In recent decades, television networks have increasingly toed the line of what's suitable for audiences to watch, and it goes without saying there are many profane, violent, and illicit scenes on TV now that wouldn't have flown in most shows of yesteryear. That said, there have always been a few shows on the air that hold back on pushing the envelope just enough to stay on the airwaves, while still being as offensive as humanly (or animatedly) possible.
A new study has been released by Senior Living where those surveyed were asked about the most offensive TV shows and characters of all time. You can check out the results below, which obviously cover a wide span of television history.
5. Married With Children
Married With Children sits lowest on the totem pole on this list, but it deserves an immense amount of credit for its offensive nature primarily because that offensive nature is likely what led to the show's long run and cult popularity. Despite the fact that series was never a massive ratings winner, it did get a long run on television after the episode "Her Cups Runneth Over" caught the attention of Michigan resident Terry Rakolta. Rakolta's crusade to boycott the series for its sexual jokes, references to gay culture, and general raunch was picked up by news outlets and encouraged others to see what the fuss was about. Audiences stuck around for 8 more seasons beyond the boycott, and the series is still in syndication to this day.
4. All In The Family
The oldest show on the list, and arguably the pioneer of offensive television, is All In The Family. That was kind of the point, of course, as All In The Family creator Norman Lear created the series based on the generational gap between he and his father as well as the struggle of being older and living within rapidly changing times. Archie Bunker was lauded as America's "lovable bigot," which isn't a title most people would receive or willingly embrace in this day and age. This show covered racism, prejudice, rape, abortion, and war, and it got massive ratings, awards, and critical acclaim for doing so. It paved the way for the modern offensive shows today, hilariously enough, with a character who longed for the "good old days."
3. The Jerry Springer Show
It's hard to blame The Jerry Springer Show for the raunch it's given America over the years. Springer initially entered the television talk show circuit looking to have an issues-based show that focused on politics, but quickly realized audiences responded more to topics that tackled secret affairs and scandalous hookups than political discourse. The show skyrocketed in popularity all while getting wilder with every year. Unfortunately, that ride appears to be at an end with The CW announcing the program has ceased production, although with so many episodes of the series in syndication, audiences can continue to watch the series for a while without seeing many repeats.
2. Family Guy
In a time where the once edgy animated series The Simpsons had lost some of its bite, Family Guy burst onto the scene in 1999 to shock a new generation in the same way Bart Simpson did. The show succeeded and garnered healthy controversy, but would be cancelled by Fox and sold to Cartoon Network to air on its Adult Swim lineup. The show's offbeat offensive humor thrived alongside equally edgy programming and led to the success that eventually landed the program back on Fox and in syndication on many other networks. Now Seth McFarlane's once wildly offensive humor is officially mainstream with several spinoff shows finding success, despite this study declaring it the second most offensive program of all time.
1. South Park
South Park tops the list as the most offensive television show of all time, and it isn't hard to see why. The series tries its hardest to offend all different religions, ethnicities, issues, trends, and political affiliations with its various storylines, all in an attempt to deliver a deeper message with its satire. The Comedy Central series has succeeded for the most part, as while they may have well pissed off a vast majority of organizations over the years, folks are still tuning in 22 seasons later. It seems unlikely there will ever be another show nearly as successful that matches its raunch, although that's probably been said about every offensive show that aired previous to it.
Readers who have different opinions regarding the top five most offensive shows on television can share their opinions in the comment section below. Check out what new and returning shows are coming out this fall season by visiting our fall premiere guide.
Mick likes good television, but also reality television. He grew up on Star Wars, DC, Marvel, and pro wrestling and loves to discuss and dissect most of it. He’s been writing online for over a decade and never dreamed he’d be in the position he is today.
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