“You cannot say that!”
“Did they just say that?”
These are all common phrases when people overhear someone drop a terrible clanger or offensive word which should never emerge during polite conversation. Sometimes, in a movie scene in a crowded place, a character will let one of those slip and there comes a collected gasp, followed by a shattering of crockery and a shocked silence. Not really, but people do seem to speak louder than they realize, and also they seem to hear much better when something controversial gets muttered nearby. People make fools of themselves like this on television of all places!
Today, television is less likely to be broadcast live than it used to be and, for that reason, shows are far more likely to get cut and edited to wipe out all imperfections when they get to screen. Some presenters or actors who have dropped the ball on a live broadcast have now gone down in global history, now infamous for their awful mistakes. Although terrible mess-ups are not always reserved for a live show, people can make terrible blunders even on a recorded episode. An incident which seems so innocent suddenly causes so much uproar and spreads like a wildfire of condemnation across the media. There are many examples of TV scenes that got people in trouble; here are 15 of those disasters!
15. Kick This Sopranos Scene To The Curb!
The Sopranos was a highly acclaimed drama revolving around the Soprano family, headed up by the patriarch, Tony Soprano. As a show that involves the mafia and thus crime by extension, it became inevitable that violence would rear its head and it did so in genuinely gory style in this particular scene. Taking inspiration from the instance in American History X where the same act of violence was shown, but at a distance and only briefly, The Sopranos upped the pressure on the scene. When Tony gives Coco a beating, things got very gruesome indeed when he makes the man bite the curb, even for a criminally based drama about a mob boss. But some shows push the boundaries for a reason and become well-loved, such as The Sopranos did.
14. Troy McLure’s Unique Tastes
The Simpsons led the way for cartoons that shocked people, but unlike those that followed, like South Park and Family Guy, The Simpsons hid much of their quite controversial lines and gags with great subtlety, hiding them in a comedic, animated show tailored for the entire family. In one episode, washed up B-Movie actor, Troy McClure marries Marge’s sister Selma. His career was dogged by rumors of his bizarre sexual preferences, summed up by Fat Tony. One scene shows Fat Tony’s men reading of McClure’s comeback and says to Fat Tony: “you told me he was dead”. Fat Tony replies: “no, I said ‘he sleeps with the fishes'”, this reference to death by drowning from The Godfather has a very shocking reference to Troy McClure enjoying some intimacy with fish (he has a huge aquarium in his bedroom) that must have really shocked when originally broadcast.
13. South Park’s Family Guy Mohammed Moment
In one South Park two-part episode, Cartman is trying to get Family Guy canceled because he is sick of people saying that his humor is similar to a show he hates. He heads to Hollywood to plead with the head of Fox to remove a Family Guy two-part episode that plans to show the prophet Mohammed’s face (something forbidden in Islam) that is causing protests globally. Kyle apprehends Cartman, and a lame slapping fight between the two ensues, Kyle manages to reach the Fox head after escaping Bart Simpson’s clutches and manages to talk him into showing the prophet Mohammed. As a result, Comedy Central blacked out the image of Mohammed when he knocks at Peter Griffin’s door, although they showed him in an episode ten years earlier.
12. The X Files’ Mutant Family
90s sci-fi drama The X Files followed two FBI Agents, Fox Mulder and Dana Scully, and although a new series recently aired, it never captured the original style of the 90s. Mulder and Scully headed a branch of the FBI dedicated to unexplained occurrences, and in one episode, the team investigates a family of mutants. These mutants are not only mutants but inbred too, and there follows a horrible scene where the mother is pulled out from under the bed. Fox received quite the backlash from this horrifying moment that they pulled the episode and never showed it again, putting an X over that particular X File!
11. An Eye-Popping Fight!
Game of Thrones has everything, drama, intrigue, magic, passion, and violence, including scenes that will cause people’s jaws to drop; right from the first episode that saw twin brother and sister, Jaime and Cersei Lannister getting a little too close for comfort. By the end of the first season, the main character Ned Stark parted ways with his head. The deaths did not let up, and one of the most horrific scenes involves a duel between Oberyn “The Viper of Dorne” Martell and Ser Gregor “The Mountain That Rides” Clegane. Oberyn demands the contest to avenge his sister. When their fight begins, Martell inflicts some wounds on the giant knight, but Gregor soon gains the advantage and ends the battle by crushing Oberyn. Literally.
10. What’s That On The Door In Friends?
The massive hit comedy series Friends ran for ten years and is still running on stations like Netflix and Comedy Central. For several episodes in season four, Joey and Chandler won the larger apartment off of Monica and Rachel, at the same time, Ross meets English woman Emily and falls in love with her. In a show where Ross goes to England to declare his love for Emily, Joey and Chandler discover that they have a “special” channel for free and cannot turn the station off, in case they lose it. Although originally broadcast later in the day, the reruns are often shown in the daytime, so for a long time because of the issue of this type of content, some channels never aired the episode and skipped over it to the next one.
9. Nip/Tuck-ing Away Any Decency
The show Nip/Tuck was an unflinching and no-holds-barred glimpse at the somewhat seedy underbelly of the world of cosmetic surgery, and the lives and loves of two doctors that even featured comedian Joan Rivers as a guest star. The more immoral of the doctor pair, Christian, went too far with his treatment of Abby Mays, whom he deems more average in appearance to the women he usually deals with. Taking Abby to bed, Christian places a paper bag over her head before he gets intimate with her and she consents to it and goes back for more. Such a degrading treatment of a woman was bound to receive some awful backlash and claims of misogyny, showing the depth of the themes of objectification that body consciousness issues create.
8. Not A “Small-Fry” Death
Television drama is a competitive genre, and so in order to keep relevant, further boundaries need to be constantly pushed, and the same went for the BBC’s espionage thriller series, Spooks. The show followed the furtive actions and tribulations of the British Secret Service arm, MI5 and really turned up the heat by killing off a main character in the second episode. The movie Psycho broke ground when it not only made the protagonist a woman but killed her off within the first 30 minutes. Spooks followed suit with the main character’s death occurring in episode two of the first season. The woman in question gets dispatched in a terrible manner, getting thrown into boiling cooking oil which understandably received many complaints!
7. Sansa Stark’s Time With Ramsay
Game of Thrones is no stranger to controversy and even tries to outdo itself in the shock department! When the TV show diverges from the source material– the Song of Ice and Fire novels by George RR Martin– the alterations become problematic among audiences and media. In episode six of season five, the sadistic Ramsay Snow marries the Stark dynasty’s eldest daughter Sansa, which never happened in the novel. In the episode, the immoral bastard son of the Lord of the Dreadfort, who severely tortured Theon Greyjoy, assaults Sansa after their wedding. Such a brutal and disturbing addition to the show did not go over well with an audience that realized it never even existed in the original material to begin with, and just seemed like a change for pure shock value.
6. Different (Disturbing) Stroke For A Sitcom
Comedy is notorious for being controversial and often walks a fine line between pleasing and offending. When sitcom Diff’rent Strokes aired in the mid-70s, it tackled a divisive issue head-on when two orphaned black kids from Harlem are adopted by a wealthy white couple. Although by using comedy as a vehicle to address the thorny issue of race in a nation not long over the clashes and struggles of the Civil Rights Movement, maybe the pushed the envelope too far. As in the case of an episode where the two kids, played by Gary Coleman and Todd Bridges were taken care of by an older guy who plied them wine and ice cream, took photos of them shirtless made them ride him like a donkey. All accompanied to a laugh track; it crossed a line as most people see this subject matter as off-limits even for humor.
5. First Lesbian Kiss
Another forum for showcasing and allowing hot, divisive topics are soap operas. To keep audiences hooked they have begun to be broadcast several times a week and air more shocking storylines to out-shock each other. However, 25 years ago, there were some things that we now take for granted that were so taboo in the past that even an innocent nod towards them caused an uproar. British soap opera Brookside, starring Anna Friel, was the first soap to feature a lesbian kiss and caused some significant backlash. Today we see these relationships and kisses much more often so such a response might appear a little strange. There wasn’t any condemnation when her character’s mother killed their father and buried him under the patio… but that is normal, right?
4. Scott Tenorman Must Die
South Park has been on TV for 20 years and has always pushed the boundaries of decency with its willingness to shock. In Scott Tenorman Must Die, Cartman is scammed by older kid Scott Tenorman into buying Scott’s pubic hair. Realizing he has been conned, Cartman goes to great lengths to get revenge on Scott. Which leads to a Chili Con Carnival where Cartman plans to have a horse bite off Scott’s johnson in front of Radiohead (Scott’s favorite band), who will laugh at Tenorman’s tears. Tenorman discovers this plan and puts pubic hair in his chilli to feed to Cartman, but Cartman learns of it and reveals that the horse plan was a fake and that the horse’s owner, protective of his farm, would shoot intruders– who happened to be Scott’s parents, whom the farmer killed. Cartman then steals Scott’s folks and feeds them to Scott in his chilli, a very disturbing instance buried in comedy.
3. Gory Guy Fawkes
In a post Game of Thrones TV world, everyone needs to up the ante on the hardcore depictions of gruesome footage, and as this drama borrowed Game of Thrones‘ own Kit Harrington, it is only polite to make him at home with some gratuitous violence. In BBC drama Gunpowder, the show opened tense and never released the pressure as it began with agents of the Protestant king arresting Catholics. What followed was a realistic depiction of an execution that would have taken place at the time in the early 17th century. We won’t go into the gory details, but let’s just say bodies were mutilated. The realistic portrayal, however, proved too much for some who found the whole opening distasteful.
2. Throw Jeremy Clarkson Under A Train
Top Gear was one of the most popular shows that the BBC ever created, the car magazine show was sold to TV companies around the world, making the BBC and the presenters very wealthy indeed. Top Gear ended when Jeremy Clarkson was fired for punching a producer over steak; the show made a comeback to the BBC with Friends‘ Matt Le Blanc as one of the presenters. Clarkson rebranded his show for Amazon Prime as The Grand Tour, but it was several years before this debacle when Jeremy Clarkson appeared on BBC One program The One Show. Appearing as a guest, Clarkson claimed that public sector workers who were striking in the UK at the time, should be shot.
1. Brass Eye’s Cringy Episode
In the late 90s, British TV show Brass Eye aired on Channel 4 back during a time when everyone (well, almost) could tell what fake news was when Poe’s Law did not rule all! Brass Eye aired as a satirical investigative journalism show, heavy in its use of parody and a level of exaggeration seen in the mainstream media. Although the show was well-received by-and-large, one edition caused shock and widespread condemnation when it hyped the hysteria around inappropriate behavior towards minors. The episode claimed child abusers disguised themselves in schools, and even roped in celebrities as big as Phil Collins into filming a joke campaign. The episode backfired on Brass Eye when people felt it made light of child abuse and treated it as a comedic issue.
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