Earlier this week, Comedy Central announced that they aren’t planning on renewing Futurama, meaning unless the show goes exclusively online, its seventh season will be its last. Hearing the news, I wasn’t sad or angry or impatient that it hadn’t happen, yet, slightly tainting the show’s near-perfect, pre-revival legacy — all I could think about was Seymour. Cancellation = no more = death = Seymour = TEARS.
Although Futurama has some of the most genuinely moving moments in TV history, no one would ever mistake the show for a drama — it’s a sitcom first and foremost, and for every sad scene, there are hundreds of Zoidberg dances. So, in honor of Futurama, let’s take a look at 10 of the most gut-wrenching (i.e. depressing) episodes of otherwise comically inclined shows. Series finales are exempt because that’s too easy. Sorry, “Goodbye Michael.” I’m pretending The Office ended then, because it did. (Related: Film Drunk’s “Scenes That Make Us Cry.”)
Episode: “My Screw Up”
I’m a big-time Brenden Fraser apologist (Gods and Monsters is a legitimately great movie and Monkeybone is fun, in a what-the-f*ck-is-going-on-right-now kind of way), but even Rick O’Connell haters have to admit that Fraser’s three-episode stint on Scrubs is pretty perfect. Fraser, as Jordan’s brother Ben, made his first appearance in 2002’s two-part “My Occurrence”/”My Hero” before reappearing two years later, in arguably the show’s finest half-hour, “My Screw Up.” The episode, scripted by Neil Goldman and Garrett Donovan (who would later produce the first three seasons of Community), has a Sixth Sense-inspired twist ending that no one saw coming yet absolutely destroyed everyone when it happened. “Where do you think we are?” EMOTION TOWN POPULATION: ME.
Show: Adventure Time
Episode: “I Remember You”
Archer, Bob’s Burgers, and American Dad! get most of the animated show love ’round these parts (rightly so), but Pendleton Ward’s Adventure Time, one of TV’s most imaginative, creative, charming shows, deserves attention, too. The show’s ostensibly for children, but the characters and plots are defined and clever enough that adults can (and do) love it, too. It also helps that plenty of episodes are an emotional punch in the nuts, none more so than season four’s “I Remember You,” in which Marceline the Vampire Queen tries to kick start the Ice King’s memory so he can remember his former self during the Mushroom War, Simon. The GIF above is an accurate depiction of what you’re going to look like watching the episode.
Episode: “Bill Moves On”
Or, the first episode of NewsRadio after Phil Hartman’s too-soon death, one that the cast and crew had a tough time filming because they couldn’t stop crying. Hell, I can barely make it through the final scene without bawling.
Actually, that’s not true: I can’t.
Show: The Simpsons
Episode: “Lisa’s Substitute”
You are Lisa Simpson, I am WRECKED. (The end of “Mother Simpson” is up there, too.)
Show: How I Met Your Mother
Episode: “Bad News”
It’s fairly understood that How I Met Your Mother should have ended, oh, four seasons ago, but every so often, Craig Thomas and Carter Bays whip up something that surprise even the most jaded of former fans. Less and less it’s because of solid jokes, though; of late, it’s been genuinely emotional moments, like in “Bad News,” when Marshall calls his dad to tell him that he and Lilly can have kids after an infertility scare…and discovers that he died of a heart attack. Jason Segel’s finest work.
Episode: “The Miracle”
In which Darlene gives birth to a premature baby, everyone thinks said baby is going to die, and I get sad/upset because at one point, Johnny Galecki was on a good show, not The Big Bang Theory. (Also, the baby lived. Phew.)
Show: Sesame Street
Episode: “Episode 1839”
THIS AIRED ON THANKSGIVING. Kids watching must have had so many questions, which was the point:
[Actress] Loretta Long noted, in an interview on The Tavis Smiley Show, “We were very careful to do it over the Thanksgiving holiday, where there would be a lot of adults in the house to help the children.”
“He’s gotta come back,” Big Bird exclaimed, “Who’s going to take care of the store? Who’s gonna make me birdseed milkshakes and tell me stories?” The other adults reassure him that everything will be okay and he will be taken care of. Big Bird gets frustrated by these comments exclaiming “but it won’t be the same”. Bob addresses Big Bird’s concern head-on saying “You’re right, Big Bird. It’ll never be the same without him. But you know something? We can all be very happy that we had a chance to be with him and to know him and to love him a lot, when he was here.”
Sesame Street handled an important topic like death the right way: head on, without any sugar frosted BS.
Show: Archie Bunker’s Place
Episode: “Archie Alone”
Never before has a dumb slipper seemed so important. Archie Bunker’s Place was the ill-advised spin-off of All in the Family, and while it never defined an entire era of TV quite like the original, it still pulled in decent ratings. People loved Archie and his wife Edith, but actress Jean Stapleton grew tired of playing the role, and in-between seasons one and two, she asked to be written off the show. In “Archie Alone,” the second season premiere, viewers learned that Edith died of a stroke and Archie is unable to grieve, until he finds a single slipper of hers in their bedroom. He breaks down, and for just a moment, Archie Bunker’s Place felt as vital as All in the Family.
And then it started being mediocre again.
Show: Blackadder Goes Forth
I know I said I wasn’t going to include season/series finales in this post, but I’m also not going to pass up an opportunity to discuss Blackadder. Watching “Goodbyeee” live must have been stunning; were it to air today, fans would only be able to speak through “speechless.gif,” not actual words. I’m not going to spoil what happens, but it’s as devastating a finale as any show has ever aired, comedy or otherwise.
Episode: “Jurassic Bark”