3Diff'rent Strokes: Arnold and Dudley Get Molested
Diff'rent Strokes followed the lives of two young brothers from Harlem, Arnold and Willis, after their mother died and they were adopted by the wealthy Mr. Drummond. Looking back, it's shocking how many sitcoms hinged on the premise of parental death.
In the two-part episode "The Bicycle Man," Mr. Drummond brings his family to the bicycle shop of a family friend, Mr. Horton, to return some bikes that they had been renting. Arnold and Mr. Horton become fast friends and start doing one another favors -- Arnold passes out flyers at his school advertising the bike shop, and Mr. Horton gives him a handlebar radio in return.
"It's tuned to a 24-hour recording of me breathing heavily!"
At first, Mr. Horton just seems like a nice old man, and that's exactly what's so horrifying about this episode -- it's the slow reveal that a character is actually a pedophile trying to seduce Arnold with ice cream and comic books. It's not until he asks Arnold never to tell Mr. Drummond about the time they spend together that something seems slightly off.
Arnold likes Mr. Horton so much that he starts bringing his friend Dudley along, and it isn't long before Mr. Horton is feeding them both wine and giving them pornography.
"Some day we'll have a machine that can provide this for free!"
He even tells the kids about all the cool games that they can play with their clothes off and shows them naked pictures of himself, which the studio audience apparently finds hilarious.
The day culminates in Mr. Horton getting Dudley to take his shirt off for some photos, and Arnold returns home with the smell of wine still on his breath. He is caught by Dana Plato and Todd Bridges, who make him swear to never drink again.
This situation is way over the legal limit for irony.
Dudley and Arnold continue to visit Mr. Horton until the whole thing gets a little too creepy for Arnold. He decides to do the moral thing and leave the bike shop ... incidentally also leaving his best friend with a pedophile. Solid work, Arnold.
Eventually Arnold tells Mr. Drummond about what's been happening, and the police arrive at the bike shop just in time to find a drugged up, half-naked Dudley sprawled out and Mr. Horton doing a few warm-up stretches in preparation for some vigorous child abuse. Mr. Horton is arrested and Arnold and Dudley learn an important lesson about trusting strangers. Or sitcoms.
Mr. Drummond spent the next 19 months crying himself to sleep.
2Too Close for Comfort: Monroe Gets Kidnapped and Sexually Tortured
Too Close for Comfort was a show about a cartoonist named Henry Rush and his wife, Muriel. They had two adult daughters who lived with them, along with a moronic tenant named Monroe. This setting, which would seem to encourage at least a small amount of sexual tension, instead insisted on concentrating on a bunch of wacky personalities just trying to get along.
But the dynamic takes a dark turn in the episode "For Every Man, There's Two Women." Monroe does not come home one night from his job as a mall security guard. He finally returns in the morning with his uniform partially torn off, looking shell-shocked.
"I've just come out of the writers' room."
While it takes him awhile to calm down and explain what happened, he reveals that he had been kidnapped from a parking lot and forced into a van by two women. He was then taken to an apartment and raped throughout the night. He tells it all to his quasi-family, clearly shaken by the experience, and the studio audience laughs along.
Henry eventually calls the police department, which dispatches maybe the worst SVU detectives in the history of law enforcement. They take some basic information and then tell Monroe it's not worth pressing charges because it would be too embarrassing.
"You got to have sex with two women, you should be psyched."
To give the proper context, the drama 21 Jump Street came out with an episode called "Hell Week " around the same time as this episode aired, and it dealt delicately with the atrocity of sexual abuse. Too Close for Comfort builds so many jokes around rape as a concept that we almost suspect the audience is filled exclusively with prison inmates.
Henry and Monroe finally find and confront the women who raped him, and both of them are easily over 200 pounds and terrifying. It quickly becomes evident that this was a legitimate crime. Henry barely escapes before almost suffering the same fate as Monroe, and the women are arrested. Then, in one of the most unintentionally sad moments in sitcom history, Monroe thanks Henry, and tells him that it's nice to know that if this ever happens again, he will be there to help guide and protect him. Henry immediately tells him that next time this happens (read: Monroe gets raped), he's completely on his own.
"Don't come crying to me the next time you're kidnapped, tortured and raped, sonny!"