Another Top 10 Darkest Sitcom Moments

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Another Top 10 Darkest Sitcom Moments

VOICE OVER: Rebecca Brayton WRITTEN BY: Garrett Alden
If you thought our last list was grim, just wait until you see another Top 10 darkest moments in a sitcom. We'll be looking at some of the surprisingly serious and dark moments in television comedy series. The laugh tracks weren't playing for these moments! MsMojo ranks the darkest sitcom moments. Which sitcom moment did you find the darkest? Let us know in the comments!
Transcript
The laugh tracks weren’t playing for these moments! Welcome to MsMojo and today we’ll be counting down our picks for Another Top 10 Darkest Moments in a Sitcom.

For this list, we’ll be looking at some of the surprisingly serious and dark moments in television comedy series. If you think we’re missing a moment, be sure to check out our previous list or leave a comment.

#10: Jessie on Caffeine Pills
“Saved by the Bell” (1989-93)


One of the most memorable episodes of “Saved by the Bell” sees Jessie Spano feeling unable to keep up with her midterms and singing career. To help deal with the pressure, she starts taking caffeine pills. The stress Jessie feels culminates in a famous, or infamous, scene in which the distraught teen begins singing while strung out on the pills; breaking down and eventually getting the help she needs. Although caffeine pills are no more addictive or dangerous than coffee, which has led many to ridicule the scene, it takes on more of an edge if you know that the pills were originally supposed to be speed instead, and that the change was demanded by the network.

#9: Terry Is Racially Profiled
“Brooklyn Nine-Nine” (2013-)


Sergeant Terry Jeffords may be big and muscular, but he’s a kind man and a devoted father. While searching for his daughter’s lost blanket, Terry is nearly arrested by another cop, purely on the basis that he’s black. Despite its status as a comedy show, “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” tackles the charged issue with grace, even delving into the complications that can arise from reporting it; as Terry reports the issue, despite knowing it will likely cost him a new position with the city council for reporting a fellow officer. It’s rare that a network sitcom will show that doing the right thing may not always succeed, but that it can be its own reward.

#8: Sam Is Kidnapped
“Diff’rent Strokes” (1978-86)


This show went to some dark places surprisingly often. In this two-part episode, Sam is abducted by grieving father Donald Brown whose son recently died in an accident. Hoping to help his unresponsive wife take an interest in life again, Donald tricks Sam into following him home while looking for his puppy. Once there, Donald threatens to kill Sam’s parents if he tries to leave or call for help! Talk about traumatizing! While Sam does eventually call and is rescued, the whole ordeal is pretty dark for a comedy show.

#7: Dr. Cox’s Breakdown
“Scrubs” (2001-10)


Dr. Perry Cox acted as the cantankerous, reluctant mentor to “Scrubs” protagonist JD. After a former patient of JD’s apparently overdoses in one episode, Cox tells him that he can’t blame himself for patients dying if he wasn’t responsible, as it’s a slippery slope. However, Cox falls victim to a similar depression, as his lobbying to use the dead ex-patient’s organs to save three of his own patients and it’s discovered she had rabies. This ultimately leads to all three of them dying, which hits Cox especially hard, as he’d bonded with one of them. Cox’s ensuing, drunken depression is hard for viewers and the characters to watch.

#6: Rose Is Tested for HIV
“The Golden Girls” (1985-92)


For being the show’s kindhearted ditz, Rose Nylund was involved in some pretty dark storylines. While it was tempting to talk about her addiction to painkillers, we had to go with the episode where Rose is tested for HIV. The episode saw Rose on edge when she has to be tested for HIV. It aired during the period of hysteria and misinformation about the disease and drew commentary on the fear by showing Sophia overreact to the possibility of Rose having AIDS with increased anxiety. It’s a timely snapshot of America at the time that had more courage than even the U.S. government did by addressing the disease and people’s reaction to it head-on.

#5: Racial Discrimination
“That’s So Raven” (2003-07)


Here we have another sitcom to tackle racism, this time in an episode that aired during the U.S.’ Black History Month. “That’s So Raven” follows the title character, Raven Baxter, a teenage psychic who has visions of the future. When Raven doesn’t make the cut for a job interview, she’s puzzled as to why until her vision shows her that the store manager who interviewed her refuses to hire black people. Determined to expose her bias, Raven hatches one of her usual, elaborate costumed schemes along with a TV reporter to help out the woman as a racist on video.

#4: Carlton Buys a Gun
“The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” (1990-96)


In this very special episode, Will and Carlton are robbed at gunpoint while at an ATM, (xref) and Will is shot, taking a bullet for Carlton. With Will hospitalized, Carlton is distraught with guilt and fear over the incident, which prompts him to buy a gun of his own. The scene in which Carlton reveals this to Will in the hospital is a powerful one and brilliantly acted, and Will talking Carlton into giving up the gun is sure to affect any who see it. It’s not often that sitcoms deal with gun violence, but it’s a heavy topic whenever they do. Speaking of which…

#3: Laura’s Friend Is Shot
“Family Matters” (1989-98)


Despite being the show that brought the world Steve Urkel, “Family Matters” could be dead serious when it wanted to be. (xref) Although the moment where Laura has a racial slur written on her locker was also on our shortlist, we had to give this spot to the occasion when Laura’s friend Josie is shot in the arm by gang leader Toni, who harasses and robs Laura during the episode; threatening Laura not to testify against her. The moment and the episode are an all too realistic look at the gun and gang violence that plague Chicago, where the show is set.

#2: James Evans Sr. Dies
“Good Times” (1974-79)


The patriarch of the Evans family, James was a caring and hardworking man and the rock that held his family together. While trying to secure work in his native state of Mississippi to help his family move there, James dies in a car accident, devastating the whole family and the audience. Especially hard to watch is when his death finally hits his wife Florida. Although adopted daughter Penny being abused by her biological mother was also quite brutal, the effect this moment had on the show at large gave this moment the edge in our book.

Before we get to our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions:

Natalie Is Sexually Assaulted
“The Facts of Life” (1979-88)

Beverly Is Killed in a Hate Crime
“All in the Family” (1971-79)

Carrie Loses Her Baby
“The King of Queens” (1998-2007)

Charles Confesses That His Dad Hurts Him
“Full House” (1987-95)

#1: Shawn’s Dad Dies
“Boy Meets World” (1993-2000)


Shawn Hunter had a rough childhood, in no small part due to his drunken, absentee father, Chet. When Chet returns, Shawn is resentful due to how much he feels like his dad has made his life worse both through action and absence. After a heart attack hospitalizes Chet, he and Shawn get a chance to work out their differences and his father indicates he intends to stick around. However, heartbreakingly, just as they reconcile, Chet suffers a second heart attack and dies. While there have been quite a few parental deaths in sitcoms, this is one of the more tragic ones.
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