It’s funny how time can change our perceptions about things whether they be movies or TV. When a little time goes by a great joke could suddenly seem downright offensive, and a story which seemed harmless suddenly becomes depressing. For example there is a Seinfeld episode where Elaine is coming up with new names for her boyfriend who has the same name as a serial killer. One of the names she suggests is O.J., of course referring to O.J. Simpson. Just a year later what seemed like a harmless throw away joke suddenly takes on a new life, after the horrible events involving his ex-wife and her boyfriend.
Today I wanted to discuss five episodes which seems harmless at the time, but viewed now takes a different feel completely.
Silver Spoons, “Head Over Heals”
The fourth season opened with this episode involving Dexter falling for the special guest star of the week. Who was that guest star? Whitney Houston who appeared as herself. Watching this episode now, and seeing her before the drug abuse which would affect her in the later years, was sad enough. However after her tragic death the episode is even sadder. Whitney Houston was a great talent who lost herself to drugs, and this episode gives a reminder of those days before all of that.
I am sure this seemed harmless enough at the time. This was, obviously, a Halloween episode and part of the plot involved Bill getting a psychic reading. Bill was of course played by Phil Hartman. The psychic tells him he is going to die in forty years or so, giving an exact date. Bill of course obsessed about his untimely demise. Do I really need to explain why this is so sad now? It was’t two years later when Phil Hartman was killed by his wife in one of the most senseless tragedies ever. It’s hard to watch this episode today and not be reminded of that horrible event.
Seinfeld, “The Invitations”
When this episode first came out people were appalled that George’s fiance was going to get killed off. It seemed dark, even for a Seinfeld episode. The one thing that didn’t bother anyone was how they killed Susan off, by having her lick toxic envelopes. Then the anthrax scare came along in 2001, after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. All of a suddenly the idea of someone getting sick, or worst, from opening and envelope seemed all too real. This episode was pulled from re-runs for a while but has found its way back since then.
The Golden Girls, “Sophia’s Choice”
The majority of this episode is ok, but then comes the last scene. The scene has the four girls discussing what will happen as they get older and get sick. They all decide to be there for each other, almost as an extra insurance policy. This a great scene really showing their friendship. It’s also depressing now, especially when Rose asks the question “But what happens when there’s only one of us left?” The fact that Betty White says the line is eerie, and this scene just takes on a very different tone today. Even the punch line that follows the line is sad. Sophia responds, “Don’t worry I’ll be fine”. Sure that’s a great Sophia line, but knowing Estelle Getty was the first to pass away makes it depressing.
Friends, “The One with the Ultimate Fighting Championship”
This one is a little different because it is not just one episode. If you watch the third season, especially toward the end, you notice Chandler getting thinner and thinner. By the final episode of the season he looks downright horrible. Turns out there is a reason for this, Matthew Perry had gotten addicted to pain killers. This caused the drastic weight change and he ended up doing a 28 day program for vicodin addiction. This episode may be the hardest to watch because he gets a story line and is featured prominently. He just looks sick and his clothes hardly fit him, you knew there was something wrong.
At least he recovered, there are examples of other shows where the stars are sick and it becomes very clear. Examples include Dolph Sweet on “Gimmee A Break” and Nicholas Colosanto on “Cheers” who both looked very taut and thin in their final appearances. Peter Boyle was clearly not well that last year or two of “Everybody Loves Raymond”. I give the actors credit for going on despite their illness but it is hard to watch those episodes knowing that were ill and, tragically, passed away soon after.
I am sure there are other examples out there in TV and movies, and maybe I will come back with some more. If you know of any I missed please feel free to share.