25 Previously Banned TV Episodes You Can Stream Right Now

Gillian Anderson in The X-Files
Gillian Anderson in The X-Files
Fox

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, hearts begin to heal, 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, Amazon, and iTunes, history-making—and controversy-causing—television is just a click away (though sometimes it'll cost you a couple of dollars).

Were these 25 previously banned television episodes deserving of the backlash they received? Now you can judge for yourself.

1. Married… With Children // "I’ll See You in Court"

Running afoul of censors was a pretty regular occurrence on Married… With Children. In fact, some might say that was the very reason why the show enjoyed an 11-season run. At a time when other networks were intent on showing what a perfect nuclear family looked like, Al and Peg Bundy were the complete antithesis of the American Dream. Sure, the couple tolerated each other, but barely. The series’ never-ending onslaught of crude jokes were typically aimed squarely at a member of the Bundy family, yet none of it seemed to affect them or change their bad behavior. And audiences loved them for it. Well, most audiences.

In 1989, during the show’s third season, an episode entitled “I’ll See You In Court” sees Al and Peg decide to spice up their love life by spending the night in a hotel. Ever-helpful neighbors Steve and Marcy Darcy recommend they spend the night at a hotel that they like to frequent for the very same reason, but it turns out that the hotel owners are secretly recording their guests’ carnal trysts. So the Bundys and the Darcys decide to take the hotel to court, where they’re subjected to a series of embarrassing questions about their love lives—not to mention those videos. Though it’s all relatively tame by today’s comparisons, some critics of the show felt the story line took the series’ signature crudeness to new depths and initiated a letter-writing campaign. Eventually, Fox caved to the complaints and pulled the episode from the schedule and any syndication lineups (though it was seen overseas). It wasn’t until 2002 that the episode—minus a few particularly controversial lines—aired on American television (this time on FX). It’s now been reinstated back into its place in the series’ regular lineup.

Where to watch it: Hulu

2. Hannibal // “Oeuf”

The fourth episode in Hannibal‘s debut season (also known as “Œuf”) was originally scheduled to air on April 25, 2013, a mere 10 days after the Boston Marathon bombings and just a few months after 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 told Variety in 2013. "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.

Where to watch it: Amazon Prime

3. Family Guy // "Partial Terms of Endearment"

In Family Guy's “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.”

Where to watch it: Amazon

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.

Where to watch it: Amazon

6. The X-Files // "Home"

The X-Files has never been short on creepy storylines or characters. 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 episode. A year later, FX ran an all-day marathon of fan favorite episodes, and “Home” came out on top.

Where to watch it: Hulu

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. The #EverySimpsonsEver marathon that aired on FXX in 2014 was one of the few times it’s been aired uncut ever since.

Where to watch it: 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.

Where to watch it: Hulu or Amazon

9. 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. “Home Improvement,” is yet another episode that was pulled, largely because it shows the guys sniffing paint thinner.

Where to watch it: Amazon

10. 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.

Where to watch it: Hulu

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,” Takei said. “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.”

Where to watch it: Hulu or 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, it was released on DVD in June of that year.

Where to watch it: Amazon

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”

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 since.

Where to watch them: Hulu

16. 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.

Where to watch it: Hulu

17. 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 UK. 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.

Where to watch it: Hulu

18. 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.

Where to watch it: Amazon

19. Star Trek: The Next Generation // “The High Ground”

In 1990, Star Trek: The Next Generation paid tribute to its predecessor’s pot-stirring ways with “The High Ground,” which made an off-handed 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.

Where to watch it: Netflix

20. 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.

Where to watch it: Netflix or Amazon

21., 22., 23., 24., and 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 program schedules.”

In the case of season two’s “Patterns of Force,” Nazi undertones led to the episode being banned in Germany until 2011.

Where to watch it: Hulu or Netflix

An earlier version of this story ran in 2015.

The Psychology Behind Kids' L.O.L. Surprise! Doll Obsession

Jack Taylor, Getty Images
Jack Taylor, Getty Images

Isaac Larian, the founder and CEO of toymaker MGA Entertainment, is an insomniac. Fortunately for him, that inability to sleep forced him to get up out of bed one night—a move that ended up being worth $4 billion.

Larian’s company is the architect of L.O.L. Surprise!, a line of dolls with a clever conceit. The product, which retails for about $10 to $20, is encased in a ball-shaped plastic shell and buried under layers of packaging, forcing children to tear through a gauntlet of wrapping before they’re able to see it. The inspiration came on that highly profitable sleepless night, which Larian spent watching unboxing videos on YouTube. It resulted in the first toy made for a generation wired for delayed gratification.

The dolls first went on sale in test markets at select Target stores in late 2016. MGA shipped out 500,000 of them, all of which sold out within two months. A Cabbage Patch Kid-esque frenzy came the following year. By late 2018, L.O.L. Surprise! (the acronym stands for the fancifully redundant Little Outrageous Little) had moved 800 million units, accounted for seven of the top 10 toys sold in the U.S., and was named Toy of the Year by the Toy Association. Videos of kids and adults unboxing them garner millions of views on YouTube, which is precisely where Larian knew his marketing would be most effective.

A woman holds a L.O.L. Surprise doll and packaging in her hand
Cindy Ord, Getty Images for MGA Entertainment

The dolls themselves are nothing revolutionary. Once freed from their plastic prisons, they stare at their owner with doe-eyed expressions. Some “tinkle,” while others change color in water. They can be dressed in accessories found in the balls or paired with tiny pets (which also must be "unboxed"). Larger bundles, like last year’s $89.99 L.O.L. Bigger Surprise! capsule, feature a plethora of items, each individually wrapped. It took a writer from The New York Times 59 minutes to uncover everything inside.

This methodical excavation is what makes L.O.L. Surprise! so appealing to its pint-sized target audience. Though MGA was advised that kids wouldn’t want to buy something they couldn’t see, Larian and his executives had an instinctual understanding of what child development experts already knew: Kids like looking forward to things.

Dr. Rachel Barr, director of Georgetown University’s Early Learning Project, told The Atlantic that unboxing videos tickle the part of a child’s brain that enjoys anticipation. By age 4 or 5, they have a concept of “the future,” or events that will unfold somewhere other than the present. However, Barr said, they’re also wary of being scared by an unforeseen outcome. In an unboxing video, they know the payoff will be positive and not, say, a live tarantula.

L.O.L. Surprise! is engineered to prolong that anticipatory joy, with kids peeling away wrapping like an onion for up to 20 minutes at a time. The effect is not entirely novel—baseball card collectors have been buying and unwrapping card packs without knowing exactly what’s inside for decades—but paired with social media, MGA was able to strike oil. The dolls now have 350 licensees making everything from bed sheets to apparel. Collectors—or their parents—can buy a $199.99 doll house. So-called “boy toys” are now lurking inside the wrappers, with one, the mohawk-sporting Punk Boi, causing a mild stir for being what MGA calls “anatomically correct.” His tiny plastic genital area facilitates a peeing function.

Whether L.O.L. Surprise! bucks conventional toy trends and continues its popularity beyond a handful of holiday seasons remains to be seen. Already, MGA is pushing alternative products like Poopsie Slime Surprise, a unicorn that can be fed glitter and poops a viscous green slime. An official unboxing video has been viewed 4.2 million times and counting.

The 8 Most Anticipated Horror Movies of 2019

Jessica Rothe in Happy Death Day 2U (2019)
Jessica Rothe in Happy Death Day 2U (2019)
Michele K. Short, Universal Pictures

Between Hereditary, A Quiet Place, and Halloween, 2018 was a killer year for horror moviesand 2019 is shaping up to be just as impressive. While remakes seem to be dominating the schedule in the coming months, there are plenty of sequels, adaptations, and even a few promising original titles coming out as well. Here are some of the scary movies we're most looking forward to seeing this year.

1. Us

In 2017, Jordan Peele revolutionized the horror genre with Get Out. The Academy Award-winning filmmaker plans to do the same again with Us, which features a predominantly black cast—a rarity for a horror movie. "I dedicated a lot of myself to creating a new horror mythology and a new monster," Peele said of the film. "I think that monsters and stories about monsters are our best ways of getting at deeper truths and facing our fears as a society ... It’s also important to note that this movie, unlike Get Out, is not about race. It is instead about something I feel has become an undeniable truth. That is the simple fact that we are our own worst enemies." Us, which stars Elisabeth Moss and Lupita Nyong'o, arrives in theaters on March 22, 2019.

2. IT: Chapter 2

Stephen King fans were thrilled with 2017's IT, the second adaptation of the horror master's beloved 1986 novel. Andy Muschietti is sitting in the director's chair again for the second chapter, which will follow the Losers Club as they return to Derry, Maine in their adult years. While Bill Skarsgård will reprise his role as Pennywise, impressive new additions to the cast include Jessica Chastain, Bill Hader, and James McAvoy. The film debuts on September 6, 2019.

3. Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark

If you’ve been a horror fiend since childhood, you’ll no doubt remember Alvin Schwartz's Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark book series. The books included memorable illustrations by Stephen Gammell, some of which no doubt haunted many children’s nightmares. The film adaptation will be released on August 9, 2019.

4. Zombieland 2

Venom director Ruben Fleischer's feature debut, 2009's Zombieland, was an instant hit with both horror and comedy fans. And they've been waiting 10 years for a sequel. Finally, we’ll be getting a second film this year with Fleischer directing and Emma Stone, Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, Abigail Breslin, and even Bill Murray all confirmed to return. Zombieland 2 is set to hit theaters on October 11, 2019.

5. Happy Death Day 2U

The hilariously bad-but-fun Happy Death Day (2017) surprised audiences with how flat-out entertaining it was, so much so that fans were thrilled to hear there were plans for a sequel. Much like the original movie, the second film will follow protagonist Tree Gelbman (Jessica Rothe) as she’s killed every single day. But this time, the killer is coming for her friends, too. Happy Death Day 2U premieres on February 14, 2019.

6. Pet Sematary

Though Mary Lambert's original Pet Sematary (1989) was not met with much critical acclaim, fans of the Stephen King novel were pleased with the adaptation, and are excited to see the story come to life again. The remake, which is directed by Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer and stars John Lithgow and Jason Clarke, debuts on April 5, 2019.

7. Child’s Play

When rumors began swirling that there was going to be another Chucky movie, and that it would be a remake of the original Child’s Play at that, people—including the original series creator Don Mancini—didn't initially seem too excited.

But as more details—including a cast list that includes Aubrey Plaza and Brian Tyree Henry—were made public, interest in the project seemed to grow. Child’s Play hits theaters June 21, 2019.

8. The Prodigy

Creepy kids will never fail to make terrifying horror movie villains. In The Prodigy, Taylor Schilling’s character discovers something supernatural might be happening to her son when he starts acting as if he’s possessed. (Spoiler alert: He probably is). The film will be released on February 8, 2019.

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