TSOF Note: This review is Part 3 of a three part series examining various sitcoms' use of social learning theory to address the behavior of drinking and driving.
“Being is. Being is in-itself. Being is what it is.”
In the first two reviews of this series, the episodes addressed drinking and driving in a straightforward manner using social learning. Though “Under the Influence,” originally airing on December 6, 1994, outwardly appears similar to the first two reviews in this series, it provides a far deeper commentary on the form. Similar to both “Drinking and Driving” and “Second Chance,” “Under the Influence” seemingly presents a message episode regarding drinking and driving. In fact, “Under the Influence” even has the same director as “Second Chance” – John Tracy. The key distinction, however, lies in the fact that “Under the Influence” overtly rejects the tenants of social learning theory. Importantly, even though it rejects social learning as an impetus for teaching a lesson, the episode continues to present a message-based storyline. Far from representing an exercise in futility, “Under the Influence” is a stunning achievement, making a culturally important point regarding the sitcom. Specifically, the episode acknowledges that though its existence may be completely pointless, the series must continue to present message laden episodes because these stories are a fundamental basis of the form.