Top 10 Scariest Banned TV Shows and Episodes

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Top 10 Scariest Banned TV Shows and Episodes

VOICE OVER: Kirsten Ria Squibb WRITTEN BY: Beca Dalimonte
These TV Shows and Episodes were banned for being too scary for most people to handle. For this list, we'll be looking at controversial episodes, series, and TV movies that were deemed too intense for the small screen. Our countdown includes “Earshot” from “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” (1997-2003), “The Encounter” from “The Twilight Zone” (1959-64), “Ghostwatch” (1992), and more!
Transcript
These TV Shows and Episodes were banned for being too scary for most people to handle. For this list, we’ll be looking at controversial episodes, series, and TV movies that were deemed too intense for the small screen. Our countdown includes “Earshot” from “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” (1997-2003), “The Encounter” from “The Twilight Zone” (1959-64), “Ghostwatch” (1992), and more! What’s the scariest episode of TV you’ve seen? Let us know in the comments!

#10: “Oeuf”

“Hannibal” (2013-15)

Typically, controversial TV episodes are banned by networks. They’re deemed either too inappropriate, too insensitive, or too scary for the target audiences. In the case of “Oeuf,” however, it was “Hannibal’s” creator, Bryan Fuller, who ultimately pulled the plug. Fuller felt it would be inappropriate to air the episode, which showed children in a dark situation, in the months following the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Although the plot had very little in common with the real-life event, the association was just too strong. As a result, the episode never aired on TV, and was instead turned into a short series of webisodes before being made available in full on iTunes and Amazon.

#9: “Don’t Look Under the Bed” (1999)


At a time when Disney was airing “Boy Meets World” and “Bear in the Big Blue House,” it premiered an original film titled “Don’t Look Under the Bed.” It was the second original film from the network to receive a TV-PG rating due to “scary scenes,” and toed the line between a fun Halloween jaunt and an actually frightening horror film. Director Kenneth Johnson said they tried to make the movie “scary but not too scary,” but were ultimately hit with what he called “derogatory mail” from outraged parents. The backlash against the film caused it to not be rebroadcast on the network, and it’s gone down in history as the “scariest DCOM ever.” It can now be seen, at viewer’s discretion, on Disney+.

#8: “Earshot”

“Buffy the Vampire Slayer” (1997-2003)

When the Columbine tragedy took place in 1999, it was the deadliest high school shooting in US history. Concerns about violent media and its ramifications rose. One of the TV shows affected by this tension was teen horror show “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and the unfortunately timed episode, “Earshot.” This dark episode, originally set to air a week after the real life shooting, reveals that Buffy can now read minds and overhears a student mentally planning on doing something drastic. She and the gang eventually find the student, armed with a rifle, but manage to talk him down. The show’s third season finale was similarly postponed for its depictions of violence in a school setting.

#7: “Corrupt”

“Angel” (1999-2004)

This episode of “Angel” was deemed so controversial that it didn’t even make it through production. “Corrupt” would’ve been the second episode of the “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” spinoff, and was primarily about the city’s seedy underbelly. The episode’s main focus was the character Kate Lockley who, at the time, was conceived as a police officer working undercover, but slowly becoming entrenched in the very world she’d been sent to dismantle. She was also shown to be suffering from a drug addiction. It was ultimately decided that this plot was too dark and hopeless for the WB. It was scrapped, and “Lonely Heart” was written as an alternate introduction to the character.

#6: “Heathers” (2018)


There’ve been several reboots of popular films in recent years, but few have been quite as controversial as the “Heathers” TV series. Even before it aired, the show was harshly criticized for its poor handling of social issues, including its portrayal of LGBTQ+ characters. These issues would be seen as secondary, however, when the network banned three episodes from airing in the US due to their portrayals of violence. This included the series finale which, unlike the film, showed all but one of the students dying and being sent to a prom in heaven. Veronica is also a darker character in the reboot, implied to have already killed someone long before meeting JD.

#5: “The Encounter”

“The Twilight Zone” (1959-64)

“The Twilight Zone” first aired over half a century ago, but its age hasn’t stopped people from enjoying its uniquely unsettling stories. The show’s popularity has even led to several top ten lists in the modern era recounting its “scariest” episodes. In spite of its terrifying legacy, however, only one “Twilight Zone” episode was ever banned from the airwaves - although, unfortunately, for racism, rather than creepy content. The episode, “The Encounter,” was controversial for its inclusion of a Japanese-American character whose father was said to have spied for Japan during Pearl Harbor. In real life, there’s no evidence to support the idea that any Japanese-Americans were actually involved in the attack, and thus the depiction only served to further anti-Japanese sentiments in the country.

#4: “The Scooby-Doo Project” (1999)


The same year that “The Blair Witch Project” shocked and horrified the nation, Cartoon Network aired “The Scooby-Doo Project” alongside a marathon of the popular horror cartoon show. A parody of “The Blair Witch Project,” the short showed the mystery gang lost in the woods, intercut with live-action segments of police officers looking for the still-missing teens. Like the film, the short was presented as “found footage.” Although it was well-received by critics, even winning its team an Annie award, “The Scooby-Doo Project” was never shown on TV again after its initial airing. Some believe that this is due to the special’s content, which was said to have “struck fear in the hearts of kids hoping to enjoy a day of classic cartoons.”

#3: “Ghostwatch” (1992)


The mockumentary format is a pretty common one for film and television, being employed by sitcoms like “The Office” and film directors like Christopher Guest. For the most part, however, mockumentaries tend to be comedies. “Ghostwatch” is not. The fictional TV special, filmed as if it were a real documentary, was treated with complete seriousness and thus mistaken for a genuine live broadcast by some viewers at home. When the show turned sinister and a malicious ghost began to wreak havoc on the reporters, people were genuinely scared for the lives of those on-screen, resulting in genuine psychological harm. The BBC, and show creators, issued an apology for the harm caused, and the special never aired again on UK television.

#2: “Miri,” “Plato’s Stepchildren,” “The Empath,” & “Whom Gods Destroy”

“Star Trek: The Original Series” (1966-69)

Madness, torture, sadism, and disease. Four words you don’t hear very often in relation to family-friendly media - and for good reason. Nonetheless, these words are commonly used to describe four episodes of “Star Trek: The Original Series:” “Miri,” “Plato’s Stepchildren,” “The Empath,” and “Whom Gods Destroy.” In the UK, where “Star Trek'' was considered to be a children’s show, these subjects caused the four episodes to be banned from TV. Even the US limited airings of “The Empath,” despite the episode’s popularity, because it deemed its graphic torture scenes to be too intense for earlier time slots. Series creator Gene Roddenberry famously disagreed with these bans, insisting that “suffering and pain are a part of life.”

#1: “Home”

“The X-Files” (1993-2002; 2016-18)

“Home” is widely considered to be one of “The X-Files’” scariest and most disturbing episodes. Controversial from its initial conception, the episode features extreme violence that was shocking to even more seasoned fans of the series. Even more shocking is the fact that Mulder and Scully never get to see the antagonists caught in the end. Instead, the episode ends with the depraved individuals driving off into the night hoping to restart the cycle and find a new place to call “home.” Due to its disturbing content, the episode was banned from ever being re-aired on Fox and was the first episode of the series to have a TV-MA rating and “Viewer Discretion Advised” warning.
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