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Top 10 TV Episodes Banned After They First Aired
When it comes to television in the United States, network censors are often on-hand to rule on certain plot points to ensure the American public isn’t traumatized by whatever might be offensive.
While these standards have relaxed over the years (you can now see a toilet on TV!), some episodes slipped by the censors only to be banned shortly after airing.
Some of these ten episodes have since returned on other networks or on DVD/Blu-Ray releases, so you can find them if you’re interested in seeing them. Still, they never did see the light of day again on their original networks.
10 Sesame Street—”Episode 847″
You’d probably never have thought it possible, but even a show like Sesame Street runs into the ban-hammer. An episode that once aired in 1976 has never been seen since. It was removed from syndication or repeated viewings because it was too frightening for children.
Remember, this is a show designed for young kids, so anything that’s super scary isn’t going to be liked by the parents. In the episode, the Wicked Witch of the West from The Wizard of Oz makes an appearance, and it was too much for some parents.
The episode featured Margaret Hamilton reprising her role from the movie, which is impressive enough, seeing as she was nearly killed filming her role in the film. The episode saw her fly over Sesame Street, where she drops her broom.
A law student working at Mr. Hooper’s store finds it, and the Witch storms in, threatening to turn Big Bird into a feather duster. Ultimately she gets the broom back, and it ends well enough, but parents were upset over the frightening imagery. After a largely negative reaction from parents, the episode was pulled and never seen again.
9 Tiny Toon Adventures—”Elephant Issues”
Children’s cartoons have long been a source of moral teachings, and they typically cover lessons that children need to learn. Whether it’s about honesty or the benefits of teamwork, an animated show takes the time to make sure children aren’t only entertained; they’re also educated!
Of course, teaching a lesson about the dangers of drinking to a demographic that’s more concerned with drinking a glass of milk wasn’t the best idea for one episode of Tiny Toon Adventures. The problem arose from a segment, “One Beer,” which aired only once in September 1991.
The ban came from a segment featuring Buster throwing some heavy peer pressure towards Plucky and Hamilton into sharing a beer with him. Shortly after, they drive right off a cliff while driving under the influence.
The episode might have been okay for an older demographic, but Fox Kids banned it soon after it aired. It eventually found its way into a DVD set, but it never re-aired during the series’ initial run. Incidentally, it’s one of two episodes from the series that was banned, with the other being “Toons from the Crypt,” though that episode never aired.
8 South Park—”200/201″
It should come as no surprise that a show like South Park had to pull an episode or two, seeing as the show is all about pushing the envelope. Still, the vast majority of offensive content has aired and re-aired on Cartoon Network without any problems. That can’t be said of the two-part episodes titled “200” and “201.”
Incidentally, the whole point of the episodes was to confront the boundaries of censorship, which was done by depicting just about every religious figure the show could animate. Unfortunately, this included the Prophet Muhammad, who, according to Islamic doctrine, cannot be depicted in any way.
The episodes garnered a ton of threats from Islamic groups, including Revolution Muslim, which is known for advocating an end of Western imperialism. Many of these threats came before the episode even aired, but they didn’t push the show’s creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone, to alter their work in any way.
While the show’s creators weren’t willing to back down, that cannot be said of the network. Cartoon Network decided to heavily edit the episodes and remove them from further broadcast to protect its employees. “200” can be found on DVD in its original form, but “201” is heavily edited.
7 The X-Files—”Home”
For the most part, The X-Files handled offensive and controversial content rather well. Still, there is one episode that crossed the line… well, several lines, and as a result, FOX banned it. The episode “Home” originally aired on October 11, 1996, but wasn’t seen on the channel after that.
In “Home,” the series strayed from its typical format by using people as the antagonists. There was nothing supernatural about the horror that unfolded on the screen. The episode revolves around a family of inbred and deformed people who catch the attention of the FBI after a deformed baby is found buried in a sandlot.
The brothers of the Peacock family end up murdering the Sheriff and his wife, but that’s not the worst of it. Mulder and Scully find the “matriarch” of the family hidden under a bed with all of her limbs removed. The boys had been raping her for years.
The disturbing content earned the episode the first TV-MA rating. FOX pulled the episode after it aired, but it didn’t stay buried. While FOX was done with it, FX showed the episode in an X-Files marathon the following year. It has since become one of the most-watched episodes of the series (largely due to the intrigue the ban built).
6 Seinfeld—”The Puerto Rican Day”
Seinfeld may have been “a show about nothing,” but that doesn’t mean it didn’t offend certain groups of people from time to time. One of the most infamous episodes of the series was one of the last to air. “The Puerto Rican Day” featured the group finding themselves trapped in the city on their way home from a game.
The Puerto Rican Day Parade blocks all traffic, so they find themselves stuck, and various antics ensue. The depiction of Puerto Ricans was offensive to many, but the thing that really made people mad came towards the end when Kramer accidentally lights the Puerto Rican flag on fire.
That scene was too much for many viewers, and NBC was flooded with complaints about the episode. Protests were held by angry fans outside 30 Rock, so NBC decided to remove the episode from further syndication. It was buried for several years but eventually resurfaced (on other channels) broadcasting the series in syndication.
When this happened, the flag-burning scene was edited out of the show, but it eventually found its way back. By 2002, syndicated airings of the episode featured the original cut, burning flag and all.
5 Hawaii Five-O – “Bored, She Hung Herself”
In the episode “Bored, She Hung Herself,” from the original Hawaii Five-O, a character named Don Miles practiced what is now known as autoerotic asphyxiation. If you’re unfamiliar with the term, it’s sexual gratification achieved from limiting one’s oxygen, usually through strangulation.
In the episode, which aired in 1970, it’s revealed that the woman was actually killed by a neighbor, but that didn’t stop one fan from trying what they saw on television. While it hasn’t been proven, it’s believed that the episode was pulled from broadcast because a fan died while attempting to recreate what they saw in the episode.
Snopes checked into the claim and couldn’t find any evidence that this actually happened, but even if it didn’t, the episode was banned and cannot be found in any legitimate reproduction.
The episode was never aired again, and it wasn’t included on the Hawaii Five-O DVD release of season two. The episode is considered “lost” by many fans, thanks to CBS’ refusal to rebroadcast or make it available for syndication. The only images found online were taken from bootleg copies recorded 50+ years ago.
4 The Star Wars Holiday Special
While it wasn’t an episode, the Star Wars Holiday Special did air on television back in 1978, and then it was taken off the air forever. Anyone who saw this horrifically awful attempt at bringing Star Wars to television would probably agree it needs to remain hidden from the world. It was absolutely terrible, but if you’ve never seen it, you really can’t know how bad it was.
The Special was so terrible, Carrie Fisher used to play it at the end of her parties to get people to leave her home. George Lucas, who had little to nothing to do with the Special, once said that “If I had the time and a sledgehammer, I would track down every copy of that show and smash it.”
The plot involved Han Solo and Chewbacca flying back to Kashyyyk (The Wookie home planet) for Life Day, which was described by The Hollywood Reporter as “a kind of space-age merging of Thanksgiving and Christmas.”
Everything about the Holiday Special is awful, and thanks to Lucas, it has never been re-aired or released on home video. Unfortunately, bootlegs of the original broadcast still exist…
3 Ren & Stimpy—”Man’s Best Friend”
“Man’s Best Friend” is a bit different from the episode on this list because it was partly banned before it aired in 1992. The segment was intended to air on August 22, 1992, but Nickelodeon opted to pull it in its entirety before it aired. Ultimately, it did make it to television, but that didn’t come for 11 years, and on another network.
The episode was controversial due to an incredibly violent scene involving Ren. He mercilessly beats Goerge with an oar, and it was ridiculously violent. On top of that, there were several references to tobacco use, and Nickelodeon wasn’t willing to support the segment or its creators.
The series creator, John Kricfalusi, and his production company, Spümcø, were both terminated by Nickelodeon. They were removed entirely from further working with the show. Nickelodeon moved on with The Ren and Stimpy Show on its own with Kricfalusi’s former partner.
The network ended up airing the episode with the original theatrical pilot taking the place of the offensive material. It was later added to the DVD box set as a special feature and finally made it onto television years later via Ren & Stimpy “Adult Party Cartoon” with a TV-MA rating.
2 TaleSpin—”Flying Dupes”
TaleSpin was a widely beloved afternoon cartoon that aired on The Disney Afternoon, and the series’ final episode, “Flying Dupes” was ultimately banned. In the episode, Baloo is tasked to deliver a package to the Thembrian High Marshall, which isn’t the most controversial plot in the world until you learn that he was unwittingly carrying a bomb.
He was given the bomb by arms manufacturers who wanted Thembria to go to war with Cape Suzette. The terrorism theme was considered to be a bit too risque for an animated series aimed at children, so Disney decided it would be best to pull it from airing in any reruns or through syndication.
Oddly enough, “Flying Dupes” did find its way to television in 1999, eight years after it first aired. It popped up on Toon Disney but is believed to have resulted from an oversight on whoever threw the episode on the air. It has since never seen the light of day on any Disney channel.
The episode cannot be found on iTunes or Disney+, but if you want to check it out, there is a way. It was released on the series DVD in 2013, so copies of the episode do exist.
1 Beavis And Butt-Head – “Comedians”
If there’s one thing an animator wants to avoid, it’s life imitating art. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what happened soon after the episode “Comedians” aired on MTV. Beavis and Butt-Head was never a show to restrain itself, but few could have foreseen what would happen after the episode aired.
In “Comedians,” the titular duo attempt to make it as stand-up comics but fail miserably. When they don’t make it, they decide to set the comedy club on fire. They then watched it burn from across the street. For a Beavis and Butt-Head episode, it was actually pretty tame, but it resulted in tragedy.
According to an article in the New York Times, Austin Messner, a five-year-old child, watched the episode, which included a line claiming that “fire was fun.” Shortly after this, the boy’s mother found him playing with matches, and later that evening, he set fire to the family home.
Sadly, this resulted in the death of his younger sister. The tragedy resulted in the episode being permanently pulled from syndication, and it’s only ever been aired once in its entirety. There has since been some doubt about the episode’s influencing the fire, but MTV continues to keep the episode off the air.