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Drugs Are Bad / Live-Action TV

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  • 7th Heaven: This narmtastic show went with every drug in the book from marijuana to alcohol to cigarettes to glue in order to deliver an Aesop with the subtlety of a sledgehammer to the face.
  • 8 Simple Rules: In one episode, Kerry is found with marijuana in her backpack. CJ seems to accept it, but the rest of the cast reacts with great shock, especially her boyfriend and mother. Cate even gives a moving lecture about it. It should be noted that Kerry was only holding the pot for someone else at school and she wasn't actually planning on smoking it herself.
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  • 24: Jack Bauer didn't get addicted to heroin. Heroin got addicted to Jack Bauer.
  • In the Spanish series Aida, the Cloud Cuckoo Lander Ditz Luisma is an ex-addict who suffered permanent brain damage.
  • Andromeda: The episode "It makes a lovely light" dealt with one of the main characters' newfound drug addiction, with heavy reliance on flavor-of-the-month PSA language.
  • Archie Bunker's Place: One of the last episodes, "Bunker Madness", sees Stephanie experiment with marijuana to "fit in". Later, Archie's blood pressure takes another increase after he catches two of Stephanie's friends smoking marijuana cigarettes in the house.
  • Babylon 5:
    • Dr. Franklin becomes addicted to stimulants in Season Three. He's been using them to improve his concentration. Too much tends to have the opposite effect, though. Another doctor lost her license due to the same problem, as seen in Season One's "The Quality of Mercy".
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    • Garibaldi's alcoholism as well. Both are arguably handled well.
    • For a time, Franklin was on a self-induced detox, going on Walkabout in the station's back alleys so he could work out his problems without entangling his friends. Along the way he meets a singer in a club who he thinks is hooked on a narcotic called Medezine. She is suffering from a cripplingly painful, incurable disease, and the medezine is used to treat the pain.
  • Even though it may not have been the creators' intent, Behind the Music could scarcely help winding up with a strong Drugs Are Bad vibe, considering how many musicians it profiled who absolutely destroyed their lives with drugs.
  • In the 1970 soap opera The Best Of Everything, gang member Squirrel takes revenge against now-straight Randy by breaking into Randy's fiancee's house and injecting brownies with LSD. Fiancee's little brother eats one and instantly goes insane; at the hospital, the doctor states "His system is full of LSD".note  The same storyline appears later in Ryan's Hope.
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  • Breaking Bad: Played straight, and how. Goes into the violence and crime, the desperation, and the screwed up lives of meth addicts. Coke will fuck you up. Heroin will kill you. Even alcohol will make you chuck up your guts if you take a couple of shots when underage. Pot, surprisingly, gets off pretty lightly aside from the (arguably Felony Misdemeanor) reactions of Walt's family. Although it certainly does come out as anti-drugs, Breaking Bad is quite even-handed. The show makes arguments for drugs as a personal choice and portrays a variety of characters (among them Jesse) as high functioning meth addicts. The show is much more critical of the criminal industry surrounding drugs than of the substances themselves.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
    • There was an episode of that had the school swim team doing steroids. They turned into fish demons.
    • Also, the infamous anti-alcohol episode "Beer Bad".
      Xander: And was there a lesson in all this? Huh? What did we learn about beer?
      Buffy: Foamy!
      Xander: Good. Just as long as that's clear.
      • Something of a Broken Aesop in this case since the bad effects weren't caused by the beer; they were caused by a magic potion that happened to be administered via the beer. Possibly this sequence is why the TV Tropes anon-edit password used to be "foamy".
    • In the sixth season, there is an entire Anvilicious plot arc about Willow becoming addicted to magic, complete with her going to a dealer.
    • Riley's blood-addiction thing is a metaphor for drugs (which is also played with in Angel, to an even further degree).
  • Community:
    • One running theme throughout this show. Perfectionist Annie's backstory is that she got highly addicted to medication, which eventually culminated in a mental breakdown and losing her scholarship. Shirley was once an alcoholic (and it's hinted that the addiction helped caused her divorce). In season 2 Pierce gets addicted to painkillers, and ends up passed out on a park bench before being hospitalised.
    • One episode also features the Study Group being forced to do a play to kids about why drugs are bad, with Pierce playing drugs - but doing it such a cool way that the kids love drugs. However, when Pierce storms out, he's replaced by Chang, who is incredibly scary and mean - and thus the highly accurate moral of "drugs will turn on you" is made by mistake.
    • On the other hand, Britta is known to occasionally use recreational drugs, and is perfectly fine.
  • CSI: In "Let the Seller Beware", a cheerleader gets high on PCP and ends up eating her friend.
  • Deep Love: Kenji's drug addiction is very much this, showing his fall from grace as a Pretty Boy host, to begging for money and owing money to violent loan sharks.
  • Averted in The Defenders episode "Fires of the Mind", first aired in 1965. Donald Pleasence plays the Leary Expy here, on trial for murder after one of his students suicided. Instead of "drugs are bad", the Arnold Manoff screenplay showed both sides. The older lawyer is so disgusted that he quits the case; the younger lawyer, his son, tries LSD to see what it's like and testifies that he had a positive experience.
  • Dinosaurs:
    • Both played straight and played with in this early 90s live-action/rubber suit sitcom. They do a very straightforward Drugs Are Bad episode about the characters finding and abusing a plant implied to be marijuana until one of them just accidentally burns the whole thing while high. At the end, they avert the usual PSA segment about how bad drugs are, when the adolescent son begs the audience to not do drugs so sitcoms can stop getting pushed to make Very Special Episodes.
    • There's another, more traditional anti-drug episode involving the oldest son taking steroids...or, thornoids. In addition to the usual foul temper, he gains sharp spikes as his addiction worsens.
  • Doctor Who:
    • Unearthed Word of God from The '60s describes regenerations "as if [the Doctor] has had the LSD drug and instead of experiencing the kicks, he has the hell and dank horror which can be its effect". No wonder why he might suffer from regenerative trauma after the process.
    • "Nightmare of Eden" involves intergalactic drug smugglers accidentally releasing horrible monsters.
    • Played with in "The Caves of Androzani", which is about the Doctor getting caught in the crossfire of a drug war and virtually everyone in the story dying in the resulting mess, including the Doctor — yet the drugs themselves are value-neutral, the "badness" associated with the unscrupulous, highly intelligent and murderous gangsters who end up dealing them.
    • "Gridlock" involves a virus that mutated from an incredibly addictive drug named "Bliss", which wiped out a whole city.
    • Subverted in the expanded universe story "Wonderland", which is set in the Haight-Ashbury district of San Fransisco in the Summer of Love and deals with the damaging psychological effects of hippie drug use through the medium of a form of LSD that causes its users to morph into hideous monsters and die, with this apparently also causing images of monsters the Second Doctor had previously faced (like Menoptera and Cybermen) to appear as solid hallucinations. The people controlling the drug trade in the setting are despicably evil — one faction is run by a misogynistic, psychotic gangster who rapes and then tries to murder the protagonist, and the other faction is a Government Conspiracy keeping a psychedelic 'colour-beast' locked away in order to produce dangerous drugs from its blood to wipe out the corrupt and hypocritical hippie counterculture. However, the Doctor realises that the hallucinations of the monsters are the colour-beast trying to send him a message, and has the protagonist take a drug he engineered that "mimics the effects of LSD but without the dangerous side effects" in order to become able to see it and save the creature. Symbolically, the Doctor is also only able to properly save the protagonist from the villains and admit his fondness for her decades in her future and centuries in his, after he has changed into an incarnation that more closely physically and psychologically resembles a hippie (or, rather, a bohemian).
  • Dragnet: This 1960s show handled this with all the finesse of a sledgehammer to the face. There was the couple who was so busy getting high that they let their daughter drown in a bathtub. There was "Blue Boy" who dosed on LSD and buried his head in the dirt while "painted up like an Indian" and after chewing the bark off a tree. In "The Prophet", a lengthy dialogue between the cops and an arrogant Leary expy, Sgt. Friday presented Urban Legend as fact — the guy who dropped acid and pulled his own eyes out so he could "get a better look", about the teenagers in San Jose who went blind from staring into the sun while on an LSD trip. Oh, and apparently alcohol impairs your judgement but it comes back when you sober up — but marijuana and LSD permanently impair your judgement. Meanwhile, the "prophet" really is one — fifty years on, marijuana legalization is right around the corner, and LSD is about to be re-legalized for medical purposes as it once was... while some of those acid users went on to contribute to the invention of what you're reading this on.
  • The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air: The episode "Just Say Yo" has Will being offered amphetamines so he can stay awake, and Carlton takes some from Will's locker thinking they're vitamins and almost dies as a result.
  • Fringe: Averted Trope as often as possible. Drugs play a significant role in solving several cases, Walter uses psychotropics all the time (on himself and others), and as of episode 3.19, which is called "Lysergic Acid Diethylamide", Astrid Farnsworth is the only main character who hasn't been under the influence of drugs onscreen at some point.
  • As late as 1979, Heather in General Hospital planned to give someone LSD to make them appear insane, only to accidentally take the drug herself.
  • Gossip Girl: Averted Trope. Nate and Chuck do drugs on a seemingly regular basis with no ill effects thus far. One of Serena's one-nighters OD-ed in a flashback, but they didn't really overdo the Drugs Are Bad point (thankfully).
  • Growing Pains: In "Thank God It's Friday", Mike, Boner and Eddie go to a college party where all of the party guests are doing cocaine. The three boys are then pressured to do coke by the hot chicks who want to experiment with the drug and have fun.
  • Hawaii Five-O brought us "Up Tight", the sad tale of a young woman who jumped off a cliff and the Timothy Leary Expy (Ed Flanders) who gave her the stuff... said to be "speed" all the way through the episode, but it was clearly acid. Also from this show, "Two Doves & Mr. Heron", which isn't about drugs per se, but a friend of the "two doves" dies of an overdose.
  • Hightown: They are the root of all evil in season 1. People get killed by overdoses, murdered for knowledge of drug deals, messup up due to addiction or murder others in pursuing profits from selling them.
  • Highway to Heaven had several episodes that deals with the subject of drugs.
    • In one episode, kids who get high on heroin like to throw rocks through the windows of a school that teaches illiterate adults how to read.
    • In another episode, local youths use remote-controlled planes to smuggle drugs for some reason. Supposedly, this is to get the drugs across the border.
  • Home Improvement: In one episode, Tim and Jill catch Brad with marijuana and try to convince him that using marijuana is bad, but it is portrayed in a more even-handed way than in many other shows. Jill ends up revealing that she smoked pot in college and once while high bought a stash that was laced with something and she ended up in the emergency room and then was charged with possession and Tim had to bail her out of jail. Tim pointed out that if Brad tested positive for marijuana use, he'd risk losing the sports scholarship he'd been working hard to get. The end message was that while marijuana might not be inherently bad it can cause the user to make bad decisions and the potential risk is not worth it. Tim Allen himself rather famously spent a few years in prison for selling drugs, so he'd know.
  • House: The title character is addicted to Vicodin and isn't above criminal means to ensure a steady supply. This is partly a reflection of the fact that he's a Sherlock Holmes Expy (though Holmes' drug taking would have been legal at the time).
  • How I Met Your Mother: the characters smoke pot (or, according to Ted when he's telling his children about it, "eat sandwiches") on occasion, no big deal is made out of it and eventually they decide they are too old for such proclivities.
  • In the Heat of the Night: A few episodes focus on this (it was The '90s) and how it's destroying Sparta, but the most compelling one is "Cracked" where a young teen (she was 13) tries crack, gets hooked, and dies.
  • Intervention: May be the strongest argument ever made against drugs. Or the not-so-awesomeness of having a serious disease; Intervention certainly doesn't really moralize about their choices and covers more on the aspect of people having a serious disease and how their drug use is more of a symptom of that disease than the actual cause.
  • Ironside (1967) takes a "Trip to Hashbury" where lovely Barbara is a clean-cut all-American girl by day and a tripped-out acidhead by night. This was probably a reference to the double life of Linda Fitzpatrick in the infamous Groovy Murders which were then prominent in the news. Like Linda, Barbara is found beaten to death, but in this case her boyfriend, said to be taking "lethal amounts" of LSD, was the culprit. As in many Drugs Are Bad episodes, drug use was ascribed to already-present mental illness or personal trouble: Barbara turned to a hippie life because her grades were slipping. "Continued failure leads to lack of self respect — that leads to Haight-Ashbury."
  • JAG: In the episode "JAG TV", Harm investigates a sailor on an aircraft carrier who apparently committed suicide by jumping in front of a F-14 during landing. Turns out the reason was his drug use plus other personal problems.
  • Mad Men:
    • Averted Trope:
    • When Creative has to work on a Saturday to come up with ideas for a new Bacardi Rum campaign, Kinsey (Sterling Cooper Creative's resident Pretentious Intellectual) makes a point of saying how much he is inspired by "Mary Jane." He tracks down some marijuana (that is, he calls an old college buddy of his to bring it into the office), and he and one of the other Creative guys starts smoking it, having engineered to get Peggy out of the office. She storms back in, and very pointedly says "My name is Peggy Olson and I'd like to smoke some marijuana." Not only does she seem to really enjoy being blazed, she ends up actually finishing the assignment by the end of the episode. It potentially crosses over into Inversion territory when Peggy's secretary Olive, a rather conservative older woman who'd been warning Peggy about how bad it was, receives a (completely stoned) lecture/"Reason You Suck" Speech from Peggy about how she (Peggy) was going places and how Olive had already decided not to (more or less).
    • Peggy also smokes up in Season 4, after visiting what appears to be an outpost of The Factory, when it is raided by the police. She successfully hides, avoiding arrest.
    • The writers do, however, appear to have a problem with heroin: when (commercial artist and Don's first flame in Season 1) Midge comes back in Season 4, she's prostituting herself to pay for her habit.
  • In the Mannix episode "Warning: Live Blueberries", the Leary Expy is Prof. Wilson (Phil Leeds), who runs a meditation center where people "turn on". The blonde chick of the week is shown pleading with a friend to return with her to "the center of the earth" to experience "the taste of blue and the colors of twelve." (Yes, that's the Buffalo Springfield playing in the nightclub scene.)
  • Marcus Welby, M.D. had "Homecoming", about someone having flashbacks after having been "addicted" to LSD.
  • M*A*S*H: Has one episode where Winchester starts abusing amphetamines, right after he lectures Klinger about the stimulant's many deleterious side effects when he asks for them. Sure enough, those exact side effects kick in and Winchester is a wreck by the time Hawkeye and BJ discover what he is doing and convince him to stop.
  • Miami Vice: A persistent theme of the series is that not only does the drug trade leave a lot of death and destruction in its wake, but the individual drug users are lead to a criminal lifestyle by their addiction.
  • Midnight Caller:
    • In "The Fall", a failed basketball player copes by becoming a cocaine addict, ruining his job prospects.
    • In "Take Back the Streets", the inhabitants of a neighborhood that has been ruined by the drug trade start protesting the drug dealers. The dealers respond by threatening the protestors and even killing one of them.
      Jack: Cocaine is a killer, whether you're shooting it, smoking it, snorting it, or fighting to keep it out of your neighborhood.
    • In "A Cry in the Night", a crack addict gives birth to a baby with a low birth weight and Apgar score and probable brain damage. She's so horrified by what she's done that she agrees to go into rehab.
  • My Name Is Earl:
    • One very special episode had him and his friends accidentally acquire a pile of marijuana - these career criminals who spend most of their time drunk react with horror to the stuff, and the folks using the stuff act unlike anyone stoned, ever. It had to be a parody - it HAD to be...
    • Perhaps I'm not remembering it entirely accurately, but as I recall they were simply worried about the consequences of getting caught with so much marijuana, and weren't particularly concerned with any moral implication.
      • It wasn't even to do with the consequences, it was because of Joy's logic that went along the lines of 'If you get drunk, you throw up and get thin. If you smoke pot, you get the munchies and get fat.'
    • Of course it was a parody. They even Lampshade the alcohol thing when Earl's mother discovers the marijuana and says "Weed is addictive and fosters anti-social behavior!". After grabbing a bottle of booze, she says "If you need me, I'll be upstairs!"
  • The Name Of The Game had "High on a Rainbow", featuring a deadly shootout with stoned school kids, a café used as a drug supply center, and a Mushroom Samba.
  • In an early episode of The Nanny (second episode, in fact), Brighton complained about how he wasn't popular in school, and Fran told him about a kid she used to know who tried smoking to do that; unfortunately, Brighton got the wrong message, and tried to one-up that guy, by doing it himself (not Fran's intention at all), and got caught. At the end of the episode, Fran Scared Him Straight by taking him to the retirement home where her grandmother Yetta, an addicted smoker who was clearly showing the adverse effects of doing it her entire life, lived. (And to drive the point home, Yetta was all-too willing to show him a few of the other residents who were even worse off, which thankfully, happened off screen.) It worked like a charm.
  • New Zoo Revue: One episode involves Charlie the Owl developing a pill that would rid the world of sadness. However, before he could test it to see if it had any bad side effects, he accidentally takes it instead of a normal vitamin and ends up going on a drug-induced happiness spree that leads to him crashing first into a tree and injuring himself. Being a children's show, the episode also mentions the big difference between the safe type of drugs that a doctor prescribes and the recreational drugs (like the happiness pill) that could actually harm a person.
  • Parodied late on in Night and Day, when Ryan Harper begins selling confectionary to fellow school pupils. One is even seen snorting sherbet in the toilets.
  • Noah's Arc: Played in with in a counterintuitive way in the movie. When Brandy crashes Noah's wedding we get to see her enjoy a variety of drugs, and its all Played for Laughs with no real consequences. On the other hand, Alex's addiction to caffeine pills is taken seriously by Noah, and that's where the Drugs Are Bad aesop is played out.
  • Peep Show is fairly even-handed as far as drugs are concerned. The most dramatic example is Super Hans, who despite being a crack addict and having tried many times to kick the habit, is still able to function day to day. Softer drugs (ecstasy, magic mushrooms, marijuana) are also used by the cast with few ill effects. At one point a woman breaks out crying after taking speed, which Mark lampshades as being like "my very own anti-drugs advert".
  • The CBS Playhouse special The People Next Door has Maxie, a straightlaced suburban couple's perfect little 16-year-old, taking acid and getting engaged to a biker. Dad immediately disowns his son, assuming he's The Pusher because he has long hair. The "people next door" (the high school principal and his alcoholic wife) advise counseling. Much ugliness is uncovered in group sessions, including that Dad's been having an affair, which Mom knew all along. Maxie takes more acid and does a nude dance on the lawn, so they lock her up in an insane asylum. Of course the principal's clean-cut all-American son is her supplier.
  • Punky Brewster wants to join a clique who call themselves the Chiclets. But in order to join, she has to try drugs. Punky is faced with a quandary until she follows a "Just Say No" campaign. The episode ends with Soleil Moon Frye doing a Just Say No rally in Atlanta and Cherie Johnson doing a campaign in St. Louis.
  • Being a Teen Drama, in, we have "Some Of My Best Friends Are Indian", "Mano A Mano", "Dying To Connect", "Chemical Solutions", "Smoke Screen", "Legacies", "The Telling", and "Reclamation".
  • Revolution: In "Sex and Drugs", Drexel is the personification of this trope. He has poppy fields, which is how he gets the heroin in which he deals. Drexel and a whole squad of goons live in a luxurious mansion as a result of his heroin business. He also reveals that he is the largest heroin supplier in the Monroe Republic, because he paid Miles Matheson, back when Miles was a general in the Republic, large amounts of gold to remove all his competition. His only opposition is a family of Irish cops named the O'Hallorans, who have burned his poppy fields. Bill O'Halloran, the patriarch, reveals that his daughter Rebecca ran away because she wanted a glamourous life with Drexel, and Drexel got her addicted to heroin, killed her and sent her body back to Bill.
  • Saved by the Bell: Most famous TV example: This show + Jessie + prescription caffeine-like pills = The greatest moment in unintentional comedy history.
  • Sex and the City:
    • Subverted Trope. Carrie, Miranda and Samantha smoke pot sometimes. Once, when the women were asked where were they going to score some weed, Samantha's response was, "Well, I'd call my dealer, but he's at the Cape."
    • This trope is played straight in "All That Glitters" after Samantha takes Ecstasy and has sex with Richard and says to him "I love you":
      Samantha:: I was in love with the taxi driver, the doorman, his sweater!
      Carrie: But you only said it to Richard.
      Samantha: I am never taking X again. It's a dangerous drug!
  • The Smallville episode "Void" has Lana take a drug allowing a person to communicate with the afterlife. Not an episode you want to watch before sleep.
  • Small Wonder: In "Vicki and the Pusher", a schoolyard bully tries to get Vicki addicted to narcotics. Vicki takes the drugs home, but she doesn't consume them. Later, the Lawson family help the police conduct a sting at the school.
  • Spaced: Averted Trope: Recreational drug use is everywhere in the series and is either not a big deal or Played for Laughs.
  • Stargate SG-1: Late in this show, a cartel of drug runners called the Lucian Alliance formed in the power vacuum left by the fall of the Goa'uld. The SGC responded by mounting raids on their shipping. They end up as the Big Bad of Stargate Universe for much of its run.
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation:
    • The episode "Symbiosis" including a why-drugs-are-bad speech by Tasha Yar to Wesley Crusher. She points out that drugs can be an escape from one's crappy life. What makes it even more jarring is that it is entirely irrelevant to the situation. The drug the episode focuses on had been developed to cure a plague, but remained in use long after the plague was cured due to its addictive nature, not dissimilar to opioids.
    • The episode "The Neutral Zone" has a musician from the 20th century who died from heavy substance abuse, was frozen, and then revived by the Enterprise crew. He tried to get some prescription drugs off of Dr. Crusher, but she wouldn't let him have any.
  • That '70s Show:
    • Subverted Trope. The main characters smoke pot almost every episode and rarely faced negative consequences as a result. Even after being caught, the characters continue to do it like it never happened.
    • Further parodied in the episode "Reefer Madness." Red imagines Eric getting convinced to try marijuana by Hyde in a take-off of the Reefer Madness movie, in which Hyde shoots Donna, Eric goes incurably insane, Jackie dances to really fast music, and Kelso ends up with random laughing fits.
  • Torchwood:
    • In first series episode "Day One", Torchwood faces an alien who gets high off of the energy released by vaporizing men while having sex with them. The Torchwood website shows Captain Jack's report on the alien, in which he notes that its behavior was comparable to a human drug addict.
    • Because the idea of monstrous aliens blackmailing the human race for ten percent of their children apparently wasn't far enough over the Moral Event Horizon, Day Five of the mini-series Children of Earth had to reveal that the aliens were using the kids to get high.
      "You're... shooting up... on children?"
  • Traffic: The British miniseries, and the American film adaptation, have the message "Drugs are bad, but there aren't any easy answers (possible solutions, but not easy ones)."
  • V (1983): Subverted Trope. In V: The Final Battle, the street smart member of the resistance is selling drugs to Visitors and their collaborators. When his father confronts him on this, the character justifies it as a means to help undermine their enemy in some small way and his father admits he has a point.
  • Welcome Back, Kotter: Had a Very Special Episode dedicated to Washington getting involved with drugs.
  • The Wire: Through the character Bubbles, gives a pretty grim representation of the life of a Baltimore heroin addict. It's not pretty. He finally goes into rehab in the fifth season.
  • WKRP in Cincinnati has a couple:
    • One episode has a highway patrolman giving the DJs alcohol and then testing their reaction times on-air as a sort of live PSA. Venus is clearly impaired by the booze, at one point stumbling into Arthur Carlson's office and demanding a hat ("Cop's got a hat, I want a hat"), and his reaction times reflect this. However, there's also a Broken Aesop involved because Johnny's reaction time steadily improves as he gets drunker, which frustrates the policeman so much he starts drinking.
    • In "Johnny Comes Back", Johnny's replacement Doug Winner takes "payola" (accepting bribes to play certain songs) but instead of money, he's paid in cocaine. Some of the characters ... Johnny in particular ... find the payola more contemptible than the drugs. Doug stupidly keeps his stash in the air studio. When Carlson discovers it, Johnny covers for Doug by saying it's foot powder, and Carlson promptly takes it hoping it'll work better than his current brand.
    • Payola is a very serious matter in professional broadcasting, and it's Truth in Television that they would find it more contemptible than if Doug were simply using drugs.
  • In The Young Lawyers episode "The Whimper of Whipped Dogs", Aaron bails out a former fiancee who's become a badly deteriorated heroin addict. Writer Harlan Ellison says the episode as you saw it had so many important parts cut or rewritten that it was a farce compared to his original hellish tragedy. (His version is reprinted in The Glass Teat volume 2.)


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