In our quest to bring you the best TV content, sometimes we have to look... backwards. That's why we have Thursday TV Throwback, wherein each week our staff of pop culture enthusiasts will be tasked with bringing back some of the best television clips that have been forgotten by time, space and the general zeitgeist.
This week, we're celebrating one of our favorite topics: Drunkenness! With St. Patrick's Day right around the corner, we're bringing back some of TV's most memorable benders. From the gleeful to the downright tragic, join us in reliving the days of drunken past.
Brian Moylan: "Uncle Ned Has a Problem" As a young boy I didn't even know what an alcoholic was until watching an episode of Family Ties where Uncle Ned and his drinking problem come to visit. Suddenly so much about my Irish family suddenly made sense. Here is the scene where Elyce Keaton confronts her drunk brother about his addiction, but even better is when a jonesing Uncle Ned drinks a bottle of vanilla extract because he needs a fix. Oh, and did I forget to mention that Ned is Tom Freakin' Hanks. That's way cooler in retrospect than back then, when I didn't know what an alcoholic or a Tom Hanks was.
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Kate Ward: "Vitameatavegamin" TV's best drunk moment is one of its firsts. On a 1952 episode of I Love Lucy, the titular character titillated viewers when she took a job as the pitch girl for Vitameatavegamin, a new tonic with a needlessly long name and dangerous main ingredient: alcohol. After several takes, and several swigs of Vitameatavegamin, Lucy became a bit too happy and peppy for her own good. The TV moment — which still ranks amongst the funniest ever to hit the small screen, is so tasty — it's just like candy.
Matt Patches: "Mork Goes Baserb" Mork and Mindy's high concept — the sitcom antics of a twentysomething and her extraterrestrial roommate — served one purpose: to function as a platform for Robin Williams' physical comedy. No offense, Pam Dawber: the show needed you too. But in the end, it was all about Williams' quirky tendencies and spastic reactions. The show hit an energy high when Mork got around to getting drunk for the first time. Or, "baserb," as they say on Ork. After taking one too many sips of Ginger Ale, Mork launches into an even bigger frenzy than usual, a cacophony of sounds, gestures, and vague pop culture references.
Shaunna Murphy: "Randy's DUI" Randy Marsh is South Park's number one drunk, so it's surprising that it took him 9 whole seasons to garner his first DUI. Still, the wait was well worth it. "What seems to be the officer, problem?" he says as one of South Park's finest pulls him over for a sobriety test. Maybe this was supposed to teach us about the dangers of drinking and driving, but all it did for me was reinforce the fact that touching your nose is really hard.
Michael Arbeiter: "All in the Family – Archie and Mike stuck in the freezer" One particularly unforgettable episode of All in the Family sees Archie and Mike stuck in a meat locker with nothing but each other’s company and a bottle of hooch. What could have just been a joke-filled, low budget 30 minutes actually amounted to one of the most powerful scenes in the show’s history: Archie’s drunken confessions to Mike about the tyrannies that his own miserable, bigoted, abusive father imparted upon him when he was a boy. The revelation gave Mike and audiences alike a new empathy for Archie, and a refreshed understanding of just how much damage hate can do.
Abbey Stone: "Buffy Want Beer" Who doesn't love teen drinking? Especially when the teen is wise-beyond-her-years vampire slayer Buffy Summers, and the episode (in which drinking turns Buffy into a beer-crazed Neanderthal) is really a club-over-the-head metaphor for the dangers of alcohol. But really, when Buffy want beer, is there anything you can do about it? Buffy get what Buffy want.
Jean Bentley: "Donna Martin's Big Mistake" Everyone has that one friend who can't handle her booze. Unfortunately for Donna Martin, she was that friend when the Beverly Hills, 90210 gang sipped some champagne in their limo on the way to prom (as you do). Double unfortunately (is that a thing?), once her pals realized she was wasted and tried to sneak her out, she stumbled to the ground in front of a teacher and got in major trouble. Yes, this is why you occasionally feel inspired to chant "Donna Martin Graduates!" at completely inappropriate times (oh, just me?). To be fair, it kind of wasn't Donna's fault. Her boyfriend David Silver's dad gave her the champagne, not knowing she was a total goody-goody lightweight. That's what you get for trying to be the cool parent, Mel!
Christian Blauvelt: "The Comandante Song" Being a lancer in the Royal Spanish army in 1820s California is difficult. There’s oppressive heat and even more oppressive commandantes. The people hate you because you tax them at gunpoint. And at every turn there’s that rascally Zorro, the people’s friend, undermining you and carving Z’s in the seat of each new pair of trousers you buy. No wonder, then, you turn to the bottle to solve your problems. Just don’t get carried away like Sgt. Garcia (Henry Calvin) did in the 1957 episode “Zorro’s Flight Into Terror.” It’s one thing if you want to drunkenly mock your commandante in song… just make certain he’s not within earshot.
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Kelsea Stahler: "Ross and Rachel Meet Vegas" While I've never accidentally married my best friend/ex boyfriend while stumbling around with a permanent marker mustache on my face, this classic Friends moment is one of my favorite from the series because now that I'm old enough to drink, I know just how accurate it is. (Sorry friends, I know I've tried to make that "Hit me" gag work during actual drinking times. Sometimes I love TV to a fault, it seems.)
Sydney Bucksbaum: "The Hangover, Part IV" When Clark and Lois threw a joint bachelor/bachelorette party in Season 10 of Smallville before their epic wedding, they didn't expect a Hangover-like situation the morning after. But thanks to the gift of an enchanted bottle of champagne, everyone in the Justice League blacked out and had to figure out what happened the night before (especially who got married). After piecing the night together (congratulations on your wedding, Chloe Sullivan/Watchtower and Oliver Queen/Green Arrow!), Lois found the tape that they had taken turns filming the night before and we all got to see just how a drunk Superman would act. (Spoiler alert: he still saved the day!)
[PHOTO CREDIT: NBC]
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To be a fan of Louie, one must be almost be as manic and wonderfully unpredictable as the show itself. Because while one could easily tune in for a more structured and reliable comedy anywhere else on television, we still come back to Louie. To watch Louie is to jump into the unknown, to take a chance on television again. One week it can make your heart ache and your anxiety spike (like it did last week during the brilliant but emotionally exhausting "Daddy's Girlfriend, Pt. 2") and the next week it could make you laugh so hard you're in tears for a whole different reason, much like I was during last night's gut-busting one-two knockout punch "Barney/Never."
The start of "Barney/Never," however, looked to be anything but. Then again, no episode of Louie ever starts or ends in a place you expect it to. (The Simpsons was always great in that way, too.) Opening like a classic black and white film, we find Louie at a cemetery. He's alone at an open plot until he comes face-to-face with another funeral guest, played by none other than Robin Williams, who mercifully tapped into his dramatic side for the part. (I'll take Good Will Hunting Robin Williams and Dead Poets Society Robin Williams over comedy wild card Robin Williams any day.) It is clear these two men, who don't appear to know each other as they say nothing, are the only guests at this funeral. Leave it to Louie to make one of TV's funniest episodes of the year begin so melancholy.
The two meet later again, in color, at a diner. We come to find Louie and Robbie (Williams) were attending the funeral of a man named Barney, who was described, quite simply, as "the biggest piece of s**t I knew." While Louie knew Barney as a dreaded guy from the comedy world, Robbie had the great misfortune of being thrust into the recently deceased Barney's family, as he was his ex-wife's brother-in-law. The two swapped stories about the huckster and what made him "a prick and an a**hole". I could have honestly watched an entire episode of these two remembering this terrible man and that the idea of no one attending his funeral gave them nightmares.
But they didn't stay and chat at the diner; instead they paid their respects by finally going to the dreary strip club in downtown Manhattan that Barney frequented and always wanted them to go to. I didn't think there was anything more depressing than a strip club in the middle of the day, but as it turns out, there is. It's a strip club in the middle of the day in which all the strippers, employees, and patrons are crying at the news of the passing of one of their most beloved customers while Night Ranger's "Sister Christian" plays over the sound system. (Why is this song so damn perfect for bizarre comedy moments?) Louie may have just become the first man in history to make a stripper cry by not making her give a lap dance.
When Louie and Robbie eventually stepped out of the world's most depressing strip club, they couldn't help but burst into laughter at the absurdity of it all. The two men shook hands, promised each other they's attend one another's funerals, and go their separate ways. Perhaps because Louie and Robbie were so similar, there was no "Miami"-like misunderstanding here. For once, Louie had a perfect, untainted moment and connection with someone. A perfect, untainted moment that just happened to involve a funeral and crying strippers.
They say the only certainties in life are death and taxes. I'm pretty sure in Louie's life it's death, taxes, and moments of strange, soul-crushing happenstance. In the second half of last night's episode, Louie got saddled with a terrible, weird classmate of his daughter Lilly (much to the dismay, and understandably so, of Lilly) named Never after Never's terrible, weird mother had an emergency consultation to get her vagina removed. I always love how much Louis C.K. toes and blurs the line with reality and this scene — which included a brief, gut-busting cameo by Artie Lange as a terrified truck driver who gets in an accident after Never pushes a baby stroller into traffic — was no exception.
If hell is other people's children (something Louis C.K. has hilariously touched on in his stand-up routines, particularly in his Beacon Theater special from 2011) then Never is the seventh layer of hell. Louie wanted nothing more than to spend the day with Lilly (and vice versa) and because he's a nice guy always trying to do the right thing, despite the universe always telling him otherwise, instead got Never. Never, who can't have carbon in his diet ("It's from China!") but can eat a bowl of raw hamburger meat; Never, who wears a bowtie and suspenders to school and is never told "no" (which explains a lot about the bowtie and suspenders); Never, who throws Louie's Oriental rug out of his apartment window and eventually s**ts in his tub. I was fully anticipating Never to somehow ruin Louie's phoner with a god awful drive time radio show, but Louie wound up knee-deep in s**t all by himself on that one when he insulted the city he had trouble selling tickets to... while on the air in said city.
I quickly lost track of how many times I erupted into DVR pausing laughter during the "Never" portion of this episode. From Louie's subtle moments of resignation when he realized he was in for a utterly horrible day with this kid to the line, "Nobody likes you because you eat raw meat and you s**t in the tub and you wreck everything", C.K. absolutely killed it. Perhaps it was so damn funny because we all know, or at least when we were kids, knew a weird kid like that, but mostly it's just always funny to watch Louie accept defeat. Case in point: when some punk kids on the street begin to take away the rug Never threw down, he yells for them to stop, only to have them flip him off. He does what just about any New Yorker would have done in that scenario: he shook his head in disbelief, shrugged it off, and continued to accept his fate as a New Yorker. Besides, Never was worse than anything going on outside his apartment. (Congrats, Mad Men's Marten Weiner, you've officially been dethroned as the most bizarre, uncomfortable kid on TV!)
Still, because Louie is a good guy, in the end he felt bad for Never. He sincerely tried to level with a kid who is living on another planet and let him know that if he needed a guy to talk to besides his clearly crazy mother, he could talk to him. He even tried to explain the flawed notion in the logic that one can always be right because they love themselves, but Never (in case the s**tting in the tub wasn't a dead giveaway) was a lost cause. Still, Louie tried. If nothing else, Louie always tries.
Oh, and just in case this episode wasn't already a killer, J.B. Smoove showed up in the end credits as a deeply annoyed grave digger who couldn't understand his coworker's thick accent. His delivery of the lines "Oops, I farted", "This dude is being buried in an Ikea box", and "I hate you" was on par with anything Smoove ever said during on his time on Curb Your Enthusiasm, and on Louie it was in the closing credits. And speaking of credits, was this the first time in Louie's history there was no opening credits? No matter, this was still the most consistently funny and easygoing episode of this season. Louie, Louie, Louie, you made me die.
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[Photo Credit: FX]
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