There were a lot of people telling us not to watch too much TV when we were young. I always remember that my Grammie would tell me that if I watched too much TV my eyes would go cross-eyed.
But the thing is, watching TV was how we learned a lot of our really big lessons! Growing up in a small town before the internet existed, I tended to miss out on a lot of the big issues that our world had. I was in the self-contained bubble and while it was a nice and safe place to grow up in, it means that we were blind to a lot of real topics. That’s where TV came in.
TV taught us all about the real issues in the world.
There were so many shows that made us realize that not everyone was experiencing life the same as we were, and it helped us become more understanding people.
Here are 10 examples of shows that weren’t afraid to get into the deeper issues in the world.
Punky Brewster went through a lot on her show, but the one episode people remember more than anything was when she rescued her friend Cherie when she got stuck inside of a fridge. They were playing hide and seek, and the young girl got stuck inside.
Punky discovers her unconscious and thanks to the CPR class she had taken earlier, she knew just what to do. She saves Cherie’s life while also delivering a message to kids that it’s not safe to play inside old fridges.
It was really scary for kids to see, and the producers said that even though they took the back of the fridge off when they put the young actress in there, the children in the studio audience were screaming “get her out!”
But the episode worked out, because after the show aired the producers got a call from a woman whose husband was saved by children who had seen the CPR episode.
A lot of people joke about the episode when Jessie was taking caffeine pills because it was so over the top, but when you find out that the original intention was for it to be speed, not caffeine.
The network forced them to change it but kept the rest of the episode the same. It’s heartbreaking to watch her break down, but it was an important lesson about addiction that we needed to learn.
MASH was already in an interesting territory because they were constantly in a war zone, but when Hawkeye tells a story about a woman who is trying to keep a chicken quiet while the enemy was attacking everyone watching fell quiet. When he later revealed that the woman wasn’t trying to keep a chicken quiet, but instead her child, it got too real.
Hearing Hawkeye breakdown while he told the story of a woman who had to smother her own child to save the group of people who were hiding together was absolutely devastating.
A lot of girls seemed to get crushes on the cool, popular boys, but when Blossom ended up going on a date with him, it goes very badly. He ends up hitting her right in the face and it’s horrible to see.
Assault against women is not often shown on TV, especially on family comedies. The show really gave a look into what a lot of others aren’t willing to.
Remember that happy show where the two soulmates fall in love when they are like 14 years old, and then there’s that really good teacher? Yeah, remember that time one of the main characters joined a cult? Yeah… That happened.
There was an episode where Shawn was going through a lot, and then he ended up finding this new “group” that took over all of his time and tried to pull him away from his friends. But then, Mr. Turner was in a motorcycle accident and his true friends reminded him of who really mattered.
It was kind of scary to see how easily Shawn was manipulated, and it probably made kids a little more wary when it came to the people they surrounded themselves with.
Those aren’t even the most dramatic episodes…
Okay, so in theory the entire concept of Full House is one of those subjects that TV shows don’t like to cover too often. The show exists because Danny Tanner’s wife has passed away and he needs help to raise his girls. That’s a big thing.
If you think about it, those girls were so young, especially Michelle, that they probably don’t even remember their mom all that much. There are a few episodes that address this directly, especially in the first season, and it’s always a tearjerker.
But another thing they did address was actually eating disorders. DJ, the oldest sister, struggles with her body image when she is going to a pool party. She starts skipping meals and exercising too much and it’s so upsetting to see such a wonderful and smart young girl fall victim to an eating disorder.
Golden Girls was normally a sweet and sassy show about funny women living together, but it got real when Rose received a letter that said her blood transfusion may have given her AIDS. She does the test, but it takes 72 hours to get the results.
They go into a lot of the stigma and fear about AIDS and help Sophia overcome her fear of it. Luckily Rose’s results come back and everything is fine, but the stress she would have been under is pretty intense.
This show wasn’t afraid to get deep, but there was one that terrified us all to our very core. “The Bicycle Man” episode took a look at pedophilia in a way that is uncomfortable to even talk about now.
The man tricks the kids with wine and adult magazines, and then takes photos of them with their shirts off. The whole episode is uncomfortable, but it’s something that kids need to know isn’t okay.
Racism continues to be a big issue, and 90s sitcoms were not afraid to remind us of that. Laura was trying to get her classmates to celebrate Black History Month, but instead she was told to “go back to Africa” and a racial slur was painted on her locker.
Her family was just as upset by it as she was, and rightfully so. This isn’t the only time Family Matters dealt with the topic of racism, as there was another episode where Eddie received a traffic violation because he was “a black kid in a white person’s neighborhood.”
Carol stands up to the cops and threatens to report them for racial profiling, but fact of the matter is that this type of thing still happens to this day.
Fresh Prince was always pushing the boundaries. They could go from making you laugh out loud to sobbing real tears in a matter of seconds. It was like emotional whiplash.
They had many episodes that touched on big issues. For example, Carlton gets pulled over because he was in an expensive car, and while he at first doesn’t believe that it was a race issue, even his dad is suspicious.
There is another episode, one that really made us cry, where Will and Carlton are held up and Will ends up taking a bullet for his cousin. Carlton is freaked out and ends up buying a gun to keep on him, but the fact that the comedic lead was dealing with a gunshot was pretty huge.
And then of course there’s the episode that no matter how many times we see it we are sobbing. Will’s father comes to town and he thinks he’s going to get to go with him, but at the very last minute he bails.
Will goes through a range of emotions, but eventually gets mad because his father doesn’t want to be a part of his life, breaking down into tears. But luckily, his real father-figure, Uncle Phil, is there to be his shoulder to cry on. Just like he always is.