The most controversial shows in television
Television has had the reputation for being middle of the road. However, over the years there have always been shows that have pushed the envelope, and caused controversy in the process. Here are some of the most divisive of recent times:
- Skins (UK)
Charting the lives of a group of party-loving teens in the UK, Skins was a massive hit, and specifically aimed at teenagers and young adults.
Unfortunately, many felt the show did not set the best example. It depicted underage drinking, sex and drug use. Something of a moral panic followed.
Such was the influence that the term ‘skins party’ entered popular use. This referred to a house party which had escalated beyond control, causing a massive mess.
- The Simpsons
These days The Simpsons is considered fairly solid family viewing. In comparison to the likes of South Park and Family Guy, it comes across as quite tame.
This was not the case when it was in its prime, though. The Simpsons broke the mould, showing a dysfunctional family, not a perfect one.
This caused controversy amongst some conservative groups, who in particular saw Bart as a bad role model.
The show also courted controversy for its stereotypical depiction of the character Apu.
- Family Guy
Family Guy has run on the path set by The Simpsons. Yet Family Guy has often gone a lot further in its provocative content.
Seth MacFarlane has pulled no punches in featuring subjects such as religion, politics, disability and race. This has often been close to the bone.
The episode "Partial Terms of Endearment” seemed to go further than most, though. It revolves around Lois’ abortion, and the politics surrounding it. The episode caused a stir, with abortion being a particularly hot topic in America of late.
- The Sopranos
The mafia crime drama set in New Jersey is regarded as one of the finest series of all time. Nevertheless, many within the Italian-American community found the show to be highly offensive. Community figures and politicians alike accused the show of perpetuating derogatory and false stereotypes.
Criticism also followed for some of the graphic content on the show. The ‘University’ episode which depicted the abuse and murder of young pregnant Tracey caused a flurry of complaints.
- Game of Thrones
Game of Thrones is one of the most successful and influential series of all time. It is not universally admired, though. Its extremely adult themes have drawn some controversy.
For example, female nudity is frequently seen on the show. Critics say that this is overused, and borders on exploitation.
Similarly, torture and gore are trademarks of the show. The story arc of Theon was thought by some to take this too far. Theon was brutally tortured by his captor Ramsay Bolton over multiple seasons and eventually castrated.
Sexual violence also features heavily on the show. The episode that featured Sansa’s rape by Ramsay Bolton drew a record number of complaints.
Oz was HBO’s first major series, and a flagship for the network. It really set the tone, because Oz featured adult content rarely touched upon in mainstream TV before.
Set in a brutal high-security prison, storylines cover areas such as gang wars, rape and drug use. Violence was central to the series, and it shocked many.
- South Park
South Park has been called the crudest show on TV: from the animation style to the humour. However, there is a genuine political and social edge to Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s creation.
The show has mercilessly mocked both conservatives and liberals, as well as a range of celebrities and high-profile figures.
It was an episode in season 14 where South Park’s controversy hit its zenith. Parker and Stone wanted to show the Prophet Mohammed, with a host of other religious figures. The act led to several death threats.