They say there’s a time and place for everything, just as long as it doesn’t offend anyone. It may seem that shows like South Park, Family Guy and Game of Thrones can get away with anything, but even they aren’t immune from censorship imposed by networks and pubic opinion. But what could possibly have been so offensive about Sesame Street that had it banned in Mississippi or The Price is Right that had them pull dozens of episodes from syndication?
Find out in our list of 10 TV Show Banned For Shocking Reasons…
The season nine episode of The Simpsons titled “The Cartridge Family” showed what happens when people like Homer acquire firearms. His reckless misuse of the weapon wasn’t considered very funny by British censors who didn’t allow the episode to be aired when in initially premiered in 1997. It would later appear on a “Too Hot For TV” VHS compilation and would air in syndication in the UK but not without several bits cut, such as Marge deciding to keep the gun herself at the end and Moe’s lesson on how to turn a gun into five guns.
As a big network show, Seinfeld didn’t usually court controversy and one of their final episodes illustrated why. In “Puerto Rican Day” the characters get stuck in traffic caused by the Puerto Rican day parade. The parade is mostly an excuse have the characters gridlocked and is never even shown. However in the episode’s final minutes, Kramer accidentally lights a Puerto Rican flag on fire and gets chased by several angry parade goers. The National Puerto Rican coalition took particular umbrage with Kramer’s observation that “it’s like this every day in Puerto Rico” as they attacked Jerry’s car. It was called an “unconscionable insult” to Puerto Ricans. NBC issued an apology and pulled the episode from syndication.
What could be so objectionable about puppets teaching children to count that got Sesame Street banned for 22 days in 1970 Mississippi? To but it bluntly, racism. Not racism in the show, but on the part of a committee who was uncomfortable with an integrated cast of kids and decided to flip a big bird to the Civil Rights movement. No official reason was given when they first pulled the show from the airwaves, but once an anonymous insider leaked the committee’s reasoning the public outrage was too loud to ignore and they reversed their decision.
South Park creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker have continually pushed the boundaries of censorship, and in 2010 they found out just how far they could go. For their 200th episode they made a two part special that tied together multiple story lines from past seasons, one of which promised to show the Muslim prophet Muhammad. After the first part aired, Stone and Parker received death threats and Comedy Central decided to censor the character with a black bar and bleep out all mentions of the prophet’s name. The irony being that South Park’s message is often about censorship and freedom of speech, so many thought they had meant to have the character removed this way in order to prove a point. They even incorporated the experience into Kyle’s concluding monologue about using violent threats to get your way, but this was also bleeped out.
Like South Park, Family Guy found out just how they could push the envelope in 2010 with “Partial Terms of Endearment”, an episode where Lois gets an abortion. Perhaps one of the reasons Family Guy is able to get away with pretty much anything is because the jokes are usually irreverent yet disconnected from anything that’s actually happening in the story or to the characters. Generally nothing is taboo on the show, but when the entire third act was about Lois getting the abortion, Fox wasn’t laughing and decided to terminate the episode. Even the Cartoon’s Network’s Adult Swim wouldn’t air it, but it played in the UK and can now be seen on DVD and streaming platforms.
Game of Thrones
When you have a show with as many severed body parts as HBO’s Game of Thrones, sometimes you have to outsource their production or rent them in bulk. This is how ex president George W. Bush’s head accidentally ended up impaled on a stick in the first season much to HBO’s dismay. Even with a wig Bush’s profile is recognizable in a couple shots, though the show’s makers claim it wasn’t intentional and didn’t even notice until after the scene was shot. Intentional or not, HBO was forced to issue an apology for what was seen as disrespect to the former Head of State and promised to remove the shot from all future DVDs.