Image credit: Sony Pictures Television
Over the years, a number of TV series have removed specific episodes from their rerun schedules. Some eventually return to the airwaves, while others may be serving a lifetime ban.
1. SEINFELD, “THE PUERTO RICAN DAY”
Controversies: Flag burning, negative portrayal of Puerto Ricans
In this 1998 Seinfeld episode, an early escape from a Mets game leaves the troupe trapped in traffic among the celebrants of the annual Puerto Rican Day Parade. After accidentally lighting a Puerto Rican flag on fire with a sparkler, Kramer stomps on the blazing flag before being attacked by a mob of Puerto Ricans, who eventually throw Jerry's empty car down a stairwell.
The National Puerto Rican Coalition didn't think it was appropriate that the flag was used as a prop at all, and Bronx Borough president Fernando Ferrer, who is Puerto Rican, objected both to the vandalizing of a car and Kramer's comment that it "happens every day in Puerto Rico." NBC apologized for the episode, and though it was only trumped in ratings by the series finale, "The Puerto Rican Day" wasn't included in initial syndication packages. By 2002, however, the episode had begun to appear in syndication on some networks.
2. THE X-FILES, “HOME”
Controversies: Deformities, incest
Though The X-Files has never shied away from disturbing subject matter, there is something especially cringeworthy about the incestuous, deformed family in this episode. One sentence summary: quadruple amputee mother is caught breeding with her disfigured sons, thereby creating more disfigured children. Yup.
“Home” was viewed by 21 percent of households tuned to the tube when it aired in 1996. It was also the only episode of The X-Files banned from repetition on Fox. The fans wouldn’t let the decision stand, though, and in 1997, “Home” was voted the number one episode in a marathon on FX. Today, the episode is commonly regarded as one of the best of the series.
3. PEPPA PIG, “MISTER SKINNYLEGS”
Controversy: Interspecies friendship
Peppa Pig may seem like an innocent British children’s cartoon. But one episode featured the family befriending a spider, during which Peppa learns that “spiders are very small and they can’t hurt you.” This was a fine message in the U.K., but in Australia — where there have been 27 deaths from spider bites in the past hundred years — it was more problematic. The Australian broadcaster, ABC, was concerned that this cartoon would create a generation of children trying to befriend some of the most venomous creatures on Earth. It was deemed “unsuitable for broadcast” and prohibited from ever being aired.
4., 5., AND 6. BOY MEETS WORLD, “PROM-ISES, PROM-ISES,” “THE TRUTH ABOUT HONESTY,” AND “IF YOU CAN’T BE WITH THE ONE YOU LOVE…”
Controversies: Teenagers talking sex, underage drinking
Boy Meets World tackled a number of serious issues and had plenty of hard-hitting moments (Shawn’s dad!). But three particular episodes — two involving sex — were singled out and never replayed on the Disney Channel after the show’s initial run. In “Prom-ises, Prom-ises,” Cory and Topanga contemplate losing their virginity on prom night; sex is also the culprit in “The Truth About Honesty,” and in “If You Can’t Be With the One You Love…” Cory and Shawn’s underage drinking earned the story the ax. All three episodes were included in re-runs on ABC Family and MTV2.
7. MARRIED…WITH CHILDREN, “I’LL SEE YOU IN COURT”
Controversy: Too much sex
This Married…With Children episode aired for the first time in the United States a full 13 years after it was originally taped. In it, Peggy and Al Bundy find a sex tape of Steve and Marcy Rhoades at a nearby motel — and, knowing they could be taped too, decide to have relations anyway. Both couples set out to sue the motel for recording them without their knowledge. The Rhoades are awarded $10,000, but the jury finds there is not enough proof that the Bundys actually had sex. (Their video is much shorter than that of the Rhoades.) When they find themselves alone in the courtroom, the Bundys proceed to have sex in the courthouse … without realizing that they are, again, caught on film.
Fox’s censors pulled “I’ll See You In Court” before it could ever air, though the episode did premiere in the rest of the world. In 2002, FX ran it for the first time in the U.S.—though still not in its entirety, as the network redacted four especially raunchy lines.
8. TALESPIN, “FLYING DUPES”
Also the last episode in the series, “Flying Dupes” was immediately pulled after its initial airing. The main plot surrounds Baloo, who is unknowingly transporting a bomb on the instruction of an arms factory that wishes to create a war between two countries, Thembria and Cape Suzette. The episode was shown again on independent stations (and once on Toon Disney in 1999, presumably by accident).
9. THE SIMPSONS, “THE CITY OF NEW YORK VS. HOMER SIMPSON”
Controversy: Taking place near Ground Zero
After Barney gets the Simpsons' car stranded in New York City, Homer and family must travel there to retrieve it. There are horrible drivers, a wonderful khlav kalash street vendor, and a hilariously frustrating attempt by Homer to find a bathroom within the World Trade Center. But its inclusion of the WTC meant that, four years after its original airing in 1997, the episode would be removed from rotation for years to come. Only recently has the episode worked its way back into syndication.
10. THE TWILIGHT ZONE, “THE ENCOUNTER”
11. REN & STIMPY, “MAN’S BEST FRIEND”
Controversy: Dog-on-man violence
Ren & Stimpy is, as a general rule, pretty gross. Though boogers and idiocy never seemed to be a problem with the censors, Ren beating up his new owner with an oar was apparently enough to get this episode yanked off the air for 11 years.
12. BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER, “EARSHOT”
Controversy: School violence
Sometimes, television shows are guilty of nothing more than bad timing. In this episode of Buffy, a student is seen loading a gun. Keep watching, and you realize that the student, Jonathan, is not loading his rifle to shoot other students, but to kill himself. “Earshot” was originally scheduled to air a week after the shooting at Columbine High School took place, but in the aftermath, the WB decided instead to run an old episode, “Bad Girls.” “Earshot” did not air on American television until five months later.
13. TINY TOON ADVENTURES, “ONE BEER”
Controversies: Underage drinking, driving while under the influence, death
In this episode, the three main characters—all of whom are underage—somehow manage to get more drunk off one beer than most adults ever have in their entire drinking lives. Buster, Plucky, and Hamton proceed to steal a police car and drive off a cliff while running from the cops. After landing in a cemetery, the souls of the newly deceased boys are shown rising up to heaven.
In the last seconds of the episode, the boys come out to say they are alive and well, explaining that they put viewers through the horror of the episode to demonstrate exactly why drinking is uncool. The episode was too much for the U.S., but has re-aired in Canada.
14. AND 15. POKÉMON, “BEAUTY AND THE BEACH", "ELECTRIC SOLDIER PORYGON”
Controversies: Male with artificial breasts, alleged public health crisis
In “Beauty and the Beach,” Team Rocket enters a female beauty contest, during which James dons a suit with inflatable breasts—then teases Misty by blowing up his chest to twice its original size and showing it off. Unaired during the original American broadcast of the Pokémon series, “Beauty and the Beach” was promoted as a lost episode when it ran on Kids’ WB! in 2000. It was not included in the original American box set. When the episode aired in 2000, all scenes of James in a bikini—about 40 seconds total—were edited out.
“Electric Soldier Porygon” was broadcast once in Japan on December 16, 1997. In this episode, Ash is required to go inside the poké ball machination to fix an error. When Pikachu shoots missiles with his thunderbolt attack, a huge explosion creates red and blue lights that flash in a strobe light-like manner. Over 600 children were rushed to the hospital with “Pokémon Shock,” complaining of symptoms that included blurred vision, headaches, and dizziness; some even reported seizures and blindness (150 kids were admitted; the others recovered en route). After the airing of “Electric Soldier Porygon,” the show immediately went on a four-month hiatus.
16. GARGOYLES, “DEADLY FORCE”
Controversy: Gun violence
While pretending to use a gun in “Deadly Force,” Broadway accidentally shoots Elisa and attempts to cover up his crime. Although this episode was initially pulled from the rerun cycle thanks to objections by advisory groups, it was eventually re-aired after editors removed some of the blood from Elisa’s shooting. It has since been added to the DVD collection.
17. DUDLEY DO-RIGHT, “STOKEY THE BEAR”
Controversy: Copyright infringement
In one 1959 episode, the dastardly Snidely Whiplash hypnotizes a Mountie hat-wearing Stokey the Bear, convincing him to start setting things on fire — including the city of Chicago. The Forest Service was not happy with what they viewed as an illegal use of the likeness of Smokey Bear, threatening the animators with prison time for copyright infringement. But the ultimate blow came when the show’s sponsor in Minneapolis demanded that the episode’s prints be destroyed. Somehow, the cartoon survived, and can be viewed today. A few years later, all was forgiven; Bullwinkle even did a PSA for the real Smokey.
18. HAWAII FIVE-0, “BORED, SHE HUNG HERSELF”
Controversy: Off-screen death
Some shows are banned for being risqué. Some for inappropriate humor. But episode 16 of the original Hawaii Five-0’s second season is banned because it allegedly killed someone. The episode featured yoga practitioners who hang themselves for alleged health benefits. A viewer attempted to duplicate this technique and supposedly ended up dying from it. Since then, the episode has never been released again, even in the “Complete Hawaii Five-0” DVD packs, where CBS was forced to add the disclaimer: "Due to viewer reaction following the original telecast of the episode 'Bored, She Hung Herself' (Season 2, episode 16), that episode has not been re-broadcast or released in any manner since its original airing and is not included in this collection."
19.-24. STAR TREK and STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION, “MIRI,” “PLATO’S STEPCHILDREN,” “THE EMPATH,” “WHOM GODS DESTROY,” “THE HIGH GROUND,” “PATTERNS OF FORCE”
Controversy: Terrorism, Nazis
The BBC took issue with the Star Trek: TNG episode “The High Ground.” In it, Data comments that, following a successful terrorist campaign, Ireland will be reunified in 2024. Because of his prediction, the episode remained unaired in Britain (except for a heavily-edited version on a minor network) until 2007. It still hasn’t been broadcast in Ireland.
The Germans also had problems with Kirk and Spock’s adventures in “Patterns of Force,” from the original series. That episode featured people wearing Nazi-inspired uniforms persecuting people from the planet Zeon. After more than 40 years of not showing it, German broadcaster ZDF ultimately aired it in 2011 — after 10 o’clock — with the proviso that no one under 16 could watch.
25. BUGS BUNNY, “ANY BONDS TODAY?” (AND 11 OTHER CARTOONS)
Controversies: Negative portrayals of … everybody
It sounded so simple. In 2001, Cartoon Network decided to have a 49-hour marathon called “June Bugs,” dedicated to showing every single Bugs Bunny cartoon ever made. After a dozen of the 'toons were deemed controversial, Cartoon Network made plans to air them at 3 a.m. with a disclaimer running across the screen — then, ultimately, decided to ditch them (perhaps under pressure from Warner Brothers executives hoping to protect Bugs’ reputation). What, exactly, was so offensive? In “Any Bonds Today,” Bugs Bunny dresses up in blackface and takes part in a minstrel show. “Bugs Bunny Nips the Nips” and “Herr Meets Hare” has Bugs fighting Japanese and German caricatures, respectively. Other plotlines insult Native Americans; one even made fun of Australian Aborigines.
26. SESAME STREET (22 DAYS WORTH OF EPISODES)
In May 1970, the Mississippi Commission for Educational Television voted 3-2 against letting Mississippi’s public education channel air Sesame Street. The reason for the vote? According to an article at the time, an unnamed member explained that “[s]ome of the members of the commission were very much opposed to showing the series because it uses a highly integrated cast of children,” and that committee members had objected because “we are not ready for it.” It took a ton of negative national press coverage for the Commission to decide, on May 25, that they were, in fact, "ready for it." But for those few weeks, Sesame Street was effectively banned in Mississippi.
27. LAW AND ORDER: CRIMINAL INTENT, “THE GLORY THAT WAS...”
Controversy: Being harsh on Brazil
Buy the season eight Law and Order: Criminal Intent DVD and you’ll be informed that this episode is not included because of “content issues.” Try and download it off Amazon and you’ll be told “Our agreements with the content provider don’t allow purchases of 'The Glory That Was...' at this time.” How did one episode get such a reaction? No one is quite sure, but it’s probably because it offended Brazilian leaders … and/or the Olympics committee. The storyline involves the murder and blackmail of diplomats in order to get the Olympics staged in Rio de Janeiro.