Nickelodeon has a weird history with censorship. At certain times, it allowed some of the most subversive adult humor of any children's network in history. At other times, it hemmed and hawed even over vanilla fare. Nickelodeon fired Ren & Stimpy creator John Kricfalusi, even though they allowed the show to exist in the first place. Rocko working as a phone-sex operator is okay, but Norbert saying "shut up" is too far. And let's not forget the episode of Invader Zim where Zim harvests children's organs. In short, the standards over the years have been... wacky.
This list details the most controversial episodes of Nickelodeon shows, many of which were either edited or banned altogether.
- 1159 VOTES
‘You Can’t Do That on Television’ - 'Adoption'
This episode marked the moment in the show when its title became true. The topic was, of course, adoption. The humor missed the mark. A senator adopting kids to use for child labor was more dark than funny. Likewise with suggesting that kids were adopted and ground up into hamburger meat. Particularly, jokes about kids being unlovable and violent - and jokes about adopting kids for ulterior motives - seemed really hurtful to kids and families who actually have experienced adoption.
After airing in the United States, the show received complaints and was pulled. It continued to run in Canada but was eventually also pulled there. Geoffrey Darby, one of the show's creators, said in an interview with Vulture, "None of the kids were adopted, we didn’t know anybody who had been adopted. That was really us just not being cognizant of the world of adoption."
- 2130 VOTES
'Hey Arnold!' - 'Arnold Betrays Iggy'
Episodes of Hey Arnold! almost always centered around a morality tale, which is why "Arnold Betrays Iggy" was so out of character. In it, Arnold accidentally learns that Iggy wears bunny pajamas while giving Iggy his homework (Iggy is out pretending to be sick). Arnold promises to keep the secret, but Sid guesses it, and then he and Stinky spread it. Iggy blames Arnold, who blames himself for letting a hint slip. Arnold then degrades himself by performing chores for Iggy to try and win forgiveness. Iggy refuses Arnold's apology, demanding Arnold humiliate himself by walking around wearing bunny pajamas in front of everyone.
The controversy surrounding the episode is that the morals are all wrong. Arnold degrades himself to try and gain forgiveness for something he didn't even do. Iggy repeatedly refuses to forgive Arnold. When Iggy realizes it was Sid and Stinky spreading the rumor, he forgives Arnold, but not for the right reason (i.e., humiliating a person for wronging you is itself wrong). Arnold can't forgive Iggy for the humiliation he suffers as punishment, leaving their friendship permanently fractured. Even Grandpa is egging on the whole spectacle because it's funny to watch. In the end, no one learns anything, and Arnold is scarred for life.
- 3137 VOTES
'Rocko’s Modern Life' - 'Leap Frogs'
Frogs get lonely. When they do, they seek the affections of a nearby wallaby. That's just science... or, at least, it's the plot to this banned episode of Rocko's Modern Life. In it, Rocko's neighbor Bev Bighead invites him over to help her with some things around the house. In one cliche after another, the lonely, middle-aged toad tries to seduce Rocko. It culminates in a scene where Rocko is asked to help Bev zip up her dress. He overcompensates and accidentally rips her entire dress off, then makes a hasty retreat.
Suffice it to say, the network thought adultery was a little too saucy for a kids show. They pulled the episode, lest kids actually learn about the pitfalls and difficulties of modern marriage. Don't worry, you can watch it here.
- 493 VOTES
'Double Dare' - 'Unnamed Broken Bone Episode'
Watching Double Dare as a kid, you start to wonder how nobody on the show ever got hurt. After all, that obstacle course was pretty gnarly, and kids were all lubed up with slime like greased pigs. Well, as it turns out, in one episode a kid did get hurt.
In the episode, which never aired, a kid lied on his medical form on which he wrote he never had any broken bones. In reality, he had fragile bones and had broken 17 of them. Sure enough, come obstacle course time, the kid goes down hard. "We went from obstacle one to obstacle two, he slipped and fell, and the bone went right through his arm," host Marc Summers told the AV Club. "I left the studio because I thought I was going to throw up."