15 TV Shows That Were Canceled Due to Controversy Before Airing

15 TV Shows That Were Canceled Due to Controversy Before Airing

TV shows get canceled all the time, but it’s very rare for a show to be canceled before it’s even aired.* Still, it’s happened—usually because something really shady is going on. Here are 15 controversial TV shows that will never see the light of day!


First, I want to start with one of the wildest examples: frog men which was to star OJ Simpson as an ex-Navy SEAL leading a water rescue mission. Filming was completed just a month before OJ’s ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman were killed. This, of course, led to OJ’s arrest and one of the most infamous murder trials of the last century.

The pilot never aired, nor was the series picked up in light of the murder allegations. But the story doesn’t end there – the footage from the pilot was actually submitted as evidence in the OJ murder trial (although it wasn’t used in the end). Reason? The character of OJ showed skill in knife fighting, and Simpson reportedly received military training for the role.

And even further, Simpson costar Todd Allen once accompanied OJ to Ross Cutlery between sets. Ross Cutlery is the suspected source of a murder weapon that has never been discovered.


Good point was a reality show that followed the goings-on at a family morgue in Texas…until “eight decomposing bodies” were found there. The owners of the mortuary were charged with “abuse of a corpse,” which is, you guessed it, treating “a human corpse in a manner known to the person to offend reasonable family sentiments.”

Lifetime has clearly moved on and canceled this nightmare, as VP Les Eisner said Good point “is not and will not air on Lifetime.”


Back in 2017 when Game of Thrones was still in its prime, creators David Benioff and DB Weiss (along with Nichelle Tramble Spellman and Malcolm Spellman) made waves when they announced their next project: Confederate, a drama set in an alternate timeline where the Confederacy won the Civil War. The idea drew backlash almost immediately, with #NoConfederate actually trending during the broadcast and Game of Thrones episode.

In defense of the series, Weiss called slavery “the worst thing that ever happened in American history” and said, “It’s an ugly and painful history, but we all think that’s a reason to talk about it, not a reason to run away from it.” And this strikes me as a potentially valuable way to talk about it.”

While producers initially doubled down, stressing that they would reserve judgment until the show actually aired (nor was it written), the show was later canceled, as confirmed by HBO president Casey Bloys in 2020.


In 2005, ABC piloted a new reality series called Welcome to the Neighborhood, where different families competed for a house in a neighborhood full of conservative, Christian, white families. The families competing for the house were mostly from marginalized groups (although one was literally just a conservative white family with tattoos), and early episodes contained a number of hurtful, racist and anti-gay comments.

At the end of the series, a gay couple won, with the contestant who said in the first episode, “I wouldn’t tolerate a gay couple moving into this neighborhood”, changing his views and even reuniting with his own gay son. Although the end result was positive, organizations such as GLAAD were concerned that earlier episodes made discrimination seem acceptable, and the National Fair Housing Alliance believed that the show could violate the Fair Housing Act even though the house is valued and not bought/leased.

In the end, the show was cancelled. “Our intention with Welcome to the Neighborhood was to show the transformational process that takes place when people are forced to confront preconceived notions of what makes a good neighbor, and we believe the series delivers exactly that,” ABC said in a statement. Over time, the episodic nature of this series became challenging, and due to the sensitivity of the subject matter in the early episodes, we have decided not to air the series at this time.”


The year 2000 was flooded with problematic reality shows based on plastic surgery The Swan, Bridalplasty, and Extreme change. But we haven’t seen anything like it in the last decade…until Surgery tried to step into the once popular niche.

In the British reality show, people wanting plastic surgery would essentially go to a panel of their peers – and if 75% or more of the panel approve, they get the surgery for free. If not, they go home with nothing. The controversial show received a lot of backlash for its premise, but it wasn’t actually canceled until shortly after the death of its host Caroline Flack.


In 2004, some execs thought it would be fun to create a reality special centered around two straight guys pretending to be gay. It was called seriously dude i’m gay and was supposed to feature two straight men trying out the “gay lifestyle”, entering the queer social scene and even going on a blind date with a man – ultimately competing to see who can better convince their family and friends that they are gay.

GLAAD expressed concern about the premise and received an advance copy – they had “serious concerns” about the special, calling it “an exercise in systematic humiliation.” The contestants apparently compared pretending to be gay to “their worst nightmare” and being “trapped in gay hell”. They were also afraid that their mentors (called “mentors” on the show) would touch them inappropriately.

In response, Fox canceled the upcoming special, which GLAAD found commendable. They broadcast instead American Pie 2.


In 2016, NBC announced a new sitcom with an unusual premise – the show was Mail Order Familyand followed a recent widower who hires a Filipina mail order bride to help take care of his children. The announcement immediately led to controversy, with people labeling the bride-to-be as human trafficking and being concerned about the show’s portrayal of Asian women.

In response to the backlash, a representative for NBCUniversal released a statement: “We purchased the pitch knowing it would tell the creator’s real-life experience of being raised by a strong Filipino stepmother after losing his own mother.” the writer and producers have taken the sensitivity of the original concept to heart and have decided not to proceed with the project at this time.”


This is a slightly older example, but another canceled sitcom was from 1979 Mr. Dugan, which would feature a young, idealistic black football player turned congressman. The series was canceled after a number of black congressmen saw a screener and strongly objected to the portrayal of a black congressman as “a stupid, incompetent man ruled by his staff.” One said, “I feel that as representatives of black people, we couldn’t afford to look like bums all over the United States.”

TAT Communications, the company that produced the show, was then cancelled Mr. Dugan, at least in part because of this reaction. “Their views only confirmed our concerns about the show,” they said. “We agreed with viewers that the content and the character just didn’t play. … We’re not in the business of insulting the Black community.” Star Cleavon Little defended the show, saying that the show was “a chance to bring some serious issues to the screen through comedy” and that he would have brought more black actors and writers to the show. “I wouldn’t have taken the role if I thought it would have a negative impact,” he claimed, adding that the character could have been “the strongest black comedy character on television.”


Competition show Our little geniusThe premise seemed simple enough: “genius” kids would compete in a quiz to prove their intelligence and win money for their family. A show that was supposed to premiere in 2010 after it aired American Idolwas pulled just six days before it was due to air – after a family came forward to claim their child had been given what appeared to be quiz answers in a pre-taped session.

Executive producer Mark Burnett (also behind shows like Survivor and A tank with sharks) initially said he would reshoot the series after discovering “that there was an issue with how some information was being given to the contestants during pre-production Our little genius.But the series was never remade—in fact, it was the subject of an FCC investigation.

Their statement was: “Due to the unfortunate events of the weekend and the seriousness of the allegations, VH1 is pulling the plug on the series Ev and Ocho from his schedule and has no current plans to air it.”


Another show was canceled because of its star Cops — after its star and producer Louis CK confessed to sexual abuse, TBS put the animated show, which would have followed two LA cops, on hold. Two months later, they officially canceled the 10-episode series.


HGTV’s Flip it forward which was supposed to follow twin ex-baseball players who helped turn fixer uppers into dream homes, was also canceled after controversy — in this case, anti-gay, anti-choice, anti-Muslim — espoused by the show’s hosts, David and Jason Benham.

The twins later told CNN, “We love all people. I love gays. I love Islam, Muslims, and we would never discriminate against my brother. We have never – never.” They were apparently referring to “an agenda that seeks to silence men or women of faith,” not specific gay people.


A&E planned a so-called documentary series Escape from the KKK it was canceled due to controversy just five days after it was announced. There was a backlash against the series that followed KKK family members who tried to leave the Klan and those who helped them leave. A&E Executive Vice President Rob Sharenow said: “This aims to expose and combat racism and hate in all its forms and we value the valuable feedback we have received.

Surprisingly, it wasn’t the backlash that led to the cancellation of the series, but the revelation that the show’s producers had paid KKK members for access, which is against their documentary policy. A&E said they were unaware, even telling the Anti-Defamation League that the money was given to hate groups; now that they were, they decided not to air the show.


The Animated Show by Stan Lee Governor was supposed to follow a partially fictionalized version of Arnold Schwarzenegger and his family – “Only after leaving the governor’s office, Arnold decides to become a crime fighter and builds a secret high-tech crime-fighting center under his Brentwood home.”

But in the wake of revelations that Schwarzenegger fathered a child with an employee, the series was canceled and a rep told TMZ: “In light of recent events, A Squared Entertainment, POW, Stan Lee Comics and Archie Comics have chosen not to continue with governor project.” This came after Schwarzenegger announced that he was putting his acting career on hold.


And finally, Human vs, a reality show featuring humans competing with animals, actually aired in the US. However, the planned UK version was never broadcast. A network spokesperson said it was simply delayed, denied it was canceled because it was “unfair to animals” (as critics claimed), but the show never finished airing.

We don’t know exactly what the UK version would have entailed, but for comparison, the US version featured people with a dwarf competing with an elephant in a tug-of-war. Yes indeed.

What was the wildest reality show you’ve seen that actually aired? Let us know in the comments below!

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