As society progresses and changes, our television fan favorite shows change, too. In fact, TV is always changing. Things that would have never been seen on TV in 1950s sitcoms are now commonplace. You’d never find married couples sleeping in the same bed, and you certainly would never see unmarried couples doing anything beyond holding hands!
It goes the other way, too. Things that aired on TV 20 years ago may not look so great through a modern lens. The jokes that were used or the things they deemed appropriate might not hold up to a modern sense of decency.
It isn’t just the usual suspects, either. Sure, we mostly expect racy content from certain comedians, like when watching The Chappelle Show. And we certainly expect dated material from older shows, like All In the Family. But do you associate shows like Friends or How I Met Your Mother with cringeworthy content?
While plenty of people have fond memories of tuning into these shows — and many have certainly earned their spots in TV history — they might not have held up so well over the years. In fact, some of these have some pretty offensive material in them, if you judge them by today’s standards!
Now, I’m not saying I’ll never watch Gilmore Girls ever again. However, I am saying that I view it differently these days than when I was watching in the early 2000s.
So, tune in and check out this list. They may have been extremely popular fan favorite shows in their heydays, but they haven’t quite stood the test of time!
The Dukes of Hazzard
Okay, this is an easy one. Just a single glance at the show, and you can probably guess why it just doesn’t hold up when looked at through a modern lens.
The car, which is as much a main character as the actual people in the show, has a giant Confederate battle flag on the top of it. Oh, and it’s named General Lee, after the Confederate General of the same name. While the “good ol’ boys” never meant any harm, that flag and name hearken back to racial intolerance and slavery. And can we be done with the tired Southern stereotypes already?
Dukes of Hazzard star John Schneider is still defending the use of the flag, though. Just last year he told The Hollywood Reporter that “the whole politically correct generation has gotten way out of hand.”
Married… With Children
Here’s another obvious choice when it comes to shows that haven’t aged well. Of course, at the time, the show about Al and Peg Bundy had plenty of fans that adored it. It was one of Fox’s very first prime-time TV series, and became a hit. But these days, Al’s vulgar, crude, and sexist ways aren’t really as funny when you rewatch the series.
Even Married… With Children star Katey Sagal has spoken out about the “misogynistic show,” which she originally viewed as satire. Looking back at the show that provided her a breakthrough role, she acknowledges that it portrayed women in an exploited way.
It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia
I’m sorry, It’s Always Sunny fans, but your show hasn’t aged well at all — at least not the earlier episodes. In fact, some of the episodes (that aired on network television at the time!) have been deemed so offensive that they were pulled from Netflix’s catalog.
I’m not saying that the show as a whole isn’t funny, or that audiences don’t love the owners of the unsuccessful Paddy’s Pub. However, a quick rewatch of some of the older episodes will leave you cringing. The show is littered with blackface, sexism, homophobia, and transphobic jokes. I know they’re supposed to be the worst people on the planet, but does the show always have to be the worst, too?
While shows like It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia haven’t aged well because of offensive material, shows like Dawson’s Creek haven’t held up for other reasons. This teen drama was certainly ahead of the times in many ways: it pushed boundaries, it took teens seriously, and basically paved the way for teen dramas full of tangled love triangles and steamy chemistry. All of that made the show controversial at the time, for sure.
But these days, it’s controversial for other reasons. If you try to return to Capeside now, you’ll find it full of cringe that hasn’t aged well. First of all, writers had no regard for how teens actually speak, and instead it just sounds like how teens want to sound. There’s that whole affair between Pacey and his English teacher, which probably should have been handled a lot differently. Dawson is literally the worst, and it’s also worth noting that there’s a severe lack of diversity in the seaside drama.
Lack of diversity is another problem we see on the still-loved Gilmore Girls, but that isn’t the only way the show doesn’t hold up well. Look, I was a huge fan of the show. I don’t think it’s even possible for me to count how many times I’ve seen every episode. The idea of a quirky mother and daughter being besties, the mom making her own way in life instead of relying on her stuffy well-off parents, and the pair navigating life in a small town of characters certainly makes for a great story.
Unfortunately, looking back at the series really just shows you how Lorelai and Rory were actually the worst. You’ll notice they have a penchant for weight shaming and casual homophobia. Rory is extremely privileged and spoiled, and she’s a big fat cheater who breaks up marriages. Lorelai has zero communication skills when it comes to relationships.
How I Met Your Mother
Neil Patrick Harris plays Barney, who was supposed to be a womanizing, charming character. If it’s possible to be charming and womanizing without being problematic, Barney wouldn’t know. His behavior is less charming and more predatory throughout the course of the show. I mean, he even wrote a book on avoiding consent.
Ted also refuses to take no for an answer, and stalking isn’t cute. He’s manipulative and gaslights the women he dates. And the women, Lily and Robin, constantly bash other women, too — so the ladies aren’t getting any good treatment.
Even worse, the LGBTQ+ community seems to just be one giant punchline for How I Met Your Mother. “Gay” is an insult here, and transphobia and homophobia are all through the show. Ted’s biggest fear is finding out a partner is trans. Do I need to remind you of “Who’s hot and who’s Scott”?
I may find myself in hot water for this one, but Friends did not age well at all. Do we all still love Rachel, Monica, Joey, and the rest of the group? Absolutely. We watched their ups and downs for 10 seasons, and they feel like, well, friends. The show still remains one of the top-watched shows in the U.S., and it ended nearly 20 years ago.
None of that makes the show any less problematic, though. Monica’s previously overweight physique is often the butt of jokes throughout all 10 seasons, and Joey seems pretty creepy. The show is riddled with homophobic storylines, too, like Chandler obsessing with people thinking he’s gay, and Ross struggles when his son wants to play with a doll. Oh, and there’s Chandler’s “dad.”
The writers seem to confuse drag performers and trans women, because I can’t figure out which Chandler’s parent is supposed to be. But regardless, she is still the subject of punchlines, with Chandler refusing to accept any of it, deadnaming, and then physically retching when she performs in a club.
On top of all that, the show is most often criticized for its lack of diversity. It took nine years for a Black character with any significance to the storylines to show up.
America’s Next Top Model
When America’s Next Top Model debuted in 2003, it was unlike anything else on TV at the time. People were fascinated. It became one of the highest-rated shows on TV for a while during its run and spawned over thirty versions internationally. The show even gave us Tyra Banks’ own language, including the likes of smize and flawsome.
Unfortunately, the show also gave us toxicity, the absolute worst traits of the fashion and entertainment industries, and a whole host of problematic behavior. Rewatching it makes it clear that Tyra is quite the villain, telling gay contestants not to emphasize their sexual orientation, forcing photoshoots after friends died, weight shaming, and making fun of a girl for having a gap in her teeth.
It doesn’t really end with torturing contestants, either. How many times did they darken contestants’ skin so girls could portray different races? Did they really pretend that some of those models were fat? And as often as Trya pretended that her show was supposed to disrupt the standards of beauty by featuring diverse models, how often were they exploited instead of showcased?
Unless you’re ready for the ultimate cringe-fest, I strongly suggest that you absolutely do not revisit this show.