Do you remember those old sitcoms in the 80s and 90s where they’d advertise with a tag line like “A Very Special Episode you’ll want to watch with whole family”? They would typically take your normal beloved cheesecake characters and shoe horn in some sort of intense issue of the day. It might have been the Bicycle Man episode of Diff’rent Strokes or the one episode of Fresh Prince where Will’s dad comes back and then abandons him again.
One way or another every goofy sitcom we’ve ever loved has hit a point where they feel the need to try to address a hard hitting issue… and I think it’s a pretty hilarious phenomenon, so I spent about 2 years transcribing a different episode every month (cause NO, you can’t just download that stuff) and then performing live readings of them with my friends.
I’m not going to try to do any analysis of what these episode mean or what they’ve done for pop-culture, because there are blogs and writers much better than me who have already done that, not to mention the column on AV Club that only uses the name. But if you want to check out some of those articles, then here are a few:
All of those sites were essential for helping me come up with the list of over 60 episodes I started picking from for my series.
The first one we did, “the Bicycle Man” was a very straight forward reading of a Diff’rent Strokes script, except for the part where we re-did a whole scene with british accents… it was well received, so we prepared for another one.
While writing the stage directions for an episode of Family Ties (“Say Uncle”) I began to write commentaries and quips with references to the later work that the actors would do (Michael Gross with Tremors, Michael J Fox with Back to the Future… Tom Hanks was even the guest star… you get the idea) This became a mainstay of the project.
The third episode we did was the Full House episode where Stephanie gets offered cigarettes… that episode is sadly lost, because the guy I had record it for me started working on VEEP before he could get me the tape, and then his computer caught on fire or something and he lost tons of stuff….
The 4th installment, was when we really hit our stride with an episode of Facts Of Life. I did my usual quips and commentaries disguised as stage direction, but I also editorialized the episode by playing the scenes in reverse to hi-light the absurdity and foreshadowing that was planted in the episode.
With success imminent I made it a monthly series and would go on to refine the format with 10 more performances of different shows. What you have in this post is links to the first three episodes I’ve posted online, and I plan to continue posting the rest of them.
I hope you enjoy them. There are many more to come.