Controversial TV Shows of All Time
The list of controversial television shows is a long one. Some shows drew such immediate public outcry that they were canceled after the first few episodes. Others weathered the storm and became staples of television for the duration of their run, with the public becoming more accepting of their subject matter.
Here is a look at some of the most memorable and controversial shows to ever air:
Married With Children (1987-1997)
A great example of a show that seems relatively tame now but was initially considered crude and even vulgar by many. The show was conceived as an antithesis to the typical half-hour, wholesome family comedies that were so ubiquitous in the 1980s. It featured the dysfunctional Bundy family, which consisted of Al, a jaded shoe salesman; Peggy, his big haired degenerate wife; Kelly, his promiscuous daughter; and Bud, his loser son. Early on, the show took on subjects like sexual fetishes — hardly of any shock value by today’s standards, but a cause of considerable criticism at the time.
The Jerry Springer Show (1991-Present)
The Jerry Springer Show embodies the meaning of controversy. Hosted by former Cincinnati Mayor Jerry Springer, the show was the first of its kind and contained explicit language and prurience. The format was based on having guests air their proverbial laundry in front of a studio audience, which often lead to on-stage fights. The show included topics like “My boyfriend turned out to be a girl” and “I want my man to stop watching porn!” TV Guide once crowned it the “Worst TV Show Ever” and yet the Jerry Springer Show has been on air for 21 seasons and is signed on for a 22nd.
South Park (1997-Present)
Let’s face it: television has reached the point where there is little left to shock us. Thankfully, there is still South Park. The show that has never known any boundaries in the first place continues to discover new ones to cross every episode. Over its 16 seasons, it has satirized a wide range of things including religion and has displayed a bold disregard for general conservative sensibilities. In what was perhaps its most facetious episode ever, the show portrayed Muhammad, the prophet of Islam, wearing a bear suit in order to satirize the Islamic world’s sensitivity to any depiction of the figure. To push the envelope even further, the creators included Muhammad yet again in the following episode despite receiving threats from an extremist Muslim website that evoked the fate of Theo Van Gogh, a dutch film maker who was murdered for the making of a film criticizing Islam.
Fear Factor (2001-2006) (2011-Present)
One of the first in the wave of successful reality television shows to debut in the early ’00s, Fear Factor is a show where contestants compete in performing gross-out stunts to win $50,000. Some stunts depicted in the show over the years have involved eating pizza with coagulated blood as sauce and crust made from cow bile, bobbing for rats, and eating buffalo testicles. Its common use of animal parts makes Fear Factor a perpetual target of animal rights groups such as the American Humane Association.