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Rudy Huxtable Saved My Life: The “Very Special” Post August 14, 2006

Posted by doctorolove in Pop Culture Rants, TV.

There was a time in this world when we accepted everything. No matter what difference crossed our path we were able to accept them and move on. We viewed the world around us with tolerance and intelligence, knowing that we were all on the same Love Boat and that no matter what our final destination was, we’d all have Bernie Kopell serving our wounds and Ted Lange would be smiling and pointing double fingers at all of us.

But we no longer live in that world. We live in the world where the government fears the different, the un-norm, the “away from the masses.” Our acceptance of those with differences is difficult, almost impossible. And we infight amongst ourselves whenever somebody who doesn’t follow our rules tries to enter our society. We lack the simple ability to accept and not judge. Why, you may ask? How could a country built on the ideals of freedom and individuality have become so closed and judgmental? And the answer is simple. There are no more “very special episodes” on television anymore.

You remember them. Your favorite sitcom was a bastion of humor and enjoyment. You thrilled to see the off kilter family interact with one another and weasel their way in and out of difficult, Rube Goldbergesque scenarios. You laughed as the mischievous children of unaware parents played tricks on one another, sometimes even spreading their circle of influence to include nosy neighbors, patronizing teachers and the school bully. But each comic situation was resolved within 22 minutes (plus commercials) and left you satisfied in the knowledge that all was right in the homogenized view of the American family.

But it was the special episode that made you take notice. They’d advertise it weeks in advance. You knew that tonight’s show would be different. The family was there; the comic escapades were still there. But they threw you a curve. Maybe it was the new family next door who oozed some sort of societal difference. Maybe it was the new classmate who smoked joints that on screen looked like tiny white canoes. Maybe it was the late night party where the prodigal son drinks, surrounded by teenage extras who mull around in the background, whispering and pointing when the kid just won’t “take a little sip.” There could be the different abled boy who just wants to prove to all of us that he’s a person too. Whatever the case, you could sense the moral. Acceptance is the key to maintaining happiness. They showed you how important this was by changing the dynamics of the show. Sometimes they’d change the background music, adding more strings and a muted trumpet. They concocted tearjerking mini playlets and always wrapped up the episode with a talk, usually instigated by the patriarch, to lecture America. And we listened, sometimes even following the new precepts we have witnessed. Because if the family we identify with can accept the new minority family or the drunk uncle or the kleptomaniac aunt, we can too.

The episodes were ratings bonanzas. People watched. They recorded them. Teachers played them back in their classrooms whenever their lesson plans included a discussion of the topic at hand. Like taking medicine coated in grape jelly, it made the pill easier to swallow. People may not listen to themselves or their peers when it comes to acceptance, but if you don’t want your child to underage drink or get into a car with a teen who’s three steps away from being Charles Bukowski, it’s easier to get your message across with Samantha Micelli or in rarer cases, Urkel. I mean, think about it, something like 85 billion people watched the coming out episode of Ellen, almost bathed in the “very special” episode stereotypes (Guest stars, controversial subject, strange background music.) And how many people watched the show before or after? I’m going to say about a hundred and change, and most of those were members of the Degeneres family who felt guilty watching Dharma and Greg when their second cousin was on. Special episodes were the television industry’s way of making the world we live in a little better and cancels out the damage they do to us when it comes to health and hygiene (as well as a mini penance for the un-PC atmosphere placated by Chico and the Man and Sanford and Son.)

But sometime in the early part of this decade, around the same time as the reality show boom, the special episode disappeared. Maybe it was the onset of reality TV, where every episode is a cavalcade of difference and people fighting through differences. Maybe it’s the death of the sitcom under the stomping boots of the reality genre. Maybe it’s the shows that re so diverse and wacky of a plotline that each week they are forced to come to grips with prejudice and alcohol, making every episode a “special.” Whatever the case, nobody knows they’re on. The networks don’t advertise them. The writers don’t write them. And an entire nation is stuck, no longer getting their acceptance lessons from the overweight, wisecracking mother. They have no moral compass to look towards. They must find the strength and resolve not to drink or do drugs within themselves, instead of watching Blossom make the tough decisions for them.

So as a nation, we soldier blindly on. We no longer have the “very special episode” teaching us that though the new neighbors may not look or talk like us, they are just like us. Fear and addiction have gripped our country. And we need the episodes back before it’s too late. Next post, I’ll tell you how…

Because the next post is a “very special one.” With special guest star Lance Bass and the Polyphonic Spree…Okay, maybe not, but it definitely got you interested….



1. Slam S. Lynchshepard - August 15, 2006

Well old chum, you’ve totally missed the mark again. You wheeze and you whine about your sad little ‘special episode’ extravaganza, when in reality you’re weeping and yearning for the taste from a cold keg of ‘Red Dog’- Yes, you feel the nostalgia-A beconing to “Mike’s”: In the cooler at 4 am…Stealing chicken from Guthries…Peeing on doors in Landis Hall…… So don’t rant n’ rave to me about the time Mike Seever found those Long Island ‘Moolies’ huffing in the toilet… You know what it’s really about… You miss your colligate shinnanigans… You call yourself a “Doctor”… That sad excuse for a tummy tuck you performed on my sister had her looking like Carni Wilson… But I digress; Best ‘Special Episode:’… Night Court “Bull attempts suicide after Selma’s real life death..”
P.S. Tell that former “manis” of yours the Class of L.E.S.’s Blahbitty Blah Blah sends its love.

Yours in Pixels,

Slam S, Lynchshepard

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