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Television is always a rough medium to navigate for content, you never know what can rub the public the wrong way…and in some cases they through cuation to the wind and air whatever they feel like!
Cry Baby Lane
I lived for Halloween specials as a kid and this was the most coveted of all. Cry Baby Lane was a made-for-TV movie about urban legends and murder! For a kids program it contained some pretty rough stuff that parents deemed too scary for kids. The story in question is about 2 brothers, Andrew and Carl, who pass time by hanging out with the local undertaker (played by Frank Langella). On one particularly creepy fall night, Andrew and Carl listen to the tale of the Bennett family. Mrs. Bennett gave birth to conjoined twins, but one was evil. The twins were locked away in shame until they died, together, from sickness. Not wanting the bad twin to sully the good twin anymore, Mr. Bennet sawed the corpse in half to bury the good twin in the cemetery. Unfortunately, the bad twin was buried at the cemetery and when Carl and Andrew decide to hold a séance they accidently awaken him.
Sawing children in half, dead or not, is usually frowned upon by networks geared towards kids. So on October 28th, 2000 the movie premiered on Nickelodeon one time. It never got air time internationally and never released on VHS or anything else until 2011. TeenNick, in a nostalgic turn of events, re-aired Cry Baby Lane for the first time in 10 years. You can watch it on YouTube!
The Wicked Witch of the West Sesame Street
Margaret Hamilton was born in Cleveland, OH and got her big break playing The Wicked Witch of the West in The Wizard of Oz, she continued acting but nothing would ever top her performance of Judy Garland’s tormentor. So in 1976 Hamilton reprised her role as the contemptuous witch and appeared on Sesame Street for a special Halloween episode. The Witch loses her broom on Sesame Street and has to go looking for it. Meanwhile, Oscar the Grouch falls in love with her and Big Bird learns she isn’t so bad. Awww.
Too bad Margaret Hamilton was such a great actress though, she scared the crap out of kids and the episode was lost in Sesame Street urban legend. She did also appear on Mister Roger’s Neighborhood as The Wicked Witch but that episode didn’t get pulled, unlike the next episode in this list!
Mister Rogers, “Conflict”
Mister Roger’s Neighborhood has always been a weird show and in the early 80s, it took a decidedly political turn. Right in the middle of the Cold War, a series of episodes aired where King Friday and his pal Corny the Beaver collected multiple nuclear weapons. The storyline lasted an entire week and followed King Friday as he instructed everyone in The Land of Make Believe to start building bombs.
The King even appoints fellow puppet, Bob Dog, to spy on Corny the Beaver. Turns out Corny wasn’t building bombs, he was just gathering parts to build a bridge. So King Friday sees the error of his ways (i.e. scaring children to death) and everything goes back to normal. Or, at least as normal as that show can be anyway. The episodes ran the entire week and apparently were even re-run a few times but since 1996 the episodes have been locked away.
Pokemon, “Beauty and the Beach”
I was a HUGE Pokémon fan back in the day; I knew all the characters, collected the cards, and played the game. “Beauty and the Beach” is actually a pretty fun and light hearted episode, Ash and his gang arrive at the beach and decide to have a relaxing day but little do they know Team Rocket is there too and looking to swipe some money from beach goers. In a humorous boating accident both Ash and his friends along with Team Rocket end up having to work at battling beach restaurants to make some money.
Seems okay right? I mean, no Pokémon are dying or being captured and Ash isn’t going through some life crisis. So why was this episode banned? Well, it wasn’t completely banned but it was so severely edited for English speaking countries that it may has well have been. Later in the episode Misty decides to enter in the beach’s annual beauty contest to win money…and so does James. Yes, James from Team Rocket joins the beauty contest and is shown with breasts. Fearing that it would be too risqué for American or other English speaking audiences so it was edited. You can watch the whole episode here, the edited bits are still in Japanese and subtitled.
Gargoyles, “Deadly Force”
Gargoyles was easily one of the best cartoons of the time. It was well written, well animated, and added a darker tone compared to what was normally shown at the time. But in a time where gun violence is all to frequent, the episode “Deadly Force” was temporarily pulled and then re-edited.
Broadway, the pudgy Gargoyle, discovers Elisa’s gun and starts playing with it but in a tragic slip Broadway accidently shoots Elisa. The entire episode was meant to focus on gun safety but the network and parents alike decided it was too much for kids. Elisa doesn’t die but when she’s shot the cartoon does show blood. In re-runs and edited version of “Deadly Force” is shown sans blood but the full uncut episode is available on the DVD release of the season.
The Twilight Zone, “The Encounter”
You would be hard pressed to find a better written show than The Twilight Zone so having a banned episode is sort of a badge of honor in this series. The episode stars George Takei as a Japanese-American who encounters an American WWII veteran. The episode centers on the veteran’s animosity towards Takei’s character.
The episode aired in 1964 internationally but was pulled from American schedules. The episode concerns some very sensitive race issues and in 1964, it was just too relevant. The episode has been included on the DVD and Blu-ray releases as well as on Netflix streaming.
Tiny Toon Adventures, “One Beer”
Tiny Toon Adventures remains one of my favorite cartoons to this day and one reason was all of the “adult” humor that littered cartoons then. However, “One Beer” takes the adult content a bit far, even if it was for a good cause. “One Beer” stars Buster, Plucky and Hamton who are looking for some fun to get into. They manage to attain a can of beer and proceed to get totally plastered. They then steal a police car, run from the cops, and drive off a cliff. But it’s a cartoon so they are totally not dead right? Wrong. All three characters die in the accident and then float off into heaven.
The episode ends with all three coming out to say they are actually alive and wanted to warn kids about drinking and driving. So it’s a great message…but perhaps not for a kids show. The episode was pulled from American air waves but it has re-aired in Canada and you can watch it here!
Family Matters, “Stevil”
In the 1990s there was a surge of creepy ventriloquist doll themed episodes in a LOT of shows. One of my favorite Goosebumps books (and then later an episode) revolved around an evil doll coming to life. In the 8th season Family Matters Urkle decides he wants to be a ventriloquist so he buys a doll and gets learns through presumably predictable hijinks. Oddly, he purchases a doll that looks just like him and when it gets struck by lightning it comes to life. The doll, now known as “Stevil”, begins lurking around the house and murdering the whole family.
But, in true sitcom fashion, Carl wakes up and realizes it was all a dream. The episode was temporarily banned because of…well…murder and overall terrifying content. You can see the episode on the DVD releases.