Oct 13

Top five banned TV Episodes

Does anyone else remember Dick and Dom, in particular Dick and Dom in Da Bungalow? It was a wacky British children’s show in which five children (called Bunglowheads) and one celebrity would enter Dick and Dom’s Bungalow, play stupid games and get gunged. In particular does anyone remember Charlie’s infamous phone call to the Bungalow?

This clip perfectly captures and anarchy that was the show. Although the duo were in trouble several times, for example one game involved gambling on real human babies, the show was never pulled from air. Dick and Dom in Da Bungalow ended of it’s own accord in 2006. None of the over two hundred episodes were ever pulled from circulation and both Dick (Richard McCourt) and Dom (Dominic Wood) have moved on to other projects.

So why do I bring this up? Well, I was reading in the garden the other day and I remembered that several years ago I wrote a list of top five banned novels and I realised that could also make an interesting list of top five banned TV episodes. After I found examples of banned TV episodes, narrowed them down to five and wrote the article I realised that I hadn’t written a post of top five five banned books. I’d written a list of five controversial novels. That’s close, though!

You can read that article by clicking here.

But I’ve written an article about banned TV episodes and despite my expectations Dick and Dom are not on the list but they are definitely worth checking out.

So… here are my top five banned TV episodes. Enjoy!

1) Pokemon.

My older readers may not be too familiar with the Pokemon franchise but younger viewers, and many my own age, should be familiar with Ash Ketchum and the 809 Pokemon. They should definitely be familiar with the original 150.

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Porygon

One Pokemon western audiences may not be familiar with is Porygon, pictured above. Although he was in the Pokemon games, he was only featured in one episode of the  anime show which wasn’t broadcast outside of Japan. The episode, titled Electric Soldier Porygon involves Pikachu blasting income missiles with an thunderbolt saving the team of protagonists. However this animated explosion caused over seven hundred viewers to suffer epileptic seizures. The Japanese media called it Pokemon Shock and the backlash was so severe that the show was taken off air and the Pokemon company almost went bankrupt. Thankfully for everybody involved, nobody died from the seizures and the show eventually returned after a four month break.

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Despite not causing the attacks, Polygon hasn’t been seen in the Pokemon franchise since where as the real culprit has gone on to greater things.

Electric Soldier Porygon wasn’t the only episode of Pokemon to be pulled. The Legend of Miniryu in which the protagonists visit a safari zone was pulled from circulation due to several instances of gun violence. Ash is held at gun point by the safari zone owner and Team Rocket, the series antagonists, are shot at by the same character. The Japanese’s writer’s views on gun violence did not match those held by western audiences and the episode was removed from TV slots.

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A Tauros

 

2) The Simpsons.

There is a saying in Hollywood. You don’t run as long as The Simpsons without upsetting somebody. What this means is that eventually you are bound to upset someone but it seems that the Simpsons, particularly in recent years, have been taking pop shots at every culture across the globe in order to stay relevant.

Two episodes from the show’s golden age have been pulled from circulation. The first is The City of New York vs Homer Simpson in which the Simpson family must travel to New York to collect their car which has been abandoned outside the World Trade Centre. Although the episode was met with good reviews, when the 9/11 attacks took place the episode was pulled due to its heavy use of the twin towers.

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In an eerie coincidence Lisa holds up this magazine at the start of the episode which seems to say 9/11.

Most recently the episode Stark Raving Dad has been taken out of circulation due to the links to Michael Jackson. In the episode Homer is sent to an asylum and discovers a man who believes he is the famous pop star. Homer introduces Jackson to the town and later in the episode Jackson sings Lisa, Happy Birthday. The character then reveals that his real name is Leon Kompowsky and that he speaks in Michal Jackson’s voice to bring delight to those around him.

Due to his contract, Michael Jackson wasn’t able to sing in the episode so he used a soundalike. However it was later admitted by both Jackson and the crew of the Simpsons that the famous singers had sung some of own lines and to this day there is confusion between which lyrics were sung by Jackson and which were sung by other artists.

Although the episode was met with positives reviews and even repeated shortly after Jackson’s death as a sign of respect, following the 2019 documentary Leaving Neverland it has now been pulled. James L Brooks, director of The Simpsons commented:

“This was a treasured episode. There are a lot of great memories we have wrapped up in that one, and this certainly doesn’t allow them to remain. I’m against book-burning of any kind. But this is our book, and we’re allowed to take out a chapter.”

It was also believed that Jackson has used this episode to groom little boys in his mansion although this wasn’t proven.

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Michael Jackson (Leon Kompowsky) and Homer Simpson

3) Hawaii Five-0.

Hawaii Five-o is police show set on the island of Hawaii in which a team of police officers solve a crime in just under an hour. Normally the episode would end with the lead character Steve McGarrett saying “Book him Dano” to his partner Danny Williams. The original show ran between 1968 to 1980 before being shown on repeats until 2010 when the show was rebooted. This time the show was set in the modern day and the new protagonist, Steve McGarrett was the son of the first Steve McGarrett. Aside from the car chases and shoot outs the show is known for it’s Hawaiian episode titles, the numerous crossover episodes with NCSI and it’s funky theme music.

The reboot has stayed clear from controversy but the original show, apart from the sexist language and toxic masculinity, was caught up in a legal court case over the death of a viewer. In the episode Bored, She Hung Herself a yoga teacher is found hanging from her neck in what seems to be an extreme yoga pose gone wrong. Although this was later proven to be a murder, framed like an accident, a yoga enthusiast tried to replicate the move. She succeeded but also had the same deadly result. Her family tried to sue the TV company but the case was thrown out of court. The episode was then taken out of circulation due to fear of other copy cat attempts.

4) Thunderbirds are Go!

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I’ll admit that Thunderbirds Are Go is my guilty pleasure. I was a huge fan of the original episodes when they were being rebroadcast in the early 2000’s and I’ve been watching the rebooted show since it first premiered in 2015. In the reboot, the Tracy Brothers and the Thunderbird craft are CGI but the locations are models, similar to the original series. Although the dialogue can be a bit clunky in places and a few episodes are duds I throughly recommend the show to all Jerry Anderson fans. You won’t be disappointed.

The episode Inferno is a typical episode for the series. A reckless millionaire has built a star scraper (like a skyscraper only bigger) which catches fire, trapping several civilians in the viewing dome at the top of the tower and a fire crew in the middle of the building. Virgil Tracy and his younger brother Alan are dispatched in Thunderbird Two to lead an evacuation. Virgil enters the Inferno and saves the fire crew while Alan uses Thunderbird Two to separate the viewing dome from the tower and lift it to the ground.

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The episode was pulled because of the similarities to the Grenfell Fire Disaster. Grenfell was a tower block in London which caught fire resulting in the death of seventy two people. The fire was caused by a faulty freezer and spread up the outside of the building on flammable cladding. Oddly enough the episode Inferno was based off, City of Fire, was also pulled due to a similar real life disaster. In City of Fire, a skyscraper that contains the population of a whole city, catches fire. With the flames rising Thunderbird One and Thunderbird Two are sent to conduct a similar evacuation This episode was pulled due to the similarities with the 9/11 attacks.

5) Looney Tunes. 

What I loved most about cartoon characters, when I was growing up, was how real they felt. This notion may seem ludicrous when you watch an anvil falling on their heads but in my mind the characters were simply actors doing stunts for my entertainment. This idea was enforced when I saw characters outside their TV programs. Between adverts on Cartoon Network I could watch ten second bumper clips of Johnny Bravo playing a video game with Dexer and DeeDee or Ed, Edd and Eddy chatting with the Kids Next Door. There was one instance when Cartoon Network brought advert space on their rival channel Nickelodeon and started advertising their own shows. Check out the thirty second clip below.

Did you know that according to Disney, Mickey and Minnie are married in “real life” but only pretend to be dating for the cameras? Or that Tinkerbell used to be a Disney Princesses until she was kicked out of the group for bad behaviour? Bugs Bunny even has an autobiography on Amazon in which he explains his rise to popularity.

“Some people call me cocky and brash, but actually I am just self-assured. I’m nonchalant, im­perturbable, contemplative. I play it cool, but I can get hot under the collar. And above all I’m a very ‘aware’ character. I’m well aware that I am appearing in an animated car­toon….And sometimes I chomp on my carrot for the same reason that a stand-up comic chomps on his cigar. It saves me from rushing from the last joke to the next one too fast. And I sometimes don’t act, I react. And I always treat the contest with my pursuers as ‘fun and games.’ When momentarily I appear to be cornered or in dire danger and I scream, don’t be consoined – it’s actually a big put-on. Let’s face it, Doc. I’ve read the script and I al­ready know how it turns out.”

Bugs Bunny  – Draw the Looney Tunes: The Warner Bros. Character Design Manual.

So Bugs… how do you explain this?

The Censored Eleven is a collection of eleven cartoons from Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies which were taken out of circulation due to the offensive ethnic stereotypes, most notably characters donning Black Face.

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Bugs slapping a Black Face character.

These cartoons were withdrawn from circulation in 1968 by Warner Brother’s for fear of offending viewers. Compared to other studios like Disney, Warner Brother’s were ahead of their time in removing controversial content. Good job. Although I don’t like the excuse that it was ‘okay’ at the time (because the victim of the jokes were always the minority, this is called “punching down” in comedy) I can at least understand the offensive World War Two propaganda.

In 2001 Cartoon Network decided to have a have a 49-hour marathon called “June Bugs,” dedicated to showing every single Bugs Bunny cartoon ever made. Although this sounds like a good idea in practice, what nobody realised was that this line up would include members of the Censored Eleven. When Cartoon Network realised their mistake, instead of removing the cartoons, the channel decided to capitalise of the controversy by moving the Censored Eleven to a three AM broadcast time. After a public backlash the Censored Eleven were dropped from the line up but it wasn’t the last time they would create scandal.

In 2010 Warner Bros. showed the Censored Eleven, completely uncut in a Hollywood theatre. The theory behind this viewing was that the company wanted to test the waters for a DVD release. Once again they faced a negative backlash and although a DVD of the cartoons was announced at the New York Comic Con in 2013, we have heard no news since.

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What do you think of these banned episodes, are there any other famous banned episodes I missed? Have you been able to watch a banned episode of your favourite show? Let me know in the comments or on social media and I’ll see you all next time.

 

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