The most offensive TV shows — ever

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    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.

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

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