Extremely Dark Moments In Usually Funny Sitcoms

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Vote up the surprisingly serious turns taken by sitcoms.

Serious moments in sitcoms are not uncommon, but sometimes they take a dark turn that is startling. Sitcoms by definition are usually funny, happy, and lighthearted. But they are also supposed to imitate real life, so amusing shows have sometimes dipped their toes into serious issues, and even the goofiest characters get serious.

Depressing storylines often resolve themselves quickly and even happily, but the darkest sitcom moments and "very special episodes" are a reminder that real life can be scary.

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    Stephanie On ‘Full House’ Finds Out Her Classmate Is Being Abused By His Dad

    Stephanie On ‘Full House’ Finds Out Her Classmate Is Being Abused By His Dad
    Photo: ABC

    The Tanner family deals with a lot of issues throughout Full House's eight seasons. After all, the main premise is that the girls lost their mom at a young age. Still, their lives are pretty sheltered, and each episode has a happy ending in which someone learns a life lesson. 

    The Season 6 episode "Silence Is Not Golden," however, has an ending that's not so warm and fuzzy. In the episode, Stephanie Tanner is paired with a rowdy kid in her class, Charles, for a school project. As they are doing homework, she finds out that his father abuses him, and that's likely why he's acting out in school. Stephanie keeps his secret until he ends up missing a lot of school, and because she's a Tanner girl, she does the right thing and tells Uncle Jesse, who reports it. At the end of the episode, Charles has been placed in a foster home.

    Not only does Stephanie get a wake-up call about the ins and outs of child protective services, but she also learns to appreciate her own dad (and uncles) even more. It all ends with a big group hug, yet without the usual "everything is going to be all right" feeling. 

  • Marshall On ‘How I Met Your Mother’ Gets Blindsided By News Of His Father’s Heart Attack
    Photo: CBS

    How I Met Your Mother is mostly about the characters' romantic and career woes, rarely going too deep. But in the episode "Bad News" in Season 6, Marshall and Lily face serious issues. They spend the majority of the episode worried about their respective fertility. At the end, Marshall, just before contacting his dad with "good news" about his sperm count, learns his father perished from a heart attack. 

    While clutching Lily, Marshall sobs he's "not ready" to mourn his dad. Lots of viewers likely sobbed, too. 

  • Will Smith On ‘Fresh Prince’ Gets Shot, Then Pleads With Carlton Not To Carry His Own Gun
    Photo: NBC

    On The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, the Season 5 episode "Bullets Over Bel-Air" offers a hint that the usual hijinks might be missing. Indeed, Will and Carlton get held up at an ATM. When Will is fired at and has to stay in the hospital, the normally passive Carlton gets angry and promptly buys a gun to protect himself and his family. 

    Will eventually talks him out of it in one of the most serious episodes of the series, which not only addresses self defense, but also Carlton's privilege and his realization that sometimes the justice system doesn't work. It was some pretty real talk for a show that often relied on Will being aloof and flippant for its jokes to land. 

  • Although the Season 5 "Good Cop Bad Cop" episode of Family Matters, which aired in 1994, includes some comedic relief - Steve Urkel's visit to a dentist - the TGIF sitcom also gets serious about prejudice and police misconduct. While Eddie is out driving, he's stopped by two white cops who profile him in a mostly white neighborhood, assuming he is up to no good. When Eddie comes home and tells his dad, Carl, who's also a police officer, Carl refuses to believe his comrades could have done such a thing and assumes Eddie is trying to make an excuse for being out too late. 

    Carl confronts his colleagues, finds out Eddie isn't lying, and has to grapple with hard truths about intolerance and cops who misuse their power. In the end, Eddie and Carl talk about how to handle the anger that comes with being oppressed in a racially divided America, and they file a complaint against the officers. But they also realize little can be done to resolve overarching prejudice in the country and within the police force. 

  • Cory's Brother On ‘Boy Meets World’ Is Born Prematurely And Can’t Breathe
    Photo: ABC

    For a family sitcom, Boy Meets World didn't offer many "very special episodes" during its seven-season run. In Season 6, however, the Matthews family is thrown for a loop when Cory's mom, Amy, has her baby prematurely. Most of the beginning of the two-arc storyline (the episodes "My Baby Valentine" and "Resurrection") revolves around Cory whining about Topanga wanting to spend time with his very pregnant mother instead of having a romantic Valentine's Day with him. 

    Cory ruins the baby shower by hiring, of all things, a stripper. But he eventually realizes his romantic woes pale in comparison to possibly losing his baby brother, Joshua, to a respiratory infection. The baby makes it out of the ICU, but Cory's self-reflection and the way he and Topanga deal with the temporary grief is a clear sign that the show - along with the Matthews family - is growing up. 

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    J.D.'s Patient On ‘Scrubs’ Rejects Dialysis And He Watches Her Accept The End Of Her Life 

    The oddball comedy Scrubs was not a medical drama like Grey's Anatomy or ER, but the show had a few serious moments. One of the darkest episodes was its fourth, "My Old Lady," in which J.D. meets Mrs. Tanner, who needs dialysis to keep her alive.

    J.D. does what he can to convince her that it's the best thing for her, but Mrs. Tanner decides she's had a good 74 years and chooses to perish instead.