Toilets: Taboo for TV Until 1957

March 9, 2011 at 2:00 am 4 comments

By Kaye Nemec

Prior to the very well thought out Leave It to Beaver pilot episode in 1957, it was considered taboo to show a toilet on television. If you consider how frequently bathroom scenes (some racier than others) appear in movies and on TV shows now, it is hard to imagine that it was unheard of 54 years ago.

Leave It to Beaver’s pilot episode, Captain Jack, was the first network TV program to bring bathrooms out of hiding when it included a scene with Wally and the Beave with a baby alligator they had ordered through the mail. Assuming a pet alligator would not have been approved, they hid it in the toilet tank.

The toilet scene is at about 3:20

When it was originally filmed, the whole toilet was included in the scene, but CBS refused to air the episode as is. Unable to figure out an alternative place to hide the alligator, the production company was finally able to compromise with CBS and very tight camera angles were used to make sure the seat was kept hidden and only the toilet tank appeared on screen.

The ban on toilets continued even into the late 1970’s when people using toilets on TV was simply not part of scripts. However, during this era All in the Family was the first show to air the sound of a flushing toilet.

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Sources: The Toilet Museum, Snopes

Entry filed under: Around The House, History and Origins. Tags: , , .

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4 Comments Add your own

  • 1. bmj2k  |  March 10, 2011 at 10:34 am

    Odd how it was a sitcom (All in the Family) to bring the toilet out of the closet, so to speak. There is something about a comedy that allows a more accurate depiction of human nature than drama does at times. If you are invested in a drama an incomgruous element may take you right out of the suspension of disbelief but in a comedy not only do you strech your suspension but you’d be ready to accept more of the foibles of human nature.

  • 2. Beowulf  |  July 31, 2013 at 9:22 pm

    I remember in the ’70s a commercial for “bathroom tissue” featured an elderly lady advertising; she said in a stage whisper: “toilet paper”. So even in the ’70s it was still uptight. Doesn’t explain why Tom Hanks pees in virtually all of his movies.

  • […] speaking. It wasn’t that long ago that mixed-race couples were considered scandalous, depicting a toilet on a TV show was taboo, and Bill Cosby was a respectable public figure. Whether it’s decades, years, or just a few […]

  • 4. Matt  |  January 19, 2020 at 2:05 am

    It’s remarkable how much has changed. A bathroom, let alone a toilet was controversial in 1957 for a prime time sitcom yet in the late 80’s or early 90’s a cartoon called Tiny Toons (rated G) featured an episode with one character flushing everything down the toilet and being amazed that it went “down the hole”. It ended up clogging and he proclaimed with joy that all of his toys and even his diaper came back. And what’s amazing is this cartoon is from 30 years ago and would be considered tame today, yet it showed something that would have gotten a hard “NO” on prime time TV even into the 70’s


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