Television episodes have the power to capture our attention and create enduring connections with characters and stories. However, there have been instances where controversial subject matter led to episodes being banned from future broadcasts. Iconic shows such as "The Cosby Show" and "The Simpsons" have faced challenges from viewers due to the nature of certain episodes' content. As a result, calls have been made for the removal of these episodes from circulation to ensure they are not seen again.
"Star Trek" (1968)
In the Star Trek episode "Patterns of Force," the crew of the Enterprise visits a planet controlled by a regime reminiscent of Nazi practices. While the sci-fi series often addressed social issues, the inclusion of swastikas and the depiction of the Nazi salute in this episode left viewers feeling disturbed, particularly those who had lived through the horrors of World War II.
Banned In Other Countries
The episode faced significant backlash for its insensitive and provocative portrayal. Consequently, "Patterns of Force" was completely banned in Germany for many years, with the ban finally lifted in 2011. While the intention of showcasing an evil Nazi-like society might have been to raise awareness and reflect on history, the episode's execution left many feeling more disgusted than entertained, highlighting the delicate balance that must be struck when addressing sensitive and historical events on screen.
"Saturday Night Live" (1975)
One controversial episode of Saturday Night Live featured a sketch titled "Word Association," starring Chevy Chase and Richard Pryor. The sketch depicts a job interview scenario where a casual word association test spirals out of control. However, the content and nature of the sketch, particularly the exchange of derogatory insults including racial slurs between Chase and Pryor, would likely be met with significant criticism and backlash if it were to air today.
This Could Never Air Today
While both comedians appeared to be on the verge of laughter during the sketch, the use of such offensive language and the casual nature of its delivery would not be tolerated by today's standards and heightened awareness around promoting inclusivity and respectful representation. The sketch serves as a reminder of the evolving boundaries within comedy and the need to address sensitive topics with caution and respect.
In the controversial episode of Seinfeld titled "Puerto Rican Day," the main characters find themselves stuck in traffic caused by the Puerto Rican Day Parade. The storyline takes an offensive turn when Kramer accidentally sets a Puerto Rican flag on fire and attempts to extinguish it with his feet. The portrayal of this incident did not land well with many viewers, particularly the participants of the actual Puerto Rican Day Parade.
The Network Had to Apologize
The episode sparked significant backlash, resulting in real-life protests outside NBC's headquarters. The National Puerto Rican Coalition also became involved, expressing their disapproval of the joke and its impact on the community. NBC responded by issuing an apology, removing the episode from future airings, and banning it from syndication until 2002. This controversy surrounding the episode highlights the importance of considering the potential implications and sensitivities surrounding comedic content to avoid causing offense or perpetuating harmful stereotypes.
"Mork & Mindy" (1980)
The sitcom Mork & Mindy provided an early platform for Robin Williams to display his comedic talents. However, in the episode "The Night They Raided Mind-ski's," the show takes an unexpected and contentious direction. Mork finds himself coming face-to-face with a white supremacist group and attempts to persuade them to abandon their hateful ways.
Too Far For a Sitcom
During the episode, the group members use ethnic slurs that straddle the line between insults and overt expressions of hatred, leaving viewers divided on how to interpret the intent. Controversially, Mork then transforms each member's skin color to match the ethnicity they had previously insulted. This storyline took an unprecedented turn for a comedy series, challenging viewers' expectations and generating mixed reactions to the depiction of sensitive themes.
"Quantum Leap" (1991)
In the controversial episode of the TV series Quantum Leap titled "Justice," the lead character, Dr. Sam Beckett, continues his time-traveling adventures to correct historical injustices. However, the episode takes a highly controversial turn when Beckett finds himself inhabiting the body of a member of the Ku Klux Klan. From there, the episode ventures into even more unsettling territory.
Tackling Serious Issues
Throughout the episode, racial slurs are used liberally, and the storyline revolves around Beckett's mission to save the life of a black civil rights activist. The episode tackles sensitive and deeply troubling themes, offering little room for light-heartedness. It serves as a stark reminder that the depiction of historical racism remains relevant and the impact of those events is still felt today.
"Cow and Chicken" (1998)
In one particular episode of the animated series Cow and Chicken, titled "Buffalo Gals," the show delved into harmful and outdated lesbian stereotypes. Despite being aimed at a young audience, the episode contained adult humor that was not lost on parents. The Buffalo Gals characters were given sexual innuendo-themed names, with one even named "Munch Kelly," which adds to the controversial tone of the episode.
Adding to the controversy, the title characters' parents were also involved in the problematic narrative. While the father character reacts negatively to the Buffalo Gals gang, the mother character dismisses any concern by stating, "They're not after you." This portrayal perpetuates harmful stereotypes and fails to provide respectful and inclusive representation within the show. The episode's content raised concern and sparked discussions about appropriate content for children's programming.
"The Cosby Show" (1990)
In "The Last Barbecue," an episode of The Cosby Show, beloved patriarch Cliff Huxtable, played by Bill Cosby, shares the secret recipe for his barbecue sauce. However, the storyline takes a controversial turn when it is revealed that the sauce contains an ingredient intended to help people "get in the mood." The episode attempts to use this premise as a source of humor, even when the sauce's effects begin to impact the entire Huxtable family.
In light of subsequent events, this episode has not aged well. In 2018, Bill Cosby was convicted on multiple offenses after numerous allegations were made by more than 60 women. Shockingly, he admitted to drugging women. This revelation further adds to the troubling nature of the episode and contributes to its controversial status in the context of Cosby's real-life actions.
"Married...with Children" (1988)
In the controversial episode "The Camping Show," Al Bundy's grumpy disposition takes center stage as a camping trip with his male friends is disrupted by the unexpected arrival of menstruation for the three women who joined them. The storyline portrays the men's frustration, believing that a woman's period ruins their plans and enjoyment. However, when the episode was set to air, Fox executives expressed concerns over potential offense, fearing that female viewers would find the storyline insulting.
Written by Women
This episode's controversy highlights the delicate balance between comedy and sensitive subject matter. It raises questions concerning the portrayal of women's experiences and the potential reinforcement of harmful stereotypes. While the intentions behind the episode may have been lighthearted, the portrayal of menstruation as a source of frustration for male characters ignited debate and ultimately led to apprehension from network executives. It is worth noting that the episode was written by two female writers, adding an unexpected layer to the controversy.
"The Simpsons" (1997)
In the episode "The City of New York vs. Homer Simpson," the Simpson family embarks on a trip to New York City. The episode includes a storyline where Homer has parked his car at one of the towers of the World Trade Center, leading to various humorous references to the Twin Towers. The jokes surrounding the towers were originally considered innocent when the episode first aired in 1997, and the creators intended it as an affectionate homage to the city. However, following the tragic events of the 9/11 attacks, the jokes took on a new significance, and the episode was consequently removed from repeat viewings.
Dealing With Historical Events
The controversy surrounding this episode serves as a stark reminder of the profound impact that real-life events can have on the interpretation of media content. What may have been perceived as harmless humor prior to 9/11 became closely associated with the tragic loss of the Twin Towers. The decision to pull the episode from future broadcasts acknowledges the sensitivity and respect needed in handling themes that are deeply intertwined with historical events and their aftermath.
Saturday Night Live's Offensive Skit
During an SNL sketch in 2000 focused on Regis Philbin, Jimmy Fallon made a controversial and offensive choice. He appeared in blackface as he impersonated Chris Rock, using jokes that relied on harmful stereotypes. Despite taking place in the year 2000, it's extremely disappointing that such a sketch ever made it to air.
Jimmy Fallon's Apology
Since then, Jimmy Fallon has apologized for his actions, acknowledging the harm caused by his inappropriate choice. SNL has also taken steps to distance themselves from the controversy by removing Fallon's part from the episode in their official archive. It serves as a reminder that live sketches can sometimes go wrong, and SNL has certainly had its share of hosts with unfunny or problematic moments over the years.
Paris Hilton Couldn't Be Bothered
When Paris Hilton hosted SNL, she faced several difficulties that have prevented her from making a return. One major issue was that she didn't take the time to learn her lines properly, which affected the quality of her performance. Additionally, Hilton didn't show much interest in getting to know the cast members, as observed by Seth Meyers, who even offered a cash reward of $100 for anyone who heard Hilton ask someone a personal question. Surprisingly, no one won the money, indicating her lack of engagement with others on the show.
Frank Zappa Mocked the Show
When Frank Zappa appeared on SNL, he didn't hide the fact that he wasn't a big fan of the show. In a playful manner, he openly mocked the cue cards, letting everyone know that he was reading from them on live television. Throughout the week leading up to the show, he wasn't the most cooperative with the cast and crew, showing a bit of a sour attitude. Despite his disinterest, Zappa still made an impression during his time on SNL.
Chevy Chase's Reputation
Chevy Chase, a very funny actor who used to be on SNL, had a "soft ban" from the show in 1997. This happened because he didn't get along well with other cast members while working on sketches. However, after about ten years, he made a comeback and appeared on the Weekend Update segment. It was a chance for him to be on the show again and make people laugh, but he didn't exactly become a series regular again.
The Replacements Didn't Follow The Rules
When The Replacements appeared on SNL in 1986, they didn't follow the strict rules in Studio 8H. One of those rules was no alcohol or drug use. Unfortunately, the band chose to perform while drunk, which led to chaotic moments. As if that weren't enough, they even used curse words during their performance, which was broadcasted live. As a result, they were blacklisted and weren't invited back to the show.
Adrien Brody Complained
When Adrien Brody appeared on SNL, there were some issues. Throughout the week, he complained about the ideas the writers had for his sketches. But the real trouble came during the show when he introduced the Jamaican musical guest. Brody made a mistake by wearing long fake dreadlocks and using a poor accent that didn't sit well with the audience.
Elvis Costello Criticized The Media
When Elvis Costello appeared as a musical guest on SNL in 1977, he caused quite a stir. Instead of performing the scheduled song "Less Than Zero," he surprised everyone by playing "Radio Radio," a song that criticized censorship in the media. This unexpected act got him banned from the show until 1999 when he was finally given the chance to come back. Interestingly enough, during his return, Costello once again played "Radio Radio" as a way to make amends and show that he stood by his beliefs.
Fans Voted Andy Kaufman Off SNL
Andy Kaufman's time on SNL didn't end because of the show's producers, but because of the audience's reaction. Many people complained to NBC about Kaufman's comedy, and the network decided to let viewers have a say. They displayed a toll-free number on the screen and invited fans to call and vote on whether Kaufman should stay. Unfortunately for him, the majority of votes were a resounding "no," leading to his departure from the show.
Fear Caused Chaos
The band Fear faced a ban from SNL, although it may not have been entirely their fault. During their performance, one of the cast members named John Belushi, along with other musicians and punk-rock fans, started a mosh pit, causing a lot of destruction and chaos. Because of the high risk and resulting chaos, the band was considered too risky to invite back to the show.
Charles Grodin Couldn't Ad-lib
In 1977, Charles Grodin had the opportunity to host SNL, but he had a hard time staying in character and following the script. On Lorne Michaels' show, making up lines on the spot is strongly discouraged, especially if the ad-libs aren't very good. Unfortunately, Grodin's ad-libbing didn't go over well, which led to a less successful appearance on the show.
Sinéad O'Connor Made Everyone Gasp
During her appearance on SNL, Sinéad O'Connor performed a live cover of Bob Marley's song "War." However, she changed some of the lyrics to talk about the child abuse scandal involving the Catholic Church. In a shocking moment, she tore up a photo of Pope John Paul II on live television. Because of this controversial act, she was not invited back to the show.
Rage Against the Machine Went Too Far
During a 1996 episode of SNL hosted by Steve Forbes, a presidential candidate, the band Rage Against the Machine made a political statement that led to their removal from the show. In defiance of Forbes' political views, they displayed American flags on the stage, but purposely turned them upside down. This caused them to be escorted out of the studio.
David Bowie Got Personal
David Bowie, the Starman, had to endure a three-year ban from SNL. This happened because he went against what Lorne Michaels, the person in charge, wanted him to perform. Instead of singing the calmer song "Telling Lies," Bowie decided to perform "Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps)" live. Michaels didn't like that song because it reminded him of a difficult time in his life, and Bowie knew that.
Cypress Hill Couldn't Hide From the Cameras
The band Cypress Hill didn't get the message that smoking on stage wasn't allowed. During a live performance on SNL, band member DJ Muggs started smoking a joint right in front of the camera. This made it very obvious that the group would be in trouble with the network and would not be allowed to come back to the show.
The Crowd Turned Against Martin Lawrence
In 1994, Martin Lawrence, known for his role in "Bad Boys," had a not-so-great time on SNL. During his monologue, he said things that made the audience feel uncomfortable instead of making them laugh. He made unkind comments about the different races of the people watching in the studio and talked in a very angry way about women's personal hygiene. Lorne Michaels, the person in charge, ultimately decided to ban him from the show.
Milton Berle Stole the Show
Milton Berle was a very famous comedian, but sometimes even comedians made mistakes on the live stage. In 1979, during his appearance on SNL, Berle took control of the show. He didn't stick to the planned jokes and made sure everyone was looking at him instead of the other actors. People said it was like watching a funny train crash happening very slowly and repeating over and over again.
Steven Seagal Was Almost Fired
Steven Seagal, a famous action hero in 1991, didn't realize that heroes should always be kind. He was very rude to the actors and people who helped make the show during practice. The man in charge, Lorne Michaels, thought about sending Seagal home and having the show without a host because of his behavior, a first in the show's history.
Louise Lasser Was The Show's First Ban
She was the first person to ever be told she couldn't come back to SNL after she hosted the show while "lit," or under the influence of substances. Someone who helps make the show said that she crawled through the offices trying to find substances before she did her monologue, which ended with an emotional breakdown from the actress.
Kanye West Was Cut Off
Kanye wasn't actually banned, but he was stopped from performing after he went longer than he was supposed to. Instead of singing two songs like he was supposed to, he sang three. While NBC showed commercials, West kept talking about his political beliefs, which made some people in the audience shout in disagreement.
Ashlee Simpson's Lip Sync Fail
While she was performing on the show in 2004, Ashlee Simpson committed a major faux-pas. It was shown on live television that Simpson wasn't actually singing, but just moving her mouth along to a recording. The people who run the show didn't know she would do that, and she didn't come back after that.
Robert Blake Was Banned From SNL
A not-so-nice man named Robert Blake was mean to the show staff on SNL all week. Some people say he even threw a script at writer Gary Kroeger's head. After he did his hosting job on Saturday, he left the studio and never came back. But the most interesting stories from Saturday Night Live don't always have anything to do with the hosts.