One of the best ways for television series to draw in viewers is by being controversial. However, there have been several moments over the course of television history wherein shows have taken things too far. Join Facts Verse as we explore controversial TV episodes that were banned from TV.
Hawaii Five-O: “Bored, She Hung Herself”
The first television episode that we’ll be taking a look at in this video is an episode of Hawaii Five-O. Hawaii Five-O was never a show that prided itself on it’s risqué subject matter. In fact, the series was generally considered appropriate for family viewing. This fact is arguably a big part of the reason why this episode of the show ended up being so controversial. The episode we’re referring to is “Bored, She Hung Herself”, which was the 16th episode of the show’s second season. Based on the name of the episode, one might expect it to be about someone committing suicide. However, it was actually about autoerotic asphyxiation.
In the episode, a woman accidentally kills herself while trying to perform autoerotic asphyxiation. For those that don’t know, autoerotic asphyxiation is an act wherein a person reduces oxygen to their brain while achieving orgasm through masturbation. The reduced oxygen is supposed to make the orgasm more intense. The concept of a woman accidentally dying while committing autoerotic asphyxiation was clever, but the episode was sadly received negatively upon it’s initial airing. After being taken off the air, “Bored, She Hung Herself” has yet to be show on television again. Still, it was released via Hawaii Five-O’s DVD box sets.
Beavis and Butthead: “Comedians”
Hawaii Five-O was a show that surprised viewers when it became unintentional controversial. Meanwhile, Beavis and Butthead was a show that wore it’s controversial nature on it’s sleeve. This was all well and good for the animated comedy until one tragic event in the fall of 1993, when a young child attempted to imitate the cartoon’s titular characters in a fatal way. The episode that the child was attempting to imitate was called “Comedians”. In the episode, Beavis and Butthead show up at a comedy club and attempt to win over the audience’s favor by performing a juggling act with flaming balls of newspaper. Instead of winning favor, they end up burning the comedy club down!
When the episode aired, a five-year-old boy at home believed that he could do a better job of juggling flaming balls of newspaper than Beavis and Butthead. Sadly, he was mistaken. The boy ended up burning his entire trailer down, which resulted in the death of his two-year-old sister. The incident occurred in Ohio, and had a pretty big impact. The Beavis and Butthead episode was removed from the air, and the show as a whole was moved to a later timeslot on MTV.
Pokémon: “Electric Soldier Porygon”
Most people have likely heard of the myth that watching Japanese animation, or anime, can cause seizures. However, did you know that this myth is actually based on fact? The origin of the myth is a 1997 episode of the global phenomenon Pokémon. In the episode, which is called “Electric Soldier Porygon”, a sequence of flashing lights is seen that resulted in nearly 700 children being hospitalized as a result of seizures. The episode was never aired again, and the series as a whole took a four-month-long hiatus.
South Park: “200” and “201”
There’s something about the medium of animation that lends itself to controversy. Another great example of an animated television series that stirred up some monumental controversy would have to be South Park. South Park has had no shortage of controversial episodes since it first began airing on Comedy Central all the way back in 1997. However, there have been few South Park moments quite as controversial as the world’s response to the show’s 200th and 201st episodes. Creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone wanted to do something big for the series’ 200th episode, and they certainly did. The idea that they came up with for the monumental episode was to depict the prophet Mohamed.
For those that don’t know, Muslims generally don’t take very well to the prophet Mohamed being depicted in the media. The South Park creators knew this, and they were hoping that their depiction of Mohamed would stir up all the controversy that the shows 200th and 201st episodes would need in order to make their mark. The episodes certainly ended up being controversial, though they were arguably even more controversial than the creators intended. The episodes were banned in Sri Lanka, and resulted in Trey and Matt receiving death threats. Eventually, Comedy Central decided that it never wanted to air the pair of episodes again.
Cow and Chicken: “Buffalo Gals”
Cow and Chicken is another animated series that stirred up quite a bit of controversy. However, unlike Beavis and Butthead and South Park, Cow and Chicken was an animated series that was aimed at children! Despite being aimed at children, Cow and Chicken loved pushed the boundaries when it came to innuendo. The series took things a little bit too far during the seventh episode of it’s second season, which was dubbed “Buffalo Gals”. The episode revolved around a female biker gang wherein the members were oh-so-subtly showcased to be lesbians. Some of the giveaways included the fact that the gang breaks into the house of the show’s titular characters to “munch on their carpet”, as well as some dialogue involving the members of the gang talking about who is going to “pitch or catch”.
The X-Files: “Home”
The X-Files was a science-fiction series that loved scaring the television audience. In one season-four episode, the show took it’s typically shocking effect a little bit too far with an episode that featured such themes as incest and the murder of an infant. The episode was dubbed “Home”, and it proved a little too dark for television audiences in 1996. The episode never aired again over the course of the original run. However, it has since rerun in syndication and is included on the DVD box set for the show’s corresponding season.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer: “Earshot”
There have been multiple instances where shows didn’t intend to be controversial, but ended up causing controversy by mere coincidence due to real-life tragedies. One such instance occurred during the third season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. In the episode “Earshot”, Buffy gains the ability to read other peoples’ minds. One of the minds that she reads while attending class ends up being a potential school shooter. Thankfully, Buffy manages to convince this potential school shooter to put the gun down just in time. As the legend goes, the Columbine High School massacre occurred the exact same week the episode was intended to air. As a result, the episode’s premiered was delayed.
The Amanda Show: “Episode 29”
Another seemingly innocent episode of a television series that unintentionally stirred up controversy due to a real-life tragedy would be the 29th episode of the Nickelodeon sketch-comedy series The Amanda Show. The episode in question featured a sketch wherein a meteor crashes into the home of an unlucky family. The episode premiered in March of 2001. Several months later, 9/11 occurred. After 9/11, television audiences no longer felt that a large object crashing into a building was something to laugh about. As a result, the episode was taken off of the air for good.
Seinfeld: “The Puerto Rican Day”
“The Puerto Rican Day” was one of the final episodes of Seinfeld’s last season. The episode has gone down in history for two things. For one thing, it remains the second-highest performing episode in the ratings of the show’s entire run. For another thing, it ended up becoming the series’ most controversial episode. Seinfeld was never a show that sought out controversy, but it ended up finding controversy due to “The Puerto Rican Day”. The episode featured the character of Kramer accidentally setting fired to a Puerto Rican flag. Understandably, Puerto Ricans were pissed.
The Twilight Zone: “The Encounter”
The Twilight Zone is another classic series that audiences may be surprised to learn had an episode taken off the air as a result of controversy. The Twilight Zone’s controversial episode aired in 1964, and it was the series’ 151st episode overall. The episode, which goes by the name of “The Encounter”, features George Takei as a Japanese-American man that finds himself locked in the attic with a World War II veteran. Unsurprisingly, racial tension unfolds. The racial tension was on purpose, but it wasn’t received well by television audiences. Given that American had recently become involved in the Vietnam War, television viewers weren’t interested in being reminded of racial tensions.
Sesame Street: “Snuffy’s Parents Get a Divorce”
While Sesame Street has never aimed to be controversial, it has always aimed to tackle mature subjects that other kids’ shows might not. However, it has always done so with positive intentions! One of the times that Sesame Street has accidentally stirred up controversy would be as a result of the 1992 episode “Snuffy’s Parents Get a Divorce”. The creators thought that the episode might help children whose parents have gone through divorces in real life. However, the episode proved so controversial that it didn’t make it to air.
Dance Moms: “Topless Showgirls”
Dance Moms was a reality television series on Lifetime, and it stirred up controversy in a pretty shocking way. As one might be able to infer from the show’s name, the series revolved around the mothers of children in the competitive dance scene. One episode featured the children dancing in outfits that were meant to make it look as if they were naked. Understandably, television audiences hated this. The episode not only never aired again, but remains unavailable.
With all of these controversial television episodes, it’s no wonder that parents prefer their children to go outside and play! Now it’s time to hear from you: did you know that there was an episode of Beavis and Butthead that resulted in the death of a two-year-old girl, and that a controversial episode of the hit series Hawaii Five-O tackled the subject of autoerotic asphyxiation? Comment down below!