20 Most Controversial TV Episodes in History (PHOTOS)

Laura Anastasia | Jul 31, 2015 TV
20 Most Controversial TV Episodes in History (PHOTOS)

Sex, violence, and drugs may seem commonplace on TV these days, but the really controversial stuff never even makes it onto the small screen in the first place. Networks have been known to pull episodes of shows that push the envelope too far before they even air. Controversial episodes that slip past censors still may end up getting the hook if fans and sponsors put up a stink.


Not even episodes of beloved shows like Mr. Roger's Neighborhood and Boy Meets World are safe. These 20 TV shows went for broke with risky episodes that ended up either being banned, pulled from syndication, or saved by the skin of their teeth.


Image via ABC Family/YouTube

  • TV's First Anal Sex Scene


    Image © Johns PKI/Splash News/Corbis

    Mindy and Danny are getting hot and heavy in this 2015 episode when he decides to try something new -- from behind. The plot line marked broadcast TV's first anal sex scene, albeit a very short one. Fans blasted the show over lack of safety and the fact that Danny's didn't ask for girlfriend Mindy's consent before "slipping" in.  

  • Prime Time Porn


    Image © FOX

    This steamy 1989 episode made Married... With Children's usual risque scripts seem tame in comparison. While staying in a hotel room, Al and Peg Bundy discover their neighbor starred in a porn movie, then end up unknowingly being taped having sex themselves. They unsuccessfully attempt to sue, then are taped having sex again in the empty courtroom. The episode finally made it to the small screen in 2002, but only after the dirtiest lines had been removed. 

  • Bugs Bunny & Pals Drink & Drive


    Image via YouTube

    Teaching kids about the evils of alcohol isn't a bad idea. Using lovable cartoon characters to do it? Not so much. In the "One Beer" episode, Bugs Bunny and pals share a beer, get drunk, steal a police car, drive off a cliff, and die. Not surprisingly, the 1991 episode was banned in the United States. It is available on DVD though. 

  • First Kiss Between Teen Boys

    Image via ABC Family/YouTube

    The Fosters set the Twitterverse afire in 2015 when two of its young characters, both 13, shared the youngest same-sex kiss in TV history. The teen boys had held hands and kissed offscreen in previous episodes. Although some people slammed the story line, co-creator Bradley Bredeweg stood firm: "It was time to see this, time to put this up for the world. Then people understand, they're able to wrap their heads around it," he said.

    More from The Stir: First Gay Kiss on TV (PHOTOS)

  • Sibling Rape on Game of Thrones


    Image via YouTube/HBO

    Fans were in a furor after Jaime forced himself upon Cersei, his sister and past lover, in this 2014 episode. Adding to the tension? The pair were right next to their dead son's body. Viewers contended that the incestuous rape was gratuitous because the original encounter was consensual in the book upon which the show is based. 

  • Ellen Is First TV Character to Come Out as Gay


    Image © Frank Trapper/Sygma/Corbis

    Ellen Degeneres made groundbreaking TV history when her character came out of the closet in this 1997 episode, but that didn't make the backlash any easier. Sponsors abandoned the show left and right, ABC recieved a bomb threat, and Ellen was canceled a year later. The controversial episode, however, paved the way for gay characters on mainstream TV.  

  • Maude's Abortion at 47


    Image © Corbis

    Maude was the first sitcom to tackle abortion. Bea Arthur's titular character found herself pregnant at 47 and ended up terminating the pregnancy. The episodes aired three months before the U.S. Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision. CBS received thousands of complaint letters. The next time they ran, many affiliates refused to air them and the network was only able to sell a spot for one 30-second commercial. 


  • Seinfeld's Kramer Burns the Flag


    Image © David Turnley/Corbis

    The outrage was real after this 1998 episode when Kramer accidentally sets a Puerto Rican flag on fire during a parade then stomped on the flag to put the flames out. NBC issued an apology to viewers and pulled the episode from the New York market. It returned to the rotation in 2002. 

    More from The Stir: Jerry Seinfeld Thinks He's on the Autism Spectrum (VIDEO)

  • Mister Rogers Teaches Kids About Nukes


    Image © Bettmann/Corbis

    Everyone's favorite neighbor spent a week's worth of episodes in 1983 teaching young viewers about nuclear warfare. Yes, for real. King Friday suspects that Corny the Beaver is stockpiling nukes, so he starts a stockpile of his own. It turns out Corny is collecting materials to build a bridge to connect their two cities. The episodes were pulled in 1996, after the Cold War ended.

  • Brazilian Stereotypes Anger a Nation


    Image via FOX

    Homer and family encounter cabbie kidnappers, transportation by conga line, and an army of rats when they travel to Brazil. People in the South American country, however, didn't find the 2002 episode funny. The Brazilian president denounced the show's "distorted vision of Brazilian reality," and the Rio de Janeiro tourism board threatened to sue Fox. The network aired the episode anyway.

  • Kids Killing Kids in the Wake of Sandy Hook


    Image © Kurt Krieger/©Kurt Krieger/Corbis

    Fans were apparently fine with Hannibal's cannibilistic leanings, but NBC execs didn't think they would be on board with kids murdering kids, especially in light of the massacre at Sandy Hook in Newtown, Connecticut, in December 2012. NBC never aired this 2013 episode in which kidnapped children are brainwashed and given guns to kill their families, but they did release it as part of a web series

  • TV's First Bare Bums


    Image © E.J. Camp/Corbis

    NYPD Blue's very first episode cracked its way into history by flaunting its actors' naked rear ends on network TV. A quarter of ABC's affiliates flat-out refused to show the episode because of the nudity, violence, and sexual content. The bum controversy helped draw millions of curious viewers, however, making the show a hit.

    More from The Stir: 15 Super Hot 'Teen Mom" Bikini Pics That Left Us Staring in Awe (PHOTOS)

  • Teens Virgins Decide If They Should Go All The Way


    Image © ABC

    The family-friendly sitcom ventured into mature territory in this 1998 episode when virgins Cory and Topanga contemplate going all the way post-prom. Even though the couple ultimately decide not to do the deed, Disney Channel only aired the episode once. The will-they, won't-they plot was shown in reruns on ABC Family, however.

  • Bobby's Death Was Just a Dream


    Image © Jean-Paul Guilloteau/Kipa/Corbis

    Do-over! Dallas writers killed off star Patrick Duffy in the show's eighth season, then spent the ninth season mired in depressing storylines as a result. Their solution shocked and angered loyal fans. In this 1986 season finale, Duffy's wife wakes up to find him alive in the shower -- the whole ninth season had been a dream.  

  • Blatant Racism Towards the Japanese


    Image via CBS.com

    A World War II veteran and a Japanese groundskeeper confront racial issues while crammed in an attic together in this tense 1964 episode featuring a pre-Star Trek George Takei. The highly controversial episode drew angry complaints from Japanese Americans and only aired once. It was released on DVD more than four decades later.  

  • Mass School Shooting in the Wake of Columbine


    Image © Armando Gallo/Corbis

    This 1999 episode's worst crime was terrible timing. Buffy overhears a killer plotting a mass murder at her school in an episode originally set to air just one week after the massacre at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado. The network ended up delaying the episode for several months, but still got hit with complaints when it aired.

    More from The Stir: 10 Child Stars From the '90s: Where Are They Now? (PHOTOS)

  • A Fatal Hanging on Prime Time


    Image © Corbis

    A yoga practioner uses a hanging technique to improve his health, but when his girlfriend tries it, she ends up dead -- perhaps due to foul play. CBS pulled this 1970 episode after it aired, allegedly because a viewer tried to copy the technique at home and died. The episode was never aired again and was not included on any of the show's DVDs. 

  • A Family Guy Abortion


    Image via FOX

    The writers of Family Guy don't shy away from controversy, but this 2010 episode pushed the envelope even for them. Lois contemplates and ends up getting an abortion while Peter is convinced to join the pro-life protesters outside. The episode never aired in the United States and even Adult Swim on the Cartoon Network won't play it. Fans can find it on DVD, however. 

  • Grotesque, Incestous Rape


    Image © Karen Moskowitz/Corbis

    X-Files didn't hold back in this horrifying 1996 episode. While investigating a dead, deformed baby, Scully and Mulder encounter a family of grotesque brothers who have an incestuous relationship with their deformed quadruple amputee mother. The brothers beat two people to death and behead another. FOX banned the episode after airing it once, but FX played it in reruns the next year.

  • Beavis and Butthead Burn Down a Building, and Kids Copy


    Image via MTV.com

    The controversial pals accidentally burn down a comedy club while trying their hands at stand-up. One month after this 1993 episode aired, a 5-year-old set his family's mobile home on fire, killing his little sister. His mother blamed Beavis and Butthead for giving him the idea. The already-heavily edited episode was removed from syndication. 

    More from The Stir: 13 Celebs Who Totally Transformed Their Looks With Plastic Surgery (PHOTOS)

celebrities controversial

More Slideshows