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What Do You Mean Its Not For Kids / Live-Action TV

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  • This led to the sad story of Angel's botched terrestrial broadcast in the UK. Channel 4 bought Angel and decided to broadcast the first season at six in the evening, because, you know, anything with magic in it is obviously teatime fare for kids. Despite extremely heavy censorship cuts, this still led to a formal reprimand from the Broadcasting Standards Council. The last few episodes of the first season and the whole second season were consequently shown after midnight with little or no publicity. The third season was bought instead by Channel 5, who treated it equally badly. (The other two seasons have never aired on any UK terrestrial channel.)
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  • Blue Bloods used this trope In-Universe at one point. Henry and Frank were going to take Danny's kids (roughly eight years old) to a Broadway musical, but Henry misplaced the tickets. When they found them, Erin noted they'd "dodged a bullet" as she put it: the musical was The Book of Mormon.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer doesn't shy away from showing vampires and demons being stabbed or decapitated, human victims lying gruesomely dead, and has a significant amount of sexual content. Nevertheless, there are 7-year-olds whose parents have allowed them to watch it. Not helped in the UK where the BBC aired a censored version at six PM with the sexual and violent content cut but aired the full version at eleven the same day. All neck snappings were cut, for example, leading to strange fights with demons who suddenly just decided to give up and lie still for no reason.
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  • Crank Yankers has some well-known comedians make prank calls to various businesses, and reenacting the call on camera using Muppet-style puppets. One call had a woman prank a hardware store with an extended conversation about the "big tubes of caulk." Very much not for children. Not to mention the openings of the skits. One has a man carrying his large testes in a wheelbarrow and another has a woman puppet's clothes being ripped off in the wind and exposing her breasts and nipples, fully.
  • The newer seasons of Degrassi get this too, despite the fact that the show is usually rated TV-14 and has characters dealing with a plethora of (mostly not child-friendly) challenges, such as eating disorders, peer pressure, sexual identity, gang violence, self-injury, teenage pregnancy, drug abuse, school shootings, rape, etc. The fact that it airs in the U.S. on TeenNick might have a part in this. (It should be noted that many parents likely recall watching the original series, which was more family-friendly.)
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  • Dinosaur Planet is a nice little show about dinosaurs, right? Nice, if you mean being buried alive by a sandstorm, brutal Protoceratops murdering, plenty of gorn, a megatsunami that kills everyone in the area but one, a Maiasaura with an injured leg slowly dying of his wounds, everyone in that episode dying of a horrific volcanic explosion, a Saltasaurus nesting site being drowned, and an Aucasaurus crushed to death.
  • Dinosaurs is made by Jim Henson, aired on the Disney-owned ABC and features adorable dino puppets, so it's for kids, right? Technically not. The show has some mild profanity and has some sex jokes, and the last episode wrapped up things with a huge Downer Ending.
  • Doctor Who, the parent show of the two examples below, has run into this issue for decades, due in part to inconsistent marketing that at times treats it like a children's show, and at other times an adult sci-fi series. Came to a head during the Peter Capaldi era which gave the show a more mature feel and, at one point, saw the show airing at 8:30 p.m., which in the UK was tantamount to blasphemy for a show most saw as "teatime viewing". (Just in the UK; in North America, the show regularly aired at 9 pm, with reruns of the earlier version usually airing on PBS late at night.)
    • Class (2016), a Doctor Who spin-off which is full of blood and sex, gets a lot of this as well. In addition to being a spin-off of the popular family show, it centers around a group of teenagers (which can sometimes hint at something for younger audiences). In addition, parts of the premise closely resemble The Sarah Jane Adventures, a Doctor Who spin-off which was aimed more at kids than its parent show. And of course, many people are just clueless over what Young Adult fiction means (in reality it is aimed at older teenagers up to early 30s and as such can contain explicit sex and violence, but some people assume it's a synonym for "children's" or "kid-friendly"). As a result, the BBC itself ran into issues with production and marketing - according to UK media it only allowed the Doctor to make a cameo in the first episode if the show toned down its violence and sexual content (it's unclear if the reports referred to only the episode he appeared in, or the whole series); after the series underperformed in a streaming platform, BBC One buried it in a late-night time slot and fired through the 8-episode first series in 4 weeks flat, attracting pocket-change viewership numbers and leaving its future in doubt (it was ultimately canceled after its only season). This is less of an issue on broadcasters like Space in Canada and BBC America that usually air Doctor Who in a mid-evening time slot anyway (one that in the UK would be considered post-watershed), and thus had no qualms airing a show like Class alongside Doctor Who, though it still attracted criticism from viewers and didn't generate enough overseas ratings to justify BBC Three to continue it.
    • The makers of Torchwood must have thought that by Series 4 there was no longer any need to keep saying "Yes, we know this is a Doctor Who spinoff, but it's broadcast at 9 PM for a reason", so they didn't. Cue outrage at the first gay sex scene, with more than one person tweeting to the effect of "That's not right, it's a kids' show". Clearly the post-watershed swearing and gore and a pedophile as a major character - not to mention it was co-produced by and broadcast on the Starz network in the US, and Starz simply does not do family-friendly series - didn't clue them in enough. (Doctor Who, of course, is one of the more famous examples of the opposite of this trope, since, while this doesn't always show, it's aimed at family audiences.)
  • Emerald City is listed under the "Family" television category on Hulu, likely due to its origins being from the Land of Oz series. However, Emerald City is a much grittier adaptation than most of the adaptations of the book, featuring frequent violence and sex scenes that push things about as far as broadcast TV will allow.
  • Even game shows aren't immune. The current version of Family Feud is rated TV-G on some TV guides, yet there are a lot of sex-related categories and answers that are not appropriate for children who enjoy game shows. It doesn't help that the mobile game has G-rated categories about animals, food, places, etc.
  • Despite being based on a children's show, Fate: The Winx Saga isn't for the same target audience as Winx Club was, as it's Darker and Edgier with a lot of elements that weren't in the original series, such as swearing, sex, drug use and graphic violence.
  • FPJ's Ang Probinsyano has young children, particularly boys, as its demographic, even going so far as to having merchandise such as toys and mobile games aimed for youngsters. Except the series' themes aren't exactly something a sensible parent would even dare expose their son or daughter to, like drugs, government corruption and the like. And it's even more so with the Darker and Edgier Pulang Araw (lit. Red Sunsnote ) story arc which brought Kardo from an upstanding cop to a cynical Vigilante Man on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge.
  • According to Lisa Kudrow, she has met kids claiming that their parents let them watch Friends. While Friends is not particularly vulgar by modern standards, there are still way too many storylines revolving around sex to consider it appropriate for younger viewers. Netflix also has the series in the separate "Kids" section of their site for profiles set to "older kids" level, and HBO Max also classifies it as a kids' show.
  • Galavant is a parody of Fairy Tales, has a lighthearted, colorful tone, and has its soundtrack done by the guy who did the music for Aladdin and The Hunchback of Notre Dame, so it must be for kids, right? Well, half the opening number was devoted to all the sex Galavant and Madalena were having during their relationship, and the series only gets raunchier from there.
  • In one of the stupidest examples imaginable, numerous parents apparently assumed that Game of Thrones had to be family-friendly because it was fantasy. It didn't help that a number of articles written about the show hyped the fantasy aspects, such as mentions of dragons and direwolves, or focusing entirely on the latter part of series co-creator David Benioff's admittedly crappy tagline "The Sopranos in Middle-earth", apparently hearing "Middle-earth" and assuming we'd see elves, wizards, and hobbits. Never mind that it airs on HBO, which is known for series with copious amounts of nudity, violence, and profanity, and never mind that right before the series a giant "Not suitable for children" warning is displayed. There were angry emails to HBO and news outlets from outraged parents at a show "for children" containing beheadings, profanity, incest, nudity, and rape.
  • Genius is a biographical series produced for the National Geographic channel. Assuming it to be family-friendly is not unreasonable given everything else NG airs tends to be of this nature. That assumption disappeared with the first sex scene involving (of all people) Albert Einstein. The second season, focusing on Pablo Picasso, was more of the same.
  • Glee, largely thanks to the popularity of a movie with a very similar premise that actually was for kids. Except Glee has: jokes about oral sex; dancing which borders on dry humping; sex between teenagers and older, married adults; the president of the celibacy club getting pregnant; boys complaining about "erupting early" and an adult former student corrupting kids by giving them pornography, alcohol, and lessons in stealing. And that's all within the first 5 episodes. A later episode had two teen girls becoming the first to reference in dialogue a certain sex act by name on US network TV.
  • Another ABC show, The Goldbergs, was advertised in cinemas before family-friendly movies such as Planes and Turbo, and was also advertised in banner ads on The Hub's (now Discovery Family) website. From the preview, it looks like a fun sitcom about a boy having crazy adventures in The '80s with his family, and he likes a few things from that era kids still like today like Star Wars. Except that there are adult themes in the show and uncensored and censored swearing, mostly from the father on the show, and sometimes even Adam swears! note , and episodes about about Barry being taught about sex and the kids finding a scrambled porn channel (that we don't get to see, of course) when they are trying to watch General Hospital.
  • Amazon categorizes The Good Place under Kids and Family, right next to shows like SpongeBob SquarePants and Vampirina. Just because it's about angels in heaven doesn't make it a family show, as there are several jokes about death, drugs, and sex in it. And in the end, they aren't even in heaven at all, so if they didn't get the message before...
  • The Goodies, being essentially a live-action version of a Looney Tunes cartoon, was broadcast in a children's timeslot by the Australian Broadcasting Company ... who had to edit the hell out of it.
  • Greg the Bunny actually aired on Australian TV in the morning alongside actual children's programs for a short period of time. Oh look, a show about what it would be like if puppets lived in our world! That's perfect for toddlers to enjoy, right? It actually deals with a lot of adult themes.
  • Hikonin Sentai Akibaranger is so rife with this (for further proof, see the 3rd episode of the first season), as the show is aired in the Otaku O'Clock timeslot. even the tagline says it:
    "Good kids, stay away from this show. Got it?"
    • Violence-wise it's pretty much the same as regular Sentai, but things which wouldn't be kid-friendly include: The team getting drunk to power up, Red openly admitting to having a robot fetish, a monster which strips perverts naked, and the main villain of Season 2 suddenly crying out in orgasm from the sex he's having in the Delusion World.
  • Imaginary Mary is a show about an imaginary friend reuniting with her creator after not having seen each other in a long time, but just because the show stars one doesn't make it for kids. The titular character drinks alcohol, there is tons of swearing, and "Prom-Con" had a subplot about sex. In short, it's a Spiritual Successor to Drop Dead Fred. Not helping matters is that Imaginary Mary came out shortly after Inside Out, a children's movie (distributed by Disney, which is the parent company of the series' home network ABC) with its own cute imaginary friend character did.
    • Happy!, a series that came out a year later that's similar to this one, also qualifies as this trope. Yes, it's about a man and a cute animated horse, but it contains violence, drug use, and cursing.
  • Instant Mom is a sitcom that airs on Nickelodeon's adult block Nick @ Nite and on Nick Jr.'s now-defunct adult block NickMom, but on Hulu, it was placed in the children's section in between Magic Adventures of Mumfie and the Animated Adaptation of Fraggle Rock. This is possibly because it looked like a kid-friendly sitcom about a mom and her adopted children. While there's no real cursing to speak of unlike other similar sitcoms, it has several adult themes, like the adults wearing lingerie in bed, the women on the show drinking wine to cope with their issues and several instances of sexual innuendo. Due to Hulu's mistake, other websites like ToonZone and the Canadian cable service Bell TV classify Instant Mom as a children's show!
  • Jurassic Fight Club is a Walking with Dinosaurs wanna-be, and seeing the main point is prehistoric battles, it isn't surprising why it's on here.
  • Kamen Rider Amazons is definitely the goriest entry in Kamen Rider franchise that can even make Urobutcher's head explodes. Being made by the staff members from the early Heisei-era entries, this one is Not Safe for Work to the point that they released on Amazon Prime where watchers of the recent Heisei-era entries are a no-no. (You might be okay if you grew up watching early-2000s Heisei-era entries.)
  • Knight Rider is often stereotyped as a kids' show because it has one hero and his super cool super car, but the first season itself is loaded with episodes about politics, corrupt police, framed murder charges, a lover implicated in soliciting crime and the murder of a sleaze magazine owner- plenty of murders in the first season. The pilot is surely not for kids. Plenty of gunshots fired in the show actually hit — and a few kill. Contrast that with The A-Team which has only two casualties in the whole run and almost none of the shots fired by the heroes hit.
  • Lost is about a bunch of people on an island, but beware, Gilligan's Island or Survivor this is not. While it's tamer than many shows on nowadays and is TV-14, it still has lots of corpses and blood, multiple somewhat graphic surgeries, several murders including the gassing of an entire small town, multiple (albeit nudity-free) love-making scenes, Ben, some minor subplots relating to infidelity, several characters struggling with depression and self-loathing, and a main character with a severe heroin addiction, not to mention the many heavy philosophical themes that most kids wouldn't be able to appreciate. It's not an outright adult show, but should be kept in the 13 and up area.
  • Love Daily is an anthology series on Hulu about teen romance, containing plenty of swearing and sexual themes. Oh, and it features a ton of former stars from children's Kid Coms of the 2010s. Don’t expect it to be anything like the shows the actors got their start on.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
    • Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., despite being in the same continuity the Marvel Cinematic Universe (which despite having some more adult moments, is generally family-friendly), has a much different tone. Murder, sex, Government corruption, and lots of Nightmare Fuel is a regular part of the show. Despite this, Agent Coulson, Fitz, and Simmons have all appeared in the Ultimate Spider-Man TV show, which is aimed at kids, while an Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. DLC pack featuring the cast of the show was released for LEGO Marvel's Avengers. All that said, S.H.I.E.L.D. has always aired with a TV-14 rating and stayed within the parameters of what regular network TV requires. The same cannot be said for the MCU-based shows produced for streaming platforms such as Netflix, due to their ratings being either TV-14 or TV-MA.
    • This is one of the major reasons why Jessica Jones (2015) was in Development Hell for so long. Melissa Rosenberg wanted the series to be appropriately Darker and Edgier to reflect its source material, but none of the networks were interested in a superhero show that dealt with the gritty subject matter she was pitching. It eventually got picked up by Netflix, which is known for its more mature content. Its primary themes include such cheery subjects as alcoholism, PTSD and rape, each of which are thoroughly explored and discussed to a disturbing degree. Like Daredevil (2015), it earned a TV-MA rating. There were eyebrows raised when the first episode of the series - which included violence and sex scenes - was shown at a New York Comic Con event attended by parents with children. To be fair, parents were given the option to leave with their kids before the screening began, but there were reports of some who didn't quite realize Marvel meant it when they said Jessica Jones was an adults-only series.
    • Speaking of Daredevil (2015), to say that it earned its TV-MA rating would be a massive understatement. The level of violence in the series can be absolutely shocking at times, whether it be hearing Healy smash a guy's in with a bowling ball or seeing Wilson Fisk kill Anatoly by beating him unconscious and decapitating him with a car door. While on the topic, the LEGO Marvel's Avengers game is based on the MCU and has levels based on the various movies and TV shows. Despite this, the Daredevil and Jessica Jones series were not included, as Marvel felt they were inappropriate for children, but they do appear as playable characters.
  • Modern Family has a lot of fans who are younger children, when it's not actually for them. It doesn't help that a few of the actors would later have roles in Disney projects such as Sofia the First and Finding Dory. While the show is relatively tame compared to most network sitcoms and there are a few kid-friendly episodes, it's certainly not Full House, either. There is even a line of dolls from the show that is stated as being for ages 3 and up, though they are clearly meant to be collectors' items for adults.
  • The 2015 series The Muppets is TV-PG and it shows. There are a lot of adult jokes showing off that just because it's a Muppet series doesn't mean it's for kids. In Russia, the show aired on Disney Channel, right after the Disney Junior block, and Amazon lists the show as a recommendation alongside some Direct to Video Sesame Street specials and The Mother Goose Club. Eventually, this trope was its downfall, as it was canceled due to low ratings. People just couldn't get into an adult-aimed Muppets show after years of it being child-friendly.
    • Those wishing to explore the early history of the Muppets find themselves having to tread carefully, because beyond Sesame Street and most of The Muppet Show, Jim Henson often used his Muppets for adult humor. They were regulars on Saturday Night Live in its early years and one of the pilots for The Muppet Show, which aired on ABC in 1975, was actually titled "Sex and Violence" and was a parody of the increasing amount of sexual content and violence on American TV.
  • Mystery Science Theater 3000: Children are especially attracted to the funny puppets, and the host segments have a wild, kids show-esque atmosphere and fairly family-friendly sense of humor. The actual films featured, though, are often not kid stuff, often dealing with mature themes. As vintage Doctor Who has shown, obviously fake monsters to an adult are not so obviously fake to small children — no matter how much the 'bots may be laughing at them. And most children simply do not have enough cultural experience to understand when a movie is "bad", meaning that much of the riffing is lost on them anyway. Still, the Best Brains gang got several letters from kids and families (particularly during the Joel years) talking about how much they loved the show. These letters were often read on the air, showing that they embraced younger audiences watching.
  • Nature documentaries, in general, might be classed as this. In the UK, at least, they're exempt from classification due to their educational nature when released as video recordings, so kids can theoretically buy them and watch them without question- even if they do contain animals fighting, killing and eating other animals and copulating. There may, of course, be some measure of What Measure Is a Non-Human? about this too- it's just what animals do naturally in the wild, so who cares?
  • B.J. Novak has stated that children as young as five years old come up to him because they know him from The Office (US). Not only is the humor too mature for that age group (in Canada, the home video releases are rated 14A, meaning that no one under the age of 14 is to purchase them), but most children that young would find the show boring.
  • Once Upon a Time is not that extreme of an example, but just because it's about fairy tales and has many characters that were in Disney movies does not mean that it's for the same age group (besides, the fairy tales and its characters didn't become all cutesy and G-rated until Disney adapted them). The series contains things like violence, bloodshed (though often not as much as would be expected), a character who is unknowingly a werewolf turning into a wolf and eating the man she's in love with, implied rape as well as a definite (though never exactly stated) example of a Sex Slave, and mild language. The inclusion of Frozen characters in particular appearing was marketed quite a bit however the series isn't as G as the film itself (which has a PG rating however is very tame and popular with little kids). The fact that the series often uses Disney's adaptations of fairy tales as a base (Gaston's not even in the original Beauty and the Beast, he was created for Beauty and the Beast (1946)) really does not help. That and the fact the series uses fairy tales currently untouched by Disney (Hansel and Gretel) and some books that aren't considered fairy tales at all (Frankenstein) is a bit of a Mind Screw.
  • Tsuburaya Productions created a horror series in 1968 called Operation: Mystery. In Germany in 1971, some network decided it would be a good idea to dub it and broadcast it as a children's series. It's from the creators of Ultraman, after all... it must be for kids!
    • Ultraman Nexus was a ratings failure for the very same reasons. Intended to be a completely Darker and Edgier Deconstruction reimagining of the Ultra Series and notorious as one of the darkest entries of the franchise, it got put on a Saturday morning kids' block due to Misaimed Marketing (Hey it's Ultraman, of course kids'll love it!), which resulted in abysmal ratings and the only case ever of an early cancellation for the Ultra Series.
  • The PeeWee Herman Show: This nightclub show played at midnight at the Groundlings theater and later at the Roxy, where it was taped to air on HBO as a one-hour special. It's presented as if it's a kids' show, with Pee-wee addressing the audience as "boys and girls" and interacting with various colorful characters and puppets along the way. Most of the show maintains a facade of innocence, but there is an undercurrent of adult humor and innuendo to most segments. The most overtly risque segment has Pee-wee trick a woman into stripping down to her slip and having his puppet peak up at her underwear. Pee-wee's Playhouse, released six years later, bears many similarities to the live show, but really is aimed at kids.
  • Don't let the fact that Pets involves cute animal puppets fool you. The show has animals who engage in activities such as looking at pornography, masturbating, getting addicted to medications, collecting bloodstained bags, and drinking urine.
  • Popular sounds like a Disney Channel-esque show on the surface, but it's rated TV-14. On a Canadian channel, it aired after the innocuous Disney sitcom That's So Raven, leaving parents in for a surprise if their kids forget to turn the TV off after Raven.
  • There's Project Runway merchandise aimed at preteen girls. The show isn't for them, due to swearing (most of it censored), adult themes like drinking, and references to things kids wouldn't know about such as A Chorus Line. It doesn't help that Tim Gunn would later voice Baileywick in an actual show aimed at girls, Sofia the First, or that they did an episode in collaboration with American Girl to promote their BeForever reboot.
  • Puppets Who Kill: The puppeteers have played characters on The Noddy Shop and Groundling Marsh and it's about puppets getting help from a human for their problems, but those problems aren't your everyday ones.
  • Strangely enough, Reality TV shows are seldom seen as harmful for children. Despite the fact that many of them feature a bunch of people stuck together in one place while the TV makers make sure the tensions between them rise. The result is often a showcase of verbal and/or physical fights, swearing and people trying to get revenge on each other. Now, isn't that a great example for your kids growing up? Related to this is the fact that certain female socialites and/or reality stars who get their fame from these reality shows (i.e. Paris Hilton, Nicole Richie, the Kardashians...) are frequently criticized by other media for being "bad role models" for girls. Never mind that the shows they've appeared on were never aimed at children young enough to be harmfully influenced by their antics, and it's not like these celebrities try to pass themselves off as role models anyway.
  • Back when it was popular, 13% of Rescue 911 viewers consisted of children, most of them younger than six, and the show got higher ratings than Garfield and Friends. This caused an uproar with parents and child psychologists on whether the show was educational or too scary for children.
  • Riverdale has received some criticism because it's not kid-friendly like most other Archie Comics media. The first episode alone features Jason Blossom murdered and Archie having a sexual relationship with Ms. Grundy (who has been aged down significantly). The series is much Hotter and Sexier and Darker and Edgier than the normal Archie fare (unsurprising considering one of the writers is from the Zombie Apocalypse spinoff Afterlife with Archie). To be fair, the comics themselves have become more adult-oriented in recent years as well.
  • In the book Live From New York, many former cast members of Saturday Night Live say that they started watching the show as children. The show, unlike a very similar show on Nickelodeon, is clearly not for children, and not just because of its late time slot.
  • Skins: A UK show promoted as a YA series about teenagers and their trials and tribulations, filled with top-name actors and young teen performers, many of whom went on to stardom, plus boatloads of critical acclaim. Great for kids and teens to watch, right? Then the sex scenes begin. And the drug taking. So much so that an extremely toned-down version produced for MTV in the US a few years later proved to be Too Spicy for Yog-Sothoth and was yanked after 10 episodes. Skins is often cited as an example of people misunderstanding what YA (young adult) means; far from being synonymous with "family" viewing, the YA genre takes into account viewers/readers into their early 30s, so R-rated material is considered acceptable.
  • South Korean variety shows are a weird case. They are rated 12 and up or 15 and up due their content, but some examples of these shows like I Live Alone or I Can See Your Voice are mostly clean and has little to no offensive content.
  • There are child fans of Stranger Things because it A) has young children as protagonists and B) came out around the same time an anime with a similar premise began picking up steam in the U.S. and Canada. This leaves out all the scary monsters, Adult Fear and Mind Rape scenes that the former series is well-known for. In the fall of 2017, as fans awaited the eventual arrival of the third season of Stranger Things, US and UK media began reporting on Netflix airing a thematically similar series called Dark, imported from Europe, with many recommending it to fans of Stranger Things. This led to some awkward moments for viewers expecting something semi-family friendly only to be confronted with a series with explicit sex scenes and heavier violence.
  • Miniseries/film Fractured Fairy Tale The 10th Kingdom. It's fine for older kids, mostly thanks to Parental Bonus, but many a parent decided, like all Fairy Tales, it was intended for kids. There are references to aforementioned glowing hot slippers, onscreen deaths and a main character standing trial for eating a girl, who was actually killed by her uncle. Also, Rutger Hauer with a crossbow. Let us not forget how the opening of the first episode showed us a shot of the Snow White Memorial Prison, with a bunch of buzzards eating the remains of prisoners in old hanging cages... yes, very family friendly fairy-tale indeed...
  • 13 Reasons Why has been the subject of some confusing marketing and media coverage. Aside from the suicide themes, the show's sexual content, language and violence place it fully in the TV-MA realm, which has caught some viewers offguard thinking the show was aimed at younger viewers (and that the MA rating was strictly due to the suicide theme and not other content); this resulted in some negative media coverage related to the second season which included a graphic sexual assault scene.
    • In New Zealand, it led to the creation of a new "RP-18" rating, basically saying that no people under 18 are permitted to watch it unless accompanied by a parent or guardian.
  • Tim & Eric's Bedtime Stories: Wow, a TV show where two men tell bedtime stories to the viewers. Just the perfect thing for a kid to watch before bed, huh? That would be a bad idea, as most of the stories on this show deal with horror and violence.
  • Titans (2018) may be part of a franchise that's commonly thought of a lighthearted due to multiple animated series, but kid-friendly it is not. Just the first trailer alone features a dark and brooding atmosphere, people getting mangled, snapped, sliced, burned alive, and Robin himself drops the F-bomb. The fact that it's compared to the Netflix MCU and was originally going on TNT should give you a good idea that it was never meant for kids to begin with. It's rated TV-MA for a reason.
  • 24 suffers the same "detectives and spies are okay for kids" stigma that series like James Bond and Austin Powers commonly get treated with (see this page for more on that). Its' popularity with kids was made famous upon the publication of a study showing that British school children knew more about pop culture than events in history.
  • In the early 1970s Gerry and Sylvia Anderson decided to go into more serious, live-action drama with the series UFO, though it still used plenty of their famous model work. Unfortunately, the networks didn't know what to do with a show about faceless aliens coming to Earth to steal people's organs, which included one episode about drugged out hippies and another which focuses on the lead character having an extramarital affair. After all, it was made by the creators of Thunderbirds so it must be for kids, right? Even when producer Gerry Anderson included very strong hints of the series being more adult-oriented than his usual fare - including a gratuitous Ms. Fanservice scene in the first episode where a female character strips down to her underwear for no plot-related reason - broadcasters were still confused.
    • Anderson ran into the exact same problem with his later shows Space: 1999 and Space Precinct. Space Precinct in particular had issues with broadcasters who expected a kiddie show about alien police officers and instead got a surprisingly dark (and occasionally violent and suggestive) series that owed more to Alien Nation than Thunderbirds. Like UFO before it, lack of proper scheduling killed the show after only one season.
    • Space: 1999 exhibited almost an inversion of the trope. Dark, serious and gory in its first season, it left some viewers and critics confused as to who the audience for the show was. A change of producer in the second season led to Executive Meddling that led to the series becoming more kid-friendly.
  • Vikings is broadcast on History Channel, a network that built its name on family-friendly documentary productions. While not all affiliates of History air the uncensored version, the show is still considerably more raunchy and violent than the usual History series, and if families get their hands on the uncut DVD/Blu-ray without doing some research, they're in for a surprise.
  • Walker, Texas Ranger was sometimes seen as a "family" show and was popular with younger kids even though the show dealt with adult themes more often than not.
  • Wonder Showzen. It was originally to be titled Kids' Show, but they were forced to change it because the network feared people would take it literally. The theme song starts: "Kids' show, kids' show/ oh good lord it's a kids' show" There is a disclaimer at the beginning states that if you allow your kid to watch this show, you are a bad parent or guardian. It's rated TV-MA and is airing on MTV2.
  • If you are looking through the TV guides for family entertainment and see a program titled Zoo, don't be fooled into thinking that it is a family show about the lives of animals. It's actually about a man who solves violent mysteries involving animals. Not helping matters is that James Patterson, who wrote funny books for kids about life in middle school, was behind the show.

Television networks

  • An ongoing issue faced by the so-called American mainstream commercial networks - specifically ABC, CBS, The CW, Fox, NBC and to a degree the non-commercial PBS - is the assumption that, because they are widely available to anyone with a TV (unlike premium cable networks and streaming that require subscription) and are more tightly regulated, all content aired on them is by default family-friendly. In reality, while still tame in comparison to their equivalents in the UK, Canada and elsewhere that are more lenient in terms of language, sexual content and violence, especially after the Watershed hour, the mainstream networks have always aired some level of programming suitable only for adults (as judged by the mores of the day) and, as time has gone on, the level of language, sexuality, and violence allowed on these broadcasters has increased. Nonetheless, this view has led many Media Watchdog groups to continually raise issue with network programming out of concern that children could be exposed to adult content (putting pressure on advertisers in the process), and also morally conservative viewers who have come to look upon the networks as a refuge from the cable and streaming networks and their content.
  • Documentary and science-based cable networks such as Discovery, National Geographic, and History have always been associated with family-friendly programming, with the assumption developed that everything aired is or should be suitable for all viewers. In recent years, however, we have seen productions such as the violent and sexually explicit series Vikings appear on History, and National Geographic debuted Genius, a series that also has sexuality and nudity, and one of Discovery's most popular shows is Naked and Afraid in which nudity (albeit usually blurred) is a key part of the concept. Some food and cooking-related networks have also broadcast uncensored versions of Gordon Ramsay's F-bomb-filled shows such as Hell's Kitchen.
  • Freeform, formerly known as ABC Family, is a rare example of this trope not necessarily applying to a series, but to an entire network. It began as the CBN Family Channel - the CBN being "Christian Broadcasting Network", which was owned by televangelist Pat Robertson of The 700 Club fame. When the network was sold, initially to Fox, and later to ABC/Disney, the "Family" name was actually written into various contracts with other cable companies. This led to ongoing conflicts with not only Moral Guardian types but parents, period, as ABC Family began airing shows aimed at older viewers, with sexual content and language and adult themes that seemed to contradict the "Family" name. If such a requirement ever existed, by the fall of 2015 it was no longer a concern when the Freeform name change took effect in 2016.
    • When they were still ABC Family, they also aired reruns of That '70s Show which has many references to sex and implies marijuana usage with the kids in the circle. Granted, it had both written and spoken Content Warnings along the lines of "The following material may be inappropriate for younger viewers" before each episode.
  • Canadian networks such as YTV and Teletoon also seem to carry the same misconceptions as suggestive cartoons, a couple of violent anime and shows targeted for older teens often run rampant or get scattered into the mix of stuff that's supposed to be for kids.
    • YTV did this with Farscape of all shows. They announced that they would be the first Canadian channel to carry the show... and put up a Farscape page in their website which looked like something from Nickelodeon. Apparently, they were misled by the fact that the show was made by The Jim Henson Company. They ended up only airing the first season (and censoring the crap out of it).
    • YTV also was the first to air Red Dwarf and ended up banning one episode entirely because there was too much to cut. However, YTV eventually got the hint and began airing more adult fare like Æon Flux and The Young Ones in late-night time slots.
    • Although it wasn't live action, YTV also gave this treatment to Stressed Eric, placing it in a timeslot right after Sailor Moon. Surprisingly, nobody complained about this.
  • American Forces Network does this with their AFN Family subchannel. Since it's time-shared with AFN Pulse, sometimes programming that is mature in tone like 9-1-1 will air immediately following children's shows like The Loud House. As expected, this never lasts long, and the shows usually get moved to Spectrum or the main AFN channel after a few months.

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