There have been countless television shows that have made bold attempts to break new ground through provocative storytelling. Each episode is an opportunity to not only stay true to the characters but to maintain realism using the show as a reflection of real life issues, and real life is rarely appropriate for prime time. Some episodes arouse controversy for their depiction of sexuality, violence, or racial insensitivity. While other episodes may have stirred up trouble with an unpopular story resolution. Here are the 10 Most Controversial TV Episodes of All Time.
Seinfeld was never known for being a show about sensitive people. Jerry himself has said the show has a philosophy of “No hugging, no learning”. Nearly nine seasons had aired of the Must See TV sitcom before there was any major controversy. Episode 20 of the final season called “Puerto Rican Day” had some viewers riled. It was not just one thing that happened in the episode, but most of the episode. The episode featured the gang heading back to Manhattan from a Mets game when they reach a traffic jam caused by a Puerto Rican Day celebration. Elaine ditches her friends so she can get home to enjoy her weekend wind down. George gets out of the car to see a movie in a theater nearby, and Kramer searches for a bathroom. Eventually, after dealing with a disgruntled fellow driver, Jerry leaves the car alone. The rest of the episode revolves around the characters interacting with others. The major controversy, which caused angry letters and protests outside NBC headquarters, included the Puerto Rican stereotypes in the episode, and Kramer stating that the angry mob who destroys their car is how Puerto Rico is every day. The clincher for controversy was Kramer inadvertently setting the flag of Puerto Rico on fire and then stomping on it to put the fire out. It was a bit too offensive for many. A show about nothing sure stirred up something
For an animated children’s show, Pokémon has had quite a few controversial episodes. There were episodes that displayed violent images and some that were just uncomfortable. The episode that made this list is named “Cyber Soldier Porygon” and the major controversy comes from the reaction, the actual physical and mental reaction that the episode elicited. In the episode, Ash and friends go to a Pokémon center and find that the Poke ball transmitting device is on the fritz so they decide to go inside of the machine. This causes an insane acid trip of imagery that provoked photosensitive epileptic seizures for a number of viewers. The episode never aired in the United States because of the health risk associated with watching the footage. After the airing, Pokémon went on a four month hiatus to regroup. Even though the episode never aired in America, “Pokémon Shock” became widely known in the states inspiring parodies in episodes of The Simpsons and South Park.
Game of Thrones
Game of Thrones is a television show that garners more controversial material in a single episode than most of the other shows on our list combined. Fans of the R.R. Martin’s are well prepared for the sexuality and violence that come along with the medieval fantasy epic about warring families. The episode “Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken” infuriated many critics and viewers with a gratuitous rape scene that they believed had gone too far. Game of Thrones pushes the envelope often and in the case of this episode, the enveloped was pushed clear off the table. Saying it went too far is a sizable statement when one considers this is the show that included another forced sexual encounter between siblings, and instances of castration. This particular episode involved the character of Sansa being raped by her fiendish husband on their wedding night. For some reason, this scene triggered an outcry due to the mishandling of the situation and how it veered too far away from how Sansa’s story is depicted in the book. With this controversial episode of Game of Thrones, there were no winners.