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Overshadowed By Controversy / Live-Action TV

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  • Netflix series 13 Reasons Why has been hit with this from the start, with many accusing its handling of the very sensitive subject of bullying and suicide among teenagers of being tone-deaf and even potentially dangerous. The central plot revolves around Hannah, who has died by suicide before the series starts and left a series of cassette tapes detailing her reasons for doing so and the people she blames for pushing her to her actions. This has been harshly criticized for implying that bullying and external factors are always the cause of suicide, with no mention given to mental illness, as well as implying that reaching out for help to adults is futile and overall sending a message that mental well-being is on others and that suicide is an effective way of getting revenge. Not helping is that Hannah has been criticized as overreacting to minor slights and generally getting stuff wrong, which can lead to another toxic line of thinking. Additionally, the finales of the first and second seasons came under fire for their graphic depictions of Hannah's Bathtub Suicide and a secondary male character being brutally beaten and raped, respectively, with detractors stating that the former scene could inspire copycat behavior. People generally believe the series may have done more harm than good for the cause of suicide awareness.
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  • The Africans was the most visible PBS program for the 1986-87 season primarily because of the controversy it garnered over its unfavorable portrayal of Americans. It got to the point where the National Endowment for the Humanities, which had sponsored the series, was permitted to take its name off the series in a rare exception to the rule that all sponsors should receive credit on PBS broadcasts, and PBS was forced to reevaluate how it approved its programming in the aftermath.
  • Amos 'n' Andy was a very popular comedy radio and TV show from the 1940s and 1950s starring two black people playing stereotypical, dimwitted, jive-talking fools. Due to Values Dissonance, it hasn't been broadcast in ages and is probably better known for the racial offensiveness than the actual comedy.
  • The rollout for the fifth season of Arrested Development has been largely overshadowed by questions about whether or not it was a good idea for the show to retain Jeffrey Tambor in the wake of allegations about his behavior in Transparent. Jason Bateman and David Cross made things worse with an interview in which they both vigorously defended Tambor, even as co-star Jessica Walter revealed that Tambor had verbally harassed her.
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  • The short-lived Irish revival of Blind Date was struck twice with controversy - It was first struck when it turned out that one of its contestants was a criminal who had previously served jail time in Australia for assault on a civilian. The second time was when host Al Porter was accused of sexual harassment by two male colleagues, which caused the show to immediately be binned by TV3 (now Virgin Media 1).
  • The CBS series Bull was accused by guest star Eliza Dushku of fostering a highly toxic misogynist environment, mostly perpetrated by lead star Michael Weatherly who was constantly harassing her with jokes about rape, shortly after she'd gone public about having been sexually abused at age 12. The network execs also attempted to cover it up by offering her a lucrative NDA, though she managed to game the process so that she got the money and was still legally able to talk about it. The show was still renewed for another season after the story broke to much controversy, though Steven Spielberg cut all ties with it.
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  • CN Real was a commercial dud, and you probably don't remember much about the actual shows themselves. You probably do remember the backlash it got for being a block of live-action reality and game shows on Cartoon Network, a channel associated with anything but live action. It doesn't help that the block came out after Out of Jimmy's Head, another ill-regarded attempt by the network to branch out into live action.
  • Duck Dynasty has become far better known for the antics of its stars, most notoriously family patriarch Phil Robertson, who is known for his extreme far-right views. His most infamous manifestations thereof are of his two rants on the subject of atheism and homosexuality, and suggesting that African-Americans were happier as slaves, which caused many networks to take the show off their rotation, and at one point actually caused production to be temporarily suspended.
  • Empire got hit badly with this in February 2019 when one of the main actors, Jussie Smollett, had been attacked by a pair of Donald Trump supporters in what appeared to be a racist and homophobic hate crime. There was a huge outpouring of support for the actor from the entertainment industry and even politicians who decried the attack. Then the case took a turn for the bizarre when, two weeks later, the attackers were discovered to have been a pair of immigrants from Nigeria who said Smollett paid them to pretend to attack him, resulting in a swift and angry backlash from former supporters. This hit the show's ratings (which were already declining) hard, and ultimately it was announced that the sixth season would be the last one. See the Music page for how this has affected Smollett himself.
  • Felicity is better known for the unfitting changes that occurred near the end of its run. Most infamously, the Unnecessary Makeover of the eponymous character, which had Felicity cut off her signature curly hair in favor of a pixie cut, ditching her sweatery outfits for more urban clothing, and the series becoming Lighter and Softer in the process.
  • Ghostwatch, the one-off Halloween Special drama shown on BBC 1 in 1992, is better known for the controversy caused when a sizable chunk of the viewing audience thought it was real and the ensuing argument over whether this was the creators' desired effect than the fact that it's a damn fine ghost story. It makes frequent appearances on 'Underrated Horror Films' listicles as a result.
  • Growing Pains will forever be known for its Troubled Production, where its star Kirk Cameron demanded that the show be clean of everything even remotely obscene, including having series regular Julie McCullough fired for appearing in Playboy, after becoming a born-again Christian. This behind the scenes drama permanently tarnished his reputation; not even an apology could repair it. Since then, Cameron has become far more famous for his views regarding homosexuality, starring in the Left Behind film series, and being the lead star, producer, and co-writer of the equally infamous Saving Christmas.
  • The single thing to be talked about Heathers is the offensive undertones of the Heathers' casting as a fat girl, a gender-queer, and biracial, while casting Veronica and JD as white, which was widely criticized for giving the series the appearance of being a paranoid alt-right fantasy and which many saw as completely missing the point of the original film. In fact, no online review of the show goes by without mentioning it and no site featuring it is without this debate. Making matters worse was the show's glorified portrayal of school gun violence in an era where mass shootings were rampant across the United States. The Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida, made this premise rather tasteless, forcing Paramount Network to delay the premiere of the series — which itself got cancelled after another high-profile high school shooting in Santa Fe, Texas, and permanently getting the series dropped from the network. Paramount ultimately reversed course and it was shown in an edited form almost half a year later — just days before a white nationalist stormed into a synagogue in Pittsburgh and killed eleven worshippers, forcing Paramount to make even more edits.
  • House of Cards was irreparably tarnished by its executive producer and lead star Kevin Spacey's sexual misconduct allegations in 2017. Not helping was Netflix's questionable response to it, shutting down production while still leaving the door open on finishing it, and also keeping the option for continuing the series without Spacey on the table. And then no fewer than eight crew members came forward stating that they'd complained to the crew about Spacey making advances on them, only to be brushed off.
  • Insatiable has been overshadowed by the controversy surrounding its premise, in which a fat girl (played by average-sized actress Debby Ryan in a fat suit) experiences dramatic weight loss after a case of Bully Brutality results in her jaw being wired shut, and carries out a plan to get revenge on her bullies. The series has been accused of promoting dangerous myths about weight loss and a petition to cancel it gathered 120,000 signatures before the series even aired. And once the reviewers actually got to see the series, it was panned even further for its tone-deaf handling of the subject matter.
  • Jeopardy!:
    • The October 12, 2009 episode was the third game for 5-time champion Terry Linwood. However, one of his opponents was Jeff Kirby, who'd previously appeared on Jeopardy! in 1999, even though Trebek-era contestants are not allowed to appear again. The producers hadn't realized this until someone on the show's message board pointed out that he was wearing the same tie he had worn in his 1999 appearance. Because of him, this episode has been banned from reruns.
    • The "Kids' Week" games, which started in the late '90s, gradually fell victim to this. On July 31, 2013, a player on Kids' Week absolutely owned the game to the tune of $66,600. What do people best remember about this episode? One of his opponents was penalized for misspelling "Emancipation Proclamation" for his Final Jeopardy! response. In the days that followed, angry posts flooded the show's Facebook page, claiming that since children were playing the game, the judges should have been more lenient. Journalists and news websites also chimed in on the issue, with the contestant claiming he was robbed because of his spelling error. Never mind that he would've gotten only second place regardless and the controversy over the misspelling completely overshadowed the winner's huge haul. They tried another Kids' Week in December 2014 but a Stage Mom caused a stir with host Alex Trebek when she demanded that an act be re-shot. It didn't help that the latter fiasco happened around the same time Sony got hacked. Because of this, Jeopardy! hasn't done a Kids' Week since, and the series has all but distanced itself from them. However, it isn't immune to the occasional reference.
  • The third season of Lethal Weapon was undermined by reports about the constant dysfunction behind the scenes, with Damon Wayans and Clayn Crawford being at each other's throats and Fox being overly hesitant to rein in its stars' behavior. In the end, Crawford was fired, his character was killed off, and Sean William Scott was brought in to replace him in the new season.
  • Maude ran for six seasons, and was a ratings hit throughout its run, but today it is remembered for the abortion episode and little else. This was very evident when Bea Arthur died, and reporters mentioned virtually nothing else about the show.
  • Million Dollar Extreme Presents: World Peace became overshadowed by the fact that the comedy troupe that created the show have been accused of having ties to white supremacist and alt-right groups. As a result, a number of [adult swim] employees threatened to quit unless the show was cancelled, which it ultimately was.
  • A couple Mystery Science Theater 3000 episodes have this attached:
    • The Sidehackers was selected early in the second season, before anyone on the crew thought it might be important to make sure the films would be suitable for television. The film's first half with its goofy motorcycle races and cheesy romance scenes got them to commit to using it, only to discover that after the point no one had watched past, the hero's girlfriend is graphically raped and murdered, with the film shifting into a gritty revenge flick from then forward. The scene was awkwardly cut from the episode, and from then on they made sure to always know a movie from beginning to end before deciding to use it.
    • The villain of The Brute Man is played by Rondo Hatton, who suffered from acromegaly which disfigured him and eventually killed him a few years after the film was made. Many fans (and Mary Jo Pehl, who considers this episode an Old Shame) felt uncomfortable that the show was inviting them to laugh at his condition.
    • The show's fan base is also notorious for one of the biggest and nastiest flame wars from the early days of the World Wide Web, over the change in host from Joel to Mike. It was so devastating to the online community that the topic was banned almost everywhere until several years after the show ended.
    • The show being made at a time when homosexuality and other related issues were largely considered Acceptable Targets for comedy naturally has resulted in quite a few jokes that suffer from serious Values Dissonance now. The biggest offender is the short Mr. B Natural, in which the title character is played by a woman whose sexiness is very much played up, resulting in many, many lines that can now come off as transphobic. It didn't help at all that the short became one of the most popular things the show ever did thanks to just how bizarre it is, and Mr. B even became an occasional drop-in character, causing it to maintain a very high profile among fans and likely one of the first things a new viewer will check out.
  • Even supposedly family-friendly shows such as Canadian "tween" drama The Next Step (and by extension, its Spin-Off Lost and Found Music Studios) are not exempt from this. The actress Jordan Clark (of whom some people watch the show for - she is considered as Ms. Fanservice) caused controversy with her slightly raunchy act in Dancing with the Stars, which caused no end of ire with Moral Guardians and Think of the Children!-type groups. Word of God is she did it to avoid Contractual Purity.
  • Nickelodeon's Nick Studio 10 block is better known for the fact that it randomly interrupted the middle of a show, causing viewers to miss part of the episode, than for anything else about it.
  • Amongst British fans of Noddy's Toyland Adventures, The Noddy Shop is remembered for taking the stories from Toyland Adventures and putting them in an unrelated show with humans and puppets, with Johnny Crawfish tending to get the most flack from them.
  • The most remembered facet of The Pat Sajak Show, other than the fact that Americans got to see the host of Wheel of Fortune cut his teeth in the talk show industry, was the March 30, 1990 episode. At this point, the show was employing guest hosts on Fridays, and Rush Limbaugh happened to be the guest host that night. He entered the audience to gauge feedback on an anti-abortion bill in Idaho, causing him to get heckled for several minutes, to the point that he had to cut to commercial and conduct his interview with the next guest in another studio. He then began to speak on affirmative action in the next segment, but once again had to cut to commercial due to further heckling, and conducted the final segment with the audience cleared out. Limbaugh later claimed that the hecklers were planted as a publicity stunt. The show also ended up being cancelled while Sajak was on vacation overseas.
  • If people don't remember Press Your Luck for the Whammy, then they remember it for Michael Larson's infamous memorization of the Big Board's light patterns, resulting in him getting a huge haul.
  • Terry Kneiss' perfect bid during the December 16, 2008 episode of The Price Is Right will forever be tainted by accusations of cheating by the production staff and Drew Carey before they decided Kneiss should keep the prizes.
  • Netflix series The Ranch was affected by this when the company seemed to be in no hurry to remove Danny Masterson after multiple rape accusations. This came to a head with a jaw-dropping moment from former Netflix executive Andy Yeatman, who was questioned about it by a woman at a soccer game and blithely replied the company didn't believe the accusations, only for her to reveal that she was one of the accusers. This is why Yeatman is now a former Netflix executive. The upshot was the number of people just plain confused at how you can possibly say anything to that question beyond "Legal has advised us not to talk about it." Masterson himself would be written out, with Dax Shepard being hired to replace him as a new character.
  • NBC's Rise is nominally based on a non-fiction book about a gay man (albeit closeted at the time) who revolutionized a high school theater department. His equivalent in the show is straight, which wasn't helped at all by producer Jason Katims making what he later regretted as an extremely poor choice of words when he said he wanted to "tell my own story," which many LGBTQ advocates took as him saying he couldn't possibly relate to a sexuality outside of his own, when in fact he was just commenting on how the original book was just a jumping off point for the show's fictional story (enough that Katims has a "created by" credit rather than "developed by"). The show does feature several prominent non-straight characters and got the blessing of GLAAD for their positive portrayal, but many still have a hard time getting past that initial impression.
  • Ronan Farrow Today managed to get hit with controversy twice in just its first few weeks on the air in 2014. First, he was overshadowed by his sister Dylan publicly reiterating her allegations that she'd been molested by their estranged father Woody Allen, reigniting the scandal it caused when they first went public in the '90s. Then, three days after his show premiered, he was awarded the Cronkite Award for Excellence in Journalism and Exploration. While the award was unrelated to his work on his show (Farrow had previously worked for years in a variety of roles that might justify his getting the award) the fact that the award came so soon after the premiere of his show made him look like an over-privileged celebrity scion, an image that he wasn't able to shake, particularly not after someone released a memo to the press declaring that Farrow would not take "off-topic" questions during the pressers for the Cronkite Award ceremony. Incidentally, his show suffered from chronic low ratings and lasted only a year. In a happier note for Farrow, he would be lauded years later for his Pulitzer Prize-winning reporting of the Harvey Weinstein sexual abuse scandal, which in turn led to the #MeToo movement. By 2019, Farrow was one of the most respected journalists in the United States, with Ronan Farrow Today barely being remembered, so it seems that he was ultimately able to shake off the fallout from it.
  • Roseanne had the distinction of having this happening both during its original run and its revival:
    • The series' original run is more famous for how gimmicky its last season was, before the twist of the series finale, where it was revealed that the entire series itself is actually a story written by Roseanne about her life, and the whole final season was outright invented by Roseanne to cope with the death of her husband, who died between seasons. It says something that the revival completely undid said reveal. Even before the last season, the show was no stranger to controversy, thanks to a Sweeps Week Lesbian Kiss and a widely condemned rendition of "The Star-Spangled Banner" by Roseanne Barr at a baseball game, something the show lampshaded more than once afterward.
    • It's revival is more known for Roseanne Barr's tweet directed at Valerie Jarret, and her subsequent firing. This lead to the cancellation of the revival and the creation of an After Show, The Conners.
  • Seinfeld got in major hot water with the Puerto Rican community when "The Puerto Rican Day" featured Kramer burning the country's flag, despite it being an accident. The DVD set features interviews of everyone lamenting how the joke was blown out of proportion, and cast such a pall over the show right as it was ending.
  • The Secret Government: The Constitution in Crisis, a Bill Moyers documentary, was the subject of a very serious controversy to the point where it painted a bright red target on PBS's back even well into the '90s, with Republicans using the documentary as an excuse to call for zeroing out funding for the network.
  • Allison Mack's apparent involvement in a sex cult hidden in NXIVM brought a lot of controversy to the series, Smallville. It doesn't help that Kristin Kreuk is a former member of NXIVM, and although she has made it clear that she had no involvement in the sex trafficking operation and has publicly denounced the organization, it is very likely that her career will be permanently tarnished as well as Mack's. As a result, many people have either been turned off of the series or can no longer see Chloe Sullivan as an adorable or well-intentioned girl.
  • Star Trek: Discovery:
    • Most discussions about the series are destined to be overshadowed by CBS' highly unpopular decision to make it exclusive to their paid streaming service CBS All Access, meaning that Star Trek fans have to pay a monthly subscription fee to watch it, even though CBS is a broadcast network. It doesn't help that the network aired the pilot episode on regular TV to entice viewers, only to end it with a cliffhanger; prior to that first episode, most trailers for the show downplayed the fact that it could only be watched online, leading many viewers to feel cheated.
    • After the show actually started airing, it developed a reputation for killing off minority characters. Especially notorious was Michelle Yeoh's Captain Georgiou being killed in the opening two-parter, after the network themselves had spent months patting themselves on the back for having a badass female Asian captain in the show, as well as one half of the franchise's first confirmed gay relationship, Dr. Hugh Culber. While both characters actually came Back from the Dead in various ways, several people had already lost their jobs — including someone who tried to handle the Bury Your Gays element by spoiling the fact that Culber would return.
  • Syndication company TAT Communications, founded by Norman Lear, is best known for its elusive closing logo, which has only manifested itself in the form of a brief video snippet at the start and the full audio as of writing, and the many recreations of it based on since-proven-faulty anecdotes thereof, to the point where the Closing Logos Group has banned all discussion of it until further notice.
  • Even non-fans of Top Gear are familiar with the many accusations of misogyny and racism in the show, particularly at the hands of former host Jeremy Clarkson. Clarkson himself is also infamous for his off-stage antics, such as when he got himself expellednote  from the show (and the other two hosts left with him in solidarity) through an angry outburst where he physically assaulted a producer for serving him cold food (said food was made during the late night, and at the time, only one cook was working at the restaurant where it was made).
  • Donald Trump's remarks towards Mexican illegal immigrants in his opening campaign speech for the 2016 presidential election led to such backlash that it resulted in both the Miss Universe pageant and his show, The Apprentice taken off of NBC. His continued remarks, controversial views, unexpectedly successful election as the President of the United States in 2016, scandal-ridden career, campaign, and presidency, and record low approval rating has resulted in the programs that were once his largest direct contribution to pop culture becoming just mild footnotes in his story.
  • Two and a Half Men was already a divisive show amongst viewers, but it will likely forever be linked to the often bizarre and sometimes even dangerous personal behavior of its star Charlie Sheen, including but not limited to numerous drug and alcohol-induced tirades, his views on 9/11, and allegations of Domestic Abuse and rape. He eventually proved so difficult to work with that he was unceremoniously fired and his character killed off and replaced by Ashton Kutcher - and he played one of the leads.
  • The 1980s sitcom Valerie will forever be known for its controversial firing of lead Valerie Harper after season two (she later sued NBC and the producers for wrongful firing and won), leading to her character getting killed off and replaced by Sandy Duncan, subsequently leading to the show being retitled Valerie's Family and later The Hogan Family. The show managed to last four seasons without Harper, producing enough episodes for reruns, but has otherwise been unsuccessful in syndication. The controversy even overshadows the fact that the series was a Star-Making Role for Jason Bateman, who played one of Harper's sons.

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