Once again, you came up with dozens of great suggestions for the fifth TV Roundtable Reachers’ Choice pick, this one having to do with controversial episodes. Once again, we had to narrow it down to just 10, a task far more difficult than we thought it would be. And once again, we cut a bunch of stuff we would have loved to have talked about but either couldn’t find or just didn’t have room for. But here are your 10 nominees, with the poll just below.You have until Sunday night to vote, when we’ll tally them up. The winner will be announced in next week’s roundtable.
The CBS Evening News, Sarah Palin interview (originally aired 9/24, 9/25, and 9/30/2008): Backers of John McCain and Sarah Palin insist to this day that Katie Couric overstepped her boundaries as a journalist and unnecessarily torpedoed a promising vice presidential candidates. Others suggest maybe Sarah Palin wasn’t that bright to begin with. We’ll argue over the role of the media in politics.
Dallas, “Return To Camelot, Part 1” (season 10, episode 1; originally aired 9/26/1986): This is the infamous episode where Bobby steps out of Pam’s shower and reveals the entire previous season was just a dream. Sometimes, controversy comes not from political hot potatoes or social issues but from dumbass story decisions. We’ll argue whether Dallas had any chance to recover from this one.
Married… With Children, “I’ll See You In Court” (season 3, episode 10; originally aired 6/18/2002): The first of two episodes on this list that the network refused to air. When Al and Peg head out to a hotel for an evening together, the porno they check out happens to be a sex tape of their next-door neighbors. We’ll argue about when pushing buttons gets to be just too much.
Maude, “Maude’s Dilemma, Parts 1 and 2” (season 1, episodes 9 and 10; originally aired 11/14 and 11/21/1972): This one’s perhaps better known as the only successful abortion had by a regular character on a primetime drama for 40 years (until Grey’s Anatomy replicated the feat). It’s also one of the few choices that’s more controversial today than when it aired. We’ll argue abortion and likely figure out a workable compromise we’ll then present to the government.
Murphy Brown, “You Say Potatoe, I Say Potato” (season 5, episodes 1 and 2; originally aired 9/21/1992): More intersection between the government and a fictional character’s sex life, as Vice President Dan Quayle criticized Murphy Brown for having a baby out of wedlock… and then the show responded to his remarks itself. We’ll argue about what happens when TV becomes a political football during election season.
NYPD Blue, “Pilot” (season 1, episode 1; originally aired 9/21/1993): The pilot so racy that over a quarter of ABC’s affiliate stations refused to air it because it showed off some naked butts. The always button-pushing show very quickly became one of ABC’s signature hits and a critical smash, and we’ll argue about how this show opened a door for network TV that the FCC eventually slammed shut.
Profit, “Pilot, Parts 1 and 2” (season 1, episode 1; originally aired 4/8/1996): Here’s one of the shows that took the NYPD Blue ball and ran with it, creating one of the most gleefully amoral protagonists in history, a man who slept in a cardboard box, was raised by a television, and had sex with his stepmom. Needless to say, it prompted some angry reactions. We’ll argue about whether this should have waited for cable.
The Ren & Stimpy Show, “Man’s Best Friend” (season 2, episode n/a; originally aired 6/26/2003): Not only did this episode not air, but it directly led to the show’s creator being fired from his own show by his network, simply because of how Nickelodeon felt about an episode where Ren planned the death of his owner. We’ll argue about when too far is too far in TV that’s ostensibly meant for kids.
Roseanne, “A Bitter Pill To Swallow” (season 4, episode 1; originally aired 9/17/1991): More of the early ‘90s wave of episodes depicting teenage—and adult—sexuality in a more realistic way than had been before, as Roseanne’s oldest daughter comes to her mother to ask to go on birth control. We’ll argue about why you guys don’t seem to like Roseanne very much since we keep nominating it, and you never vote for it.
St. Elsewhere, “The Last One” (season 6, episode 22; originally aired 5/28/1988): Finally, one more story decision that made people crazy. If you don’t know how this famous series finale ends, you’re in for a treat. But the way it ended caused all sorts of crazy phone calls and angry reactions—and this was before the Internet era. We’ll argue about what responsibility a creator has to his audience when ending a work.
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