The 7 most offensive TV shows ever

Forget "Dads" -- remember UPN's slavery sitcom? What about the British Hitler-at-home laughfest?

Topics: dads, The Playboy Club, Adolf Hitler, the secret diary of desmond pfeiffer, TV, Slide Shows, Seth MacFarlane,

The 7 most offensive TV shows ever

“Dads” has been driving TV critics up a wall since before it first aired for general consumption.

The Seth MacFarlane-created Fox sitcom, which has gleefully advertised its bad reviews, delved in its pilot into racial and sexual stereotypes, culminating in a series of jokes mocking Asian women’s sexuality and Asian men’s, well, manhoods.

Broadcast TV has gotten more staid over the past decades, as racy stuff has moved to cable (where raunchy humor, nudity and violence are often deployed for their own sake, because the shows’ creators can). “Dads” comes as a shock because it’s so unusual in a TV universe where UPN is gone and Fox specializes in music competitions and light sitcom fare, but it’s part of a long tradition of shows attempting to push the envelope and falling on their faces.

Naturally, testing the boundaries is what great TV does well — from the explosive and edgy humor of “All in the Family” or early “Simpsons” episodes to the violence of “Breaking Bad” to the florid sex of “Game of Thrones.” (Well, that sometimes goes overboard, but it’s at least somewhat within the context of a compelling story.) But a lot of TV simply flouts convention to get people talking about how controversial the show is; it’s not edifying, not fun, and it lacks a point of view. Here are a few of the progenitors to “Dads” — some shows that tried to create a scandal without the quality to back it up.



  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 8
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails

    The most offensive TV shows -- ever

    "The Playboy Club"

    This short-lived NBC drama sought to bring the period allure of “Mad Men” to broadcast TV. Unfortunately, all the creators learned from AMC’s hit was that subjugation of women was sexy and titillating; practically interchangeable women wiggled for the male stars. Hugh Hefner, narrating the show, paid tribute to the degree to which the women of the Playboy Club were able to reinvent themselves and live out fantasies, which is definitely one angle. The show was canceled before Gloria Steinem could make a guest appearance.

    The most offensive TV shows -- ever

    “The Secret Diary of Desmond Pfeiffer”

    This UPN comedy about a kidnapped black British man who becomes butler to Abraham Lincoln bears plot similarities to the upcoming film “12 Years a Slave” -- decidedly not a comedy. Even aside from the obvious discomfort of centering a comedic show around the slave trade, there were ancillary jokes about the 16th president trying “telegraph sex” and dressing in drag. The show, protested by civil-rights groups before it even aired, was swiftly canceled.

    The most offensive TV shows -- ever

    “Heil Honey I'm Home!”

    The U.S. doesn’t have a monopoly on gross TV. This 1990 British sitcom made fun of the conventions of midcentury American TV -- by depicting Adolf Hitler and Eva Braun as a typical upwardly mobile urban couple, living next to a Jewish family they just can’t get along with! Third Reich satire is definitely possible -- just ask Mel Brooks -- but it has to be done well.

    The most offensive TV shows -- ever

    “Work It”

    This sitcom took as its premise that men simply aren’t hireable in a gynocentric workforce, then forced its male protagonists into unflattering, goofy drag, lampooning both genders in an ugly, unfunny depiction of the gender divide that wasn’t rooted in the facts on the ground. It was canceled some 10 days after its premiere -- but maybe would have worked 10 to 15 years earlier!

    The most offensive TV shows -- ever

    “Homeboys in Outer Space”

    The title says it all -- this mid-1990s UPN entry featured the grossest of racial stereotypes in its depiction of a lowrider-style vehicle flying around the galaxy’s outer reaches.

    The most offensive TV shows -- ever

    “Who’s Your Daddy?”

    Fox has gotten more staid as it went from the network of “When Animals Attack” to the home of “The New Girl” (and, yes, “Dads”), so it’s hard to remember the channel once aired reality shows like “Who’s Your Daddy?” the 2005 show in which a person who’d been put up for adoption had to choose which of 25 men was her biological father. The program ran as a one-time special when Fox decided not to run the other five episodes; it goes along with “Who Wants to Marry a Multi-Millionaire?” in the dustbin of history.

    The most offensive TV shows -- ever

    “Brickleberry”

    Sure, pretty much every animated series on the air in the past 10 years has pushed the envelope to some degree. But there’s edgy and then there’s too far, as in Daniel Tosh’s park-ranger cartoon, which was the center of controversy last year as it was recut to remove some -- but not all! -- of the rape jokes. The show left in AIDS, Parkinson’s and blackface jokes. Say what you will about “Family Guy,” but it (sometimes) earns its offensive laughs by adding in some actual whimsy and joie de vivre. “Brickleberry” is just nihilistic.

  • Recent Slide Shows

Daniel D'Addario is a staff reporter for Salon's entertainment section. Follow him on Twitter @DPD_

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 11
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails
    Burger King Japan

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Burger King's black cheeseburger: Made with squid ink and bamboo charcoal, arguably a symbol of meat's destructive effect on the planet. Only available in Japan.

    Elite Daily/Twitter

    2014's fast food atrocities

    McDonald's Black Burger: Because the laws of competition say that once Burger King introduces a black cheeseburger, it's only a matter of time before McDonald's follows suit. You still don't have to eat it.

    Domino's

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Domino's Specialty Chicken: It's like regular pizza, except instead of a crust, there's fried chicken. The company's marketing officer calls it "one of the most creative, innovative menu items we have ever had” -- brain power put to good use.

    Arby's/Facebook

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Arby's Meat Mountain: The viral off-menu product containing eight different types of meat that, on second read, was probably engineered by Arby's all along. Horrific, regardless.

    KFC

    2014's fast food atrocities

    KFC'S ZINGER DOUBLE DOWN KING: A sandwich made by adding a burger patty to the infamous chicken-instead-of-buns creation can only be described using all caps. NO BUN ALL MEAT. Only available in South Korea.

    Taco Bell

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Taco Bell's Waffle Taco: It took two years for Taco Bell to develop this waffle folded in the shape of a taco, the stand-out star of its new breakfast menu.

    Michele Parente/Twitter

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Krispy Kreme Triple Cheeseburger: Only attendees at the San Diego County Fair were given the opportunity to taste the official version of this donut-hamburger-heart attack combo. The rest of America has reasonable odds of not dropping dead tomorrow.

    Taco Bell

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Taco Bell's Quesarito: A burrito wrapped in a quesadilla inside an enigma. Quarantined to one store in Oklahoma City.

    Pizzagamechangers.com

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Boston Pizza's Pizza Cake: The people's choice winner of a Canadian pizza chain's contest whose real aim, we'd imagine, is to prove that there's no such thing as "too far." Currently in development.

    7-Eleven

    2014's fast food atrocities

    7-Eleven's Doritos Loaded: "For something decadent and artificial by design," wrote one impassioned reviewer, "it only tasted of the latter."

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

Loading Comments...