Sitcoms are supposed to be the television equivalent of a delicious milkshake: sweet, appealing, goes down easy. Sure, there are sitcoms with edge that take risks with their jokes and don’t necessarily tie everything up with a neat little bow in 22 minutes. But according to the standard sitcom formula, what you’re in for is some family-friendly humor wrapped around a life lesson. What’s funny to me, then, is the fact that so many of the shows we all grew up on actually have incredibly creepy premises. We’re all just so used to them we don’t even think about it. Here are my top five:
The premise goes something like this: incredibly wealthy older white man takes in two African-American boys from Harlem and raises them as his sons. Now, this isn’t entirely creepy on its own – although it’s not NOT creepy – because, not to be sexist or anything, but isn’t there something just a little bit weird about this older dude adopting two boys on his own? Like… why? But I think what tips this over into total creep territory is the unbelievable onslaught of bad things that happen to these boys after they are adopted. To name a few: racism, drug abuse, multiple interactions with deranged strangers including kidnapping by a pedophile and an entirely separate kidnapping by a would-be rapist, and at least one con-artist-trying-to-bilk-them-out-of-their-inheritance type of situation. And do I even need to remind you of the Diff’rent Strokes curse afflicting the actors themselves? Drug addiction, multiple arrests, assault charges, and, of course, death. So, yeah. Pretty much the creepiest show of all time.
So older white men adopting less-fortunate little children on their own is actually a thing? Does this happen in real life? Daddy Warbucks doesn’t count, people (and P.S. he was creepy too). In case you’re a mole person, Punky Brewster tells the story of a little girl whose mother ABANDONS HER AT A SHOPPING CENTER (did anyone else have serious fears of this happening to the point where they never wanted to be left alone in the car? Although that makes no sense because the more I think about it, the more likely it is that she just left her alone inside the mall as opposed to ditching a car along with the daughter and the dog. But I digress). After taking shelter in an abandoned apartment (creepy), Punky is discovered by the manager of the building, a grouchy old man who ends up adopting her. Again, WHY? There’s something odd about an older man who has already lived a life deciding he is going to take on a very-possibly-troubled little girl who wears two different colored socks. Of course, as a kid, I accepted Henry and Punky’s relationship at face value. Who wouldn’t want that spunky little sassafrass dancing around his apartment and throwing his sleeping pills down the drain? But as an adult, I realize how bizarre and very possibly unnatural Henry’s interest in Punky seemed.
Charles in Charge
A 19-year old college student moves into the home of a well-to-do family and babysits their teenage kids. This is incredibly weird to me, mostly because of the casting. Sure, I know guys who are male nannies, and they’re adorable and sweet and unassuming and kids love them. But we’re talking about Scott Baio here – a veritable teen idol – and the kids he was “in charge” of were full-fledged hotties as well! Specifically, Jamie was played by Nicole Eggert, who went on to star in friggin’ Baywatch! And her sister, played by Josie Davis, was no slouch either. Regardless, they were teenage blonde girls with a guy just a few years older than them living in the house. Their dad was never around, Scott Baio’s idiot friend Buddy had a permanent leer on his face, and don’t even try to tell me nothing sketchy ever went down. You could cut the sexual tension between Jamie and Charles with a knife. Even the theme song has dark, seedy undertones. I want Charles in Charge of me…