Top 10 Sitcom Controversies & Scandals



Top 10 Sitcom Controversies & Scandals

VOICE OVER: Rebecca Brayton WRITTEN BY: Tal Fox
These sitcom controversies were no laughing matter. For this list, we'll be looking at the most outrageous skeletons unearthed from the closets of our favorite situational comedies, from scandals, to cast changes, to storylines we'd all prefer to forget. Our countdown includes "Saved by the Bell," "The Goldbergs," "Friends," and more!

Top 10 Sitcom Controversies and Scandals

Welcome to MsMojo, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 Sitcom Controversies and Scandals

For this list, we’ll be looking at the most outrageous skeletons unearthed from the closets of our favorite situational comedies, from scandals, to cast changes, to storylines we’d all prefer to forget.

Is there a controversy you believe we’ve scandalously left off of our list? Let us know in the comments.

#10: The Ending
“How I Met Your Mother” (2005-14)

Fans were fully invested in Ted Mosby’s journey to meet the hyped-up mother for nine seasons. So the decision to bump her off so he and Robin could get back together was highly polarizing. However, co-creators Carter Bays and Craig Thomas had settled on this ending pretty early on. So no matter what direction the story took, it would always lead back to this conclusion. Nevertheless, it became one of the most divisive sitcom season finales. Even Alyson Hannigan, who played Lily, voiced her disappointment, saying they needed more scenes to tie up the story properly. At least outraged fans have that alternate ending to hold on to!

#9: On Set Misconduct
“Arrested Development” (2003-06; 2013-19)

Jeffrey Tambor was embroiled in sexual misconduct allegations from his other show, “Transparent.” And during a New York Times interview, the late Jessica Walter, who played Lucille Bluth on “Arrested Development,” shed light into his behavior on their show. She revealed that while he hadn’t “crossed [that] line,”, he had exhibited other aggressive behavior. Although he'd apologized, it’s clear that she had been shaken by the encounter. This wasn’t helped by her male-co stars making light of the situation and attempting to justify Tambor’s actions. Jason Bateman was especially keen to defend his on-screen dad and was met with plenty of backlash. He ultimately took to Twitter to issue an apology for his insensitive response.

#8: Dustin Diamond’s Fraught Relationship with His Co-Stars
“Saved by the Bell” (1989-93)

Many fans fell in love with Diamond and the endearingly dorky Screech on “Good Morning, Miss Bliss,” “Saved by the Bell” and its spin-offs. But apparently, he wasn’t exactly close with some of his co-stars, and lost touch with a lot of them. Diamond also made all sorts of wild claims about the cast’s on-set shenanigans in a 2009 tell-all book, which only exacerbated tensions. Many of them dismissed his allegations, and he ended up publicly apologizing years later in an attempt to repair the damage. Still, Screech was nowhere to be seen in the 2020 reboot. However, his memory was honored after Diamond sadly passed away from cancer in 2021.

#7: The Tale of Two Aunt Vivs
“The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” (1990-96)

During the first three seasons of “Fresh Prince,” audiences loved Janet Hubert’s fiery powerhouse Aunt Viv. But apparently, it wasn’t all happy families behind the scenes. When the show returned for its fourth season, she was replaced by Daphne Maxwell Reid. The switch was never addressed, except for a quick nudge-nudge-wink-wink in the season premiere. Rumors about diva-like behavior soon emerged, often fueled by Will Smith, the show’s star. With so much anger and hurt, a reconciliation seemed inconceivable. But during the 2020 “Fresh Prince” reunion, Hubert finally got the chance to tell her side of the story. While the past can’t be changed, it seemed like a healing experience for all involved.

#6: Jeff Garlin Leaves the Family
“The Goldbergs” (2013-)

Jeff Garlin played ill-tempered patriarch Murray Goldberg until his sudden departure from the sitcom in 2021. Several reports of unprofessional and disrespectful behavior on set led to a lengthy HR investigation and Garlin's eventual exit. But he blamed it on his "silliness" being misinterpreted and “political correctness” stifling comedians. His disdain for the sitcom was no secret, and he reportedly addressed it during a stand-up set later on. His TV wife, Wendi McLendon-Covey, also implied in a tweet that he made his disinterest quite obvious. Still, since he left mid-season, the show persevered with a body double and editing magic to complete his scenes. However, that only made the elephant in the room even more glaringly obvious.

#5: The Heartbreaking Story of the Original Laurie
“That ‘70s Show” (1998-2006)

Lisa Robin Kelly played Eric's selfish, spoiled, and conniving big sister Laurie on “That ‘70s Show” during the first three seasons. After that, the character was nowhere to be seen, presumably busy with beauty school. But in reality, Kelly was struggling with addiction. Though on the surface she was an actress on a successful sitcom, things were complicated in her private life. She briefly returned for season five, but was eventually replaced, with Christina Moore becoming Laurie. Unfortunately, Kelly's battle continued, and she was even arrested multiple times. In 2013, she tried to turn things around by checking into rehab, but she tragically passed away.

#4: Brooke Shields’ Ex Wasn’t a Drake Ramoray Fan
“Friends” (1994-2004)

In season two of “Friends,” actress and model Brooke Shields played an unhinged “fan” called Erika, who struggled to differentiate reality and fiction. And apparently, she wasn’t the only one. According to Shields’ memoir, her then-boyfriend, former tennis sensation Andre Agassi, was particularly peeved by the dinner scene where Erika licks Joey’s hand. She wrote that he exited the set, and told her she’d “made him look a fool,” before heading to his Vegas abode and destroying his trophies. The actress spent three years replacing them, believing his kids might like to have them one day. The pair tied the knot in 1997, but ultimately got divorced.

#3: One Man Down
“Two and a Half Men” (2003-15)

We all remember Charlie Sheen’s infamous 2011 interview. Well, it was around that same time that he was let go from “Two and a Half Men”. He was one of America’s highest paid television actors, starring in CBS’ most popular sitcom. But after a number of scandals, battle with addiction, and a publicized falling out with Warner Bros. and co-creator Chuck Lorre, he was fired. Charlie Harper was killed off and replaced by Walden Schmidt, played by Ashton Kutcher. According to the last vanity card, Sheen could have returned for the series finale. But he and Lorre had very different ideas of how that might play out, so it never happened.

#2: Roseanne Gets Ousted from the Conners
“Roseanne” (1988-97; 2018)

Fans of the sitcom’s original run were excited to learn of its return in 2018. However, the bliss was short-lived, with the titular star sending out a racist tweet insulting Obama White House aide Valerie Jarrett. Following the backlash, she apologized and blamed the event on her medication. But the damage was already done: the show was canceled, she was fired, and several networks even pulled re-runs. Many of her co-stars tried to distance themselves from the controversy, and moved on without her, creating “The Conners” spin-off. About a year later, Barr attempted to blame the fallout on her TV daughter Sara Gilbert, who was openly critical of her actions.

#1: The Puerto Rico Episode
“Seinfeld” (1989-98)

Any fan who only became acquainted with Jerry and the gang through re-runs might not even know that this season nine episode exists. It depicts the group getting caught in traffic because of the Puerto Rican Day Parade celebrations. And there was more than one problematic moment. The scene that understandably prompted the most outcry involved Kramer stomping on the Puerto Rican flag after accidentally setting it on fire. The episode was heavily blasted for its harmful portrayal of Puerto Ricans and disrespectful flag use. Still, some of the actors and crew members refuted claims that it was offensive. Ultimately, NBC issued an apology, and the episode was removed from circulation for a few years.