23 years ago, 'Australia's Naughtiest Home Videos' was cancelled during its first episode

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On September 3, 1992, viewers down under were subjected to the first and only episode of Australia's Naughtiest Home Videos—or at least, they would have been, had the series not been cancelled half an hour into its premiere.

The ill-fated spinoff to Australia's Funniest Home Videos (which was essentially the same as the American original, but with more delightful accents) was hosted by comedian Doug Mulray.

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This is where I might try to describe the titular naughty videos, if they didn't speak so effectively for themselves. Two men, backs turned to the camera, use their penises to lift a barbell and spin a basketball, respectively. A boy scoops maggots into his mouth. Dogs attempt to mount a woman, a cat, a bird, and a pillow. There are bare buttocks, exposed breasts, and animal genitals galore.

A girl rolls her tongue in one of the tamest clips on 'Australia's Naughtiest Home Videos.'
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"I'd like to sincerely say that if we've offended just one of you, we've failed," says Mulray, back from a commercial break. "We were hoping for half a million offended viewers by now."

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Mulray would soon find out that he'd succeeded in profoundly offending at least one person: network owner Kerry Packer.

Just 34 minutes into the episode, the media tycoon personally called in to axe the show—or, as Packer reportedly put it, "get that shit off the air." The broadcast abruptly cut to a Channel Nine bumper, and a network announcer read the following message:

"We apologize for this interruption. Unfortunately, a technical problem prevents us continuing our scheduled program for the moment. In the meantime, we bring you a brief alternative program."

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And with that, a Cheers rerun began.

In the years that followed, the show became an object of cult fascination. Its mid-broadcast cancellation is an achievement (if you can call it that) that, as far as we know, has yet to be repeated.

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Australia's Naughtiest Home Videos didn't resurface until 2008, when Network Nine reaired the program in full (minus some insensitive comments Mulray had made between clips, including a joke about fat children). You can even find it on YouTube.

There's a version of this story about freedom of speech, about the enduring triumph of subversive humor, about David's struggle against Goliath. But this isn't that story. Australia's Naughtiest Home Videos was contemptuous, insipid garbage.

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Doug Mulray, a slimy void of charisma, is ecumenical in his offensiveness. He offers up a veritable smorgasbord of homophobic, transphobic, racist, misogynist, and sizeist puns, making jaunty references to the beating of Rodney King, "funbags," and his "nancy boy" viewers. He narrates a clip of elephants passing gas with an inexplicable Indian accent; he informs the audience that the house band's drummer hit a cat with his car, turning it into a "hair pizza."

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I don't know the last time I encountered someone I liked so little.

A still from the opening credits.
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Although the degree of nudity seen in any given clip on Australia's Naughtiest Home Videos could probably squeak by with a PG-13 rating in Hollywood, the show is nevertheless surprisingly vulgar, and worse, thuddingly unfunny. Mulray's double entrendres are really more like one-and-a-half entendres—if America's Funniest Home Videos traffics in dad jokes, then maybe these are creepy uncle jokes. And for reasons that remain unclear to me, Australia's Naughtiest Home Videos is especially eager to share videos of animal sex, depicting hippos, turtles, kangaroos, monkeys, giraffes, and bears mid-coitus.

The overall effect of Australia's Naughtiest Home Videos is irritating, stomach-turning, and interminable: the comedic equivalent of a colonoscopy.

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The original episode (and subsequent rebroadcast) represent a fascinating blip in TV history—it’s easy to see how Naughtiest Home Videos might entice a curious viewer, whether in 1992, in 2008, or even today. But as for its actual content, some artifacts are better left buried.

Molly Fitzpatrick is senior editor of Fusion's Pop & Culture section. Her interests include movies about movies, TV shows about TV shows, and movies about TV shows, but not so much TV shows about movies.

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