If you think that watching nothing but family-friendly shows with your children or younger siblings is hell, imagine what it must be like to actually make those things for a living. It'd be like having the Dora the Explorer theme stuck in your head all day, every day, for the rest of your life. That's probably why sometimes, the makers of these cartoons or sitcoms flip out and decide to create something nightmarish in an apparent "screw you" to the audience.
But what's surprising is that these episodes then get greenlit and air on national television. Like ...
#5. Family Matters -- Urkel's Satanic Doll Doppelganger Murders Everyone
Family Matters was ostensibly a sitcom about the elevator operator from Perfect Strangers, Harriette Winslow, and her cop husband, but it soon became centered on their impossibly annoying nerd neighbor, Steve Urkel. In a season 8 Halloween episode, Urkel decides he wants to become a ventriloquist and gets a doll that looks like a smaller plastic version of him, which is a terrifying enough premise, but then things start getting more batshit insane by the minute.
"I hide in plain sight, Mr. White."
Early in the episode, Urkel's doll gets struck by lightning and comes alive. The doll, "Stevil," talks in a satanic voice and informs Urkel that he is going to murder the Winslow family. And then he totally fucking does it: He sucks Eddie into the chimney, runs down the kids in Urkel's car, dismembers Laura and hides her body parts in the cupboards, and finally decapitates the mom and turns her into a goddamn jack-in-the-box.
Which is a legitimately impressive achievement for someone with rigid plastic fingers.
Urkel is relieved to find Carl in one piece and tries to explain what happened, but realizes that the man is sounding a little weird -- at this point, Carl falls to the side, dead, revealing that Stevil has been using him as a human puppet.
We really hope he cut open a new hole to do that.
Urkel manages to rip the doll apart, but it eerily pulls itself back together and starts choking Urkel to death. Then Urkel wakes up from his dream ... but it turns out the horror isn't over. In the following season, Stevil emerges from the toilet one day with a mission to steal the family's souls.
"You will all drown in a hell made of your own shit for all of eternity."
This time, Stevil brings along an evil Carl doll, "Carlsbad," which leads to one of the most deranged scenes in television: the dance-off competition between the two satanic soul-stealing ventriloquist dolls.
With Urkel a soulless husk, it's now up to Carl to fight off the two midgets dressed in doll costumes and throw them out the window, at the same time erasing any leftover goodwill the actor had from appearing in the first Die Hard. The evil dolls are gone for good, but then a possessed Urkel wakes up and, talking in the same creepy voice as Stevil, sucks Carl's soul out of his face.
Seriously, imagine if this was the first episode of the show you'd ever watched.
Then Carl wakes up ... which is actually the most terrifying part of the episode. Unless Urkel described Stevil in extreme detail to Carl, explaining how he could look exactly the same in both dreams, that means the dolls are actually some sort of nightmare creature jumping from dream to dream, weakening people by forcing them to watch the murder of everyone they love before stealing their souls. Thankfully, this was the show's last season, so we never got to see this horror happen to the rest of the family.
#4. Pokemon -- The Banned Gun Episode
We've talked before about the many banned episodes of Pokemon, but there's one that didn't need distasteful racial stereotypes or a male character mocking the breast size of a child to be considered offensive. The problem with "The Legend of Dratini" is that it's full of guns -- more importantly, guns being pointed and fired at children. It's likely for this reason that the episode was never even dubbed in English.
"... the most powerful handgun in the world, and would blow your head clean off, you've got to ask yourself one question: Do I feel lucky?"
The episode begins with Ash and the crew singing as they take a stroll through the Safari Zone (a nature reserve for rare Pokemon), when an old man bursts out of a house and tells them to shut the hell up. Ash asks the man what his problem is, and the man demonstrates exactly that by pulling out a six-shooter and asking if the kids "want to get shot." For singing, in a cartoon for 10-year-olds. Later, he straight up shoots at other kids for standing on top of a sign -- they turn out to be evil, but he doesn't know that yet.
"Stand still, I can't see shit with my eyes closed all the time."
The guy is actually the warden of the Safari Zone, which somehow makes it acceptable for him to pull guns on kids. He does it again when explaining the rules of the zone, basically threatening to murder Ash and his friends if they break any of those rules.
"Yes, cower in fear at my gun. Even though you have a literal army of monsters in your pocket."
Later, Team Rocket captures the old man to find out where he's hiding the fabled Dratini Pokemon, and for some reason they also have guns, and point them directly at his face.
That's when "Stuck in the Middle With You" by Stealers Wheel started playing.
What the hell? Since when do modern guns exist in the Pokemon universe, and why would people even need them in a world of magical biological weapons? Suddenly it's like everyone has them, as if the writers were setting things up to make some point about guns and violence, but then decided to scrap that in favor of another musical number.
Anyway, James and Meowth from Team Rocket interrogate the old man, but he still refuses to tell them where to find the missing Pokemon. Then Jessie, a teenage girl, according to the show, offers herself to him in exchange for the information, and he seems intrigued by the idea.
"I'll also throw in six pounds of uncut meth."
However, the warden ultimately turns down her kind offer. If only James had kept those oversized boobs from that other banned episode, they might have had more luck.
#3. The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air -- Will Gets Shot, Carlton Loses It
The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air was about the wacky escapades of Will Smith (Will Smith), who moves from the streets of West Philadelphia to his uncle's mansion in the richest part of Los Angeles to escape an ass-whoopin'. Even when the show had a message, it rarely felt heavy-handed: At the end of the episode, Will would joke about Uncle Phil being fat and Phil would joke about Will being a moron, and everything would go back to normal.
Well, except that one time shit got real, and stayed that way. In the season 5 episode "Bullets Over Bel-Air," we see Will and Carlton getting money from an ATM and exchanging their usual good-natured quips, when an off-camera gunman orders them to hand over the money.
"Shit! We're all going to have to move to Aspen now!"
When Carlton struggles to get more money out of his pocket, the gunman decides that first-degree murder would be more fun than waiting for his slow ass and shoots him, but Will manages to push Carlton aside and takes the bullet for him. There's no laugh track or anything: We see the gun being fired and then the scene goes to black.
And then two solid hours of Carlton screaming, "He's fucking dead! I'm in hell! Heeeelllll!"
The bullet barely misses Will's spine and he survives, but later, in the hospital, we find out that Carlton was seriously traumatized and has been packing heat ever since the incident. Will flips out and tells Carlton to give him the gun, reminding him that he just saved his life so he sort of owes him a favor. When he refuses, Will begins to tear up and screams at him, "YOU OWE ME!" The still angry Carlton then drops the gun at the foot of the bed before storming out.
Will then picks it up and fires six shots into the back of his unsuspecting cousin.
Upon emptying the bullets, Will buries his head in his hands and then ... that's it. End of the episode. Stick around for a new Two Guys and a Girl.
"Nooo, I hate that show!"
Before the ATM scene, this appeared to be a completely normal episode about Will, Carlton and Uncle Phil going camping, but from one minute to the next, it turns into a depressing drama with a bleak ending. The conflict between Will and Carlton is completely unresolved: For all we know, Carlton went out and bought himself a rocket launcher this time. We also never find out if the gunman was ever found, or if Will ever stopped having nightmares about the shooting (he has one in the episode), or if the nurses thought it was weird that Will had a loaded gun on his bed.
We get that they were trying to leave us with an important message here: Namely, "Look at Will Smith get all dramatic, wouldn't he be great for your movie about space aliens?"