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15 Temporarily Banned Episodes of Popular TV Shows

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Fox has removed from its website a recent episode of Family Guy that showed mass deaths at the Boston Marathon. 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. Here are 15 examples.

1. Seinfeld, “The Puerto Rican Day”

Controversy: 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 Ferndo 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. Pokémon, “Beauty and the Beach”

Controversy: Male with artificial breasts

Pocket Monsters - 018 - Beauty And The Beach... by mralexz

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 Pokemon 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.

3. Pokémon, “Electric Soldier Porygon”

Controversy: May cause seizures

“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 her 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.

4. The X-Files, “Home”

Controversy: Deformities, general disturbing of the psyche

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 take that, 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.

5. Gargoyles, “Deadly Force”

Controversy: Gunplay

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.

6. Married…With Children, “I’ll See You In Court”

Controversy: Too sexy

This Married…With Children episode aired for the first time in the United States a full 13 years after it was originally taped. The plot follows Peggy and Al Bundy as they first find a sex tape of Steve and Marcy Rhoades at a nearby motel, and then as they have sex while they are being recorded on tape. 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 the Bundys actually had sex. (Their video was 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 they are, again, caught on film.

American 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 US—though still not in its entirety, as the network redacted four especially raunchy lines.

7. TaleSpin, “Flying Dupes”

Controversy: Terrorism

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). 

8. 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 four years after its original airing, the episode would be pulled for years. It seems the networks are starting to realize we can handle it, though, and the episode has now worked its way back into syndication.

9. The Twilight Zone, “The Encounter”

Controversy: Racism

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An American World War II veteran encounters the Japanese-American George Takei in this 1964 Twilight Zone episode. Japanese-Americans lodged complaints after the episode’s official airing, which included slurs like “You dirty little Jap!” Like other banned episodes, this one was omitted from American syndication, but it aired without event in other countries. Today, it is included in DVD sets and on Netflix.

10. 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.

11. 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. When you keep watching, of course, you realize along with the characters 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 to just run an old episode of Bad Girls. “Earshot” did not air on American television until five months later.

12. Tiny Toon Adventures, “One Beer”

Controversy: Underage drinking, DUI, death

In this episode, the three main characters—all of whom are underage—somehow manage to get more drunk off of one beer than I have in my entire adult drinking life. Buster, Plucky, and Hamton then proceed to steal a police car and drive off a cliff while running from the cops. Landing in a cemetery, we then see the souls of the newly deceased boys rise up to heaven.

Of course, in the last seconds of the episode, the boys come out to say they are alive and well, and they explain they put you through the horror of the episode just so you could see why drinking is uncool. The episode was too much for the U.S., but has re-aired in Canada.

13, 14, and 15. Boy Meets World, “Prom-ises, Prom-ises,” “The Truth About Honesty,” and “If You Can’t Be With the One You Love…”

Controversy: Teenagers want to have sex

Boy Meets World tackled a number of serious issues and had plenty of hard-hitting moments (oh, Shawn! Your dad!), but for some reason—and usually, that reason was sex—three particular episodes 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; in “The Truth About Honesty,” sex is likewise the culprit; and in “If You Can’t Be With the One You Love…” underage drinking earned the ax. All three episodes were included in reruns on ABC Family and MTV2.

Note: This article originally appeared in January and was updated April 17.

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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
Man Buys Two Metric Tons of LEGO Bricks; Sorts Them Via Machine Learning
May 21, 2017
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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva

Jacques Mattheij made a small, but awesome, mistake. He went on eBay one evening and bid on a bunch of bulk LEGO brick auctions, then went to sleep. Upon waking, he discovered that he was the high bidder on many, and was now the proud owner of two tons of LEGO bricks. (This is about 4400 pounds.) He wrote, "[L]esson 1: if you win almost all bids you are bidding too high."

Mattheij had noticed that bulk, unsorted bricks sell for something like €10/kilogram, whereas sets are roughly €40/kg and rare parts go for up to €100/kg. Much of the value of the bricks is in their sorting. If he could reduce the entropy of these bins of unsorted bricks, he could make a tidy profit. While many people do this work by hand, the problem is enormous—just the kind of challenge for a computer. Mattheij writes:

There are 38000+ shapes and there are 100+ possible shades of color (you can roughly tell how old someone is by asking them what lego colors they remember from their youth).

In the following months, Mattheij built a proof-of-concept sorting system using, of course, LEGO. He broke the problem down into a series of sub-problems (including "feeding LEGO reliably from a hopper is surprisingly hard," one of those facts of nature that will stymie even the best system design). After tinkering with the prototype at length, he expanded the system to a surprisingly complex system of conveyer belts (powered by a home treadmill), various pieces of cabinetry, and "copious quantities of crazy glue."

Here's a video showing the current system running at low speed:

The key part of the system was running the bricks past a camera paired with a computer running a neural net-based image classifier. That allows the computer (when sufficiently trained on brick images) to recognize bricks and thus categorize them by color, shape, or other parameters. Remember that as bricks pass by, they can be in any orientation, can be dirty, can even be stuck to other pieces. So having a flexible software system is key to recognizing—in a fraction of a second—what a given brick is, in order to sort it out. When a match is found, a jet of compressed air pops the piece off the conveyer belt and into a waiting bin.

After much experimentation, Mattheij rewrote the software (several times in fact) to accomplish a variety of basic tasks. At its core, the system takes images from a webcam and feeds them to a neural network to do the classification. Of course, the neural net needs to be "trained" by showing it lots of images, and telling it what those images represent. Mattheij's breakthrough was allowing the machine to effectively train itself, with guidance: Running pieces through allows the system to take its own photos, make a guess, and build on that guess. As long as Mattheij corrects the incorrect guesses, he ends up with a decent (and self-reinforcing) corpus of training data. As the machine continues running, it can rack up more training, allowing it to recognize a broad variety of pieces on the fly.

Here's another video, focusing on how the pieces move on conveyer belts (running at slow speed so puny humans can follow). You can also see the air jets in action:

In an email interview, Mattheij told Mental Floss that the system currently sorts LEGO bricks into more than 50 categories. It can also be run in a color-sorting mode to bin the parts across 12 color groups. (Thus at present you'd likely do a two-pass sort on the bricks: once for shape, then a separate pass for color.) He continues to refine the system, with a focus on making its recognition abilities faster. At some point down the line, he plans to make the software portion open source. You're on your own as far as building conveyer belts, bins, and so forth.

Check out Mattheij's writeup in two parts for more information. It starts with an overview of the story, followed up with a deep dive on the software. He's also tweeting about the project (among other things). And if you look around a bit, you'll find bulk LEGO brick auctions online—it's definitely a thing!

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Sponsor Content: BarkBox
8 Common Dog Behaviors, Decoded
May 25, 2017
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Dogs are a lot more complicated than we give them credit for. As a result, sometimes things get lost in translation. We’ve yet to invent a dog-to-English translator, but there are certain behaviors you can learn to read in order to better understand what your dog is trying to tell you. The more tuned-in you are to your dog’s emotions, the better you’ll be able to respond—whether that means giving her some space or welcoming a wet, slobbery kiss. 

1. What you’ll see: Your dog is standing with his legs and body relaxed and tail low. His ears are up, but not pointed forward. His mouth is slightly open, he’s panting lightly, and his tongue is loose. His eyes? Soft or maybe slightly squinty from getting his smile on.

What it means: “Hey there, friend!” Your pup is in a calm, relaxed state. He’s open to mingling, which means you can feel comfortable letting friends say hi.

2. What you’ll see: Your dog is standing with her body leaning forward. Her ears are erect and angled forward—or have at least perked up if they’re floppy—and her mouth is closed. Her tail might be sticking out horizontally or sticking straight up and wagging slightly.

What it means: “Hark! Who goes there?!” Something caught your pup’s attention and now she’s on high alert, trying to discern whether or not the person, animal, or situation is a threat. She’ll likely stay on guard until she feels safe or becomes distracted.

3. What you’ll see: Your dog is standing, leaning slightly forward. His body and legs are tense, and his hackles—those hairs along his back and neck—are raised. His tail is stiff and twitching, not swooping playfully. His mouth is open, teeth are exposed, and he may be snarling, snapping, or barking excessively.

What it means: “Don’t mess with me!” This dog is asserting his social dominance and letting others know that he might attack if they don’t defer accordingly. A dog in this stance could be either offensively aggressive or defensively aggressive. If you encounter a dog in this state, play it safe and back away slowly without making eye contact.

4. What you’ll see: As another dog approaches, your dog lies down on his back with his tail tucked in between his legs. His paws are tucked in too, his ears are flat, and he isn’t making direct eye contact with the other dog standing over him.

What it means: “I come in peace!” Your pooch is displaying signs of submission to a more dominant dog, conveying total surrender to avoid physical confrontation. Other, less obvious, signs of submission include ears that are flattened back against the head, an avoidance of eye contact, a tongue flick, and bared teeth. Yup—a dog might bare his teeth while still being submissive, but they’ll likely be clenched together, the lips opened horizontally rather than curled up to show the front canines. A submissive dog will also slink backward or inward rather than forward, which would indicate more aggressive behavior.

5. What you’ll see: Your dog is crouching with her back hunched, tail tucked, and the corner of her mouth pulled back with lips slightly curled. Her shoulders, or hackles, are raised and her ears are flattened. She’s avoiding eye contact.

What it means: “I’m scared, but will fight you if I have to.” This dog’s fight or flight instincts have been activated. It’s best to keep your distance from a dog in this emotional state because she could attack if she feels cornered.

6. What you’ll see: You’re staring at your dog, holding eye contact. Your dog looks away from you, tentatively looks back, then looks away again. After some time, he licks his chops and yawns.

What it means: “I don’t know what’s going on and it’s weirding me out.” Your dog doesn’t know what to make of the situation, but rather than nipping or barking, he’ll stick to behaviors he knows are OK, like yawning, licking his chops, or shaking as if he’s wet. You’ll want to intervene by removing whatever it is causing him discomfort—such as an overly grabby child—and giving him some space to relax.

7. What you’ll see: Your dog has her front paws bent and lowered onto the ground with her rear in the air. Her body is relaxed, loose, and wiggly, and her tail is up and wagging from side to side. She might also let out a high-pitched or impatient bark.

What it means: “What’s the hold up? Let’s play!” This classic stance, known to dog trainers and behaviorists as “the play bow,” is a sign she’s ready to let the good times roll. Get ready for a round of fetch or tug of war, or for a good long outing at the dog park.

8. What you’ll see: You’ve just gotten home from work and your dog rushes over. He can’t stop wiggling his backside, and he may even lower himself into a giant stretch, like he’s doing yoga.

What it means: “OhmygoshImsohappytoseeyou I love you so much you’re my best friend foreverandeverandever!!!!” This one’s easy: Your pup is overjoyed his BFF is back. That big stretch is something dogs don’t pull out for just anyone; they save that for the people they truly love. Show him you feel the same way with a good belly rub and a handful of his favorite treats.

The best way to say “I love you” in dog? A monthly subscription to BarkBox. Your favorite pup will get a package filled with treats, toys, and other good stuff (and in return, you’ll probably get lots of sloppy kisses). Visit BarkBox to learn more.