As kids growing up, most innuendos and inappropriate jokes on TV went right over our heads. In fact, our parents probably enjoyed the adult humor hidden in our Saturday morning cartoons and after school specials for their own entertainment. If not, then maybe they just assumed everything was purely geared towards children, and that primetime TV did its due diligence in keeping the kids safe. The truth is—particularly in the '90s where political correctness wasn't a well-known term and social gains had not yet been made—many of our most loved television shows were chock-full of completely inappropriate episodes, themes, dialogue and hidden images. Cartoons especially made it easy (and almost acceptable at the time) to insert lewd content that would no doubt stir the ire of parents in the current decade.
Parental advisory disclaimers or not, this list shows that back in the good ol' days, writers and TV networks could certainly get away with way more than they would be able to now. The following are some of TV's most iconic programs that are totally inappropriate today.
You can easily find reels of inappropriate clips online that involve the hilarious characters Yakko, Wakko, and Dot in the '90s animated series Animaniacs. The theme song is iconic in itself, and along with the opening credits, any child of the '90s is instantly transported back to the variety show on TV that we all know and love. Come to think of it, many adults also approved of Animaniacs; both for their kids and for them to watch as well.
Of course, now we all know why. It's no surprise that this show was littered with tons and tons of sexual innuendos — some manifesting as dirty jokes and cheeky winks, and others as more explicit images. Who can remember Yakko and Wakko's suspicious obsession with the nurse from all the "Hello nurse" sketches? How about all the times the brothers leered at buxom women passing by? Or the time when Dot mistakes Prince for "finger prints?" In retrospect, what were our parents thinking?
14 'Rocko's Modern Life'
Looking back, there is almost no part of Rocko's Modern Life that didn't include an entirely inappropriate innuendo — mostly in the form of signs scattered throughout the town. Not only does the show follow Rocko, a wallaby in Australia who has a strange obsession with the hobby called "jacking" (jackhammering), but he and his friends Filbert and Heffer frequently liked playing the board game "Spank the Monkey." Rocko's dog is named Spunky who falls in love with a mop, and we come across countless episodes including Dr. Bendova who gives him a prostate exam for some reason. There's also the No-Tell-Motel "with wa-wa beds," "Playslug Magazine, a phone sex hotline, a movie called "Night of the Shaved Kittens" — we think you get the picture. Overall, it's amazing this was ever allowed to air on children's channels, but at least now we can truly appreciate the absurdity of these jokes.
13 'Johnny Bravo'
We're not sure if anyone really liked watching Johnny Bravo, but we're certain everyone always watched it anyway. For whatever reason, the entertainment value was high for kids to watch a fully grown man attempt to pick up women in the most misogynistic ways possible. This show would never have survived modern-day feminism, and we're still a little surprised it lived on for as long as it did. With tasteless jibes such as the infamous "virgin sacrifice" episode and when he tells a little girl to call him when she's of legal age, Johnny Bravo goes down in the books as one of the most pervy cartoon characters in history. At the end of the day, the entire series was based around a buff man obsessed with sex, yet somehow was geared toward children. Go figure.
12 'Full House'
Possibly one of the best burns in TV history was the time Stephanie Tanner calls Kimmie Gibbler a "hor-oscope" in the beloved '90s family sitcom Full House. It was a sly slip-up that many fans believe was a misunderstanding (they say she meant Kimmie was a "horror," but we know better). Though the series was definitely tame enough to appease young children and conservative families alike, it was—like most TV shows—not without its inappropriate moments. One often overlooked character who has a bizarre relationship with the Tanner family —despite not being related to any of them—is Uncle Joey. Why does he live there, and why did Danny believe it was safe to leave his children with a fully grown man who couldn't hold a relationship, a job, and who was obsessed with cartoons?
11 'That '70s Show'
That '70s Show was definitely one that made absolutely no sense to children, who probably just brushed off the events that occurred in "The Circle," which was essentially a scene where four teenagers would go to the basement and smoke pot. Since the physical act of smoking was never shown, the show got away with it — but when you think of it, kids were watching a program all about drugs and sex in the '70s. Not only do they normalize these issues, but the characters get themselves into some pretty sticky situations that are definitely not addressed in your typical after-school-special way. Kelso gets a girl pregnant, Red curses constantly, they accidentally give their parents weed brownies... There have definitely been television shows similar—or more controversial—but at the time, That '70s Show was painted as more kid-friendly than it really was.
10 'The Magic School Bus'
The Magic School Bus was everyone's favorite learning tool back in the days before WiFi and cell phone data (or cell phones, for that matter). Led by Ms. Frizzle on absolutely insane adventures without any parental permission (we all remember those slips they had to sign before a field trip), the children were put in life threatening situations every day. The amount of laser beams and specialty ray-guns equipped on the bus was extraordinary, and though Ms. Frizzle can be praised for being as accommodating as she was — she was also completely reckless and not at all suitable to supervise young kids. Remember the "no seat belts" rule, the body transformations, and the unnecessary fertilization of her students as fish eggs? Unfortunately, so do we, and we've been traumatized ever since.
9 'South Park'
While South Park was never explicitly created for children, and was genuinely aimed at adults as an outrageous and satirical cartoon, many parents were not aware of this at the time it became popular. Clearly, the 21 seasons (and counting) prove that no one was truly offended enough to tank the ratings, but for many young kids, this show was a terrible, terrible influence. Now, we know that just because something is in the shape of a cartoon (Sausage Party, we're looking at you), does not mean it is for kids. This show is iconic for being so inappropriate, and for that we can't fault it. Poking fun at anyone and everyone, Trey Parker and Matt Stone have transformed the most serious of topics and characters and subjected them to absolute ridicule. As adults, we can only laugh and savor the free speech and fair use policies currently in place. However, we can all agree that South Park should probably never be viewed by children for exactly these reasons.
Friends is another seemingly family-friendly sitcom that was often an acceptable form of entertainment for the whole family. In the '90s, laugh tracks were prevalent, and we can only imagine that their inclusion must have distracted folks from the more obvious faults littered throughout this fan favorite series.
When re-watching episodes, there are many more cringe-worthy and politically incorrect occurrences than we'd like to forget — but we can't. There's no denying that all those times Joey, Chandler, and Ross were overtly uncomfortable with showing emotion or affection for each other was actually a symptom of Homophobia. Further, the time when Ross berates and offends Freddie Prinze Jr.'s nanny character (accusing him of being "gay" because of his profession, and later firing him because he makes him uncomfortable) is simply frowned upon by Rachel, and never properly dealt with. Not to mention, the entire premise of the show is for a handful of twenty-something white people to "find love," and in most cases, sleep around. While everyone has their favorite friend in the show, we don't think anyone has ever aspired to be one.
7 'The Ren & Stimpy Show'
The Ren & Stimpy Show, much like Animaniacs, follows animal-like characters Ren (a bat?) and Stimpy (a cat) through a series of lewd sketches for the entertainment of children (we think). Perhaps one of the most disturbing, nauseating, and offensive cartoons to ever grace our television screens, Ren and Stimpy truly exhibited strange and bizarre characteristics, and encountered many compromising characters. From the very visceral and vomit-inducing scene where Ren plucks nerve endings from his mouth and is grated against stubble, to the time when he saws a log on Stimpy's back and repeatedly acts as if he's tripping on drugs. It's all so vial. The show also includes way too many naked people and creatures to count, and way too many uncomfortable bodily fluid jokes to be safe for kids to watch.
Another Nickelodeon classic many people remember watching growing up is Rugrats, a show that follows babies and toddlers from their point of view. Of course, like every other show on this list, there was no lack of sexual innuendos and jaw-dropping jokes for parents to enjoy. There was the time Grandpa Lou rented the VHS "Lonely Space Vixens" to watch after the tots went to bed, the time when Phil and Lil's dad heads off to do some "male bonding" (insert two fingers touching), and the time Grandpa doesn't feel too well and ends up calling the euthanasia expert Dr. Jack Kevorkian. All are definitely not jokes we would have noticed—or cared too much about—as kids, but would have a good chance of getting called out by concerned parents and guardians if they were to air now.
Seinfeld was a show that took a crew of absolutely dislikable, middle aged people and followed their narcissistic and hilarious adventures living in New York City. That in itself isn't any more or any less inappropriate than shows like How I Met Your Mother or Friends based in the same city, but it was definitely the first of its kind to promote the lifestyles that—though quirk—were still predominantly straight, male, and white. Sexual innuendos were everywhere in Seinfeld, where Jerry was well known to have a lengthy track record with the ladies. Kramer exhibited his ignorance in the infamous episode "Puerto Rican Day Parade" that was eventually removed from syndication because of the footage of a flag burning. Additionally, there was the time Jerry defended his and George's friendship to a reporter who believed them to be a couple with a "Not that there's anything wrong with that," comment that is still being debated today for its Homophobic undertones.
4 'The Simpsons'
The Simpsons was a show that all kids wanted to watch — but many parents were unsure about. Now, the dirty jokes and eye-roll-worthy innuendos don't seem to compete with some of the other cartoons airing on prime time TV. Still, The Simpsons did it first, and some may argue that they did it the best. Iconic for its complexity, pop culture parodies, and lovable characters, it was also iconic for classic gut-busters and clever puns. Ned's well-intentioned but strange phrasing always provided cheap shots, Krusty's dark and X-rated standup made even the kids uncomfortable, and Homer and Marge's intimate relationship was always a cute—but inappropriate—look on marriage. While it may be inappropriate now (and was back when it aired), The Simpsons' whole shtick revolved around pushing boundaries and finding the humor in humorless events.
3 'Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers'
No other '90s show has even been as overtly racist in the most subtle of ways as did Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers. Though it was never addressed (at least not in the original series), for any kid who played with the action figures or took on the roles of their favorite characters at recess, they were most likely relegated to the characters who's skin color matched their own. While the revamped movie version has turned this obvious '90s faux-pas on its head and recast characters of all colors and genders, we all know how it really started. Zack was the breakdancing black ranger, Tommy was the ultimate white ranger, Kimberly was the female pink ranger, and Trini was the Asian yellow ranger. While they are all cringe-worthy now, for many who never fit into these "boxes" before, the Power Ranger categories allowed them to be apart of pop culture that was notoriously whitewashed. However, it's also safe to say that this categorization definitely did nothing to stifle any sort of prejudice or racism that was rampant in the '90s. For this reason, the show would be completely inappropriate in the present day.
2 'Family Guy'
Stepping up from the comedy we saw in The Simpsons, Family Guy took lewd humor and sexual innuendos to another step. In fact, they were barely even innuendos than they were blatantly inappropriate jokes. If your parents didn't allow you to watch The Simpsons while growing up, they would be hard-pressed to allow any night-time screenings of Family Guy. Following another classic nuclear family, this time we were introduced to a scheming and homicidal toddler, a self-obsessed teenage girl, moronic teenage boy, and pervy talking dog, alongside your typical bumbling dad and doting mom. Domestic abuse and misogyny is treated as a joke, pedophilia is no big deal, and Brian's sex life is the norm. Family Guy truly walks the line of comedy and Seth MacFarlane's twisted and inappropriate humor.
1 'Looney Tunes'
The cartoon that was capable of incorporating racism, homophobia, and sexism multiple times has got to be Warner Bros.' cartoon favorite, Looney Tunes. Looney Tunes ran from the '30s through the late '60s, and so clearly depicted times before the Civil Rights' movement, feminism movement, LGBTQ rights, or even World Wars had occurred. Because of this, much of its content was banned from syndication, and many who grew up watching the cartoons may not have been entirely aware of what they saw.
There is a time when Yosemite Sam locks himself in a cell with a large man wearing bunny slippers, batting his eyelashes, and it's a clear nod to the stereotypical—and dark reality—of prison interactions. Other characters are incredibly flawed, and verge on illegal, such as Pepe Le Pew, who may always be searching for love, but it most certainly isn't consensual.
Additionally, there have been a number of banned episodes that were taken off air for racism, or were at least altered in some way (although some countries outside of North America kept the original releases without changes). Because Looney Tunes was created in a much different age with different views on acceptance and tolerance, what was once appropriate back then is fortunately greatly condemned now.