Convention used in sitcoms when serious topics are addressed (drug and alcohol use, teen pregnancy, etc.).
"A Very Special Episode" is jargon that refers to episodes of sitcoms that take an uncharacteristically dramatic turn in order to discuss a serious topic, such as drug use, teen pregnancy, terminal illness, or similar topics. Such episodes are typically criticized for ham-fisted attempts at shoehorning drama or morality lessons into a comedic series, as such episodes tend to diverge sharply from the established comedic tone. The issue the episode sets aside to discuss may also be depicted in a light unfit for the format, as the running time of most sitcoms is under half an hour, and the issue at hand is in most cases discarded and seemingly forgotten once the episode concludes.
Despite the criticism, however, not all "Very Special Episodes" are poorly produced, and in some cases, they are unavoidable. For example, the series 8 Simple Rules...for Dating My Teenage Daughter was forced to confront the death of the protagonist Paul in the first episode produced following actor John Ritter's death.
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|It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia|
|That's So Raven|
|8 Simple Rules... for Dating My Teenage Daughter|
|Degrassi: The Next Generation|
|Big Wolf on Campus|
|The Powerpuff Girls|
|Sabrina, the Teenage Witch|
|Party of Five|
|My So-Called Life|
|Beverly Hills, 90210|
|Captain Planet and the Planeteers|
|The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air|
|Doogie Howser, M.D.|
|Saved by the Bell|