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Jessie Saved by the Bell

So Excited

10 Cheesy ‘Just Say No’ Sitcom Episodes

"Just Say Yes" to That '70s Show, Mondays & Tuesdays starting at 6P on IFC.

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Photo Credit: NBC Productions

Sitcoms in the ’80s and ’90s were rich with “Very Special Episodes,” plotlines where your favorite comedy would take a break from the laughs and warn you that the world was a scary place. (Full House did like 10 of these things.) That ’70s Show fans know that the show poked fun at the trend with their spoof of the classic “pass on grass” propaganda film Reefer Madness. Before you catch That ’70s Show on IFC, check out a look back at some of our favorite childhood sitcoms telling us to just say no to drugs and get high on life instead.

10. “What a Drag,” Home Improvement

One of the glories of these anti-drug episodes was the hypocrisy behind the scenes. Who uses more drugs than the sell out sitcom writers trying to fill the blackhole where their artistic dreams used to live? That was never more evident than in this very special Home Improvement episode, in which Tim and Jill find Brad’s weed stash, and confront him on it. Tim Allen, America’s favorite dopey dad, actually served two plus years for dealing cocaine in the ’70s, making us wonder if the “Toolman” was just upset his son wasn’t into harder stuff.


9. “Fast Friends,” Full House

Peer pressure can be a difficult thing to navigate for kids, especially dweebs like Stephanie Tanner. Everyone knows smoking cigs is the coolest. Well, everyone but that dork Stephanie. Jeez, if an older kid offers you one, you smoke it, and do everything else she tells you to do. Um, that’s how you make friends. You do want friends, right? But when Stephanie gets pressured to light up, instead of starting up a lifelong habit, she calls up Uncles Joey and Jesse’s radio show for advice. What a narc. Also, who gave Joey and Jesse a radio show?


8. “Chewed Out,” Small Wonder

Small Wonder

Peer pressure strikes again, but this time young Jamie and his bud Reggie find impressing the cool kids can be a moving target. At first, they think cigarettes are the trick, only to learn that smoking is so last week. Everyone who’s anyone chews tobacco now. That’s when Vicki, the family’s creepy robot, steps in and gives the boys a primer on all the awful things cigarettes can do to you. Clearly the message of this “very special” Small Wonder is, “cigarettes are bad, but there’s nothing wrong with your father building you a robot sister/bionic slave child.”


7. “The Life of the Party,” Family Matters

Steve Urkel, the uber nerd next door, was a ridiculous character, and, for the most part, the writers knew it. He was known more for his alter egos and time machines than for life lessons. How do you have a teachable moment with a character that’s so utterly absurd? Well, for one episode, the writers decided to give it a whirl, with Urkel binge drinking at a party thanks to some healthy peer pressure before falling off a roof. We’re assuming the lesson here was to pump the people you hate full of booze, and hope they accidentally kill themselves. Unfortunately in this case, we had no such luck, as the grating geek lived to screech “did I do that??” another day.


6. “Steroids to Heaven,” Dinosaurs

Dinosaurs

What better way to confront the realities of high school steroid abuse than with eight-foot tall dinosaur puppets? In this very special episode, Robbie is desperate to impress his crush, Caroline. Unsure what to do, he starts taking “Thornoids,” little creatures that help you bulk up when you eat them. His dino-pecs soon balloon, along with his mood swings. Robbie begins fighting with his parents and ripping sinks from walls, but when he takes Caroline on a date from Hell, he realizes he has a problem. Presumably a thoroughly confused generation of kids learned to never eat tiny puppet dinosaurs as a result.


5. “Say Uncle,” Family Ties

Uncle Ned seems like the cool relative we all wished we had. Heck, he’s played by Tom Hanks, the nicest man in the history of people. It’s only when Alex stumbles upon the future Forrest Gump late one night, drinking along in the kitchen, that he realizes he might be in a “Very Special Episode.” Uncle Ned proceeds to get physical with the young Republican before digging through the pantry for cans of pickled treats that might have some alcohol in them. Oh Tom, if only Wilson could see you now.


4. “Just Say Yo,” The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air

The Fresh Prince’s life got flipped-turned upside down in this Season 3 episode of the NBC hit. Finding himself overwhelmed with basketball, homework and the ladies, Master Will did what any responsible student would: He got his hands on some meth. Unfortunately, Carlton mistook the pills for vitamins, and downed a handful. Of course, as often happens in these “Very Special Episodes,” Carlton soon found himself the life of the party, dancing like a Janet Jackson backup dancer to the delight of everyone at a school dance. It was only when he passed out that everyone realized he was drugged out of his mind. When Uncle Phil offered a guilt-stricken Will season tickets to the Clippers, he was forced to admit what he’d done, and have an Emmy moment. The real lesson here seems to be the Clippers were so bad in the ’90s, Will would rather admit to giving Carlton drugs than have to go one of their games.


3. “Just Say No,” Punky Brewster

We’re all desperate to fit in, but we never thought Punky Brewster, with her rainbow colored threads and killer catchphrases, would fall prey to peer pressure. Holy Macanoli, how wrong we were. When a cool new crew of girls called “The Chicklets” show up in town, Punky is desperate to join the gang. It’s only when they break out a stash of grass, a few uppers and some nose candy, that Punky — and the audience — realize that maybe these bitchin’ babes with the bodacious bangs aren’t as cool as they first seemed.


2. “The Reporter,” Diff’rent Strokes

Nancy Reagan herself popped up on this very special Diff’rent Strokes episode, in which Arnold went undercover at his middle school to expose a drug dealer. When the school’s faculty questioned the authenticity of Arnold’s story, the First Lady herself stopped by to convince them he was telling the truth. Thankfully, the “Just Say No” message worked like a charm, and none of the cast members would go on to have crippling addictions.


Tie: 1. “No Hope With Dope,” Saved By The Bell

Because the wholesome characters on our favorite sitcoms could never be drug users, these “Very Special Episodes” often employed cartoonishly fiendish guest stars to introduce drugs to the otherwise upstanding ensembles. That definitely was the case in this Season 3 episode, in which celebrity Johnny Dakota stopped by Bayside to film an anti-drug commercial. When the gang learned that Dakota himself had been smoking dope, they got a rude awakening to the dangers of drugs, and the hypocrisy of Hollywood. It must not have been that shocking a lesson to the show’s cast, considering that Lifetime’s The Unauthorized Saved By the Bell Story seems to suggests they were themselves high while filming the episode.

“Jessie’s Song,” Saved By The Bell

Saved by the Bell

Elizabeth Berkeley must have been so excited when she saw the script for this episode about Jessie Spano going full speed freak after getting hooked on some pep pills. But once the episode aired, and her melodramatic meltdown helped inspire the Internet to become a thing just so she could be meme’d out, she must have been so scared.

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SO EXCITED!!!

Reminders that the ’90s were a thing

"The Place We Live" is available for a Jessie Spano-level binge on Comedy Crib.

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GIFs via Giphy

Unless you stopped paying attention to the world at large in 1989, you are of course aware that the ’90s are having their pop cultural second coming. Nobody is more acutely aware of this than Dara Katz and Betsy Kenney, two comedians who met doing improv comedy and have just made their Comedy Crib debut with the hilarious ’90s TV throwback series, The Place We Live.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Dara: It’s everything you loved–or loved to hate—from Melrose Place and 90210 but condensed to five minutes, funny (on purpose) and totally absurd.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Betsy: “Hey Todd, why don’t you have a sip of water. Also, I think you’ll love The Place We Live because everyone has issues…just like you, Todd.”

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IFC: When you were living through the ’90s, did you think it was television’s golden age or the pop culture apocalypse?


Betsy: I wasn’t sure I knew what it was, I just knew I loved it!


Dara: Same. Was just happy that my parents let me watch. But looking back, the ’90s honored The Teen. And for that, it’s the golden age of pop culture. 

IFC: Which ’90s shows did you mine for the series, and why?

Betsy: Melrose and 90210 for the most part. If you watch an episode of either of those shows you’ll see they’re a comedic gold mine. In one single episode, they cover serious crimes, drug problems, sex and working in a law firm and/or gallery, all while being young, hot and skinny.


Dara: And almost any series we were watching in the ’90s, Full House, Saved By the Bell, My So Called Life has very similar themes, archetypes and really stupid-intense drama. We took from a lot of places. 

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IFC: How would you describe each of the show’s characters in terms of their ’90s TV stereotype?

Dara: Autumn (Sunita Mani) is the femme fatale. Robin (Dara Katz) is the book worm (because she wears glasses). Candace (Betsy Kenney) is Corey’s twin and gives great advice and has really great hair. Corey (Casey Jost) is the boy next door/popular guy. Candace and Corey’s parents decided to live in a car so the gang can live in their house. 
Lee (Jonathan Braylock) is the jock.

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Dara: Because everyone’s feeling major ’90s nostalgia right now, and this is that, on steroids while also being a totally new, silly thing.

Delight in the whole season of The Place We Live right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. It’ll take you back in all the right ways.

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New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…

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IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon.

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number!

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time.

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by.

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IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo.

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim.

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t?

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?”

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud.

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

The-Craft

The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”

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Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).

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Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.

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And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.