Banned episodes are nothing new to the history of television broadcasting. Either based on the controversial subject matter presented in the show or the influence of current events, some television episodes are just deemed too risqué for the viewing audience and must be removed. However, there are some shows that were able to make it to the first time broadcast only to never been seen on the network again.
In this article, we will explore a few different banned episode scenarios. Some episodes were only shown once on the original network and never seen again. Others, however, were banned from the original network but were re-aired on other stations with no issues. There were even instances when the episode was re-aired after heavy editing. Therefore, the original broadcast version was only seen once. We will even throw in a few examples of shows that aired once with no issues, only to be banned and never replayed years later.
Now that we all understand the rules, here is a list of the 15 TV Episodes That Only Ever Aired Once.
15. Beavis and Butt-Head – “Comedians”
MTV staple Beavis and Butt-Head brought some of the raunchiest and dumbest frat boy humor to the music channel (you know, back when MTV still played music videos). One of many popular original shows on the channel back in the 1990s, Beavis and Butt-Head continued to push boundaries when it came to its humor.
During the episode “Comedians”, the two friends attempted a career as stand-up comedians but failed at it. Afterward, they decided to set the comedy club on fire and watched it burn from across the street. Not too bad of an episode based on its content alone. Unfortunately, this was an instance when fiction turned into reality.
According to a New York Times article, a “5-year-old, Austin Messner, watched a segment in which the characters said fire was fun, Chief Sigler said, and, according to the mother, right after that she caught him playing with matches.”Later that evening, he set fire to their home, killing his younger sister. At that point, the episode was removed from the channel.
14. The Twilight Zone — “The Encounter”
The Twilight Zone is best known for its tales of supernatural and downright creepy subject matter. However, on occasion, its episodes would explore rather controversial topics. In the case of the episode “The Encounter”, the subject of race relations between Japanese-Americans and Americans turned out to be too much for viewers.
In this episode, an American World War II veteran (played by Neville Brand) was trapped in his attic with a Japanese-American gardener (played by a young, pre-Star Trek George Takai). After the episode aired only once on its original station, CBS, the studio was bombarded with complaints about its use of racial slurs and hate speech. Viewers were also enraged at the included plot point that Japanese-Americans (Takai’s father, in this case) assisted in the attack on Pearl Harbor, a rumor that has since been proven false.
The episode was removed from syndication and never aired on CBS again. The episode has only recently appeared on Syfy’s channels’ New Year’s Even marathon of “The Twilight Zone” on January 3, 2016. The episode is available on DVD and online streaming sites.
13. Sesame Street – “Episode 0847”
Sesame Street has been one of the longest-running kids’ programs on television today. Dating back to 1969, the show provided educational content, entertainment, and family-friendly material to children around the world. However, one of its episodes was deemed far too scary for children to watch.
In season 7, actress Margaret Hamilton was invited to the show to reprised her infamous role as the Wicked Witch of the West from the 1939 classic The Wizard of Oz. Though her appearance came 37 years after the movie was released, the sight of the Witch was still too much for children to bear. After its airing on February 10, 1976, producers were flooded with complaint letters from parents that claimed the episode traumatized their children.
12. Hawaii Five-O – “Bored, She Hung Herself”
Hawaii Five-O explored the topic of auto-asphyxiation to deadly results. In this now “lost” episode, a woman died from apparent suicide by hanging herself using a technique that was supposed to be a beneficial yoga technique.
After the episode aired for the first (and only) time on January 7, 1970, one viewer took the episode’s content to heart and tried to emulate the technique to tragic results. Due to her death from auto-asphyxiation, the episode was never shown again on the network and was removed from syndication. Even with the Hawaii Five-O DVD release, Season 2, Episode 16 was still missing to the dismay of many fans.
11. Tiny Toon Adventures – “Elephant Issues” Episode, Segment “One Beer”
The next scandalous episode of a ’90s cartoon can be found in the Warner Bros. series Tiny Toon Adventures. Set in the world of Acme Acres, the characters included a younger generation of crazy characters and the classic Looney Tunes cast. This show was filled with tons of parodies and semi-adult jokes. However, parents were not laughing after the segment “One Beer” aired during the “Elephant Issues” episode.
In this segment, Buster Bunny, Plucky Duck, and Hamton J. Pig find an unopened beer bottle and proceed to have the drunken adventure of their lives. From stealing a cop car to killing themselves by driving over a cliff, the theme of the episode was that drinking was wrong.
After an overwhelmingly negative response, the “Elephant Issues” episode was aired just once on Fox and was removed from syndication. The episode finally re-appeared 22 years later on the channel The Hub. The full episode can also be found on the DVD set.
10. You Can’t Do That On Television — “Adoption”
Most ’80s kids will remember the craziness that was You Can’t Do That On Television. Debuting in Canada in 1979, the sketch comedy became a favorite in the United States on the Nickelodeon channel from 1981 – 1990. Kids were introduced to a young Alanis Morissette, Barth’s Burgers, locker jokes, and the birth of the signature Nickelodeon green slime.
Though the series mocked many topics faced by kids all the time, the “Adoption” episode did not go over so well. The episode caused issues because of mean-spirited jokes about kids being adopted and the scene where a character called Lance Pervert says “Damn it!”
After airing only twice in the United States, the episode was banned from being shown ever again. However, the episode continued to air in Canada with the only change being the bleeping out of the profanity.
9. Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood — “Conflict” Episodes
Let’s be honest, this is a complete surprise. What could be more wholesome and safe than Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood? There were great puppet shows, trolleys, and nice, comfy handmade sweaters. All safe things.
However, during the week titled “Conflict”, #1521-1525 dealt with the topics of war and bombs. Moreover, while Fred Rogers did tackle sensitive topics for children like divorce, anger issues, and death, the timing of these episodes was the real issue.
Originally aired in the week of November 7–11, 1983, the rerun came on again in 1996 when talks of war and violence were at a high. Though originally created to help children understand the Cold War, the episodes ran for the last time from April 1st – 5th, 1996. Since then, the episodes have been banned from PBS and syndication.
8. Tailspin – “Flying Dupes”
’80s kids! Remember back in the day when you would come home from school, grab a snack, and sit down to watch classic Disney shows like DuckTales and TaleSpin? These shows were some favorites from ’80s kids’ childhoods, so it is no surprise that they are making a comeback in reboots. However, one episode of TaleSpin has been sent to the depths of lost episode hell.
Though usually promoting friendship, honesty, and other safe topics, TaleSpin explored some more serious themes this time. In the series finale titled “Flying Dupes”, Baloo is sent on assignment to deliver a package to the Thembrian High Marshall. Sounds innocent enough, but it turns out the package is actually a bomb meant to kill the High Marshall. Wow, Disney.
After it had aired on August 8, 1991, it was banned from being shown on The Disney Channel again. Viewers claimed that the episode re-aired on a separate Disney station, Toon Disney, in 1999 but this could have been a programming error. This banned episode is included in the DVD set.
7. Dexter’s Laboratory – Segment “Dial M for Monkey: Barbequor”
Some of the 1990s Cartoon Network original cartoons were arguably some of its best programming. During this time, shows like The Powerpuff Girls, Courage the Cowardly Dog, and Ed, Edd n Eddy became extremely popular with its viewers. One of the most popular shows aired during this timeframe was Dexter’s Laboratory.
Despite its popularity, the show ran into issues when the segment “Dial M for Monkey: Barbequor” aired on May 19, 1996. In this episode, other than the usual parodied superheroes, a character named Silver Spooner (parody of Silver Surfer) and Barbequor (parody of Galactus) appeared as the villains. After the show had aired, complaints were received regarding the Silver Spooner character being a stereotype for gay men based on his mannerism and behavior. There were also issues with the character Krunk (parody of the Hulk) getting drunk and vomiting off-camera.
6. The X-Files — “Home” – incest and deformities (aired once on Fox; didn’t return to air until 1997 on FX); October 11, 1996
There is always something about wanting what you cannot have. Such has been the case with many of these banned TV shows. Viewers knowing they cannot see it again make them want it even more.
The “Home” episode of The X-Files has been one of the most well-known episodes of the series because of its fate. Tackling the very controversial subject of incest, the original episode aired on FOX on October 11, 1996. However, the backlash from its initial airing took a toll on many X-Files fans, who deemed it too realistic and deserving.
The show was removed from rotation and did not air on FOX again. However, FX held an all-day X-Files marathon including the most requested episodes and “Home” topped the list. The episode finally re-aired 1997 and has become one of the favorite episodes of the series. A little notoriety goes a long way.
5. Cow & Chicken – “Buffalo Gals”
As you have seen in the previous examples in this article, cartoons are not a safe haven for viewers. While your expectations may be for light and humorous content, many animated shows try to push the boundaries to appeal to not only children but adults as well. Hey, if parents are going to be forced to watch these shows, they should be entertained too, right? However, the “Buffalo Gals” segment of the Cartoon Network comedy Cow and Chicken may have gotten a little too tongue-in-cheek with its humor.
Our guess is that the writers attempted to break the Guinness Book of World Records for lesbian stereotypes in one episode because this segment was bloated with references. The Buffalo Gals were a group of motorcycle-riding women that appeared manly in appearance and played softball. Oh, but there is more. They would break into people homes and literally “chew on the carpets.”
4. Boy Meets World — “Promises, Promises”, “If You Can’t Be With The One You Love”, and “The Truth About Honesty” Episodes
Oh, the glory of the once-coveted TGIF line-up on ABC! The Friday evening programming included some 1990s classics including Family Matters, Full House, Step by Step, and Perfect Strangers. The coming-of-age show Boy Meets World was added to the line-up back in 1993 and was very successful. The show ran in its entirety on the network and was eventually moved to The Disney Channel.
Now, there is where the show ran into issues. Despite already run in full on other networks in syndication, once Disney acquired the syndication rights, they found some of the material questionable. After running the series in its entirety, the episodes “Promises, Promises”, “If You Can’t Be with The One You Love”, and “The Truth About Honesty” were removed from future airings.
Why? Because they dealt with the subjects of sex, kids losing their virginity, and underage drinking. Moreover, once pulled, The Disney Channel never aired these episodes again. It was not until the syndication rights were expanded to ABC Family and MTV2 that the episodes were re-broadcast.
3. Seinfeld – “The Puerto Rican Day”
Probably one of the most famous banned episodes on this list is “The Puerto Rican Day” episode of the hit “show about nothing” series Seinfeld. Originally airing back on May 7, 1998, the show covered the four friends as they dealt with the annual Puerto Rican Day Parade in downtown New York. As usual, they find themselves in awful (and avoidable) situations and proceed to offend the participants in the parade to the point of an angry mob smashing Jerry’s car.
Once aired, NBC was flooded with complaints regarding the burning of the Puerto Rican flag and the negative depiction of Puerto Ricans. There were even protests held by angry fans and Puerto Rican activists outside of Rockefeller Center. Yikes.
NBC subsequently removed the episode from further syndication and buried it away for years. It was not until recently that the episode began running in syndication… on other stations, of course. At first, the flag burning was edited out of the show. However, by 2002, the episode began running in its entirety in syndication and online streaming sites.
2. The Amanda Show — “Episode 29”
There have been many episodes of TV shows that have been pulled from airing due to its content relating to current events. Episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Hannibal, Family Guy, and The Simpsons have been removed from broadcast due to current national tragedies and events. Many of these shows make it back on air later on. However, “Episode 29” of the Nickelodeon sketch comedy The Amanda Show was not so lucky.
In this episode, a sketch was included titled “The Lucklesses”, a family that seemed to have the worst luck possible. At the end of the skit, the family’s home was hit by an asteroid and was completely destroyed. After airing on March 17, 2001, it was pulled from re-airing after September 11, 2001. The network felt the events depicted were too similar to the 9/11 attacks.
1. South Park – “200/201” Episodes
In the most recent entry of banned TV shows, are any of us really surprised that South Park is on this list?
Never one to back down from controversy, this show is notorious for mocking and ridiculing every celebrity, politician, religious group or sect, and political party the writers can think of. No one is off-limits to its biting commentary and derision.
However, heavy criticism and negative reactions ensued after the Muslim prophet Muhammad was depicted in the episode “200” and “201” alongside a plethora of other religious figures. The writers had dealt with similar complaints after the “Cartoon Wars” episode premiered earlier in season 10.
However, after airing “200” with no efforts to cover his appearance, the episode was removed from digital sources a week after it aired. In “201”, the animators made an effort to cover up mentions and depictions of the prophet Muhammad after receiving stern warning from New York-based Revolution Muslim organization.
After both episodes aired only once in April 2010, they were removed from streaming sites and download services. In the DVD version, the episode “200” is unedited while “201” is presented in its network censored version.
Did you catch any of the episodes the first time they aired? Do you think they should’ve been pulled by the networks? Let us know in the comments!