Right or wrong, there are some things that are taboo even for television. Whether the content is too disturbing, the topics too controversial or just a simple case of bad timing, occasionally a network will decide to stop an episode from airing.
Some of these shows have made it back on the airwaves while others were eventually released on DVD but, a rare few may be "lost" forever.
From racial diversity to abortion, sexual themes to religious extremism, and violent content to bare behinds, these 13 episodes were once banned from airing on TV.
The X-Files - "Home"
In this episode, Mulder and Scully are called to investigate when the body of a disfigured baby is discovered. The story involved incest, genetic disfigurement, decapitation and burying a child alive. The director herself described one of the scenes as “the most awful shot of my career.”
“Home” was the first episode in America to receive a TV-MA warning and FOX only aired it once before banning it for its intensely disturbing content. It wasn't seen on the air again until 1997, during a marathon on FX.
When Sesame Street first debuted 1969, it was hailed as one of the best children's programs ever to air on TV, and as if to prove it, the show has become a TV staple, still airing new episodes to this day. But in 1970, Mississippi's Commission for Educational Television disagreed.
The Commission voted to ban the series from airing on the state's first public education channel because they felt their viewers were not ready to view such a “highly integrated cast of children.” When the Commission's report was publicized by The New York Times, show creator Joan Ganz Cooney called it, ”a tragedy for both the white and black children of Mississippi." After the controversy made national news, the commission reversed its decision.
NYPD Blue - "Pilot"
Steven Bochco intended to produce network television's first R-rated drama, and he succeeded in NYPD Blue. The series deliberately tested the boundaries of network TV with adult language ("Hey, ipsa this you pissy little bitch!”) and partial nudity (Who can forget Andy Sipowicz’s bare bottom?). The first episode caused such a stir that over a quarter of ABC’s network affiliates refused to air it in September 1993. Despite the controversy, the series' stellar writing and performances went on to garner 26 Emmy nominations and win six awards.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer - “Earshot”
In "Earshot," after she is accidentally infected with an aspect of the demon she's recently slayed, Buffy is suddenly able to hear the thoughts of others. Where some of what she hears is comical (Xander only thinks about sex. Cordelia says exactly what she's thinking), and some are frustrating (Angel's thoughts can't be heard because vampires are immune to telepathy), others are downright scary. While in a crowd in the lunchroom, Buffy hears someone think, “This time tomorrow, I'll kill you all.”
The massacre at Columbine High School took place on April 20, 1999, a week before this episode was to originally air, causing The WB to pull it. It would not be seen until September 1999, two weeks before the Season 4 premiere.
The Twilight Zone - “The Encounter”
George Takei guest stars as Takamori, a Japanese-American in this Season 5 episode that aired in 1964. In it, Takamori and Fenton, a WWII veteran, are trapped in an attic as they debate events of a war 20 years in their past. The episode includes harsh dialogue where Fenton refers to Takamori as a “dirty little Jap” and that during the war he was told that the Japanese “…weren't even human. You were some kind of ape.” For his part, Takamori reveals that his father was a traitor who signaled the Japanese pilots during the attack on Pearl Harbor. In the end, both men end up dead.
At the time, as America was entering the war in Vietnam, the commentary about seeing an Asian race as not human was particularly pointed. After the original airing brought on numerous complaints, the episode was pulled from rotation, not to be seen again until the series was released on DVD.