Photography courtesy of Netflix

5 Controversial TV Shows That Caused Public Outrage & Were Actually Cancelled

Will Netlfix's Insatiable meet the same fate?

How do you judge a TV show that you’ve never even seen? It’s really not that hard. Netflix’s Insatiable isn’t scheduled to drop until August 10, but thousands of people have already called for the series to be axed by the streaming service. Here’s why: the dark comedy stars Debby Ryan as “Fatty Patty,” a high school student who loses weight and seeks revenge on the evil teenagers who once bullied her. Those protesting the show are calling it a “tone-deaf” trope that’s responsible for teaching impressionable young women that “in order to be popular, have friends, to be desirable for the male gaze, and to some extent be a worthy human…that we must be thin.”

At the time of writing, 156,299 supporters of a petition agree. Will the mass outrage urge Netflix to pull the project? It’s certainly not unheard of. Here are five times controversial televisions shows were cancelled after facing public protest.

All My Babies’ Mamas (2013)

LIFESPAN: 0 episodes aired

PLOT: Shawty Lo — the one-hit wonder behind “Laffy Taffy” — attempted to launch a reality TV show about his 11 children and their 10 biological mothers.

BACKLASH: A petition called for the show to be pulled from Oxygen, saying: “This is not just an attack on African-American parents and children….but ALL PARENTS AND CHILDREN! As dysfunctional and violent as so-called reality shows are, could you ever imagine a one hour spectacle where 11 children are forced to witness their 10 unwed mothers clamor for financial support, emotional attention and sexual reward from Shawty-Lo, the apathetic ‘father’?” The petition was signed by 37,610 people online before the series was cancelled.


It seems particularly cruel to use these children — who had absolutely no say in how they were brought into the world — as entertainment. That said, the minors involved seem to be the only thing that separates this trash show from the other trash reality shows that make it to our TV screens.

The Playboy Club (2011)

LIFESPAN: cancelled after 3 episodes, 4 unaired

PLOT: Described as an “American historical crime drama television series,” NBC’s The Playboy Club centred around a group of 1960’s Playboy Bunnies in Chicago. The idea, apparently, was to replicate the success of Mad Men‘s sleek and sexy retro vibe. The show was cast with few familiar faces, including Amber Heard and Jenna Dewan Tatum.

BACKLASH: The Parents Television Council protested that the show degraded women and “glamorized” porn in the mainstream. “Putting a veneer of sophistication on an industry that exploits women and destroys families is not laudable, it is disgraceful,” said Timothy F. Winter, the President of the PTC.


The PTC claimed victory over the show’s cancellation, but it was more likely The Playboy Club‘s dismal ratings that urged NBC to pull it. I have zero problems with a ’60s Playboy TV series — but, you need a lot more than a cool idea to create a successful show. Maybe Netflix or HBO could pick up the plot and do something interesting with it?

Work It (2012)

LIFESPAN: cancelled after 2 episodes, 11 unaired 

PLOT: The sitcom followed two unemployed friends who believed that the poor economic climate was having a greater effect on men than women. (They call it, the “mancession.”) The solution? Dress up as women in order to secure jobs.

BACKLASH: The series was criticized by the LGBTQ+ community for making light of transgender issues in the workplace. The feedback from television critics wasn’t so great either: multiple outlets refer to the series as the “worst TV show of all time.” 


Yes — but not just because of its problematic Some Like it Hot plot line. Sure the series played into gender stereotypes and generalizations, but it also just sucked. “Its’ mildly offensive,” Brian Moylan wrote in his review of the series for Gawker, “but even worse than that, it is just plain awful.”

The Book of Daniel (2006)

LIFESPAN: 8 episodes aired, 4 unaired 

PLOT: The NBC series followed a dysfunctional suburban family, lead by a pill-popping Episcopal minister who frequently chats with a laissez-faire, Western depiction of Jesus Christ. To thicken the plot: the priest has a gay son, a drug-dealing daughter and a mid-day martini loving wife.

BACKLASH: The American Family Association, a conservative activist organization, which condemned the series, calling it anti-Christian.


As Joe Mandese, editor of MediaPost, wrote: The Book of Daniel “touches on something that our society, and Madison Avenue, are not ready for. Religion is the ultimate taboo topic.” Maybe, 12 years later, audiences are ready. But also… isn’t this pretty much the plot of 7th Heaven? That show lasted for like an entire decade.

Flip It Forward (2014)

LIFESPAN: 0 episodes aired

PLOT: Two twin brothers, David and Jason Benham, flip houses.

BACKLASH: There were no problems with the plot of the show… but it turns out, the brothers right-wing extremists. Their father is controversial evangelical minister Flip Benham, and the duo have a history of preaching homophobic and Islamophobic messages.


The decision not to pull the show would have been a major slap in the face the HGTV employees and viewers who are apart of the LGBTQ+ community.