It wasn’t until relatively recently, the mid 1990s specifically, that weed was a topic that could be discussed in network comedies. Of course marijuana has played a major role in the creation in some of TV’s funniest shows, like Saturday Night Live, but its importance was downplayed due to censorship fears. And if pot was ever mentioned, it was used to serve a message on how dangerous it was.
But as marijuana has become a more and more socially acceptable topic, sitcoms have begun working it into plots that didn't revolve around parents finding a joint and teaching their kids a lesson. Below is a list of both anti- and pro-pot sitcom episodes, all memorable.
Roseanne, "Stash from the Past"
TV parents from the 1970s and 1980s usually scolded their children when they found them smoking weed, teaching them a lesson about how “grass” will literally kill you. Roseanne took this sitcom cliché and made it her own: after finding a bag of weed in Darlene and Becky’s bedroom, Roseanne and Dan blame the kids until they realize…it’s actually their pot, from over 20 years ago. So, they, along with Jackie, head to the bathroom and start lighting up. What starts out as a great time reminiscing about the past and not caring about their current adult responsibilities quickly turns dark when Jackie says, “Look at me, I've got nothin'. No boyfriend, no meaningful job, no husband, no family. It's just me. It's just me and my ganja.”
Weeds, “MILF Money” Unembeddable video available here.
Although Weeds has left and returned to (and left and returned to) to its original story of a bored, recently-widowed suburban housewife selling drugs to make money for her family, leading to some awfully subpar middle seasons, it knew exactly what it was doing in its sophomore year. In “MILF Money,” Nancy and Conrad bring their new strain to Snoop Dogg, who immediately falls in love, calling it “MILF Weed.” He even records a song about it. But even outside of specific episodes, Weeds has done more than any other comedy in showcasing both the highs and lows of marijuana and how even the Good Guys can be dealers, too.
How I Met Your Mother, "How I Met Everyone Else"
It's easy to forget that How I Met Your Mother is the only current primetime sitcom told almost primarily through flashbacks, mostly because you never actually see Present Ted, voiced by Bob Saget, just his two kids (I've always wondered if they get paid by the episode, and whether it's the same footage used over and over again?). Occasionally, though, you remember the show’s just a very, very, very long reminiscence, like in “How I Met Everyone Else,” where Bob Saget Ted tells about how he and Marshall originally bonded over Guided by Voices and weed, referred to as “sandwiches” for the sake of his impressionable children.
Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law, “Shaggy Busted”
It only took Harvey Birdman three episodes to make fun of one of Hanna-Barbera’s biggest in-jokes: that Scooby and Shaggy were constantly smoking weed in the Mystery Machine. The two get busted for possession and after spending a night in prison, where the “meddling kids” share a cell with a few of the bad guys they’ve previously caught, go to court, with Harvey as their lawyer. Their defense: although it seems like they’re high, due to all the inappropriate laughing, they’re actually, according to Fred, “just stupid.”
Dinosaurs, “A New Leaf”
“Wait a minute, are you telling me that this plant made you happy?” As a child, I had no idea what that meant, but after re-watching this episode many years later, I understood that it wasn’t just any magical plant that caused Robbie and Earl to sing “It’s a Most Unusual Day,” it was marijuana. After an evening spent by the Sinclair family spent eating the happy plant, they’re in withdrawal the next morning, so they look for more. But there isn’t any, “just seeds and stems.” The message is a little tangled, but the episode does have a fantastic ending, one that skews Blossom-esque “Special Message” episodes: Robbie breaks the fourth wall and starts talking to us, the audience, saying, “Drugs are a major problem in our society. Drugs ruin lives, divide families, and lead to heavy-handed sitcom episodes like this one.”
The Simpsons, "Weekend at Burnsie’s”
It wouldn't be a comedy list without a Simpsons mention, but unlike most other lists, this selection actually comes from a post-Golden Era episode, all the way in season 13. In a typically preposterous set-up involving crows and genetically modified food, Homer begins smoking medicinal marijuana to help heal his eyes. What follows for the next 15 minutes are some of TV’s most quoted stoned character quotes: “I just got promoted and it's all thanks to yes-I-cannabis,” “That saxophone would make a great pipe,” and “Could Jesus microwave a burrito so hot that he himself could not eat it?” Plus, Phish performing “Run Like an Antelope.”
Freaks and Geeks, “Chokin’ and Tokin’”
“Chokin’ and Tokin’” was the last Freaks and Geeks episode to air on NBC before the network cancelled the show, burning off the remaining episodes over the summer and on Fox Family. If viewers watched only this episode (which, obviously, they didn’t), they would have seen a show at its finest: from Bill’s peanut allergies to Nick abandoning then re-discovering weed. He even gets Lindsay to try some and, to prove he’s not addicted, take his entire stash with her. After a few disastrous attempts to roll a joint, scored to Blood, Sweat, & Tears’ “Hi-De-Ho,” Lindsay finally gets one right, smokes up, and immediately forgets she’s supposed to babysit that evening. Once reminded, she runs over there, with some major assistance from Millie, and what follows is a discussion between the two on God and friendship, and for the viewer, how to make an anti-drug episode that doesn’t feel preachy.
Diff’rent Strokes, “First Day Blues”
In “First Day Blues,” a pubescent-sounding Willis (Todd Bridges), who recently started high school and is a desperate for friends, is asked to buy pot for his fellow students because he’s rich. When his dad (Conrad Bain) finds out, he flushes Willis’ stash and warns him, “If I ever even hear you going near that junk again, I will take you to the police station myself.” Oddly, and somewhat progressively, the episode’s lesson isn’t so much that weed’s bad as it is about fake friends. In the immortal words of Willis, “Who needs you if I have to buy your crummy friendship?” In a later episode of the show, season five’s “The Reporter,” Nancy Reagan would appear to discuss the dangers of drug use. That one’s not nearly as good, for quite obvious reasons.
Family Guy, “420”
Like Family Guy’s FCC-heavy episode, “PTV,” the weed-centric “420” has both clever and overly obvious moments. One of the more “oh, come on” incidents happen when Brian, who’s in possession of a quarter ounce of marijuana, is arrested instead of Peter, who’s driving a car while drunk and wearing a bloodstained shirt. What saves the episode, and what saves many episodes of Family Guy for that matter, is the Brian and Stewie-sung musical number “Bag of Weed,” about how everything in life is better when you’re smoking pot. The drug becomes legalized in Quahog, much to Mr. Pewterschmidt’s chagrin; he’s losing millions in the timber industry because now everything’s made of hemp, and tells Brian that if he can re-criminalize marijuana, he’ll publish two million copies of Brian’s novel, Faster Than the Speed of Love. After originally saying no, Brian agrees, sings a song about how bad pot is, and it becomes illegal once again. Lesson learned: people will listen to anything as long as it’s sung.
That ‘70s Show, Every episode
Even going beyond what one user wrote about the show in a Marijuana.com thread (“They…have a great show plus donna is pretty hot!!!”), That ‘70s Show featured what teenagers then, now, and in the future will be doing: hanging out with their friends, listening to music and smoking weed in a basement. Like Seinfeld and the non-use of the word “masturbation” in “The Contest,” the word is “marijuana” is said just once on That ‘70s Show, and it rarely becomes a major plot point (“Garage Sale” and “Moon Over Point Place/Reefer Madness” are exceptions). Sometimes smoking weed is just smoking weed, no judgment needed.
The Brady Bunch, “Law and Disorder”
During this year’s Academy Awards, many people wondered whether James Franco was high as he was hosting the show. He says he wasn’t, which is probably true, but we know at least one person who was lit up while on-screen: Greg Brady. In his 1992 memoir, Growing Up Brady, Barry Williams, who played Greg, wrote about how during a scene in the ironically-named season four episode, “Law and Disorder,” he was extremely high and even ad-libbed “far out!” into it. It’s pretty obvious, too: watch the clip above and you’ll see a loose-limbed Williams walking around the set and staring at Cindy like he’s never been there or seen her before — he even trips over a bicycle pump. It’s both a fascinating look at an actor bringing his off-screen persona to his on-screen one, and the funniest Brady Bunch scene ever.
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