5 Inexplicably Creepy Episodes of Family Friendly TV Shows
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 ...
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.
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.
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?"
Tiny Toon Adventures -- The Tiny Toons Get Shitfaced and Die
Tiny Toon Adventures followed the antics of "the next generation of Looney Tunes," each of them suspiciously resembling a classic Looney Tunes character even though none of them were ever acknowledged as their legitimate children. Other than the implication of parental neglect, the show itself was usually pretty innocent ... except for one episode titled "One Beer," in which Buster Bunny, Plucky Duck and Hampton J. Pig get drunk, steal a police car and die in a horrible accident. It was only aired once and then banned, for some reason.
The episode starts when Buster finds a beer on his fridge and pressures the other kids into drinking it -- when Hampton says they shouldn't, Buster points out that it's OK because "in this episode, we're showing the evils of alcohol," smiling wickedly and growing devil horns. At this point it's unclear if Buster is being ironic or not, since this is exactly the sort of meta-joke the show would normally do.
Like that time Buster talked Babs into "showing the evils of blowjobs."
The kids decide to go drink the beer at the park, and after they each have a sip, they are all instantly trashed.
"You know what we should do? Get our dicks pierced. I love you guys, I really do."
In the next scene, an unspecified amount of time later, the kids are dressed like hobos, have grown stubble and are living in an alley. All because they had one beer. Plucky then finds a cop car parked outside a doughnut shop and decides to steal it -- the others agree that this sounds like a great idea, because their alcoholism has impaired their judgment.
Which also explains the fedora.
The kids end up being chased by the police and escape into a tall mountain ... where Drunky drives off the edge of a cliff and kills everybody. Seriously, we see the car land directly on top of a cemetery, and then the spirits of Buster, Plucky and Hampton ascend to heaven. This is like one of those urban legends you read about a lost Simpsons episode where Bart commits suicide or something, except it's completely real.
So, kids, the lesson here is: drinking, theft and suicide equals an instant ticket into heaven.
In the last ten seconds, we learn that the kids are actually fine: They were just trying to show us that "drinking is uncool" by creating an episode-within-the-episode where they end up dead. But that's kind of the problem -- depending on the age of the viewer, it's either an incredibly dark episode full of tragic death (as the little kids will see it), or else it's an incredibly sarcastic episode making fun of all those other shows that tried to legitimately show the dangers of underage drinking (as it will come off to the older ones). The irony is that either way, we're pretty sure the creative team was wasted when they made it.
Mister Rogers' Neighborhood -- Nuclear Armageddon Reaches the Neighborhood of Make-Believe
If there's one show on this planet that you could trust to not suddenly unleash abject horror on your children, that's Mister Rogers' Neighborhood. Although every show we've mentioned so far was supposed to be family-friendly, they all had something a little unsettling to begin with: Tiny Toons and Family Matters had child abandonment; The Fresh Prince had unseen gang violence; Pokemon was Japanese. Mister Rogers, on the other hand, was a perfectly innocent educational puppet show for preschoolers ... which makes what we're about to show you even more disturbing.
A weeklong storyline called "Conflict" that originally aired in 1983 revolves around the puppet inhabitants of the Neighborhood of Make-Believe descending into an arms race that almost ends in nuclear war. It all starts when King Friday becomes suspicious about some unknown packages that are sent by Corny the Beaver to the City of Southwood. King Friday immediately assumes that the packages are full of bomb parts.
"Look at me like that again, mailman, and you'll be dropping bombs out of your asshole."
King Friday calls Corny, who only makes things worse by mentioning that he's making a million of those parts. The King concludes that Southwood must be manufacturing a million bombs, and reacts by forcing everyone in the kingdom to drop what they are doing to build even more bombs in retaliation.
"I'll pull you out of that one-bunk Hilton and cast you down with the Sodomites. You'll think you've been fucked by a train."
Now, it's pretty obvious that there's been some misunderstanding here, but that doesn't change the fact that King Friday is now forcing his people to build actual bombs. Many of the characters resist his tyrannical orders, but King Friday doesn't let up. He appoints Bob Dog as a spy, has the school teach the children about air-raid shelters and arms his generals with the real bombs, holding them ready in some kind of perverted puppet version of the Cuban Missile Crisis.
Finally, Bob Dog reports to King Friday that the parts that Corny was making for Southwood weren't for bombs after all -- they were for a bridge. Everyone celebrates the new peace, while completely forgetting about King Friday's recently acquired nuclear arsenal and apparent willingness to use it.
Days later, King Friday was assassinated by the CIA and replaced by a puppet puppet ruler.
These episodes would have been bad enough if they hadn't been aired at a time when nuclear war seemed like a frighteningly real possibility, but they totally were. To give you an idea of the state of mind kids were in at the time, an article right below the one announcing this storyline says that 75 percent of students thought that they would die from a bombing. All this storyline did was remind them how easy it is for countries to go to war based on a small misunderstanding. If it can happen in Puppet-Land, it can happen anywhere.
That probably explains why these episodes haven't been aired since 1996, and aren't even available on Amazon. What do you have to say for yourself, Mr. Rogers?
For more writers that obviously hate children, check out The 6 Creepiest Things Ever Slipped Into Children's Cartoons and 7 Horrifying Moments from Classic Kids Movies.
If you're pressed for time and just looking for a quick fix, then check out The Most Unintentionally Disturbing McDonald's Ad.