As public awareness and attitudes shift over time, it’s no surprise that some old television shows, films, and books contain outdated tropes and jokes that could shock modern viewers.
When Reddit user SnooGoats1557 posted to the AskUK subreddit asking which shows would never be allowed today, the top response didn’t surprise us.
It was Channel 4’s Supersize vs Superskinny — which aired between 2008 and 2014 — with more than 2,000 upvotes.
The show, starring Dr Christian Jessen, swapped the diets of an overweight and underweight person.
A Reddit user said: “Forcing people with eating disorders to strip down to their underwear, pass comments on each others’ bodies and make them eat each others’ unhealthy diets would never fly nowadays.”
Unsurprisingly Little Britain also ranked highly on the list. The show was pulled from BBC iPlayer and Netflix last year with a BBC spokesperson commenting: “Times have changed since Little Britain first aired.”
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In a 2017 interview, one of the show’s creators and stars Matt Lucas said: “If I could go back and do Little Britain again, I wouldn’t make those jokes about transvestites. I wouldn’t play black characters. Basically, I wouldn’t make that show now. It would upset people. We made a more cruel kind of comedy than I’d do now.”
Channel 4’s You Are What You Eat, presented by Gillian McKeith, ranked third. Reddit user TomFromWirral said McKeith would “belittle overweight people” and then examine their poo.
Love Island, which just finished its seventh season, also ranked highly.
“Love Island… but it’s still on the air apparently,” said GuyClw, with another user replying: “Underrated comment that. I really hope we look back at love Island on disgust and it doesn’t get worse from here.” [sic]
Central to the criticism of Love Island has been the mental health impact the show can have on its participants. Four people linked to the show took their own life; Caroline Flack, Sophie Gradon, Aaron Armstrong and Mike Thalassitis.
The series has also attracted thousands of OfCom complaints throughout the seasons. During the 2018 season when Dani Dyer was upset because she thought Jack Fincham was going to cheat on her, 2,644 complaints were made to the regulator as people believed producers were playing with her emotions. The incident with Dyer is one of the most complained about-moments in British TV history.
This record was topped this year, with Faye Winter’s conduct towards Teddy Soares garnering 24,911 complaints.
BBC’s long-running show Jim’ll Fix It was high on the list for obvious reasons, too. It was only after his death in 2011 that its host Jimmy Savile was outed as a prolific sex offender.
Another user mentioned Sky One’s Brainiac: Science Abuse. The Redditor said: “Does anyone else remember Brainiac: Science Abuse? I was thinking the other day, looking back, there was a lot of causal sexism, the ‘science’ was certainly laddish. Not to mention blowing up so many caravans can’t have had a good environmental impact. Certainly not how a pop science show would be done today.”
Sky One’s Fat Families also got a mention. Reddit user harrijg___ said: “‘Fat Families’ – especially when the presenter starts off by saying ‘I’m here in Hull with some of Britain’s fattest whales’ or ‘here are some humongous fatties’… it’s so awkward to watch hahaha.”
Another user ventured Top of the Pops, for quite different reasons, commenting: “It’d be pretty boring watching people pretending to play their own CD and pretend to sing into an auto-tune machine.”
The original poster nominated America’s Next Top Model for the dishonourable accolade, commenting: “This show had everything, public humiliation, sexual assault, pitting girls against one another for drama, selective editing to make one girl the b***h, putting these very young girls in mental and physical danger.”
Reddit user dietcepheus added: “Don’t forget the blackface and other questionable cultural appropriation in photoshoots.”
Scrubs, Bo Selecta, Friends, Benefits Street, Love Thy Neighbour, The Benny Hill Show and Men Behaving Badly were also named on the list.