While it’s no secret that adult humor sneaks into children’s programming on a semi-regular basis, it’s sometimes surprising to consider what TV shows pass as family fare. Movies are over in a few hours, but with TV, we very often sit down with our families on a weekly basis to watch certain shows specifically during family bonding time. But some shows made specifically for families and marketed as such definitely feel way too inappropriate for non-adults. We’re not saying that these are bad shows, or that they lack in quality—in fact, many are incredible. We’re simply saying that if parents sit down to watch these shows with their children, their kids are gonna have way more than a few questions afterwards.
A few notes of import: We didn’t include shows like The Simpsons, Ren & Stimpy, or Beavis & Butt-head here, because they were targeted more towards adults than children, or entire families. They do get an honorable mention of sorts here, however. We also didn’t include shows like The Cosby Show or 7th Heaven, because, while they have stars who are embroiled knee deep in controversy off screen, those shows themselves didn’t have that many controversial moments. Those things considered, here are 15 “Family” Shows That Are Wildly Inappropriate.
15. Spongebob Squarepants
The action takes place in Bikini Bottom, and with characters named Sandy Cheeks and Mr. Krabs, Spongebob Squarepants isn’t one for subtlety. Spongebob is a wildly fun and entertaining show targeted at kids and families everywhere. It is also decidedly chock full of sexual innuendo in like, every episode.
There was that time Squidward put a vacuum cleaner on his junk, or the time Spongebob blew up balloons that were shaped exactly like condoms. There were also period jokes, tons of drug references, and the number of dick jokes was off the charts (the episode where Mr. Krabs tries to open a wiener restaurant was a highlight). Oh, and don’t forget your obligatory jokes about dropping and picking up bars of soap. Spongebob was beloved by kids, but definitely fet geared more for adults.
14. The Brady Bunch
On the surface, this show is harmless and dated af—but when scrutinized, the familial dynamics between the Bradys aren’t as family friendly as many people think. To say the series was sexist and had major issues with gender roles is stating the obvious—most shows filmed in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s did. But very often, the advice given by old school parental units Carol and Mike was cavalier—and way lacking.
Remember when they told Marcia to pretend to like the things a boy in school liked in order to get his attention? Or the time Carol decided that she and the girls should attempt to build a clubhouse like the boys had, with the goal of doing a crappy job so that Mike and the boys would take pity and build it for them? And don’t get us started on the time Peter had a super easy time being a Sunflower Girl, while Marcia struggled mightily to be a Frontier Scout. Gender roles fit like straight jackets on The Brady Bunch.
13. That ‘70s Show
We forget—what were Eric Foreman and his friends doing when they weren’t getting high with Hyde in the Foreman basement? Set in Wisconsin in the 1970s, That ‘70s Show was a refreshing slice of life for many Midwesterners, featuring teens who smoked lots of weed, drove around, and hung in their pal’s basement, thus adequately depicting the humdrum existence of life in most small towns across the country.
While the show definitely featured its share of warm hearted, feel good moments, it certainly wasn’t one kids wanted to watch with their families, and vice versa. Considering the fact that Red’s pet name for his son was dumbass, and the kids on the show were usually doing something illegal, maybe this isn’t the best show for parents and their children to watch during family bonding time?
12. Hey Arnold
This Nick toon, like Spongebob, was fun and hilarious—and it contained innumerable, way inappropriate adult jokes and/or innuendos. First off, Grandpa Phil makes multiple drug references, and in one standout episode featuring Nazis, he recalls the time he kicked Hitler’s arse. Yes, Hitler made an appearance in a show aimed at the seven year-old crowd. Hey Arnold was nothing if not unpredictable!
Other random bits of audacious inappropriateness include: the time a smitten Helga wrote that Arnold made her “girlhood tremble,” the time a random “Try my sausage” sign appeared with an arrow pointing to an adult man, and the time Grandpa began a story with the line about “the hottest night the jungle ever had,” and stopped when he realized he wasn’t reading the kids a story meant for their ears. Yeah, this is definitely one family show geared toward the elders of the bunch.
11. Fuller House
Full House remains nostalgic, tone deaf, über ‘80s goodness, and was essential TGIF fare. Critics panned its sequel/reboot Fuller House, but fans were divided: many TGIF heads were stoked to see it return in some form, while others groaned at its obvious attempts to harken back to its predecessor. While Fuller House may be promoted and touted as fine family fun, we think there’s way more innuendo than meets the eye there.
Take the scene where Jackson, DJ’s pre teen son, enters the kitchen with his science project, saying, “I’m exhausted. I was up all night erupting my volcano.” Then there’s Uncle Jesse and Aunt Becky, who boast about their awesome coitus in nearly every scene they have, and pretty much anything Kimmy Gibler ever says or does is wildly offensive. There’s also the weird, misplaced Kama Sutra reference, and an odd joke about Jodie Sweetin’s boobs, among others. For a family show, this house is surprisingly full of sexual overtones.
That ending, though. This former TGIF standout had one of the most depressing, somber endings of any sitcom ever. Long story short: the Ice Age comes, and everyone on the show, including the granny, hunkers down and awaits their impending death. Sure, it’s realistic, and even as kids, we learn how and why dinosaurs met their end, but this was a family comedy series featuring talking dinosaurs wearing letter jackets, so we kinda assumed it wouldn’t go there…but it did.
To viewers, and likely to parents, the ending of Dinosaurs came out of nowhere, and was hard enough to process—much less explain to enquiring young minds with questions about what they just saw. Coupled with other episodes that were entirely drug themed, this series might have been marketed towards families, but it was inappropriately heavy for a TGIF sitcom.
9. Sanjay and Craig
Kids and parents will likely view this show very differently. Kids may not get many of the jokes tossed around on Sanjay and Craig, but their parents will—and if the kids ever have any questions about, say, why a pickle is being used as a metaphorical substitute for a penis, it could be tricky to explain. Much of Sanjay and Craig’s adult humor is blink and miss it—but it’s still there.
Take the scene where hieroglyphics sneakily spell out sexual activity in the background. The scene is centered around 12 year-old Sanjay and his pet snake, but there, in the background, are pickles, pussy cats, and other images that, when seen together, are more than a little suggestive of sex acts. Kids love the show, but should they?
8. The Addams Family
Currently popular on Netflix, this throwback black and white series is a total hoot—as long as you don’t believe it when it calls itself a family show. The show is relatively harmless—but its humor can be pretty dark, and some of the images can be disturbing for people of any age (Thing, the hand that saunters around the house independently of any body or other limbs? Terrifying).
The patriarch of the Addams clan (John Astin, who fathered Samwise Gamgee himself, Sean Astin) also has this creepy, super horny flirtation with his wife, Morticia (Carolyn Jones) that seemingly never ends. Considering the fact that some kids are grossed out by their parents kissing, do they really want to see two handsy old people in goth garb make out like teenagers? Probably not.
First, there’s Dr. Lipschitz, the child psychiatrist with the unfortunate name that makes kids feel like they’re getting away with taboo swearing just by saying it. Then, there was the porn watching Grandpa Lou, who saved his favorite XXX vids for viewing until after the kids went to sleep, so that was considerate. But it was the show’s individual episodes that sometimes contained way heavy subject matter. Like—remember the episode where Tommy gets kidnapped?
In the episode titled “Ruthless Tommy,” kidnappers mistake him for the son of billionaire Ronald Thump, and take him back to their hideout. He cries and is scared initially, despite driving his kidnappers bonkers. In another episode, Angelica convinces Chuckie that the world is better off without him in it, causing him to run away. Rugrats was tongue-in-cheek hilarious, but sometimes, it got a bit too heavy handed.
6. Charles in Charge
According to the show’s undeniably catchy theme song, Charles, the grown college-aged caretaker played by Scott Baio, was in charge of the days, nights, rights, and wrongs of his young clientele. This is a terrifying thought, especially when considering how immature and puerile Charles’ college student was.
As evidenced in multiple episodes, Charles’ priorities were similar to those of many college guys: scoring dates. And, a little too often, Charles ended up neglecting his charges to help his doofus of a best friend Buddy, or, worse yet, to come to the aid of a helpless young dame. The show was a series of scenes in which a babysitter neglects the children he is paid to look after—nearly every other family show from the ‘80s is better. And don’t even get us started on that wildly offensive scene in which Charles orders takeout from a Chinese restaurant!
5. Little House on the Prairie
This quintessential old timey, family centric show was a critical and commercial success in the ‘70s and ‘80s. It also featured innumerable episodes with content so heavy, the episodes and their themes were hard for even adults to take. First, there were the racist stereotypes. Like it’s source material, the books of Laura Ingalls Wilder, Little House had multiple episodes featuring very problematic depictions of Native American characters.
Then, there were the oddly dark and unsettling episodes, (and there were loads of them) featuring subject matter that was waaaaay unsuitable for kids of all ages (the terrifying child raping mime comes to mind, or the episode in which the Ingalls children watch their friends become orphans, or the entire plot where Albert becomes a friggin’ drug addict!). Little House is oft remembered as a weepy, touching, sentimental epic, but it had some episodes that feel too heavy for an adult audience, much less for family viewing.
Glee was groundbreaking in many ways, especially in its candid and touching portrayal of Kurt’s coming out/homosexuality. It also more than delivered on its promise of several unforgettable musical numbers. But despite being sold as a family show, Glee featured some episodes—and some characters—who were wildly inappropriate in multiple ways. Namely, the Adidas obsessed Sue Sylvester, who, fun as she was, did things to high school students that any teacher would be fired, perhaps even jailed, for. She traps students in elevators, required weigh-ins as principal, and ruined the credit rating of Blaine’s family when he refused to give in to her demands–and that’s just the tip of Sue’s iceberg.
There was also Mr. Schuester, the milquetoast man child who led the glee club and was way more than a tad too involved in his students’ lives. Mr. Schue’s inability to comprehend boundaries makes it impossible for parents watching to articulate said boundaries to their kids. Glee was great, but it wasn’t the best family show around.
3. Rocko’s Modern Life
Chokey Chicken, anyone? The masturbation jokes alone were off the charts in this Nick toon, which also features prostate exams and characters with names like Dr. Bendova and Mr. Horny.
In fact, many moments in several episodes of Rocko’s Modern Life went a bit too far. There was the time Rocko had his drink spiked with an aphrodisiac, there was the backyard party complete with nudists and voyeurism, there was Rocko’s brief-yet-memorable job as a sex phone operator, the time breasts were referred to as “love cups,”… The list truly goes on forever. The show was clever and full of pop culture references only adults would get (The Shining and Psycho were just two of several hilarious ones) but it was completely inappropriate for the entire family.
2. The Dukes of Hazzard
Bo and Luke Duke weren’t always just trying to save the day. They were trying to get laid while doing it, too, chasing and romancing the ladies, while avoiding the authorities at all costs.
And all while driving one of the most problematic vehicles in television history. The Duke boys car was named after a pro-slavery Civil War general ( The General Lee), and it had a friggin’ rebel flag painted on its roof! Further thought into what that car did on the series should terrify parents everywhere. The car’s doors were welded shut for some reason, so the Dukes entered the car via its perpetually rolled down windows.
Additionally, it was a car many kids thought could fly due to the beyond careless and reckless nature in which the boys drove it. Coupled with the Dukes’ repeated shunning of whatever any law enforcement officials said any time, ever, Hazzard County is one place parents may want to never (re)visit.
1. All in the Family
Fans of this beloved ‘70s sitcom know that the show was considered to be revolutionary in a multitude of ways. But there is simply no way that a show like All in the Family gets made today. It attempted to deride the frequent racism of its main character, Archie Bunker, who was a proud bigot who spouted numerous racial slurs, (including the “N” word) by highlighting his racism in a regular basis. Some of it holds up –but much of it doesn’t.
Archie’s constant racism is matched by his constant berating of his loved ones, which tends to overshadow his rare moments of decency. His pet name for his sweet wife Edith was Ding Bat, and he referred to his son-in-law as Meathead. We’re not telling you not to watch. We’re just saying that this Family might not be one you want to bring home to yours.
What do you think? Which “family” shows that are wildly inappropriate did we miss? Tell us in the comments
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