It all comes down to something very, very simple: William Randolph Hearst owned timberlands. The land, not the footwear. He used them to make paper, and then filled that paper up with whatever insane thoughts he had in that moment and called it news. The problem was, there’s a cheaper and more efficient way to make paper, and it involves hemp, something owned by Hearst’s competitors. Citizen Kane was screwed until he realized something: he was William Randolph Fucking Hearst. The truth was for people who didn’t have all the money ever. So he cooked up some phony stories, preyed on a little racism, and got white people good and riled up, (thus inadvertently writing the blueprint for Fox News) and bam, marijuana was made illegal for allegedly making people violent. No, seriously, this is the story he went with. And the public ate it up.
It was inevitable. Not marijuana’s illegality, but that I would eventually come across an anti-drug episode in my trek through the moral landscape of popular television. The only surprise is that it didn’t happen sooner. Drug hysteria was one of the major pastimes in the ‘80s, right up there with actually doing drugs. Things got so bad that Nancy Reagan appeared on an episode of Diff’rent Strokes to discuss the problem with noted addicts Todd Bridges and Dana Plato. While Blossom is not technically the ‘80s, it occupies that part of the early ‘90s where all the fun parts of the previous decade were lost but hadn’t yet been replaced by Nirvana and CG dinosaurs. Many of its concerns are grounded in the era of pastel suits and feathered hair.
From the word go, drugs were unavoidable. Anthony’s backstory revolves around his former addiction allowing the writers to mine comedy from his wacky misadventures while simultaneously admonishing the young viewers about following in his footsteps. I’ve been waiting for an extremely dark episode where Anthony falls hard off the wagon and ends up hallucinating a dead baby crawling across the ceiling. Or maybe one where Six gets on heroin and ends up turning tricks down on Lankershim to pay for her habit, while a terrifying pimp with a weirdly ominous name like “Sleep Out” slaps her around.
Sadly, no. This week’s very special episode opens with Blossom and Six in a twitter, meaning they’re all keyed up and scared, not that they’re only expressing themselves in 140 characters or less. They found a joint on the bus. Excited and frightened by this new opportunity, they decide to go upstairs and smoke it. And we smash cut to the most dated joke in this particular time capsule: a close up on a frying egg, with Anthony intoning, “This is your brain on drugs.” Just in case you’re too young to remember anti-drug pop culture ephemera, this was a famous and oft-parodied PSA in which a grumpy middle aged guy held up an egg, your brain, and then cracked it into a frying pan where it sizzled, showing your brain on drugs. It might have been effective imagery for all of five minutes, but it’s tough to remember after the deluge of hacky quips that immediately spawned in its wake. Even the anti-drug PSAs got in on the action when future Mrs. Supermarket RLC starred in a more violent version.
While Anthony cooks eggs and cracks jokes (or cooks jokes and cracks eggs) at Joey’s expense, who should wander in but Barnard Hughes, who you remember as Grandpa in The Lost Boys and deliverer of one of the great final lines in movie history. Apparently, he is the maternal grandfather of the Russo clan, leaving me to wonder if Dianne Weist isn’t Blossom’s real mom. Because this is in the days before internet, Grandpa can’t just head over to Mr. Skin and find out who’s naked in what and so has to ask Joey, who of course has encyclopedic knowledge of movie nudity. This exchange becomes much more upsetting later on when the family watches a video together and it’s Midnight Express. So apparently the nudity Joey and Grandpa really wanted to see was being raped in a Turkish prison.
Meanwhile, Blossom and Six continue their debate over what to do about this joint. They go through the usual ideas: burying it, burning it, and finally smoking it. Anthony figures prominently in the debate, both for his past addiction and his bloodhound-like ability to sniff out pot smoke. At that moment, Nick comes in with an offer of Chinese food and a video, which sounds like something you should do after the pot, but whatever. The pertinent part of this is that Blossom pockets the joint before going downstairs, and when she comes back upstairs, realizes that it has fallen out of her pocket. She returns to the scene of the crime just as Nick finds the joint in the couch cushions.
Nick makes the entirely reasonable assumption that it’s Anthony’s. Because when a pig has been fucked, you don’t call Steve the Home Invader, you call Jerry the Pig Fucker. Of course, sometimes Jerry is entirely innocent of said pig fucking, and it turns out it was Little Annie Angel experimenting with her identity. Anthony denies it, as does Barnard Hughes, leaving Nick with the uncomfortable realization that it’s the fault of either Joey or Blossom. The big plot twist is that it’s actually both of them — Joey found it in his locker, then lost it on the bus where Blossom found it. A guilty conscience causes both of them to come clean to Nick (though Blossom had one of her late-night soul-searching talks with Anthony, who to his credit was more worried that the joint had been laced with something). Nick does what any responsible father would do when you have one recovering addict and two kids thinking of trying drugs: he calls on Anthony for an anti-drug speech.
Mercifully, the episode ends there, leaving me to wonder what it would look like if Blossom and Six actually smoked out.