Rembert Explains the ’80s: You Can’t Do That On Television “Drugs” Episode

Editor’s Note: Welcome back to our series Rembert Explains the ’80s. Every so often, we’ll e-mail 24-year-old Rembert Browne a video from the 1980s that he hasn’t seen. Rembert will write down his thoughts as he’s watching it, then we’ll post those thoughts here. This week’s installment was selected by our Hollywood Prospectus editor, Mark Lisanti: You Can’t Do That On Television (“Drugs” Episode, 1981). If you have an idea for a future episode of Rembert Explains the ’80s, e-mail us at

0:01 “Mr. Rogers Neighborhood Pusher”? Oh, I like where this is going.

0:10 I don’t know what show this is, but so far there is a laugh track and a 13 year old white kid selling “the stuff” to a 10 year old white kid. Confused, but ecstatic.

0:17 He brought 10 bucks? What’s he trying to get his hands on, a pack of baseball cards? Is he a junkie for slap bracelets? Is he fiending for Tab? (Just ran out of 80s references.)

0:22 Prepubescent drug lord (who is wearing a fedora and is talking like a bad guy from Dick Tracy) tells the junkie child that the price has gone up. Doubled, in fact, to $20. Wow, what’s he trying to infect the community with, Dunkaroos? Mean Joe Greene jerseys? Crack cocaine? (Ha, you didn’t actually think I ran out, did you?)

0:35 Yo, this kid is an addict. He’s trying to use the watch he got for Christmas as collateral until he can come up with the other ten dollars. What a dope fiend. Respect.

0:49 Yes. The 7th grade kingpin is going to give him his fix. Also, it’s worth noting that it’s unclear whether this transaction is happening in a well-lit alley in the suburbs, or in a nook on the playground during recess.

0:52 Wow. The fix that the kid needed: A pie. Boo. I was really trying to see drugs tear apart this community. Nope, just custard pie. I’m confused. What show is this?

0:54 The junkie just stuffed the pie in his own face. That was his fix and, like any junkie, he’s super relaxed.

Side note: While his normal acting is piss-poor, the kid’s post-fix high is Oscar-worthy. Real drugs were most definitely an important part of his day-to-day existence.


1:16 I always forget how dated early-’80s animation looks. This is the worst.

1:37 This is weird. I don’t like the direction this show is going in.

1:39 Show Title: You Can’t Do That On Television! Never heard of it. I have a weird feeling it’s like the original All That, though. Very strong suspicion.


1:45 Female cast member in awesome sweater 1: “As you may have guessed, this week’s show is about drugs.” Hmmm, go on, Female Cast Member in Awesome Sweater #1.

1:59 Okay, I’m confused. The premise of this show is that they allude to inappropriate stuff, partly to make fun of it, but partly to show how bad for you and unnecessary they are? It’s like a Very Special Episode that is making fun of Very Special Episodes. Meta.

2:28 They are still going with the pie schtick. I get it. Please, I beg of you, sweater girl, move on from the pies.

2:29 Three more cast members walk into the scene. They all have pie on their face.

2:30 Ahhhh, look at that little black kid. I swear, if they give him the junkiest of lines, I’m turning this off. It’s January 26, that’s too soon.

2:40 They didn’t give him the junkiest of lines, because they didn’t have to, seeing as that they found the most naturally strung out-looking 10 year old in America. This kid definitely grew up to be a real-life Tyrone Biggums.

3:00 The laugh track is loving this show. I think they got the 8-year old audience high on pies.

3:12 Next scene: Basketball coach is scolding two kids for their performance in the basketball game. He can’t figure out what’s wrong with them. (I BET IT’S THE PIE, I BET IT’S THE PIE.)

3:38 Coach leaves, kids pull pies out of locker, smash them in their faces. They are really going to hammer this home, aren’t they.

    In case you’re confused, here’s what’s happening. The pies represent drugs. But they can’t say drugs, because YOU CANT DO THAT ON TELEVISION. Sigh. Where’s Kel?

4:07 Back to the girl, who just got a bucket of water dumped on her head? Please tell me this show takes a turn for Wild and Crazy Kids. Oh, how I would love that.

4:19 Skit one: Teacher accuses kid of cheating, kid says he’s not cheating, teacher gives kid answers, crowd goes wild, skit over.

4:28 Skit two: Dad asks kid what he’s drinking, kid says milk, dad gets furious, says it’s good for you, demands he gets himself a soda, crowd goes wild, skit over.

4:57 Skit three: Kid walks into class late, teacher asks why, kid says he was playing pinball and lost track of time, teacher asks if he won any games, kid says yes but left them there, teacher is furious and demands he goes back to the arcade, says “pinball is more important than algebra,” crowd goes wild, skit over.

    At this point, if they pull one more of these stupid rapid-fire skits on me, I’m probably going to throw my computer out of the window.

    Also, this looks like a public access TV show. Was this on a network? Did this have funding?

5:46 There’s another skit. I’m not talking about it. It’s so upsetting.

6:02 Yes. We made it through that. They just very abruptly ended. Were any adults involved in advising the creation of this show?

6:03 First thing we’ve learned about the show, the girl with the great sweater, her name is Moose. Yep, Moose. Ten bucks she ended up playing field hockey at Colgate.

6:10 Uh oh, new segment: “Rolling Camera on the Street”. I can’t wait for this to suck.


    Side note: If you aren’t a masochist, close out this article, and whatever you do, don’t watch the video. I feel like it’s about to ruin my week.

6:16 Joke 1, told by nervous girl with confident bangs:

    “What’s the definition of stupid? Answer: Two bald men fighting over a comb.”

    (Just sprained my ankle. On purpose.)

6:21 Joke 2, told by six year old with receding hairline:

    “What was the first bus to travel across the ocean? Answer: Columbus.”

    (Looking for paint to eat in my attic.)

6:26 Joke 3, told by a girl/boy with a punishment mullet:

Why did the boar ride a boat up the stairs? Answer: ______________

    Why did I leave Answer blank, you might be asking? Oh, because they never told us the punch line. Even though the horrible answer to that horrible joke was bound to make me stuff my size 11 feet in size 6 clogs and proceed to take a 5 mile run, how are they going to leave me hanging like that? This is further proof that this show was edited by kids who get high on pie with their parents on the regular.

6:35 And just like that, a completely new segment. Are there no commercials? That would explain the fact that this show cost seven dollars to make.

6:51 We’re back to the junkie pies. I’m upset. They should show this instead of waterboarding criminals. Maybe they do? I need to look into this.

7:12 In case you’re curious (Which you shouldn’t be. Seriously. Stop reading this. Go away…) a kid is being locked in a dungeon, he’s begging the guard to throw a pie in his face, and as a way to torture the poor, young junkie, the guard puts it right out of his reach so the kid has to look at it. For those of you thinking, “Is this essentially an ’80s, cracked out, bastardization of the Tantalus myth from Greek mythology,” congrats. Your reward:

    Go to your neighborhood grocery store, find a custard pie, and shoot it. You won’t be charged with any crimes, just tell them you watched an episode of YOU CAN’T DO THIS ON TELEVISION. They’ll understand. Immediate pardon.

7:30 Back to the Basketball junkies. They have pie all over their faces, because they are junkies and that’s the abyss that junkies dwell in.

7:34 Coach: “You kids haven’t been splattering pies, have you?”


    I’m sorry. This show has put me in a bad place.

7:58 New scene: Kid is given a gun to execute himself. That’s actually the whole scene. They cut away before he pulls the trigger. Why?

    Okay, so I assume the abrupt cut away is a tool used for suspense in this show. So that wild joke earlier, they just wanted me to stick around so I could finally hear the punch line. Clever, junkies. Very clever.

8:22 New scene. Main junkie kid has a life-sized black girl doll and when he pulls a string, she talks. I can’t…

8:33 “Angie The Talking Doll” answers his questions, and then dumps a bucket of water on his head. Classic. I think this scene was in The Help, if I’m not mistaken.

8:46 We’re back to Moose in the main studio. She’s eating pie. I want to fight everyone involved in the making of this show.

9:18 New scene: A kid has 6 toes, doctor says he can cure it, only 1 person in 1000 ever dies from it. Then goes on to say he’s cured 999. #CAIN.

9:28 NO NO NO NO NO. I’M done with this show. There are 18 more seconds left in this clip and I refuse to watch it. Go to 9:28 and see for yourself. Or just click here. I’m about to call Spike, Jesse, and Al and the four of us are about to write some stern letters. Poor kid. Poor poor kid. Definitely ended up having a confused adolescence. I’m so mad. Sure, there are tears coming out of my eyes and I’m laughing uncontrollably, but the laughs are anger laughs and nothing more. I’m done with this show.

I was about to say how thankful I was to have grown up on better children’s variety shows like All That, but now I’m afraid that if I go back and see an episode, it’ll be just as bad. That would crush me. I can’t watch it. But Amanda Bynes was so funny. I don’t know what to do. I’m scared. Unfortunately, this will all have to wait, because Jesse and Al just pulled up in a Ford F150 with pens, stationary, and 6 tins of Murray’s pomade.

Filed Under: Nostalgia, Rembert Browne, Rembert Tries to Explain the Eighties, The 80S

Rembert Browne is a staff writer for Grantland.

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