There’s plenty to love about sitcoms throughout the years. From the very first sitcoms in the UK and the US (Pinwright’s Progress and Mary Kay and Johnny), both from 1947 and of course later known classic favorites like I Love Lucy and The Brady Bunch through today’s great half hours of situational comedy, most of the television audiences truly do enjoy leaving their brains on the floor for half an hour to laugh at the trials and tribulations of their favorite characters.
But like any day job we might have – the people that we work with have private lives and there could be all kinds of craziness going on in that co-worker’s life. But as a television star, a lot of your life off-screen is shared with the world via tabloids, Twitters, and Facebooks.
Some our favorite shows and some of our favorite stars have a dark side to their fame, and here are 15 of those shows and their dark secrets and facts.
15. Matthew Perry Was A Crazy Junkie (Friends)
Chandler Bing is one of the most memorable, sarcastic, and beloved sitcom characters of all time. For ten years, Matthew Perry was one of everyone’s best friends, being invited into the homes of fans of Friends every Thursday night from 94-04.
But the guy was plenty loaded at the time – he ate all kinds of pills like they were candy – Vicodin and methadone to name a few. Alcohol of course was plentiful as well, as well as subsequent stays in rehab, both in and outpatient rehab. Nowadays, Perry has been an advocate to help addicts get cleaned up, but life was so bad for the former Chandler on Friends, that he has stated he doesn’t remember three years’ worth of shows.
In an interview with BBC2 Radio in 2016, he said as much when asked to pick his least favorite episode. “I think the answer is, I don’t remember three years of it, so none of those…somewhere between season three and six.” In another interview with People in 2013, he admitted things got so bad that he couldn’t hide it and everyone knew.
14. Fights With Aunt Viv (The Fresh Prince Of Bel Air)
Usually, when a character is written off and or out of a show, they’re not that important to the stories the writers are trying to tell. But what happens when you’re part of the main cast and constantly fighting with the lead star that the show was centered around – the term “bye Felicia” comes to mind.
Janet Hubert originated the role of Aunt Viv on Fresh Prince for the first few seasons, but depending on who you ask, either getting preggers or a deep seated jealously of her on-screen nephew caused her to be fired from the show. You decide which story to believe.
Supposedly there was a clause in her contract that forbade her from getting prego and when she did, it was written into the show and Nicky was born. The other story is more sordid and in this case, the more believable one, since the writers could have found inventive ways to hide her pregnancy and not wrote it into the show. According to Will Smith in an August 1993 interview with Jet, “she said once ‘I’ve been in the business for 10 years and this snotty nosed punk gets his own show.’ No matter what I’m just the Anti-Christ to her.”
13. One And A Half Men Go Insane (Two And A Half Men)
In one of the biggest public meltdowns of this or any other era, thanks to social media we got to watch Charlie Sheen go nucking futs right before our very eyes. Fans already knew he was an edgy guy (after all Charlie Harper on Two and a Half Men was created for him), but then he started exhibiting even more crazy than Sheen crazy antics.
First were the reports of drug abuse and spousal abuse, sadly the normal Sheen stuff, but when he started espousing about he was an Adonis filled with tiger blood and rockstar from Mars, CBS grew tired of his BS and kicked him to the curb in favor of Ashton Kutcher instead.
The half-man on the cast, Angus T. Jones eventually decided his characters crazy antics were too adult for him who was not an adult, which was a very adult thought and concern to have – would it not be for also calling himself a paid hypocrite and started denouncing the show for all of its debauchery. Of course none of this stopped him from making a cameo in the finale.
12. A.C. Slater Accused Of Assault…Twice (Saved By The Bell)
From Good Morning Miss Bliss all the through The College Years, somehow, someway the cornball antics from the kids at Bayside High continue to find an audience (we won’t talk about those New Class spin-offs). Saved by the Bell will forever be known for giving us Kelly Kapowski, giant cell phones, “I’m so excited,” and plenty other fond memories.
Of course with a cast of beautiful, hormonal teenagers running around there’s all kinds of dating between each other. But then there’s Mario Lopez, accused of rape not once, but twice. When he was 19, an 18 year old girl claimed she was sexually assaulted by AC Slater. A little while after this claim, another girl came forward.
Both charges were eventually dismissed. But according to Dustin Diamond in his tell all book, before the claims would reach Cosby proportions, NBC paid both ladies off.
11. Judy Winslow Started Doing A Different Kind Of Acting (Family Matters)
Chuck did it on Happy Days, Seven did it on Married with Children, and many other TV characters have had it happen to them – they would head upstairs and never be heard of again. Fan response to certain characters just isn’t there and the writers write them out of sitcoms.
Family Matters might have the most unique instance of a character being written off. Jamie Foxworth, who played middle Winslow, Judy, had her character experience less storylines and cute lines as the series progressed due to turn popularity of Steve Urkel. So Judy and her existence was written out of the series.
Foxworth decided that formal acting wasn’t for her, but drugs and alcohol suited her just fine, as did an acting career in the other industry, as Crave. Unlike other stars, her appearances are actually few and far between, including a parody of The Jeffersons.
10. Kirk Cameron Got His On-Screen Girlfriend Fired (Growing Pains)
When the star of one of the most wholesome family sitcoms of the eighties is calling the series out for being salacious, there’s a lot of strange happenings going on with Growing Pains. The series was like any other sitcom of the day – three kids who are at odds with each other but love one another deep down and both parents are working great jobs and helping keep the peace between their brood.
Kirk Cameron, in one of the most famous cases of going off the deep end with his newfound religious beliefs – at 17 he went from being an atheist to a born again Christian, and as the show’s breakout star and crush for plenty of ratings-approved teen girls, he requested the storylines have no adult content or racy content, which wouldn’t be a stretch for the show’s producers.
However, Mike’s girlfriend Julie famously broke up with the guy via Dear John letter, but behind the scenes the long-held thought truth was that Kirk Cameron demanded Julie McCullogh be fired, due to her appearance in Playboy, and stated ABC was promoting pornography by having her there.
9. Lisa Robin Kelly Had A Drinking Problem (That ’70s Show)
That ’70s Show debuted on Fox in 1998 and geared towards kids. In fact, it might have been the first sitcom to show teenagers sitting in “the circle,” smoking pot and being fun loving delinquents whose hearts were in the right places. NBC had Friends, Fox had their show about friends in the seventies.
Lisa Robin Kelly played Laurie, Eric’s older sister. The two constantly traded barbs while Kelso constantly hit on her, to Eric’s dismay. But behind the scenes, Kelly let the dangers of Hollywood stardom get to her – alcoholism and the loss of her baby was sadly only the beginning of bad road for her.
8. Full (Dark) House – Saget’s Vulgarity And Sweetin’s Addiction
Break bad, swear like a sailor, and bed women at least 15 years younger than you, and you too can be on television’s most wholesome family sitcom of all time – Full House. We all know how saccharine the series was during its run, and even now on Fuller House, the cast continues to show how uplifting and popular it can be.
Behind the scenes however…people are people and not the characters they play on TV. For example, as we would learn through watching his stand-up, Bob Saget has zero filters when he speaks and is completely insane. Dave Coulier, who played lovable Uncle Joey, had dated Alanis Morisette and gave her the heartbreaking fodder for her signature track “You Outta Know.” But perhaps the biggest train wreck was what happened to Jodie Sweetin.
Sweetin played the sweet but occasionally sarcastic middle child, Stephanie and although she’s on the other side of it now, “broke bad” long before anyone outside of the crystal meth circles knew what that term meant. But she also used all kinds of drugs like crack and ecstasy since she was 14, because she was bored.
7. Modern Family/Modern Problems (Modern Family)
If you thought Ariel Winter’s Instagram was the only scandalous thing about Modern Family, then you and all of the other MFers (Modern Family fans) would be wrong. Heck, if you thought the issues with her family was the only drama going on about the show, then you’d be wrong again.
Sofia Vergara, who plays the vivacious Gloria on the show, is in a legal battle for her own embryos, which as crazy as it sounds and was brought forth by the embryo’s trustee, James Charbonnet.
If familial issues and embryo thieves aren’t enough for you, Sarah Hyland had to file a restraining order against her ex-boyfriend thanks to verbal and physical abuse brought on by Matthew Prokop, which she felt threatened her and her dog. The courts granted a permanent restraining order.
6. Tisha Campbell Had A Restraining Order Against Martin (Martin)
Back in its infancy as a TV network, Fox went against the grain and gave us TV shows that were not the norm. The Tracy Ullman Show (which birthed The Simpsons), Cops, America’s Most Wanted, 21 Jump Street, and Married With Children – all very divergent shows at the time when compared to what else was on. The trend continued in the early 90s with bad boy comic, Martin Lawrence and his aptly titled sitcom – Martin.
The series featured Lawrence as a disk jockey in Detroit who hangs with girlfriend, Gina, played by Tisha Campbell. It’s easy to see how things might get complicated when Gina wasn’t written out of the show at all, but Campbell had filed a restraining order against her on-screen boyfriend during the show’s last season.
According to a Variety article from March 1997, Campbell had filed suit against Lawrence for sexual harassment and HBO Productions (who financed the show), for not acting on her complaints. They settled the case; of course details were not disclosed; so that Campbell could return to finish filming the last shows of the series.
5. Seinfeld’s 17 Year Old Girlfriend (Seinfeld)
Always regarded as the greatest sitcom of all time, Seinfeld ran for nine years and is still all over syndication to this very day. Even though co-creator Larry David moved onto Curb Your Enthusiasm, Julia Louis-Dreyfus has been on several sitcoms and Jerry has his mini–talk show, Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee; the entire cast will forever be immortalized and remembered for their roles.
Although the characters seemingly didn’t care about anyone except for each other, the series was more or less good natured ribbing and mischief for a half hour every week. And with the real Jerry seemingly made of Teflon, what could possibly be going on with the show about nothing?
Besides his eventual defamation lawsuit that he was victorious in, Seinfeld made a few tabloid headlines in the mid–nineties when he started dating raven–haired beauty Shoshanna Lonstein, who is now a fashion designer, but when she was dating Seinfeld, she was just a 17–year old high school student.
4. Trafficking And Inappropriate Relationships With Minors (Home Improvement)
With the entire hullabaloo about the cancellation of Tim Allen’s new show, Last Man Standing, ABC must have forgotten just how popular he was and is voicing Buzz Lightyear, and playing Tim the Toolman Taylor on Home Improvement. Tim Allen is a true success story in any genre, but in Hollywood, he was Robert Downey, Jr. long before RDJ was barely doing drugs in the first place.
In true proof that life indeed gets better with time, over ten years before fame found him, Allen found himself arrested for drug trafficking cocaine and facing life imprisonment for the crime had he not turned state’s evidence. Allen would serve only a few years instead.
During the show’s run however, pedophilia was reportedly a big issue, according to Taran Noah Smith’s (youngest kid Mark) mother, who according to an FBI informant that spoke with her; Taran, along with the other two Taylor sons were huge targets of predators. If that is the case, then one of them did break through when 33 year old vegan chef Heidi Van Pelt, who convinced the then 16 year old Smith to get his trust fund from his parents.
3. Sasha Mitchell Beat His Wife (Step By Step)
Take the saccharine Full House, add the concept for The Brady Bunch, and sprinkle early to mid-nineties family sitcom methodology and you have the modest hit Step by Step. For several years, the story of divorcees Frank and Carol and how their whirlwind vacation romance turned into a marriage and a blended family of six kids was a staple of ABC’s TGIF lineup.
As if the show didn’t have a robust enough cast, during the first season, Frank’s dimwitted nephew, Cody moved in. As dimwitted as he was, he was also big hearted – the family sitcom version of Kramer, who sometimes unintentionally delivered sage wisdom to his cousins and step-cousins.
Too bad the actor who played Cody, Sasha Mitchell wasn’t as sage or sweet as his character. The skilled martial artist may or may not have abused his first wife, Jeanette Robbins in 1995 – charges were filed and dropped, and while he was cleared of any wrong doing, the image was enough for Mitchell to be written out of the series.
2. Rebecca Schaeffer Was Murdered (My Sister Sam)
In a case of art imitating life both Patti Russell and the girl who played her, Rebecca Schaeffer moved from Oregon to California. Patti moved to live with her sister, Sam (My Sister Sam), and Schaeffer to pursue a modelling and acting career. The series was created as a new starring vehicle for both Schaeffer and Pam Dawber (Mork and Mindy)
The series was unfortunately short-lived and cancelled after two seasons (1996–88), but will live on in infamy due to the stalking and eventual murder of Rebecca by Robert John Bardo, an obsessed fan who was upset that she “lost her innocence,” because she filmed a sex scene in the movie, Scenes from the Class Struggle in Beverly Hills.
In one of the most publicized and certainly tragic items in Hollywood history, the stalking and eventual murder of Rebecca Schaeffer left plenty of fans reeling, along with fellow sitcom stars, like Mark-Paul Gosselaar, who was filming Good Morning Miss Bliss right next door to her old show.
1. Andy Kaufman Annoys His Co-Stars (Taxi)
According to Jerry the King Lawler, Andy Kaufman loved to annoy people, and when he took his love of professional wrestling and combined it with his love of annoying people and became a successful wrestling heel in Memphis. But that didn’t mean Latka’s antics were winning everyone over on the set of Taxi.
Kaufman’s antics would often annoy his co-stars. He even found a way to get his alter-ego Tony Clifton a separate contract and several issues arose from “Tony’s” appearances, one time delaying filming so that two ladies of the night could service him in his trailer, which prompted star Judd Hirsch to storm off set. According to Tony Danza, he himself was so filed up waiting for Kaufman to finish meditating that he pelted him with a fire extinguisher and emptied the whole thing on him while he just stood there and took it.
The cast like so many people around the world simply didn’t get Andy or his brand of performance art, until after his death.
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