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TV Shows That Were Canceled Because Of Controversies

Show business doesn't always attract the best people. For every Tom Hanks or Henry Winkler, there are dozens of people causing trouble, stirring up controversy, and generally behaving badly. No aspect of the business is safe — even the most established and respected figures around have ended up sinking a project through scandal. Controversy, in Hollywood, is practically guaranteed, and no one remains unscathed by it forever.

This is especially true in television, where a finite number of time slots ensures fierce competition. Moreover, TV's reliance on ad revenue makes the form uniquely accountable to public opinion. Putting anything on the air is a huge investment, no matter how low-stakes or obscure the production might be. So when one is canceled over a scandal, you can bet it's a doozy. These are some of the most notable cases of shows that were canceled, kicked off the network, or otherwise removed from air because of controversy.

Here Comes Honey Boo Boo

Here Comes Honey Boo Boo, a 2012 reality series about a self-proclaimed "redneck" family, drew big ratings for TLC. Of particular interest to fans were Alana Thompson, the titular Honey Boo Boo, and her mother, "Mama June" Shannon. Everything collapsed, however, when Mama June was revealed to be dating Mark McDaniel, a convicted child molester found guilty of molesting Anna Cardwell, Mama June's eldest daughter.

Mama June tried to do damage control, but there's no coming back from having a sex offender one degree removed from a child star. TLC canceled the show, leaving an entire season in the can. That wasn't the end of Mama June's trouble, however — or the end of her time on the air. In March 2019, she was arrested and found to be in possession of crack cocaine and various drug paraphernalia. In the wake of the arrest, Lauryn Shannon, Alana Thompson's elder half-sister, obtained legal guardianship of Thompson. The entire saga has been captured as part of Mama June's We TV series, Mama June: From Not to Hot, subtitled Family Crisis.

Paula's Home Cooking

Paula Deen's show, Paula's Home Cooking, was once a centerpiece of the Food Network. Her butter-filled confections were the subject of many a meme, and her sweet-as-pie image kept her popular. This all came crashing down after a lawsuit led to her show getting canceled and her reputation hitting rock bottom.

In 2013, Deen and her brother Bubba Hiers were sued by Lisa Jackson, a former manager of their restaurant. The suit alleged many infractions, including sexual harassment, but what caught the public's attention were accusations of racist behavior. Deen admitted under oath that she had used the n-word years in the past, but didn't condone it anymore. She also said she wanted a pre-Civil War "Southern plantation-style theme" reception for Bubba's wedding. This would have included primarily black men in suits as servers. Yikes.

The suit was later dismissed with prejudice, but that didn't scrub the public's memory of everything Deen admitted to. Mere days after the story broke, Deen issued several apologies, but the damage was done. She was dropped from the Food Network shortly after.


Few comedians of the past few decades are more consequential than Louis C.K. In addition to his stand up career and his show Louie on FX, his production company, Pig Newton, has produced multiple shows for the network. Louie itself was a smash hit: It racked up awards, attracted guest stars like Marc Maron and Robin Williams, and served as a headlining success of the network. This all came to an end when details of C.K.'s long history of sexual misconduct came to light.

Rumors had followed C.K. for years. Things came to a head in 2017, when multiple women came forward about his history of sexual misconduct. After some initial denial, C.K. admitted the accusations were true. His manager Dave Becky — who co-produced Louie – was also accused of helping conceal C.K.'s actions from public scrutiny. Becky argued that he had misunderstood the allegations at the time, and apologized for the "perceived" cover-up.

There was no amount of damage control that could keep C.K.'s career from being impacted, however — C.K. rightfully became a toxic asset. Louie, which was already on a self-imposed hiatus, was effectively canceled when FX ended their business partnership with Pig Newton. The four shows C.K. was producing — Better Things, Baskets, One Mississippi and The Cops – all excised his name from the credits and moved on without him as well.

The Dana Carvey Show

The Dana Carvey Show existed, ever so briefly, on the bleeding edge of 1990s comedy. It launched the careers of Steve Carell, Stephen Colbert, and countless other comedy writers. Unfortunately, the show proved to be too controversial too quickly for advertisers to stomach — as in "first sketch they ever showed" too quickly.

The Dana Carvey Show debuted during the primaries of the 1996 election. The very first sketch stars Carvey, portraying President Bill Clinton addressing the nation. Normal enough stuff, initially. As the sketch progresses, however, Carvey-as-Clinton announces that he intends to prove that he is a nurturing president. This is accomplished by removing his shirt to reveal a chest full of lactating nipples, which he uses to feed babies, dogs, and kittens.

This was too much for many sponsors, who pulled out of future deals with the show. Everyone behind the scenes immediately knew that was a death blow — in the words of writer/performer Robert Smigel, "We literally killed our show in the first five minutes." Without sponsors, the show wasn't viable, and was canceled after just one season.


SMILF tells the story of Bridgette Bird, a broke single mom scraping by in South Boston. It is largely the creation of Frankie Shaw, who created, starred in, and wrote most of the show, in addition to directing many episodes. Unfortunately, Shaw's conduct on set was so problematic, it ended up sinking the entire project.

Between seasons one and two, The Hollywood Reporter revealed that Shaw was being investigated for workplace misconduct after multiple complaints and allegations of abusive behavior. Of particular note were two cases of mishandled sex scenes, one of which went so poorly that actress Samara Weaving claimed breach of contract and left the show. Staffers also had issues with behavior on set, saying that Shaw's vocal support of Time's Up and the Me Too movement were "camouflage" for abusive behavior and that people on set "were really traumatized."

These issues were bad enough that local Massachusetts lawmakers, including state senators, threatened to suspend the show's tax credits until the investigation was done. This was clearly a turning point. Partway through the airing of the second season, Showtime canceled SMILF and suspended their overall deal with Shaw. The remaining episodes aired as scheduled, and that was the end of SMILF.

The Wonder Years

The final episode of The Wonder Years remains one of TV's most emotional installments. This is astonishing, given that nobody at the time of shooting knew whether the series would be renewed or not. There were several reasons for this, most involving standard conflicts over money between the show and the network, but at least one person points the blame elsewhere.

During a 2018 interview with Yahoo Entertainment, Abbey Mills, who played Norma Arnold, put the blame entirely on a behind-the-scenes controversy. Specifically, a sexual harassment lawsuit Mills considers "completely ridiculous."

Back in 1993, costume designer Monique Long claimed she was fired because she rebuffed Fred Savage and co-star Jason Hervey's advances. Mills claims the lawsuit nudged the network into deciding to cancel the show.

The suit was dropped after a settlement. Savage claims he was "completely exonerated," but doesn't want to talk details. Mills believes that the network bought the suit off and is unequivocal in her support of Savage to this day. Long, however, stands by the claims she made. As she said in 2018, "My only response to Ms. Mills's slander is that it proves exactly why women in the industry are forced to remain silent about sexual harassment."

Wisdom of the Crowd

TV mainstay Jeremy Piven was the biggest star involved in the 2017 crime drama Wisdom of the Crowd. If that doesn't ring any bells, it's because it didn't last long — partly because of decent-at-best ratings, partly because of brutal critical reception, but mostly because Piven became a PR nightmare.

The show had 13 episodes ordered with the potential for more if things worked out. Ultimately, however, nothing worked out. Reviews slammed it as a rote crime drama that often stumbled into unintentional comedy. Ratings were solid but not spectacular, and certainly not impressive enough to guarantee a new episode order.

The biggest problem, however, was Piven himself. Shortly after the series premiered, sexual assault allegations were leveled against the star. By a few weeks into the series' run, five women had accused him of sexual misconduct, harassment, and assault. Piven denied all accusations, but the damage had been done. Wisdom of the Crowd was not renewed.


Luck, on paper, had a lot going for it. Made by Deadwood creator David Milch and starring Dustin Hoffman, the show follows the lives of shady figures connected to a horse racing track. Shows don't exist on paper, though, and Luck was canceled after the deaths of several horses on set.

One horse died during the pilot episode, and a second died during the shooting of the seventh episode. After the death of a third horse, production was halted, and the American Humane Association insisted upon a thorough investigation. Though HBO claimed to have enforced strict safety practices, the AHA pointed out that the third horse's injury had not happened during filming or racing, raising questions about standards on set. 

In the end, the show was canceled. HBO stated in a press release that even though they "maintained the highest safety standards possible, accidents unfortunately happen and it is impossible to guarantee they won't in the future. Accordingly, we have reached this difficult decision."


Roseanne Barr was a somewhat controversial figure during the original run of Roseanne, but she became an entirely controversial figure by the time the 2018 revival rolled around. By this point, she'd become a vocal Trump supporter, dressed as Hitler burning cookies, and publicly dabbled in many conspiracy theories. Seemingly everyone but network executives at ABC were concerned.

The Roseanne reboot earned huge ratings and was quickly renewed for an additional season. In May 2018, however, Barr tweeted a racist comment about former Obama administration official Valerie Jarrett. ABC Entertainment president Channing Dungey called the tweet "abhorrent, repugnant and inconsistent with our values," and announced that a decision to cancel the show had been reached.

Barr tried to apologize, blaming the statement on taking Ambien. Sanofi, the makers of Ambien, responded by saying that "racism is not a known side effect of any Sanofi medication." Eventually, the show was revived as The Conners, a spinoff about the Roseanne family sans Roseanne. It premiered on October 16, 2018, and has been renewed for a third season.

Megan Wants A Millionaire

Megan Wants A Millionaire premiered in 2009, at the height of the "celebreality" craze. It followed Megan Hauserman, a former contestant on Rock of Love, on her quest to become a millionaire's trophy wife. Unlike other shows of its ilk, it didn't manage to last a single season. This truncation was not the result of low ratings or bad taste, however. As it turned out, one of the show's contestants was a murderer.

Ryan Jenkins, a real estate investor who would have come in third on the show had it aired in its entirety, is the criminal in question. Shortly after taping wrapped, he married a woman named Jasmine Fiore. Jenkins was violent and abusive, and the marriage was annulled weeks after it took place. Fiore's body was found on August 14th, 2009, and Jenkins, who fled to his native Canada, was charged with murder on August 20th. On August 23rd, Jenkins was found dead of an apparent suicide in a Canadian motel. VH1, which had immediately pulled Megan Wants A Millionaire off the air following Fiore's murder, formally canceled the show on August 24th.

8 Minutes

8 Minutes was, in theory, about helping sex workers leave their trade. They'd be offered a client, only to be confronted by Kevin Brown, a former cop and current pastor, who would offer them resources and attempt to convince them to leave their profession. Don't be surprised if you've never heard of it — the show only lasted for five episodes before controversy got it quietly yanked from the air.

After the fifth episode aired on April 30th, 2015, Buzzfeed News reported that the show lied to participants and stiffed them on pay. Several women reported that they only recieved a fraction of the assistance they were promised, despite their following up several times. At least one woman asked for her face to be blurred on the show, only for it to be fully exposed at broadcast. A number of women also reported losing work when their names and faces were revealed on the show.

Shortly after the article was published, A&E confirmed that they wouldn't be broadcasting the remaining episodes of the season, effectively cancelling the show.