Everyone knows drugs are "bad". The wrong chemicals in the wrong brain at the wrong time can lead otherwise perfectly well-adjusted, law-abiding, compassionate people to commit acts of insanity, or indulge in rankly disturbing pastimes such as cannibalism. Yet no matter how insane certain drugs might make you act, the airwaves are rife with inaccurate portrayals of drugs on TV, most likely thanks to the centuries-long love affair between capitalist exploitation and protestant repression that so uniquely marks American culture. Welcome to a list of TV shows that exaggerated drug use in the most outlandish way possible, making it impossible not to laugh at or simply roll your eyes.
Speaking of absurd TV drug trips, who could forget very special episodes, the perfect ecapsulation of "family" televison's braindead, ham-fisted moralizing, which reached peak surrealism in the 1980s. Very special episodes were made to teach viewers lesson on important social issues like drug and alcohol abuse, violence, suicide, racism, and pretty much anything else controversial. From the grotesque womb of this condescending succubus were birthed some of the most over-the-top drug trips on TV.
Though very special episodes provided the world with some of the best, most over-the-top drug experiences on television, they're far from the only sinners. Television continues to prove that writing a real yet strong storylines involving drugs is difficult to do. So get our your mirror and razor blade, because it's time to get crunk on some DARE ish.
"I'm so excited, I'm so excited, I'm so... scared!" It's a Saved By The Bell episode everyone who was a kid in '90s America remembers. Jessie gets addicted to caffeine pills in a storyline that was written to address speed use. NBC wouldn't have it, so they decided on caffeine pills. Which ultimately makes more sense, because you can buy those at a convenience store, whereas speed you've gotta really want to get your hands on.
In this episode, brainy Jessie feels the stress of keeping up with school and her new band, Hot Sundae. To stay on top of things, she starts taking caffeine pills, but soon learns they do more damage than good. But not to fear; it only takes one episode for Jessie to get addicted and overcome addiction.
Actors: Mark-Paul Gosselaar, Mario Lopez, Dustin Diamond
Number of Seasons: 4
Boy Meets World was a beloved show, sure to be on everyone's TV every Friday night throughout the '90s. Accounts from the Liberian Civil War attest to the fighting coming to a stop for 30 minutes each week, so comrades and foes alike could gather on the field of battle to laugh and love and learn with Cory and Topanga.
Episode 18 of Season 5, entitled "If You Can't Be With the One You Love...", really hit home in Monrovia, where General Butt Naked marched armies of coked-up child soldiers through the streets. In the episode, Cory and Shawn get drunk for the first time. Cory overdoes it and decides not to drink anymore; Shawn likes drinking too much, and becomes an alcoholic in a week.
Cory, Jack, Angela, and Topanga stage a makeshift intervention. Things escalate. Shawn, drunk, shoves Angela, then sees the error of his way. By the end of the episode, he's cured of alcoholism, makes amends with everyone, and is totally fine.
Actors: Ben Savage, Rider Strong, William Daniels
Number of Seasons: 7
One Tree Hill had it's share of teen issues like drinking, sex, cheating, teen pregnancy, and death, but it steered away from drugs until season 2, when Peyton is faced with the decision to fit in with the "cool" musicians and do some blow or be deemed a loser by the people she's trying to impress. Episode 4, called "You Can't Always Get What You Want", is basically Scarface in 45 minutes.
The short-lived storyline has a tearful ending, when Peyton admits she tried cocaine after feeling so alone. All is fixed when her boyfriend Jake comes back into town and saves Peyton from making any more bad decisions. Way to go, patriarchy!
The episode leaves one lingering question - is Peyton the only person in the world to feel bad after taking cocaine? The negative feelings and bad mojo surrounding blow on One Tree Hill makes you wonder whether any of the writers ever huffed a rail, because the effect is quite the opposite.
Actors: Chad Michael Murray, James Lafferty, Hilarie Burton
Number of Seasons: 9
#28 on The Best Feel-Good TV Shows
It seems as if every episode of 7th Heaven was made to teach viewers something. In some cases, the show touched on heavy subjects, drugs, cutting, death. It may have been 100% cheesy, but hey, at least someone tried.
In Season 4 Episode 10, "Whose Nose?", Simon catches his schoolmates huffing spray paint. Their slurred speech is a true sign of of huffing paint; the paint all over their faces makes the whole thing ridiculous and cartoonish. Newsflash: "huffing" doesn't mean "rubbing all over your face."
The kids helpfully inform Simon "it's called huffing" after he tells them they'll get bad headaches doing it (no! not headaches! thankfully heroin can take the edge off). Then they tell him his life will be hell if he snitches, as if life isn't already an existential inferno.
In the end, Simon doesn't let peer pressure get the best of him, and even finds an opportunity to help when one of the kids gets a bloody nose and ends up in the hospital.
Actors: Stephen Collins, Catherine Hicks, Jessica Biel
Number of Seasons: 11
#9 on The Best '90s TV Dramas