I love modern sitcoms, which, with a few notable exceptions, are shockingly sophisticated, a real under-the-radar renaissance on network television. (Did you watch last night’s Community? It was a crazy little masterpiece parodying conspiracy-arc narratives like Rubicon.)
But since I am old, I can’t help having a residual fondness for the goofy old sitcoms of the seventies and eighties, especially the venerable tradition of the Very Special Episode. So I was surfing around on YouTube this morning, watching Fonzie destroy racism and so on, when I came upon this shocking (in several senses) molestation episode of Diff’rent Strokes, in which Mr. Horton — Gordon Jump from WKRP! — is dosing kids at his bicycle shop and showing them animated mouse porn.
“That’s the contradiction with child molesters,” explains the cop earnestly in the episode’s conclusion. “In their own strange way, they actually love children!” (To his credit, the cop also distinguishes between gay men and child molesters, which isn’t too bad for 1983.) These scenes have the Very Special Episode’s uniquely cringe-worthy meld of earnest edutainment and laugh-track yuks. But I’ve never seen one that actually dramatizes a child molester seducing a child with a banana split.
I assume that depressed the hell out of you, not least because watching the show is a reminder of the sad futures of all the kids who starred in it. To cheer you up, here’s a clip of Tom Hanks fighting the Fonz, Karate Kid–style