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The Most Controversial Moments in Classic TV History

These days there is just so much sensational content on television that almost nothing seems to surprise us anymore. We live in an age where so many people are desensitized leaving television producers and studios with little choice but to push more extreme content as time goes on. Who knows what TV is going to be like a decade from now. But if the past is prologue then we can pretty much expect it to continue following the same pattern that it has for a while now.

Television today is virtually unrecognizable compared to how it was back in the day. If you’re binge-watching a modern series, you just might have to take a break between episodes. And at times, an episode by itself might be so bad that some viewers might find it difficult to even finish watching it.

We have whole shows built on questionable content. Some of these series wouldn’t have even been allowed on the airwaves just a few decades ago due to their content. There is so much that wouldn’t even be on TV back in the 60s and 70s but it’s business as usual today.

But to be fair, classic TV wasn’t so innocent either. The writers and creators of some of the most influential shows from yesteryear tackled tough hot-button issues with mixed results. Some of these shows handled these topics in a very tactful and socially acceptable way. While others weren’t afraid to push boundaries and stir up a bit of controversy. Join Facts Verse to learn more about the most controversial moments in Classic TV History.

In this video, we’re going to be taking a look at some of the most talked-about moments in classic television history.

Sammy’s Visit – All in the Family

When Sammy Davis Jr. left his briefcase in Archie’s taxicab, he had to come to the Bunker’s house to retrieve it. While he was visiting the family, he was subjected to a great deal of Archie’s bigoted takes on virtually everything. When Sammy and Archie posed for a photo, Sammy swooped in to teach Archie a lesson by planting a big, wet, smooch on his cheek as soon as the photo was snapped. The episode definitely left people talking for quite some time.

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The Puerto Rico Day – Seinfeld

In this controversial episode of everyone’s favorite show about nothing. Jerry and company are peeved we they are stuck in traffic because of a Peurto Rican Day parade. At one point Kramer unintentionally set a Puerto Rican flag ablaze then put it out by stomping all over it. A lot of people weren’t thrilled by this tremendously insensitive display of disrespect. Protesters picketed NBC headquarters and the studio received thousands of angry letters from those that found the flag burning and cliched portrayal of Puerto Ricans to be offensive. Join Facts Verse to learn more about the most controversial moments in Classic TV History.

Elvis – The Ed Sullivan Show 

The first time that Elvis guest-starred on The Ed Sullivan Show. The cameramen were instructed to only film the King of Rock n’ Roll from the waist up. But that tactic backfired. Merely hiding his gyrating hips only made him all the more so intriguing to viewers at home. And beyond that, there was no hiding the fact that his dancing was sexually charged. The screaming women in the live audience gave that one away.

Maude’s Dilemma – Maude 

In the first season of Maude, the title character finds herself in the difficult position of being pregnant at the age of 47. This two-part episode centered around Maude’s decision to either keep the baby or have an abortion.

Even though abortion was legal in the state of New York at the time, this polarizing episode aired just a few months before Roe Vs. Wade made it federally legal to terminate a pregnancy anywhere in the country. As you can probably imagine, this episode was met with a mixed response. And further fueled the bitter debate that was already happening in America at the time. Join Facts Verse to learn more about the most controversial moments in Classic TV History.

The Bicycle Man – Diff’rent Strokes

You’d be hard-pressed to find someone that doesn’t think that Diff’rent Strokes was a wholesome family show. But this episode was a bit less family-friendly than others. In it, Dudley and Arnold are coaxed into the backroom of a bicycle shop where the creepy owner, Mr. Horton, shows the kids pornographic magazines. He then tries to convince the children to take part in a photoshoot.

What’s even more disturbing is the fact that Dudley never seems to fully realize what is happening. In fact, the situation – albeit disturbing – is still treated as humorous. Jokes are still made even when it seems particularly in bad taste.

While the episode was trying to make the point that children should be cautious about who they trust and that sometimes the last person you’d expect to be a predator actually is one. It just all came across as unsettling and unnecessary.

Home – The X Files 

After a severely deformed child is discovered in a shallow grave. Scully and Mulder embark on an investigation that leads them to an extremely violent family whose members are all just a little too close. The episode was so disturbing and repulsive to viewers that Fox only re-ran it once after its initial airing. Go ahead and ask any X-Files fan about the episode, and they will probably tell you just how gross it was. Join Facts Verse to learn more about the most controversial moments in Classic TV History.

Just Around The Corner – The Mary Tyler Moore Show 

The Mary Tyler Moore Show knocked down a lot of boundaries by featuring a single professional woman as its lead. She wasn’t a submissive housewife like most women on television sitcoms were back then. She lived alone and supported herself.

In this especially controversial episode, viewers witnessed Mary coming home in the morning wearing the same clothing that she went out in the evening before. Although it was never explicitly stated that she had been with a man. The implication was still pretty shocking for the era.

I’ll See You In Court – Married…With Children 

In this episode of the classic 90s sitcom, Al and Peg Bundy check in to a motel room to hook up only to discover a raunchy sex tape of their neighbors. To add an extra layer to that already uncomfortable situation, the Bundys are secretly taped getting busy as well. All of this proved to be just too much for the network and the episode was banned until 2002 after the series had already been canceled. Join Facts Verse to learn more about the most controversial moments in Classic TV History.

Lucy Is Enceinte – I Love Lucy 

Back in the 50s, the word ‘pregnant’ was actually considered too vulgar to be said on TV. Can you imagine?

So in this episode where Lucy tries to figure out the best way of telling her husband that she is expecting. She must do everything in her power to convey that message while avoiding the dreaded ‘P’ word.

The producers of that show were so prudish about sex that Lucy and her husband slept in separate twin beds throughout the duration of the series.

The Puppy Episode – Ellen 

When Ellen ‘came out’ on her popular 90s TV show, she faced a mountain of backlash from religiously conservative groups and advertisers alike. The episode scored highly in the ratings department. But the series was canceled the following year after being deemed ‘too gay’ by some viewers and studio heads.

Conflict – Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood

During the Cold War era, Mr. Rogers touched on the subject of nuclear war for an entire week to help children understand the state of the world and the grim possibility of a potential nuclear conflict between the US and the USSR.

While some viewers appreciated how the show approached such an important issue. Other folks thought the subject was just too intense for kids.

In this episode, King Friday thinks that Southwood is compiling supplies to construct bombs. In reality, all of the parts were just for a bridge and the two neighborhoods end up participating in a peace festival.

For Every Man, There’s Two Women – Too Close For Comfort 

This episode took a pretty dark turn when Monroe comes home looking disheveled. As it turns out, he was attacked by two women who had their way with him. The police are called but they tell Monroe that pressing charges would only too embarrassing and not worth doing. Can you imagine if a show promoted such a toxic message today?

Sinead O’ Connor – Saturday Night Live

Irish singer-songwriter Sinead O’Connor decided that her guest appearance on SNL presented the perfect opportunity to protest the Catholic Church. In the dress rehearsal for her performance, she held up a picture of a refugee child as she sang the Bob Marley song ‘War’.

But during the actual performance later that evening, she instead held up an image of Pope John Paul II at the very moment that she sang the word ‘evil’. She then tore up the photo while shouting ‘fight the real enemy!’. The network ended up receiving 4,440 complaints because of the incident.

Bored, She Hung Herself – Hawaii Five-O 

In this episode of the classic procedural crime drama, the topic of suicide was discussed. The episode revolves around a yoga instructor who is testing out a new ‘technique’ that involves asphyxiating himself in order to stop his heartbeat.

Later, he and his wife get into a fight where she ended up slapping him. He slaps her back, knocking her to the ground. She then fled the scene only for her husband to find her not long after hanging from a noose.

Edith’s 50th Birthday Party – All in the Family 

All In The Family was no stranger to controversy during its run. In this episode, Edith is held at gunpoint and assaulted while her family is next door planning her birthday celebration. The show was typically lighthearted and funny. So viewers were fairly shocked when they witnessed such an awful thing happen to such a sweet character.

Pilot – NYPD Blue 

NYPD Blue was fairly controversial before it even officially hit the air due to the excessive amount of nudity and profanity featured in the pilot episode. However, all of that controversy just proved to be good advertising for the series. Viewers flocked to the show to see what all of the hubbub was all about and they kept watching because of how edgy it was.

One Beer – Tiny Toon Adventures

This episode started innocently enough, with Plucky Duck shuffling through the drinks in the fridge until he is offered a ‘cold one’. The characters end up getting drunk and wind up getting into a car accident. Drinking and driving isn’t something you typically see in many shows these days but especially in children’s shows. For this reason, the show was promptly banned after it aired.

Alright, well that’s about all the time we’ve got for this video. Hopefully, we didn’t disturb you too much by showing you all of these controversial episodes.

Which episode featured here did you find to be the most shocking? Let us know in the comments section below.

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