There seems to be endless content when it comes to TV, especially when you remember the 90s and early 2000s, and while some of these shows were brilliant, they would also be completely unacceptable if they were to air today. Read on to discover which classic TV shows would never stand a chance in today’s world.
Who’s Your Daddy?
The trashy title of this Fox reality TV show from 2005 is enough to tell you how bad and wildly inappropriate it was. “Who’s Your Daddy?” was about an adult that had been put up for adoption as a baby and had to stand on stage with 25 men and try to guess which of them was his biological father.
If the person guessed right, they won $100,000, and if they got it wrong, the person they chose got all the money. Putting a person through the emotional rollercoaster of meeting their biological parent and exploiting it to create a game show is outright despicable. It’s no wonder that out of the six episodes filmed, only one was aired.
Beauty and the Geek
When it came out in 2005, “Beauty and the Geek” was considered a ‘kind’ show that allowed otherwise unattractive “nerdy” guys to pair up with super “hot” women that would never even look their way in real life. However, if you think about this premise today, and even back then, it’s incredibly outdated.
It's even wrong to label a smart guy “nerdy” and undesirable and a “hot,” beautiful woman as an automatic dimwit. The show ended after 5 seasons, which is a lot considering what the show was about. But our guess is that, in today’s world, the mere concept would be immediately rejected.
1977’s famous sitcom “Three’s Company” was regarded as one of the most hilarious shows on television and is definitely what started John Ritter and Suzanne Sommers’s careers. While the show’s writing was funny and smart, the general premise would be problematic, to say the least, if it were to air today. The show follows John Ritter as he tries to pretend he’s gay so a landlord will let him rent an apartment with two other women.
The homosexuality jokes and the fact that a heterosexual man is mockingly trying to portray a gay man just becomes offensive. Plus, this show would be completely outdated, since a landlord in today’s world wouldn’t care if 10 people were living together as long as they got their money.
“Cheers” was one of TV’s most popular sitcoms back in the 80s – a star-studded cast, smart writing, and funny punchlines catapulted this show to a successful 11-season run. And without a doubt, one of the juiciest, and central, storylines was the on-and-off dynamic between Sam (played by Ted Danson) and Diane (played by Shelley Long). For the first seasons of “Cheers,” it was obvious these two were crazy about each other but somehow never quite got together.
But some episodes at the end of the first season, when they were about to start things, feature Sam yelling absurd things like “I’ve always wanted to pop you one,” and “I’m gonna bounce you off every wall in this office!” Yeah, this wouldn’t pass for romantic or funny nowadays, but downright abusive.
Warner Brother’s “Dawson’s Creek” became one of television’s most popular teen dramas of the moment when it first premiered in 1998. And while there are still problematic teen series coming out today, mainly because of pairing high school students with twenty-something teachers, “Dawson’s Creek” took this much further.
If anyone remembers 15-year-old Pacey Witter’s relationship (and loss of virginity) with his 35-year-old teacher Mrs. Jacobs, you’ll be shocked that ever made it on the air. Not only was this insanely inappropriate, but it’s also downright illegal. Back then this didn’t seem to be a problem. In fact, it jumped up the ratings; nowadays, this would be a huge no-no, and thank God for that!
We all love “Friends,” and undoubtedly there’s a reason why it remains one of the most famous shows in TV history. The show about six friends shaped an entire generation after premiering in 1994, but sadly, a lot of its episodes are terribly outdated and would never pass muster today.
Some examples are when Rachel welcomes Ross’s new Asian girlfriend Julie to America. When they first meet, Rachel blurts out, “Welcome to our country!,” which is incredibly offensive seeing as Julie is American! Also, the running joke and mockery of Chandler’s transgender father feels wildly inappropriate and downright disrespectful in today’s climate.
“General Hospital” was perhaps one of the famous soap operas on daytime TV back in 1963. The show has run for an incredible 60 seasons and is still running today! This is quite baffling, seeing as the show has received heavy criticism throughout the years regarding one of the show’s early star couples - Luke and Laura.
The show’s epic romance began in the worst way possible – Luke assaulted Laura at Campus Disco, and instead of reporting him or having him thrown in jail, she ended up in a relationship with him. Luke became one of the show’s leading characters. Seriously, what in the world was wrong with these writers?!
The 1985 sitcom “Golden Girls” became a beloved staple on TV, and for seven seasons Betty White, Bea Arthur, Rue McClanahan, and Estelle Getty made audiences laugh and tear up. Unfortunately, the show didn’t have a good track record when it came to inclusion and diversity. For instance, in an episode in season 3, three of the women hire an African-American housekeeper, and they immediately start to suspect that she is evil.
The girls go as far as to believe the woman is probably casting spells on them and the house and openly comment that she is terrible at her job. This only helped perpetuate ignorant stereotypes about African Americans, and that combined with the fact that there wasn’t a single African American actor/actress apart from this cameo, really doesn’t fare well for the beloved show.
This 1955 sitcom became an audience favorite throughout its 39-episode run, but “The Honeymooners” wouldn’t even get written in today’s world. Starting off innocently enough, the show follows Ralph Kramden (played by Jackie Gleason) who is a stressed but optimistic bus driver in New York City, and his wife Alice (played by Audrey Meadows).
Crazily enough, one of Ralph’s signature lines throughout the show was “One of these days…pow! Right in the kisser!” as he showed a fist to Alice. Luckily, he never laid a hand on her. Perhaps this could pass as comedy back in the 50s, but let’s be clear, there is nothing acceptable or funny about domestic violence.
How I Met Your Mother
When it came out in 2005, “How I Met Your Mother” turned into not only a massive commercial success but also a staple of pop culture. With a star cast and hilarious writing, HIMYM became the light-hearted comedy/drama everybody needed in the early 2000s. And yes, we all laughed at Barney’s antics, but in all honesty, 90 percent of his comments and behavior would never make it on screen today.
Over nine seasons, you can find at least one instance of Barney’s offensive remarks in every episode, like how he lies to women to get them to go home with him. Or how he manipulates Robin so she agrees to marry him. All in all, Neil Patrick Harris’s Barney is a character that would probably get voted off a show after the pilot episode.
“Kung Fu” was a critically acclaimed show when it first aired on ABC in 1972 – the story was interesting, the writing was smart, and the actors were first-rate. There was only one problem, which is still criticized by audiences today. The main character, a Chinese Kung Fu master called Kwai Chang Caine was played by the late David Carradine.
Now, Carradine was a phenomenal actor, but he was the whitest Irish-American man you could imagine, making the series a lot less believable. There were plenty of Chinese actors back then, they just weren’t given major Hollywood roles. And therein lies the whole problem, which is luckily not the case anymore.
As funny as he is, Michael Scott would be an extremely problematic character to portray on TV nowadays. “The Office” has rightfully earned the title of being one of the funniest sitcoms ever made, but Scott’s character crossed the line on infinite occasions with racist remarks, sexist comments, and wildly inappropriate behavior.
One certain episode comes to mind – “A Benihana Christmas.” Michael goes to Benihana restaurant with some co-workers and they bring back two Asian waitresses to the office Christmas party, but since he can no longer tell them apart, Michael decides to mark one of them with a sharpie. No comment.
Saved By the Bell
Premiering in 1989, the famous teen sitcom “Saved By the Bell” was a massive success that ran for four seasons. But again, the early 90s had a lot of controversial issues when it came to plotlines and dialogues, and one such example is “Running Zack,” an episode from season two.
In the episode, Zack (played by Mark-Paul Gosselaar), discovers that he has Native American ancestry and goes on to spew one racist remark after another. He then wears a headdress and face paint for a class presentation, further mocking their culture. Even the own actor said he tried watching the episode recently and couldn’t get through it because it was so ignorant and offensive.
“Seinfeld” is undoubtedly one of the funniest shows ever made; even now platforms are paying top dollar to get the rights for the reruns. Throughout the 90s, Jerry, George, Kramer, and Elaine would have us rolling on the floor with laughter for half an hour every evening.
But if you were to rewatch the series with a close eye, you’d notice some slightly wrong plotlines – for instance, when Jerry intoxicates his date so he, George, and Elaine can play with her vintage toy collection. We all know “Seinfeld” had a tendency towards dark humor, but this was a bit much. At least Kramer thought it was outrageous behavior!
Sex and the City
You might be surprised to see “Sex and the City” on this list, but after all, it was a show that premiered in 1998. HBO’s massively successful series lauded itself as being forward-thinking and progressive, which is why it’s very unexpected to find Carrie so shocked when she finds out the guy she’s just begun dating is bisexual.
The guy, played by the gorgeous Eddie Cahill, freaks Carrie out when he tells her he dated a man. Carrie then meets her girlfriends and tells them she flat out doesn’t believe in bisexuality, right before cutting him off. Fast forward to SATC’s revival, “And Just Like That…,” and the LGBTQ community is extensively represented. Let’s just hope that Carrie truly has evolved in her thinking.
2006’s “Ugly Betty” was very well-received by audiences and critics alike, praising America Ferrer, who played Betty, for heralding such a progressive show. And it was great to see a lead character take on the world with confidence by showing people that there are far more important things than the world’s insane standards of beauty. However, there was one detail of the show that would be heavily criticized if it were to air today – it was even criticized back then.
The fact that Rebecca Romijn plays the transgender character Alexis Meade, who becomes one of the show's main villains, is simply not right. First, it would seem appropriate for a transgender actor to play a transgender role, and second, she wouldn’t automatically be written in as the show’s villain.
All in the Family
Anyone who wasn’t born in the 90s will know who Archie Bunker is – the iconic patriarch of Norman Lear’s Emmy-award-winning show, “All in the Family.” Premiering in 1971, the show ran for nine whole seasons, and although it does deserve praise for dealing with some sensitive topics back in the day, the show had some serious issues.
Firstly, what made Archie’s character funny back then was the fact that he was a loudmouthed, ignorant bigot who basically defended every stereotype to ever exist. His wife was a sweet lady but not exactly whip-smart, a fact that Archie constantly pointed out by calling her a ‘dingbat.’ The show also let the characters voice outright racist comments that would never be allowed on television today.
The Dukes of Hazzard
‘Good ol’ boys’ Bo and Luke Duke were always trying to be the Robing Hoods of their rural community in Hazzard County, but somehow always ran into trouble. Aired in 1979, “The Dukes of Hazzard” could have passed as a light-hearted, albeit somewhat outdated, show if it weren’t for the extremely controversial confederate flag atop their iconic Dodge Charger.
It may have passed muster back in the day, but even in 2015, they had to pull reruns off the air because of harsh criticism. A symbol of such racial intolerance would never be allowed on TV today, and it never should have.
Here Comes Honey Boo Boo
Back in 2012, Honey Boo Boo became a household name after the TLC show “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo” premiered on TV. The reality show revolved around Alana Thompson, a.k.a. Honey Boo Boo, and her relationship with her family as she deals with being a beauty pageant child. Not only did the show seem to be mocking this poor Southern family, but it also made the treatment of Alana feel incredibly exploitative and inappropriate for a child.
The fact that the show was constantly trying to make fun of Honey Boo Boo’s plus-sized body was awful, and the way this little girl had so much confidence in the face of such shaming just made you feel angrier at these ridiculous TV producers. Thankfully, a new age of body positivity has been heralded in, making these shows obsolete.
Created as a spin-off of “All in the Family,” “The Jeffersons” aired in 1975, and it almost immediately became an enduring pop culture symbol. From the famous theme song “Movin’ on Up,” to its beloved characters, this show was groundbreaking in the sense that it portrayed a hard-working, very successful African-American family that moves to Manhattan.
The only problem was that the head of the Jefferson family, George Jefferson, could sometimes be as bigoted and rude as Archie Bunker himself. Being a show from the mid-70s meant there was a lot more leeway given to certain offensive and even racist remarks since they could be passed as comedy. Try to watch the series nowadays, though, and you’ll find several episodes quite controversial.
Are You Hot? The Search for America’s Sexiest People
It’s no wonder that with a title like that, this show only made it through six episodes. “Are You Hot? The Search for America’s Sexiest People” aired in 2003, and it basically consisted of a gross judgment of a person’s looks in the most shameful way possible.
The judges, who apparently were the yardstick of beauty and included Lorenzo Lamas (the soap opera actor from “Falcon Crest”), would use a laser pointer to highlight the woman or man contestant on that particular episode. It was heavily criticized back in the early 2000s, so imagine what would happen if something this offensive were to air today.
When it premiered in 1987, “Married…with Children” became a massive commercial hit that lasted eleven seasons. Only back in the 90s could the Bundy family have made us laugh so much, and even back then, there were a lot of cringe-worthy moments on the show – Al’s vulgar jokes and his constant dismissal of Peggy, calling her “death,” Kelly running around in tiny outfits while All and Bud stared at her, and the general regard of women as objects.
One could argue that the fact that Al was a sad shoe salesman gave him a sort of green light to be so discontent and fed up all the time, or that Peggy always insulted him back and didn’t take any grief. The show was undeniably funny, but we advise you to keep away from reruns because it might not be so funny in today’s world.
Boy Meets Boy
When the idea for this reality show was first presented at Bravo, it sounded great – a gay version of “The Bachelor.” The only problem was that the show’s writers decided it would be funny to add a twist to the plot; the show’s bachelor, James Getzlaff didn’t know that half of the contestants were heterosexual.
James would only learn of this fact when he was down to his final three suitors. Not only was this deceitful and wrong on so many levels but just plain mean. Luckily, the show was canceled after just one season, and honestly, the person who okayed it in the first place should have been fired.
As far as outdated and offensive shows go, “Bosom Buddies,” which premiered in 1980, is definitely not the worst of them. However, it is hard to imagine that this light-hearted comedy show starring Peter Scolari and Tom Hanks would even get made today. The story follows Hanks and Scolari and how they decide to dress in drag in order to secure a cheap apartment in New York City in an all-female building.
Nowadays, this show would present many controversial situations and probably face harsh criticism for portraying dressing in drag and the topic of gender identity as something comedic. Oh, those were the days.
The Benny Hill Show
“The Benny Hill Show” aired in 1969, and that is the only reason why it made it through an astonishing 19 seasons. The comedy sketch show was about Benny Hill, a creepy old man who tried his best to be charming by finding naughty and inappropriate humor in everyday things.
Each episode was an hour of slapstick comedy combined with double entendre and tasteless bits that mostly showed Benny Hill and his pals, who were also old men, being quite gross with beautiful, younger women. To make things worse, the show’s closing theme featured Hill chasing around half-naked women all over the set. A bit too predatory, don’t you think?
It’s not surprising that a show from 1989 would basically be about a group of hot lifeguards running around in tight bathing suits. This was, in a nutshell, what “Baywatch” was about, and back then it didn’t need more substance than featuring Pamela Anderson and Carmen Electra, or a young David Hasselhoff to keep the series running for eleven seasons.
Nowadays, though, it would be virtually impossible to air a show like “Baywatch” due to several reasons – the lack of an actually interesting plot, the sexist scenes, the misogynist commentary, and dozens more. NBC definitely aired this show at the appropriate time and place.
Perhaps one of the worst reality TV shows ever made, “The Swan” truly topped even the most despicable television. Premiering on Fox in 2004, this show only lasted two seasons, which is baffling. Following a group of women who thought of themselves as ugly and unattractive (even though they weren’t at all), the show offers to give them massive plastic surgery makeovers.
Forget the risks of undergoing extreme surgery that had these women wrapped up and recovering for months, but by the end they came back on the show to compete in a beauty pageant, to see which surgery had worked. To add insult to injury, the women who lost the beauty pageant contest would go home feeling worse than they had at the beginning. Only now they had also undergone extreme physical changes.
Two and a Half Men
The mere fact of having Charlie Sheen as a main character on a show today would already be controversial, but back in 2003, it was the least of “Two and a Half Men’s” problems. Sheen, who played Charlie Harper, lets his brother and his young son stay with him at his luxurious Malibu house. But Charlie is an alcoholic misogynist who constantly has different women over, a fact he seems to take pride in in front of his very young nephew.
His brother Alan, played by Jon Cryer, constantly tries to set a good example for his son Jake, but is always met with bullying and mocking from Sheen. This show’s sexist dialogue and exposing a minor to such a hedonistic lifestyle would cause too much controversy in today’s climate.
It’s no secret that the iconic animated show “Family Guy” has been criticized since the day it aired. And although the show’s witty writing and sheer comedic value are undeniable, one has to admit that it crosses every single line you can think of. From mocking disabled people, to featuring a homicidal baby, to laughing about a pedophilic neighbor, “Family Guy” is the epitome of offensiveness.
And despite the show’s most offensive content being somewhat contained to the earlier seasons, “Family Guy” continues to shock audiences to this day. Perhaps it’s Seth MacFarlane’s reputation, or the show’s contract with Fox, but this show doesn’t seem to be going anywhere anytime soon.
Malcolm in the Middle
Another 2000 show that has been heavily criticized is the popular American sitcom, “Malcolm in the Middle.” People often point out the show’s controversial standpoint on social class and racism, like in a number of scenes with Abe and Hal where it's obvious that their social status and wealth is directly related to their race.
Also, the fact that Malcolm’s best friend Stevie is bullied for having a handicap is just terrible. In turn, Malcolm is also very bullied for being a smart and responsible student, which gives out a wrong message to young boys. If this show were to air today, it would tank after one episode.
Ed, Edd n Eddy
When the hit animated series “Ed, Edd n Eddy” premiered on Cartoon Network in 1999, it became a cult classic. Even though the final episode aired in 2008, this show is still referenced today, but the fact remains that plenty of its dialogues and storylines, and even its main characters, wouldn’t make it on the air today. The show followed the lives of three preteen boys and how they deal with typical growing pains.
But a lot of scenes featured violence, assumed child abuse in some of the characters, and mental health issues. The main characters also appear to have severe ADHD and OCD, which are shown in a comical light. It’s safe to say that a show covering such controversial topics would get passed on nowadays.
That 70s Show
Let’s be clear, we all loved “That 70s Show”; the story, the characters, the writing, everything was top-notch. However, as the pop culture symbol it became, it was obviously in tune with the times it aired in, which were the late 90s. Back then, nicknaming Wilder Valderrama “Fez” (for ‘Foreign Exchange Student’) was not only acceptable, but it was also considered hilarious.
Nowadays, there is no writer in their right mind that would even dare float the idea. Also, there were plenty of sexist remarks that Red Foreman would say to his wife Kitty, as that was completely acceptable in a marriage back in the 70s.
"Glee" took the world by storm in the early 2010s, but rewatching it now is all kinds of cringe. From transphobia, misogynism, and ableism, to racism and fatphobia, there literally was not one problematic box that "Glee" did not tick. There was even an episode where a male student confides in his friends about an inappropriate experience he had with his babysitter when he was a child.
And his friends chastise him that he experienced every guy's fantasy, and should be grateful for it. WHAT? As the show went on, more and more slurs were written in, and the series unnecessarily forced 'deep' issues (that it was not equipped to discuss) into practically every episode. It's got a controversial legacy, but it probably wouldn't fly today.
My Big Fat Obnoxious Fiancé
With a lovely name like “My Big Fat Obnoxious Fiancé,” you can just imagine what a gem this 2004 Fox reality show was. The supposedly unscripted series followed a woman who gets engaged to the most awful man you can imagine and then goes on to introduce him to her family and friends.
Everybody is shocked at her “fiancé,” and the fact that she could even be with a man like that. During the show’s six episodes, this “fat, obnoxious fiancé” pushes the boundaries of respect and patience with his bride-to-be’s family, engaging in awful behavior. If the woman managed to make it down the aisle and say “I do,” she won a cash prize of $1 million.
Playing It Straight
Yes, unfortunately, this show is exactly what you might be imagining. “Playing It Straight” followed a group of 14 bachelors and one single woman, with the twist that half of those bachelors were gay, unbeknownst to her. If she picked a straight man, the couple would split up $1 million in cash, but if she picked a gay contestant, he kept all the money.
The show, which aired on Fox, was canceled just one month after its premiere in 2004 – shocking, considering it was a show about gay men trying to pass for straight in order to win a prize.
The Pickup Artist
The hosts of this show were called Mystery and J-Dog – need we say more? “The Pickup Artist” was a reality show from 2007, and it was basically a dating show where eight men who had no luck when it came to love were trained by the show’s host, a professional pick-up artist, on how to pick up women.
The show, which aired on VH1, only lasted two seasons, after the producers discovered that the two hosts had lied about who they were and their careers as professional charmers. If you’re in the mood for a good laugh, just google the name of the show so you can feast your eyes on what the hosts looked like.
Supersize Vs. Superskinny
This reality TV series premiered in 2008, and it followed the lives of two people that were suffering from the effects of terrible diets – one being obese and the other being too skinny. The two people swap diets for a week and then adjust their eating habits for three months before coming back on the show for a health screening.
We get how this show could have been marketed as promoting good health, especially since it features actual doctors. But imagine having your weight problem broadcast to the world and then failing to meet your goals when coming back for a weigh-in. The show did more harm than good, destroying people’s self-image and confidence. Not to mention the amount of bullying the contestants endured for entertainment purposes during the show.
Another failed sitcom from the 2010s was ABC’s “Man Up!,” which followed three adult men who act like teenagers and are struggling with growing up. Of course, this becomes less funny when you realize they’re already married with children and are just three irresponsible goofs who think helping around the house and listening to their wives makes them less manly.
Guess being a ‘tough guy’ was more important than being a good dad back in the mid-2000s. As the three main characters figured out how to become “real men,” the network was getting ready to cancel the show after just one season. Not ABC’s shining moment, to say the least.
I Wanna Marry “Harry”
This show was not only terrible and just plain weird, but many people wondered how it could even be legal. “I Wanna Marry Harry” premiered in 2014, and it followed a Prince Harry lookalike called Matthew Hicks, who was the lucky bachelor that all women contestants had to compete for.
After making the contestants fall head over heels for him, he revealed in the final episode that he wasn’t, in fact, the Duke of Sussex. Seeing as the actual Prince Harry is a real person, who probably was never even asked for his consent to make this show, it’s baffling how this even aired in the first place.
Secret Life of the American Teenager
In 2008, ABC tried to recreate the success of “The Gilmore Girls” with its own show – “The Secret Life of the American Teenager.” Not only was the show just plain bad, with terrible writing and mediocre acting, but it was also wildly inappropriate for teenagers.
Amy, played by Shailene Woodley, is not exactly a likable character, and after a reckless night of getting intimate with a boy, she gets pregnant. When coming clean to her friend Ben, Amy cries that she's essentially a harlot, and Ben proceeds not to disagree with her, but to agree with pride. We would really like to know who was in that writing room, and make sure they never get hired again.
Anyone who ever saw the 2011 reality show “Dance Moms” knows that the show’s main instructor and owner of the dance company, Abby Lee Miller, is absolutely insane. Any show that has young girls with overambitious parents compete in the entertainment world is bound to get cringey, and “Dance Moms” was no exception.
Some of the mothers of the contestants were downright out of their minds, forcing their daughters to go hungry on certain days because they were a kilo too fat. On the other hand, Miller came up with the most inappropriate dance themes – like a striptease-type routine for 10-year-old girls. We don’t even want to think about the effects this show had on those girls.
America’s Next Top Model
If you ever watched an episode of 2003’s “America’s Next Top Model,” and you probably did because it was a massive commercial success, you’ll start to remember a lot of cringey things that you probably didn’t pay much attention to back then. The show was filled with negative body image standards, often putting models in blackface for a specific photoshoot.
And it came up with disgustingly inappropriate challenges – like setting a photo shoot in a cemetery a day after one of the contestant’s friends had died. As if that weren’t bad enough, Tyra Banks, the show’s host, and creator, would often reprimand the girls for interrupting a photo shoot after they tried to put a stop to the male models groping them. She would tell them to “flirt back instead and that will make them stop.”
Pretty Little Liars
Even back when it premiered in 2010, “Pretty Little Liars” was criticized for its storyline of having a 16-year-old high school student date a teacher. For seven years, this show followed four adolescent high school girls that would constantly get involved with older men, and their parents didn’t even seem to wince about it.
Nowadays, one has to hope that a show that normalizes high school girls dating older men wouldn’t get aired with such ease. Why couldn’t they just set the show in college, instead of high school? We dare you to watch a single episode today without cringing.
Another hit show from the early 2000s, “Desperate Housewives” dealt with a tight-night group of friends and housewives that lived on the seemingly perfect Wisteria Lane. Although the show was very entertaining, in the way that a drama-filled soap opera would be, there are a lot of things that would deem the show unworthy of airing in today’s cultural climate.
For example, the fact that Gabrielle Solis, played by Eva Longoria, has an affair with a high school student is deemed wrong because she’s cheating on her husband – not, however, because she’s sleeping with an underage boy!
When The CW network aired “Gossip Girl” in 2007, it hit the television jackpot. This teen drama ran for six seasons and became one of the most successful series of the 2000s. But the fact that this was the early 2000s gave this show a green pass for many things that would immediately get a show canceled nowadays.
For example, the fact that Serena van der Woodsen (played by Blake Lively) is pursued by a married man and then blamed for ruining a family is completely sexist, not to mention age-inappropriate. Or, for instance, when Chuck (played by Ed Westwick) tries to take advantage of Jenny (played by Taylor Momsen), and it just passes as the act of a ‘bad boy,’ as if the behavior were somehow acceptable.
What Not to Wear
The fact that this makeover reality TV show ran for 10 seasons is proof of how morally ambiguous the early 2000s were. “What Not to Wear” premiered on TLC in 2003, and followed two fashion experts who would do a complete makeover on someone who had been deemed by friends and family as a “fashion disaster.”
Imagine having your family record you in secret to then have a “style intervention” in front of two complete strangers who are criticizing everything about your clothes and style. These two strangers then force you to throw away every clothing and accessory item you own and give you money to buy new outfits (that they pick out). We assume we don’t have to explain why a show that completely insults and disregards a person’s right to individuality wouldn’t be aired today.
Since its release in 2001, “Scrubs” became a beloved show on TV – the comedy-drama followed the life of J.D., a medical intern, and the relationships he formed with staff and patients at the hospital. Zach Braff, who played J.D., along with Donald Faison and Sarah Chalike catapulted the show to massive success, but if you were to watch some episodes today, it would make you sad to see how outdated it is.
Some of the humor is downright offensive, like the early 2000s ‘gay jokes’ that would be unacceptable in today’s TV – and for good reason. The fact that Turk (played by Donald Faison) says the line “ok, so I’m a little homophobic. I’m sure you’re a little racist,” is proof that a show like this would never get made today.
The 2004 reality TV show “Wife Swap” was a huge success when it premiered, airing for an impressive 124 episodes. It’s no wonder this show had high ratings, since the premise of a woman swapping families and lives with another sounds interesting at the very least.
However, since the show featured different types of families – conservatives, liberals, strict, dysfunctional, etc.- it was rife with very sexist gender roles and a lot of toxic masculinity. In fact, one of the stricter families featured on the show had a son who ended up killing his brother and mother years later. We’re just glad this show was canceled.
The Man Show
True to its name, “The Man Show” was a comedy half-hour show on Comedy Central that aired in 1999, and was about things men love – women, beer, and not much else (according to the show). The show was created by its main characters, Jimmy Kimmel and Adam Carolla, and there were so many wrong and offensive things that we wouldn’t even know where to start.
Ironically, Kimmel is now heralded as a big feminist supporter, but the show he made his fame on always ended with women in tiny bikinis jumping on a trampoline. Even more alarming was the fact that Kimmel wore blackface in many of the sketches.
Drake & Josh
This 2004 Nickelodeon show wouldn’t last a single episode today. “Drake & Josh” follows two teenagers who are stepbrothers with completely different personalities and how they manage to live in the same house and attend the same high school. The problem is that Drake is a bully and Josh is the poor kid that always gets picked on for being a good person. Even when Josh tries to stand his ground, he gets made to be the bad guy.
The show glorifies the “bully” personality and paints it in a comical light, which is really terrible. On top of it all, the pilot episode features Drake mocking Josh for dressing up as a girl to give advice to a friend. Where do we even start?
We all like Rob Schneider, but his 2012 sitcom, “Rob,” not so much. The show followed Rob Schneider and his relationship with his much younger, stunning Mexican-American wife, centering on the hardships of dealing with her extremely big family.
All is well up to here, if it wasn’t for the fact that the show was rife with inappropriate Mexican stereotypes – apart from making guacamole and calling their daughter “mija,” there was nothing about the sitcom that showed the richness and beauty of Mexican culture. Clearly, there wasn’t a single Mexican writer in the room. The show was canceled after eight episodes and thank God for that!
If “Work It” even made it into a writers’ room nowadays, it would be immediately voted out. Although, mind you, this failed series isn’t from the 70s or 80s, but from 2012. The show was about two male friends who realize the only reason to get a job is to pose as a woman – the show’s actual trailer says “Women are taking over the workforce! Soon, they'll just start getting rid of all the men,” and continues that women will just keep a few men around to perform intimate acts for them.
And as if that weren’t offensive enough, one of the main characters falls for his new boss and uses his disguise as a woman to get friendly with her and comment on her “perfect body.” ABC filmed 13 episodes, but only two were aired after the show got severe backlash for being transphobic and sexist. Honestly, what were they thinking?
The Secret Diary of Desmond Pfeiffer
Thankfully, this series didn’t even air all the episodes that were already filmed, because even back in 1998 it proved to be too controversial. “The Secret Diary of Desmond Pfeiffer” follows a Black man from the U.K. who must flee the country due to gambling debts, so he goes to the U.S. and becomes President Abraham Lincoln’s butler.
Even before the first episode was released, there were already heavy critics of the fact that they were making a comedy show about American slavery. The reception was so bad that, despite nine episodes being filmed, only four aired on TV. And that was already four too many.
From 1964 to 1967, CBS ran the famous “Gilligan’s Island,” which followed a group of eccentric characters that had been stranded on a desert island. The show was popular because it was hilarious entertainment to watch how a group of castaways dealt with all the misfortunes and crazy adventures of surviving in an unknown land.
However, to make this unknown land, which was a tropical island somewhere, more perilous and attractive, they featured native tribes that were portrayed as primitive, dumb, and extremely violent. The natives on the island, which judging by the scenery seemed to be Hawaii, spoke in grunts and were always aggressive to the castaways. This negative stereotype of islanders would never fly today, and for good reason.
I Love Lucy
From the moment CBS aired “I Love Lucy” in 1951, people fell in love with Lucille Ball – the sweet, hilarious redhead who made everyone’s day better with her witty, lighthearted comedy. Lucy would go on insanely funny adventures and get herself into all kinds of trouble along with her husband Ricky and their couple friends Fred and Ethel. The show was a massive hit that ran for six seasons, but if you were to watch it today, it would obviously be extremely outdated.
For one, the entire show is about how Lucy’s road to stardom is hurting her husband’s career, further reinforcing archaic gender roles in which the man’s professional success is always more important. Needless to say, a show like this would never get made today.
“Entourage” was a huge hit when it came out on HBO in 2004, and undeniably, it had its qualities – good writing, a star-studded cast, exciting plotlines, and a glimpse behind the scenes of Hollywood stardom. But precisely because it was a pretty accurate portrayal of the morally corrupt world that exists in Hollywood, the show’s characters and lines were incredibly sexist.
Vincent Chase and his posse of friends, not to mention Chase’s agent Ari Gold (played by the brilliant Jeremy Piven), often talked and treated women as if they were objects. Today, in a world after Weinstein and the MeToo Movement, it’s hard to fathom a show like “Entourage” would pass muster.
We can give “F Troop” some leeway because it was a Western sitcom released in 1965, but plenty of things about this show would never make it on TV today. Or even 20 years ago. For starters, a Western obviously featured several Native American characters, but there wasn’t a single actual Native American actor on set.
The show was meant to be a comedy, but a bunch of Caucasian actors playing Native Americans while somewhat misappropriating their culture just came out wrong. The show lasted two seasons before ABC pulled it off the air. Today, there is way more effort put into representing historical characters as accurately as possible.
There really is no need for us to tell you why “Jerry Springer” was as inappropriate a show as you could get. Despite it becoming one of the most popular shows in TV history back in the late 90s, “Jerry Springer” was basically a contest to see how low the show’s guests could go. The trashy fights on camera, the insults, the family drama, the nudity, and even the violence made this show’s ratings skyrocket, but this was clearly due to the times.
Fast-forward to the 2010s, and the show wasn’t funny anymore, since the world and its culture had radically changed. The show was finally canceled in 2018, and we hope nothing like it ever springs up again.
The New Adventures of Charlie Chan
The fact that a white American actor was playing a Chinese detective named Charlie Chan is already controversial. “The New Adventures of Charlie Chan” aired in 1957, and it only lasted one season due to accusations of racism. The lead actor, J. Carrol Naish, who played Charlie Chan, apparently fired the only real Chinese actor in the show, James Hong, because he made a mistake while saying one line of dialogue.
Apparently, Naish went on a racist rant against Hong, further cementing the xenophobic rumors circling around the show. Maybe next time they should start by hiring a Chinese actor to play a Chinese detective.
3’s a Crowd
Leave it to game-show fanatic Chuck Barris (creator of “The Dating Game” and “The Newlywed Game”) to come up with a ridiculous premise that begs the question – was he trying to end every single marriage in the United States?
The show aired in 1979, and was called “3’s a Crowd,” and it basically consisted of bringing in a man, his wife, and his secretary; the two women were asked the same questions to see who knew the man better. Talk about a terrible idea. The network pulled the show after just one season due to bad ratings and sexism. The crazy thing is, the show was revived in the 90s!
One of the Boys
As with many of these shows that end up being questionable, to say the least, “One of the Boys” started out with a funny enough premise – a grandfather leaves a retirement home to move into his grandson’s college dorm room. The show had a star-studded cast featuring Mickey Rooney, Meg Ryan, Nathan Lane, Scatman Crothers, Meg Ryan, and others.
Unfortunately, the show devolved into a teen comedy rife with offensive, sexist remarks from Rooney to college girls, and his even more archaic perspectives of gender roles in the household. Not surprisingly, the show lasted three months, proving that even in 1982, it was severely outdated.
Five years before “Seinfeld” came out, there was another show about ‘nothing’ that centered around the life of a stand-up comedian. “A.K.A. Pablo” was produced by the legendary Norman Lear, who was the king of TV back in the 70s, creating shows like “The Jeffersons,” “All in the Family,” “Good Times,” and hundreds more. “A.K.A Pablo” featured actor Paul Rodriguez playing the role of stand-up comedian Paul Rivera.
And although its goal was to help diversify TV by portraying Paul’s relationship with his large Mexican-American family, the show was a flop. It ended up using awful stereotypes and the lines became blatantly sexist and xenophobic. The show was canceled after just six episodes – and even that was too much.
She’s the Sheriff
After her acclaimed role as Chrissy Snow in the massive commercial success that was “Three’s Company,” Suzanne Somers’s career was at its peak during the mid-80s. So, shortly after the final episode of “Three’s Company” aired, Suzanne got cast for another lead role in 1987’s “She’s the Sheriff.”
Disguised in a premise of feminine progressiveness, “She’s the Sheriff” was about a woman who inherits her sheriff husband’s job after he dies. And ok, the show did feature a woman taking the lead job in a normally male-dominated profession. But unfortunately, the show’s writers almost seemed to have done this to plummet women’s image further by making Sommers’s character incredibly dimwitted and unqualified for the job.
Unhappily Ever After
In 1995, Warner Bros. released what can only be called a rip-off of the popular 80s sitcom “Married…With Children.” And if you thought that was bad and offensive, “Unhappily Ever After” was ten times worse. The show featured the Malloy family, whose patriarch Jack Malloy was a schizophrenic loon who talked to a stuffed animal bunny called Mr. Floppy.
Every episode was a half-hour of crude, inappropriate humor that would never even get past the writer’s room nowadays. Crazily enough, the show lasted five whole seasons, before eventually being pulled off the air for low ratings and backlash for its irreverence.
Sanford and Son
“Sanford and Son” was considered a groundbreaking sitcom when it first came out in 1972. It portrayed the complicated relationship between Fred Sanford and his son and business partner Lamont, and audiences were thrilled that an African-American father-son dynamic was being depicted on TV.
However, after some episodes, it became clear that the show’s writers were merely perpetuating the false prejudice of African Americans being lazy, outspoken, and rude – even when it came to their own family. Fred was always nasty to everybody around him, especially his son Lamont, and would do almost anything (even pretend to have a heart attack) to get out of work.
The Moment of Truth
“The Moment of Truth” aired on Fox for an entire season back in 2008, and its premise was quite unsettling. Imagine a game show like “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?,” but instead of general knowledge questions, the show’s host asks you extremely personal things about your life. If you answer truthfully and pass the polygraph test, you win hefty cash prizes, but at what risk?
Confessing secrets that could potentially destroy your or someone else’s life can’t be worth any amount of money. Contestants would be asked very embarrassing questions that often had very serious consequences on their lives. Who in the world would like to play a game like that?!
"Outsourced" had mixed reviews, but ultimately it couldn't make it past one season. The main critique of the show was that it played into cultural and national stereotypes to a mind-numbing degree. It made American culture the epitome of stupidity and greed, while Indian culture was made to look like it is inferior to Western culture, and overall backward.
Then there was the mild issue of mocking a national job shortage and making light of the fact that millions of Americans lost their jobs to Indians right after the most intense financial crisis since Wall Street crashed. It wasn't the most offensive show you could come across, but it was made in poor taste.
Toddlers and Tiaras
It is truly shocking that this show ran for seven years, but that’s the unfortunate truth about TLC’s “Toddlers and Tiaras.” First, the fact that child beauty pageants exist is already controversial, but this show bordered on insanity – seeing an intimate glimpse into the child contestants and their families was not only depressing but just plain wrong.
You would see mothers stuffing their toddlers’ chests to make them look as if they had cleavage or giving them fake cigarettes as props for stage shows. Not only should they have canceled this show after one episode, but they should have called social services for a lot of these families.
Megan Wants a Millionaire
Just by reading the title of this 2009 show, you can already imagine all the ways it went wrong. The show is exactly what you’re thinking – a reality show celebrity called Megan Hauserman who is looking for a rich husband to take care of her. We know that these were the early 2000s, and it was VH1, but seriously? Who in their right mind thought it was a good idea to show girls that looking for a rich husband should be a woman’s goal in life?
Fortunately, this show only aired three episodes before being canceled, but it wasn’t for the reason you’re thinking. Just to show what kind of people make it on these reality TV shows, it turns out the show was pulled off the air because one contestant, Ryan Jenkins, turned out to be an actual convict of an unspeakable crime. Yikes!
The IT Crowd
When “The IT Crowd” came out in 2006, it was very well received by audiences and critics alike. The comedy was about two geeky tech guys who worked out of a basement, and suddenly hire a new supervisor who happens to know nothing about technology; hilarious situations ensue. Unfortunately, the show’s ratings along with its massive cult fan base plummeted after an episode in season 3.
Even for 2006, this plot twist was way too offensive – the main character, Douglas Reynholm, falls for April, a journalist doing an article on him. But after he finds out that April is transgender, Douglas physically attacks her. The show tried to make this into a funny situation, but needless to say, it wasn’t at all.
You may be surprised to read that the wholesome family sitcom “Home Improvement” made this list. After all, it was about the hardworking tool expert Tim Taylor (played by Tim Allen) trying to raise his family in the suburban U.S. However, if you manage to catch any reruns of this beloved show, you’ll start to notice a lot of slightly controversial details. For instance, the fact that 95 percent of the show was about Tim Allen complaining about his job and his “nagging wife” would be incredibly outdated today.
The very conventional gender roles would get backlash if they were to air today, not to mention that particular episode where Tim nearly gets a heart attack when he sees his son rehearsing to play Peter Pan. Apparently, the rehearsal looked “too feminine” for his boy.
The Ren & Stimpy Show
This absolutely insane and weird 90s cartoon show somehow received a TV-Y7 rating, which deemed it appropriate for 7-year-olds. But if you’ve ever watched an episode of “The Ren & Stimpy Show,” you’ll understand why whoever came up with that rating must have been drunk at the time.
The show, which was about an unhinged Chihuahua and a witless cat, featured grotesque violence and wildly inappropriate humor. For example, in one episode, Ren, the Chihuahua, pulled out his nerve endings out of his toothless, blood-covered mouth, and in another, his face is grated by very sharp hair stubble. Not surprisingly, Nickelodeon had to ban several episodes following heavy criticism from parents.
In Living Color
Premiering fifteen years after “Saturday Night Live,” “In Living Color” released its first episode in 1990, and promised to push the boundaries that the former show would not. Its creators marketed it as a much edgier and bold show, and it definitely lived up to that promise – too much so. The show was received with critical acclaim, and the comedy was hilarious, but if you were to watch an episode today, you’d be horrified.
To see Damon Wayans and David Alan Grier play two effeminate gay film critics in a mocking manner seems quite offensive in today’s cultural climate. Or the famous Jamie Foxx playing Wanda, a pushy woman who is always chasing men but is constantly turned down for being ugly. Then there’s Jim Carey, playing a female bodybuilder and joking that “she couldn’t possibly be a woman.”
This 90’s show didn’t have a premise that was different from so many other shows today – a man consumed by corporate and personal greed. “Profit,” however, did go slightly overboard when it came to the main villain, Jim Profit, played by Adrian Pasdar. The Fox show only aired for 8 episodes, and even though the first three were incredibly successful with audiences, Profit’s white-collar crime and ruthless antics soon became a reason for audiences to start hating the show.
"Profit" was a symbol of everything wrong with society – illegal substances, blackmail, violence, incest, insanity – which became problematic as he was the main character. Usually, these villains, although crooked in some way, have a likable, human element written into their character. Profit did not – the character even killed his father and slept with his own mother. Yikes!
Another very popular show from the late 70s was “Diff’rent Strokes,” which at first glance was a wholesome TV show about a family and its two adopted sons. However, the fact that the family was Phillip Drummond, a millionaire, and his 13-year-old daughter, and the adopted sons were two African American boys from Harlem, would make this NBC show quite problematic if it were aired today.
Mainly, the show’s problem is the depiction of the two boys, played by Gary Coleman and Todd Bridges, as poor helpless boys from a low-income, crime-ridden community who are saved by the “white rich knight.”
Chico and the Man
In 1974, NBC released “Chico and the Man,” a sitcom that was supposed to honor Chicano culture by showing how Chico Rodriguez (played by Freddie Prinze) and Ed Brown (played by Jack Albertson) overcome their cultural differences in order to run a business together. At first, the Latino community was thrilled to finally have some representation on TV, but after its release, many criticized the show for its offensive stereotypes.
First, the word “chico,” which was the main character’s name, was a well-known slander for Latin Americans. Secondly, the character of Ed Brown was obviously trying to imitate the ‘Archie Bunker’ style of bigotry and his lines often featured blatant racism.
The Love Boat
This iconic 1970s dramedy ran on ABC for nearly a decade, but that doesn’t mean there wasn’t plenty wrong with it. “The Love Boat” featured Captain Stubing and his crew aboard a cruise ship that welcomed guest celebrity couples looking to revive their relationship. This along with the regular crew’s shenanigans sounds like an innocent enough storyline for the whole family. But it wasn’t.
If you were to watch “The Love Boat” nowadays, you’d realize immediately that it was rife with sexism and sometimes even outdated racist scriptwriting. The show was abnormally focused on the celebrity women with tiny bikinis, and the camera would often linger on them in a distasteful way. Also, the cruise’s bartender, Isaac, had some pretty offensive lines.
Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids
Even though cartoons often get more leeway for controversial comedy than an actual live-actor show, they can still be wildly inappropriate. In fact, the damage can be even worse, since kids are the primary audience – at least for 1970s cartoons that were aired on Saturday mornings. One of these examples was the 1972 animated show “Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids.”
The show followed the Junkyard Gang, a group of teens in Philadelphia, and just the characters’ names were already problematic – Dumb Donald, Mushmouth, Weird Harold, and Fat Albert. Not exactly positive connotations for young adolescents. The show tried to portray Fat Albert as a symbol of empowerment for the heavier-set body types but ended up being the contrary – shining a light on the negative perception of fat people.
Welcome Back, Kotter
Nowadays, most people might remember this series for being the show that catapulted John Travolta to fame, but back in the mid-70s, “Welcome Back, Kotter” was a hit for several reasons. And some of them wouldn’t be so accepted if the show were to air in today’s television climate. Granted, the show had good intentions, as the premise was about a former problematic student who becomes a teacher and inspires other students like himself.
However, the representation of unruly remedial students as the problematic inner-city youth was somewhat controversial. At first, it was regarded as integrative, but if you watch the show today you’ll quickly realize that, perhaps unintentionally, it made juvenile delinquency, laziness, and mediocrity into something comedic. Not many parents would agree with their kids or teenagers watching this in the 2000s.
Man Vs. Beast
This is perhaps one of the most outrageous reality TV shows ever made. Fox’s “Man vs. Beast,” which aired in 2003, consisted of several absurd challenges in which people would compete against animals. For example, a sprinter competed against a giraffe in a 100m run, 44 dwarfs pulled a jet against an elephant, a sumo wrestler fought a large female orangutan, a professional eater competed against a Kodiak bear in a hot dog-eating contest, and several more.
The premise of the show was not only ridiculous, but it was also blatant animal abuse. Thankfully, the show didn’t make it more than a few episodes before animal rights activists and critics came pouring down on the network.