I was very easily-frightened as a kid, which explains why I am very-easily frightened as a (pretend) grown up. I never got into much trouble, because all it took was a single warning of the worst-case scenario and I was sitting criss-cross applesauce with my mouth shut within seconds. And that’s why I was the ideal audience for the ’90s’ favorite TV trope, the Very Special Episode. Considering the fact that I learned and still learn all of my life lessons via television, me seeing the characters go through even the most minor strife and I was scarred for life.
But, like, I doubt very highly that I’m alone in this. Not because I think that everyone’s a little wimp; but because these episodes tended to lay it on prettty super duper thick. As in, if you didn’t walk away from the “Hugs Not Drugs” episodes with a physical aversion to drugs (I’m talking developing a gag reflex and hive breakout at the mere mentioned of pot), then you were pretty much a lost cause. Which leads me to believe that these 11 episodes probably stained your innocence and took over your brain like they did for me.
1. Jessie Spano’s caffeine pill nightmare.
The Show: Saved By The Bell
For proof of how scarred I was by this episode, just listen in on about 1/10 of my conversations and you’ll hear me reference it. You may also refer to the enthusiasm with which I watched that one Dancing With The Stars revival.
2. Stephanie Tanner being peer pressured into smoking.
The Show: Full House
One minute, she was confusing lip makeup for eye makeup, and the next she was blackening her lungs like a regular ol’ coal miner. No thank you please.
3. Carlton Banks taking speed at prom.
The Show: The Fresh Prince Of Bell-Air
From this episode on, I decided that, if I was going to pass out at my prom, it would be from inhaling too many hairspray fumes, not from overexertion related to freaking speed. I did neither, though, in case you were wondering.
4. Jimmy Brooks getting shot in the middle of the hallway.
The Show: Degrassi
A lot of straight-up messed up stuff went down on this show, but this was an iconic TV moment. And I’m glad we were able to share it with pre-Drake.
5. Tamera Campbells’ creepy photo shoot.
The Show: Sister, Sister
I guess this one taught me that the internet is dangerous. But, in retrospect, the best lesson that the internet is a scary dark hole would have been to show one of the twins getting into a comments section fight with a troll.
6. JT Yorke being murdered by a fellow student.
The Show: Degrassi (again)
Don’t lie, you cried and you teared up when re-watching it just now.
7. Miranda Sanchez’s struggles with anorexia.
The Show: Lizzie McGuire
I don’t actually think that I even considered body image when I first watched this episode. But I remember being really stressed that she wouldn’t let Lizzie help her.
8. The high school bully who was tortured and killed by her own friends.
The Show: Law & Order: SVU
Bullying is bad and terrible and no one should do it ever. But, let’s be real, so is murder.
9. Arthur Read’s entire school getting lice.
The Show: Arthur
This one was less of a “social issue” per se, but it still ruined me nonetheless. Do you know how long it took me to touch another hat after I watched this episode? I thought for sure I’d have to shave my head for a good month.
10. Punky Brewster being offered cocaine by sixth graders.
The Show: Punky Brewster
“Oh great, now apart from making sure I have the best collection of Lisa Frank folders and snap bracelets, I also have to worry about being pressured into taking NARCOTICS when I get to middle school.” – Past me
11. Topanga Lawrence being hit on by her teacher.
The Show: Boy Meets World
Because, even though she was in college at that point, everyone feels sort of icky when the prospect of a professor hooking up with his student is brought up.