Television shows are usually carefully planned out affairs where producers and directors do everything in their power to make sure no content scares, offends, or disgusts the general public. But every so often, certain episodes that shock viewers somehow make their way onto the airways. Sometimes it’s a complete accident, with no one really foreseeing the effect that it might have. Other foreign shows clash with the cultures of countries they are imported into. Children’s shows are especially vulnerable to weird content that seems totally unsuitable for younger people’s eyes. Even though these kid shows are meant to be light and cheerful, some really weird stuff has shown up in them in the past.
Then there are the “politically incorrect” episodes of shows: episodes that involve Hitler and Nazi imagery and other no nos. These shows are immediately taken off the airwaves. Indeed, many of these shows have been banned from ever reaching the public. But attitudes have grown more relaxed in recent years, and TV shows are getting more and more adventurous. What’s accepted now on the airwaves would have made people outraged 50 or 60 years ago. Shows like Game Of Thrones even feature nudity and intense violence and gore to a level that has never been seen before. It may be “allowed” today, but people still get outraged by shows like these, and accuse them of “going too far.”
So sit back, relax, and take a trip through some of television’s most shocking moments. You will laugh, you will cringe, and you will be disturbed. But hey, that’s what show business is all about, right?
15. The Pokemon Porygon Seizure Episode
Perhaps one of the most famous banned episodes in recent memory was an episode of Pokemon called “Electric Soldier Porygon.” The show famously caused seizures of hundreds of children in Japan, and was never aired outside of the country.
In the episode, Ash travels into cyberspace to meet a prototype digital Pokemon called Porygon. In the climax of the episode, Ash escapes on the back of Porygon while there is a blinding flash of alternating red and blue lights. It is this segment that caused seizures in hundreds of Japanese viewers. A total of 685 viewers were hospitalized after suffering seizures when watching this scene (310 boys and 375 girls). Out of these 685, 535 recovered while in the ambulance as it was heading towards hospital, 150 had to stay in hospital and be treated, and 2 children had to remain in hospital for over 2 weeks. In addition, 12,000 children reported symptoms of “mild illness” after watching the scene, such as headaches, nausea, and “mass hysteria.” This episode holds the record for “The most epileptic seizures caused by a television show.”
14. When Gargoyles Went Too Far – Deadly Force
The show Gargoyles quickly became famous as a cartoon that wasn’t afraid to touch on controversial issues, and the episode that really set the bar for that was “Deadly Force.” This episode was so dark and grim that it was actually banned temporarily. Remember people, this was supposed to be a kid’s show!
It starts when one of the Gargoyles is watching an old western movie. He becomes obsessed with guns, and after finding one, he starts playing with it, pretending to be a cowboy. He ends up accidentally shooting one of the other main characters, and then tries to cover it up. As a result, the other protagonists try to hunt down other (innocent) criminals who they suspect of shooting the person. No one dies, but there is a lot of blood and tons of drama. It was actually an amazing episode because it bravely tackled issues of gun violence and ownership. Since it was originally aired, “Deadly Force” has been celebrated as one of the best Gargoyles episodes.
13. When South Park Depicted Muhammad
One show that constantly “goes too far” is South Park. How many times have you watched this show with a mixture of disgust, entertainment, and discomfort? Pretty much every episode. The creators seem to revel in offending as many people as possible, so it comes as no surprise that this show made it onto this list.
Although they have made many controversial episodes in the past, with pretty much every one of their shows being controversial and offensive in some way, there is one episode that stands out: Episode 201. In this show, as well as episode 200, the creators took the unprecedented and extremely frowned upon step of depicting the Prophet Muhammad. For those who don’t know, the Muslim religion specifically prohibits any depiction of the Prophet Muhammed in any way, shape, or form. Many cartoonists have landed themselves in hot water after doing just that, with some receiving death threats and even bombings. Eventually, the creators of South Park decided to censor out the Holy Prophet.
12. The Price Is Right Used Fur Coats As Prizes
So The Price Is Right may seem like an innocent show. If you’re not familiar with it (who isn’t?), the show is a game show, and contestants have to guess the correct price of various items in order to win. The person who guesses the price that is closest to the actual price wins. However, the show controversially featured fur coats as some of the items that the contestants had to guess. As you might expect, animal rights groups were far from happy. They demanded justice, and eventually this specific episode was banned and taken off the air.
But what most people don’t know is that Bob Barker (the host) specifically took a stand against the use of fur coats on The Price Is Right. They respected his wishes, and this act of animal activism is well-remembered as one of Bob Barker’s finest moments in his career and on the show.
11. When Disney’s TaleSpin Went Too Far
One of the weirdest kids shows ever to go on the air was an episode of Disney’s TaleSpin. In a bizarre episode called “Flying Dupes,” the episode tried to tackle issues like bomb threats and terrorism, and it ended up being extremely weird. Needless to say, it was banned and was never aired.
The plot involved one of the main characters, Baloo, being asked to deliver a cuckoo clock to the High Marshall Of Thembria (basically a Disney politician). The clock is actually a bomb. But that’s not all. The bomb has been planted by a terrorist bomb maker who wants to start a war between two Disney kingdoms so he can get rich by selling bombs to both sides. This episode basically sums up the military-industrial complex and everything that’s wrong with the world… For kids! You can see why it was banned. Whoever wrote this episode was obviously a conspiracy theory nut.
10. Sailor Moon’s Lesbian Themes
Everyone knows that Sailor Moon is one of the most popular animes of all time, but not many know that it was heavily censored when it was imported over to the west from Japan. There were all kinds of things that were changed. The original series was actually quite sexual, with implied nudity that had to be digitally “covered up” when it was aired in America. It was also very violent, and the characters talked a lot about killing each other, and those words had to be changed to things like “destroyed.”
But perhaps the most controversial element that had to be changed was the lesbian love interest between two of the main characters, Tenou Haruka (Sailor Uranus) and Kaioh Michiru (Sailor Neptune). These two had a very real, sexual romance with each other, and such themes of homosexuality were not something that the West wanted their children to see.
9. When The Star Trek Crew Dressed Up Like Nazis
One of the most famous, bizarre, and controversial episodes of the original Star Trek series was an episode called “Patterns Of Force.” The crew encounters a rogue planet populated by people who have inexplicably become Nazis. They are led by a very “Hitler-esque” fuhrer who is actually a brainwashed former Starfleet officer. The episode was met with a lot of criticism, mostly due to all the Nazi imagery and the fact that Kirk and his own crew were dressed up as Nazi officers. It also featured one character saying that “Nazi Germany was the most efficient society ever created.”
It was banned in Germany at the time. Star Trek was also famous for being controversial in other episodes as well, such as the one that featured Captain Kirk and Lt. Uhura kissing, which was the first interracial kiss in US television history. Eventually, in 1996, “Patterns Of Force” was aired in Germany.
8. Pokemon – The Legend Of Dratini
It seems like Pokemon was such a weird show that that it actually made in onto this list twice. “Electric Porygon Soldier” went too far in terms of its flashing lights that caused seizures, but “The Legend Of Dratini” went too far in a completely different way. The show featured all kinds of weirdness that made it completely unsuitable for children. It’s hard to know what the hell the writers were thinking when they wrote this episode. For one thing, the main villain was equipped with two pistols that he would point straight in Ash’s face constantly, and at times fire them at other characters in an effort to kill them… Definitely not something you see in an average kid’s show. Then Team Rocket showed up and for some reason they had guns too… Finally, one scene that was strange even for Pokemon featured Meowth dressed up as Adolf Hitler. This was never explained. Yeah…
7. Game Of Thrones – The Red Wedding
HBO as a channel has produced more shocking and controversial moments than any other channel on television. Famous for really pushing the boundaries of television, this show has featured nudity, grotesque violence, and controversial themes. While these features have become a hallmark of this channel, the show that really pushed the boundaries of television was undoubtedly Game Of Thrones.
Although the show constantly features nudity, gore, and full on sex scenes, one episode went too far, even for the high (or low) standards of Game Of Thrones. The episode was of course “The Red Wedding.” What makes this episode even more shocking is that it seemingly comes out of nowhere. First, a wedding is happening, and then everyone starts dying and finally a pregnant woman is stabbed to death in her pregnant stomach. Even for fans of the series, this was sickening episode.
6. The Sopranos – Whoever Did This
Before there was Game Of Thrones, there was The Sopranos. One of the shows that made HBO famous, The Sopranos has gone down in history as perhaps one of the greatest shows that has ever been on television. The scripts, the acting, the cinematography – everything was absolutely perfect. The show centers around a fictional crime family, the Sopranos. These guys are the real deal, and as you can expect, there was a lot of violence in the show.
Things got bloody on a pretty regular basis, but never more than in the episode “Whoever Did This.” Ralphie, a character that had become an enemy and source of annoyance for the main character, Tony Soprano, finally meets his end in this episode. Tony ends up cutting his body into pieces with the help of his nephew Christopher, who is high on heroin at the time. It was one of the bloodiest and disturbing moments ever shown on television.
5. Mr. Rogers – Conflict
Mr. Rogers is a time-honored classic children’s show personality. He is remembered as one of the nicest guys on television, and ran a show where he would tell stories to little kids. One of these episodes happened to take place at the height of the Cold War, where everyone was paranoid and scared that nuclear war would break out at any day. Mr. Rogers took this moment to attempt to explain the futility of nuclear war to his young viewers. It didn’t go very well and the episode was later banned and pulled from rotation.
He tried to explain the situation to the kids by telling a story about a fictional neighborhood where there is a huge misunderstanding that almost leads to nuclear war. One part of the fictional neighborhood thinks the other side is making nuclear warheads, when really they are making coins. You can see why this was a pretty random and unsuitable thing to be telling children about.
4. Ren & Stimpy – Man’s Best Friend
Back in 90s, Ren & Stimpy was the archetypal “late night cartoon.” It was one of the first cartoons that was made for adults. It was famous for its dark humor, its weirdness, and its controversial nature. But one episode that pushed this reputation to new boundaries was “Man’s Best Friends.” It features a man who adopts Ren and Stimpy, and basically abuses them. He tells them to disobey his orders just so he can then punish them. Then he tries to teach Ren and Stimpy how to “defend their master.” First, he teaches them how to attack by giving them a canoe paddle and ordering them to attack him. Stimpy takes things way too far, and beats the man to within an inch of his life. The episode was banned because of its extreme violence. Although it was initially banned from Nickelodeon, it eventually saw airtime after the creation of a new segment called “Adult Party Time.”
3. The X Files – “Home”
The X-Files was a very scary, almost x-rated kind of a show. It was known for its eerie plot lines and its grim subject matter. But one episode really went way too far in terms of weirdness and horror, and that episode was entitled, “Home.”
The FBI agents travel to a rural farm to investigate an infant death. Inside the farmhouse are several deformed farmers who have not left the house in over a decade. They later discover that the brothers of the household have been having incestuous sex with their mother, a quadruple amputee with no limbs, and have been fathering multiple deformed babies. Just like you probably feel after reading about the episode, the viewers felt that this was a little… excessive, even for X-Files. Although a lot of critics called the episode sick and twisted, it generally received positive ratings from viewers.
2. Amazon’s Ad Campaign For “Man In The High Castle”
One of the most controversial television shows out right now is Man In The High Castle. The show is about a theoretical alternate universe where Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan won the Second World War, and the United States is occupied by both nations. In order to promote the show before its release, Amazon took a very peculiar approach. They decorated the inside of the New York subway system with Nazi imagery, as well as Imperial Japanese symbols.
In hindsight, this was a very misguided idea. One of the most disturbing images was placed inside an actual train, where the American flag was replaced by a Nazi version complete with a Nazi eagle instead of the stars, also known as the “Reichsadler eagle.” Mayor Bill de Blasio called this act offensive to holocaust survivors and WWII veterans, although the ad campaign did technically follow the guidelines for subway advertisements.
1. Carl Junior’s 2015 Superbowl Commercial
Super Bowl commercials are known for being some of the craziest, wildest, and funniest commercials ever. In 2015, Carl’s Jr. made what is now considered the sexiest commercial ever to grace the airwaves. It featured a very well-endowed young lady eating Carl’s Jr. burgers wearing next to nothing. Indeed, in some of the scenes she was actually naked, her nudity only covered by carefully placed objects. The advertisement featured model Charlotte McKinney taking long, sexual bites out of the company’s new burger: the “all-natural” burger. The double entendre is extremely obvious – the theme and title of the commercial, that being “all-natural” refers not only to actual burger but also to Charlotte’s massive breasts. The commercial was called sexist and misogynistic by a number of feminist groups, but Carl’s Jr.’s 2105 Super Bowl commercial has gone down as one of the most popular of all time.