Genre television has become insanely popular in the last few years, with upwards of 20 horror properties airing on American television every season. Despite conservative groups rallying against violent and horrifying television, much of it makes it to our screens intact, thanks in large part to network self-censoring. But every once in a while, a show slips through the cracks, is withdrawn due to “sensitivity” issues, or bombarded with viewer complaints. We’ve dug up six episodes of popular genre television shows that have been pulled from air for various reasons. Luckily, the magic of DVD, blu-ray, iTunes, Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, and YouTube make these once-buried treasures relatively easy to dig up.
Original Airdate: October 11, 1996
The X-Files faced its share of controversy during its nine season run. But “Home” was different. Mulder and Scully head to the small, rural town of Home, Pennsylvania when some kids discover the corpse of an infant buried in a field. In addition to child murder, other questionable scenes in “Home” include a brutal double bludgeoning, a decapitation, and an impaling. Of course, it was the overall story that had most people up in arms. The murders were being committed by the Peacocks, three deformed, inbred brothers who were impregnating their own mother - a quadruple amputee that lived in a box under the bed.
The episode is often cited as the most violent and disturbing out of over 200 episodes. Jerry Mathis refused to allow one of his songs to be used due to the violent nature of the program. An unidentified crew member told episode star Tucker Smallwood (who was unfamiliar with the show) that “this is awful, even for us.” Fox required some of the audio to be altered during the murder of an infant before it would allow the episode to air. The network got enough complaints that they pulled the episode from rotation, refusing to re-air it. “Home” played in syndication on FX, but never again aired on Fox.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer
In this episode, Buffy is scratched by a demon and takes on one of his powers: the ability to read minds. Buffy can’t figure out how to control her new power, an hears “I am going to kill them all” while in the cafeteria. She passes out before she can identify the thinker, but the Scooby Gang investigates. Buffy is cured, but a note leads her to Jonathan, who has holed up in a clock tower with a rifle. It turns out that he was only planning on shooting himself (Buffy talks him down) and Xander discovers it was the lunch lady who wanted to kill all the students: she was poisoning the cafeteria food.
The episode was originally scheduled to air in March, just a couple weeks after the shooting rampage at Columbine High School left 15 dead. The network (it was airing on the WB at that time) pulled the episode out of concerns for sensitivity, but they did air it six months later, just before the start of the fifth season.
The fourth episode of the freshman drama was pulled due to “sensitivity.” Originally scheduled to air just a week after the Boston Marathon bombings and a few short months after the Sandyhook massacre, this episode of Hannibal involved a storyline in which kids were being kidnapped and brainwashed into killing their parents. NBC didn’t announce the scheduling change until just days before the episode was to air; however, I suspect they had always been wary of airing the episode because it was not included on the press screener DVD. The episode was replaced with the next in line (“Coquilles”) but a significantly “cannibalized” version of the episode, with the entire “killer kids” storyline cut out, was put online. The episode was later available for purchase on iTunes and aired in all markets outside the United States.
The Twilight Zone
Original Airdate: May 1, 1964
George Takei plays a Japanese-American man who encounters a WWII vet in his search for work. The men’s conversation turn towards a samurai sword the vet took off a soldier he killed - after he disarmed - in the war. Invariably, the conversation becomes heated, with Takei seeking revenge for his fallen countrymen, and the vet seeking escape from a life which has fallen apart since coming home from the war.
With the Vietnam War revving up, and the country still healing from the Japanese internment camps of WWII and the Korean conflict, relations with Asian communities were particularly precarious. The episode contained a number of racial epithets and insinuated that there was a Japanese-American traitor who helped plan the Pearl Harbor bombings. CBS received enough complaints about the episode that the never re-aired it, and it was left out of syndication deals. It is, however, available on DVD and Netflix.
Masters of Horror
Takashi Miike directed this episode of the Showtime anthology series. In it, an American journalist travels to Japan in search of a lost love named Komomo. He ends up on an island inhabited exclusively by prostitutes and is “treated” to a number of horrible stories about Komomo’s heinous childhood and tragic demise. The episode involved discussions and depictions of incest, rape, child molestation, aborted fetuses, and torture.
Series executive producer Mick Garris, upon viewing the episode, requested Miike tone it down a bit. He did, but even still, Showtime declined to air the episode. “I thought that I was right up to the limit of what American television would tolerate,” Miike has said. “As I was making the film I kept checking to make sure that I wasn't going over the line, but I evidently misestimated.” The episode never aired on Showtime, but is available on DVD and various digital distributors.
“Hee Haw! Hee Haw!”
While not exactly a genre show, Fear Factor did deal specifically with facing fears (even if it was in an exploitative, television-friendly way). On January 20th, 2012, NBC was scheduled to air the Fear Factor season finale, an episode called “Hee Haw! Hee Haw!” In this episode, contestants were tasked with drinking a glass of donkey semen, then chasing it with a glass of donkey urine. In past episodes, contestants have been asked to eat cow eyeballs, horse rectums, and pizza made of coagulated blood, live worms, and rancid cheese. But donkey urine and semen apparently was the last straw. Many critics cite this episode as the final nail in the Fear Factor coffin: it was canceled for the second and final time shortly thereafter.