There are certain elements of entertainment, especially television, that we all agree are controversial, but acceptable to different degrees. For example, drugs, sex, racism and certain satire are generally accepted as okay, but what happens when even that line is blurred or crossed? Here are ten controversial television shows. Some of these shows might be older than you are and some are currently on television. Some of these shows were deemed very controversial when they were originally broadcast, but as social attitudes have changed, aren’t really that controversial at all. Some of these shows were so controversial; it’s shocking how they were ever green-lit in the first place. One show was even cancelled after the first episode. One show on the list, while it is an very old show, was controversial for its time and certainly even too controversial for today.
9. All In The Family
All In The Family is one of America’s classic sitcoms. Broadcast from 1971-1979 on CBS and spawning several spinoffs, there hasn’t been a show like it since. Carroll O’Conner played Archie Bunker, a working class WWII veteran, living in Queens, New York, who like many men of his times, was a bigot. He struggles to adapt to changing attitudes, but despite his bigotry, he is a lovable, albeit curmudgeonly family man. The show tackled many issues for the first time on television from racism, rape, abortion, miscarriage, impotence, breast cancer, women’s liberation, homosexuality, war and menopause.
8. Heil Honey I’m Home
There’s nothing quite like Hitler to get the crowds laughing, right? Well, that’s what television executives thought when they green lit, Heil Honey I’m Home, which aired on the British Satellite Channel, Galaxy. The show satires Adolph Hitler and Eva Braun, reimagining fictionalized versions of them in a 1950/1960’s style sitcom throwback. Their next-door neighbors are The Goldsteins, a (you guessed it) a nice Jewish couple. A total of eight episodes were shot, but only one made it to air. It’s actually surprising the plug wasn’t pulled earlier. There is an entire episode, while in poor taste, that is actually pretty funny (at least for the first ten minutes), available on You Tube and shown above.
7. Married With Children
Married With Children was one of then fledgling network, Fox’s first successful shows. It ran from 1987-1997. Ed O’Neil played patriarch Al Bundy, a never do well former High School football player, who now sells women’s shoes. His wife, played by Katey Sagal, is lazy. His daughter isn’t very bright and his son doesn’t care about anything else other than sex. The show was boycotted in 1989 by advertisers because of an episode that featured an elderly man cross-dressing. Another episode, called “I’ll See You In Court,” about a sex tape was deemed too controversial and wasn’t aired as part of the original series. Although, it can be seen on DVD and aired in syndication.
6. The Sopranos
The Sopranos ran from 1999-2007 on HBO. The show was about New Jersey patriarch, Tony Soprano, played brilliantly by the late James Gandolfini, trying to balance both work and home life. He had complicated relationships with his wife, mother and children. Only, Tony Soprano wasn’t the typical Jersey dad, he was a powerful mob boss who had several goumahs (mistresses) and often committed brutal acts of violence. Unlike many mob bosses, Tony had a therapist, which was one of the most interesting relationships on the show. The Sopranos was controversial because of violence, sex, crime and of course the gratuitous nudity of the Bada Bing Club. But despite all of it, Tony Soprano remains one of America’s favorite Dads.
Ellen ran on ABC from 1994-1998. The show was about bookstore owner, Ellen Morgan, who was played by stand-up comedian Ellen DeGeneres, navigating life in her 30’s. In the first season, Ellen worked at a bookstore called Buy The Book. In the second season, she becomes the owner of the bookstore. Sounds like a basic sitcom, right? That was until the 1997 “Puppy Episode,” when Ellen Morgan announces on a loudspeaker, at an airport, that she is gay. Subsequently, the real Ellen DeGeneres came out on Oprah and in Time magazine. Ellen Morgan became the first openly gay television character. ABC, which is owned by Disney, received tons of backlash for Ellen, but the show paved the way for openly gay characters on television, making shows like, Will & Grace socially acceptable and big hits.
4. Queer As Folk
Queer as Folk was a remake of a British show of the same name that ran from 2000-2005 on Showtime. It was about a group of gay friends living in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, although the show was actually filmed in Toronto, Canada. If you couldn’t tell from the title itself, this show is probably the most controversial show of all time. In terms of controversy, it left no stone unturned. Open drug use and addiction was just the tip of the iceberg. There was sex, sometimes bordering on pornographically shot, between characters of all sexualities. Name a controversy, Queer as Folk explored it. However, despite the controversy, it was a great show that explored issues previously untouched by television. Since its cancellation, there hasn’t been a show quite like it.
3. Osbournes: Reloaded
The Osbournes: Reloaded was so controversial, it was cancelled after just one episode, which aired on March 31, 2009 on Fox. Hosted by the Osbourne family, this variety show featured musical guest, Fall Out Boy and as well, other special guests. There were also sketches like Ozzy and Kelly working at a fast food drive thru and “The Little Osbournes,” which had little people parodying the family. Not surprisingly, there was also lots of censored language. Many Fox affiliates fled from the show, sixteen refusing to air it and ten delaying the starting hour. With so many upset affiliates, Fox was forced to cancel the other five episodes.
2. South Park
Still running on Comedy Central since 1997, South Park is one of those shows that continually pushes the envelope and never fails to top itself. First of all, it’s an animated show for adults, so that in itself is controversial. The show makes fun of everything and everyone from religion, to politics, to celebrities and uses many curse words. The writers and creators of the show are simply fearless. The show has been boycotted many times, including by actors, Tom Cruise and John Travolta for it’s anti-Scientology stance. Scientologist Isaac Hayes, that voiced Chef for nine years also quit the show in protest.
1. Orange Is The New Black
Orange Is The New Black has been Netflix’s breakout hit. While it’s technically a web series, it does air on television outside of America. Perhaps one of the most controversial shows, created by Jenji Koghan, who also created Weeds, it was rejected by several networks before Netflix green lit the show. The show is based on Piper Kerman’s book, Orange Is The New Black: My Year In A Woman’s Prison. The show covers every taboo possible, from crime to drugs and life in prison to everything in between, especially in between the legs. The main character herself is bisexual, who used to date women exclusively before falling in love with a straight man. The show also depicts a fair amount of lesbian sex. One character on the show is transgendered and is actually played by a transgender actress. On for two seasons, with a third announced, we can only hope Piper never gets released.
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