- TV episodes banned for weird reasons now have a special place in television history, thanks to their availability online and their bestowed notoriety.
- Controversial episodes like “Mister Rogers Talks About Conflict” and “Home” were banned due to their disturbing content, despite good intentions and near-perfect execution.
- Certain TV episodes like “Electric Soldier Porygon” and “Puerto Rican Day” were banned for specific reasons, such as causing seizures or being deemed racist.
TV episodes that were banned for weird reasons are easier to find now more than ever. It’s ironic because television episodes get banned specifically to limit or completely prevent their exposure to the public. This is typically due to the episode’s content being deemed too distasteful, offensive, weird, or simply inappropriate for target demographics. From the network that airs the show and the studio that produces it, to government, political, and religious organizations, a number of entities have the power to ban episodes or complete shows.
There are even TV shows banned in entire countries. However, while banning was an effective censorship tool when broadcasting dominated entertainment, things have changed in the streaming age. Combined with their bestowed notoriety and the availability of content online, TV episodes that were banned for strange reasons now have a special place in television history. Apart from the actual content of these episodes, the reason why they were banned can be just as interesting to viewers hungry for content that they haven’t seen before. For those curious about why certain TV episodes were prevented from airing or streaming, here are 12 of the most interesting banned episodes in TV history.
12 “Mister Rogers Talks About Conflict” – Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood
In 1983, Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood released a controversial five-episode arc. After King Friday of the Neighborhood of Make-Believe deduces that Southwood is making a bomb, he reroutes government financing towards stockpiling weapons, leaving less room for public services. However, King Friday finds out that Southwood is actually just constructing a bridge – revealing that he acted on unfounded and escalated political rumors. The episodes were Fred Rogers’ way of helping children cope with the paranoia that pervaded households when nuclear war was a real threat. Despite the show’s near-perfect execution of the concept – and the good intentions behind it – “Conflict” was banned ironically for scaring kids.
11 “Home” – The X-Files
The following entry discusses rape and other forms of violence against women and children.
The reason why The X-Files episode “Home” was banned is that it was too disturbing. “Home” introduced viewers to the backwoods Peacock family, who have been inbreeding since the American Civil War. Drawn to the Peacock house by the buried corpse of a deformed baby, Mulder and Scully witness brutal decapitations and fight the deformed men of the Peacock family. The FBI agents eventually find out that the Peacocks have been repeatedly impregnating their own mother – who is missing all four limbs – while keeping her bound and hidden inside their house. The X-Files season 4, episode 2 “Home” was aired just once before being banned.
10 “Electric Soldier Porygon” – Pokemon
Pokémon season 1, episode 38 “Electric Soldier Porygon” is an infamous example of TV episodes that were banned for weird reasons. In cyberspace, Team Rocket launches antivirus missiles at Ash, Pikachu, Misty, and Brock who are riding a Porygon. Pikachu then uses electric attacks to keep the missiles from hitting them. Throughout this sequence, a strobing red and blue effect flashes on screen. It happens for just 4 seconds, but it was enough to cause seizures in almost 700 Japanese children who ended up in the hospital. Apart from Pokémon going off-air for some time, this resulted in Porygon never appearing in the anime ever again.
9 “The Encounter” – The Twilight Zone
The following entry discusses harmful racial stereotypes.
Starring George Takei as a Japanese-American gardener named Arthur, The Twilight Zone season 5, episode 31 “The Encounter” begins with Arthur working for a white man named Fenton. Arthur bears Fenton’s racism until they get into a heated argument, poignantly spotlighting real-world racial and war veteran issues. However, Arthur is then revealed to be the son of a Japanese spy who enabled Pearl Harbor – a characterization based on the racist rumors that led the US to create Japanese-American internment camps during WWII. Combined with Arthur killing Fenton with a samurai sword and then shouting “Banzai!” before jumping out the window, “The Encounter” was banned for being racist.
8 “Hee Haw! Hee Haw!” – Fear Factor
Few TV episodes banned for weird reasons are as disgusting as Fear Factor’s initial finale, “Hee Haw! Hee Haw!” The name of the episode comes from the fact that the contestants have to drink large amounts of donkey semen and urine in order to claim the cash prize. Fear Factor is a reality show that’s notorious for making contestants do a variety of disgusting stunts, but “Hee Haw! Hee Haw!” simply went too far. Understandably, NBC banned the episode from airing for being too offensive. On The Joe Rogan Experience, Fear Factor host Joe Rogan said that this was the episode that killed the show.
7 “Episode 847” – Sesame Street
When it comes to popular TV episodes banned in America, the foundational educational children’s show Sesame Street isn’t typically the first that comes to mind. However, after it aired and underwent additional screen testing, Sesame Street season 7, episode 52 “847” was banned from being broadcasted again. This is because episode “847” features the great Margaret Hamilton as the Wicked Witch of the West from The Wizard of Oz – in full makeup – in a story where the Wicked Witch loses her broom at Sesame Street and interacts with the regulars. The episode outraged parents whose children reacted in fear at the Wicked Witch when “847” aired.
6 “Mister Skinnylegs” – Peppa Pig
Peppa Pig season 1, episode 47 “Mister Skinnylegs” sees George and Peppa befriending a spider and even playing with it. In the UK where the show originates, the episode sent a wholesome message to kids – there’s no reason to be afraid of common spiders found in most homes. However, in Australia where most creepy crawlers that make their way into people’s homes are lethal, “Mister Skinnylegs” wasn’t as well-received. As the episode could potentially endanger children and their families, this Peppa Pig episode was banned from being aired in Australia. “Mister Skinnylegs” may number among TV episodes banned for weird reasons, but it was clearly a logical decision.
5 “Puerto Rican Day” – Seinfeld
Jerry and the gang manage to make their way through the gridlock traffic and festivities during the annual Puerto Rican Day Parade. While having a conversation with a man trapped in traffic, Kramer lights a cigar and accidentally sets a Puerto Rican flag on fire. Panicking, Kramer puts out the fire by waving the flag around before finally stepping on it repeatedly. Earning the ire of a surrounding crowd of Puerto Ricans, Kramer flees. Such antics are to be expected of the bumbling Kramer. However, many viewers deemed the accidental flag-burning scene in Seinfeld season 9, episode 20 “Puerto Rican Day” to be racist, causing it to be banned.
4 “Dee Reynolds: Shaping America’s Youth” – It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia
The following entry discusses harmful racial stereotypes.
The most notorious of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia’s blackface episodes, “Dee Reynolds: Shaping America’s Youth” is when the gang produced the short film Lethal Weapon 5. The episode sees Mac playing Roger Murtaugh from the Lethal Weapon series – in full blackface. While the episode didn’t draw much controversy when it aired, accusations of racism led this and several other episodes from the show to get banned from streaming years later. Together, the controversial episodes discuss racial prejudice in Hollywood. However, it offended many viewers, as blackface, brownface, and yellowface have historically been employed by racist entities in America.
3 “Episode 29” – The Amanda Show
The Amanda Show season 2, episode 16 “Episode 29” features a family known as the Lucklesses, who seem to have the worst luck in the world. The ending even sees the Luckless home getting destroyed by a meteor. Unfortunately, “Episode 29” aired just months before September 11, 2001. After 9/11, the episode was banned from airing again, as the network decided that “Episode 29” could be deemed offensive by many viewers. As its premise of a family down on their luck inadvertently resulted in “Episode 29” running into bad luck in the real world, “Episode 29” has a secure place among TV episodes banned for weird reasons.
2 “200” And “201” – South Park
No stranger to trouble, South Park outdid itself when it aired two throwback episodes featuring every controversial storyline and character that’s been featured in the show. South Park season 14, episodes 5 and 6 “200” and “201” depicts dozens of celebrities led by Tom Cruise, who demand to see the Islamic prophet Muhammad in order to obtain his “goo,” which would allow them to also become immune to being depicted as cartoons. “200” and “201” criticized the rampant censorship that pervaded the time. Frighteningly, it also led to South Park creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker receiving death threats from radical Muslim organizations, causing the episodes to get banned.
1 “Accidents Will Happen” – Degrassi: The Next Generation
TV episodes banned for weird reasons serve as time capsules for what was and wasn’t acceptable for airing at the time. Degrassi: The Next Generation season 3, episodes 14 and 15 “Accidents Will Happen” is no different. The episode sees Manny deciding to have an abortion, Manny and Craig arguing about the matter, and Emma supporting Manny’s choice about her own body even though she doesn’t approve. It ends with Manny’s mother supporting her by bringing her to an abortion clinic. “Accidents Will Happen” was banned in the US for several years. However, Canadian viewers defended the episode’s great handling of the controversial matter, leading to the ban being lifted.