Whatchu dyin' 'bout, Willis?
December 29, 2009 12:39 PM   Subscribe

What are the most depressing sitcom episodes ever? I'm looking for specific eps please, not a snarky blanket statement like "Every episode of (insert unfunny sitcom name here)." Also, I'm not talking about serious episodes (a/k/a Very Special Episodes), as those are usually trying to teach a lesson and rely more on gravity than pathos. I'm looking for tearjerker episodes of shows that are usually humorous. Thanks!

I'll start things off right:

Futurama: season 4, episode 7 - "Jurassic Bark" (the one about Fry's dog Seymour)
posted by ktoad to Media & Arts (112 answers total) 87 users marked this as a favorite
 
The Fresh Prince episode (Season 4, Episode 24 "Papa's Got a Brand New Excuse") that ends with Will's father leaving/letting him down (again), and Will realizes that his father will never be there for him.
posted by niles at 12:43 PM on December 29, 2009 [8 favorites]


Buffy the Vampire Slayer, season 5, "The Body."
posted by Amethyst, Princess of Gemworld at 12:43 PM on December 29, 2009 [20 favorites]


I hit "more inside" with the intent of telling you about "Jurassic Bark." Dang. I can't even watch the end of that one anymore. "The Luck of the Fryish" is another one.
posted by dayintoday at 12:45 PM on December 29, 2009 [5 favorites]


I thought that the last episode of Series 2 of the British version of The Office was actually quite sad.
posted by ecab at 12:50 PM on December 29, 2009 [10 favorites]


Full House. (seriously). Season 2, episode 18, "Goodbye Mr. Bear" (aired 3/24/89 - my ninth birthday, coincidentally). Now, stay with me here, the episode is about the middle daughter, Stephanie, who loses her stuffed bear that her (now deceased) mother gave to her. For a nine year old, the entire thing was harrowing.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 12:52 PM on December 29, 2009


The last episode of Blackadder Goes Forth.
posted by chairmanroflmao at 12:55 PM on December 29, 2009 [20 favorites]


The last episode of Blackadder the Fourth...were they go "over the top" into certain suicide for their country.

Last episode of MASH of course

The Dr Who first season (reboot) "Father's Day" where Rose is with her father as he dies.

Last Episode of Roseanne (yeah it was crappy but still sorta sad) where we learn Dan has been dead the whole time and Roseanne is all alone.

And OH yeah third or fouth Jurassic Bark. What the hell, man???
posted by esereth at 12:55 PM on December 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


The final episode of Blackadder Goes Forth is very famous in the UK for the poignant ending that, at the time, no one expected from such an irreverent series.
Here's the final ten minutes.
posted by memebake at 12:55 PM on December 29, 2009 [3 favorites]


as I was typing that, two other people beat me to it : )
posted by memebake at 12:56 PM on December 29, 2009


The episode of "Taxi" where Reverend Jim builds Elaine a castle out of old van parts makes me tear up just thinking about it.
posted by Skot at 12:58 PM on December 29, 2009 [6 favorites]


The Simpsons - Season 7 - Episode 8 - "Mother Simpson"

Homer by himself on his car hood looking at the stars after his mother goes back to live underground.
posted by laptolain at 12:59 PM on December 29, 2009 [12 favorites]


I, too, came here to suggest Jurassic Bark (the cartoon geek in me is happy that that episode makes other people's Saddest Episode Ever list as well!). Since you're already familiar with that, though, I'll suggest the 'A My Name is Alex' episodes (it's a two-parter) from Family Ties. To be honest it's been a verrrry long time since I've seen it so I can't promise that it'll rip your guts out, but I still have strong memories of it making me cry every time I saw it when I was younger.
posted by DingoMutt at 1:00 PM on December 29, 2009 [2 favorites]




(Also) Futurama: season 4, episode 12 "The Sting"
posted by Craig at 1:02 PM on December 29, 2009 [6 favorites]


The Barney Miller "Jack Soo memorial episode" in season five where the cast broke character & recalled their favorite Nick Yemana scenes.
posted by torquemaniac at 1:02 PM on December 29, 2009 [4 favorites]


The Office (US) - "Casino Night"
posted by downing street memo at 1:04 PM on December 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


The M*A*S*H episode "Abyssinia, Henry" where Col. Henry Blake finally gets to leave Korea.

The finale of Extras goes through some pretty dark spots before it finally breaks through some daylight.

The Scrubs episode where Dr. Cox's buddy/brother-in-law Ben dies.

Everyone's right about the Blackadder Goes Forth finale -- damn. Still makes me cry, I've seen it dozens of times.

There's that one episode of Futurama where Fry rearranges all the stars in the sky to read "I LOVE YOU LEELA" and no one sees it, that is a killer.
posted by stennieville at 1:06 PM on December 29, 2009 [3 favorites]


Final episode of MASH is what I first thought about as well. According to wikipedia, it's the "single most watched television broadcast in American history", which seems incredible but there it is. I believe that I watched the episode when it aired. I'm sure I saw it at some point back then. Unlike my brother-in-law, who apparently has the entire Simpsons cannon memorized, my memory for specific episodes of TV shows is not good, but I sure as hell remember that one.
posted by lex mercatoria at 1:08 PM on December 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


There's a Fresh Prince episode wherein Carlton, making apologies for a cop who searched him earlier in the episode, finally realizes that he's been racially profiled.
posted by griphus at 1:10 PM on December 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


I will quasi second Amethyst, Princess of Gemworld's comment about the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode "The Body." It truly is an unbearably sad episode of a show that is usually humorous but I definitely wouldn't call BtVS a sitcom, so, not sure if it 100% fits your criteria.

In the Growing Pains episode "Second Chance," Carol's boyfriend Sandy (Matthew Perry) dies from internal bleeding injuries sustained in a drunk driving accident AFTER THEY MADE YOU THINK HE WAS GOING TO BE OKAY.
posted by Rudy Gerner at 1:11 PM on December 29, 2009 [3 favorites]


scrubs - season 1 - episode 4 - "my old lady"
posted by cheemee at 1:13 PM on December 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


(It turns out that that Blackadder clip I posted actually misses of the last 20 seconds, so here's a better clip of the final moments of Blackadder Goes Forth)
posted by memebake at 1:14 PM on December 29, 2009


The Archie Bunker episode when Edith is raped. Yes, I'm that old.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 1:15 PM on December 29, 2009 [4 favorites]


Final episode of the Mary Tyler Moore show. I didn't know when I was watching it that it was the last one, so at the end when they all hugged and left the office I was totally floored.
posted by hermitosis at 1:16 PM on December 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


Edith Bunker almost getting raped on All in the Family.
posted by horsemuth at 1:16 PM on December 29, 2009 [5 favorites]


Seconding the Scrubs when Ben dies.

The Office when Michael and Jan have Jim and Pam over for the dinner party.
posted by rmless at 1:17 PM on December 29, 2009


All in the Family is full of 'em. They do edge close to "very special episode" territory, but since they predate the schmaltzy drek of the '80s, they are often amazing. The one that really gets me is "Edith's Crisis of Faith"
posted by Sys Rq at 1:18 PM on December 29, 2009


NewsRadio, "Bill Moves On" -- it's the episode after Phil Hartman dies where they basically pay tribute to him. Apparently they all cried -- repeatedly -- while filming it.
posted by brainmouse at 1:18 PM on December 29, 2009 [18 favorites]


The Taxi episode where Alex's dog is dying.

The Silver Spoons episode where Ricky goes hunting with his grandfather.

The Happy Days episode where Ritchie was in a motorcycle accident almost made me cry (even though he was ok at the end).

The Cheers and Happy Days episodes where the bar/restaurant burned down.
posted by Melismata at 1:20 PM on December 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


In the series "Soap", there was an episode where Billy Crystal's character was supposed to get married, and he got left standing at the altar.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 1:22 PM on December 29, 2009


Opie the Birdman from the Andy Griffith Show.
posted by Zambrano at 1:24 PM on December 29, 2009


The M*A*S*H dreams episode still haunts me.
posted by jessamyn at 1:24 PM on December 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


There was the 8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter episode right after Jack Ritter died. The purposely removed the laugh track. It was the saddest / strangest show I've seen.
posted by bleucube at 1:31 PM on December 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


Great answers everyone. Keep them coming!

Ooh, I just thought of another one: The episode of Golden Girls when Dorothy leaves. Here's the tearful last scene.
posted by ktoad at 1:33 PM on December 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


Episodes of The Office that made me unbearably sad:

The Deposition (Michael's utter humiliation at Headquarters by a company that has his undying trust and loyalty)

Murder (Jim: "If the other parent wants to play a game, it's not because they are crazy....they are doing it for the kids. And I get that now.")
posted by availablelight at 1:34 PM on December 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


Six Feet Under, Season 5, episode 10 "All Alone"
posted by cocoagirl at 1:40 PM on December 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


The Extras Christmas Special.

Oh, man.
posted by Sys Rq at 1:42 PM on December 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


Ep. 15 of Asatte no Beast Akakage, where Konō Kyokdai witnesses the rebirth of Kingdom 9-Million, but loses the chance to find out her true birthparents forever (until Ep. 20). As good as (if not better than) most great "Western" literature.
posted by Damn That Television at 1:44 PM on December 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


The Roseanne episode where Aunt Jackie is the victim of domestic violence.

Any Punky Brewster episode with Fenster Hall.
posted by mynameisluka at 1:46 PM on December 29, 2009


Good Times, "The Big Move," Parts 1 and 2. John Amos was being written out of the show, so his character was killed, which yanked the rug out from under the characters, as they were planning on finally getting out of the projects.

At the funeral and its aftermath, no one can understand why Florida, the mother, seems so upbeat. She tells her family that she's celebrating her husband's life, not mourning his death and they're OK with that. In the end, though, she's really been holding back all her emotions, which all pour out at once.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 1:48 PM on December 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


Episode #1839 of Sesame Street where Mr. Hooper dies ("Farewell Mr. Hooper") was really sad. Although it might qualify as a Very Special Episode, it relied more on emotion than anything else, and it was handled very well.

I teared up just typing this.
posted by christinetheslp at 1:56 PM on December 29, 2009 [3 favorites]


While not strictly a comedy, the last scene of the final episode of "St. Elsewhere", where it is strongly implied that the whole series existed solely in the imagination of Donald Westphall's autistic son Tommy, was incredibly poignant. Like the last episode of M*A*S*H, it made a deep impression on me, and I still remember it clearly 20+ years later.
posted by mosk at 2:00 PM on December 29, 2009


"The Wonder Years" episode where Kevin finally doesn't end up with Winnie.

I think this was the one alluded to above, but there's a "Family Ties" where Alex's wild friend (he liked "Jim Morrison and the Doors") has died and Alex is talking to what we presume is a psychologist in a black room.
posted by drjimmy11 at 2:05 PM on December 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


The series finale of Mad About You, with Jenean Garofalo as the adult daughter. Absolutely devastating.

Also, was it Archie Bunker's Place that debuted just after Edith died, and Archie was suddenly quiet and sullen?
posted by jbickers at 2:06 PM on December 29, 2009


A clip from The Fresh Prince episode on Youtube.
posted by d. z. wang at 2:16 PM on December 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


I forgot about that Taxi episode where Alex's dog dies. That is the saddest thing ever.

There's another Mad About You episode, too, the one where the newsstand where Paul & Jamie met burns down, and there's a whole "It's a Wonderful Life" theme wherein they imagine their lives if they'd never met -- that was good stuff. I forgot how good that show was in its heyday.
posted by stennieville at 2:27 PM on December 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


I came here to mention the MASH "dreams" episode also. There was another episode filmed in the form of a newsreel that was pretty intense.
posted by adamrice at 2:30 PM on December 29, 2009


Chico and the Man, final episode with Freddie Prinze:
"In the last episode to star Prinze ("Ed Talks to God", taped several hours before the comedian committed suicide), there are many scenes in which Prinze appears to be "out of it". Specifically, when Ed's old army buddy is pretending to be God, speaking over a PA system in an effort to convince Ed to attend his own birthday party, Prinze sits beside the other actor on the couch, apparently not paying attention to what is going on around him. Then, in the final scene, when Ed reveals that he knew all along that his buddy and Chico were in on the "God" ruse together, Prinze picked up the knife beside the birthday cake and holds it to his own throat, inviting Ed to use it in revenge."

"Months later, NBC aired the "Ed Talks to God" episode, which proved to be an traumatic moment for fans, as Chico offers a knife to Ed so that Ed could exact his revenge against Chico."
posted by iviken at 2:38 PM on December 29, 2009


The final episode of Malcolm in the Middle. His mother essentially sabotages his chance to have his college paid for under the opinion that he needs to understand what it means to be one of the little people who have to sweat blood and tears to accomplish things others take for advantage. The result being that one day he'll be in a position of power where he'll remember the little people.
posted by Atreides at 2:46 PM on December 29, 2009


It's not sad so much as poignant, but The Simpsons, "And Maggie Makes Three". At the end of the episode, we see that he had selectively covered up a sign at work that says "DON'T FORGET- YOU'RE HERE FOREVER" with pictures of Maggie so that it reads "DO IT FOR HER".
posted by Clambone at 2:49 PM on December 29, 2009 [14 favorites]


Not really sad, but wtf moments:

Aqua Teen Hunger Force: "Party All the Time" where Frylock gets cancer.

It's always sunny in Philadelphie: "Dennis Reynolds: An Erotic Life." The whole huffing glue and fall asleep from the misery was very bizarre and miserable.
posted by monocultured at 2:53 PM on December 29, 2009


I can remember bawling my eyes out at that Fresh Prince episode.
posted by kidsleepy at 2:54 PM on December 29, 2009


The second episode of Sports Night ends with Dan being forced by the network to apologize on-air after mentioning in a print interview that he supported the legalization of marijuana — which he does, kind of, in a very touching way.
posted by nicwolff at 3:14 PM on December 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


I remember a depressing episode of The Jeffersons in which, purely by chance, George Jefferson administers life-saving CPR to the leader of a white supremacist organization (for some reason they're together in the same building, or in an elevator, or something). The guy is recovering in the hospital (I think) when George Jefferson is introduced to him by a friend as the man who saved his life. The white supremacist guy looks at his friend and says "you should have let me die."
posted by Ratio at 3:16 PM on December 29, 2009 [1 favorite]



It's not sad so much as poignant, but The Simpsons, "And Maggie Makes Three". At the end of the episode, we see that he had selectively covered up a sign at work that says "DON'T FORGET- YOU'RE HERE FOREVER" with pictures of Maggie so that it reads "DO IT FOR HER".
posted by Clambone at 2:49 PM on December 29 [1 favorite -] Favorite added! [!]


Of all the amazing last second emotional crescendos of The Simpsons, this indeed was the best.
posted by Lacking Subtlety at 3:20 PM on December 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


A lot of Scrubs episodes make me tear up, but maybe I'm just a sap. In addition to the ones mentioned, My Philosophy (season 2, episode 37) always gets me.

I also remember crying at the last episode of Fresh Prince, when they sell the house. The word "marshmallowy" makes me choke up to this day.
posted by natabat at 3:27 PM on December 29, 2009


The Different Strokes episode where Gordon Hunt plays a child molester is pretty depressing.
posted by peewinkle at 3:32 PM on December 29, 2009


I think the M*A*S*H episode where Col. Henry Blake leaves was more affecting than the final episode.
posted by oneirodynia at 3:38 PM on December 29, 2009 [6 favorites]


There are a bunch of really sad King of the Hill episodes. Off the top of my head:

"Death Picks Cotton": Hank's awful father finally dies, but not before Peggy tells him what she really thinks of him
"Pretty Pretty Dresses": During the Christmas season, Bill becomes suicidal and his friends have to watch him
"Peggy Hill: The Decline and Fall": Peggy struggles to regain her strength following her skydiving accident

I could have sworn there was one where Hank thinks Ladybird is dying, but I can't find any evidence of it. Maybe I'm thinking of the one where he enters a dog-dancing competition with her, which also has its moments...
posted by The Card Cheat at 3:43 PM on December 29, 2009 [3 favorites]


Scrubs (season 3) "My Screw Up"

Absolute killer episode. I won't spoil it if you've never seen it before, but it makes me cry every time.
posted by litleozy at 4:00 PM on December 29, 2009


"My Lunch" is another good episode.
posted by zombieflanders at 4:08 PM on December 29, 2009


Oh and House (season 4) "Wilson's Heart"

Amber dies and Wilson has to let her. It sounds melodramatic but it's extremely well done and the interactions between House and Amber really made me tear up.
posted by litleozy at 4:11 PM on December 29, 2009 [4 favorites]


"They Body" from Season 5 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer is seriously the most raw, devastating thing I have ever seen on TV.
posted by tryniti at 4:18 PM on December 29, 2009 [5 favorites]


There are a bunch of really sad King of the Hill episodes.

Indeed. The one where Luanne's boyfriend dies in a propane explosion, the one where her dad gets back from the "oil rig"...
posted by Sys Rq at 4:35 PM on December 29, 2009 [3 favorites]


Not that it's needed, but must nth And Maggie Makes Three. That moment is memorable!
posted by dreamphone at 4:35 PM on December 29, 2009


Thirding "The Body" from Buffy.
posted by princelyfox at 4:36 PM on December 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


You know, I'm kind of surprised Lisa's Substitute hasn't been mentioned yet.
posted by Sys Rq at 4:39 PM on December 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


Having done some more poking around, I believe the King Of The Hill episode I was thinking of is "Doggone Crazy".
posted by The Card Cheat at 4:42 PM on December 29, 2009


Speaking of MASH ... what about that episode that had a ticking clock in the lower-right corner of the screen?

And WKRP in Cincinnati - the episode about the tragedy at the Who concert ...
posted by jbickers at 5:19 PM on December 29, 2009 [3 favorites]


Scrubs, "My Lunch" and "My Fallen Idol", 3 patients die and Cox blames himself.

The season 8 finale made me weepy, especially with the use of Peter Gabriel's version of "Book of Love".
posted by lemonwheel at 5:28 PM on December 29, 2009


There's an episode of "Cheers" where Coach's daughter (played by Allyce Beasley) is engaged to a total jerk because she thinks she can't do any better. The scene where Coach tells her that she's beautiful, just like her mother, is so deeply touching that I still choke up just thinking about it.
posted by jrossi4r at 5:31 PM on December 29, 2009 [8 favorites]


Strike that Scrubs season 8 finale suggestion, doesn't fit what you're looking for.
posted by lemonwheel at 5:33 PM on December 29, 2009


"The Body" is probably the finest television I have ever seen.
posted by mazienh at 6:09 PM on December 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


NewsRadio, "Bill Moves On" -- it's the episode after Phil Hartman dies where they basically pay tribute to him. Apparently they all cried -- repeatedly -- while filming it.

This was the episode that I was going to recommend. It sounds like it would fall under the category of a "very special episode", but (from what I remember -- I could only bear to watch it once), it somehow still managed to fit the normal tone of the show. It was very well handled.
posted by amarynth at 6:10 PM on December 29, 2009


Roseanne's "Fights and Stuff" is really depressing. Tear-jerking for some who lived through that sort of parental situation, but not in a poignant way.
posted by jgirl at 7:35 PM on December 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


This makes me tear up everytime I watch it, Sports Night's episode "The Quality of Mercy at 29,000 feet" as well as the apology.

also the scrubs episode called "My Life in Four Cameras" but once again it needs to have the original song at the end to make it work, they've taken it off now which pisses me off so much, just like what they did with the quantum leap dvds.
posted by Del Far at 8:14 PM on December 29, 2009


The "Old Friends" episode of The Golden Girls makes me cry. Sophia befriends Alvin on the boarwalk and enjoys sitting with him and people-watching every day, and then slowly realizes he's suffering from Alzheimer's Disease.
posted by Oriole Adams at 8:34 PM on December 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


The M*A*S*H with the stopwatch in the corner. It's been a few years, but that's one of the three that I always remember. (Henry going home and the dream one were the other two) It's shot as if it's real time and they're waiting for a patient to die so they can use a transplant from him to save another soldier. Brutal.
posted by Ookseer at 8:37 PM on December 29, 2009


Roseanne's "Fights and Stuff" is really depressing. Tear-jerking for some who lived through that sort of parental situation, but not in a poignant way.

I just came in to recommend this. There are a lot of times on Roseanne when Roseanne and Dan fight, but end up quickly making up at the end. The end of this episode ends with their house in shambles and a slow pan-over of the wreckage. Really, really gripping and upsetting.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:59 PM on December 29, 2009


Youtube link to the conclusion of Fights and Stuff, if you want to see what I mean.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:01 PM on December 29, 2009


The "It's a Wonderful Life" episode of That '70s Show. In the aftermath of his break up with Donna, Eric wishes they'd never even kissed. Wayne Knight appears as his guardian angel and shows him what life would have been like without Donna. Angel Wayne then offers to erase the pain of their break up, but at the cost of Eric losing all his happy memories of Donna. That flashback sequence at the very end gets me every time.
posted by Majorita at 9:11 PM on December 29, 2009


Oh man, that Scrubs episode is just heartbreaking. The first time I saw it, it was a punch in the gut.

The last episode of The Gilmore Girls Season 6 is incredibly depressing. The look of self-loathign on Lorelei's face in the last scene just makes me want to cry.
posted by lunasol at 9:39 PM on December 29, 2009


The Carol Burnett Show had a recurring sit-com-like skit called Mamma's Family. It could swerve from broad slapstick to chilling psychodrama.
posted by ovvl at 10:16 PM on December 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


I remember crying at Michael J. Fox's last episode of Spin City (I think it was "Goodbye" pt. 2). If I remember correctly, many of the cast were visibly and genuinely emotional during the filming of that episode.
posted by mingodingo at 10:32 PM on December 29, 2009


another Scrubs episode: My Long Goodbye (S6E15, where Laverne dies). Also, nthing the other Scrubs episodes mentioned above.
posted by asras at 10:43 PM on December 29, 2009


There's also episodes "The Message" and "Heart of Gold" from Firefly.
posted by jayne at 11:09 PM on December 29, 2009 [2 favorites]




Other particularly depressing US Office episodes: "Booze Cruise" and "Money." The former might be the funniest/saddest episode of any series I've ever seen.
posted by TheSecretDecoderRing at 12:26 AM on December 30, 2009


One Foot in the Grave, final episode. I kept thinking it's a joke, except it wasn't.
posted by gakiko at 1:03 AM on December 30, 2009 [4 favorites]


When Gloria had a miscarriage on the '70s television show All in the Family, viewers watched to see how the Bunkers would react. Edith hugged her daughter and tearfully expressed love and sorrow.

Archie found himself where men fear to tread. In his world, the words "pregnancy" and "miscarriage" were best left to women. Climbing the stairs to his daughter Gloria's room, the man who had just learned he wasn't going to be a grandpa struggled to find words.

He sat silent at the edge of Gloria's bed for a long time.

At last, she sheepishly asked her father, "Do you want to say you love me?"

Archie's eyes filled with tears.

"I love you, too," she said as she hugged him.

The camera panned to a shot of the living room where the panda bear Archie had brought home that day for his new grandchild sat in his chair. Cut. End of scene. Not a dry eye in the house.
posted by naplesyellow at 1:26 AM on December 30, 2009 [5 favorites]


iamkimiam: "8724: Day 2, 6-7pm: Kim Bauer gets attacked by a mountain lion."

Wow. I really misread the question. Well, in a lame attempt to justify my earlier answer, it was truly depressing to see 24 jump the shark only 2 days in.

Now that I've fully read the question, let me add the Simpsons episode where Maude dies. I remember thinking, "Did that just really happen? Yep, it really did. Fuck. Poor Ned."
posted by iamkimiam at 2:02 AM on December 30, 2009


Oh god, forgot about this one - the M*A*S*H episode where only Klinger can see the dead soldier.
posted by jbickers at 4:43 AM on December 30, 2009


One Foot in The Grave's final episode. I remember there were no jokes at all, just a lot of sadness and silence.

Also, the first episode of NewsRadio after Phil Hartman's death. The characters remembers Bill McNeal, but I suspect there's almost no acting in this scene.
posted by Harry at 7:33 AM on December 30, 2009


Yep, All In The Family holds the title here. The episode that haunts me more than any other is the one that ends with Edith comforting Archie as he realizes that he's become addicted to amphetamines.
posted by Joe Beese at 8:36 AM on December 30, 2009


E.R.

Dr Greene had too many of these moments to count: his bathroom beating, his eventual passing, etc, but I'd be remiss if I didn't mention Season 6, episode 13: "Be Still My Heart". As the ER staff enjoy a Valentine's Day party at Admit, Carter and Lucy Knight are brutally stabbed by a schizophrenic patient within earshot of the party. The noise of the attack is completely drowned out and goes unnoticed by anyone. The moment when Carter realizes Lucy is also bleeding out not ten feet away from him as the loud music continues to play is one of the most shocking, breathtaking moments I've ever seen on TV.
posted by tapesonthefloor at 8:50 AM on December 30, 2009 [2 favorites]


I know a lot of people have already suggested The Body - here's the clip from that episode that gets me every time
posted by chndrcks at 8:57 AM on December 30, 2009


Consider checking out the entire third season of Adult Swim's Moral Orel (or better yet, starting with the two-part finale of Season 2 and going from there). There's a surprising amount of pain in there, (usually) handled with more human decency than I would have expected in an Adult Swim show - if it helps explain the tone at all, a lot of episodes pull in songs from The Mountain Goats' "Tallahassee" album and do so in a way that is incredibly apt.
posted by DingoMutt at 10:01 AM on December 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


The Simpsons, "Rosebud"
posted by Sys Rq at 10:15 AM on December 30, 2009


jrossi4r: "There's an episode of "Cheers" where Coach's daughter (played by Allyce Beasley) is engaged to a total jerk because she thinks she can't do any better. The scene where Coach tells her that she's beautiful, just like her mother, is so deeply touching that I still choke up just thinking about it."

Yes, and his daughter starts to say "but Mom wasn't..." and you can tell she's about to say pretty, but she doesn't want to break her dad's heart who believed she was beautiful, and instead said "but Mom wasn't comfortable with her beauty."

Also, the last episode of Cheers, when Sam adjusts the painting in a nod to Coach, it makes me sniffle.
posted by IndigoRain at 3:36 PM on December 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


TV Tropes has a lovely list of these. Caution: people nearby may wonder why you're sniffling more and more as you keep pressing "Page Down".
posted by shadytrees at 4:29 PM on December 30, 2009




I keep coming back to this thread for some reason.

"WKRP in Cincinnatti" had a couple of really good ones. I remember vividly when a big corporate sponsor was against WKRP playing certain songs, including John Lennon's "Imagine," and Mr. Carlson telling them--so gently--to go to hell. He said something along the lines of "The song doesn't say there is no religion. It says to imagine."

Another great one was when Venus Flytrap gives himself two minutes to explain atomic structure to a budding gangbanger . . . using gang imagery and iconography.

Really dating myself here.
posted by Skot at 10:44 PM on December 30, 2009 [2 favorites]


The West Wing is full of these tear-jerker moments for me, but especially Two Cathedrals, the second season finale. In particular, the scene where President Bartlet is alone in a church, yelling at God in Latin because of his anger and grief, always resonates with me and I'm not even religious.
posted by Shesthefastest at 11:08 PM on December 30, 2009


I can't remember the title, but the Wonder Years episode where Kevin finds out that Winnie's brother was killed in Vietnam. I remember scarborough Fair being played and being very, very sad.
posted by justgary at 1:32 PM on December 31, 2009


For me it's the Punky Brewster episode about the Challenger explosion called "Accidents Happen."

Not only is it sad because of the lose of the astronauts, it's heartbreaking to watch Punky's dreams be crushed.
posted by sarahnade at 1:16 PM on January 5, 2010


Also speaking of MASH, the episode where Henry dies on his way back home.
posted by Pax at 11:06 AM on January 6, 2010


The episode of Fresh Prince of Bel Air where Will has been shot in a mugging attempt ("Bullets over Bel Air") and Carlton goes out and buys a gun to protect himself.

Especially this scene: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ScJ3ur3A9v0

and 3:20 on of this clip: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A4K_Ci37vOE&feature=related

Uncle Phil: Look Carlton, I'm frustrated too. But as a judge, I have to have faith in it, no matter how much I might want to go out and knock some heads. Eventually the system will come through.
Carlton: I'm all grown up dad, don't me tell me any more fairytales
posted by HeKilledKennedy at 9:20 AM on January 7, 2010


The episode of the Brady Bunch where they have to get rid of Tiger
posted by jasondigitized at 5:51 AM on January 14, 2010


Satisfaction is an Australian drama about a high-class brothel and the people that work in it. It's not normally tear-jerky, but the sudden murder of Tippi, a lovable hippie who arguably had the most interesting storylines and dialogue, made me howl. It wasn't the first death in the series, but it was totally unexpected (they did it because the actress wanted to leave, but there were so many other ways they could have done it!), left a lot of plotlines hanging, and basically meant the death of one of the show's biggest charms. Of all the people to die, they went and killed the most likeable character.
posted by divabat at 6:07 AM on January 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


You know, I'm kind of surprised Lisa's Substitute hasn't been mentioned yet.

I was going to suggest this as well. I was at a friend's house and she had never seen the Simpsons, had no interest, etc. I convinced her to give it a try and since it was on like eight times a day in syndication at that point, we watched that evening and Lisa's Substitute was the episode.

My friend (who perhaps could identify with Lisa all too well in many ways), turned to me as asked why I would make her watch that. She never watched the Simpsons again.

That E.R. episode mentioned above really fits too. Although E.R. was never a sitcom the entire Carter/Lucy Knight relationship was played for huge laughs from day one. They had a fantastic, funny dynamic.

That episode freaked me out like no TV/movie before or since. I was uneasy when I walked the dog at night or alone in the apartment for weeks. Whenever I heard that song I had flashbacks.
posted by mikepop at 8:39 AM on January 14, 2010


The final episode - particularly the last scene - of The Wonder Years kills me every time. The family is reunited for the 4th of July and Older Kevin narrates what will happen to the family in the intervening years (between that 4th and the twenty years hence he's narrating from) - Winnie had married someone else, Paul had left town, his sister had given birth, his mother got a great job and his father passed away.

I grew up watching that show - I was basically the same age as Kevin every season, so although he lived in the 60s and I lived in the 80s, we had similar experiences at the same time. Then the ending basically says growing up happens to everyone, things aren't going to work out like you plan, but life goes on. It's just so honest and moving and eye-opening for someone at that age.
posted by crossoverman at 3:39 PM on January 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


So glad this thread is still open.

The Sister Sister episode Father's Day:

"In the sixth season episode Father's Day, the twins meet their biological father and learn he was white. He never married their mother because interracial marriage was very controversial at the time, and in his job as a photographer he traveled a lot. When the girls' mother died, he was not allowed to see them because he couldn't prove he was their father. When he searched for twins, he never found them because they had been separately adopted."

It was pretty shocking and tragic, considering the light hearted nature of the rest of the show. It affected me pretty deeply as a teenager.
posted by saturnine at 9:42 PM on January 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


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