From ‘MASH’ to ‘Friends,’ How Some of TV’s Popular Shows of the Past Might Make You Cringe Today

Some TV favorites of the past may have caused audiences to chuckle back then, but in the wake of the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements, they are just plain cringe-inducing. 

MASH was one of the most popular TV shows ever — nearly 106 million viewers tuned in to the series finale in 1983 — but the act of planting a kiss on an unsuspecting woman in one episode would probably not get the ovation it received back then. 

“Those kinds of jokes probably wouldn’t fly today,” Yahoo Entertainment editor-in-chief Kristen Baldwin told Inside Edition. “Hawkeye was hitting on everything that moved. Everyone [was] sort of sexually harassing Margaret “Hot Lips” Houlihan every day.” 

But MASH wasn’t alone.

In the 90s, Friends was top-rated sitcom that is still big in syndication and a Netflix audience, but some storylines are incredibly awkward when viewed today. 

In a 1994 episode, Phoebe, portrayed by Lisa Kudrow, was employed as a masseuse, and her client — who happened to be her friend Rachel’s Italian boyfriend, Paulo — grabbed her buttocks. While it was meant for humor for the live studio audience back then, it would be widely considered inappropriate in the present.

“Why is it played for laughs when she was being sexually harassed at work?” Baldwin asked. “Nobody blinked an eye because that really was the reality.”

On a 1993 episode of Seinfeld, the character of George Costanza, played by Jason Alexander, gets caught checking out the cleavage of a TV executive’s 15-year-old daughter, after which he is told by Jerry, “Looking at cleavage is like looking at the sun.” 

In that same episode, Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ character of Elaine Benes wears a low-cut shirt to distract the exec.  

Other classic television shows also showcased inappropriate behavior for the sake of either laughs or a storyline. 

The General Hospital episode of Luke and Laura’s wedding was a huge deal on TV as 30 million people tuned in, but the story of how the happy couple met is shocking today because Luke raped her on the show and she eventually fell in love with him. 

Danny DeVito’s character of Louie DePalma, may have been laugh-out-loud funny on Taxi, but he could have faced felony charges in a 1982 episode in which he drilled a peephole in the wall of the ladies room. 

Marilu Henner’s character, Elaine Nardo, actually forgave Louie in the show, and for laughs, he grabbed her rear end as he was thanking her. 

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