When it comes to the matters of censorship and content control, TV networks have to follow a strict set of rules laid out by the Television Industry. These rules were created because television episodes are broadcast at all times of the day for free. As a result, this makes it extremely easy for young children to view any type of TV episode, including ones with controversial content.
However, there have been many cases where networks were a bit too lax in allowing controversial material to appear on TV screens. When this happens, it has often led to a network receiving tons of backlash from both parents and interest groups, who believe that the younger generation should be shielded from the controversial and sensitive subject matters. Controversial TV Episodes can also get a lot of backlash if some audiences find the content to appear to offensive to certain ethnic and racial groups, religious groups, and/or other interest groups.
While there are many TV Episodes that have stirred the pot with viewers over the years, here are 5 TV Episodes That Caused A Lot Of Controversy:
5. “Bored, She Hung Herself” Hawaii Five-O (Season 2 Episode 16):
When TV Shows become a huge hit, one of the major concerns with the content and stunts is if could potentially lead viewers to “copycat” them in real life. One of the stunts featured in the Hawaii Five-O (the original version) episode “Bored, She Hung Herself” was that of a woman who hanged herself while attempting a dangerous yoga technique.
“Bored, She Hung Herself” is one of the most controversial TV Episodes in the history of television because a viewer actually died after trying the same yoga technique she saw on the show. As a result, the episode’s first airing was the only time it was broadcast. It isn’t included in syndication packages for reruns of the original Hawaii Five-O series. In addition, the controversial episode isn’t even featured in the Hawaii Five-O DVDs collection. There are hardly any clips or videos of the episode online as well.
4. “Earshot” Buffy The Vampire Slayer (Season 3 Episode 18):
This episode from the hit teen show Buffy the Vampire Slayer only makes this list of controversial TV Episodes because of its original airdate. The main storyline of the Season 3 episode “Earshot” features Jonathan (on the right) bringing a gun into the school’s clock tower, where he tries to kill himself. He fails to do so when he is stopped by Buffy (on the left). This event happens in the same episode where the school is destroyed.
The original airdate of “Earshot” was supposed to be a week after the Columbine shooting happened. The massacre resulted in the deaths of 15 people, including the two perpetrators. As a result of the tragedy, the release of the episode was delayed by The WB, the network for Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
However, when “Earshot” finally aired on TV Screens four to five months later, the episode caused controversy for its subject matter (school violence). In addition, fans felt that it was still too soon to air the episode only a couple of months after one of the deadliest school shootings in US History.
3. “The Puerto Rican Day” Seinfeld (Season 9 Episode 20):
The storyline of the third-to-last episode to ever air from the iconic sitcom Seinfeld revolves around Jerry, Elaine, Kramer, and George driving home from a baseball game and the group gets stuck in heavy traffic due to the Puerto Rican Day Parade.
At some point in the episode, Kramer accidentally sets a Puerto Rican Flag on fire and attempts to put the fire out by stomping on the flag. This action leads to an angry mob of parade-goers (led by Bob and Cedric) to attack him. Along with disrespecting the flag, the episode also caused controversy with its negative portrayal of Puerto Ricans in general. As parade-goers attack, Jerry’s car, Kramer mutters, “It’s like this every day in Puerto Rico.”
After “The Puerto Rican Day” first aired, it caused protesters (mostly Puerto Ricans) to stand outside of the NBC building in New York City. This causes the network to issue a public apology and pull the episode from future reruns and syndication packages (it was later added in 2002).
2. “Mr. Ratburn and the Special Someone” Arthur (Season 22 Episode 1):
Although the first episode of the current season of Arthur only aired two months ago, it still makes the list of controversial TV Episodes. The episode had lots of people talking as Mr. Ratburn, Arthur’s teacher, is revealed to be gay when he weds his same-sex partner Patrick in a wedding that Arthur and his friends attend. The choice to feature a gay character on a children’s network like PBS was met with both praise and criticism.
This episode became controversial when Alabama Public Television (APT) chose to withhold airing it across the state, due to its portrayal of same-sex marriage. This decision made national headlines and had people talking on Twitter.
1. “Bye” 13 Reasons Why (Season 2 Episode 13):
The Netflix Original Series 13 Reasons Why has already caused tons of controversy for its graphic depictions of sensitive subjects like rape and suicide, and this is the reason why the Season 2 finale is one of the most controversial TV Episodes. In the episode, Tyler (in the photo below) is attacked in a school bathroom by Montgomery and two of the latter’s friends as their baseball season got canceled due to the jocks’ accused rape attempts.
The assault is depicted graphically as Tyler’s head gets bashed into the sink and is dunked in the toilet bowl several times. The worst part is when Montgomery sodomizes Tyler with the end of a broomstick. The three leave a bloodied Tyler crying in pain in the bathroom.