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20 Classic TV Shows Considered Controversial Today

Senior couple laughing while watching tv on couch in living room

20 Classic TV Shows Considered Controversial Today

Which classic shows are considered controversial today? The social landscape is always changing, and shows you might have enjoyed decades ago can age poorly. Today’s list closely examines some classic shows that wouldn’t make it past focus groups and executive scrutiny.

That ’70s Show

shows considered controversial
Mean-spirited jokes sink

That ’70s Show

for new viewers.

That ’70s Show is an interesting relic of a bygone era. It straddles that line with the late 90s and early 00s while plumbing humor from decades prior. What makes this one of many shows considered controversial today is the source of the humor. Jokes are made at the expense of racial stereotypes alongside shaming women for promiscuity. Given today’s climate, it isn’t likely this would get the greenlight without some serious retooling.

24

shows considered controversial
The War on Terror’s fallout has left

24

as uncomfortable viewing.

24 is one of the first smash-hits directly after 9/11. While the Kiefer Sutherland vehicle was hugely popular thanks to its novel concept and enthralling story, it is another of those classic shows considered controversial today. There is a heavy heaping of Islamophobia, and the use of torture in the service of government makes for uncomfortable viewing.

Home Improvement

shows considered controversial
Tim Allen’s first major starring role on network television has aged poorly.

Well before his roles in Toy Story and Last Man Standing, Tim Allen’s main claim to fame was on this family sitcom. To say it has aged poorly would be an understatement. While there are still plenty of jokes that land, the treatment of Tim’s wife for simply wanting to pursue a career makes this another controversial choice.

Growing Pains

shows considered controversial
Sadly,

Growing Pains

makes too much out of Tracey Gold’s weight to be considered a classic

.

Growing Pains made stars out of most of its cast, and served as an early vehicle for Oscar winner Leonardo DiCaprio. However, the show’s humor towards Tracey Gold’s character has aged particularly poorly. Sadly, Gold’s weight is a constant subject of ridicule, leading to a very publicized battle with eating disorders. As such, this might be another of those beloved shows considered controversial for modern viewers.

Dawson’s Creek

dawson's creek
Self-professed nice guy Dawson comes off as rather cruel today.

When you get down to it, teen dramas on broadcast television age like milk. Dawson’s Creek made stars out of Katie Holmes, Joshua Jackson, and Michelle Williams. Unfortunately, the titular Dawson is a shining example of a male character that wouldn’t fly in the modern era. As such, this once-popular show might considered controversial by modern viewers.

Secret Life of the American Teenager

The Secret Life of the American Teenager
This is one show where the writing has aged quite poorly.

Secret Life of the American Teenager had its heyday in the late 00s, which might make its inclusion a bit of a shock. However, the show’s exploration of things like romance and its heavy-handed ethos age the show. It enjoys a fanbase today due to camp, but most households might find this another of the shows considered controversial.

The Cosby Show

the cosby show
Sadly, the positive message of

The Cosby Show

is hard to separate from Bill Cosby’s misdeeds.

Words cannot do something like The Cosby Show justice. For many people of color, it served as a shining example of representation far away from the stereotypes of then-current television norms. However, it is hard to separate the art from the artist with Bill Cosby’s recent controversies. Cosby’s own choice for Cliff to be a doctor of gynecology makes this one of many shows considered controversial for modern audiences.

House M.D.

House M.D.
Sadly,

House

doesn’t fare well with new viewers.

Hugh Laurie has been a celebrated actor in the United Kingdom for decades. It wasn’t until House M.D. that he broke into the American mainstream. The concept of adapting something like the Sherlock Holmes stories to a medical procedural show was novel for the time. However, the insensitivity with subject matter like LGBQTIA individuals can leave a sour taste in your mouth. You might find this to be one of many shows considered controversial for modern binge-watching.

Ally McBeal

Ally McBeal
It might have been a trailblazer, but

Ally McBeal

has aged quite poorly.

Ally McBeal is like a time capsule of 90s feminist thinking distilled into an hour-long block that ran for five years. For all its cultural relevance, there were certain topics where it approached with all the sensitivity of a bull in a china shop. You might find these to be a miss when going for that nostalgia trip on your streaming service of choice.

Saved by the Bell

Saved by the Bell
Even the actor who played Zach Morris doesn’t care for the character these days

.

Despite enjoying a popular recent revival on Peacock, Saved by the Bell has aged a bit like a tub of yogurt left in the summer sun. You certainly have to admire the bravery of the writers for tackling certain subject matter, but Zach’s entire character has aged quite poorly. While this might be another of those classic shows considered controversial by modern viewers, the cast takes the pokes at it with good humor.

How I Met Your Mother

Barney’s womanizing wouldn’t fly in the modern era.

This one was considered controversial at the time of the series finale, but the rest of the show has aged quite poorly. How I Met Your Mother acted as that sitcom for a lot of millennials, but the core humor of the show comes off as rather mean-spirited today. Special mention has to be made of the main character Ted, who acts like a spoiled child for much of the show’s run and gets rewarded for it.

Friends

You might not appreciate

Friends

as a first-time viewer.

Friends is one of those sitcoms that define a generation. While much of the show has gone on to be seen as an all-time classic, it does make a lot of jokes about marginalized groups. Certain aspects of the show have aged better than others. However, someone going into it completely blind might find themselves wondering why Friends is so beloved.

Married… With Children

Married... With Children
You might find this one kind of gross as a modern viewer.

This show made a farce of the family sitcom, going for something far more earthy. Married… With Children served as the first mega-hit for the fledging FOX network. Jokes are mean-spirited, poking fun at everyone and everything. However, some of them have aged quite poorly. Sadly, you’ll likely find this to be another of the classic shows considered controversial if viewing for the first time today.

The Man Show

The Man Show

The Man Show

has enough toxic masculinity to qualify as a biohazard these days.

While this show made Jimmy Kimmel a star, he’s likely not quick to mention it in a public space. The Man Show was controversial at the time of its airing, and that perception hasn’t changed. You’ve got hosts in blackface, constant objectification of women, and end credits consisting of buxom young women bouncing on a trampoline in slow motion. Needless to say, it wouldn’t fly today, let alone five years after it went off the air.

Everybody Loves Raymond

Everybody Loves Raymond
Unfortunately,

Everybody Loves Raymond

aged poorly. Peter Boyle is still a treat as a cantankerous grandfather, however.

When we look back at classic sitcoms of the 90s and 00s, there are a few names that come up. Shows like Frasier, Friends, and even Seinfeld still hold up if you can look past certain poorly-aged jokes. Everybody Loves Raymond‘s core concept is aged and outdated. The long-suffering Ray Barone treats his wife and just about everyone else around him poorly.

The Dukes of Hazzard

The Dukes of Hazzard
Unsurprisingly, the Confederate iconography in

The Dukes of Hazzard

has aged the show considerably.

Those Duke boys had a long run, you’ve got to admit. The Dukes of Hazzard was a wildly popular show for its time and even led to a revival movie starring Jessica Simpson and Johnny Knoxville. The concept of a pair of Southern outlaws parading around in a classic muscle car with a Confederate flag on top has aged poorly. Interestingly, this was once a staple of the time, it is another of those classic shows considered controversial in the modern era.

Scrubs

Scrubs
Although

Scrubs

was quite popular in its day, the homophobic jokes and womanizing of some characters have aged it.

Sure, this medical dramedy still enjoys a fair bit of nostalgia. Scrubs married stellar soundtrack choices with quick quips, soap opera drama, and a strong supporting cast. The slew of jokes at the expense of women thanks to one of the surgeons have left the show in poor standing with modern viewers. If you didn’t grow up with this one, you’re likely to bail after the first episode.

Three’s Company

Three's Company
While John Ritter’s comedic chops are hard to deny, obviously the subject matter of this one is hard to get past.

Admit it, this one wouldn’t even make it to the 90s with its basic concept. Three’s Company made stars of John Ritter and Suzanne Somers. The core conceit of the show is Jack Tripper posing as a gay man to get a good rate on an apartment. It might be considered a classic, but Three’s Company is one of those shows considered controversial for years now.

Bosom Buddies

Bosom Buddies
While it is a treat to see a young Tom Hanks on TV,

Bosom Buddies

is a concept that only works in the early 1980s.

Bosom Buddies is notable for putting Tom Hanks on the map. The thought of two men posing as women to get an apartment is funny at its core. However, the jokes found in this short-running sitcom aren’t really funny. As such, give this one a wide berth.

The Swan

The Swan
It is baffling that such a disgusting show was made.

This one might be considered a stretch to be called a classic. The Swan is one of those shows I couldn’t believe got made. Out of the slew of reality shows to emerge from the 00s, this one goes above and beyond. You’ve got people competing for cosmetic surgery. If you told me this was straight out of Robocop‘s TV spoofs, I’d believe you.

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