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1994 - A Good Year for Vegetarians on TV

Beverly Hills 90210

Beverly Hills 90210 (1990-2000) is the first prime-time soap-opera starring high school students. The starring characters are twins, Brandon Walsh (Jason Priestly) and Brenda Walsh (Shannen Doherty), who are sophomores when the show begins, and their family and friends. Brenda Walsh became a Vegetarian during the run of the series, in the 4th Season episode, "A Pig is a Boy is a Dog" (March 2, 1994). Brenda announces to her brother and parents who are at the breakfast table that she will be a Vegetarian from now on. Brandon asks her about her leather boots, and she says, one step at a time.

Shannen Doherty, who isn't a Vegetarian in real-life, left the show at the end of the fourth season, and Vegetarian issues weren't explored further. By the way, Jennie Garth who plays Kelly Taylor, is a Vegetarian in real-life, although her character isn't.

2nd from left: Jennie Garth as Kelly Taylor, 6th from left: Jason Priestly as Brandon Walsh, 7th from left: Shannen Doherty as Brenda Walsh.

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Roseanne

Roseanne (1988-1997) is a family sitcom starring Roseanne Barr and John Goodman. The John Goodman character does drywall, and the Roseanne Barr character has a variety of jobs. Darlene, their younger daughter played by Sara Gilbert, became a Vegetarian during the run. In Season 5, in the episode "Lanford Daze" (January 26, 1994), Roseanne is the owner of a "loose-meat" (Sloppy Joes) restaurant. Darlene protests by drawing the chalk outline of a cow outside her restaurant. Darlene's boyfriend implies that Darlene is a hypocrite, since as Roseanne's daughter, she is indirectly profitting from the restaurant. Darlene is upset and feels that charge has merit. Personally I don't consider that hypocricy, since Darlene can't control her mother.

In real life Sara Gilbert is a Vegan and did an anti-dissection video for PETA. The character of Darlene, however, eats pizza, presumably with cheese.

Sara Gilbert as Darlene Connor.

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Friends

Friends (1994-present) is a sitcom on NBC about six friends who live near each other in Manhattan, and like to drink coffee in a restaurant where a sofa is always waiting for them. The character of Phoebe was a Vegetarian from the beginning. Phoebe shows concern for animals, and saves Marcelle the monkey in one episode, and in many episodes performs a song of concern for a cat which goes, "Smelly cat, smelly cat, what are they feeding you? Smelly cat, smelly cat, it's not your fault."

In the episode, "The One with the Fake Party" (March 19, 1998), Phoebe is pregnant and gets cravings for meat. However, she doesn't want any cows to die on account of her. Joey offers not to eat any meat during her pregnancy so that she can and the same number of cows will die. The episode ends with Phoebe eating a pastrami sandwich which Joey looks at longingly. Not an ideal portrayal of a Vegetarian. It's true in real-life that some previously Vegetarian women decide to eat meat during their pregnancy. But they don't have to, and this episode promotes the myth that women need to eat meat while they're pregnant. Pregnant and nursing women need vitamin B12, but it doesn't have to be from meat.

In another episode, the characters visit Las Vegas. This episode, "The One in Vegas Part 1" (May 20, 1999) has unfortunate dialogue something like:

      Phoebe: A woman just handed me a coupon for steak and lobster for only 99 cents.

      Monica: You don't eat animals.

      Phoebe: For 99 cents I'd eat you.

However, they didn't show Phoebe eating that dinner in the episode, and in the 2001/2002 Season, Phoebe takes her Vegetarianism more seriously. There were scenes in separate episodes of that season in which people tried to pressure her to eat chicken and fish and she refused. In one such episode, Phoebe goes out to dinner with Rachel and her father, Dr. Green, and he wants to order chicken for everyone, and the dialogue is:

      Phoebe: I don't eat meat.

      Dr. Green: It's not meat, it's chicken.

      Phoebe: Yeah, well, I don't eat that either.

By the way, the flesh of any animal is meat, even though the word is often used to refer to beef.

In another episode, Phoebe's boyfriend, played by Alec Baldwin, tries to get her to eat an oyster and he won't listen when she says she doesn't want it, and so she takes it and drops it on the floor. Ironically, in real-life Alec Baldwin is a Vegetarian animal rights activist who has done promos for the Humane Society.

From left to right: Courtney Cox, who plays Monica Gellar, Lisa Kudrow who plays Phoebe Buffay, Jennifer Aniston who plays Rachel Green.

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ER

ER (1994-present) is a drama about doctors and nurses who work in the emergency room of a Chicago hospital. It airs on NBC Thursday nights and is one of the highest rated shows in the history of television. While I'm not one of the show's many viewers, I've been told that Dr. Peter Benton (Eriq La Salle) is a Vegetarian. Dr. Peter Benton was a regular unitl his highly-rated goodbye in the middle of the 2001/2002 Season.

Another character on "ER," Dr. Maggie Doyle (Jorja Fox) is also a Vegetarian. In the episode "Whose Appy Now?" (February 6, 1997), the character practices one-handed suture with an eggplant-skin instead of practicing with a pig-skin, and explains it's because she's a Vegetarian. Jorja Fox is a Vegetarian in real life.

Jorja Fox as Dr. Maggie Doyle.

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Blossom

Blossom (1991-1995) is a family sitcom about a teenage girl named Blossom Russo (Mayim Bialik) who lives with her single father (Ted Waas), and two older brothers (Joey Lawrence and Michael Stoyanov). Her best friend is a girl named Six LeMeure (Jenna von O),

In the episode "Meat" (January 24, 1994), her father decides that the family should eat vegetarian for health reasons. Blossom is enthusiastic and makes vegetarian lasagne for a soup-kitchen. Her brothers are less-enthusiastic, and her father has second-thoughts himself. The family eats "spaghetti and wheat-balls" for dinner. The dialogue between her father Nick and brother Joey goes something like:

    Nick: This food is bland.
    Joey: It's insipid.
    Nick: I didn't know you knew that word.
    Joey: I didn't until I ate this food.
Because they don't like the spaghetti-and-wheat-balls, they return to eating meat.
(Note: Thanks to Laura K. for helping with the description.)

Jenna von O as Six, Mayim Bialik as Blossom, and Joey Lawrence as Joey.

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The X-Files

The X-Files (1993-2002) is about two investigators into strange events which may be connected to space-aliens. The camera-friendly leads are David Duchovny as Fox Mulder and Gillian Anderson as Dr. Dana Scully.

In the episode "Red Museum," (December 9, 1994) the investigators look into strange violent outbursts by teenagers in the town of Delta Glen, WI, "in the middle of cow country." A sheriff, Mazeorski, urges Mulder and Scully to look into a local religous group led by a man named Richard Odin, who bought a ranch, stopped killing the cows, and renamed the ranch the Church of the Red Museum:

    SCULLY: What's the significance of the name "Red Museum?"

    MAZEROSKI: Well, Odin and the rest of them are a bunch of Vegetarians. They drove the ranch right into the ground, turned 500 head of beef cattle into pets. Calls it a monument to barbarism.

    MULDER: Probably went over big with the local ranchers.

    (Mazeroski laughs).

Richard Odin greets Muldar and Scully wearing a white outfit with a red hat, which is how the church members dress. He is reluctant to let Muldar and Scully enter the church building, because they're meat-eaters.

When Muldar and Scully question Richard Odin, he implies that the real question is "bovine growth hormones and inhumane treatment of beef and dairy cows."

At the end of the episode, Scully implies that the teenage behavioral problems were caused by "milk and beef tainted by the unspecified innoculant," and that the villain isn't Richard Odin, but a doctor in the town who was giving cow's experimental injections.

The Vegetarian leader in the episode probably doesn't win fans in the audience when he refuses to let Muldar and Scully enter his church, and the outfits the church members wear diminishes the ability of the audience to identify with them.

While Muldar and Scully eat meat, David Duchovny is a Vegetarian in real life.

 David Duchovny as Fox Muldar and Gillian Anderson as Dr. Dana Scully.