The best part of television is engaging with a longstanding story and cast. With syndication, TV episodes were able to be viewed again and again. Yet when controversies surrounded an episode’s subject matter, sometimes they were completely banned from airing again. The Cosby Show, The Simpsons, and several other iconic shows were challenged by viewers for their controversial subject matter, with some people arguing for these episodes to be removed forever.
In “The Last Barbecue,” patriarch Cliff Huxtable (Bill Cosby) reveals the secret recipe to his signature BBQ sauce. It involves something to help people “get in the mood.” This storyline was played for laughs, even when the sauce ends up “affecting” his whole family.
Obviously, the episode hasn’t aged well at all. Beyond its subject matter, it wasn’t until 2018 that Bill Cosby was finally convicted on multiple sex offenses after being accused by more than 60 women. Chillingly, he even admitted to sneaking Quaaludes into women’s food.
In “The Camping Show,” patriarch Al Bundy’s cantankerous behavior is on full display as a trip with his male friends takes a turn. That is because the three women who joined in on the camping fun all end up menstruating, much to Al’s dismay.
For the men, they believe a women’s period is nothing but a damper to their plans. The airing was halted when Fox executives became nervous over the plot. They feared that female viewers would be insulted by the storyline. Surprisingly, two female writers actually wrote the episode!
The Simpson family visits the Big Apple in “The City of New York vs. Homer Simpson.” The plot has Homer traveling to his car, which is parked all the way at one of the towers of the World Trade Center. From there, the Twin Tower jokes begin.
Some of the jokes about the Towers were innocent enough in 1997 when the episode aired, and the creators had made the episode into a love letter to the city. After the 9/11 attacks, however, the jokes were seen in a new light, and the episode was pulled from repeat viewings.
In “Patterns of Force,” the crew of the Enterprise arrive on a planet overtaken by a Nazi-like regime. While the show tackled many social issues, the episode’s use of swastikas and the Nazi salute left viewers feeling disturbed, especially those who remembered World War II all too well.
For decades, the episode was completely banned in Germany. It wasn’t until 2011 that the episode from 1968 was finally shown. The show might have had the right intentions by portraying an evil Nazi-like planet, but people definitely felt more disgusted than entertained.
Of its many sketches, the “word association” sketch with Chevy Chase and Richard Pryor might not be so well-received today. The two comedians sketch is a job interview with a casual word associated test that quickly goes off the rails.
When Chase states to slowly emit racial slurs, what comes next is a battle of derogatory insults thrown back and forth between Chase and Pryor. Neither men hold back, and though both comedians seem to be on the verge of laughter, this sketch would never get past censors today.
In the episode “Puerto Rican Day,” the gang gets stuck in traffic thanks to the titular event. When Kramer accidentally sets a Puerto Rican flag on fire, he stomps it out…though the many parade participants aren’t amused by his antics.
In fact, many real-life people found the joke to be more offensive than funny. At the time, protestors stormed NBC’s headquarters. The National Puerto Rican Coalition got involved. NBC apologized, pulled the episode from repeats, and banned it from syndication until 2002.
The sitcom Mork & Mindy was an early platform for Robin Williams to showcase his comedic skills. Yet, in “The Night They Raided Mind-ski’s,” the show takes a strange turn when Mork encounters a white supremacist group and tries to make them change their ways.
The group members spew a number of ethnic slurs that bordered the line between insult and full-on hate, depending on who you ask. In the end, Mork controversially changes each member’s skin color to reflect the ethnicity they were insulting earlier. Viewers certainly weren’t expecting that from a comedy.
In “Justice,” main character Dr. Sam Beckett once again travels in time in order to right other people’s wrongs. In the case of this episode, Beckett travels back into the body of a KKK member, and the controversial episode only gets wilder from there.
Racial slurs are used abundantly and the storyline revolves around Beckett saving the life of a black civil rights activist. There’s little fun to be had in an episode like this, especially when the history depicted hasn’t truly gone away.
In the surreal cartoon show about two siblings of different animal species, the episode “Buffalo Gals” touched upon extremely antiquated lesbian stereotypes. While the show was geared for kids, it was heavy in adult humor that certainly didn’t go over parents’ heads…
Besides the Buffalo Gals having sexual innuendo-themed names (one is literally named “Munch Kelly”), the title characters’ parents also factored in. While the father freaks out at the gang, the mother goes on to state, “They’re not after you.”
In a sketch focused on Regis Philbin, the TV host watches auditions for a co-host. Everything is going well…until Jimmy Fallon arrives in complete blackface. As “Chris Rock,” Fallon makes jokes based on black stereotypes. It’s hard to believe the sketch is from the year 2000!
Fallon has since apologized, and if you were to check NBC’s SNL archive for the sketch, you’d see that his part is completely removed from the episode. It’s always awkward when SNL’s live skits hit a snag, and SNL has certainly had its fair share of unfunny hosts over the past few decades.
After hosting and not learning her lines, Paris has never been back to SNL. She also had no interest in getting to know the cast; Seth Meyers offered $100 to the first person who heard Hilton ask a personal question. No one won the money.
Most hosts are stoked to be on SNL, but Zappa made it clear he wasn’t a fan. He mocked the cue cards, making it obvious he was reading from them, and was a bad sport with cast and crew during the prep week.
The hilarious actor — and former SNL cast member — got a “soft ban” from the show in 1997, after he didn’t get along well with other cast members during sketches, but reappeared on Weekend Update a decade later.
Strict rules apply to guests in Studio 8H, one of which prohibits alcohol and drug use. The band ignored this and performed drunk in 1986, eventually cursing live on air, prompting their subsequent blacklist.
Not only did he complain all week about the writers’ ideas for his sketches, Brody messed up when introducing the show’s Jamaican musical guest, donning long fake dreadlocks and a bad accent.
While making a musical guest appearance in 1977, Costello was supposed to play “Less Than Zero,” but instead launched into “Radio Radio,” a song criticizing media censorship. He was banned until 1999, when he came on the show and played the song again.
Kaufman wasn’t booted by SNL producers, but by the audience. After a number of complaints rolled into NBC about Kaufman’s comic ability, the network ran a toll-free number onscreen, allowing fans to call and vote whether Kaufman should stay. The votes were an overwhelming no.
This band’s ban may not entirely have been their fault. Cast member John Belushi led several other musicians and punk-rock audience members in a mosh pit during one of Fear’s songs. After general destruction and chaos ensued, the band was deemed too high-risk to return.
During a hosting gig in 1977, Grodin couldn’t stay in character and just didn’t want to stick to the script. Ad-libbing is extremely verboten on Lorne Michaels’ show, especially if it’s bad ad-libbing, which Grodin’s was.
While doing a cover of Bob Marley’s song “War” live on the show, Sinéad changed some of its lyrics to mention the Catholic Church’s child abuse scandal, and then tore up a photo of Pope John Paul II. She wasn’t asked back.
It was a political statement that got these guys the boot. During a 1996 episode hosted by presidential candidate Steve Forbes, the band rebelled against his platform by hanging American flags upside down on the stage. They were escorted out of the studio.
The Starman endured a short three-year ban when, against Lorne Michaels’ wishes, he performed “Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps)” live instead of the tamer “Telling Lies.” Michaels associated the former song with a dark period of his life, which Bowie knew.
They missed the memo about smoking on stage, and when member DJ Muggs lit a joint while live on camera, it was clear the group was going to hear from the network about a permanent ban.
In 1994, this Bad Boy launched into a monologue more uncomfortable than funny, making mean-spirited remarks about the racial makeup of the studio audience and then spinning into a tirade about women’s hygiene. Whatcha gonna do? Michaels kicked him out.
He was a comedy legend, but even legends go too far. In 1979, Berle commandeered the show, going off-script and upstaging all the other cast members in a performance said to be like “a comedy train accident in slow motion, on a loop.”
He was a big action hero in 1991, but nobody told Seagal that action heroes don’t get to act like jerks. He was reportedly so disrespectful to cast and crew during rehearsals that Michaels considered sending him home and going without a host.
She was the first person ever banned from SNL after she showed up to host the show “lit,” or under the influence of substances. A production assistant later said she crawled through the show’s offices looking for drugs.
Kanye wasn’t banned outright, but cut off after he went overtime, singing three songs instead of his allotted two. While NBC cut to a commercial break, West continued on an off-the-cuff speech about his political leanings, prompting jeers from the audience.
During a technical malfunction on her stint as musical guest in 2004, it was revealed on live television that Simpson had been lip-syncing. Show executives had no idea that Simpson wouldn’t really be singing, and she didn’t return after that.
Another not-so-nice guy behind the scenes, Blake was rude to show staff all week and, according to legend, even threw a script at writer Gary Kroeger’s head. After he did his contracted hosting duties on Saturday, he left the studio and never returned. Of course, Saturday Night Live’s most notable stories don’t involve the hosts…