There’s no reason for the drink to be treated like amphetamines
Ah, coffee—the crack of beverages. Right? Wrong! For far too long, movies and TV shows have portrayed this mostly innocuous morning drink as an intense and addictive drug that turns people into manic psychopaths.
“The ‘mania’ observed on TV is exaggerated,” says registered dietitian Sharon Palmer, “but it is important to note that caffeine overdose, often associated with energy drinks with very high levels, has been linked to a number of health problems and even death. But these levels are generally higher than you’d get in coffee.”
After decades of pummeling by the media, it’s time to finally dispel the mistruths and outright lies and find out if there’s any truth in the absurd power of caffeine. Here are five instances of TV shows taking coffee plotlines a little too seriously and turing what should be a lowkey beverage into something like crack cocaine.
The Office—“Suit Warehouse”
Season nine of the The Office was a polarizing one that had fans once again rooting for Jim and Pam while struggling to come to terms to the problems plaguing their relationship. Ugh, also that goddamn boom mic operator! OK fine, season nine of The Office wasn’t the best. One highlight of the episode, “Suit Warehouse”—in which Dwight takes Clark on a sales call masquerading as father and son, Darryl interviews at Jim’s company (and in the process, kills many fish) and Pam admits that she’s not ready to move to Philadelphia. All the makings of a comedy hullabaloo! The episode’s C-plot is Jan gifting an espresso machine to the office, sparking a movement for the gang to sample each and every included espresso flavor. What follows is a classic coffee cliche: everyone gets amped on the stuff and turn into fast-talking, fast-walking raving lunatics. With one shot of espresso containing around 63 mg of caffeine—technically one-fifth of your daily recommended amount—there’s no reason for the stuff to be treated like amphetamines.
30 Rock—“Episode 210”
Kenneth the Page doesn’t drink hot liquids on account of them being the “devil’s temperature,” but breaks when Tracy Jordan buys a coffee maker for the office. Now, let’s all hang back for a second and agree upon something: Almost every show mentioned in this list is a comedy, and show these caffeine-related plotlines are heightened for comedic effect. I know that and you know that—I just don’t want you thinking I don’t know that. I do. Carrying, on, what happens to Kenneth next is comedy gold and perfectly in line for his character: He becomes a coffee-addicted monster. Cliche, sure, but done perfectly by the incomparable Jack McBrayer. While caffeine addiction is pretty minor in terms of “if I don’t have this I will die,” Kenneth acts like he’s just gotten a shot of crystal meth directly into his heart after his first sip. Not terribly realistic, but then again neither is immortality.
Friends—“The One with the Bullies”
Here’s one that no normal person would ever remember—let alone catalogue in their brain for later. Remember the episode where Chandler and Ross are bullied by those two dudes (Peter DeLuise and Nicky Katt) at the coffee shop? Instead of facing the bullies, Ross and Chandler decide to bypass the situation entirely by avoiding Central Perk and making coffee at home. OK, now’s when things start to get weird: Instead of the instant coffee mixing with the hot water like instant coffee is supposed to, the guys find they have to continually stir the liquid to keep it from separating. Um, sorry, what kind of world are you living in where coffee and water won’t mix let alone separate?! I guess it’s the same devoid-of-science world where no black people live in NYC.
Bob’s Burgers—“The Unnatural”
Name a female on television more realistic than Tina Belcher. I even relate to her and I’m a 31-year-old man with thinning hair. In one of my favorite episodes ever, Bob installs a new espresso machine at the restaurant, leading to Tina developing an instant caffeine addiction. She starts walking quickly, talking quickly, and believes she can hear hair growing—totally normal stuff. At the end, she goes through an incredibly funny caffeine withdrawal (which is a real thing, BTW) and snaps at Jimmy Jr. for having a speech impediment. All in all, a perfect episode of television that uses the coffee addiction plotline in its favor.
Saved by the Bell —“Jessie’s Song”
My god, this one. The creme de la creme. When the concept of a “very special episode” comes up, this one always wins the gold. A close second is the episode of California Dreams where Tony finds out his ancestors were slaves. Quick plot summary for those who somehow didn’t get around to watching the episode—even though it’s been out for literally 28 years. Jessie, Kelly, and Lisa form a band for some reason, but Jessie can’t cope with the stress of the rigorous schedule on top of schoolwork, so she gets hooked on caffeine pills. Granted, it was originally supposed to be speed, but that didn’t stop the writers from giving the poor girl a total meltdown accompanied with screaming, hitting, and singing-turning-into-crying. It was an incredible moment for sitcoms—and caffeine. Now obviously, you should be careful with caffeine pills IRL—as you should with any pill you put into you body—but you’d be hard-pressed to find a caffeine pill brand out there that’ll turn you into the equivalent of a speed freak.
“I’m so excited! I’m soooo excited! I’m. So. Scared.”