Sitcoms are like comfort food for the soul. They are the marshmallows in the hot chocolate. The down pillows on the bed. The tequila in the margarita. They are the shows that we watch to pretend that our lives can be as perfect as theirs. We watch for the humor which is always corny. We watch for the drama that will always be resolved in a half an hour (or an hour if it’s a two-parter). Nothing can hurt us when we’re on the couch watching these perfect families that have let us into their homes, and laughing along with the live studio audience. We want to know nothing about anything behind the scenes that might ruin the magic.
But when the show has run its course and a decade or two has gone by, the gossip that would have once ruined us now makes us salivate with anticipation. We have to know it all! The relationships, the arguments, the drinking, the drugs! Every show has its scandal. Some are amusing. Some are sad. And some will make you wish you could unlearn everything you’ve learned about your favorite show. The reruns are ruined! The complete series DVDs are forever in storage. But you still love it! Because your favorite sitcom is now a reality drama. And the characters you once aspired to be now make you feel good because you’re not them.
So let’s take a trip down memory lane when TGIF was still a thing and sitcom scandals could still be a secret.
15. Friends – Matthew Perry Can’t Recall Much Of The Show’s Filming Due To Substance Abuse
So no one told Matthew Perry life was gonna be this way. You would think starring on one of the most popular sitcoms of all time would put you in a good place. And perhaps it did. Suddenly rich and suddenly famous, you can’t blame Perry for binging a little during his time on Friends. Some partying here and there is good for the soul. But the partying never really stopped for Perry. Pills and alcohol began to invade his life to the point that he became physically gaunt and tired looking after the first couple of seasons, though no one seemed to question it. A few years later, Perry began to put on the pounds again, even looking a little overweight by the final season. This was because Perry finally decided to get clean. He recruited friend and co-star Jennifer Aniston to help him get sober, and together, they succeeded.
Perry’s former drug use became common knowledge, but in 2016, he surprised fans even more by stating in an interview that he didn’t remember much of the show’s filming. In fact, pretty much everything between seasons 3 and 6 are a total blank! He could have fooled us. To play a role that well while constantly inebriated, he deserves an award just for that!
14. Full House – Jodie Got Hooked On Various Substances
In the final season of Full House, middle daughter Stephanie Tanner was beginning to rebel. She hung out with bad-influence, Gia, got caught with a cigarette, and even got a ride home from the mall with some boys she didn’t know! This was pretty scandalous in the land of Tanners. But after the show ended, actress Jodie Sweetin continued the downward spiral that Stephanie had started.
Sweetin first got drunk when she was only 14 at her co-star Candace Cameron-Bure‘s wedding. Drinking quickly turned into drugs, and she eventually began using ecstasy, crack, and meth. Her reason? She was simply bored.
Her meth addiction resulted in a secret life which she kept from her first husband, who was in the police force. When he found out about her drug use, the two got divorced. Continued use brought on depression and two other divorces. However, since then, Sweetin has since become sober, works out regularly for both physical and emotional benefits, and is now reprising her role as Stephanie Tanner in the Full House revival, Fuller House. You’ll be happy to know that Stephanie has also calmed down since her cigarette holding days!
13. Family Matters – Jaimee Turned To The “Other” Industry
Steve Urkel could arguably be the most memorable character from a 90s sitcom. The clumsy nerd turned freakish super-genius was originally supposed to be a one-and-done character, showing up to take Laura to a school dance, never to be seen again. But his performance earned him a recurring role, and what quickly became The Urkel Show was originally focused on the Winslow family; Harriet (who was spun off of 80s sitcom, Perfect Strangers), her husband Carl, and their three children. Yes, three!
The Winslows originally had three kids; Eddie, Laura, and Judy. However in 1993, Judy went up to her room and never came back down. Jaimee Foxworth, who played Judy, was removed from the show by her parents. They thought it would help their daughter’s career (or perhaps their own finances) to renegotiate her salary. When they couldn’t reach an agreement, they ended her contract.
Not being able to find much work after that, Foxworth took advice from a friend to start filming adult movies. Before she knew it, Foxworth had acted in several pornographic films under the name Crave. In 2002, after another friend in the industry nonchalantly referred to her as a whore, Foxworth quit the business, realizing that self respect was more important to her than money. She has never gone back.
12. Sabrina The Teenage Witch – Describes Herself As An Addict For Between-The-Sheets Action
Melissa Joan Hart has been on the sitcom circuit pretty consistently since she started in 1991 as Clarissa Darling in Nickelodeon’s Clarissa Explains It All. Most recently, she appeared with another 90s sitcom alum, Joey Lawrence, in the show Melissa & Joey. But between those two gems was another show that she might be best known for, Sabrina the Teenage Witch. Throughout the 25-year span of wholesome family television, in which her mother was constantly at her side, making herself producer, who would have thought Hart would have had the heart—let alone the time—to become a bad girl?
You’d never know it, but before becoming a mother of three, Hart liked to party. According to her memoir, Melissa is somewhat of a sex addict. No real problem there, but beyond that, she was a consistent drinker and dabbled in ecstasy. She cheated on her boyfriend with Ryan Reynolds, and once threw water in Oscar de la Hoya‘s face while they were in Mexico. In all honesty, if the internet was what it is today, Hart may not have found as many jobs starring in children’s television. And let’s just hope her kids never grow up to read her book, because to be honest, Melissa explained a little too much!
11. Home Improvement – Married A 32-Year-Old Woman At 17 And Ran An Illegal Vegan Restaurant
The highly successful 8 season run of Home Improvement, made huge stars of Tim Allen and Jonathan Taylor Thomas. And many of the other actors also continued to work in Hollywood after the show ended in 2000. But that wasn’t the case for actor Taran Noah Smith, who played youngest son, Mark.
The character of Mark struggled to find his way in the series, as the writers didn’t seem to really know what to do with him. He began as a mini-me for Tim and a punching bag for older brothers Brad and Randy. Later they put him into karate, made him an amateur aviator (seriously), and finally dressed him in all black, made him join a band, and tried out the goth vibe that didn’t really work for him. This lost soul of a character was in a way, not too far off from Smith’s real life.
When he was 16, Smith filed for emancipation from his parents to gain full control of his work on the show and the money that it brought in. He accused his parents of squandering his money when they used it to buy a mansion for themselves. When the show ended shortly after, Smith decided he was done with acting.
A year later, when he was 17, he married a woman named Heidi van Pelt, who was 32 at the time. Together, they ran an illegal vegan restaurant and non-dairy cheese manufacturing plant before divorcing in 2007 and having their house foreclosed upon. Smith is currently a self-proclaimed artist and stoner, and is trying to find his true calling.
10. The Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air – Original Aunt Viv Hates Nephew Will
Now this is a story all about how Janet Hubert-Whitten’s life got flipped, turned upside down. Watching reruns of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, you may have noticed a slight discrepancy in the appearance of one of the main characters. That’s because the matron of the Banks Estate, Aunt Viv, was played by two different actresses.
The first and probably better known Aunt Viv was played by Hubert-Whitten from 1990 to 1993. The reason for her departure was due to an apparent breach in contract when she became pregnant with her son. The writers decided not to hide her pregnancy, and embraced the idea by writing it into the storyline. However, after the end of Season 3, in which Aunt Viv gives birth to Baby Nicky, Hubert-Whitten was given the ax. Recently, she has been very vocal about her hard feelings, blaming star Will Smith for getting her fired. Apparently they had never gotten along from day one and he was the one to make the final call.
A recent cast reunion sparked a brutal rant online against pretty much all of her former castmates, particularly Alfonzo Ribeiro, who played her son, Carlton, and Smith’s wife, Jada Pinkett-Smith. She plans to publish a memoir titled “Perfection is Not a Sitcom Mom”.
9. Martin – Tisha Says Martin Harassed Her
By the time Martin came on the air in 1992, Martin Lawrence had already found success as a supporting cast member on television and on the big screen. But once he became the star of his own show, the job offers came pouring in. He scored roles alongside the likes of Will Smith and Eddie Murphy among others. So when his relationship with his on-screen wife, Tisha Campbell began to fade, it was a surprise to everyone, and the show never recovered.
Lawrence and Campbell apparently had a bit of a fling during their time on the show. Lawrence fell in love, but Campbell just wasn’t that into him. So when she began her new relationship with fellow actor Duane Martin, Lawrence wasn’t happy about it. He began harassing her, trying to convince her to leave him. It drove her to the brink of quitting and she was gone for most of the fifth and final season. But producers talked her into coming back for the two-part finale on one condition. Campbell and Lawrence wouldn’t have any scenes together. And if they had to be in the same scene, they would be filmed at different times so they would never actually have to see each other on set. Damn Gina!
8. Saved By The Bell – Screech Stabs A Man In A Bar
Oy! Where to begin? Picking a scandal from Saved by the Bell is like picking a favorite child! Could it be Mr. Belding’s drunken karaoke binges? Lisa’s weird bipolar rants? Slater cheating on Kelly? Jessie starring completely nude in Showgirls? Or Screech leaving Polaroids of his genitals around the set for everyone to see? Well after taking a long hard look, it appears that Screech has been voted most scandalous in the Bayside High video yearbook!
Dustin Diamond‘s antics on the set set him apart from the rest of the cast. Not only was he a few years younger than everyone else, he was a lot more immature. Now 40 years old, he hasn’t seemed to grow up much. In 2006, he had spent almost all his money, and sought crowdfunding to help him get his house out of foreclosure. Then he tried making money doing standup, which mostly consisted of making fun of the SBTB cast. As the years went by, so did a few minor arrests. But the big one came on Christmas in 2014 when Diamond stabbed a man in a bar.
Diamond claimed it was in self defense. Apparently there were drunk people in the bar acting drunk. This lead him to believe there was about to be a brawl. Who wouldn’t pull out a knife and stab someone in this situation? But somehow he was found guilty and sentenced to four months in jail. A word of advice, Mr. Diamond: Next time you’re in a public place, treat your knife like your genitals and keep it in your pants!
7. Seinfeld – Kramer Goes On Racist Rant
Where would Seinfeld be without Kramer? The wackiest of wacky neighbors, Michael Richards created a character so unique and beloved, they would often have to stop filming during his entrance because the crowd wouldn’t stop cheering. He was on top of the world from 1989 to 1998. But when the show ended, he was so typecast that he had a hard time finding another job. That’s when he turned back to stand-up comedy.
In 2006, while performing stand-up comedy, Richards took things a little too far when confronting a heckler. Richards became frazzled and lost his cool, attacking the only thing he could think of, the man’s race. Perhaps thinking he was edging on social commentary, he suggested that if it were “fifty years ago you’d be hanging upside down with a fork up your ass!” Then he began pointing at the man and shouted repeatedly, “He’s a N*****!”
After the video ended up on YouTube, Richards was sentenced to anger management, and publicly apologized on the Late Show with David Letterman, looking incredibly regretful. Still, that’s a hard thing to bounce back from, and his tirade will be forever a part of his legacy.
6. That ’70s Show – An Overdose Just After Checking In To Rehab
Perhaps one of the most tragic scandals was of that 90s show, That ’70s Show. Lisa Robin Kelly, who played older sister Laurie, seemed to have it all. She was young, beautiful, and a supporting cast member of the popular sitcom that launched many new careers. But her time on the show was short. After three seasons, she was written off due to her alcohol addiction which took a toll on her personal life and began to cause problems on the set. Her addiction, she said, was her way of battling depression due to a miscarriage she’d previously had.
A decade after she left That ’70s Show, she resurfaced in the news, having been addicted to meth for some time. She was arrested for a DUI in August 2010, charged with spousal abuse in March 2012, and received another DUI in June 2013 after allegedly parking in the middle of the freeway. Her mug shots chronicled her deteriorating beauty, leaving the internet sad and horrified. In August 2013, Kelly checked herself into a rehab clinic, finally determined to get her life back on track. But sadly, it was too little, too late. Kelly passed away a few days later on August 15th due to an accidental toxic mix of drugs in her system.
5. 7th Heaven – Collins Admitted To Inappropriate Behavior With Minors In Therapy Session
Stephen Collins is an actor known for playing the father on the award winning show 7th Heaven. Collins played a Protestant minister living with his wife and seven children in the fictional town of Glenoak, California (Hmm… a minister constantly surrounded by young children… What can go wrong?). The show was rife with family values, morals, and sentiment galore. A real family bonding kind of show. That’s why it was so shocking when Collins was exposed as a pedophile in 2014.
At a therapy session with his wife, Collins admitted to her that he had molested three girls in his life. The events happened in 1973, 1982, and 1994, and the girls ranged anywhere between ten and thirteen years old. Unbeknownst to Collins (whose memoir is suspiciously titled “Double Exposure”), his wife recorded his confession and took it to the police. But since the events began over 40 years ago, they weren’t able to substantiate any evidence. Collins hasn’t acted or commented on the allegations since.
4. Grace Under Fire – Removes Top In Front Of A Twelve-Year-Old
With the show Grace Under Fire, actress Brett Butler hopped on the train of strong female comedians in the 90s. She was the thin, blonde Roseanne of the south (if Roseanne was divorced and drank too much). Her character, Grace, was surrounded by three children, a scuzzy ex-husband, and a couple of friendly neighbors who had it a little more together. But when the oldest son, Quentin, became a teenager, his physical changes were much more than you’d typically expect. In fact, by the fourth season, he looked like a whole new person!
That’s because he was a whole new person. The character of Quentin was originally played by Jon Paul Steuer, but was replaced by Sam Horrigan. (Steuer and Horrigan had previously acted together in the movie Little Giants.) Steuer’s reason for leaving is one that got Hollywood executives talking. Apparently, while in Butler’s trailer, Butler took off her shirt in front of the twelve-year-old, exposing her breasts! After his parents removed him from the show, Steuer interviewed for other acting jobs, but because all the casting agents wanted was the inside scoop, he decided to quit acting altogether.
3. In The House – Unmedicated Episode Of Bipolar Disorder Causes Her To Spiral Out Of Control
In the House marked LL Cool J‘s successful transition into acting. The show ran for five seasons and featured a veteran supporting cast including Alfonso Ribeiro, Kim Wayans, and Debbie Allen. The one stand-out newcomer was an actress by the name of Maia Campbell, who played teen daughter Tiffany on the show.
Campbell was a budding model and actress whose first work was the film Poetic Justice with Janet Jackson and Tupac Shakur. Adding Mr. Cool J to her list of costars was a step in the right direction. But after the show ended and the guest roles thinned out, Campbell decided to give motherhood a try. Though she was elated to have a daughter in 2000, the pregnancy caused her to stop taking medicine that she needed to help with bipolar disorder. Without the medicine, Campbell spun out of control. She was arrested for car theft, drug possession, and prostitution. Though she got sober for a few years in the early ’10s, (Teens? What are we calling this decade anyway?) she apparently relapsed in 2015 when she was arrested for acting erratically at a Burger King in Atlanta.
2. Step By Step – Mitchell Arrested For Domestic Abuse
Step By Step was The Brady Bunch of the 90s. A merging family with six kids—three boys and three girls—all who seem to hate each other with a passion. Sure, mom and dad are there to try to keep things under control, but sometimes you need an impartial third party. Sometimes you need an Alice. The Alice in this case was dim-witted, yet philosophically wise Cody, the cool cousin who lives in his van and carries around an electric guitar for whomever will listen.
With witty catch phrases such as “Dudesy!” and “Yeah Buddy!”, Cody quickly became a fan favorite, and actor Sasha Mitchell (who had only appeared in dramas and martial arts films at the time) found unlikely fame. But out of the 7 seasons that Step By Step aired, Mitchell was only in 4. That’s because on April 21, 1995, he was arrested for domestic abuse. His wife claimed that he physically harmed her and endangered his step-daughter. Mitchell plead not guilty, and was later acquitted when it was decided he was acting in defense of himself and his children.
1. News Radio – Brynn Shoots Hartman, Then Herself
News Radio was Phil Hartman’s big break away from sketch comedy. One of the oldest actors on Saturday Night Live, Hartman succeeded in doing what most SNL alums couldn’t. He had a successful show of his own. With a stellar cast and growing audience, News Radio was on the rise throughout the first four seasons. The popularity of his show and his time on SNL and The Simpsons led Hartman to score starring roles in feature films through the mid 90s. Everything seemed to be going great!
But his home life was apparently not as good as it seemed. His wife Brynn was apparently intimidated by Hartman’s fame, and she tried masking it with drugs. Then, on the night of May 27th, 1998, after a heated argument at a restaurant, Brynn shot Hartman to death while he slept. After confessing the murder to a friend, she locked herself in her room and shot herself.
It was an event that shocked the nation. News Radio decided to go on with the show, killing off Hartman’s character and replacing him with Jon Lovitz. But the show only lasted one more season.