the problem of the messaging sitcom

The discordant result of a “Very Special Episode” (or, one that was clearly written with large input by governing agencies) from an 80s sitcom.  I suppose there’s the idea that the ham-fisted message is slotted into the familiar, and for the show “Diff’rent Strokes” the ham fisted message dominates anyways.  But… it becomes more than a little bizarre when the laugh track kicks in.

And I suppose for the most famous “Nancy Reagan says ‘Just Say No'” episode the laugh track still fits in that ironic module.

But and so.  Child Predators.  We see the creepy bicycle shop owner take in Gary Coleman and his friend and smooze them, and Gary Coleman is yukking it up about junk food as the creepy bicycle shop owner is clearly heading nowhere good here… then yukking it up with laugh track playing with jokes about his friend’s physique when the child predator offers up the idea of playing “Tarzan”.

Laugh track.  That’s your cue to do as the canned imitation of a studio audience would, theoretically, be doing.

Sits there right until the ham-fisted final scene, right through just about everything, up to the final scene where the situation wraps up with the neatly fit message from the police officer.  Only then, when the message is pulled together into a tight package of information and warning, can the sitcom break free from its laugh track.

And maybe it was effective.  But there had to be a better way to do this, didn’t there?

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