When first aired, Spooks series 1 caused a lot of upset. For starters, the BBC did not show any warnings ahead of one particularly graphic death of a main character. The young MI5 trainee in question gets tortured with a deep fat fryer (ugh- we know) and then shot in the head. Over 254 called in to protest.
This 90s Halloween special was quite something. Ghostwatch was made to look like a live factual programme depicting paranormal events: reporters investigating a poltergeist haunting a house. It was of course, all fiction, but people must have been rather freaked out, because about 30,000 called in as it was broadcasting - some checking in about the safety of the presenters. A suicide was later linked to it, as well as two cases of PTSD in children. As a result, Ghostwatch was banned from television for 10 years.
Celebrity Big Brother
Big Brother is definitely a complainer’s favourite. In this instance, over 2,000 people gave their two cents after participant Helen Wood told her housemate Brian Belo that he looked like a “rapist” and a “murderer”. Brian scaled the wall of the house to escape following the exchange, and to be honest, we don’t blame him.
The makers of the popular TV period drama got an earful following a difficult plotline in which Anna, a member of the staff at Downton Abbey gets assaulted by a valet. While not much is shown on screen, ITV and Ofcom still received over 400 complaints.
Brass Eye’s special about Paedophilia - titled “Paedogeddon!” - provoked an uproar across the country, with over 3,000 complaints filed about that episode alone. It was meant to be a satire of the media’s coverage of paedophilia, but was taken at face value.
Britain’s Got Talent
Almost 1,200 viewers griped following the finale of the ninth season of Britain’s Got Talent. The winner of the competition, Jules O’Dwyer used a stunt double dog to perform a high-rope walk as part of her number. Viewers were not notified, leading to calls for the show’s phone votes to be reimbursed.
UKIP: The First 100 Days
Channel 4 is known for its daring and sometimes controversial programming, and this is no exception. UKIP: The First 100 Days mockumentary imagines what the country would look like with the UK Independence Party in government and Nigel Farage as Prime Minister. Its airing led to over 6,000 complaints, describing it as offensive and misleading - many specifically referring to a scene in which far-right supporters wave an Israeli flag.
EastEnders is an all-time television favourite, and as such, is also a frequent disgruntler. A storyline involving a baby swap led to over 14,000 complaints. Character Ronnie switches her baby with that of Kat Moon’s after her own passes away shortly after birth. Charities and activists alike commented that it was an unfair portrayal of parents affected by Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.
Jerry Springer: The Opera
The controversial musical toured all around the UK, and was then broadcast on television. It showed God, Mary and Jesus, along with other religious figures, battling in hell on a special edition of the Jerry Springer Show. It also featured hundreds of swear words and included a Ku Klux Klan tap dancing routine. The BBC received over 55,000 objections ahead of the show’s airing.
Some viewers didn’t wholly appreciate the guest appearances of Christina Aguilera and Rihanna on the 2010 X-Factor final. Aguilera sang a number from her then-recent film release Burlesque, while a scantily clad Rihanna performed her song What’s My Name. Nearly 3,000 wrote in stating that both performances were too suggestive, revealing, or unsuitable for children.
Comic Relief: Funny for Money
In what perhaps is the quirkiest complained-about moment, Rowan Atkinson plays an eccentric Archbishop of Canterbury in a sketch for Comic Relief. He mentions, among other things, that One Direction reminds Jesus of the disciples, and that praying doesn’t work. The sketch prompted about 3,000 calls in, making it the most complained about UK TV broadcast of 2013.
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