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October 13, 2015

Greatest TV Controversies (10-1)

by AOL TV Staff, posted Aug 10th 2009 6:00AM
Madonna and David Letterman10.) Madonna vs. Letterman
Perhaps David Letterman deserved what he had coming in 1994 when he introduced guest Madonna as having "slept with some of the biggest names in the entertainment industry." Madonna hit back, saying, "I'm only here because there isn't a Knicks game," then asked Letterman to sniff her panties and called him a "sick f---." She proceded to drop a dozen more F-bombs, making it the most censored show at the time.
Beavis and Butt-head9.) Blame it on 'Beavis and Butt-head'
MTV's animated idiots inspired a parade of idiot acts (i.e. bowling balls hurled from freeway overpasses) in their four-year run, perhaps none more infamous than the 5-year-old who burned down a mobile home in 1993 after watching the duo play with fire. MTV pushed the show to late night, beefed up its warning and banned B&B's trademark "Fire! Fire!" chants. Creator Mike Judge fought back with lines like "Fryer! Fryer!"
Maude8.) 'Maude' Tackles Abortion
Norman Lear always drew decidedly strong-willed characters, and Bea Arthur's Maude Findley, a four-times married feminist liberal, was no exception. Most controversial was a 1972 episode -- just two months before Roe v. Wade -- in which Maude decides she's too old to risk childbirth and opts for an abortion. Some 30-odd affiliates banned reruns of the ep, and still 'Maude' (along with 'M*A*S*H' and 'The Waltons') was nominated for Best New Series in the spring.
Ellen7.) 'Ellen' Comes Out
All was fine and dandy when Ellen Degeneres' title character came out of the closet in a season 4 sweeps episode in 1997, but ABC grew uncomfortable as the jokes and plot lines all began to lean homo-centric, topped off by a Degeneres-Joely Fisher kiss. That inspired ABC's adding a TV-14 rating and a parental warning. The show was canned by season's end, but not before such episodes as 'It's a Gay, Gay, Gay, Gay World!'
Elvis Presley6.) Elvis' Hound Dog Hips
In 1956 Presley covered Leiber and Stoller's 'Hound Dog' on 'The Milton Berle Show.' Afterward, he put down his guitar and did another take, gyrating his hips in a way that the press deemed "vulgar" and "obscene." A month later Steve Allen coaxed the King into an apologetic encore, this time while serenading an actual basset hound in a top hat. Alas, Elvis pushed on, promising, "those people in New York are not gonna change me none."
Paul Reubens5.) Pee-wee's Wee-wee
The talking chair, the smarmy genie and that tight glen plaid suit ... Clearly something was a little off at Pee-wee's playhouse, but that's what we loved about him. That is until Pee-wee (nee Paul Reubens) got busted in 1991 for masturbating in a screening of the X-rated 'Nurse Nancy.' Reubens denied the charges but the damage was done. CBS canned 'Playhouse' reruns (new eps had ceased a year earlier) and Toys R' Us pulled all its Pee-wee toys.
Jerry Falwell4.) The Trouble With Teletubbies
Why Jerry Falwell was watching Teletubbies in the first place, we'll never know. But this much the Moral Majority leader made clear in the Feb. 1999 issue of the National Liberty Journal: If you're purple, wear a triangle on your head, and/or carry a purse, you're probably gay. (Remember, Falwell found homosexuals responsible for 9/11.) In their defense, Itsby Bitsy Entertainment countered: It's not a purse, it's a "magic bag." Take that, Jerry!
Twenty-One3.) Quiz Show Scandals
The 1994 movie 'Quiz Show' only scratched the surface of corruption in '50s game shows. In reality, a number of cheaters on "quiz shows" like 'Dotto,' 'The $64,000 Question' and 'Twenty-One' 'fessed up to the House Committee on Legislative Oversight in '59, including a young Patty Duke, who'd been coached towards her $32,000 prize. Following the debacle, limits were imposed for individual winnings, lasting up until 2006.
Dan Quayle2.) Murphy Brown vs. Dan Quayle
In the 1992 finale of Candace Bergen's popular sitcom, Murphy goes into labor and ends the show with a weepy rendition of 'You Make Me Feel Like a Natural Woman.' Touching stuff -- but not to Vice President Dan Quayle, who criticized the show for embracing single motherhood. Alas, the FYI crew laughed last. Season 5 began with a Quayle-bashing ep, and Bergen later thanked the Veep while collecting her then third Lead Actress Emmy.
Janet Jackson1.) Nipplegate
Nevermind that Super Bowl XXXVIII was one of the most exciting ever; people still dwell on a halftime "wardrobe malfunction." At the pinnacle of a Janet Jackson-Justin Timberlake medley, JT punctuated 'Rock Your Body' by ripping off Jackson's breast shield, exposing her right boob for 9/16ths of a second. Among the knee-jerk reactions: a $50,000 FCC fine and the NFL opting forevermore for safe acts like Paul McCartney.

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