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Banned from Television

August 15, 2019

Episodes of a successful TV show get made, air, and then get rerun and rerun endlessly for years on end. That’s usually the case…except for certain installments like these. After their initial airings, they were pulled from circulation for being way too controversial.

Seinfeld

TV critics almost universally hail Seinfeld as one of the best sitcoms ever, a pioneering show which took TV comedy to weird and often dark places.But one episode went a little too weird and a little too dark for the tastes of too many people. The second-to-last episode of the series, “The Puerto Rican Day” mostly finds Jerry and the gang stuck in traffic due to New York City’s annual Puerto Rican Day Parade. Amidst the hubbub, Kramer plays with a sparkler and accidentally lights a Puerto Rico flag on fire. Alarmed, he stomps it out, providing viewers with an image of a man stepping on the burning flag of the island territory, which isn’t a good look. Neither was the scene depicting a mob of angry Puerto Ricans vandalizing Jerry’s car, not Kramer’s quip, “It’s like this every day in Puerto Rico!” After protests outside network NBC’s corporate headquarters and countless letters from offended viewers, NBC publicly apologized. The network refused to air reruns of the episode, and it didn’t appear on local stations’ rerun package of the show for a half decade.

The Simpsons

The 1997 episode of the long-running animated juggernaut “The City of New York vs. Homer Simpson” finds the yellow-hued family taking a bus from Springfield to the Big Apple to retrieve Homer’s car, which his friend Barney abandoned there after a night of drunken debauchery. After the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001, the episode was removed from syndicated rerun packages of The Simpsons, as most of the episode takes place at the World Trade Center. In 2006, it returned to the air, although a scene featuring a guy in Tower One arguing with a guy in Tower Two was cut.

Arthur

In 2006, seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong guested as “himself” on the show (as an aardvark named “Vance Legstrong”) who shows Arthur and the gang that part of being a winner is learning from past failures. After it was discovered that Armstrong’s winning was due in part to his use of illegal performance-enhancing drugs, and his Tour de France titles vacated, the episode was pulled out of circulation.

I Love Lucy

They even banned individual episodes of television in the early days of television. In the 1956 I Love Lucy episode “The Ricardos Visit Cuba,” Lucy (Lucille Ball) and Ricky (Desi Arnaz) take a trip to Havana to visit Ricky’s family. It’s a typically zany I Love Lucy episode, as Lucy makes one hilarious mistake and mishap after another in her misguided attempts to impress her husband’s father. But this episode was banned from American television for more than a decade for political reasons. After the Fidel Castro-led Communist revolution of Cuba, “The Ricardos Visit Cuba” was deemed too hot for TV.

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