Banned TV Moments That Fans Can't See
By Sarah Norman | September 7, 2023
See Me, Feel Me, Gnomey - The Powerpuff Girls
There's a sense of forbidden allure that comes with things that are banned or hard to come by. Whether it's a banned book, a censored movie, or an episode of a popular television show that was pulled from the airwaves, there's something about the unattainable that makes it all the more desirable. And while censorship may seem like a thing of the past, the truth is that there are still plenty of examples of episodes of popular television shows that were banned or are now hard to see because they were pulled from the airwaves after their initial run.
From the controversial and the offensive to the just plain bizarre, these episodes represent a side of television history that we don't often get to see. So, if you're a fan of television and want to explore some of the shows that have been deemed too hot for TV, then read on. We've compiled a list of some of the most banned and hard-to-find episodes of popular television shows, and we're inviting you to join us on a journey into the dark and fascinating world of TV censorship.
The Powerpuff Girls' "See Me, Feel Me, Gnomey" episode was a daring foray into the world of rock operas, inspired by the likes of "Jesus Christ Superstar" and "Tommy". The girls find themselves overwhelmed by the crime plaguing Townsville and make a deal with an evil gnome to restore peace, giving up their powers in the process. However, the gnome takes the opportunity to create a cult and indoctrinates the people of Townsville. The girls must then choose between a world of peace and one of balance, ultimately deciding to break the deal and send the gnome into oblivion, restoring order to their city.
Series creator Craig McCracken has long since dismissed the rumors about flashing seizure lights and political debates that supposedly led to the episode's ban. Rather, the controversy was due to a misunderstanding. Reportedly, a character that bore a striking resemblance to Jesus Christ appeared alongside a structure of steel beams that resembled a cross. McCracken insists that the inclusion was purely coincidental and never intended as a nod to Christianity. Nonetheless, the episode was banned from American TV screens and remains a puzzling enigma for fans of the series who dare to explore its mysteries.
Testimony of Evil/Dead Men Don't Laugh - Police Squad!
In the world of Police Squad!, death is no laughing matter-- unless it's done with style. The show's signature opening credits featured a rotating roster of celebrity guest stars dying in outrageous ways, to the delight of viewers. However, when John Belushi filmed an intro for the sixth episode, "Testimony of Evil/Dead Men Don't Laugh", the joke took a dark turn. Belushi's intro, in which he was seen submerged in a river with his feet in cement, had to be pulled after the actor's real-life death from a drug overdose. William Conrad's death scene was substituted, with him being stabbed and thrown from a moving car. Belushi's "death scene" has never seen the light of day, with rumors circulating that it has been destroyed.
Conspiracy - Star Trek: The Next Generation
Star Trek: The Next Generation, the beloved third installment of the iconic Star Trek series, takes place in the latter third of the 24th century, where Earth is a part of the United Federation of Planets, and the USS Enterprise (NCC-1701-D) embarks on a journey to explore the Alpha quadrant. In the season one episode "Conspiracy," after meeting with a fellow captain, Jean-Luc Picard and the crew of the Enterprise uncover a conspiracy involving high-ranking Starfleet officers possessed by parasitic aliens preparing to invade the United Federation of Planets. However, the uncut version of "Conspiracy" was kept off of the BBC due to its rather uncharacteristic graphic depiction of a man exploding, which resulted in a highly edited version being aired by the BBC in 1991.
Home – The X-Files
The X-Files, notorious for its seedy dealings of government conspiracies and extraterrestrial life, had already laid out a veritable feast of gore and revulsion for its viewers. But in the sordid and sickening episode, "Home," the show managed to outdo itself, delivering one of the most appalling hours of broadcast television in history. Mulder and Scully's investigation of the murder of a mutated infant leads them to a small, isolated town, where they encounter the Peacock family: a group of twisted, inbred farmers who engage in unspeakable acts of debauchery with their quadruple amputee mother, all in the name of perpetuating their cursed bloodline.
Rife with repugnant depictions of sex and violence, "Home" is like a gruesome spectacle that you can't look away from, no matter how much you might want to. Fox initially banned the episode from ever being aired again due to its overwhelming shock value, but fans protested, and it was eventually brought back, becoming a highlight of the series. Much like the infamous horror classics, The Last House on the Left and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, "Home" is just as enthralling as it is unnerving, and it's a wonder that it was ever allowed to see the light of day.
Justice - Quantum Leap
Quantum Leap, the time-traveling TV show led by the charismatic Scott Bakula as Dr. Sam Beckett, takes us on a wild ride through the complexities of history. But the fourth season episode "Justice" explores a particularly dark corner of America's past, as Sam leaps into a man named Clyde who's about to join the Ku Klux Klan. As if things weren't complicated enough, Clyde has married into a racist family and must prevent the lynching of Black civil rights leader Nathaniel while also trying to teach his son the true evils of bigotry. Unsurprisingly, this controversial episode is often left out of syndication, with its explicit use of racist language likely being the reason for its omission.
Cry Baby Lane
Cry Baby Lane, a 70-minute TV movie that originally aired on Nickelodeon in 2000, has since become a legend. Some claim it was banned for being too terrifying, while others suggest it was simply "forgotten." Regardless, it quickly amassed a cult following and became a curiosity among horror fans. After years of being thought lost, a Redditor digitized and uploaded a VHS recording of the original broadcast, much to the excitement of its fans.
The movie centers around a disturbing urban legend that becomes all too real, a tale of conjoined twins, one good and one evil, who are separated after their death. Naturally, the evil twin returns from beyond the grave and haunts a small town. The movie's unsettling atmosphere and eerie imagery made it a hit with horror fans, despite only being broadcast once.
While some have argued that Cry Baby Lane was banned for being too scary, the truth is far more mysterious. Regardless, the movie has found a new life online and continues to captivate audiences with its disturbing story and unforgettable visuals.
Promises, Promises – Boy Meets World
In the hallowed halls of high school drama, few events carry as much weight as the senior prom, a time when young love blooms and passions run hot. For Cory Matthews and Topanga Lawrence, the stars of the classic series Boy Meets World, this is a moment they've been waiting for, a chance to take their relationship to the next level.
In "Prom-ises, Prom-ises," Episode 22 of Season 5, Cory goes all out to make the night special, even booking a hotel room for him and Topanga. The two lovers share a passionate kiss on the bed, their bodies entwined in a fevered embrace, before ultimately deciding to hold off on consummating their love just a little while longer.
Despite its timeless appeal and universal themes, this episode proved too hot for the Disney Channel to handle, and was held back from airings due to its mature content. But for fans of the series, the memory of that fateful prom night lives on, a testament to the power of young love and the thrill of forbidden desire.
Whom Gods Destroy - Star Trek
The censors in the United Kingdom didn't take kindly to the third season episode of Star Trek: The Original Series that featured Kirk being tortured and a provocative dance performed by Marta during a banquet scene, which resulted in the episode being excluded from its original airing. The authorities felt that the dance was particularly inappropriate for children. Similarly, German television also opted not to air the episode during its original run in 1972/73, presumably due to comparable reasons. It wasn't until May 9, 1988 that the episode finally saw the light of day on German TV.
Episodes With Fur Coats As Prizes - The Price Is Right
The Price is Right, the unchallenged titan of game shows, has had its fair share of banned episodes in syndication. The reason? Fur coats. Various episodes from the early '70s to the early '80s were cut from rotation due to the show giving away fur coats as prizes. It's no secret that Bob Barker, the beloved host during that era, was a vocal proponent of animal rights. It's likely that his deep-seated convictions on the issue were the driving force behind these episodes' removal from the airwaves. After all, Barker was no stranger to speaking his mind and using his platform to advocate for the things he believed in.
Hee Haw! Hee Haw! – Fear Factor
For fans of Fear Factor, the thrill of watching contestants eat buffalo testicles or crawl through piles of maggots was all in a day's work. But even the most seasoned viewers were left gagging at the thought of one infamous episode that pushed the limits of good taste to the breaking point.
In this unforgettable installment, the participants were forced to drink either donkey urine or donkey semen, depending on a horseshoe toss. The mere thought of consuming such a vile concoction was enough to make even the most hardened Fear Factor fans shudder.
The episode was so gross that it didn't initially make it to air, with showrunners balking at its over-the-top content. And yet, in a testament to the show's commitment to pushing boundaries, it was eventually aired as a rerun, under the title "Hee Haw! Hee Haw," shocking and delighting viewers in equal measure. For those who could stomach it, the episode was a reminder of the true power of television to shock, provoke, and entertain, even in the face of the most revolting challenges imaginable.
The High Ground – Star Trek: The Next Generation
In the world of science fiction, anything is possible, even the depiction of real-world conflicts and controversies. And yet, even in this realm of limitless imagination, some topics remain too hot to handle, as demonstrated by the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "The High Ground."
In this provocative installment, the Enterprise crew finds themselves embroiled in the ethnic conflict of a distant planet, a thinly-veiled analogue to the real-world Troubles in Northern Ireland. And yet, it was a seemingly innocuous line about Ireland's reunification following "a successful terrorist campaign" that proved too much for the BBC, who promptly banned the episode from airing.
For fans of the show, this decision was a reminder of the power of science fiction to tackle complex and difficult issues, even as it entertains and provokes. And yet, it was also a reminder of the ways in which even the most daring and boundary-pushing shows can still find themselves at the mercy of the media gatekeepers, who hold the power to decide what is and isn't fit for public consumption.
A Room at the Top - The Brady Bunch
Lloyd J. Schwartz, the director of the beloved Brady Bunch, spilled some juicy behind-the-scenes details in his tell-all tome, Brady, Brady, Brady: The Complete Story of the Brady Bunch. In one sizzling chapter, Schwartz reveals how the on-screen chemistry between Maureen McCormick and Barry Williams was quickly turning into a raging inferno that threatened to scorch the entire set. In the fourth season episode "A Room at the Top," a seemingly innocent scene called for the duo to engage in a harmless conversation on Marcia's bed. But even the cool, collected Schwartz couldn't contain the palpable sexual tension that crackled between the two stars. Schwartz wrote:
The problem was that this episode was being shot at the height of the sexual tension between Barry and Maureen, When Barry sat down on the bed and started to talk to his TV sister, it became romantic, even steamy. I couldn’t print a scene in which a brother and sister were obviously hot for each other.
I'll See You In Court - Married... with Children
Married with Children was a continuous problem for Fox and the censors, but it wasn't until the show's third season that they finally drew the line with an episode so crass that it never saw the light of day. In "I'll See You in Court", when the Bundys visit a sleazy motel to get it on, they stumble upon a homemade stag tape featuring their neighbors, Marcy and Steve. When they confront the couple about it, Marcy and Steve confess they were unknowingly recorded at the motel, making Al and Peg question if their own time in motel incurred the same fate.
"I'll See You in Court" is perhaps one of the most explicit half-hours of TV to emerge from the '80s, solidifying Married with Children's reputation as a show that blatantly disregarded the norms of network television. Today, the episode appears in syndication from time to time, including the climax where Peg and Al get down to business in an empty courtroom, once again under secret surveillance. Yet, many of the most obscene lines are still muted, suggesting that the uncensored version will likely never grace our TV screens.
White Rabbits Can't Jump - Adventures In Wonderland
Adventures in Wonderland was a beloved live-action musical comedy series that put a fresh spin on the classic tale of Alice in Wonderland. The show followed the adventures of Alice, played by Elisabeth Harnois, as she traveled to and from Wonderland through a magical mirror. Originally airing from March 23, 1992 to 1995, it was a hit with viewers of all ages.
However, the series faced controversy when the unaired ninety-ninth episode "White Rabbits Can't Jump" was pulled from release in 1994. The episode featured the White Rabbit seeking help from his hero, O.J. Simpson, prior to his infamous criminal trial. In the episode, the residents of Wonderland hold an annual athletics competition, and the White Rabbit is afraid he will lose. Unfortunately, the episode was never aired due to Simpson's arrest, but it was adapted into a picture book that is still enjoyed by fans of the show.
Encounters – The Twilight Zone
For fans of the classic series The Twilight Zone, the show's blend of sci-fi, horror, and social commentary was a winning formula. But even this groundbreaking series wasn't immune to controversy, as demonstrated by the infamous episode "The Encounter."
Starring Neville Brand and George Takei, the episode centers around a Japanese-American man whose father had been a traitor to the U.S. during World War II. This provocative storyline drew the ire of the Japanese-American community, who viewed it as an affront to their dignity and a reminder of a painful chapter in American history.
As a result of this backlash, "The Encounter" was never rebroadcast or included in syndication until 2004, leaving fans of the series wondering what might have been. And yet, even in its absence, the episode remains a testament to the power of television to challenge, provoke, and sometimes offend, even as it entertains. For fans of The Twilight Zone, "The Encounter" is a reminder of the true power of art to make us uncomfortable, to force us to confront the darker corners of our past and present, and to ultimately emerge stronger and more united.
Episode 0847 – Sesame Street
The 847th installment of the beloved Sesame Street series featured the one and only Margaret Hamilton, revisiting her infamous role as the Wicked Witch of the West a staggering four decades after the release of The Wizard of Oz (1939). But the episode's controversial content proved too much for the delicate sensibilities of some, and it was swiftly banned for being "too scary" for children. For years, it was a rare and elusive find.
To address the escalating uproar, a series of additional test screenings were conducted from March 1st to the 5th, specifically to gauge the impact of the Wicked Witch on the tender psyches of the show's young audience. Yet despite the results of the tests, and the feedback from parents, it was ultimately determined that the episode was simply too much for young viewers to handle, and it was deemed unfit for broadcast.
Patterns Of Force – Star Trek
In the dark and turbulent history of Germany, the Star Trek episode known as "Patterns of Force" stands as a singular example of censorship and suppression. The episode, which explores the concept of a society explicitly modeled on Nazi Germany, was deemed too provocative for audiences in Germany itself. The use of Nazi uniforms and insignia, along with a character proclaiming that Nazi Germany was the most efficient society ever created, were deemed too extreme for the delicate sensibilities of the German viewing public.
As a result, "Patterns of Force" stands as the only Star Trek episode that was never shown during either of its original runs in Germany, first on the ZDF network in the mid-1970s, and later on the Sat.1 network in the late 1980s and early 1990s. It wasn't until 1995 that the episode was finally dubbed into German, and even then it was only presented with English subtitles. Only in 1996 was it shown on German pay TV, and it wasn't until 2011 that it was finally broadcast on the public network channel ZDFneo.
In the end, "Patterns of Force" serves as a grim reminder of the power of censorship and the dangers of suppressing art and ideas that challenge the status quo. The fact that it took so long for the episode to be shown in its entirety in Germany stands as a testament to the deep wounds inflicted by the legacy of the Third Reich, wounds that are still healing to this day.
The Ricardos Visit Cuba – I Love Lucy
"The Ricardos Visit Cuba" is the 162nd and final installment of the iconic I Love Lucy series. Set against the backdrop of a rapidly changing political climate, the episode follows the Ricardo family as they make their way to Cuba to meet Ricky's relatives.
Despite its enduring popularity, the episode was pulled from syndication by CBS for a time, due to the fraught political situation with Cuba. The Cuban revolution, which had been brewing since 1953, was in full swing by the time the episode aired, with guerrilla warfare raging across the country. Originally titled "The Ricardos Visit Havana," the episode's themes and setting proved too sensitive for some viewers, prompting its temporary removal from circulation.
But the episode's enduring legacy endures, a testament to the power of art to transcend politics and bridge cultural divides. With its humor, warmth, and timeless charm, "The Ricardos Visit Cuba" stands as a fitting tribute to a bygone era, a reminder of a simpler time when a family's love could conquer any obstacle, no matter how formidable.
Conflict – Mister Rodgers Neighborhood
In the heart of the Cold War, November of '83 saw the broadcast of a weeklong story arc that would rattle even the most jaded viewer. In a series of unfortunate events, King Friday and Corny the Beaver amassed enough nuclear firepower to ensure their mutual annihilation, a tale so fraught with peril that it hasn't been aired since 1996. Mister Rogers deserves credit for his intention to instill a harsh dose of reality in the young minds of tomorrow's leaders, but the truth is, it was all too real.
One theory is that the "Conflict" episodes were crafted as a direct response to the ABC TV movie, The Day After, which depicted a nuclear war between the United States and the Soviet Union and its devastating aftermath in Lawrence, Kansas, in a manner unlike anything seen before. The idea was to offer solace to children who may have been affected by the movie's harrowing content. But the dates of both programs don't quite add up. The Conflict Week's first episode aired on November 7, 1983, while The Day After didn't air until November 20. This leaves one to ponder when exactly these episodes were created and produced.
The 1988 Halloween episode - Unsolved Mysteries
The 1988 Halloween episode (S1E3) of Unsolved Mysteries has vanished into thin air from Amazon Prime and the FilmRise Youtube channel. It seems that three of the segments from the spine-tingling, paranormal-only installment were cruelly plucked and scattered into other episodes, leaving the haunting "Tallman's Ghost" segment to be eliminated entirely. Regarded by many as the most bone-chilling tale from the entire series run, the episode's absence has left fans in a state of eerie perplexity. The only glimmer of hope is to scour the internet for an elusive, out-of-print DVD collection of the show's supernatural stories, or to desperately find a low-res rip of the segment online.
Advanced Dungeons & Dragons - Community
The controversial episode of Community, "Advanced Dungeons & Dragons", became a victim of cancel culture when it was removed from streaming platforms on June 26, 2020. The reason? Some scenes featured Ken Jeong's character, Chang, in dark elf makeup that some claimed resembled blackface. The move followed similar decisions by Scrubs and 30 Rock, which had episodes featuring characters in blackface removed.
Sony Pictures Television, the studio behind the show, issued a statement in support of the decision to remove the episode. However, some critics argued that the scene was open to interpretation and that the decision to remove it undermined the episode's anti-bullying message. Dan Harmon, the show's creator, did not comment on the controversy at the time, but in a 2021 interview with The New York Times, he acknowledged the episode's removal, saying "justifiably they're stripping it from the streaming archives because it's got a joke about blackface." He went on to say that, despite the controversy, it was "probably the best episode of Community."
Elephant Issues – Tiny Toon Adventures
You wouldn't expect a children's cartoon show to feature a trio of underage characters getting drunk on a single beer and stealing a cop car, but that's exactly what you get in this now-infamous episode of Tiny Toon Adventures, aptly titled "One Beer." As if the idea of plastered bunnies and ducks wasn't bizarre enough, the episode takes a dark and twisted turn when the trio drives off a cliff to their untimely demise, their lifeless bodies transformed into angelic figures in the afterlife. The irony, of course, is that the episode was meant to teach kids about the dangers of alcohol, with Buster Bunny even acknowledging this at the start of the episode.
But Warner Brothers quickly pulled the plug on this dark and unsettling episode after its initial airing, never to see the light of day on network syndication or home video/DVD release. That is, until it was released on DVD, giving those with a macabre fascination the chance to witness the disturbing demise of beloved cartoon characters. One can only imagine the shocked and horrified reactions of parents and children alike upon seeing such graphic and disturbing content in what was supposed to be a harmless cartoon.
Windy City – Mike & Molly
The Season 3 finale of Mike & Molly promised to be a tornado of drama and excitement, as a twister rips through the streets of Chicago, leaving our heroes scrambling to stay alive. Against this backdrop of chaos and upheaval, Mike and Carl find themselves trapped in the Renaissance Faire, forced to confront their innermost fears and desires.
Featuring a star-studded cast that includes the incomparable Gerald McRaney as Police Captain Patrick Murphy, and Jim Beaver as Dwight, the episode was set to be a tour de force of gripping storytelling and unforgettable moments. But fate had other plans in store, as a massive tornado struck the city of Moore, Oklahoma, leaving a trail of destruction and heartbreak in its wake.
In the aftermath of this tragedy, CBS made the difficult decision to pull the episode from broadcast, citing its related storyline as a potential source of insensitivity and hurt for those affected by the storm. "A repeat broadcast of 'Mike & Molly' will run in the time period. The season finale will be broadcast at an appropriate date," a CBS spokesperson said in a statement, acknowledging the gravity of the situation.
In the end, the decision to pull the episode serves as a reminder of the power of television to touch lives and connect people, even in the darkest of times. And while the season finale of Mike & Molly may have been delayed, its impact and resonance are sure to be felt for years to come.
The Star Wars Holiday Special
George Lucas has vehemently expressed his disdain for The Star Wars Holiday Special and has vowed to ensure it never sees the light of day again, going so far as to claim he would destroy every existing copy if given the chance. While it's unlikely the special will ever receive an official re-release from Lucasfilm, unauthorized versions can be easily obtained. The only known official copy of the film was owned by Carrie Fisher, who had requested it in exchange for providing audio commentary for other Star Wars films, and allegedly used it as a means of hastening the departure of unwanted guests from her house parties. The whereabouts of this copy after Fisher's passing remain unknown. With Lucas having sold his company to Disney, it's doubtful he has any control over the special's potential reemergence.
Partial Terms Of Endearment – Family Guy
Controversy has always been a hallmark of Seth MacFarlane's irreverent comedy series, Family Guy, but in 2010, the powers-that-be at Fox put their foot down and banned the episode "Partial Terms of Endearment" from airing on American airwaves. The episode centers around Lois's decision to terminate a pregnancy, after Peter takes up with the pro-life crowd in Quahog. As one might expect from a show that thrives on pushing boundaries, the handling of this sensitive topic is crude and twisted, far from the delicate, nuanced approach one might expect from other series.
While Fox may have balked at airing the episode domestically, it has found a home overseas, with broadcasts on BBC and in Australia. Curiously, even Adult Swim, which reruns Family Guy episodes from Fox, has refused to air "Partial Terms of Endearment" during its late-night block. Nevertheless, the episode was eventually released on DVD, and fans can still watch it legally in the U.S., even if it's not available on traditional broadcast channels.
Mixed Blessings - Golden Girls
The Golden Girls episode "Mixed Blessings" has been pulled from Hulu's streaming service, reportedly due to concerns about a scene in which Rose and Blanche are seen wearing mud masks that could be mistaken for blackface. Neither Hulu, ABC Studios, nor series creator Susan Harris has issued a statement about the episode's removal, though some fans of the show have expressed disappointment at the decision.
The Puerto Rican Day – Seinfeld
In the colorful and irreverent world of Seinfeld, nothing was off-limits, no topic too taboo to explore. And yet, even this iconic series managed to cross a line in the eyes of NBC, with its controversial episode, "The Puerto Rican Day."
Featuring depictions of Puerto Ricans that many found offensive, as well as a scene in which Kramer accidentally sets fire to a Puerto Rican flag, the episode drew the ire of viewers and critics alike. In one memorable scene, an angry mob of Puerto Ricans takes to the streets, trashing Jerry's car and causing chaos throughout the city.
Initially pulled from broadcast, the episode has since been reintroduced in some markets, with certain edits made to soften its more controversial elements. And while it may be absent Kramer's infamous line, "It's like this every day in Puerto Rico," the episode still stands as a reminder of the power of television to provoke, challenge, and entertain, even in the face of controversy.
The City Of New York VS. Homer Simpson – The Simpsons
In the zany and irreverent world of The Simpsons, anything can happen, especially when alcohol is involved. In one unforgettable episode, Barney Gumble, the town drunkard, finds himself having to stay sober as the designated driver, leading to a mental breakdown and a wild ride to New York City in Homer's car.
Months later, the Simpsons themselves venture to the Big Apple to retrieve the vehicle, but find themselves embroiled in a battle with the city over a boot placed on the wheel of the car. And yet, even as the family enjoys the sights and sounds of Manhattan, Homer finds himself drawn to the Twin Towers, a symbol of the city's enduring spirit and resilience.
Sadly, in the wake of the 9-11 attacks, the episode was banned due to its prominent depiction of the Twin Towers, a painful reminder of the tragedy that had befallen the city. And while it was eventually brought back to air, some versions cut out all scenes of Homer near the Towers, while others kept them but edited out certain lines.
OEuf – Hannibal
In the shadowy world of serial killer dramas, Hannibal reigns supreme, thanks to its unflinching portrayal of human depravity and violence. And yet, even this dark masterpiece was not immune to the pressures of real-life tragedy.
During its first season, one episode was shelved not by censorship, but by the show's creator, Bryan Fuller. This move surprised many fans, who had come to expect Hannibal's unrelenting violence and gore. Indeed, had it not been for the show's lack of raciness, it would have rivaled even the most disturbing slasher films.
The episode in question, "Oeuf," featured a storyline involving child abduction and brainwashing, culminating in the children being forced to murder their own families. After the Sandy Hook school shooting tragedy, Fuller felt that the episode's themes were too sensitive to air and requested that NBC pull it from the schedule.
While some fans argued that the episode had no direct connection to the real-life tragedy, Fuller's decision was a reminder of the power of TV to provoke and disturb, even unintentionally. And yet, it was also a testament to the creative minds behind Hannibal, who were willing to push the boundaries of what was acceptable on network TV, even if it meant occasionally pulling back when real-life events made certain themes too raw to explore.
Adoption – You Can’t Do That In Television
You Can't Do That On Television was one of the defining shows of 1980s kids' TV, a raucous, irreverent sketch comedy that broke all the rules. But one episode in particular, "Adoption," was so controversial that it never aired in the U.S. again and was banned in Canada.
The episode's central plotline revolved around Valerie and Lance adopting a boy named Doug, not because they wanted him as a child, but because it was cheaper than buying a dog. This twisted take on the serious issue of adoption sparked outrage among viewers and led to the episode being pulled from circulation.
Looking back, it's easy to see why "Adoption" was so controversial. While You Can't Do That On Television was known for its anarchic humor and dark undertones, this episode pushed the limits even further, taking aim at one of society's most sensitive issues with little regard for the consequences.
But even as the episode remains banned to this day, it's also a reminder of the creative risks that You Can't Do That On Television was willing to take in its quest to be different and bold, even when it meant crossing lines that others were afraid to touch.
Buffalo Gals – Cow And Chicken
In the Season 2 episode of Cow and Chicken, the titular duo encounters the Buffalo Gals, a rough and tumble motorcycle gang of women with a penchant for munching on carpet. Cow is taken with the group and decides to join, much to Chicken's dismay. The episode is packed with overt sexual innuendos, most notably at the expense of lesbians, and portrays the Buffalo Gals as dirty, disgusting, and hostile towards men. Even Cow and Chicken's father is scared of them, prompting his wife to remark that they're not after him. When Chicken tries to stop Cow from joining the gang, they respond with a not-so-subtle double entendre about hating "chicken." Munch Kelly, the gang's leader, even sports a business card with two female symbols, leaving little to the imagination.
Bored, She Hung Herself – Hawaii Five-0
The year was 1970 when CBS banned one of its own episodes, and it wasn't for the usual reasons like excessive violence or sexual content. No, the episode was banned because of the dark and deadly nature of a yoga technique that appeared on the show, which viewers had imitated with disastrous results.
CBS wasn't taking any chances and barred the episode from ever being seen again, not even on network syndication or home video/DVD release. The deadly consequences of the yoga technique had hit too close to home.
Stark Raving Dad - The Simpsons
The Simpsons have always been known for their biting satire and bold, sometimes controversial storylines. But one episode in particular has proven to be too hot to handle for even the most hardened fans. "Stark Raving Dad" features Homer being committed to a mental institution, where he meets Leon Kompowski, who claims to be Michael Jackson (voiced by the man himself under a pseudonym).
In the wake of the 2019 Leaving Neverland documentary, which made renewed allegations of child sexual abuse against the late pop star, the episode was pulled from circulation and is now conspicuously absent from The Simpsons collection on Disney Plus. It remains to be seen whether it will ever see the light of day again.
Earshot – Buffy The Vampire Slayer
The fantastical world of Buffy the Vampire Slayer was not immune to the grim reality of school shootings. The episode "Earshot" depicted a potential school shooting, and in the wake of the tragic events at Columbine High School, the episode was understandably postponed from its original broadcast. The creators and cast of the show were in agreement about the decision, considering the sensitive nature of the topic.
However, the decision to postpone the "Graduation Day" episodes was met with less understanding. The episodes centered around a battle between the entire student body of a high school and the town's black magic-wielding mayor, who had transformed into a giant snake. The violent content of the episodes was seen as fantastical and not related to real-world violence, and many felt that the decision to postpone the episodes was unjustified.
Episodes 200 and 201 – South Park
The South Park episodes "200" and "201" are notorious for causing a stir so extreme that they were pulled from circulation on Comedy Central, South Park Studios website, and any streaming platform that airs the show. These episodes are just two of the five total banned episodes of South Park, but their controversy far outweighs that of the others. The uproar came from Middle-Eastern terrorism groups over the South Park Muhammad image, sparking a heated debate over censorship and free speech.
"200" and "201" revolve around censorship, which is what caused the problem in the first place. The story celebrates the landmark of the show's 200th episode by referencing several past storylines, including the controversial "Cartoon Wars" episode from season 10, which was inspired by the Jyllands-Posten Muhammad cartoons controversy. The two-parter saw Cartman trying to get Family Guy pulled from Fox, a show he hated, by appealing to the network's fear about an upcoming depiction of the Islamic prophet Muhammad. The controversy surrounding the depiction led to death threats and the episodes being banned from streaming, causing a public outcry over the limits of free speech.
Episode 29 – The Amanda Show
"The Lucklesses" episode of The Amanda Show was supposed to be comedic, but ended up being too close to reality. Aired in March 2001 during the show's second season, the episode tells the story of a family who can't catch a break, always experiencing misfortune. The final scene shows an asteroid crashing into the family's home, destroying everything.
After the devastating terrorist attack on the World Trade Center in September 2001, the episode was deemed too reminiscent of the tragedy and was immediately taken off the air. With nearly 3,000 people dead and countless others injured, the network felt it was too soon to air such a scene. However, the episode did air on Canadian networks and is available on The Amanda Show DVD set for those brave enough to watch.
Dial M for Monkey: Barbequor – Dexter’s Laboratory
The 2000 episode of Cartoon Network’s iconic show was blacklisted across America, Canada, Latin America, and the United Kingdom. The episode titled “Silver Spooner” sparked endless rumors about the reasons for its ban, with some speculating that it featured a stereotypical portrayal of gay men, while others believed it was due to Krunk’s inebriation in the final scene. However, it turned out that the Marvel Comics team who created Silver Surfer were the ones who pushed for the ban, citing the character’s misuse and a potential copyright violation. Consequently, the episode was deleted from subsequent airings, digital retailer releases like HBO Max, and the DVD collection, where it was replaced with Dexter's Lab: A Story. Nevertheless, the episode remains available on the Season One DVD release in Region 4.
Boston – Aqua Teen Hunger Force
Aqua Teen Hunger Force's fifth season debut, "Boston," is as infamous as it is banned. The episode, which satirizes the 2007 Boston Bomb Scare, was pulled by Turner Legal, eager to avoid any further uproar. In it, LED displays resembling the show's characters Ignignokt and Err were placed throughout Boston, prompting the city's shutdown and Cartoon Network manager Jim Samples' resignation. Turner Broadcasting was forced to pay $2 million in damages. Unsurprisingly, "Boston" was never officially released, and remains the only episode of the series to suffer that fate. However, in 2015, the episode leaked online, igniting a new wave of controversy. The second episode, "Robots Everywhere," ultimately filled in as season premiere, but the damage was already done.
Every Episode Of Derrick
Derrick was a television crime series that aired on German public TV from 1974 to 1998. The show followed the cases of Detective Chief Inspector Stephan Derrick, played by Horst Tappert. Despite being considered one of the most successful television programs in German history, ZDF announced that they would no longer air any repeats of the 281 episodes.
The announcement came after it was revealed that Tappert had kept quiet about his past service in the Waffen-SS during World War II. The revelation caused shock and concern among ZDF officials, with spokesman Peter Bogenschuetz telling AFP news agency that the broadcaster had no plans to air any more reruns of the show. However, ZDF has denied claims that Tappert's past was the sole reason for the ban, citing other unspecified reasons for their decision. Despite the controversy, Derrick remains a notable achievement in German television and a testament to Tappert's talent as an actor.
Mister Skinnylegs - Peppa Pig
Peppa Pig's "Mister Skinnylegs" episode was hit with a second ban in Australia, much to the surprise of parents across the nation. The seemingly harmless episode features Peppa and George playing with a spider, while Daddy Pig assures them that spiders "can't hurt you." However, the ban stems from the fact that Australia, like America, is home to a variety of venomous spiders.
The episode originally aired in 2015, when broadcaster ABC accidentally uploaded it online, leading to its ban due to its dangerous implications for Australian children. It wasn't until two years later that the episode reappeared on the country's Nick Jr. channel. Despite Peppa's popularity and charming nature, it seems she couldn't escape the Australian government's strict regulations regarding children's programming.
Stokey The Bear - The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle and Friends
The Bullwinkle Show had its own brush with controversy when a segment entitled "Stokey the Bear" was yanked from all reissues for years. The US Forest Service objected to the portrayal of a bear that started forest fires, despite the fact that he had been hypnotized by Snidely Whiplash to do so. Incredibly, this simple premise was enough to trigger the ire of the USFS, and the segment remained banned for several decades.
The 1992 BBC production Ghostwatch was so effective in its documentary-style that many viewers believed the events were real, leading to massive controversy and panic in its aftermath. The show, which aired under the Screen One drama banner, received over 30,000 phone calls from frightened viewers, including the mother of host Michael Parkinson, and garnered criticism from tabloids and other newspapers for its disturbing scenes, such as Sarah Greene's terrifying final scene where she is trapped with a howling ghost in an under-stairs cupboard, and Parkinson's eerie possession scene.
The BBC was also accused of falsely advertising the program on Greene's Saturday morning children's show, Going Live, leading to the false impression that it was a reality show. However, this rumor was debunked by the Ghostwatch: Behind the Curtain blog, which discovered that there was no reference to the show in the three episodes of Going Live from the week before, the day of, and the week after the broadcast. Nevertheless, Greene did appear on the following Monday's Children's BBC strand to reassure young viewers that the show was not real. Despite its cult following, Ghostwatch has yet to be fully repeated on any UK-based television channel since its initial broadcast.
Edith's 50th Birthday - All In The Family
All in the Family was known for pushing boundaries, but the season eight episode "Edith's 50th Birthday" went too far for Australian audiences. The two-part episode features a disturbing attempted rape scene in which a man poses as a police detective and tries to assault Edith, leaving her completely immobilized with fear. The controversial scene caused an uproar, leading to the episode being banned in Australia. "Edith's 50th Birthday", which originally aired in 1978, has never been re-broadcast in the country.
Dr. Nora - Frasier
The Dr. Laura Schlessinger-inspired episode of the hit sitcom Frasier, "Dr. Nora," was yanked from syndication after the radio personality threw a fit about the depiction of her mother as an Abusive Parent. However, the vicious parody of Schlessinger herself was also too much for her to handle. Despite the ban, the episode continues to live on through cable and streaming services, providing fans with a delightfully snarky skewering of the conservative talk show host.
Injury - News Radio
The controversial "Injury" episode of NewsRadio was initially planned for Season 2, but it ended up being shelved for nearly two years due to a contentious subplot involving inappropriate language. While the episode's theme centered around broadcasting censorship, the use of the word was considered too indecent for broadcast at the time. Finally, the episode aired during the hiatus between Seasons 3 and 4, despite being regarded as a part of the latter. The episode's delayed release led to it being included in both the "Complete First and Second Season" and "Complete Third Season" box sets.
The Mayor Runs For Re-Election - Shining Time Station
Shining Time Station's "The Mayor Runs For Re-Election" met a dark fate after a coincidental airing on the day of Richard Nixon's funeral. The episode, which featured an impersonation of the late president, had previously aired multiple times without a hitch. But on that fateful day in April 1994, PBS received an outpouring of complaints, prompting them to issue a formal apology. The episode was yanked from rotation permanently, forever tarnished by its connection to Nixon's final farewell.
Graduation Day 1 & 2 - Buffy The Vampire Slayer
The Buffy the Vampire Slayer episodes "Graduation Day Parts 1 and 2" were postponed from their scheduled air dates in the United States due to their portrayal of mass violence in a high school setting. The timing of their originally planned broadcast was deemed insensitive following the tragic events of the Columbine High School massacre, much like the episode "Earshot."
It was widely reported that most of the show's creators and cast supported the decision to pull "Earshot," as it depicted a mundane school shooting that was eerily similar to real-life events. However, the cancellation of "Graduation Day" was seen as less justified, given the fantastical nature of the episode in which the high school's entire student body fights against the town mayor, a sorcerer hellbent on becoming a straight up old god who has transformed into a giant snake.
The Sorcerer's Apprentice - Alfred Hitchcock Presents
During its original run, the 1961 episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, "The Sorcerer's Apprentice", was deemed too dark by the sponsor and thus left out of the original run of the series. The episode features a developmentally disabled man who believes himself to possess the powers of the magician he works for, resulting in a poorly executed trick that ends in the cutting of a woman in half. However, the episode was later seen unedited in syndication, giving audiences a glimpse of the chilling tale that had been previously deemed too intense for television.
Heart On A Chain - Eerie, Indiana
Marshall Teller, the teenage protagonist of Eerie, Indiana, moves with his family to the barren town of Eerie, population 16,661. Upon arriving, he befriends the only other normal person in the town, Simon Holmes. Together, the two find themselves entangled in a series of bizarre events.
One episode, "Heart On A Chain," has never been rerun during syndication on Fox Kids due to its disturbing plot. The episode centers around a deceased boy's heart being implanted into a girl in need of a transplant, which leads to the boy communicating with Marshall from beyond the grave. Despite its exclusion from syndication, "Heart On A Chain" can still be found on DVD.
Two Drews and the Queen of Poland Walk into a Bar - The Drew Carey Show
The Drew Carey Show took an unexpected turn when an entire subplot of an episode was excised due to backlash from the Polish community. In "Two Drews and the Queen of Poland Walk into a Bar," Mimi becomes the Duchess of Krakow and meets the King of Poland. This section was deemed insensitive and removed from all TV airings, domestic and international.
Instead, the opening from "It's Your Party and I'll Crash If I Want To" was inserted as a replacement. However, the banned version was finally made available online in 2012, revealing the unedited and oddly controversial subplot.
Living In Harmony - The Prisoner
The enigmatic and surreal British television series, The Prisoner, follows a former British intelligence agent who becomes trapped in a bizarre village and identified only as "Number Six". However, in the original American run on CBS, the episode "Living in Harmony" was excluded due to Six's refusal to participate in a call to arms, a message that the network deemed inappropriate during the height of the draft. To cover their tracks, CBS attempted to explain the call to arms as a "walking hallucination" caused by mind-altering drugs. This episode was later shown in subsequent airings, revealing Six's principled stance against violence.
Pilot - NYPD Blue
NYPD Blue, the hard-hitting police procedural series set in the gritty streets of Manhattan, was the brainchild of Steven Bochco and David Milch. Bochco was determined to bring an R-rated drama to network television, and NYPD Blue did just that, pushing the limits of what was acceptable with its edgy language and daring partial nudity (who could forget Sipowicz's bare buns?). The show's debut episode caused such a stir that over a quarter of ABC's affiliates refused to air it in September 1993. Despite the controversy, the series' stellar writing and performances went on to earn 26 Emmy nominations and six wins.
Maude's Dilemma - Maude
Maude Findlay is a no-holds-barred, middle-aged woman living with her fourth husband, Walter, in Tuckahoe, New York. Bea Arthur stars in the eponymous spin-off of All in the Family, which is just as polarizing as the original series.
In 1972, Maude is pregnant, married, and in her late forties. The original airing of "Maude's Dilemma" precedes Roe vs Wade by two months, but abortion is newly legal in New York state, where Maude resides.
Two CBS affiliates in Illinois refused to air the two-part episode, marking the first time a CBS station has refused to air a continuing series. Months later, amid picketing and protests, the reruns drew 65 million viewers to witness Maude and Walter's decision to have an abortion.
'S Out - Bottom
Bottom, the bleakly hilarious British sitcom by Rik Mayall and Adrian Edmondson, shocked viewers with its pitch-black humor and gratuitous violence. But the episode "’S Out" took things a bit too far. The BBC banned the episode for three long years. Why? Because the episode featured Richie and Eddie spending a night on Wimbledon Common, which wouldn't have been a big deal except for the fact that it coincided with the real-life murder of Rachel Nickell in the same location. The tragic timing made "’S Out" a little too real for audiences, and it was swiftly pulled from screens.
Flying Dupes - TailSpin
Baloo, the lovable bear from The Jungle Book, got his own taste of film noir in Disney's peculiar homage to Casablanca. But the series took a turn for the worst with its final episode, a shocking conclusion that quickly vanished from airwaves.
In "Flying Dupes," Baloo finds himself unwittingly involved in a dangerous game of espionage, tasked with delivering a suspicious package that turns out to be a mail bomb. The episode was so controversial that it was removed from reruns immediately after airing.
Despite a brief accidental re-airing in 1999, "Flying Dupes" has remained elusive, only resurfacing on DVD for those brave enough to experience the dark, unexpected end to the series.
Man’s Best Friend - The Ren & Stimpy Show
Ren & Stimpy, the controversial Nickelodeon cartoon, found itself in hot water with the network after an episode was deemed too violent for broadcast. The episode, titled “Man’s Best Friend,” featured Ren savagely beating another character with a canoe oar. The episode was banned in 1992 and ultimately led to the firing of the show’s creator, John Kricfalusi.
Despite the ban, the episode eventually resurfaced in 2003 as part of the ill-fated Ren & Stimpy Adult Cartoon Party on Spike TV. Today, the episode can be found on DVD releases, a curious artifact of a time when cartoon violence was not always so readily accepted.
Electric Soldier Porygon - Pokemon
The year was 1997, and Pokemon had taken the world by storm. But a single episode, "Electric Soldier Porygon," would change everything. During a climactic explosion, red and blue flashing lights filled the screen at an alarming rate, causing more than 600 people in Japan to be hospitalized with seizures, dizziness, and blurred vision.
The episode was promptly pulled from the airwaves and has never been aired again. The incident prompted a wave of concern and scrutiny throughout the anime industry, leading studios to tone down their use of flashing lights to avoid further incidents.
The One With The Free **** - Friends
Friends, the beloved '90s sitcom that has aired countless times, has one episode that's not easy to catch on TV nowadays. In the episode, Joey and Chandler accidentally come across free adult channels on their TV, and decide to keep the channel to themselves, afraid of losing it.
Due to the adult content, it was originally broadcast during a post-watershed slot (after 9pm, before 5am) and has rarely been repeated for UK daytime audiences during reruns.
Blame It On Lisa - The Simpsons
The Simpsons were no strangers to controversy, but the “Blame It On Lisa” episode took things to a whole new level. When Lisa’s sponsored orphan in Brazil goes missing, the family heads to Rio de Janeiro to find him. However, the episode was met with widespread protests and condemnation from the city and Brazil as a whole for its portrayal of their country as impoverished and crime-ridden. The backlash was so severe that the episode was banned from airing for years. Eventually, the episode was shown uncensored again in 2012 and even released on DVD in Brazil, a sign that perhaps wounds have healed over time.
If You Can’t Be With The One You Love… - Boy Meets World
Boy Meets World, a teenage sitcom that tackled complex issues like self-discovery and relationships, was initially produced by Disney for ABC, and later syndicated on The Disney Channel. However, the latter found fault with a few episodes, including “If You Can’t Be With the One You Love”. The story follows Cory after being dumped by his love interest, Topanga, and turning to alcohol to cope.
After a run-in with the law, Cory swears off drinking, but his friend Shawn continues to imbibe, leading to a confrontation with his half-brother Jack, who reveals a family history of alcohol abuse. Although deemed appropriate for ABC’s target demographic, The Disney Channel balked at the mature content and declined to air the episode, opting to err on the side of caution.