There are numerous reasons that posters for television shows get banned and censored. Nudity and obscene phrases are often--but not always--the culprit, although TV posters don't usually push boundaries in quite the same ways as their movie counterparts. Still, TV posters can often be scandalous or cringe-inducing and these banned posters are definitely worth a look. From Heidi Klum to vampires we'd like to fuck, here are the 10 greatest banned TV posters of all time.
Project Runway, Lifetime
As a show about the making and modeling of clothing, it’s hard to imagine Project Runway could do anything that would earn the ire of the censors, except, say, have a bunch of nude individuals proffer themselves in front of Heidi Klum and Tim Gunn. The Lifetime drama put together a poster for Season 12 that was banned from going up anywhere in the City of Angels. The curmudgeons in this case? The Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety, who decided the imagery was too “obscene” for buses, billboards and bus shelters. I have no idea how most of the American Apparel posters in Los Angeles haven’t suffered the same fate.
Six Feet Under, HBO
While The Walking Dead releases more gruesome imagery every season, these Six Feet Under posters were banned in the U.K. for depicting dead people. Everything about the angle of the woman’s neck is wrong in this poster, and the bright little image of the “wound filler” in the top right corner just makes the Six Feet Under advertisement even more grotesque. The UK banned the posters for causing “undue stress” for the consumer. Although I’m not sure this woman looks any more dead than the average person getting on the subway early in the morning.
Family Guy, Fox
Seth MacFarlane’s always been a man to push boundaries. Back in 2012 during Emmy consideration season, his team took out an ad that seems like an innocuous picture of the non-PC character Peter Griffin, until you read the text. Newspapers refused to publish the poster, which states, “Come on, you bloated, overprivileged Brentwood Jews.” The Family Guy team may have been dissuaded by the newspapers, but they reportedly still sent out the ads to Emmy voters. That’s one way to handle controversy, I guess. Interestingly, this South Park poster made it through the censors.
The Strain, FX
You’d expect there to be plenty of nudity on this list, but nudity is certainly not the problem that FX’s The Strain Season 1 poster dealt with. The series follows a CDC crew looking into an outbreak that causes vampirism, and the big poster for the drama featured a long worm working its way through a human eyeball. There aren’t enough cringe-inducing adjectives on the planet that can capably describe the feelings this poster induces. The gory, stomach-churning poster grossed out plenty of people in Los Angeles and other areas, and the network was forced to take posters down in a number of locations. One thing’s for sure: That poster is certainly a conversation starter.
Skins, Channel 4
While the American version of Skins was cancelled quickly, the British version stayed on the air quite a bit longer, occasionally causing controversy as it moved forward. While promoting the second season of the drama, the creative team came up with a poster featuring two of the leads on the show engaging in an orgy with a bunch of other teenagers. The channel said the series planned to “explore the consequences” of “hedonistic” lifestyles, but the Advertising Standards Authority banned the kinky poster, nonetheless.
The Girlfriends' Guide To Divorce, Bravo
While Bravo’s Girlfriends' Guide To Divorce is a cheeky ad, it doesn’t actually contain nudity or obscenities, preferring to just wink at them. The show is about a woman who writes self-help books and has to declare them a lie after getting a divorce herself. In the poster for the show, Lisa Edelstein is seemingly giving the finger to the camera, although it’s her ring finger rather than her middle finger. And the poster’s tagline is “go find yourself,” which is apparently too close to “go fuck yourself” for comfort. New York City’s Metropolitan Transit Authority banned the poster, and other locations across the country, including Los Angeles’ The Grove shopping center, followed suit.
Sometimes dudes who appear in tight or scanty costumes end up with promo images that end up being a bit controversial. Arrow’s first promo notoriously had to be edited and an early Andy Whitfield poster for Spartacus: Blood and Sand suffered the same fate. The loincloth was banned and replaced with a much more demure belted costume.
True Blood, HBO
While True Blood was known for nudity and gore during its seven-season run on HBO, the poster that really got controversial was the simple one above, which has no imagery and simply says VILF. The acronym, of course, is for “Vampire I’d Like To Fuck.” The London Tube system really didn’t appreciate the True Blood posters and banned them so British eyeballs didn’t have to look at them. For the record, fangy, sexy posters asking fans to “do bad things” are totally cool, though.
Paisean Faisean, TG4
Ireland’s TG4 channel came under fire for this Paisean Faisean series poster, which looks as if it came straight out of a Britney Spears video. Paisean Faisean's a dating show featuring potential suitors buying clothes (mostly) for women, but the lingerie-oriented poster was objected to as degrading to women. I also don’t think the slogan relating to that particular outfit or the fact that the woman is supposed to be an educator of young minds really helped. After the poster came under fire, the Advertising Standards Authority of Ireland got involved, banning the poster for being “against code.” That outfit is certainly against dress code.
Red Band Society, Fox
Fox’s Red Band Society didn’t last long on the network, but it lasted long enough to get its first poster banned. It looks pretty innocuous, right? Apparently, people objected to the words “scary bitch” that are over Octavia Spencer’s head. The Academy Award-winning actress played the taskmaster and mentor of a lot of the kids on the show, but Metro Los Angeles yanked the ads after getting complaints regarding the foul language used. For the record, Los Angeles, you can say “bitch” on network television.
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Jessica Rawden is Managing Editor at CinemaBlend. She’s been kicking out news stories since 2007 and joined the full-time staff in 2014. She oversees news content, hiring and training for the site, and her areas of expertise include theme parks, rom-coms, Hallmark (particularly Christmas movie season), reality TV, celebrity interviews and primetime. She loves a good animated movie. Jessica has a Masters in Library Science degree from Indiana University, and used to be found behind a reference desk most definitely not shushing people. She now uses those skills in researching and tracking down information in very different ways.