Roseanne" was so beloved by its audience that it returned for a new season in 2018.



#9: Stephanie's Friend

"Full House" (1987-95)




Just as "Roseanne" is known for its realism, "Full House" was conversely memorable for its family friendly attitude. This sixth season episode bucks that trend in a scene where Stephanie's friend Charles mistakenly lets slip that his father beats him when he's angry. The scene gets doubly dramatic when Charles mentions Steph swearing on her mother's life that she won’t tell, only to be told that her mother is dead. The pair actually share this fact in common, but it doesn't make the sequence any less awkward or troubling, especially for a sitcom so tied to its light-hearted tone.



#8: Goodbye, John

"8 Simple Rules" (2002-05)




John Ritter's large comedic presence on the sitcom "8 Simple Rules" was one of the reasons the show was so well received during its initial run in 2002. However, when the iconic actor died from aortic dissection a year later, the show dealt with the grieving process head-on with a pair of episodes both titled "Goodbye." There are barely any laughs to be had as Ritter's character is written out of the show, and his family is forced to confront life without him by their side. It's honestly difficult to watch even now, yet it's also a strong reminder of just how much Ritter affected those around him with his talent and presence.



#7: Camp Counselor Confrontation

"Mr. Belvedere" (1985-90)




The ‘80s sitcom "Mr. Belvedere" may not be as well remembered as some others on this list, but fans who did watch all seem to remember this troubling episode from the series' fourth season, "The Counselor". Here, young Wesley Owens wonders what to do and who to tell when a camp counselor attempts to molest him during a moment when the pair are alone after a swim. Episodes of "Mr. Belvedere" usually ended with the title character writing in his diary, but "The Counselor" instead featured a character-breaking moment addressing the audience about who to contact in the event of a real life situation like this one.



#6: Drunk Driving Tragedy

"Growing Pains" (1985-92)




This "very special episode" of "Growing Pains" is something of an ultra-tragic bait and switch. "Second Chance" dealt with the dangers of drunk driving when Carol's college-age boyfriend Sandy, played by future "Friends" star Matthew Perry, is in a major car accident. Sandy speaks to Carol at the hospital, and we're led to believe that he'll eventually pull through, only to be informed later that the young man dies from his injuries off screen. Sandy never receives his titular "Second Chance," and we're forced to directly view Carol's grief as she embraces her family after receiving the news.



#5: Uncomfortable Uncle

"Family Ties" (1982-89)




"Family Ties" is probably best remembered for providing a breakout role for Michael J. Fox as young republican Alex P. Keaton, but the sitcom also featured its fair share of dark episodes. Fans may remember "Speed Trap," which dealt with Alex's dependence on uppers to study for an important exam. But this first season moment is even more disturbing. "Give Your Uncle Arthur a Kiss' follows Mallory Keaton as a trusted family friend-they even call him "Uncle" Arthur, makes a pass at her when no one is looking. The episode tries to balance comedy with this ultra-dark material, and the combination makes it cringy viewing, especially by today's standards.



#4: Will's Father

"The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" (1990-96)




All of the episodes on this list can be emotionally affective, but this moment from "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" may be one of the most well acted. Will Smith delivers an incredibly strong performance in this scene when his deadbeat father leaves him for the second time. Although Will was at first elated at the prospect of his dad coming back into his life, this happiness then turns to disappointment, anger and profound grief as he lets out all of his emotions during an epic monologue. The final embrace with Uncle Phil makes this already tearful moment all the more poignant.





#3: The Horrors of War

“M*A*S*H*” (1972-83)




The final episode of "M*A*S*H" was a television landmark full of dark and memorable moments, but this one remains shocking to this day. Hawkeye Pierce is forced to recall a traumatic event while being held in a psychiatric hospital, one which occurred while Pierce and a group of wounded refugees were hiding in a bus from enemy fire. He tearfully processes a moment where he angrily yelled at a woman to quiet her crying baby, only to react in shocked horror when the woman actually smothers the child. Hawkeye's tears, anger and frustration are palpable as the audience is taken through his stages of grief, resulting in an utterly heart-wrenching scene.



#2: The Bicycle Man

"Diff'rent Strokes" (1978-86)




"Diff'rent Strokes" is somewhat infamous for the amount of taboo topics covered during its eight year run. Diehard fans may remember the creepy sexual assault vibe of "The Hitchhikers," but every sitcom aficionado is familiar with "The Bicycle Man," a two part episode dealing with child molestation. Arnold Jackson and his friend Dudley are lured, step by step, into the twisted world of their local bike shop owner, Mr. Horton. The young boys are given ice cream and comics at first, but then are shown X-rated cartoons and encouraged to take photos without their shirts. It's profoundly creepy and horrible, yet delivered in a realistic and incredibly dark way. Don't say we didn't warn you.





Before we name our number one pick, here are a few powerful honorable mentions



Urban Fear

"Punky Brewster" (1984-88)







Dr. Cox Breaks Down

"Scrubs" (2001-10)





Killing All the Right People

"Designing Women" (1986-93)







#1: Edith Bunker Is Assaulted

"All in the Family" (1971-79)


Norman Lear's "All in the Family" was a pioneering dramatic comedy series, and nowhere is that more controversially showcased than in this two part eighth season episode. "Edith's 50th Birthday" was one of the first sitcom episodes to deal with a subject as strong as sexual assault, as Edith Bunker is nearly raped at gunpoint by a criminal who makes his way into the Bunker house, disguised as a policeman. The audience reacts with nervous laughter as Edith panics and attempts to talk her way out of the assault with some jokes. This makes the scene even more difficult to watch as it switches back and forth between awkward humor and brutal realism.
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