Actors Talk About The Biggest Controversies From Their TV Shows

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Vote up the most compelling responses to TV controversies.

Over the past several decades, some television shows have dared to cross the line, whether to be ahead of the times, make a statement, or just try to be funny. What do famous actors involved in television's biggest controversies have to say about all the hoopla?

When the lead character from a 1970s sitcom decided to get an abortion, for example, or for the first time in TV history, a female lead on a sitcom came out as gay, those major narrative choices created dissension. Some TV shows survived the controversy; others did not. 

Vote up the most compelling responses to TV controversies.


  • Katey Sagal Said The Cast Of 'Married... with Children' Sent Flowers To A Woman Who Boycotted The Show Because It Led To Higher Ratings
    Photo: Fox

    Fox was just getting started as a network when it first aired Married... with Children in 1987. The sitcom put a new spin on the concept of the modern American family, often taking a raunchy look at suburban life through the eyes of a working-class family that fights dirty and doesn't end every episode with a hug. 

    Katey Sagal played the gum-smacking but lovable matriarch, Peggy Bundy. The singer turned actress was shocked when the show actually became a hit. 

    “It was unbelievable,” Sagal said. “We were all stunned. We would get fan mail that said, 'My family is just like that,' or 'I live next door to those people.'”

    The controversy surrounding the show only helped to garner publicity and boost ratings. In fact, Married... with Children always made sure to celebrate one naysayer named Terry Rakolta, who tried her hardest to get the sitcom canceled after watching the 1989 episode titled "Her Cups Runneth Over." The episode features Al and Steve visiting a lingerie store in search of Peggy's favorite discontinued bra. 

    The activist/housewife became offended by what she deemed raunchy images and organized a boycott. Sagal said Rakolta ended up doing the show a favor:  

    We sent her flowers every year. She tried to get us off the air and all it did was get us on the front of The New York Times. And it doubled our audience.

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  • McLean Stevenson Said He Didn't Realize How Beloved His Character Was On 'M*A*S*H' Until The Response To Col. Blake's Passing
    Photo: CBS

    M*A*S*H may have been an enjoyable comedy, but it also took place in a war zone. In the final episode of the hit show's third season, "Abyssinia, Henry," commanding officer Lt. Col. Henry Blake (McLean Stevenson) is granted an honorable discharge. The always likable but forever unlucky character leaves South Korea and heads home to his wife in Bloomington, IL. Much of the episode is spent with the members of the 4077th saying goodbye. 

    A few scenes later, the Army doctors are working in the operating room when Radar (Gary Burghoff) comes in to deliver the devastating news: "I have a message. Lieutenant Colonel Henry Blake's plane was shot down over the Sea of Japan. It spun in. There were no survivors."

    Blake's sudden and shocking end rocked M*A*S*H fans. CBS received thousands of angry letters. The show's producers defended their creative choice by arguing that M*A*S*H takes place in the middle of a war, and even likable people perish during such conflicts. 

    Stevenson left M*A*S*H to pursue other acting opportunities, which never really panned out. Stevenson said he misread the public's admiration for him:

    I made the mistake of believing that people were enamored of McLean Stevenson when the person they were enamored of was Henry Blake. 

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  • Carroll O'Connor, Responding To Critiques Of Archie Bunker's Prejudice On 'All in the Family,' Said The Show Was A 'Satire,' Not A 'Sitcom'
    Photo: CBS

    Carroll O'Connor played Archie Bunker on All in the Family from 1971 to 1979. Over the course of nine critically acclaimed and highly rated seasons, the country got the opportunity to see a rageful working-class man filled with intolerance and prejudice. Bunker was not afraid to express his opinions. 

    His rabid intolerance and use of disparaging comments created plenty of controversy and criticism. And that was the point. By showing a huge TV audience such a flawed misanthrope, it allowed people to see the face of intolerance, right there from the comfort of their own living rooms. 

    The Norman Lear program certainly had its share of its laughs, oftentimes at Bunker's expense. However, laughter was not necessarily the goal, as O'Connor explained:

    I wanted a satire. I said at the very beginning that I was not interested in making a situation comedy. I was interested in doing the show that is going to be about bigotry and about racism. I saw no way I was going to do a sitcom about subjects of that kind, which had poisoned this country of mine for so long.

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  • David Duchovny And Gillian Anderson Said They Could Understand Why The Graphic 'Home' Episode Of 'The X-Files' Was Banned For A Time  
    Photo: Fox

    FBI agents Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) and Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) of The X-Files often discovered disturbing creatures and hair-raising unexplained phenomena over the course of 11 seasons and two feature films. The Season 4 episode titled "Home" became the most controversial

    The standalone "monster-of-the-week" 1996 installment features a gruesome slaying that involves a physically deformed baby found in the rural town of Home, PA. It becomes clear that inbreeding is likely going on, and the baby might have been buried while still alive.

    "Home" was the only episode of the sci-fi series slapped with a TV-MA rating due to its graphic content. Fox executives made the decision that they would not re-air the episode. However, "Home" became such a fan favorite that Fox eventually reran the controversial episode several years later

    When Duchovny and Anderson sat down for an interview with Vulture in 2013 to celebrate the show's 20th anniversary, "Home" came up during the conversation.

    Anderson said:  

    I remember reading about the mother under the bed and thinking, "Whoa!" All of that sh*t, man. And the fact that it didn’t air in some cities?

    Duchovny recalled:

    Kim Manners, who directed the second-most, if not the most of anybody, Kim was very proud of the fact that "Home" was the only X-File[s] that didn’t repeat. They took it out of the rotation, because people were grossed out, and standards and practices couldn’t deal with it.

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  • Charlotte Ross, Talking About Her Bare-Bottom Scene In 'NYPD Blue,' Said It Was Weird Having Her Butt 'Discussed Right Up To The Supreme Court' 
    Photo: ABC

    NYPD Blue was never scared of baring a character's backside, even during a time when that sort of thing was scandalous for network television.

    Charlotte Ross played detective Connie McDowell on the hit ABC police procedural from 2001 to 2004. Her character ended up in an unlikely relationship with the older and much grumpier Detective Sipowicz (Dennis Franz).

    During the Season 10 episode "Nude Awakenings," Ross takes off her robe as she prepares to head into the shower. It's a revealing scene, featuring a good look at the actress's backside, part of her breast, and a quick glimpse of her other features. The kicker is when Sipowicz's young son walks into the bathroom, mouth agape. 

    The controversial scene wasn't a hit with censors at the FCC, who slapped ABC and 52 of its affiliates with a combined fine of more than $1 million. Instead of paying, the network took its case to the US Second Circuit Court of Appeals, which in 2011 decided to throw out the fine in part because the FCC's decency rules were "impermissibly vague." In 2012, the Supreme Court agreed in an 8-0 ruling.

    Ross said in a 2013 intervew that the experience "was all pretty strange." She continued:

    Having my a** discussed right up to the Supreme Court. It wasn't about me, of course. But still.

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  • Melissa Gilbert Said She Was 'In Shock' Seeing The Blown-Up Town On The Set Of The 'Little House on the Prairie' Series Finale
    Photo: NBC

    The idyllic Little House on the Prairie, which aired for nine seasons from 1974 to 1983, depicts the 1870s tale of the Ingalls family on their farm in Walnut Grove, MN, based on the book series by Laura Ingalls Wilder. 

    Michael Landon, who played the family patriarch for eight seasons, stepped behind the scenes for the show's final season. In Little House's shocking March 1983 finish, Walnut Grove goes up in flames. It was reportedly Landon's idea to blow up the town. There are two prevailing theories regarding the star's motives. 

    The first is that Landon blew everything up in the finale so he wouldn't be forced to do a reunion show or Little House movie. The second is that he was furious the show got canceled without his knowledge. 

    In her 2009 book Prairie Tale: A Memoir, Melissa Gilbert, who played Laura Ingalls, said Landon was so angry the show had been canceled without anyone bothering to tell him that he wanted to "blow the whole f*cking thing up." She wrote:

    He was furious that he had never received an official phone call from NBC president Brandon Tartikoff or anyone else at the network, letting him know the fate of the show. He had been on the network since 1959. Perceiving disrespect, Mike’s temper red-lined. He wanted to destroy all the sets - Walnut Grove, everything in Simi Valley [the town in California where the set was located].

    According to Gilbert, Landon also wanted to make sure the show's sets were not reused: 

    He didn’t want to leave anything behind. TV and movie sets tend to get recycled over time, and none of us wanted to see Oleson’s Mercantile being used in some other production and have other people tromping through places where many of us had grown up.

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