You can get away with a lot on television these days, but there are still plenty of examples of TV shows that went too far. The definitions of obscene and inappropriate have relaxed a lot since television shows were first created. If you transported someone from the 1950s to watch today’s television, they would be shocked and outraged by the amount of cursing you can get away with!
Still, even modern television has its rules. Today, American television, radio, and cable are all monitored by the Federal Communications Commission. It was founded in 1934 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, and the organization has been governing television ever since. Of course, the definition of inappropriate has changed a lot over the years, and the FCC has become more relaxed over time. While many sitcoms and reality TV shows will do their best to sneak dirty jokes through the watchful eyes of FCC, there are just some things that go too far.
At the same time, while television has become more relaxed in some ways, we’ve also set a higher standard in others. For example, there are many older TV shows which used racist caricatures, something that would never fly today. As the world changes, people are finally recognizing that certain words, jokes, and actions can be extremely offensive, and even harmless, to other groups of people.
Television has also imposed more strict safety guidelines, both for the people involved on set, as well as any animals that might be involved.
Even with the rules we have, alongside more subtle rules of what’s considered socially acceptable, there will always be people who try and get away with as much as they can. In today’s video, we’re going to look at 6 times that TV shows took things too far.
Make sure you stick around until the very end, where we’ll reveal a TV show so tasteless that it was canceled after just the pilot. Before we get started, don’t forget to leave a like on this video, and be sure to subscribe and click that notification bell so you can stay up to date with all of our videos!
Facts Verse Presents: TV Shows That Went Too Far (And Then Got Canceled)
This television series premiered on August 24th, 1990, on Channel 4 in the United Kingdom. Of course, media regulation is completely different in the UK than it is in America. Rather than being subject to FCC guidelines, broadcast media in the UK is monitored by two separate organizations; the Independent Television Commission and the Radio Authority. Surprisingly enough, these organizations didn’t have to intervene for this TV show.
The Word aired for a shocking total of five seasons. It was one of the most outrageous shows at the time. The show suffered from poor editing and awful camera quality, but that wasn’t even the worst of it. Similar to the beloved Monty Python’s Flying Circus, the show was incredibly unpredictable. However, the content of The Word was based more on the shock factor.
While this show did give the famous band Nirvana its debut, some scenes were disgusting. In one clip, a young man named James eats an entire pound of lard for no reason! There’s something charming about the outright silliness of the show, something that was particularly popular in the 1990s. Still, the show was so unpredictable that nobody knew what could happen next. It could be funny, or it could be horrifying! Five seasons after it aired, on March 24th, 1995, the show was finally canceled.
Minipops aired on February 8th, 1983. It was created by Martin Wyatt, who had formed a child band just a year before. The group, also called MiniPops, released an immensely popular album. In both Europe and the UK, it became one of the top 30 albums. One of the singles, entitled “Stupid Cupid” even became the number 1 song in France at the time.
Martin Wyatt, fueled by the band’s success, decided a TV show would be an even better idea. Record producer Mike Mansfield was equally excited at the prospect, and the Head of Entertainment at Channel 4, Cecil Korer, wanted nothing more than to produce the show. However, the show Minipops wasn’t fated to have the same success as the band.
The show featured child performers who sang and danced to hit pop songs. They were dressed up to mimic the singer, which often included full makeup. Many audience members found the whole thing vaguely disturbing, especially considering these children were often singing about erotic content. Parents were concerned because the show was aimed towards a younger audience. After just one season, which included six episodes, the show was canceled due to public outcry. The last episode aired on March 15, 1983.
Of course, Minipops wasn’t the last show to feature children in horrifyingly adult situations. Modern-day examples of this phenomenon include Toddlers and Tiaras and Dance Moms.
The Black and White Minstrel Show
While our previous examples were a little too much for television, this example is downright offensive. Sadly, British and American history is drenched in racism, and even after slavery was abolished, the afterlives of slavery live on. While we’ve come a long way since then, it’s been a very long and rocky road. One such example is The Black and White Minstrel Show, which aired on the British Broadcasting Corporation in 1958. The show was immensely popular at the time, and it ran for 20 whole years before it finally ended in 1978.
The Black and White Minstrel Show aired weekly, and it took the horrible American tradition of minstrel shows and broadcast them all over the country. Minstrel shows became popular in the late 1800s when white singers used boot-polish to perform in blackface. They would create racist caricatures and perform for what they considered to be comedic purposes. Minstrel shows were extremely offensive and harmful to black people, but thankfully, the usage blackface has been largely stamped out.
It’s still horrifying to imagine just how many people were okay with such a blatantly racist show, even in the late 1970s! Thankfully, The Black and White Minstrel Show was finally canceled in 1978. If you’re glad the show was canceled, click the like button to let us know!
The Brothers Grunt
The UK isn’t the only country responsible for some of the worst television in history. America has produced plenty of awful TV shows all on its own. After the success of Beavis and Butthead, Danny Antonucci wanted to make even more money. He created the animated television show The Brother Grunt, which premiered on MTV on August 15th, 1994. While Beavis and Butthead was never known for being particularly classy or clever, The Brothers Grunt made it look like a masterpiece.
Critics all over the country were repulsed by the show, which featured plenty of gross-out content intended to freak out the audience. Even the character designs were horrifying to look at! After seven months, the show was finally canceled, but critics still had plenty to say about the show.
Kenneth R. Clark said in the Chicago Tribune that Danny Antonucci “created the most repulsive creatures ever to show up on a television show.” Even though the show ended in April of 1995, critics were commenting on it as late as 2004, when David Hofstede commented “Given the… grotesque appearance of the characters, it’s not surprising that the series didn’t last.”
Man vs Beast
Man vs Beast is one of those phenomena that makes you wonder how it was even created in the first place. The premise of the show is so dangerous, we’re surprised how far the creators got. The show aired in 2003 on Fox, and it featured groups of people who competed against wild animals. Some of the episodes include jet pulling against an elephant, racing a giraffe 100 meters, playing tug-of-war with an orangutan, and racing chimps in an obstacle course.
The show was incredibly controversial because it put both the humans and animals in danger. Animal rights activists protested the show the moment it came out, but it was popular enough that the creators made a sequel in 2004. After that, however, it was finally canceled in America.
John Fashanu was fascinated by the premise of the show, and he filmed six episodes for a UK edition. However, more animal rights activists protested this version of the show, and Fashanu’s hard work was never even aired.
The Melting Pot
Blackface wasn’t the only racist thing to come out of early television. While a lot of people finally decided enough was enough when it came to black stereotypes, Indian people suffered racism for a lot longer. Even The Simpsons featured an offensive Indian character. The character Apu was voiced by a white actor named Hank Azaria.
Spike Milligan was an immensely popular comedian in the UK. In search of the edgiest content, many comedians end up flying too close to the sun, and Spike Milligan was no exception. In 1975, he starred in a BBC sitcom entitled The Melting Pot. He played a Pakistani immigrant, and wore brownface and used an offensive accent to complete the “joke.” The show strove to be edgy as a way of being comedic, but as a result, it included stereotypes of Arabs, Australians, Chinese people, Jews, and Africans. Furthermore, it included a lot of sexism, although this was par for the course at the time.
The first (and only) episode aired on June 11th, 1975. While there were six other recorded episodes, the show was canceled after the pilot, and nobody ever had to watch the rest.
It’s amazing to see what wacky television show ideas made it far enough to earn a pilot. Were you more shocked to learn that The Melting Pot was canceled after just the pilot, or that The Brother Grunt aired for seven whole seasons before it was canceled? Let us know in the comments below! And don’t forget to subscribe to Facts Verse for more!