Back in the day, we didn't know about helicopter parenting or the importance of unplugging from our handheld devices (our giant box TVs could totally have been handheld if you were very strong and could bench 300), so we relied on television to raise us and teach us how to live. Enter the very special episode. And here are some of the very best (or at least the very best YouTube has to offer).
Growing Pains, the one where Matthew Perry dies.
Carol had to learn a very valuable lesson about drinking and driving and the cost of that lesson was Matthew Perry's life.
Home Improvement, the one where Randy might have thyroid cancer.
It wasn't often that Home Improvement stopped grunting and started getting real, but when it did, our youthful, JTT-obsessed brains couldn't cope with its realness.
Boy Meets World, the one where Shawn joins a cult.
Shawn Hunter's entire existence was essentially one big very special episode. He had to deal with class struggles, parental abandonment, alcoholism, help a friend hide from her abusive father and then of course there was the time he joined a cult, at the very same time as his mentor Mr. Turner got into a motorcycle accident, never to be seen again (he didn't die, he was just "over there" and will return on Girl Meets World).
Boy Meets World, the one where Shawn's dad dies.
Shawn's tragic existence culminated with the death of his dad. God this show dealt with some real sh-t for a program that once featured Eric Matthews pretending to be a couch.
Punky Brewster, the one where Cherie got stuck in the fridge.
Like the ozone layer, we don't really talk about the phenomenon of children getting stuck in refrigerators anymore, but apparently this was a serious problem. Enough so that Punky and co. had to deal with poor Cherie getting trapped on one. Luckily, they'd just learned CPR and could rescue her.
Full House, the one where Papouli dies.
When the Tanner family's Greek side comes to visit, with them comes great-grandpa Papouli and his dancing skills and connection with a tiny Michelle. But this is an '80s/'90s sitcom and never-before-seen grandparents have only one purpose on '80s/'90s sitcoms: death.
Family Matters, the one where Urkel gets drunk and falls off a building.
He ends up fine. But lessons were learned along the way.
Family Matters, the one where Urkel raps about guns.
And inspires at least one guy to give up his gun.
The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, the one where Will's dad leaves.
Honestly, this is still Will Smith's best performance. Ever.
The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, the one where Will gets shot and Carlton thinks he needs a gun.
If Vince Vaughn watched this episode, he might not be so free and easy with his thoughts on gun control.
Saved by the Bell, the one with Johnny Dakota.
Zack and the gang almost get taken in by a famous actor and his serious drug problem. By serious drug, by the way, I mean weed. You know those Hollywood types and their parties, doing line after line of marijuana cigarettes (lest we forget Saved by the Bell was a kids' TV show and cocaine does not exist in that world).
Saved by the Bell, the one with Jessie's short-lived pill addiction.
This is the ultimate very special episode as far as I'm concerned. Still to this day, I can't watch a Hydroxycut commercial without thinking of Jessie Spano and the diet pill damage done.
Dennis Haskins does his best Jessie Spano impression and reveals what it was like to shoot the legendary episode.