Old School Americana & Nostalgia


‘The Simpsons’ Had to Fight Fox Censors to Air This Itchy & Scratchy Episode

‘The Simpsons’ Had to Fight Fox Censors to Air This Itchy & Scratchy Episode

One of The Simpsons‘ most classic episodes almost missed the screen due to Fox censorship. 

In 1994, the characters Itchy and Scratchy were hugely popular for Simpsons fans. The over-the-top brutal cat and mouse were first introduced during a short on The Tracey Ullman Show short titled The Bart Simpson Show in 1988, before The Simpsons even premiered. They then became a staple in the series in 1990 when they joined Krusty the Clown’s crew. 

Fox was unimpressed with the characters from the very start. Creators Matt Groening, James L. Brooks, and Sam Simon were constantly at odds with the network over Itchy and Scratchy’s violent antics, but they always managed to keep the content on air. However, the producers became annoyed by the constant fights.

The Episode was ‘The Simpson’s Response to Constant Censorship Battles

Fox execs kept pushing for the writers to remove the Itchy and Scratchy from the series altogether, claiming people had been complaining about the blood and guts. But when producers asked for proof of these complaints, Fox never delivered.

After growing tired of the endless bickering, the producers decided to intentionally push the limit further by creating the episode called Itchy & Scratchy Land. As expected, Fox immediately tried to pull it. 

The story found Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa, and Maggie on vacation to a new theme park. After robots go haywire and start attacking the tourists, blood and peril ensue. Season 6 showrunner David Mirkin was the person who went to bat for the installment, according to commentary from The Simpsons: The Complete Sixth Season

Mirkin noted that the animators went over the top with comedic shock and awe at the theme park, which made Fox furious. Only a few months prior, Turner Broadcasting v. FCC made waves. The Supreme Court ruling put pressure on networks to keep content family-friendly. Fox was determined to stay off the FCC’s radar and told Mirkin that if he didn’t cut the episode and any future violence, they would. 

In response to the network’s threats, Mirkin said he’d leak all the censored content and details about the ongoing Itchy and Scratchy feud to the media. In his opinion, the cartoon gore was so ridiculous and unrealistic that it wasn’t scary—it was pure satire. So he’d ensure the entire episode was available one way or another. 

In the end, Fox was more afraid of a media stunt than the FCC and they caved. Itchy & Scratchy Land aired on Oct. 2, 1994, and fans fell in love. Today, the episode is ranked as the 22nd-best episode out of the series’ 758 to date.