THROWBACK: 7 Unusual Things Censored on TV


The television audiences of today are pretty use to seeing a lot of what would be considered risqué things on their television sets. Even on basic tv channels there’s drug use, sex, some swearing, and graphic violence. This would absolutely shock tv audiences of the past that were use to heavily censored content. Even material alluding to any of the above was a big no no. Obviously, times have changed with American censorship becoming more liberal, but they started with a very tight grip on the television networks. Here are some unusual things that were banned from tv during the 1950’s-1980’s, during much more socially conservative times, that would have a lot of us scratching our heads going “uhh…what?”


Toilets & Bathrooms


One of America’s first and very popular situational comedy television show was called Leave It To Beaver. It was about a 1950’s American boy named Beaver and his 1950’s American family life. The plots of the shows were wholesome and were usually “coming of age” moral teachings for Beaver. The very first episode is about Beaver and his brother keeping a turtle as a pet in the back of their toilet without their parents permission. It was a very innocent show but sometimes even they would get in hot water with the censorship board. At that time bathrooms and certainly not toilets were allowed to be portrayed on tv. Those areas were private, where people poohed, peed and even got naked in. That kind of filth couldn’t be on tv, that would be barbaric. The producers of Leave it to Beaver had to compromise with the censorship overlords and got special permission to only show the top half of the toilet. They broke new ground that day, paving the way for future filmmakers to show bathrooms and toilets to the American public. 


Married Couple in the Same Bed 

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So of course, if the censorship dictators didn’t approve of showing bathrooms and toilets, anything having to do with sex or alluding to it was strictly not allowed. Even if the couples were happily married. So, this led to any scenes filmed in the couple’s bedroom, they both had to sleep in separate twin beds like it’s a freshman college dorm. This situation was portrayed in the famous sit-coms, The Dick Van Dyke Show and I love Lucy. Surprisingly, the first married couple to be shown sharing a bed was Fred and Wilma Flintstone from the cartoon tv show, The Flintstones. Yes, they were an animated couple, maybe that’s how they got away with it. Those sneaky animators pulled a fast one on the censorship board, now everybody be sharing beds on tv. 



So, if there’s no sex in the tv world that means there’s no pregnancy either. Well not entirely, you could show a pregnant woman, you just couldn’t say the word “pregnant” or “pregnancy.” A famous example of this would be from the 1950’s popular tv sit-com I Love Lucy. The show is about a Cuban band leader named Ricky Ricardo, who lives in New York with his goofy, whacky but lovable wife Lucy. When Lucy becomes pregnant and tells Ricky, who would sometimes speak in foreign languages, he uses the word “enciente”, which is French for “pregnant” instead. The censors put their stamp of approval on this method. I guess they thought people wouldn’t get all hot and bothered by the French word instead of the English word. It was kind of a big deal because this was the first time a major tv network depicted a pregnant woman. Lucille Ball (the actress who played Lucy) was actually pregnant so they had to write it into the show. At the time it was controversial, the pregnancy episode almost got the major hit tv show cancelled. Just muttering the English word “pregnant” could get the teenagers watching the show pregnant. Nowadays, all the teenagers are getting pregnant because of tv. Don’t believe me? Just go watch MTV’s Teen Mom and it’s 30 sequels. 


I Dream of Jeanie (Navels & Double Entendres) 


I Dream of Jeanie is an American sit-com that ran from 1965-1970. It’s about an astronaut who finds a Genie lamp on a deserted island, he rubs it and a 2,000 year old Genie comes out and is now his slave. But wait it gets better, the Genie is a hot chick named Jeanie and she falls in love with him. Do I have your attention now fellas? So, obviously it’s Hollywood so they dressed Jeanie the Genie in scantily clad clothing. I guess the censors were fine with what she was wearing, which was basically just a pink bra as a shirt (these censors be slippin’) but the censors said they couldn’t show her navel or belly button. That’s where they drew the line. Her insane amount of cleavage was fine but her belly button and navel would just lead American boy’s thoughts astray to the land of impurity. So, she had to wear a wide waist band thing to cover those puppies up. 

Also, there could not be any double entendres in her dialog. Since she was the astronaut’s slave (I’m starting to think only dudes wrote this show) she would have lines like “I will please thee very much.” She always had to follow that phrase with something to do with material things like stuff and money so it couldn’t be interpreted as sexual in any way. I’m positive no dude watching the show ever took it that way. 

Bras On Women

So way back in the day, bras and underwear companies didn’t use the sexy skinny models we see on tv today to display their fine products. Before 1969, any bras or underwear commercials had to have them be on only mannequins, not humans. But then in 1969, the year of the revolutionary “summer of love”, the bra company Wonderbra showed a real, live, breathing woman wearing one of their bras in one of their commercials aired in Canada. Many moms across the nation were pissed while many teenage boys suddenly had to “go pee.” It was way before it’s time because bra and underwear companies in North America (USA especially) continued to use the mannequin technique until as late as the late 1980’s.


Elvis’ Pelvic Thrusting

Elvis Presley is regarded as being one of the most significant cultural icons and rock & roll singers of the 20th century. His lyrics and songs were pretty innocent but his performances were very sexually provocative at the time. This was the 1950’s guys, twerking hadn’t been invented yet. All it took was Elvis’ signature pelvic thrusting dance moves for him to be a controversial figure. For his televised live shows the cameramen were instructed to only shoot the top half of his body. So no one could see his bottom half hip-thrusting away. I guess it was left up to the audience’s imagination what was going on down there, which probably made it worst. 


Referencing One Night Stands & Taking Drugs

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It wasn’t just Elvis the censors had a problem with. Over the years as Rock & Roll progressed, it got more “suggestive” lyrics. Some of its song’s lines could not be sung on tv. A good example of this is from the band The Rolling Stones’ lyrics. The censors banned them from singing “let’s spend the night together” to “let’s spend some time together.” Referencing one night stands and pre-marital sex was strictly prohibited. Their lead singer, Mick Jagger, rolled his eyes every time he sung the censored line. 

The censors also banned lyrics about recreational drug use.  A famous example of this was when the band The Doors was invited on The Ed Sullivan show to play their hit song “Light My Fire.” But one of the lines in the song was “Girl we couldn’t get much higher.” Fearing the audience would put 2 and 2 together and figure out they were talking about smoking the reefer madness, the producers told them to change it to “Girl we couldn’t get much better.” Jim Morrison, the lead singer told them “sure, no problem brah.” Then proceeded to sing the original line and emphasized the word “higher.” Needless to say, they were never asked back to appear on the show.