The 15 Most Controversial TV Shows
There have been a number of shows over the years that have created controversy. While some of these shows were cancelled as a result, there are a number of others that went on to air for many more seasons in spite of the contention that they created. Here is a list of 15 shows that are considered the most controversial:
The based MTV reality show Buckwild – which followed a group of hard-partying West Virginian teens – was stirring up controversy before it even premiered. West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin reportedly wrote a letter to MTV demanding that the show not be aired, claiming that the show played to inaccurate stereotypes about the people in the state. Then, once the show did air, cast member Salwa Amin was arrested following a drug raid and Michael Burford was arrested for driving under the influence. When one of the stars, Shain Gandee, died of carbon monoxide poisoning during a mudding expedition after his vehicle became submerged in mud, the show was already filming its second season, but MTV finally decided to axe it.
14. 13 Reasons Why
When Netflix released the show 13 Reasons Why, which followed a high school student who commits suicide and then leaves tapes behind explaining why she chose to take her own life, the streaming service naturally faced some major controversy. Mental health experts, parents, and teachers were concerned that the show glorified suicide and could be dangerous for teens who are facing similar issues as the leading character, Hannah. Following the show’s release, there was reportedly a rise in suicide-related searches on the Internet, and two California teens who committed suicide after watching the show. In spite of concerns, the show was renewed for a second season, and Netflix released a statement claiming that it has taken precautions to help protect vulnerable viewers. “We have heard from many viewers that 13 Reasons Why has opened up a dialogue among parents, teens, schools and mental health advocates around the difficult topics depicted in the show,” the statement read. “We have heard from many viewers that 13 Reasons Why has opened up a dialogue among parents, teens, schools and mental health advocates around the difficult topics depicted in the show.”
Jackass was MTV’s highest-rated original series. It featured Johnny Knoxville and his friends attempting dangerous (and idiotic) stunts on camera that viewers were discouraged from trying at home, but some viewers didn’t listen, despite the lengthy warning that that preceded each episode. Kids across the United States were injured attempting the very stunts of Knoxville and his friends, some of which included jumping over a moving car. Senator Joseph Lieberman was so appalled by the show that he sent a letter to Viacom, MTV’s parent company, urging it to take greater responsibly for its programming and do more to help parents protect their children from it. MTV responded by cancelling all airings of the show before 10 p.m. Lieberman continued to campaign against the show, which led to MTV refusing to air repeats of the later episodes, much to the dismay of the cast.
12. Family Guy
Since it first aired, Family Guy has been the target of numerous complaints regarding taste and indecency because of its offensive jokes and violent content. The Parents Television Council (TPC) has filed complaints with the Federal Communications Commission and deemed the show the “Worst TV Show of the Week” on at least 40 occasions. The TPC also launched a letter-writing campaign to persuade Fox to cancel the show, but to no avail. However, because of the TPC’s complaints, the show has lost advertisers after they viewed the episodes in question and deemed the content unsuitable.
11. Beavis and Butt-Head
The animated sitcom Beavis and Butthead followed two ignorant, socially inept, heavy metal-loving teens who lacked empathy and morals and spent their time on the show commenting on music videos and burning and destroying things. When a five-year-old boy in Moraine, Ohio, set a fire that burned and destroyed the family’s mobile home and killed his two-year-old sister, his mother blamed the show for promoting burning as fun. This wasn’t the only incident involving fire to land the shot in hot water. There were reports that three girls in Western Ohio had set another fire while they were imitating a trick from the show. The show was also blamed for animal cruelty and the death of a cat with fireworks in 1993, which kick-started a letter-writing campaign against the show.
10. Heil Honey, I’m Home!
Heil Honey I’m Home! was British sitcom that aired one episode in 1990. The Nazi-themed show featured fictionalized versions of Adolf Hitler and Eva Braun, who live next door to a Jewish couple, Arny and Rosa Goldenstein. Naturally, the show caused controversy when it was first aired and was called “perhaps the world’s most tasteless situation comedy.” Only the pilot was aired, although there were 11 episodes filmed in total.
9. South Park
Throughout its 20-plus seasons, South Park has had its fair share of controversies because the show has always refused to be politically correct and has never spared any sensitive topic or group from mockery and satire. The show has created a number of controversies over the years for its depiction of the Virgin Mary and Muhammad, for denouncing Scientology as nothing more than “a big fat scam,” and for airing an episode that showed Steve Irwin with a stingray stuck in his chest just two months after he died in the same way. The Parents Television Council has frequently criticized the show for its “over-the-top vulgar content” and tastelessness” and called it a “curdled, malodorous black hole of Comedy Central vomit” that “shouldn’t have been made,” but it’s still going 21 seasons later.
8. Fear Factor
Fear Factor was designed to disgust viewers, so it shouldn’t come as a shock that some of these stunts that contestants have had to do end up causing controversy. The American Humane Association has complained about the show allowing various animals to get injured and for killing insects by eating them alive while taping. The association also alleged that the animal trainers on the show have refused to work on the series because producers have demanded they do stunts that violate the association’s guidelines. The show was also criticized by a major U.S. electrical utilities company for an episode in which contestants had to climb through a simulated electrical substation with “electrified wires” that were replete with simulated sparks and electrical sounds added in post-processing, claiming that if viewers were to attempt this there could be fatal results. Then in 2012, an episode that featured contestants drinking donkey semen and urine were also deemed un-airable by NBC. Not long after this, the show was cancelled for the second time.
7. Married…with Children
In 1989, a Michigan woman, Terry Rakolta, started a letter-writing campaign to advertisers about Married…with Children, demanding that they boycott the show. After advertisers began dropping their support for the show, Rakolta, began appearing on talk shows demanding the show’s cancellation. The boycott had the opposite effect and more people began tuning in to see what the boycott was all about; however, that didn’t stop the controversy. The Parents Television Council named the sitcom the worst show of the 1995-96 and 1996-97 seasons and called it the “crudest comedy on prime time television…peppered with lewd punch lines about sex, masturbation, the gay lifestyle, and the lead character’s fondness for pornographic magazines and strip clubs.”
6. The Jerry Springer Show
The Jerry Springer Show has been running for 26 controversial seasons; however, its popularity is what has kept it going. During the ‘90s, it inspired other talk shows including Jenny Jones, Maury Povich, Bill Cunningham, and Ricki Lake to adopt its antics to improve ratings, but while these other talk shows have since come to end, Jerry Springer is still going strong. The show has always been quite controversial with all of the on-air fights, the chair-throwing, the provocative topics, and the bizarre guests. Over the years, guests have accused producers of staging and encouraging fights in a bid for ratings, and TV Guide named it “The Worst TV Show Ever” in 2002, yet people still keep tuning in!
5. Who Wants to Marry a Millionaire?
This Fox network reality show received high ratings but was criticized for being exploitative. There were also questions raised about whether or not Rick Rockwell, the multi-millionaire looking for a wife, was actually a millionaire. More controversy ensued when it came out that Rockwell wasn’t his real last name (it was Balkey) and that his ex had filed a restraining order against him for domestic violence, accusing him of assaulting and stalking her when she tried to break off their engagement. Making matters even worse, when Rockwell and the winner of the show, Darva Conger, came back from their honeymoon, she filed for an annulment, claiming that they never consummated the marriage. Due to the controversy, Fox swore off similar programming in the future and canceled scheduled repeat airings of the show.
4. All My Babies’ Mamas
All My Babies’ Mamas was a reality television series that was set to premiere on the Oxygen Network and followed a rapper who fathered eleven children with ten different women. The show was cancelled before it ever aired after it received criticism for how it played on racial stereotypes and the Parent Television Council called it “grotesquely irresponsible and exploitative” while a Chang.org petition calling for the show to be scrapped collected 37,000 signatures.
3. Here Comes Honey Boo Boo
Even before Here Comes Honey Boo Boo was cancelled because Mama June was romantically linked to a convicted child molester, the show was considered “offensive” and “exploitative.” TLC was obviously making millions off this family by showing seven-year-old Honey Boo Boo drinking Go Go Juice, a mixture of red bull and mountain dew, and spouting catchphrases like “A dollar make me holla.” TLC was also accused of using the reality series to propagate hillbilly stereotypes. While the show was finally cancelled after Mama June’s relationship with a convicted child molester came to light, it was amazing that it was able to last four seasons before that given all of the controversies.
The MTV remake of Skins ended up causing a great deal of controversy when it first aired in 2011 for its portrayal of teenage sex and drug use. The Parents Television Council called it the “most dangerous show” on U.S. television and accused MTV of violating child pornography laws for its depicting 17 year olds naked. As a result, major U.S. companies including Taco Bell, Wrigley, Foot Locker, L’Oreal and Subway, withdrew their advertisements from upcoming episodes of the show while other corporations including General Motors distanced themselves from the program. The show was not renewed for a second season.
1. Generation KKK
Generation KKK was going to be a documentary series that followed several members of the white supremacist organization the Ku Klux Klan, but the show was cancelled for ethical reasons before it even aired. Critics had been debating whether the show would properly walk the fine line between exposing KKK and inadvertently normalizing hate groups, and netizens criticized A&E for giving a high-profile platform to a hate group. A&E changed the series name to KKK: A Documentary Series Exposing Hate in America clarify things, but then scrapped the series after it was discovered that the participants on the show and KKK members received payment from the production company This Is Just A Test.