With the recent decision by TV Land to pull its syndicated reruns of The Dukes of Hazzard, the idea of televised entertainment being taken seriously may have taken a turn for the ridiculous. At the moment, it is unknown why TV Land took the story of two adventurous Southern ex-cons driving around Georgia in a 1969 Dodge Charger painted up like the Confederate flag with doors that won’t open off the air. Is it the recent re-fanning of the flames of controversy surrounding the rebel symbol of the Confederacy? Was it merely dipping ratings? Did someone actually take the plot-line seriously?
Whatever the reasoning, one thing is for sure: if The Dukes of Hazzard is able to be taken seriously enough that it ceases to be merely televised entertainment and becomes an image of social empathy, then nothing is safe.
Here are some other beloved series in television history that have been considered both offensive and entertaining at the same time. Here’s hoping that they don’t suffer the same fate as The Dukes of Hazzard.
5. Married… with Children
Since the days of Leave It to Beaver, the television sitcom usually featured a wholesome American family going through the trials of everyday life in order to find out the day’s life lesson in a little under a 1/2 hour.
Married… with Children was anything but wholesome, and taught us life lessons with tongue firmly planted in cheek. Instead of the All-American family, we had the Bundys, a lower middle-class white family made up of depressed, shoe-selling father Al (Ed O’Neill), lazy house-wife Peggy (Katey Sagal), promiscuous dumb blonde daughter Kelly (Christina Applegate), and chronically-masturbating son Bud (David Faustino).
Although everything that I have stated was as offensive when it was shot as it is today, the Bundys provided entertainment and showed us that, no matter how bad things may be with your family or life in general, there can always be a small glimmer of silver lining.
4. Breaking Bad
Like all of the television series listed, Breaking Bad can be considered offensive if you lift the plot-lines straight off the summary on the back of the DVD set. A science teacher dying of cancer uses his intelligence in chemistry to become a meth dealer. “It’s so much deeper than that!” is what most fans would say, but let’s not lie to ourselves: that’s the shortened premise. You can throw, “enlists former student to be his accomplice” if you really want to.
Breaking Bad follows the theme of many awkward television series centered around tragedy, like Sons of Anarchy, Dexter, even Game of Thrones. People aren’t just heroes and villains. Good people are found to be doing bad things. Bad people are found to be doing good things. No one is cubby-holed into extreme characterizations. We all have our faults and strengths.
But still, it’s pretty controversial to be rooting for some pretty bad people on paper.
3. All in the Family
When All in the Family was first aired in 1971, it was controversial due to its subject matter. Instead of a episode plot like, “Johnny meets up with a bad crowd and cheats on a test,” Archie Bunker and his family tackled subject matter like racism, homosexuality, religion, women’s rights, the Vietnam War, and cancer. you know, the hard-hitting stuff of real life. But it was in a comedy series, so things usually ended on a lighter note.
These days, the subject matter is what you would find in children’s programming, but Archie’s comically stereotypical reactions to these subjects as a white, Anglo-Saxon Protestant war veteran would probably be considered offensive.
2. The Little Rascals
If the “Our Gang” shorts or “The Little Rascals” television episodes were aired today, everyone would be offended. And when I mean everyone, I mean everyone: white people; black people; fat people; rich people; poor people; women; children; orphans. That’s all I can say off the top of my head, but I’m sure that if anyone in the universe watched the entire run of these movies and shows, they would be offended at least once.
But that’s what this show was all about: a group of children picking on each other and, in turn, society. Remember the days when the playground brought out the worst in others and it was just for fun, while toughening your soul at the same time? That was what “The Little Rascals” were seen as in its time. It just happened to bring out some radical stereotypes that people are offended by.
1. South Park
You want controversy? How about an animated television series centered around four children as they deal with the ridiculousness of today’s society? How about a television series that had three episodes pulled, with two being re-aired after being edited, because of bomb threats?
Anyone both alive, dead, and not even born yet should have been offended by a scene in South Park by now. If you haven’t and know that you should have been, then you are probably an extremely well-adjusted member of society. This is because South Park usually tackles every side of every issue and current event with rapier wit and sarcasm. The reason probably is (since we can’t exactly put words into creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s mouths) is because humor can be found in all sides of an argument. You just have to find the sweet spot. Like Matt Stone said, “You can make fun of everything.”