5. My So Called Life “Halloween” Season 1: Episode 9
MSCL might be the most relatable teen show to ever exist. While Brandon, Dylan, Brenda and Kelly were driving their luxury convertibles down Sunset Boulevard, Angela Chase was brooding in the girl’s bathroom at Liberty High School with her new, cool, ecstasy eating friend Rayanne Graff, crushing on Jordan Catalano, wearing a flannel around her waist, saying “like” a lot, and avoiding Brian Krakow. Claire Danes showed us how to be a middle class white girl in the 90’s. From the boots to the waist tied flannel to the Clinton era angst, she really had it all! Most episodes centered around her obsession with Jordan Catalano, a sort of oblivious, illiterate burnout. But one episode always gave me pause. While much of the show felt very realistic, in that it focused on the mundane elements of high school in a way that made them feel as serious and important as they felt when I was 16, the Halloween episode just didn’t do it for me. Oddly, this happens to be the first episode of the series I ever saw, (because in the 90’s, you didn’t get to start with the first episode. If you missed it, you missed it and you began the series wherever the hell it was at the time). As a result, it took me longer than it should have to warm to the show, and that is because the Halloween episode features a corny ghost plot. Nicky Driscoll was a student at Liberty in the 1960’s. He died in the gym, pulling some kind of prank, if memory serves me. Angela happens upon his old library book and then sees him around the school. Granted this was not the only time a ghost was featured in the show, but in the Christmas episode I’m too busy crying about Rickie’s homelessness to be angry about the ghost girl. Wait. . . am I giving this show way to much credit? Why was such a solid show, which I feel was critically acclaimed, relying so much on ghost plots? What the fuck, Tino?
4. Roseanne “Into That Good Night, Part 2” Season 9: Episode 24
Perhaps this episode belongs on another list altogether. Perhaps that list would be called totally bullshit series finales that make you want to punch Roseanne Barr in the neck. The Lost series finale would also be on that list. I digress. This episode aired after a whole season of WTF episodes in season nine of my favorite sitcom of all time. I actually just pretend this season didn’t happen, which is convenient, because for the first time since Bobby Ewing popped out of the shower and we learned “it was all a dream!!” a once popular TV show actually utilized that plot device in order to explain away how season nine made no sense. It was bad enough that the Connors won the lottery. The show was about realistic, blue collar Midwesterners making every day situations comedic. And then it was absurd. The final moments when Roseanne explains what really happened to every character is infuriating, like all of the characters we had grown to love were completely different people that were never developed, just altered. At least the reboot offers a chance at redemption. Please enjoy this mildly sentimental ending that Roseanne totally phones in:
3. The Golden Girls “Not Another Monday” Season 5: Episode 7
The Golden Girls has an odd habit of trying to highlight contemporary social ills or concerns in “heavy” episodes. There’s an AIDS episode, an addiction episode, a Cold War episode. All of these fit into the WTF? Category, but none so much as the suicide episode. The Golden Girls is primarily a lighthearted comedy, with serious classic sitcom hijinks. . . and then it’s the goddamn Martha episode. In this “ugh, I can’t watch this one” Sophia meets her friend Martha at a hoity toity restaurant and Martha encourages her to drink the good stuff and enjoy a filet mignon. When Sophia visits her the next day, Martha reveals that she is going to commit suicide and that she would like Sophia to be there to hold her hand. What.The.Fuck? Sophia eventually agrees, and then changes her mind and convinces Martha not to go through with it. The most effed up part of all though? After Sophia promises that their friendship is worth living for, we never see or hear from Martha again.
2. Law & Order: Special Victims Unit “Bully” Season 12: Episode 18
In a series that regularly peddles WTF episodes, it is actually impressive to stand out as hard as this episode does. What an absolute hilariously fucked up disaster this episode is! Not that the monkey in the basketball, or Olivia being tortured for two episodes weren’t the kind of batshit moments that made you question whether or not you were high on Nyquil or really actually viewing a decades old network crime procedural, but this episode really takes the cake. At a prestigious wine company, the boss abuses everyone: physically and mentally. But mum’s the word until one employee gets anally raped by an alcohol bottle and murdered in her home. . . wait for it. . .and then found by Countess LuAnn De Le Sepps (I refuse to look up how to spell that). Turns out all the employees stand to make millions of dollars if they just don’t report the abuse, yet when it comes to light on MSNBC, the abusive boss blasts her head off during a very publicized (why?) press conference. Also, she wasn’t even the murderer. That turned out to be the son of a decrepit, alcoholic opera singer who didn’t want to risk losing her voice, so chose instead to consume alcohol rectally. You made me type that, Dick Wolf. And you should be ashamed. Seriously: WTF?!?
1. Little House on the Prairie “Sylvia” Parts 1 & 2 Season 7: Episodes 17 & 18
Uhh. What the fuck, Michael Landon? Oh, did you feel like lying down and watching a comfort show? LHOTP was the kind of show that was always on in the mornings when you were home sick. It was a comfortable, safe show that usually taught you a solid lesson about hard work or friendship. It was a respectable family program. . . That is, until they decided to have Sylvia raped by a mime. Seriously, what the fuck? The entire episode is completely unbelievable. I just. I can’t. I don’t. Why was this an episode of Little House? I’m not sure what is more disturbing, really. The fact that one of the characters in Laura’s town is raped and impregnated by the blacksmith; the fact that the blacksmith dresses up like a mime to stalk and rape her; or that Sylvia is blamed for boys peeping at her, forced to wear some kind of olden timey thing to hide her boobs, blamed for being raped, and then eventually killed off in the episode. I don’t want to get into a whole thing here, but this is like the most anti-feminist episode of television imaginable. And yes, I understand that it was supposed to be prairie time days, but I’m pretty sure this wasn’t based on the books. And now an open letter to the Hallmark Channel: Dearest Hallmark Channel, Please never air “Sylvia” Parts 1 & 2 in syndication again. It scares that absolute shit out of me. Even in the year 2017 this shit is terrifying, and I’ve seen every episode in the first 48 seasons of SVU. Sincerely yours, Everyone.