I’m honestly SHOCKED it took The CW this long to reboot Sweet Valley High. I have to think it’s the pandemic’s fault because 90’s reboots have been all the rage for a while now. And yet here we are in late 2021 and we’re only just now getting a Sweet Valley entry into the reboot craze.
If you never caught the original tv series version of Sweet Valley High in the 90’s — think 90210 subject matter for a 7th Heaven audience with the production value of Clueless (the TV series). The Wakefield Twins are played by real life twins, Brittany and Cynthia Daniel.
If the original series is any indication, there’s a lot of room for creative liberty. One first season adaptation of the second entry in the book series, Secrets, takes a plot about winning queen at a school dance and turns it into winning the opportunity to be an anti-drug spokesperson.
In the episode, a student worries that she’s not going to be a good anti-drug spokesperson for the school because she did drugs one time (and only one time) and was a passenger in a car accident (I repeat, passenger) while under the influence. This caused her parents to move the entire family to Sweet Valley.
She’s worried she’s not “the right person to be telling people not to do drugs.” But idk Magic Johnson told everyone not to have unprotected sex after he got HIV and I feel like he was a pretty good spokesperson for that. But maybe they don’t watch basketball in the town she moved from. MAYBE this is something a Gossip Girl writer could put a better spin on.
Oh I also forgot the part where the prize of being anti-drug spokesperson includes touring the country with Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler — so shaming this young, one-time drug using teen girl makes even less sense in that context.
Also apologies in advance to whoever visits this page and finds broken links when/if The CW picks up this show and wipes all other Sweet Valley productions from the free web.
I know you’re all very familiar with Jesse Spano’s caffeine pill problems, but did you know that Alex P. Keaton once took diet pills so he could study more? (Honestly, it sounds like your mileage may vary. Comedian Elna Baker describes taking phentermine and spending several intense hours making a really shitty birthday card in her book, The New York Regional Mormon Singles Halloween Dance: A Memoir. So in my very special opinion, you’re not gonna get quality results on your mind or body with speed.)
In this episode, Alex wants to stay up all night working on school work. He enlists his sister Mallory’s help in getting diet pills (a.k.a. speed) from a friend of hers. Mallory obtains the pills from her reluctant friend with the promise that Alex will take her out on a date — even though he’s super not into her and fat shames her to Mallory when she tells him the details of the transaction. Oh my gosh the 80’s, there is soooo much that is wrong with this situation. And you can betchya only the pill issue will be addressed in this episode — and only as it relates to Alex.
Alone in his room, Alex delivers a lengthly soliloquy (and a little more fat-shaming) as he agonizes over whether or not to take the pills. Seeking the advice of his framed 8×10 photo of Richard Millhouse Nixon, Alex eventually pops some pills (off-screen).
The next time we see Alex, he’s high on stimulants playing Monopoly with his family (as if Monopoly could be any more aggressive). Alex’s ex-hippie parents are very oblivious to the fact that their son is high. I would truly expect better of people who met at Berkeley.
Later, Alex approaches Mallory for more pills and when she tries to cut him off, he breaks cardinal rule number one (never go through a teenaged girl’s purse) and takes the pills for himself. Mallory tells Alex that she never wants to speak to him again. Alex tells Mallory that if she tells their parents about what he’s doing then she’ll be in trouble with them too. (Seriously? The hip Berkeley parents of the 80’s?? Mallory isn’t all that smart, so she believes this to be true.)
Alex becomes increasingly exhausted and irritable. This culminates in a fight with his mom after he catches her watching a documentary with Jennifer about the human reproductive system. He turns off the television, calls it smut, and says Jennifer should believe in the stork until she’s twelve. Oh boy, the Reagan Years.
Alex’s mother tells him that it isn’t his house and sperm-egg fertilization is science not smut. His mother decides to punish him by having him clean the house — which his speed-addled-heart loves. Come on parents, why so slow on the uptake???
Alex later tries to bribe Mallory for more pills, which doesn’t work. He then calls her friend directly. (On a cute little yellow touchtone phone. Oh man don’t you miss how fun landlines were???)
Mallory’s friend hooks Alex up with more pills (also off-screen). The next time we see him, he’s studying while painting his room bright blue at 3:30 am. This finally causes his father to realize something is up. He then discovers that Alex has only slept four hours total during the past week and finally realizes his kid is on drugs.
Alex tells his dad that he’s doing great on pills. (He isn’t. He started digging trenches for a sprinkler system nobody asked for in the backyard.) Alex’s father tells him that when he was younger he took speed too, which is why he can say that this is a horrible idea. He tells Alex that they both need to go to bed and will discuss this further in the morning. Alex falls asleep mid-lecture. He continues to sleep through his big test.
Waking up an hour late, he frantically tosses his room looking for more pills. It’s so poorly written but Michael J. Fox is so good. He’s really, really too good for this writing. Alex finally realizes he can’t stave off the inevitable crash and that his whole speed plan seriously backfired. We then end with Mallory reminding Alex of the details of his date with her friend — oh and another fat joke.
Very Special Lesson: Sleep is super, super important. Like SO important. It also just makes me sad when people abuse drugs for the purposes of studying. Like damn, I know our education system is broken but still. I suppose the one good thing about this episode is that even model-student goody-goody Alex P. Keaton is not immune to the cycle of addiction. But that’s about all this episode does well. Diet pills and supplements are often terrifying. And popular culture knew that when this episode was released–at least in terms of OTC pills. Allowing for the fact that doctor prescribed diet pills are largely a sign o’ the times in this episode, it’s a real shame that neither Alex nor his (formerly) hip-to-drugs father spare a moment for Mallory’s friend, who was taking those pills to impress people like Alex while most likely suffering the same side effects he found so debilitating. For all we know, she wasted several hours off-screen making him a shitty card, risking her life in an attempt to satisfy conventional beauty standards. But Alex was too busy insulting her, using her, and worrying about his grades to think about how she might be feeling.
Seriously, who greenlit this show? The number of times this robot becomes involved with controlled substances is truly astounding. Only slightly more astounding than the fact that a grown man built a little girl robot servant to serve his family. And yet, this was American family television thirty years ago.
Anyway, this episode involves everyone’s favorite 1980’s topic: drug pushers.
This episode starts with Vicki’s creator trying to teach her to eat solid food. Lord knows why, she’s a freaking robot so this makes no sense. Also, I’m probably taking this too far but now I am wondering what happens to all of the food clogging her gears and frankly, it sounds like a public health crisis.
But let’s go ahead and skip ahead to the drugs. A full-grown adult man appears at a chain link fence encircling the cafeteria’s outdoor eating are. He says, “hey kid, you ever get high?”
So let me stop you right there. I know it was *the 80’s* and *stranger danger* wasn’t so much of a thing and maybe I can’t understand that as a child of the 90’s. But something tells me a real-life 80s drug dealer would have been a little more stealthy.
Okay, so today’s drug is Speed. Does anyone do speed anymore? Is Adderall like the Speed of today? I honestly wouldn’t know. I can barely handle coffee.
Alright, so now I know why they introduced the fact that Vicki can eat now. She’s come into possession of these pills and we had to setup the backstory that would allow her to be able to ingest them.
Vicki goes home and hides the drugs in a flower pot, which her creator’s wife promptly finds. She tells her husband they have “a drug problem” and he makes a joke about getting her “into the Betty Ford Center” because of course he does. This is a creep-ass man who made a little girl robot-slave and of course he’s going to make a joke about rehab when he thinks his wife is confessing to an addiction.
(Sidebar: I’m not sure why his wife was digging through a flower pot. I’ve been skipping through this episode because honestly this show is so bad. However, I am so intrigued by the fact that a robot main character is somehow going to teach me not to do Speed, so I’m gonna keep watching.)
They confront their child, who seriously must be eleven years old AT THE MOST. And he’s kind of just like confused and probably not at the prime age for doing Speed anyway, right? I don’t know! Were the 80’s this bizarre or is this just Nancy Regan lying to me???
Anyway, Vicki the robot starts behaving very strangely, so the parents realize their robot is high as a kite. (Once again, I can’t figure out how she’s metabolized these pills in order to get high in the first place, but she is literally flapping her arms and flying in the air, which is pretty cool.)
Okay, sincerely I think this creepy man needs to have his child taken away from him. He has volunteered his son to go undercover and purchase drugs from the drug pusher. He’s going to program Vicki the robot to protect him.
I ACTUALLY DON’T UNDERSTAND THIS THOUGH BECAUSE WHY NOT JUST LET THE ROBOT DO ALL OF THIS??? WHY INVOLVE AN ACTUAL CHILD??? I think we have all the evidence we need here. This family is toxic and should be banned from television.
(Oh by the way, for reasons I cannot explain, this show ran for four full seasons.)
Okay, so this is actually a teenaged drug dealer not an adult. I couldn’t tell because this YouTube video is grainy. But either way, I don’t think it’s a best practice to send children in as plants on a drug deal.
Luckily, this dealer is very stupid. He doesn’t pick up on the fact that this is a setup, not even when the little boy tells him to “speak into my shoulder” a.k.a. where the microphone is. Once the cops descend upon him, the dealer tries to flee, so the little robot picks him up and holds him in the air over her head.
This gives us an opportunity for an excellent one liner: “Hey pal, from now on, that’s as high as you’re gonna get.”
Very Special Lesson: You know actually, I don’t think they got their point across. If I knew nothing else about Speed, I would think that it could literally make me fly, which sounds awesome. But I’m pretty sure is not the case.
TIL Arthur is still on television. And you know what? That’s just great! Being a kid in the 90’s was pretty freaking amazing. I feel like being a kid now would be less amazing. I mean Sesame Street isn’t even on public television anymore. We now live in a time where your parents have to be rich enough to have HBO for you to watch Big Bird. And that’s just wrong man, that’s just wrong. So yes, it cheers my heart to know the youth of America still get to see Arthur (the aardvark? Was he an aardvark? Woah, I just looked up what an aardvark actually looks like. Crazy.)
Alas, I missed this episode because it aired like fifteen years after I stopped watching Arthur. But I’m excited to revisit the series.
In this episode, there’s a candy bar called “Rabid Dog.” The commercial makes it look like speed for children. It also makes sparkles come out of your mouth. You know what, I was a cautious child. I don’t think I would have wanted any part of this. But Buster, Arthur’s very best friend, is into it.
He sees the commercial on television and runs to the candy store. Arthur calls after him, “Don’t you want to watch the rest of the cartoon.” SCARIEST SENTENCE EVER UTTERED ON TELEVISION. You’re a cartoon Arthur. The cartoons you’re watching, look exactly like you. Do you know you’re a cartoon??? WHAT IS YOUR REALITY??
When the lunch lady cannot read most of the ingredients on the label, she insists that Buster eat an apple instead. (I don’t know why he like asked the lunch lady to read his candy bar wrapper, but whatever.)
Binky (the resident jackass on this show) buys all of the candy bars at the store and resells them on the playground. I mean seriously, this dude is a criminal at like age eight. Someone needs to reign him in.
Meanwhile, a student, who seems to have a college level education in chemistry yet manages to somehow be a second grade student in public school, reads the back of the candy bar and identifies some of the ingredients as radioactive and others as being made of bugs. (Buster is most upset about the bugs, which is weird I think for a bunny.)
Soon the students start to feel “hot and dizzy,” which seems pretty mild to me for having pounded a candy bar full of what I assume is the equivalent of pop rocks and coke.
Buster and his mom head down to the corporate headquarters of the candy bar company to find out what some of the agreements are. The “Supreme Dog,” as it were, tells them that it’s a trade secret. But he does explain what happens to your brain when you eat a Rabid Dog candy bar. And it’s meth. It’s literally meth.
Buster asks the Supreme Dog to eat one of the candy bars, but he refuses to get high on his own supply. I would say this episode is far-fetched even for a very special episode, but we’re living in Trump’s America…soooooo…
We see a newspaper article that informs us that the Supreme Dog has been arrested. This makes everyone quit the candy bars cold turkey. Ah, if only.
Speaking of cold turkey, has anyone ever seen the movie Cold Turkey? Yeah. It’s pretty weird.
That little girl wiping tears from behind her glasses is BREAKING MY HEART.
But like, back to Buster real quick. A bunny in the second grade managed to destroy an evil corporation and this happens OFF SCREEN?? That’s the show I want to see!
Very Special Lesson: I mean apparently, asking a few questions of an executive can expose an illegal drug trade, but I’m not sure because the writers of Arthur didn’t let me see that part. So all I can reasonably tell you is not to eat things that make sparks fly from your mouth. Yet somehow, I feel like that goes without saying.
Scooby-Doo has more franchises than I can even keep track of. One of those was the late-80’s/early-90’s A Pup Named Scooby-Doo. The gang is adorable a group of adorable children solving mysteries with the titular puppy. Since, the original Scooby-Doo was set in the late 60’s, I’m pretty sure this show is supposed to be set in the late 50’s/early 60’s. But really the only evidence of this other than the characters’ ages are Freddy’s flat top and the fact that Daphne is sporting a neck-kerchief.
In this episode, the gang has taken a trip to the beach where Velma’s aunt works at some sort of marine institute’s “dolphin corral.” The dolphins have become un-corralled (read: stolen) and the gang is there to help find them. Or maybe they should just go on their merry way because who corrals dolphins anyway? That’s messed up. Leave the dolphins alone!
Well, there is one remaining dolphin, actually. Skipper. But she disappears shortly after the gang arrives with Freddie stating that she has been “fish-napped.” OMG THIS EPISODE IS LIKE DOLPHIN RACIST. Ugh. If I was a science teacher, I would give a test on this episode and everything it got wrong. (Yes, I would teach based on cartoons and yes, I think that would make me like the best teacher ever.)
Anyhow, while trying to track down the missing dolphins, the gang is continually terrorized by “The Headless Skateboarder.” They’re all like meh, it’s a monster in a mask. But I’m not so sure. I think this one may be the real deal. Do you have any idea how hard it would be for a human to skateboard on sand??
The gang heads over to “Al’s Skateboard O-Rama,” where they discover that all of Al’s customers have been frightened away by the headless skateboarder. The voice of Al is VERY familiar. Hold on, I have to look this up. OMG IT IS WALLY FROM THE BRADY BRIDES. Wow, he’s had an um interesting career…
The gang follows the “Headless Skateboarder” to an old shack here they find a bunch of Al’s old skateboarding trophy’s. Velma takes out her giant, portable computer and discovers that Al was a big deal skateboarder until he got involved with DRUGS. And Scooby is all like ” RUH-ROH DRUGS?!?” Shut up, Scooby, we know you do drugs. Maybe not yet, but once you’re a fully grown dog, it’s basically all you and Shaggy do. You’re dead-weight on the crime-solving actions of The Mystery Team.
Everyone gets really offended that Al would do drugs, so they head back to his store to question him. He immediately breaks down crying. Yes, A Pup Named Scooby Doo shows a grown man break down and cry when confronted by a group of children about his addiction. But it’s okay because he’s a cartoon so it makes it not really that depressing.
Velma decides that they have exhausted all viable leads on land, so the team scuba dives to look fore more clues. There, they find the dolphins in a cave. The dolphins are all wearing remote-controlled harnesses and pouches that contain drugs. Yes, this is a children’s cartoon episode about drug trafficking. This is Scooby-Doo‘s version of Miami Vice.
Velma has somehow solved this mystery and takes the team back to Al’s shed to look for more clues. They plan to drop a dolphin’s harness on the headless skateboarder and control his every move, thus leading him directly to them. Sounds like a good plan. Except he doesn’t have a head. So he probably doesn’t have a neck. How will you harness his neck if he has no neck, Mystery Team??
Of course, they accidentally harness Scooby instead. But Scooby bumps into him and somehow leads him right into their trap. So now that they’ve caught the monster, the gang let’s you THE AUDIENCE solve the mystery! We’re given a couple of random options to chose from. They’re people we’ve seen for roughly like two seconds this episode and I can’t even remember their names. But before I can even make a conjecture, Velma rips off the skateboarder’s costume. It’s Al. Of course it is. Al did drugs and therefore Al is pretty much Pablo Escobar. But…okay…so this is the 50’s right? Ugh, thanks for the revisionist history, War on Drugs.
Very Special Lesson: I think the lesson was supposed to be don’t do drugs. But really, it seems to me that it’s more a cautionary tale and not using high-profile mules, or “dolphins” as it were.
This post is a little bittersweet for me. As you may know, I’ve already vowed not to cover the oft lampooned caffeine pill episode, which leaves this episode as the last technical “very special episode” of Saved by the Bell. However, if you’re a regular reader you may also be aware that I have a very broad definition of very special episode. I also flew across the country to go to Saved by the Max, so rest assured that I’ll find a way to keep Bayside around The VSB. (I mean hello, there is an entire wedding in Las Vegas that we have yet to cover! But I digress.)
When I first decided to start The Very Special Blog two years ago, there were a few quintessential very special episodes that sprang to mind. This was one of them. The simple reason for that is that it feels like someone looked at a manual on how to write a very special episode, checked off all of the boxes, and left us with this utterly formulaic masterpiece. We’ve got an ingenue who is so sweet and naive it’s basically like she walked off the set of Nell but with better English language skills (better known as Kelly Kapowski).
There’s the charming, respected authority figure whose poor choices with substances break down the idles of our protagonist. And then there’s this glorious, PSA, in which I’m 99.9% certain based upon no actual evidence that Elizabeth Berkley worked tirelessly with her acting coach to nail her one word line:
Let’s start at the beginning: Johnny Dakota, teen idol, has stopped by Bayside High School to scout it for an anti-drug commercial. It’s the first of many schools that Johnny plans to check out, but the students of Bayside decide they absolutely can’t miss out on the opportunity to have a PSA filmed at their school.
So they decide to win over Johnny Dakota with an anti-drug rap.
The lyrics of which are as follows: We’re Bayside students And we’re no fools We don’t use drugs Cause it’s just not cool So if you get the offer Make sure you refuse When it comes to drugs Just don’t use.
Kelly Kapowski (who did not participate in said rap) runs in looking for Johnny Dakota, who has just departed on a tour of the school with Class President/Editor of the School Newspaper, Jessie Spano. Kelly is wearing, I kid you not, an orange unitard with a floral jacket, popped collar. This is weird even for 1991. Anyway, Johnny Dakota is smitten with orange unitard clad Kelly and therefore decides that he should film his commercial at Bayside.
Everything is great until one day, Zack and Slater smell pot in the boys’ room. (Hmmmm how do you innocent Bayside students know what pot smells like.) Soon after Zack has identified the mystery smell, Slater spots the culprit lying on the floor near the sink. They decide they need to hide it because if Johnny Dakota sees it, then he won’t film at Bayside. Unfortunately, Johnny walks in while they’re holding the joint. But he believes that it isn’t theirs, flushes it down the toilet, and offers them parts in the commercial.
Speaking of the commercial, another one of the featured students appears to be moonlighting as a thirty-five year old stripper. I’m not sure what they wardrobe department was going for with this look. Anyway, she tells a heart-wrenching story about her brother getting high and driving to the beach and ending up in a wheelchair. I know this is a very real situation and actually not even a “scare ’em straight” per se but all I can think about is how the way she tells this story reminds me of this poster from my high school chemistry class (which I’m pretty sure is in every American high school chemistry class) about Carol not wearing her goggles. But yeah actually, don’t get high and drive because that makes you such an asshole. Also, don’t drive and text. And don’t drive and text while also holding a cigarette like the idiot behind me in traffic the other day.
It’s good that we have very special episodes. They’re such good conversation starters for hot-button issues. I bet the next time you text while driving and smoking a cigarette, you will think twice about it, won’t you?
Slater tells the heartbreaking story of Len Bias. Then Zack hits us with John Belushi. It’s a powerful one-two punch to my pop culture soul. I’m so sad for literally 30 seconds because then Jesse has a line:
Omg stfu, Jessie. People have REAL problems. Also, you more than anyone need to stay away from cocaine. Seriously, girl. And maybe take up so yoga or meditation because your stress levels are scary high.
All of this anti-drug talk leads Zack and Slater to enact some vigilante justice on a random guy they saw leaving the bathroom around the time they found “the roach.” But there turns out to be no reason to worry because it’s JUST a cigarette. After this Zack and Slater kind of let the whole Starsky & Hutch thing go for a little while. They’re also distracted by a party that Johnny has invited all of them to–even Screech, who somehow throws his back out. Slater’s going to take him home because none of the girls at the party will talk to him, which is weird because Mario Lopez is easily the most charasamtic person on the planet. This is played for laughs, of course, but it mostly just removes any shred of plausibility this show actually had.
While all of her friends are loading Screech into the car, Kelly is left alone with Johnny, who starts smoking and offers to share with Kelly. She’s totally destroyed that her anti-drug teen idol hero is just another casual drug user. Zack comes back in just as the entire room of party guests laughs at Kelly for “just saying no.” This was always my worst fear as a child. The crowd-mocking drug pushers masquerading as friendly people at a social gathering. And while the kids at my high school were most certainly no strangers to heavily mocking others, this never actually happened to me.
This is most likely due tot he fact that no one ever offered me drugs in high school since I’m pretty sure most of them thought of me as a female version of Anthony Michael Hall’s character in The Breakfast Club. And then when I got to college no one really cared who did drugs or not. I also went to like a weird hippie college where people did a lot of drugs but would also like just want to hang out. And if I went to a college where conforming was important and people hazed you and/or made you do weird things to be part of a club, I’m pretty sure I would have cried in my dorm room. But my college experience was seriously more like doing jello shots and then crying for no reason when all of the sugar and cheap vodka hit my system in the middle of a board game. Speaking of board games, I once invented a really great drinking version of Clue.
The next day at school, Zack tells Johnny to call off the commercial because it’s wrong to smoke pot yourself and then tell a bunch of other people not to do it. Now, that’s something I can get behind. Nobody likes a hypocrite. So they all refuse to work with Johnny but then everyone is sad that they can’t make the commercial. Yet it just so happens that Mr. Belding knows the chairman of NBC. So they make the commercial anyway. Things always work out for the Bayside Gang. (Like seriously they are the live-action version of the Scooby-Doo Gang for real ya’ll.)
Very Special Lesson: Okay, I know this was all about drugs. But actually, I think the important lesson here is that people are shady. That Johnny dude was a two-faced creep and not worthy of the Bayside crew #friendsforever
Also, I just found this and I think it’s possibly my favorite graphical depiction of anything ever, so I’m going to leave this here for you:
Well, folks. Much like my 21 Jump Street Pilot Episode post, this is going to be almost entirely from my memory! That’s largely because all of the YouTube episodes entitled “In the Heat of the Night: Crackdown” are wrong and this episode isn’t available on Amazon or iTunes. So, all I have is the Youtube clip below and the searing affect this episode had on my 11 year old mind to guide me.
Watch the clip below and join me won’t you?
If you didn’t recognize her from the clip above, that’s Audrey from National Lampoon’s Vacation. So, I first saw this episode when I was about 11 years old. You know, right at that point in time when all of the counselors at school are trying to scare you about drugs before you become a teenager. So this episode had a profound effect on me.
I don’t know if this is still the case, but WGN used to air In the Heat of the Night reruns in the middle of the day for like 3 hours at a time. I think I caught this episode on summer break at my grandfather’s house (prime In the Heat of the Night watching time). The whole world of boys and parties was so mystical to me then. And the looming threat of casual drug use felt terrifying and inevitable.
Now, let me just say for the record (or really just for my mother as she reads this post), I have never been offered crack cocaine. Not even once. But at 11, when I watched this episode, I was sure I would one day be peer pressured into heavy drug use. I also was sure that someone was going to try to get me to smoke a cigarette at gun point. But then I grew up and can honestly say that no one has ever offered me a cigarette. Plenty of people have tried to bum smokes that I didn’t have or ask for a light, but if any of the chain-smoking theater kids I went to college with offered me a cigarette, it was such a rarity that I can’t even remember it now. (TL;DR: A lot of people in my childhood told me that big tobacco were “drug dealers” and I took this very literally.)
I also tended to over identify with “hard hitting” topics on TV (and now I have this great blog because of it!)
So when 11-year old me saw “Crackdown” here is what I thought:
I will be a shy girl at a party one day.
A cute boy will approach me.
IF I TALK TO THE CUTE BOY: He will offer me a thing to smoke. What am I smoking? What is this? Is this crack? You SMOKE crack?
IF I SMOKE THE CRACK: I will become a crack addict.
IF I BECOME A CRACK ADDICT: I will pawn all of my family’s prized possessions.
IF I PAWN ALL OF MY FAMILY’S PRIZED POSSESSIONS: I will welcome the attention of a friendly cop who gets way too involved in my case on a personal level and only wants to see me succeed.
IF I IGNORE THE ADVICE OF THE FRIENDLY COP: I will die.
And here is how 11-year old me planned to avoid the situation above:
I will never go to unsupervised parties.
IF I END UP AT AN UNSUPERVISED PARTY: I will not talk to any boys.
IF I AM FORCED INTO SPEAKING TO A BOY: I will not speak to him privately and I will not inhale anything.
IF I SEE A CRACK PIPE: I will pretend to faint and then crawl my way to freedom when no one is paying attention.
IF I PRETEND TO FAINT AND THEN CRAWL MY WAY TO FREEDOM: I will die alone and friendless and that will be just fine.
And here is the very special lesson I wish that 11-year old me had known:
I will one day be a shy girl at a party.
A cute boy will approach me.
If that cute boy offers me crack cocaine, I will say to myself, “Hm I don’t think this is the kind of person I want to start a relationship with.”
I will tell the cute boy, “I have to go to the bathroom. Bye.”
I will have fun at the party with my friends and never do crack cocaine.
But I didn’t know that and I was a very sensitive child. So I spent the rest of the afternoon very sad for Audrey from Vacation and also had the oddly empowered feeling that comes from being “scared straight.” Hah-ha, I said! I will never allow this to happen to me! And that’s what I said every time I watched a lifetime movie for the next two years. And now I get to share all of this with you 🙂
Oh, where do I even start with this? How about the facts?
Joe Friday and Bill Gannon are out to stop a “a powerful new drug” that causes “weird and dangerous hallucinations” from ruining the youth of Los Angeles.
They get a report of about a teenager “painted up like an Indian” [sic] and “chewing the bark off a tree.” !! CHEWING THE BARK OFF A TREE. Now you might be getting the mental image of someone eating bark. That’s not what’s happening. This dude is chewing on a tree. Like taking a big bite out of an Oak.
Friday and Gannon find the bark chewer, also known as “Blue Boy,” with his head buried in some dirt. In his pocket, they find some sugar cubes. Bill Gannon holds them in his sweaty hand for so long (in multiple scenes) that I’m kind of surprised he’s not tripping too.
Today I learned that LSD can be found not only in liquid form, but also in powder form. Dragnet: an educational tool.
“In every case so far, everyone of the individuals has had a psychological dependence on it,” according to the Dragnet medical examiner on the addictive nature of LSD.
They call Blue Boy’s parents in to the station and they don’t really care: “You act like he was taking heroin or smoking marijuana,” his dad says before threatening legal action and throwing his money around.
But this is 1967 and so Friday and Gannon hold Blue Boy on “section 601 of the welfare and institution code: in danger of leading an idle, dissolute, or immoral life.”
Louisa from The Sound of Music buys LSD from Blue Boy and she seems totally fine to talk to the police except that she pukes and can’t read (the words are “swimmy”). But actually, if the guy from my intro to Social Work class who spent a large amount of a Saturday evening puking in the dorm kitchen back in 2009 is any anecdotal evidence, then this nausea thing is the real deal.
“Three bucks a cap. When it drops to 50 cents, the kids at grammar school will have a big time at recess, won’t they?” Hm, somehow I don’t see that ever being a thing of concern but all of the Dragnet cops nodded gravely when Bill Gannon made this announcement.
While trying to track down Blue Boy, Friday and Gannon end up at an Acid Party in a run down house in the Hollywood Hills. There’s one lady climbing the walls and one dude eating paint. And one woman who actually just seems pissed off and not high at all, but apparently she’s also on acid. I watched this episode with my mom and found it gravely concerning that this man was most likely eating lead-based paint. She said something like, “people didn’t worry about things like that but people on acid sure did eat some weird stuff.” But I watched a lot of Bob Vila with my dad growing up, and I know that pre-1980 paint is a big no-no.
Blue Boy dies at the end of this episode. So I think we’re supposed to associate LSD with death, which like okay fine. But he actually died of a barbiturate overdose. I’m pretty confident that they shared props with Valley of the Dolls on this one because I know I’ve seen those red no. 5 capsules before.
Very Special Lesson: Guys, seriously. Don’t eat paint, especially not paint that was manufacture before 1980.
Thankfully, we’ve had each other to lean on when life throws unexpected curve balls, but now I’d like to talk to you about a very important topic that we haven’t yet covered on The VSB: performance enhancing drugs.
Dinosaurs was a weird little show that I thought was hilarious as a kid, but as an adult it mostly strikes me as creepy and weird. Dinosaurs was a traditional family sitcom, aside from the fact that the lead characters were puppets from the Jurassic age. It was kind of like The Flintstones meets Home Improvement, I guess.
I bet you’re thinking, what’s a show like this doing with a very special episode? Well, in the 90’s even dinosaur puppets were busy scaring America’s youth straight.
Robbie is the teenage son of this dinosaur family. He’s not doing so well with the ladies, and he feels like his lack of muscle tone is probably to blame for this. As his father tells him, “Chicks dig big guys.” Well, that’s news to me as a proverbial chick. And also it’s pretty terrible parenting. So Robbie decides to start pumping iron in the hope of transforming his “geekphysique” into that of a body builder.
But he doesn’t transform as quickly as he’d like. That’s when his friend, Spike, tells him about “thornoids.” Thornoids are these really terrifying creatures that look a lot like Gremlins (the wet kind). Robbie eats these Gremlin-like creatures and starts looking like the Arnold Schwarzenegger of dinosaurs.
It doesn’t take long for the ‘roid rage to take hold because Robbie punches his romantic rival while they’re both trying to ask the cool dinosaur lady to the dance. Also, he’s starting to exhibit another unpleasant side-effect of Thornoids: he’s growing spikes…which actually seems like kind of an advantage in the dino-world…
But things quickly go downhill from here. He gets mad that his sister left a mess in the bathroom sink, so he picks up the sink and tosses it out the window. He even breaks his baby brother’s rattle. (Do be fair his baby brother is incredibly rude and the most obnoxious part of this show. He’s like a really, really lame version of Stewie from Family Guy.)
He ends up on a terrible date with the cool lady dinosaur and comes to realize that the reason she never went out with him pre-Thornoids is that he never asked her. Omg. Seriously? She liked him before he had muscles and now she doesn’t like him (because of the ‘roid rage, understandably).
So what does it take for Robbie to finally see that he’s headed down the wrong path? His spikes get so big that he accidentally gets stuck to a wall of lockers. I guess the Thornoids don’t make him strong enough to push himself off of the lockers, but whatever. His best friend gives him a lecture about the dangers of cheating on your body building.
By the next morning, the Thornoids have worn off and he’s back to normal. Except for a massive headache from his “Thornoid Hangover.” He then apologizes to his dad and offers to help him move the refrigerator (which he refused to do when he had tons of muscles and it would have been a lot easier, but that’s what Thornoids will do to you).
Very Special Lesson: Don’t eat weird spiky prehistoric creatures. I think that’s all something we can get behind, right?
And then of course there was this little gem, in which the first lady herself makes an appearance on Diff’rent Strokes. Here’s the gist of the episode in less than 3 minutes:
Yes, Arnold has decided to rendezvous with a drug-dealing child in order to write an expose for his school’s newspaper. I have to be honest, I didn’t take my tenure on my school’s newspaper all that seriously. Yet here I am blogging about these hard-hitting issues and I didn’t even have to buy drugs to advance this far in my career!
Anyway, things get so out of hand with this one newspaper article for this one little school’s newspaper that the only thing left to do is call in the first lady for a little assistance. I’ve scoured the internet, but unfortunately all I can show you is this incredibly low quality footage shot on a cell phone and very far away from a small TV screen with tracking issues:
The Very Special Blog’s patron saint deserves better than that crappy video, but I am sure she is in a much better place now–where most certainly no one is doing crack cocaine.