19 Of The Weirdest & Wildest TV Controversies Ever

They don't really make TV controversies like they used to.

Warner Bros. / giphy.com

For one of the items on this list, you'll see how a single butt led to an entire show being canceled. For another, underage drinking was tackled by showing beloved cartoon characters dying in a drunk driving accident. Television has had some truly wild moments, and these are a few I can never forget.

1.Tiny Toon Adventures — To teach kids not to drink, the three main characters get drunk, steal a police car, drive off a cliff, and die.

Buster Bunny drinks beer with Hamton J Pig

The three characters (Buster Bunny, Hamton J. Pig, and Plucky Duck) are essentially younger versions of Bugs Bunny, Porky Pig, and Daffy Duck. When I tell you I was not prepared to see kid versions of some of the most beloved cartoons ever get drunk and die, I was really not prepared.

The episode was banned...you know...because they steal a police car and drive drunk until they die in an explosion.

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Part 2

Warner Bros / youtube.com

2.South Park — Depictions of Muhammad result in the censoring and banning of episodes, as well as backlash from religious communities.

Kyle and various South Park characters, one of them censored, stand in a cave

Episodes "200" and "201" are the 200th and 201st episodes of the series, and to celebrate the landmark, creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker brought back many old characters.

One of those characters was the Muslim prophet Muhammad, who the show had shown uncensored in a previous episode. However, "200" and "201" dealt heavily with the idea of censorship and featured Muhammad more prominently.

Shortly after the episode was aired, Zachary Adam Chesser (an American also going by the name Abu Talhah al Amrikee) posted death threats toward Stone and Parker online, stating that they would "probably wind up like Theo van Gogh [a filmmaker who was murdered for criticizing Islam] for airing this show." Chesser has since been arrested for aiding a terrorist organization and is serving a 25-year prison sentence.

This controversy led to the episode being removed from South Park's website. It was never re-aired in its uncensored form. "200" and "201" remain banned, and they are two of five episodes (all of which show Muhammad) from South Park's catalogue that are not included on HBO Max.

Additionally, all of South Park was banned from Sri Lanka due to scenes where the Buddha snorts cocaine in "200" and "201."

Paramount / youtube.com

3.Skins — Claims of underage sexualization lead to brands pulling their advertising and the show's cancellation.

Jesse Carere at a press event

If everything I just said about South Park sounded like a lot, you may be surprised to know that the US adaptation of Skins is "the most dangerous program ever." At least, that's what the Parents Television Council decided to label it after the MTV show aired its third episode.

In the episode, then-17-year-old Jesse Carere walks down a street, naked. You see his butt. The Parents Television Council filed a letter to the Department of Justice, asking them to charge the show with child pornography violations.

All the fuss led to brands like Taco Bell, General Motors, Subway, Foot Locker, H&R Block, Proactiv, L'Oréal, Clearasil, and Kraft pulled their advertising from the show.

Due to the controversy and a lack of ratings (the show was often compared to the British show that inspired it), Skins was canceled soon after.

George Pimentel / Getty Images

4.NYPD Blue — The show's pilot leads to a discussion between ABC and the FCC over whether audiences can handle booty.

ABC / giphy.com

Earlier on this list with Skins, we saw how a single butt can topple an entire show. Well, the butt strikes back in the pilot episode of NYPD Blue, which had more nudity than TV audiences were used to at the time. Thirty of Fox's affiliate stations wouldn't even air the episode.

The show's violence was also called out by some, but asses really were the topic of conversation. ABC and the FCC literally got into a censorship battle over whether a scene in which Charlotte Ross is shown nude from behind counted as "too indecent."

ABC argued that “buttocks are not a sexual organ” due to “common sense," which is hilarious. Then, the FCC put the "butt" in rebuttal, responding to ABC that: "We find that the programming at issue is within the scope of our indecency definition because it depicts sexual organs and excretory organs — specifically, an adult woman’s buttocks." No one knows how to talk dirty like the FCC.

5.Duck Dynasty's star makes a homophobic statement.

Phil Robertson speaking to a crowd onstage

Phil Robertson, one of the stars of reality show Duck Dynasty, gave an interview with Drew Magary for GQ magazine. When Magary asked Robertson what he thought was "sinful," Robertson replied:

"Start with homosexual behavior and just morph out from there. Bestiality, sleeping around with this woman and that woman and that woman and those men."

Then, Robertson paraphrased from the Bible:

"Don't be deceived. Neither the adulterers, the idolaters, the male prostitutes, the homosexual offenders, the greedy, the drunkards, the slanderers, the swindlers — they won't inherit the kingdom of God. Don't deceive yourself. It's not right."

The A&E network suspended Robertson, but later reversed the suspension, and the family issued an apology. The homophobic statements comparing homosexuality to bestiality were made in 2013, but the show continued to air until 2017.

Alex Wong / Getty Images

6.Paula Deen admits to the use of racial slurs.

Paula Deen talking into a microphone

After being sued for racial and sexual discrimination, Paula Deen's deposition blew up in the media when she admitted to using the N-word. Then, in 2015, photos surfaced of Deen dressed as Lucille Ball for Halloween, with her son in brownface as Ricky Ricardo.

Throughout these incidents, Deen's contracts with Food Network, Wal-Mart, Target, QVC, Sears/Kmart, her book publisher, and more were canceled.

Jim Spellman / WireImage

7.Kid Nation — The infamous show about kids running a town without adult supervision was, shockingly, controversial.

Two of the contestants in Kid Nation walk across the town

The social experiment type of premise at the heart of Kid Nation is that children aged 8-15 govern a small town for themselves. The show presents itself as no adults being around except host Jonathan Karsh, though he is rarely on screen.

Kids are assigned positions, given allowances, and expected to look after themselves. The show filmed in New Mexico where, at the time, there were not strict regulations on child labor in television and film. The show immediately drew concern over child abuse and labor laws.

While there were upwards of 200 adults on set at all times, some kids were still injured (one child's face was burned with grease while cooking, and another drank from a bottle of bleach, mistaking it for seltzer water).

However, some of the stars of the show look back on Kid Nation fondly. Laurel McGoff told the A.V. Club: "My experience on the show was the ultimate best experience of my life. It was really the most memorable part of my childhood."

CBS / youtube.com

8.Angel — Charisma Carpenter's character was killed off the show after the actress became pregnant.

The main cast of Angel at a press event

It has long been assumed that Charisma Carpenter was written off of Angel due to her being pregnant. The idea was nothing more than a rumor until Charisma Carpenter joined actor Ray Fisher and others in speaking out against the atrocious on-set behavior of Joss Whedon (creator of Angel).

Carpenter addressed the rumors in a tweet, stating:

"Joss intentionally refused multiple calls from my agents making it impossible to connect with him to tell him the news that I was pregnant. Finally, once Joss was apprised of the situation, he requested a meeting with me. In that closed-door meeting, he asked me if I was ‘going to keep it’ and manipulatively weaponized my womanhood and faith against me. He proceeded to attack my character, mock my religious beliefs, accuse me of sabotaging the show, and then unceremoniously fired me the following season once I gave birth."

Joss did respond to some of the claims made against him.

Eugene Gologursky / Getty Images for ReedPOP

9.Seinfeld — Puerto Ricans are stereotypically depicted, and Kramer stomps on a burning Puerto Rican flag in the second-to-last episode.

Kramer from Seinfeld stomps the flames out of a Puerto Rican flag

Seinfeld was one of the biggest hits on TV throughout the '90s, but its finale didn't leave everyone satisfied. Not only was the finale divisive, but the second-to-last episode (technically, there is a two-part clip show in between these two) was widely criticized for a scene in which Kramer stomps on a burning Puerto Rican flag.

While the episode does not revolve around Puerto Ricans specifically, a Puerto Rican Day parade serves as the backdrop for the entire runtime. Among others, the leader of a Puerto Rican organization called out the episode's stereotypes, and NBC banned the episode with an apology. It wasn't until 2002 that the episode started to be aired again.

NBC / youtube.com

10.The Ren & Stimpy Show — An episode in which Ren beats an abusive father-figure gets the show's creator fired

Ren stands atop George Liquor, who he has beaten with an oar, and laughs maniacally

I didn't grow up with Ren & Stimpy, but even from clips I've seen, I don't know how anyone who watched it as a kid is doing okay. There's a lot of wild stuff in the regular, released episodes, but "Man's Best Friend" was too far for Nickelodeon.

The episode deals with George Liquor (in this episode depicted as an abusive father-figure) adopting Ren and Stimpy as pets. He tries to train them with confusing and conflicting tasks, and Ren eventually blows up and beats him with an oar.

Nickelodeon refused to air "Man's Best Friend," and shortly after, Ren & Stimpy's creator John Kricfalusi was fired. He cites this episode as the reason for his termination, though his relationship with Nickelodeon had already deteriorated by the time the episode was created. Kricfalusi was reportedly frequently late with deadlines, and he was later accused of sexual harassment and grooming.

Nickelodeon / youtube.com

11.The Simpsons — "The City of New York vs. Homer Simpson" is pulled from syndication for five years due to the World Trade Center being heavily featured.

Fox / giphy.com

"The City of New York vs. Homer Simpson" originally aired in 1997, but after the 2001 terrorist attacks, it was pulled from syndication. The episode didn't start playing again until 2006, but even then, it was edited to remove certain jokes focusing on the Towers.

Showrunner Bill Oakley later said, "It's on the only episode of any series ever that had an entire act of World Trade Center jokes."

Oakley also donated a hand-drawn cel of the two towers from the episode to the National September 11 Memorial & Museum. The museum's curator, Alexandra Drakakis, called it a "hilarious and tender" donation.

12.Married... with Children — The only episode of the show Fox never aired revolved around the main characters being filmed while having sex.

Fox / giphy.com

Married... with Children was always raunchier than your average sitcom at the time, and the show had already gotten Fox in hot water after its episode "Her Cups Runneth Over." A woman named Terry Rakolta even attempted to start a boycott of the show because of that episode.

While Rakolta was appearing on talk shows and demanding Married... with Children be taken off the air, Fox decided to play it safe with another potentially dicey episode: "I'll See You in Court."

Fox never aired "I'll See You in Court" due to its sexual content. Main characters Al and Peg go to a motel to try to add some flair to their love life. They discover a videotape on which their neighbors are having sex, then have sex themselves only to discover they've also been filmed. They sue the motel, and Al and Peg wind up having sex again in the empty courtroom at the end of the episode.

Wait a minute, a '90s show featuring sex? We know what that means! That's right, our old pals the Parents Television Council named Married... with Children the worst show of 1995 to 1997.

13.Power Rangers — David Yost's onset harassment leads to him walking off set in the middle of shooting.

Saban / giphy.com

David Yost played Billy Cranston/Blue Ranger in Mighty Morphin Power Rangers and Power Rangers Zeo, though he left before Zeo was completed. Yost says the reason for his departure was relentless bullying from "creators, producers, writers, directors" due to Yost being gay.

In the clip below, Yost discusses his exit.

Interview with David Yost

14.Felicity — Series star Keri Russell cuts her hair around the same time ratings decline, and it is wrongly assumed her pixie cut tanked the show.

Keri Russell at a press event with short hair

Many people aware of this controversy believe the story goes like this: Keri Russell cut her famously beautiful hair, and fans were so outraged that the ratings of Felicity tanked.

The truth is somewhere in the middle of all that. It's true that people were shocked by Russell's hairstyle change. The New York Times even described her as having a "glorious head of voluminous golden backlit hair," and some Felicity fans were indeed upset that she chopped off the locks.

But the ratings for Felicity had already tanked before Russell cut her hair (due to it changing time slots). However, the idea that a hairstyle change tanked a show had already taken root, and the whole situation became an industrywide joke for some time.

Bob Riha Jr / Getty Images

15.Gilmore Girls — Creator Amy Sherman-Palladino exits before the final season due to lack of support from the studio.

Amy Sherman-Palladino at a press event

Amy Sherman-Palladino, the creator of Gilmore Girls, left the show before its seventh and final-ish season (she returned for the revival miniseries on Netflix). The reason she and her husband Daniel Palladino (executive producer and writer for the series) exited the show was left up to the rumor mill for a while, with many calling it a salary dispute.

Dan and Amy sat down with Entertainment Weekly to clarify why they left. Dan said:

"We’ve been working for the last two years with one-year contracts, working seven days a week for the past six years, and we wanted not a two-year pickup for the show, but a two-year contract for us, so we could relax a little bit and not just think 300 days at a time, always wondering whether we’d be here. And we hit a brick wall with that, and also with our request for more personnel, more writers, a staff director for the [stage set] so that we didn’t personally have to go down on the set and oversee the directors and make sure the knickknacks were on the right shelf at Lorelai’s inn. So, last Thursday, when we saw none of that was coming together, we made our decision [to leave]."

Amy added:

"We went to the studio around the Christmas holiday and said, 'Here’s what we’re looking for, and let’s talk now before the season ends and things get crazy with [your] attention distracted by fall pilot development,' but we got frozen out. It was like Footloose, when they’re revvin’ up the tractors, playin’ chicken. It took too long, and before everyone knew it, we were loading our desks on a truck and driving off the lot."

Emma Mcintyre / Getty Images for Entertainment Weekly

16.Pokémon — One episode causes roughly 600 Japanese kids to have "headaches and convulsions and breathing problems," and the episode is never aired again.

Ash and Pikachu hide from an explosion

"Computer Warrior Porygon" doesn't have anything thematic that led to its now infamous reputation. The episode involves Ash and the gang going inside a Poké Ball-transmitting device to find out what's wrong with it.

What went wrong was the strobing light patterns (the colors blue and red rapidly alternating) that appear several times in the episode, leading to some kids having medical issues:

"There were about 600 kids who genuinely did have headaches and convulsions and breathing problems" —Benjamin Radford, Vice

However, the story that got repeated was that thousands of kids were hospitalized with seizures. This was largely due to mass hysteria. Still, Nintendo stock fell over 3%, the anime went into a four-month hiatus, and it's now become common practice to warn viewers of possible epileptic-inducing content.

The Pokémon Company / youtube.com

17.Dallas — An entire 31-episode season is ret-conned as a character's dream when Patrick Duffy leaves the show then decides to come back.

The character Bobby Ewing in cowboy getup on Dallas

Dallas was legendary for its cliffhangers, and Season 8 was a big one: One of its main characters, Bobby Ewing, is run over by a car and dies.

Season 9 had a pretty big cliffhanger, too. After its 31-episode run, Pam (Bobby's wife) wakes up in bed. She hears the shower running in the bathroom, opens the door, and finds her late husband Bobby alive and well. Turns out, all of season 9 was just in her head.

This was how the writers decided to handle Patrick Duffy (the actor playing Bobby) leaving the show. Duffy was tired of playing a secondary character, so they killed him off, and he set out to be a big star. When he decided to come back, they had to come up with a way to bring him back to life.

Season 9 of Dallas is now referred to as "the dream season."

Cbs Photo Archive / CBS via Getty Images

18.Charmed — Shannen Doherty and Alyssa Milano's tension

CBS / giphy.com

Throughout Charmed's first three seasons, there was lots of tension between  Shannen Doherty and Alyssa Milano. The feud came down to Milano and Doherty simply being two different personalities, which Milano commented on when Doherty left the show after three seasons.

After Doherty left (and called Charmed "a show for 12-year-olds"), Milano told Entertainment Weekly:

"I think it’s hard when you put two very different people together. I’m very laid-back and passive. I have my Buddha. I come in here and meditate. [Shannen’s] got a lot of energy, she’s very headstrong, she wants to get the job done. I think it’s unfortunate that she left, and that she needed to bad-mouth everyone involved and the audience. She sounds really angry. I just hope I didn’t contribute to that anger."

In 2021, Milano updated Entertainment Tonight on her and Doherty's relationship:

"I would say we are cordial. You know, I could take responsibility for a lot of our tension that we had. I think a lot of our struggle came from feeling that I was in competition rather than it being that sisterhood that the show was so much about. And I have some guilt about my part in that."

19.Mister Rogers' Neighborhood — Mr. Rogers talks about the danger of nuclear war and mutually assured destruction.

American Public Television / giphy.com

Mister Rogers would often touch on grownup topics such as divorce, racial equality, and anger management in ways that are accessible to kids. In 1983, during the Cold War, the show aired a five-episode series called "Conflict" that dealt with the dangers of nuclear weapons.

In the episode, King Friday VIII begins stockpiling bombs after hearing that Cornflake S. Pecially is doing the same. But when Lady Elaine Fairchilde and Lady Aberlin travel to Pecially's kingdom, they discover that the citizens are building a bridge, not bombs. The show highlights how a misunderstanding almost led to needless violence.

Maybe it's not fair to include this episode on this list, because "Conflict" was praised by teachers for introducing the idea of miscommunications leading to violence. But I think it shows how a controversial subject can be handled successfully if you have the magic of Mr. Rogers.

What are the craziest moments in TV history you remember? Let me know in the comments!