Some pretty controversial television episodes have been broadcast over the years, but the most provocative ones have been so well hidden that you’ve likely never once laid eyes on them.
That’s because the networks stepped in and swiftly pulled them from syndication, excised them from the DVDs, and in many cases took down any online copies as well, hoping they could effectively erase the episodes from history. If they made it to air at all, they sparked outrage, protests, and in one case even trips to the hospital.
In other words, they’re fascinating pieces of history that TV executives don’t want you to remember, but unfortunately for them, the Internet never forgets.
Ren & Stimpy became infamous for pushing the boundaries of what you could get away with on a children’s network, but this was the episode that finally went too far.
In “Man’s Best Friend” from Season 2, Ren and Stimpy are adopted by George Liquor, and he’s immediately abusive towards them in a disturbing and not that funny way. It all concludes with a sequence in which Ren gets his revenge by beating the hell out of George with an oar for several minutes, and it is absolutely brutal. He continuously whacks the guy to the point that his head spins all the way around, his eye pops out of its socket, and the screen starts flashing red as George screams and Ren laughs maniacally. This aired on the same channel as that show about cute babies?
Needless to say, Nickelodeon was pissed. They refused to broadcast the episode at all citing the excessive brutality, as if the reason wasn’t abundantly clear, and creator John Kricfalusi was fired a few months later. “Man’s Best Friend” finally aired later on as part of Ren & Stimpy Adult Party Cartoon, a mature spinoff that aired late nights on Spike TV. That’s probably where the series always belonged.
There’s probably an effective way to use a cartoon to teach children about the dangers of alcohol, but this wasn’t it. In the segment “One Beer” from Tiny Toon Adventures, Buster, Plucky and Hamton crack open a beer and immediately get super wasted after one sip, as you do. For the next few minutes, they wander around, harass women, and then steal a police car, drive off a cliff and die.
That’s right, the Tiny Toons literally die on camera as young viewers everywhere begin to cry. Happy Saturday morning, kids! Sure, it’s ultimately revealed that this wasn’t real and the toons were just putting on a performance to teach viewers a lesson, but Fox Kids was still as disturbed as anyone. Though it somehow got the thumbs up the first time around, the network would immediately ban it from any future airings.
“One Beer” was later released on DVD and is available online, just in case you want to show your children seven minutes of their favorite cartoon characters acting crazy and dying a violent and painful death.
Seinfeld sure did go out with a bang, as the second to last episode of the entire series (not counting a clip show) was so controversial that it would never be seen again. In Season 9 Episode 20, “The Puerto Rican Day,” the gang is stuck in traffic due to the annual Puerto Rican Day Parade. Towards the end, Kramer accidentally sets the Puerto Rican flag on fire, stomps on it, and is attacked by a mob of people.
Viewers immediately complained about the flag being destroyed on television, as well as the overall negative portrayal of Puerto Ricans. When a mob attacks Jerry’s car, for example, Kramer says, “It’s like this every day in Puerto Rico!” NBC received angry letters and protests outside its New York City offices, and so the network formally apologized and pulled the episode from reruns.
It was too late, though, as it had already been seen by 38.8 million people, the second highest number of viewers in the show’s history. Four years later, “The Puerto Rican Day” returned to syndication.
Family Guy has had several episodes pulled due to unfortunate coincidences, such as one where Peter murders a bunch of runners in the Boston Marathon, but here’s one that never made it to air in the first place.
“Partial Terms of Endearment” was intended to be the finale of the eighth season. In it, one of Lois’ friends asks her to be a surrogate mother. She agrees, but after the parents are killed in a car accident, Lois and Peter discuss whether they should abort the child. The storyline ends with Peter turning to the camera and saying, “We had an abortion,” before the show abruptly cuts to credits.
It really isn’t that offensive compared to a lot of things Fox has let these writers get away with, but the network still wouldn’t go through with the broadcast. Even Adult Swim, which usually is much more lenient, banned the episode, and both networks were worried about sponsors withdrawing their support due to the ensuing controversy. “Partial Terms of Endearment” was later put out on a special DVD release that hyped it up as being too raunchy for Fox, and to this day it has never been shown on American television.
Married with Children always had its fair share of risque content, but only one made Fox so nervous that they chickened out of showing it. In the season three episode “I’ll See You In Court,” Peggy and Al try to rekindle their sex lives by making love in a new location, so they spend a night in a nearby hotel. While there, they find a video that turns out to be a sex tape of Peggy’s best friend Marcy, and this actually turns Peggy and Al on. Later, they find out that Steve and Marcy weren’t the ones who made the tape, and they all suspect the motel owners are recording customers without their knowledge. The two couples decide to sue the motel, showing both tapes in court.
Some viewers were already organizing a boycott against Married With Children and getting advertisers to pull their support due to other controversial storylines, so Fox backed out of airing this sex fueled half-hour and never allowed it to be seen by anyone. It wouldn’t be broadcast for another thirteen years, finally making its debut on FX in 2002, and even then, FX still cut a few lines. These days, the script is so tame that ABC could probably show a recreation of it starring The Muppets and no one would care.
How much more controversial can you get than a storyline that sparked death threats? For their 200th episode, Trey Parker and Matt Stone decided to make fun of the fact that Muhammad is the one religious figure that you’re not allowed to mock, and at the end of part one of a two-parter, they threatened to show him on screen the following week.
In the days between these two episodes, though, the organization Revolution Muslim warned Parker, Stone and Comedy Central that there would be violent retribution if they went through with their decision to show Muhammad. It got so bad that the New York Police Department provided increased security at the Comedy Central headquarters out of fear of an attack.
“201” was broadcast, but every single reference to Muhammad was bleeped, which is really distracting seeing as he’s mentioned in practically every other sentence. Finally, Kyle’s final speech is censored so that what viewers saw on television was nearly 45 full seconds of bleeping. Ironically, the speech was about how terrorism works because all you have to do to prevent a message from getting out is to threaten people with violence. “201” has never been rebroadcast, it does not appear online, and it is excluded from the DVD releases, so it still can only be viewed illegally.
The worst case scenario of any these episodes airing is that some viewers might be offended, but here’s one that actually sent kids to the hospital. In “Dennō Senshi Porygon” from Season 1 of Pokemon, Ash and his friend journey inside a Poké Ball transmitting device. It’s pretty innocuous overall, but the problem came towards the end when Pikachu uses a lightning attack that causes an explosion of red and blue. Strobe lights fill the entire screen and remain there for about six full seconds.
The episode aired in Japan to 4.6 million viewers, and according to Japan’s Fire Defense Agency, 685 kids experienced seizures, blindness, vomiting, and loss of consciousness. Two patients would remain hospitalized for two weeks. About 12,000 children experienced more mild symptoms, not being treated but reporting feeling ill.
Yeah, what other show can actually land you in a hospital? TV Tokyo apologized and not only did they ban “Dennō Senshi Porygon” from the airwaves, but they also pulled Pokemon altogether for four months. Police were ordered to question the show’s animators and producers, an emergency meeting of the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare was held, and Nintendo’s stock fell by 5%. Porygon would also never again have a major storyline just because he was associated with this incident. Poor guy.
The Hawaii Five-O Episode “Bored, She Hung Herself” was aired in 1970 and totally disappeared from history, removed from syndication and from the show’s DVD release. Though most of these other ones have later been made available in some form, no copy of this has ever turned up since.
So what’s all the hubbub? The episode involves an investigation into a supposed suicide, but it turns out the woman died after practicing a yoga technique that sounds suspiciously like autoerotic asphyxiation. According to Rose Freeman, widow of the show’s creator, just a few days after the broadcast, a viewer died trying to emulate the trick shown. Freeman said that they quickly made the decision to ban episode so no one else would be dumb enough to try it.
A few incredibly grainy clips have popped up over the years, although they’re usually pulled due to copyright infringement. CBS apparently still insists that nobody see this because of something that happened four decades ago.
Fear Factor has featured some legendarily nasty challenges like having to eat sheep’s eyes and buffalo testicles, but if you can believe it, one stunt was far too gross for the network to take.
During the rebooted 2012 series, an episode was scheduled to air in which contestants must drink donkey semen. It’s not even a tiny amount that they could just take a quick swig of like a shot of whiskey. No, one of the players ends up drinking 30 ounces of semen. That wasn’t enough, because the crew also throws donkey urine into the mix for good measure because the semen wasn’t nearly vile enough.
The segment later arrived online after it aired on Danish TV, and so if you want to watch a guy drink 18 ounces of donkey semen only to be immediately eliminated from the game, making all his efforts pointless, you can check out the clip on YouTube.
Once details about this stunt started being reported, NBC and Comcast suddenly realized it might not be an appropriate thing to show. NBC Entertainment Chairman Bob Greenblatt said, “I reviewed the episode late last week and decided it was a segment we should not air.” No kidding. The series was cancelled six months later.
Kind of like the Cartoon Network equivalent of Ren & Stimpy, Cow and Chicken was another incredibly bizarre series with plenty of moments that made you forget it was ostensibly a kids program. The “carpet munchers” episode takes that to the extreme, and it feels like some sort of prank carried out by Nathan Fielder.
This is an entire episode of a children’s cartoon that only exists because of a sex joke, and yet it somehow slipped past the network censors. In “Buffalo Gals,” a motorcycle gang shows up at the house out of nowhere, and they immediately start chewing on the carpet. There’s no way a kid would pick up on it, but “carpet munching” is a slang term for female oral sex, and that’s obviously what the joke is here. What could be any other possible explanation behind the scene? The bikers also embody every lesbian stereotype imaginable, they have butch haircuts, and characters constantly mistake them for men.
After someone at Cartoon Network finally was informed that this wasn’t just totally random and was actually a giant lesbian sex gag, they pulled it and replaced it with a different segment in syndication. Only illegal bootlegs of it are currently available, and whatever writing team was responsible for this is probably still giggling to themselves to this day.