"Very Special Episodes — i.e., the ones in which a TV series would take a break from its regularly scheduled programming to deal with a difficult or controversial subject (like The Next Generation’s two-part school shooting arc) — are as old as television itself," says Desi Jedeikin. "Case in point: Leave It to Beaver grappled with divorce, and The Andy Griffith Show tackled alcoholism. But they really took off in the 1970s when TV legend Norman Lear wove the social issues of the era into his numerous prime-time hits. I’m talking some pretty dark stuff, too, including Edith’s sexual assault on All in the Family and the now legendary abortion storyline on Maude, both of which were revolutionary and redefined what a sitcom could be. Lee Gambin, author of Tonight, On A Very Special Episode: When TV Sitcoms Sometimes Got Serious, says the left-leaning sentiments of shows like Maude were early flashpoints in the culture war. As such, conservatives regularly railed against Hollywood’s subversive influence. But once Ronald Reagan was elected president, Gambin says, 'conservatives started realizing that they could use Very Special Episodes as a tool to promote their own agenda. That’s when you started seeing Nancy Reagan show up on shows like Diff’rent Strokes, peddling her Just Say No campaign.'"