Top 20 Banned TV Episodes

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Top 20 Banned TV Episodes

VOICE OVER: Tom Aglio WRITTEN BY: Nathan Sharp
These banned TV episodes were just too much to take in some countries. For this list, we'll be looking at episodes of various television shows that were barred from broadcast in certain countries. Our countdown includes "Electric Soldier Porygon" from "Pokémon” (1997-), “Mid-Life Crustacean” from “SpongeBob SquarePants” (1999-), “Unstoppable” from “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” (1999-), “Stark Raving Dad” from "The Simpsons" (1989-), and more!
Transcript
These banned TV episodes were just too much to take in some countries. For this list, we’ll be looking at episodes of various television shows that were barred from broadcast in certain countries. Our countdown includes "Electric Soldier Porygon" from "Pokémon” (1997-), “Mid-Life Crustacean” from “SpongeBob SquarePants” (1999-), “Unstoppable” from “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” (1999-), “Stark Raving Dad” from "The Simpsons" (1989-), and more! Have you seen any of these? What did you think? Let us know in the comments!

#20: “See Me, Feel Me, Gnomey”

“The Powerpuff Girls” (1998-2005)

When you think of banned TV, you probably don’t think of cartoons made for little kids. Alas, one episode of “The Powerpuff Girls” was banned in the United States for religious imagery. The episode features a destroyed building, and executives at Cartoon Network believed that the exposed beams looked too much like crosses. There’s also a hippy character that they felt resembled Jesus. These inclusions had the Cartoon Network sweating, and they banned the episode from release. However, it was aired in many other countries and now appears on streaming and the DVD.

#19: “The High Ground”

“Star Trek: The Next Generation” (1987-94)

From the late 1960s to 1998, Ireland was embroiled in The Troubles, a violent conflict over whether Northern Ireland should remain part of the UK, or unify with the Republic of Ireland. Fighting for the latter option was the IRA, a paramilitary group designated as a terrorist organization in the UK. In the 1990 “Star Trek” episode “The High Ground”, Data notes that the IRA’s terrorist activities worked and that Ireland was unified in the year 2024. Because the episode depicted a United Ireland attained through terrorism, the episode was initially banned in both the UK and Ireland.

#18: “Insane in the Membrane”

“Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” (2003-09)

In 2003, a reboot of the famous turtle brand began airing on Fox. However, one episode proved too violent for the family-friendly programming block, and that episode was season four’s “Insane in the Membrane.” Scheduled for release on March 4, 2006, the episode was pulled in the US due to its graphic content. Series producer Lloyd Goldfine blames the ban on a roster change within Fox. According to him, every step of the episode’s production was approved by the network. But new personnel were “horrified”. It was cut from rotation and wasn’t aired in the US until 2015.

#17: “Unstoppable”

“Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” (1999-)

Produced in early 2016, this episode of “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” might never see the light of day. Even though a promo was aired, the episode was pulled before it aired. It was reportedly inspired by a real case: a woman’s accusation that when she was very young, Donald Trump assaulted her at one of Jeffrey Epstein’s notorious “parties”. Trump and Epstein were friends and partied together throughout the 1990s, until falling out over real estate in 2004. While the woman’s lawsuit was withdrawn, about two dozen other women subsequently accused Trump of sexual misconduct. When Trump was elected President in November, “Unstoppable” was shelved.

#16: “The Great MacGrady”

“Arthur” (1996-2022)

Cancer is a difficult subject for anyone to discuss, let alone children. In the “Arthur” episode “The Great MacGrady,” everyone reacts differently upon learning that Mrs. MacGrady has cancer. But it doesn’t seem to have been the subject matter that got the episode banned - it was apparently the presence of Lance Armstrong. Francine gets in touch with Armstrong, knowing that he survived cancer. He’s depicted as a heroic figure, but his reputation was tarnished in real life following the infamous doping scandal. Reruns of his episode were pulled from rotation in the US and it was removed from the iTunes store and Amazon. It was later revised to remove Armstrong.

#15: “Conflict”

“Mister Rogers' Neighborhood” (1968-2001)

Yep, even “Mister Rogers' Neighborhood” had some banned episodes! In November of 1983, the show aired five episodes about “Conflict”, which contain several references to war. Prince Tuesday is taught about war in school, and King Friday starts to suspect that Corney’s factory is manufaturing bomb parts. The Cold War was obviously on everybody’s mind, and a particularly brutal film called “The Day After” was aired shortly after this string of episodes. Owing to its difficult subject matter, the episodes were permanently pulled in 1996 and are still unavailable to this day.

#14: “I'll See You in Court”

“Married... with Children” (1987-97)

In this episode of the iconic sitcom, the Bundys travel to a motel to spice up their love life. The suggestion comes from Marcy Rhoades, who slept with her husband at the same motel. While there, the Bundys find a videotape of the Rhoades couple getting intimate. Together, the couples attempt to sue the motel for voyeurism. Before the episode aired, the censors at Fox demanded cuts, but deemed even the censored version too problematic and pulled it from release in the US. It finally aired in 2002 - five years after the show ended - but even that airing was censored.

#13: “Buffalo Gals”

“Cow and Chicken” (1997-99)

This surreal animated comedy show offended the censors with sexual innuendo that was a little too on the nose. In this season 2 episode, a group of female bikers known as the Buffalo Gals break into Cow and Chicken’s house. Inside, they begin to chew the carpet. One of the bikers is even called Munch Kelly. The innuendo is pretty obvious, and got the show in trouble. While it did air as scheduled on June 27, 1998, it was replaced in reruns with the episode "Orthodontic Police".

#12: “Prom-ises, Prom-ises”

“Boy Meets World” (1993-2000)

This popular 90s show deals with all sorts of teenage problems and milestones, including the first time having sex. In the fifth season episode “Prom-ises, Prom-ises,” Cory and Topanga decide to sleep together after prom. Following its initial run on ABC, “Boy Meets World” was picked up by the Disney Channel for reruns. However, due to its sexual content, “Prom-ises, Prom-ises” was one of three episodes that the Disney Channel banned. The other two are “The Truth About Honesty”, also due to sexual content, and “If You Can't Be With the One You Love”, which involves teen drinking.

#11: “Oeuf”

“Hannibal” (2013-15)

This psychological thriller–horror series features a lot of grotesque imagery. But it was the way the ideas behind the episode “Oeuf” intersected with recent events that proved most troubling. The episode sees a group of foster children brainwashed by a mysterious woman into killing their biological families. It was scheduled to air in April of 2013, but creator Bryan Fuller personally pulled it from the United States broadcast schedule at the last minute. He cited “the associations that came with the subject matter” and wished to be “respectful of the social climate.” It’s believed this was in light of the tragic events at Sandy Hook Elementary School in December, 2012.

#10: “Mid-Life Crustacean”

“SpongeBob SquarePants” (1999-)

While ostensibly for children, “SpongeBob SquarePants” makes many mature jokes and is enjoyed by adults the world over. The third season episode “Mid-Life Crustacean” embraces this and has been repeatedly called out for it. The episode depicts a so-called “Panty Raid” which sees Patrick, SpongeBob, and Mr. Krabs raiding a woman’s house and stealing her underwear. The episode was originally supposed to air in November of 2002, but was canceled by Nickelodeon. While it was later shown on the network, future reruns have again excluded it. It’s also missing from the streaming networks Paramount+ and Prime Video.

#9: “Partial Terms of Endearment”

“Family Guy” (1999-)

Seth MacFarlane’s animated sitcom is certainly no stranger to controversy, but the eighth season episode “Partial Terms of Endearment” really pushed things. In this episode, Lois becomes a surrogate mother for an old friend. However, the friend and her husband are killed in a car accident, prompting Lois and Peter to consider abortion. The episode’s difficult subject matter concerned Fox, who thought it would get them in trouble with advertisers. This prompted them to pull the episode from rotation in the US. Adult Swim also refused to air the episode, conceding to Fox’s demands. It was later made available on the season eight DVD, but it’s currently absent from Disney+.

#8: “The Encounter”

“The Twilight Zone” (1959-64)

This historic show from Rod Serling often used science fiction and metaphors to comment on real issues. Of course, not every episode dealt with otherworldly elements. “The Encounter” is a drama centered around an American World War II veteran and a Japanese-American man named Arthur. In the veteran’s attic, they have a hostile conversation stemming from their respective experiences in the war. Arthur’s father was a spy who worked construction at Pearl Harbor and betrayed the Americans. This reveal offended Japanese-American viewers, and the resulting complaints resulted in the episode being pulled from syndication. It didn’t appear on television again until 2004 - a full 40 years after its original airing.

#7: “Elephant Issues”

“Tiny Toon Adventures” (1990-92)

This episode of “Tiny Toon Adventures” contains a segment called “One Beer” in which Buster, Plucky and Hamton get drunk. In their intoxicated revelry, the trio steal a police car and drive it off a cliff to their deaths. The episode then ends on a clever bit of meta-humor, with Buster commenting on the dark nature of the storyline by asking “Do we get to do a funny episode tomorrow?” Fox Kids banned the episode over its mature content. Turns out, they didn’t like the protagonists drinking, going for a joyride in a stolen police cruiser, and dying. Who'da thunk? The episode remained banned for the next 22 years, before it finally resurfaced on the Hub Network in 2013.

#6: “Home”

“The X-Files” (1993-2002; 2016-18)

Long regarded as one of the best “X-Files” episodes, “Home” is also the most controversial. It sees Mulder and Scully travel to the titular Pennsylvania town to investigate a deformed, incestous family. The episode is a stew of horrific content, featuring a disturbing story and graphic violence, and became the first of the series to receive a TV-MA rating. Following its initial airing, the episode was banned by Fox for reruns. They also prevented the Peacock family from returning in a later episode, as was planned by writers Glen Morgan and James Wong.

#5: “Stark Raving Dad”

“The Simpsons” (1989-)

This cartoon has found itself in hot water on several occasions. In 2002, Rio officials considered suing Fox for the episode “Blame It on Lisa” on the grounds that it presented a negative and inaccurate portrayal of the city. More recently, in 2019, the 1991 episode “Stark Raving Dad” also ran into trouble. In the episode, Homer befriends a man named Leon Kompowsky, who believes he’s Michael Jackson. Jackson voiced Leon himself. But after the series showrunners saw the documentary “Leaving Neverland”, they were so disturbed by allegations against Jackson that they pulled the episode from circulation. It’s also missing from Disney+ and modern reprints of the season three DVD.

#4: “Electric Soldier Porygon”

“Pokémon” (1997-)

“Electric Soldier Porygon” nearly destroyed “Pokémon” forever. In this episode, Ash and his friends enter a computer system and Pikachu hits the antivirus program with a Thunderbolt, resulting in a massive explosion. This explosion was depicted with strobing blue and red lights. Not a good idea. It resulted in what is known as The Pokémon Shock, which sent 685 Japanese children to hospital, with some suffering seizures and blindness. The episode currently holds the bizarre world record for “Most Photosensitive Epileptic Seizures Caused by a Television Show.” The resulting controversy caused Nintendo’s stock to plunge, and they demanded that the episode never be repeated on television. And it never has.

#3: “Hee Haw! Hee Haw!”

“Fear Factor” (2001-06; 2011-12; 2017-18)

This stunt show hosted by Joe Rogan was notable both for its danger and gross factor. Each episode featured the contestants doing something daring, whether it was dangling off a helicopter or eating the private parts of an animal. But even for “Fear Factor”, the episode “Hee Haw! Hee Haw!” was just too much. Scheduled to air in January of 2012, the episode featured contestants drinking various fluids from a donkey! NBC let them get away with a lot, but not with this. The network decided to pull the episode and it has remained unaired ever since. However, footage of the stunt has been uploaded to YouTube, so those daring enough can still check it out.

#2: “The Puerto Rican Day”

“Seinfeld” (1989-98)

For a while, this was the lost episode of “Seinfeld.” Airing on May 7, 1998, just one week before the big finale, this one sees the gang getting stuck in traffic during the Puerto Rican Day Parade. Kramer accidentally sets the Puerto Rican flag on fire and stomps on it in a panic. After he’s chased by a mob, he remarks that “it's like this every day in Puerto Rico”. The result was a flood of angry letters, and protests outside NBC headquarters. NBC apologized and the episode was removed from syndication. It was finally brought back in 2002, with the controversial flag burning scene intact.

#1: “200” & “201”

“South Park” (1997-)

To celebrate the show’s 200th episode in 2010, writer Trey Parker decided to go all in and write a storyline about the show’s past controversies. This included Comedy Central’s refusal to depict the Islamic prophet Muhammad, after cartoons in European newspapers led to threats and attacks. After a threatening “warning” from radical organization Revolution Muslim, Comedy Central caved and censored references to Muhammad and even an anti-censorship speech in the episode “201”. This decision was met with widespread criticism. Nonetheless, both “200” and “201” were pulled from circulation and aren’t available on the official website or streaming services.
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