apropos of nothing

Great Moments in Addiction Subplots

Tony, and David Chase, push their luck.Photo: Craig Blankenhorn/Courtesy of HBO

We can’t be the only ones who have watched the last two episodes of The Sopranos with our heads in our hands, right? With every anvilly scene of Tony betting on the ponies, or betting at the roulette table, or betting on a football game, or getting angry because he didn’t bet on a football game, we shout at the television: “No, no, David Chase! No, please, no gambling-addiction subplot for Tony! With only five episodes left, is this what we must endure? This is how you lay Tony low?”

Maybe Chase will pull it off; after all, Christopher’s drug problem has been handled brilliantly. But how many more TV miracles does David Chase have up his sleeve? He’s pushing his luck! Just check out all the other TV shows that have been laid low by Great Moments in TV Addiction:

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: In a subplot that strives for edgy relevance but instead heralds a beloved show’s final decline, adorable witch Willow gets addicted to “magicks.” Not “magic” — “magicks.” She even visits a scruffy, unscrupulous spell dealer. The metaphor for drug addiction is so blunt and ham-handed it barely qualifies as metaphor. Then it falls apart, as Willow — like most drug addicts, right? — turns evil and tries to destroy the world.

Studio 60: Under pressure (as always) to write every single sketch on the show, Matt Albie reverts to an old pill-popping addiction — one revealed via confusing flashbacks featuring a character, Tim Batale, later revealed not to exist. But Tim Batale is an anagram for … Matt Albie!!! As our colleague Emily Nussbaum notes, “It’s like the kind of thing M. Night Shyamalan would write if he were taking a lot of pills.” And it completes the series’ transformation from awesome to awful.

24: Jack Bauer is fighting a heroin addiction he acquired while attempting to take down a drug lord. Will the addiction break him? Will withdrawal hurt his ability to save the world? Who knows? Two hours into season three, the issue is forgotten and never mentioned again. Just one of many dropped plot points that ratchet up the Absurd-o-meter.

Little House on the Prairie: Albert the orphan gets addicted to morphine, steals from Doc Baker’s stash, throws up everywhere. Eight-year-old girls nationwide say, “Ewwwwww!”

Beverly Hills 90210 and Saved by the Bell:

Chicago Hope: The ne plus ultra of addiction story lines, though, is Dr. Jack McNeil’s Vegas vacation in the fourth season of Chicago Hope. McNeil, played by Mark Harmon, fights a gambling addiction, and in a single episode bottoms out in the most spectacular manner possible. He gambles away $10,000, then calls his attorney for the deed to his house so he can gamble that away too. He steals a tip off a table to settle a bar tab and is thrown out of the casino. Wandering the harsh Las Vegas streets, he encounters a group of young toughs playing dice. He loses the rest of his money to them, accuses them of cheating, and is stabbed in the stomach to the strains of “Sympathy for the Devil.” The episode’s title: “Waging Bull.”

We dare you to come up with something more awesome than this, David Chase!

Great Moments in Addiction Subplots

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