The 30th Anniversary of the Sitcom Episode that Scared the Sh*t Out of Every 80s Kid

by Howie Decker @HowardTheDeck on October 31, 2014

in Television, The 80s

No, not that episode of Diff’rent Strokes. Or that one.

October 26 marked the 30th anniversary of “Burn Out”, the fifth episode of season two of Webster. No TV Guide preview could prepare us for the horrors this 1984 episode would contain. If you stumble upon a Webster conversation these days, chances are it’s about this episode. If Webster followed the Friends template of naming shows, this ep would be titled “The One Where Webster Torches All of Ma’am and George’s Shit”.

So what were the long term effects of this episode? I can tell you one thing for sure- there was no way in hell I was ever getting a chemistry set after my parents saw this ep. Come to think of it, was the “chemistry set as a child’s toy” thing going out of style anyway, or did this episode kill that industry entirely? I bet there were a TON of chemistry set lobbyists picketing outside of Paramount when this ep was in production. I’m surprised Big Chemistry didn’t get Webster cancelled after two seasons.

I didn’t necessarily come away from it with a heightened fear of fire, but I did start labeling all of my prized possessions as my “mementos”. I filled one of my dad’s old cigar boxes with my “mementos”, including Bobby ‘The Brain” Heenan’s autograph scribbled on a napkin, some extra special Garbage Pail Kids (see: Hooked Howie, Soured Howard), tiny G.I. Joe accessories I feared losing (Big Boa’s gloves, B.A.T. attachments, etc) and a backstage pass from a Corey Hart concert I didn’t go to.

See, when Webster [SPOILER ALERT] rushed back in to save his mementos from the fire, I vowed to never be in such an undesirable position. I’d keep all of my most important personal effects in one safe place, easy to grab on my way out the door in case of disaster. Like a highly flammable safe deposit box.

If you’d like to re-live the horror, the entire episode is below. Be warned, the video quality is a bit of a dumpster fire (too soon?).

You can buy the episode on Amazon here.

William Bruce West October 27, 2014 at 1:34 pm

I love you so much, Howie Decker.

Dex October 27, 2014 at 2:01 pm

“a backstage pass from a Corey Hart concert I didn’t go to”

If it helps, I had a photo of Don Johnson that I cut out of somewhere and fake autographed it.

Clarence October 27, 2014 at 3:22 pm

Whither those Garbage Pail Kid cards? Whither?

Whatever cards I had was probably stuck in a Trapper Keeper folder and then dumped at the end of the school year.

HowardTheDeck October 28, 2014 at 8:04 am

Still have ’em! Next to a current fave:

bmorin54 October 27, 2014 at 5:35 pm

Emmanuel Lewis was a damn fine actor.

And I got a chemistry set as a kid, but never understood what the heck to do with it. Good thing.

William Bruce West October 28, 2014 at 5:05 pm

So, I finally watched the posted episode. I’d forgotten how much that episode scared me as a kid – that and the episode of The Hogan Family where their house burned down. Needless to say, I was afraid of fire as a kid. Let’s just say Webster got lucky he had white parents, though, ’cause that scenario would’ve played out a whole lot differently with his real parents. He probably would’ve been sent to live with his grandma after that. Anyway, it was an upgrade, as he ended up with a house with a dumbwaiter. That’s so cool that it almost makes me think he burned the apartment down on purpose.

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