As the times change, so does television. What was once commonplace is unacceptable and even shocking today. Here is a look at several once-popular TV tropes that would never cut it today.
1. Clip Show Episodes
Do you remember the once-popular clip show episode? It’s not that we never see them today, but they aren’t as prevalent. Someone suggests the reasoning behind that is: “Because most people stream, whereas before, they needed to catch the broadcast or miss the episode. Clip shows remind people of the funniest parts of shows they won’t see again until the rerun, which may never happen.”
2. Game Show Host Inappropriateness
Do you remember Richard Dawson kissing all the women contestants on Family Feud? How about Bob Barker making women reach into his pocket to get a $100 bill out? That type of inappropriateness would not fly on today’s television screen.
3. Very Special Episodes
There was a time when television series would have “Very special episodes” that dealt with real-life-altering issues like substance abuse, domestic violence, teen pregnancy, and eating disorders and then return to being carefree the following week. The idea that you can wrap those issues up in half an hour is ridiculous.
4. Spousal Abuse Jokes
“One of these days, Alice, bang! Zoom! Straight to the moon!” Jackie Gleason on The Honeymooners would never make it on the air today. Do you remember when Dezi would spank Lucille Ball on the I Love Lucy show?
And don’t forget the episode where she intentionally gets a bad sunburn after spending more than $100 on a dress so that he would feel bad for her and not “let her have it!”
5. Offensive Asian Stereotypes
I’m immediately reminded of Michael Scott’s (Steve Carell) character “Ping” in The Office. But it doesn’t stop there. In The A-Team, Hannibal disguises himself as a Chinese laundromat operator. That’s pretty offensive.
During the ’80s and ’90s, Dana Carvey did a character on Saturday Night Live named Ching Chang, a grossly offensive Asian stereotype, complete with a bowl haircut, thick glasses, and over-the-top accent.
6. Voyeurism Portrayed as Harmless Fun
Was there a time when spying on girls in a locker or bedrooms was a standard teen boy’s right of passage? One of the most egregious examples is in the film Revenge of the Nerds. The “Panty Raid” as a wacky-hijinx prank was typical “boys will be boys” behavior that would not cut it today.
There was a time when smoking was all over the big and little screens. Thank goodness that time has passed, but they still make alcohol look much cooler than it is. It started with everyone smoking. Then, only the bad guys, and now no one does.
8. The Comedic Town Drunk
Do you remember when sitcoms had a comedic town drunk.? For example, Otis from The Andy Griffith Show. Another perfect example of this is Barney from The Simpsons.
9. Fat Jokes
The ’90s sitcoms are notorious for fat jokes and suits; none of that would fly today. Monica from Friends is heavily criticized for wearing a fat suit. The show is called out for making fat jokes, too. If you want some culture shock, put on a couple of episodes of Home Improvement. Tim, the tool man Taylor, is notorious for making them.
10. Homophobia and Transphobia
Homophobia and Transphobia aren’t tolerated today, although jokes about the lifestyles were once ubiquitous in comedies. Despite having gay characters, Friends and Roseanne made jokes that would be deemed inappropriate today. How I Met Your Mother is another example. Do you remember all the gay jokes Mr. Roper makes to Jack about being gay on Three’s Company?
11. Men Hating Their Wives
A former running joke in sitcoms was that men hate their wives and constantly complain about her “nagging.” This guy only wants to hang with the boys doing stupid things, and no one wants to see that TV trope anymore.
12. Sex Pests
I’m uncertain if it’s entirely gone, but there used to be the standard sitcom character who relentlessly hit on women in the most inappropriate ways. For example, Jack Tripper from Three’s Company, Fez from That ’70s Show, Barney Stinson from How I Met Your Mother, Howard Wolowitz from The Big Bang Theory, and Sam Malone from Cheers.
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Elizabeth Ervin is the owner of Sober Healing. She is a freelance writer passionate about opioid recovery and has celebrated breaking free since 09-27-2013. She advocates for mental health awareness and encourages others to embrace healing, recovery, and spirituality.