The 1980s and 1990s were an interesting time for a lot of things. Television sitcoms, for example, ranged from the brilliant in The Cosby Show and Cheers and the like, to the, um, not so brilliant in Saved by the Bell and Small Wonder. It was also the decade of D.A.R.E. and the war on drugs, with everything from diet pills to cocaine in the spotlight.
These two worlds intersected on a regular basis with the television staple, the “very special episode”. Some shows that dealt with harder fare might be able to tackle the cocaine or heroin angle, but the primetime sitcom had to do the lighter stuff. And, with a family setting in nearly every ’80s sitcom, that lighter fare was almost inevitably the diet pill (or caffeine pill). An elementary school-aged child growing up would be bombarded with this anti-diet pill message, seeing it in practically every one of his favorite shows at least once.
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What I find funny looking back on it now is that these “diet pills” (or, as Jesse Spano in Saved by the Bell would tell you from experience, her “caffeine pills”) are exactly what major league ballplayers had been taking before every ballgame for decades, only they were called “greenies”. We’re told now that we should forget and ignore the fact that so many legendary ballplayers – Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Joe Morgan, Ted Williams, etc – were using greenies because the pills just didn’t help much. But what about the sincere messages of concern that Alex P. Keaton and Mr. Belvedere were telling us on our televisions?
Certainly they both can’t be right! I guess that means we’ll have to figure it out for ourselves. As an aid to help make these decisions, I’ve created the video you see above. It’s essentially a five-minute version of every single “very special episode” you’ve ever seen, featuring footage from such Family Ties, Saved By the Bell, Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, M*A*S*H*, and Mr. Belvedere. I especially love the Mr. Belvedere clip because it has the poignant speech being delivered from a former major leaguer.
Enjoy the video! And, please, remember the message: amphetamines are bad!