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15 Taboo-Breaking TV Moments
Topic Started: Sep 20 2007, 08:43 PM (1,202 Views)
Steve Frame
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EW.com
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Deadwood (HBO)

WHAT HAPPENED NYPD Blue co-creator David Milch wanted to examine how people live when there is no law. The answer: they say c---sucker a lot (six times in the 2004 premiere). If they're Ian McShane's Al Swearengen, they also run a saloon/whorehouse and have men murdered and fed to hogs.

PUBLIC REACTION While historians (and stars of Gunsmoke and Bonanza) wondered if Milch's West had to be that wild, the only resonating rumblings of ''boycott'' were those heard last year when HBO sent the critically acclaimed series off into the sunset. — Mandi Bierly

Degrassi: The Next Generation (The N)

WHAT HAPPENED By now you're familiar with the ''Omigod! I'm, like, totally pregnant!'' template of most teen shows. You know, the episode where the panicked girl realizes she's ''late,'' ticks off her options, and then discovers — whew! — it's just a false alarm. Not so on Canadian import Degrassi: During a two-episode arc called ''Accidents Will Happen'' in season 3, 15-year-old Manny (Cassie Steele) confirms that yes, she's pregnant, and decides pretty much immediately that yep, she's getting the abortion. It's not the first time a TV character has terminated a pregnancy — Bea Arthur's Maude did it in 1972 — but the age of the Degrassi characters and the show's target audience made it especially hot-button.
PUBLIC REACTION None at first — because The N originally declined to air the storyline in the States. Fans protested that decision on message boards and with online petitions, and two years later ''Accidents Will Happen'' was finally shown during a Degrassi marathon. — Dawnie Walton

Jackass (MTV)

WHAT HAPPENED In one of the many Jackass stunts that screamed ''don't try this at home,'' Johnny Knoxville put on a flame-retardant suit, tied raw steaks to himself, and climbed atop a barbecue grill as assistants sprinkled him with lighter fluid.
PUBLIC REACTION A few kids found Knoxville's stunt pretty hilarious...but their parents? Not so much: The grown-ups got all huffy after two boys seriously burned themselves trying to copy ''The Human BBQ''; even Senator Joe Lieberman shot off a letter of rebuke to MTV. Jackass ended its TV run the next year, but later got even crazier with two big-screen versions — rated R, of course. — Dawnie Walton

South Park (Comedy Central)

WHAT HAPPENED In the 2005 episode ''Bloody Mary,'' faithful Catholics flock to South Park when a statue of the Virgin Mary is seemingly bleeding from its butt. Pope Benedict XVI shows up to investigate and declares that the bleeding is actually coming from the statue's vagina, not her anus, and is therefore not a miracle. ''Chicks bleed out their vaginas all the time,'' the pope shrugs.
PUBLIC REACTION The Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights railed Comedy Central for the way the episode portrayed a religious icon, demanded an apology to all Roman Catholics, and tried to get the episode banned from future broadcasts and DVD releases. Comedy Central pulled a planned repeat of the episode that same week but has aired it several times since. — Mike Bruno

All in the Family (CBS)

WHAT HAPPENED The Norman Lear-produced sitcom was the face of in-your-face TV in the 1970s (it ran from '71 to '79, before being repackaged as Archie Bunker's Place). Starring outspoken bigot Archie Bunker (Carroll O'Connor), it shed new light on simmering political issues such as homophobia and racism, and changed the nature of American television forever.
PUBLIC REACTION The moral majority may have cried foul, but All in the Family won countless awards, and was ranked #1 in the Nielsen ratings from '72-'76. — Adrienne Day

Fear (MTV)

WHAT HAPPENED An antecedent to VH1's Celebrity Paranormal Project, MTV's Fear sent five contestants into supposedly haunted locations where they performed sιances, spent hours alone in creepy rooms, and screamed — a lot. In one episode, a claustrophobic contestant lay silently in a dark coffin while another shoveled dirt on top, essentially burying him alive. (He survived.)
PUBLIC REACTION MTV was criticized for the snuff film-like quality of the show, and some critics believed the ''hauntings'' were staged or exaggerated. Rumors swirled that the show had been cancelled because a contestant suffered a heart attack or, even worse, had died. But the show was axed for less hellacious reasons: sources say low ratings and high production costs. — Mark S. Luckie

The O.C. (Fox)

WHAT HAPPENED With its legendary introduction — ''Welcome to the O.C., bitch!'' — this soapish drama promised to take teenage horseplay to levels ne'er before seen on the likes of Beverly Hills 90210. In the first episode, audiences were treated to an underage party that featured the standard boobs, booze, and beachside brawls, but the stakes were raised with some open cocaine use by minors — a controversial phenomenon on the small screen. Indeed, Marissa (Mischa Barton)'s alcoholism would become a fixture of the show, culminating with her near-death tequila-and-painkillers blackout in Tijuana.
PUBLIC REACTION While parents evidently had bigger fish to fry, young audiences certainly took note of the substance-fueled plotlines of the show, and O.C. -themed drinking games became a fixture of college dorm rooms around the nation. — Chris Schonberger

The Tom Green Show (MTV)

WHAT HAPPENED From a community channel in Ottawa to Comedy Central and MTV, Canadian comedian Tom Green wielded his brand of sensationalist schlock, which ranged from the benign (The Bum Bum Song) to the offensive (rubbing feces on his microphone before interviewing strangers on the street).
PUBLIC REACTION In 1999, Green was investigated by the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council after a viewer complained about a segment in which he convinced a passerby to hold a dead pigeon, and then proceeded to shout at people on the street to draw attention to her. His gross-out style and penchant for terrorizing the public (as well as his parents and friend Glenn Humplik) predated other controversial shows like Jackass and Fear Factor, thus establishing Green as a true visionary of envelope-pushing programming. — Chris Schonberger

Ellen (ABC)

WHAT HAPPENED Ellen DeGeneres owns her own moment in pop-culture history: In 1997, she became the first lead actor in a series to come out of the closet on national TV.
PUBLIC REACTION ''The Puppy Episode,'' as it was called, was the highest rated show of the week that it aired, and Ellen was praised in Hollywood, and recognized as EW's Entertainer of the Year — even receiving a Civil Rights Award. But not all publicity is good publicity: ABC took heat from advertisers and religious groups. Ratings slipped, and in 1998, one year after Ellen came out, the show was canceled. — Samantha Harmon

In Living Color (Fox)

WHAT HAPPENED When Keenan Ivory Wayans was given the green light for ''anything'' he wanted to do on his own TV show, he brought us this satirical variety show in the vein of Saturday Night Live, but with a more diverse cast and even less political correctness. EW predicted that Wayans would be known as the bravest impressionist alive for his spoofs of Mike Tyson and Arsenio Hall.
PUBLIC REACTION Kim Wayans' Oprah spoof led to the comedienne apologizing to the talk-show host in 2004. Other skits — such as Damon Wayans' Homey D. Clown, who complained about ''the man'' and ended up coining a '90s catch phrase, ''Homey Don't Play Dat'' — pushed buttons. But Keenan Ivory Wayans felt that Fox was censoring too much material, and he left the show in 1992. — Bethonie Butler

We Got To Do Better (formerly Hot Ghetto Mess) (BET)

WHAT HAPPENED Based on lawyer Jam Donaldson's controversial website Hotghettomess.com, the program mixes street reporting with video clips that, according to CNN, ''show examples of outrageous fashion and behavior, mostly in the black community.''
PUBLIC REACTION Since its inception, the show has courted a constant barrage of criticism that has led to a name change and the decision of two major sponsors, State Farm and Home Depot, to pull advertising. Critics call it a ''minstrel show'' that perpetuates stereotypes about working-class black people and contributes to racism; meanwhile, Donaldson and host Charlie Murphy argue that it instigates self-examination and improvement. But ghetto or not, We Got to Do Better will continue to be a hot mess for BET's lawyers for some time to come. — Chris Schonberger

Undressed (MTV)

WHAT HAPPENED Lots and lots of promiscuous sex — straight, gay, bi, Adam Brody, etc. — among high-school kids and college students. Particularly in laundry rooms.
PUBLIC REACTION The show earned GLAAD Media Award nominations for Outstanding Drama Series in 2000 and 2001. It's quite likely that no one old enough to be offended by the underage booty was ever watching — especially those endless(ly great) marathons. Hey, MTV, bring those back! — Annie Barrett

NYPD Blue (ABC)

WHAT HAPPENED What you'd expect when the co-creators are Steven Bochco (Hill Street Blues) and David Milch (Deadwood): The cops talked dirty. The actors signed nudity agreements, which Dennis Franz (Det. Sipowicz) thought was a ''waste of paper'' for a network show — until he bared his bottom in Season 2.
PUBLIC REACTION Even before the 1993 debut, the American Family Association protested. More than 50 ABC affiliates refused to air the show, but someone (or 23 million someones) caught it. The series earned 27 Emmy nominations its first year. — Mandi Bierly

Dawson's Creek (The WB)

WHAT HAPPENED The first gay and romantic kiss on network TV belongs to Jack McPhee (Kerr Smith) and Ethan, a dude he met on a train. The Creek was also known for its intense preoccupation with sex, even though some of the main characters rarely got around to actually having it.
PUBLIC REACTION The Parents Television Council had named the show the single worst program of 1997-8 and 1998-9, but in 2001, when the kiss occurred, they decided it was only the fourth worst. For every scathing review of the show's sex-centricity, though, there were plenty of approving ones. The National Organization for Women even endorsed the show as one of the least sexually exploitative on the air. — Annie Barrett

Nip/Tuck (FX)

WHAT HAPPENED Orgies, graphic breast-reconstruction surgery (referred to on the show as recreating ''perfect sweater puppies''), alligators munching on dead bodies — what hasn't happened on this show?
PUBLIC REACTION The Parents Television Council is currently waging a campaign against Nip/Tuck, although the show has won numerous Emmy and Golden Globe awards and will be returning for a fifth season this October. — Adrienne Day
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Rick
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Dreamlander

SteveFrame
Sep 20 2007, 09:43 PM
South Park (Comedy Central)

WHAT HAPPENED In the 2005 episode ''Bloody Mary,'' faithful Catholics flock to South Park when a statue of the Virgin Mary is seemingly bleeding from its butt. Pope Benedict XVI shows up to investigate and declares that the bleeding is actually coming from the statue's vagina, not her anus, and is therefore not a miracle. ''Chicks bleed out their vaginas all the time,'' the pope shrugs.
PUBLIC REACTION The Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights railed Comedy Central for the way the episode portrayed a religious icon, demanded an apology to all Roman Catholics, and tried to get the episode banned from future broadcasts and DVD releases. Comedy Central pulled a planned repeat of the episode that same week but has aired it several times since. — Mike Bruno

Must not have worked LOL

It's one of the Comedy Central OnDemand episode
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Mason
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I really don't see how The O.C.'s example is so controversial...
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Scott
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I love Nip/Tuck!!! And Southpark!!! And The OC!!!! Degrassi too!!! Why is it that all the shows I love are "controversial"
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Steve Frame
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I don't think the article was saying any of these shows were controversial just that they broke a taboo that TV had not touched before. Sure the episode was a little controversial when it aired as it was a first for TV.
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Scott
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Ok well then why is it all the show I like break some taboo barrier?
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Steve Frame
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Because they are good - that's why.

I have liked just about all those shows except for South Park which I could not stand and still can't. Never got into The OC and never cared too much for DeGrassi. But the rest are great shows.
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Scott
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lol they all are really great shows!!! I guess I'm just drawn to the taboo issues.
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Steve Frame
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The older I get I find myself more drawn to shows that aren't necessarily taboo breaking but shows with some substance to them. I am an adult and I like a little bit of an adult theme to feel like the adult I am.

I think that is one of the things that I hate about soaps right now. Soaps used to be so taboo or get close as they could without breaking them. And the sex scenes used to be so hot. But daytime right now has some of lamest sex scenes. You see them kissing and then off and then when it comes on they are lying in bed. If you even get that.

I think alot of this is the reason I am attracted more to shows like Nip/Tuck, The Shield, REscue Me, even SVU because they have more of an adult related story and push the envelope at times.
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Scott
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If you want a show that pushes the envelope, Nip/Tuck is definitely a go to show!!! Lol.
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