26 Previously Banned TV Episodes You Can Stream Right Now
While there are any number of reasons why a specific episode of a television series might be pulled from the airwaves or from reruns (some of them innocuous), poor timing tends to be one of the biggest culprits. But as time passes, tempers simmer down and once-forbidden entertainment can make its way back into the mainstream. Or, more specifically, the main stream. Thanks to streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon, history-making—and controversy-causing—television is just a click away.
Were these 26 previously banned television episodes deserving of the backlash they received? Now you can judge for yourself.
1. HANNBIAL, “OEUF”
The fourth episode in Hannibal’s debut season (also called “Ceuf” because of a misspelling) was originally scheduled to air on April 25, 2013, a mere 10 days after the Boston Marathon bombings and just a few months removed from the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School. While it was NBC that announced the decision to skip over the episode, in which former SNL star Molly Shannon plays a woman who brainwashes children into murdering other children, it was series creator Bryan Fuller who suggested pulling it.
“I didn’t want to have anyone come to the show and have a negative experience,” Fuller explained to Variety. “Whenever you [write] a story and look at the sensational aspects of storytelling, you think, ‘This is interesting metaphorically, and this is interesting as social commentary.’ With this episode, it wasn’t about the graphic imagery or violence. It was the associations that came with the subject matter that I felt would inhibit the enjoyment of the overall episode … It was my own sensitivity.” Though the missed episode did not cause any problems in terms of continuity, NBC did repackage the episode in a series of clips to run on NBC.com. Both iTunes and Amazon posted the episode in its entirety shortly thereafter.
2. FAMILY GUY, “TURBAN COWBOY”
The Boston Marathon bombing was also at the center of the issue surrounding this eleventh season episode of Seth MacFarlane’s animated hit. The problematic scene was a cutaway in which Peter Griffin is recollecting the year he won the Boston Marathon—by driving over the runners with his car. But this controversy was a retroactive one, as the episode had run on March 17, 2013, almost a full month before the tragedy. It didn’t take long for edited clips of the episode to pop up all over the Web, with the story that Family Guy had “predicted” the tragedy. MacFarlane took to Twitter in response, where he stated that, "The edited Family Guy clip currently circulating is abhorrent. The event was a crime and a tragedy, and my thoughts are with the victims.”
Still, the network was sensitive enough to the coincidence that they pulled the episode from Fox.com and Hulu and assured audiences that they had no immediate plans to rebroadcast it. However, it remains intact on Netflix.
3. FAMILY GUY, “PARTIAL TERMS OF ENDEARMENT”
“Turban Cowboy” was hardly Family Guy’s first brush with controversy, nor is it likely to be its last. In “Partial Terms of Endearment,” Lois agrees to be a surrogate for a couple who are then killed in a car accident, leading Lois and Peter to discuss whether or not she should terminate the pregnancy. The episode was intended to be the series’ eighth season finale, and was broadcast in the U.K. in June of 2010, but Fox refused to air it. Ever.
In an interview with The New York Times, MacFarlane explained that “We’ve found in the last couple years that by taking serious stories that could be movies of the week on Lifetime or Oxygen, and doing a Zucker brothers-Airplane! take on them, they always make for really good Family Guy episodes. To us, it’s in the realm of what in the 1970s would be the edginess of the abortion episode of Maude. Times really have changed, and I think the network is making a decision that is, unfortunately, probably correctly based on people’s current ability to handle and dissect controversial narratives … It’s an issue that you read about in the papers all the time, like anything else. So that is fodder for political and social satire. There’s nothing about that issue that should be any different than doing an episode about gay marriage, or an episode about the oil spill.” In September of 2010, the episode was released on DVD and can be viewed on Amazon(for $9.99).
4. AND 5. MAUDE, “MAUDE’S DILEMMA: PART 1" AND “MAUDE’S DILEMMA: PART 2”
If you’re not familiar with MacFarlane’s reference to “the abortion episode of Maude,” it was an amazingly controversial two-part episode of the otherwise comedic series in which the main character (played by Bea Arthur) realizes that, at the age of 47, she is pregnant, and spends two episodes agonizing over whether or not she should keep the baby. The fact that it was 1972 and these episodes managed to make it on air is pretty amazing, particularly as they were broadcast about two months before Roe vs. Wade. And while the episodes weren’t banned outright, more than 30 of the network’s affiliates refused to broadcast them. But both episodes—parts one and two—are available on Amazon.
6. THE X-FILES, “HOME”
Throughout its nine seasons, The X-Files was never short on creepy storylines or characters. (Remember Eugene Victor Tooms, the serial killer who could squeeze through any open space?) But the producers of this 1996 episode deemed the contents of “Home”—a standalone episode that dealt with murder, amputees, and deformities as the result of incest—as being “tasteless” and going “too far.” So Fox promised to never run it again, which didn’t sit well with fans of the show, who enjoyed the episde. A year later, FX ran an all-day marathon of fan favorite episodes, and “Home” came out on top. You can watch it on Netflix.
7. THE SIMPSONS, “THE CITY OF NEW YORK VS. HOMER SIMPSON”
In the wake of 9/11, a handful of television series needed to be altered in order to avoid any reference or reminder of the attacks. (Sex and the City, Law and Order and The Sopranos even changed their opening credits.) And Fox made the decision to remove its season nine premiere, “The City of New York vs. Homer Simpson,” from its rerun rotation. Though the episode aired four years before the tragedy, the fact that so many of its scenes took place at or around the World Trade Center led the network to pull it from the airwaves. Last summer’s #EverySimpsonsEver marathon on FXX was one of the few times it’s been aired uncut ever since. It’s also available on Amazon.
8. BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER, “EARSHOT”
In the spring of 1999, a week before Buffy the Vampire was set to broadcast “Earshot,” a third season episode that revolved around a school shooting, the tragedy at Columbine High School happened. The network acted quickly to pull the episode; it eventually ran in September, just before the start of season four. You can watch it on Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon.
9. HAVEN, “REUNION”
Just hours after the attack on Sandy Hook Elementary School, Syfy’s Haven was scheduled to run an episode entitled “Reunion,” which revolved around a school shooting. So the network made the quick decision to replace Haven with an episode of Eureka, a move that engendered unanimous support from viewers. You can see the episode on Netflix and Amazon.
10. ARTHUR, “ROOM TO RIDE”
The Peabody Award-winning animated series Arthur hardly seems like the kind of show that would court controversy. And it’s definitely not. But that doesn’t mean that all of the many big-name guests who’ve made appearances on the series over the years have been able to maintain squeaky-clean images. Case in point: disgraced former Tour de France champ Lance Armstrong, who visited Elmwood City in 2008 to talk about bicycling and being a good citizen—four years before he was stripped of his cycling achievements. Though PBS banned the episode from repeated viewings, you can watch it at Amazon.
11. THE TWILIGHT ZONE, “THE ENCOUNTER”
Two years before he boarded the Enterprise, George Takei appeared in what turned out to be one of The Twilight Zone’s most controversial episodes. In “The Encounter,” Takei plays Arthur Takamori, a gardener who offers his services to his neighbor, a World War II vet. There isn’t a whole lot of gardening in the episode, but there is a lot of talking—about war and, more subtly, Pearl Harbor. And race. Immediately, the episode drew the ire of many “Japanese-American and Asian-American civil liberties and advocacy groups,” said Takei. "So for that reason, CBS pulled that episode. And it has a unique distinction of being the only Twilight Zone [episode] that was aired only once. It's never been re-aired. It's never enjoyed a re-run. And shucks darn, I missed out on my residuals on that one.” You can, however, watch it on Netflix.
12. THE BOONDOCKS, “THE HUNGER STRIKE”
Black Entertainment Television (BET) has long been a favorite target of The Boondocks creator Aaron McGruder—so much so that in 2008 he created an entire episode around an effort to gain momentum for a BET boycott, which he painted as being “destructive” to the African American community. Though the episode never aired on Adult Swim (and can’t be seen on Netflix), it was released on DVD in June of that year. And can be viewed anytime on Amazon.
13. – 15. BOY MEETS WORLD, “PROM-ISES, PROM-ISES,” “IF YOU CAN’T BE WITH THE ONE YOU LOVE,” AND “THE TRUTH ABOUT HONESTY”
If you’re making a show about teenagers, it stands to reason that sex and alcohol are two topics you’ll likely encounter. But the fact that Boy Meets World did it—and then did it again, and again—didn’t sit well with the top mice at the Disney Channel. Three episodes in particular were removed from reruns: “Prom-Ises, Prom-Ises,” in which Corey and Topanga discuss whether they should have sex on prom night; “The Truth About Honesty,” another sex-themed episode,” and “If You Can't Be With the One You Love...,” where Cory and Shawn get drunk. No other network has seemed to have an issue with showing any of these episodes, nor does Amazon.
16. REN AND STIMPY, “MAN’S BEST FRIEND”
Truth be told, cartoons have been loaded with violence since way back in the earliest Looney Tunes days. And Ren and Stimpy is one cartoon that certainly never shied away from some pretty extreme violence. But season two’s “Man’s Best Friend” seemed to push the limits of what even Ren and Stimpy deemed as standard. When the titular duo are adopted by a drill sergeant-like new owner, George Liquor, Ren reaches his breaking point and beats George’s face in with an oar. In slow-motion, no less. Which is apparently just the kind of enthusiasm George was looking for, as the episode ends with the three of them celebrating. Nickelodeon wasn't feeling joyous at the end of that one, and refused to air it. But you can see it on Amazon.
17. SEINFELD, “THE PUERTO RICAN DAY”
Seinfeld was never much for sentimentality. (Larry David even imposed a strict “No Learning, No Hugging” policy.) But its second highest rated episode of all time was also its most controversial (and not, it’s not “The Contest”). It’s “The Puerto Rican Day,” in which the gang has trouble making their way home after a Mets game because of the city’s annual Puerto Rican Day Parade. In the midst of their antics, Kramer accidentally lights a Puerto Rican flag on fire and when a mob breaks out, Kramer states that “it’s like this every day in Puerto Rico”—which National Puerto Rican Coalition president Manuel Mirabal called an “'unconscionable insult” to his community. The network offered a swift apology to anyone insulted by the episode’s humor and removed it from the rerun schedule and its initial syndication deal. But in 2002, the episode made its way back to television, and is also on Hulu.
18. THE POWERPUFF GIRLS, “SEE ME, FEEL ME, GNOMEY”
In season six, The Powerpuff Girls put on a rock opera in “See Me, Feel Me, Gnomey,” but it only ever aired in the U.K. While rumors swirled that it was because the episode contained some communist undertones, it was later revealed that the real reason for the episode’s ban was because of its use of strobe lights, which could cause some kids watching it to have seizures. It is, however, on DVD—and Amazon.
19. BEAVIS AND BUTT-HEAD, “HOME IMPROVEMENT”
At this point, it’s almost easier to identify the episodes of Beavis and Butt-head that weren’t either heavily edited or temporarily banned from the airwaves. The complaints against the cult classic MTV cartoon typically fell into one of four categories: drug use, extreme violence, animal cruelty, or criminal behavior. The duo’s “Fire, fire, fire” catchphrase was also often taken to task; in 1993, the series was blamed in the case of a five-year-old who set his house on fire, killing his younger sister. Season two’s “Home Improvement,” which you can see on Hulu, is yet another episode that was pulled, largely because it shows the guys sniffing paint thinner.
20. DARIA, “FAT LIKE ME”
Beavis and Butt-head spinoff Daria didn’t attract as much controversy as its predecessor, but many episodes were also heavily censored in reruns. And one episode in particular, season five’s “Fat Like Me,” didn’t run at all on Teen Nick (formerly known as The N) because of the negative correlation it depicted between weight gain and loss of popularity. You can see it on Hulu.
21. - 25. STAR TREK, “MIRI,” “PATTERNS OF FORCE,” “PLATO’S STEPCHILDREN,” “THE EMPATH,” AND “WHOM GODS DESTROY”
For an iconic sci-fi series, Star Trek sure could manage to get the censors all riled up. Particularly in the U.K., where Star Trek was considered family programming. As such, it prompted the BBC to announce that, “After very careful consideration a top level decision was made not to screen the episodes entitled '[The] Empath,' 'Whom Gods Destroy,' 'Plato's Stepchildren,' and 'Miri,' because they all dealt most unpleasantly with the already unpleasant subjects of madness, torture, sadism, and disease. You will appreciate that account must be taken that out of Star Trek's large and enthusiastic following, many are juveniles, no matter what time of day the series is put into the programme schedules.”
In the case of season two’s “Patterns of Force,” Nazi undertones led to the episode being banned in Germany until 2011. But the series, in its entirety, can be streamed via Netflix.
26. STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION, “THE HIGH GROUND”
Not to be outdone, in 1990 Star Trek: The Next Generation paid tribute to its predecessor’s pot-stirring ways with “The High Ground,” which made an offhanded prediction that Ireland would be united in 2024. Initially, an edited version was shown in the U.K. but the episode was banned completely in Ireland until 2011. But like the origin series, this one, too, can be seen on Netflix.