The Top 10 Most Complained About TV Shows Of All Time

We all like to have a good moan from time to time, and sometimes something we’ve seen on TV will raise our heckles or cause us to get on our high horse. But how often do you bother to get up from the couch and make a phone call to Ofcom?


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We human beings are a funny bunch, as we can put up with all sorts, but it will only take one thing when we’re having a bad day to cause our blood to boil, or maybe we just like to jump on the old band wagon from time to time.

Either way, sometimes it seems totally justifiable to complain, other times it does seem a little pointless.

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There have been many TV shows and films over the years that have cause controversy and led to complaints, or even to films and TV being banned – who can forget that one of the funniest films of all time, Monty Python’s Life of Brian, was banned for a long time for being “blasphemous”.

The Top 10 Most Complained About TV Shows Of All Time

People were in uproar about the depiction of Jesus as the goofy Brian and his crucifixion by the Romans – yet another film we’re glad wasn’t around in the age of social media, otherwise it might never have been made in the first place!

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A Clockwork Orange was banned by its own director for being too extreme until the time of his own death when it was re-released. The problem is, we want ever changing and ever evocative, and even provocative, programs that aren’t afraid to push the boundaries and challenge us to think about things.

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We want the soaps to do daring story lines that mimic stories that have happened in real life, to show the importance of addressing things that do actually happen and to show people who this has happened to and that they are not alone in feeling the aftermath.

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Just look at Coronation Street very recently with the male-rape of David for proof!

Yet when they do, people are then quick to complain that it’s too much and that it has upset their sensibilities, so sometimes the show’s producers and writers simply can’t win!

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Other times, however, shows just try and get a nibble from people by pushing things too far to try and get their ratings up, and then the complaints seem far more justified – why do we need a bit of casual racial bullying to keep us interested in Big Brother, for example?

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Below, listed in reverse order, are the top 10 most complained about TV shows of all time.

How many of them do you remember? And more importantly, did any of them offend you personally?

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10. Cutting Edge: Going To The Dogs (1,800 complaints)

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This episode of Cutting Edge featured footage of a fight between two pit bull terriers, causing 1800 people to put in a complaint and resulting in Ofcom starting an investigation into the show.

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Dog fights are barbaric and should rightly be banned. They are cruel, pointless and serve no purpose other than the allow some very disturbed individuals to find some kind of pleasure from them.

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Cutting Edge has often pushed what it shows as it wants to bring real stories of what happens to the general public. Did they push it too far with this, or were they right to show exactly why this “sport” needs to be banned ASAP? opinion was, and still is, divided.

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9. Sky News (2,161 complaints)

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A row between reporter Adam Boulton and Labour member Alastair Campbell in 2010 offended 2161 people enough that they decided to complain. Sky News has also received at least another 4’000 complaints since 2003.

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This followed the General Election and basically showed two grown men, at the top of their professions, rowing live on TV, so they were not being professional, that’s for sure, but did it warrant the complaints? You decide!

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8. The Wright Stuff (2,200 complaints)

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Matthew Wright has recently announced that he will soon be leaving The Wright Stuff, but not before receiving 2,200 complaints.

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Wright was forced to apologise after he put on a Scottish accent and used Taggart’s catchphrase ‘there’s been a murder’ when talking about the death of a 16 year old in Scotland.

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Let’s forget the casual racism here, and let’s look at the bigger picture and the fact that the presenter of this show was actually belittling and making light of the fact that there has been a 16 year old killed in Britain!

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Quite how he went on to be able to present for longer and finally decide himself his time on the show was over is beyond me, and the complaints on this one were much more justified – would you agree?

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7. Brass Eye: Paedogeddon! (3,000 complaints)

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When it was broadcast in 2001, this episode of Brass Eye was the most complained about TV episode in history. Thankfully Twitter hadn’t been invented when it was first aired in 2001, but we can well imagine it would have been set alight after Chris Morris’ infamous ‘Paedogeddon!’ episode.

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We can kind of see why the show wanted to get this point across, they were trying to show that Britain had got itself in to a frenzy following a string of high-profile paedophile cases and wanted to show the country just how far things were going.

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However, it ended up effectively making light of the situation and even managed to get some big names, including Gary Lineker and Doctor Fox, to make fools of themselves and taint their own reputations. Some bad decisions were certainly made, but did it deserve the complaints? What are your thoughts on this one?

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6. Britain’s Got Talent (3,747 complaints)

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OK, let’s take a look at this. This woman has worked incredibly hard to train not one, but a group of dogs to do some amazing stunts and tricks, and she gave people pleasure when they watched them performing.

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Audiences instantly fell in love with Jules’ relationship with the friendly canines, and she was clearly a talented performer who showed off plenty of genuine tricks for the audience back home.

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A whopping 1,043 of Britain’s Got Talent’s 3,747 complaints came when it was revealed that contestant Jules O’Dwyer had used a stand in dog for her performance in the final. In one of the routines before this, another small dog appeared as part of the act needing to be “rescued” and no-one said anything about there being another dog.

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But bring on a third dog that looks similar to the first but isn’t afraid of heights so is used for one of the tricks and the world goes mad! This one you won’t convince me of, she did a top job and having to train more than one dog makes me have even more kudos for the woman – this was was not justified, do you agree? Haven’t people got better things to be doing?

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5. UKIP: The First 100 Days (6,187 complaints)

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This show was meant to be a satirical look at what might happen if Nigel Farage’s UK Independence Party managed to win a General Election, but a massive 6,187 people didn’t see the funny side and lodged a complaint. Britain was always known for its satirical humour and love of ironic humour. Something has been lost along the way.

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The whole point of this show was that it was a satirical look at a possible future outcome, it was not meant to be totally serious or factual. Admittedly, they were also trying to convey a point of what could happen with a UKIP-powered government, so although it was satirical, it was also trying to make a statement.

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Did they go about it the wrong way, and were the complaints justified? Were you offended by the programme at all?

4. Eastenders (8,400 complaints)

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An incredible 8,400 people complained to the BBC over Ronnie Branning’s controversial ‘baby swap’ plot-line in 2011, when she swapped her dead son with Kat Moon’s newborn. At the time viewers were extremely uncomfortable with the storyline and Ofcom received over 8400 complaints about the programme.

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Critics were particularly concerned that Ronnie’s actions could be misinterpreted as the normal grieving process for a woman who has lost her baby. BBC Director General Mark Thompson hit back at critics, claiming that ”It is one moment of madness that had been provoked by a series of events that have befallen the character over the last 18 months.”

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This was always going to be an incredibly contentious and challenging story line, and one that was going to hit hard with any families who had lost a young child or baby, so it had to be handled with extreme care and consideration. For the most part, Eastenders managed to do this, and showed several sides of the same storyline.

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This story was always likely to result in complaints, but do you feel Eastenders did all it could to ensure that the story was handled as delicately as possibly, or did they get this one slightly wrong?

3. Jerry Springer: The Opera (8,860 complaints)

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8,860 people complained about the controversial ‘Jerry Springer: The Opera’, which featured blasphemy, a large amount of swearing, and tap-dancing Ku Klux Klan members. Hundreds of people also gathered to protest outside BBC buildings.

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OK, Jerry Springer has always been as controversial as possible, and he has always tried to get the worst of society on his shows so that he can push the audiences up as high as possible because they don’t want to miss a moment. The Jerry Springer Opera was well-publicised for pushing this even further as it wanted to show just how ridiculous the show could be at times.

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Anyone who watched this knew exactly what it was going to contain and what is was going to be like, so we wonder why those who complained actually watched it at all? Do you think this was just so that they had something to complain about??

2. Ghostwatch (30,000 complaints)

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A quite staggering 30,000 complaints were filed about Ghostwatch in 1992, which featured Sarah Greene, Mike Smith and Michael Parkinson hosting a ‘live’ ghost hunt at a house in north west London. It was actually a spoof, but many people believed it to be real.

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This brings to mind the original radio show of War of The Worlds, which had people believing that aliens were attacking from Mars and running around thinking the World was about to end. Ghost Watch was done as a serious program, and with the stars on board to present, it was easy to see why people would take it so seriously.

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However, had they put a disclaimer at the start that none of it was real, would it have got the same number of viewers and would it have had the same impact? No to both. Did this show deserve the complaints though? What are your thoughts on it?

1. Big Brother (73,788 complaints)

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Top of the list by a mile is Big Brother, which received a colossal 73’788 complaints between 2003 and 2015. 45’000 of those complaints were because of the argument between Shilpa Shetty, Jade Goody and Danielle Lloyd in 2007, when Goody and Lloyd made racist remarks.

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If you’re going to put a group of “Celebrities” in a house together then you are putting some serious egos together in one place and that can only spell disaster, and that can’t be helped when one of the “Celebrities” once claimed she didn’t want to go to France when asked if she’d been to East Anglia (she actually lived in East Anglia, too which didn’t help!!).

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Put those kinds of egos and ignorance together in a big boiling pot and the producers must have known roughly what they would end up with. They may not have expected their Indian star to be referred to as “Shilpa Poppadum”, but they must have known something would happen.

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Did they do the right thing here, or was it one step too far? After it happened, should they have simply not shown it in the highlights show so that attention was not drawn to it too much?

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Should the offending people have been pulled out of the show immediately before anything else could happen and so that the World could see they were protecting their contestants’ well-being?

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What other shows can you remember that have caused complaints for various reasons? There have been plenty of others in recent years. Who could forget Rowan Atkinson’s take on the Archbishop of Canterbury, “Love thy neighbour does not mean shag thy neighbour”?

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And what about Julian Clarey’s infamous joke in 1993 at the British Comedy Awards? We all know roughly the kind of humour we’ll get from Julian Clarey, but even his most ardent fans were taken slightly off guard when he claimed that he’d just been fisting the then-Chancellor of the Exchequer, Norman Lamont!

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So what are some of the most complained about TV moments in the last year or so? There’s been plenty of upset amongst viewers from 2017 to 2018, from EDL leader Tommy Robinson’s latest remarks to ..err ..Amanda Holden’s low cut dress! Read about the top ten most complained about moments from the last year below…do you remember any of them?

10. Benidorm (137 complaints)

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ITV’s Benidorm got in trouble on 3rd May last year for its reference to a character with a cleft lip. Actress Sherrie Hewson’s alter-ego described the man in question as having “a voice like a 13-year-old girl and a face like a dropped pie”. Ofcom received 137 complaints for a “perceived derogatory reference to a person with a cleft lip”.

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9. Celebrity Island with Bear Grylls (153 complaints)

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Bear Grylls got into hot water in late 2016 with one particular episode of his Channel 4 series, Celebrity Island with Bear Grylls.

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Animal rights activists were furious about a scene in which MIC star Ollie Locke stabbed a caiman crocodile to death. Locke’s co-star Lucy Watson criticised the programme on Twitter and a flood of Ofcom complaints soon followed.

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8. Good Morning Britain (181 complaints)

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Presenter Piers Morgan is certainly no stranger to controversy, but his guest in this particular case – Tommy Robinson – is probably even more notorious as the former leader of the English Defence League.

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Robinson made his appearance on 20th June, 2017, but people disapproved of GMB giving his far-right views a large platform on a popular daytime TV programme.

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7. Sky News (190 complaints)

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On 7th August 2016, Sky featured journalist Stuart Ramsay reporting from Western Romania about the illegal sale of firearms. The report received over 190 complaints after viewers suggested that elements had been “staged or faked”. Rumours circulated that Sky paid people to appear in the item, and that interviewees received pre-determined answers to questions. Sky was later cleared of wrongdoing.

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6. Emmerdale (275 complaints)

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Emmerdale fans: do you remember watching Aaron Dingle’s vicious prison beating in March of last year?

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At the time, viewers were outraged at the depiction of Aaron’s treatment in jail and the Ofcom complaints soon came pouring in. The regulator later stated that ITV viewers and fans of the series objected to the “violence / intimidation towards Aaron in prison”.

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5. Coronation Street (303 complaints)

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Coronation Street stirred up controversy amongst some disapproving viewers with its gay storyline involving characters Billy and Todd.

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In an episode from 5th September, 2016, the two men kissed and as a result, Ofcom received 303 complaints from people unhappy with the ‘homosexual themes’ the scene invoked. However, media outlets reported that in general audiences felt positively about the storyline.

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4. Comic Relief (340 complaints)

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2017’s Comic Relief received a number of complaints about the lewd behaviour of some of its guests.

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There were a number of awkward instances involving crude language and innuendo, including one segment where Cara Delevingne answered whether she had ever had sex on a plane. Viewers complained that the family-style charity show was not the place to be discussing the mile high club!

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3. Emmerdale (448 complaints)

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Emmerdale is back on the list with a strange dog-snatching storyline which provoked the fury of viewers.

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In an episode from 2016, Charity Dingle and Ross Barton plot to steal someone’s dog and blackmail the owner. Although their cunning plan failed, some audience members were concerned that it could provoke copy cat attempts, and that pets across England would soon be disappearing from their homes.

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The dognapping incident eventually received over 448 complaints.

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2. Coronation Street (473 complaints)

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In 2016 Ofcom received complaints from viewers over an alleged insensitive racial remark. The scene in question features character Eva Price declaring that she has ‘more roots than Kunta Kinte’.

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Kunta Kinte refers to the character in a novel and TV series called Roots: The Saga of an American Family. Audiences were unhappy with the remark and Ofcom received over 473 complaints concerning ‘racial offence’.

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1. Britain’s Got Talent (663 complaints)

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So far we’ve seen racism, dognapping and potentially fake news…but it’s actually Amanda Holden’s dress that tops the list of Ofcom complaints from the last year or so.

On 1st June 2017, Amanda wore a dazzling low-cut evening gown which we’re certain wowed many viewers.

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However, some audiences were not as happy at all with her choice, and complained that the dress was inappropriate for evening television. The backlash provoked plenty of debate about gender equality and the sexualisation of women on TV.

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Have any of these TV shows offended you personally? Please do let us know with a comment, and be sure to share this post with your fellow 80s kids, so they too can take a nostalgic look back at some of the controversial TV shows of years gone by!