Given how wide-ranging political and personal opinions have always been (and will always be), it’s not exactly surprising that many television series over the years have had episodes pulled from the air due to controversial topics. In the last few years alone, reruns of series such as 7th Heaven and The Cosby Show have been briefly taken off air as legal cases regarding their respective stars consumed public attention. However, it’s one thing for a series to be taken out of syndication years later when a scandal surfaces; it’s another matter entirely when episodes are pulled out of rotation occasionally even before they air.
This drastic measure is often taken in response to either network executives vetoing story ideas, or complaints issued by social groups. Further, no kind of series appears to be immune from this act: in the last thirty years, it has happened to half hour sitcoms, hour long dramas, and animated series aimed at children.
While the list of episodes that have been banned for one reason or another is ever-growing, the following list of 15 TV Episodes That Never Aired Due To Controversy represent some of the most shocking of the bunch, including some ideas that make you wonder how they ever even left the drawing board.
15. Seinfeld: George starts a discussion on race
Although Seinfeld‘s status as a “show about nothing” is disputed, there’s no denying that the iconic 1989-1998 sitcom tackled almost every subject it could over the course of its nine season run. One particular issue it never addressed, however, was race. This wasn’t for lack of trying, however. According to the 2013 book Seinfeld Reference by Dennis Bjorklund, an episode was pitched in which resident slacker George Costanza attempted to start a conversation about race.
Unfortunately, his attempt at a conversation starter consisted of commenting on the fact that he had never seen a black man order a salad before. Given how racist this comment is, and given Seinfeld‘s entirely white cast, NBC rejected the episode premise entirely. Although the series would cover divisive topics in its time, such as contraception and abortion, this wasn’t a gamble the network was willing to take. Given some of the cast’s later public statements regarding race, perhaps that was for the best.
14. Sesame Street: “Snuffy’s Parents Get a Divorce”
Sesame Street has covered a lot of tough topics over the course of its nearly fifty years, including the death of beloved regular fixture Mr. Hooper in 1983 and the introduction of an HIV-positive puppet on the South African edition of the series. In 1992, the series decided to try and address the topic of divorce in a way that would be gentle enough for children to understand, particularly since divorce rates were increasing. The episode even made it all the way through the writing and production stages.
However, once the episode was shown to test group audiences of children, it became immediately apparent that children weren’t ready for this episode. The test group children were left generally distressed and confused. Many of them didn’t understand that Snuffy’s father would be part of his life after this. Some even feared that parents arguing would ensure a divorce was near. Although this 1992 episode was ultimately left unaired, a digital short explaining divorce was released twenty years later in 2012.