Watch the Sesame Street Episode Banned for Being Too Scary, Featuring The Wizard of Oz’s Wicked Witch of the West (1976)

In 1939, Margaret Hamilton made cinema history as the Wicked Witch of the West in The Wizard of Oz. In 1976, she made television history by reprising the role on a Sesame Street episode that was pulled from the show’s rotation immediately after it aired.  It seems to have drawn Sesame Workshop, then known as the Children’s Television Workshop, a fair few complaints from the parents of disturbed children. As a result, writes Mental Floss’ Michele Debczak, “the episode was banned for being ‘too scary’ for kids, and for decades it was difficult to find,” seen only on low-quality video tapes and in the troubled minds of certain Generation Xers.

Now Hamilton’s Sesame Street appearance has become available on Youtube, ready for you to watch with the braver children in your life this Halloween. But then, it’s hard to imagine any twenty-first-century viewer being truly frightened by it, no matter how young. (This in contrast to the Wicked Witch’s army of flying monkeys in the original film, which continues to give kids the creeps generation after generation.)

Some may even be delighted by the evident relish with which Hamilton plays her part, even 37 years after the first time; as William Hughes writes at The AV Club, she “was always game to reprise the role of the Witch on behalf of educational programming; she also appeared, around that same period, on several episodes of Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood.”

In Big Bird’s neighborhood, the Wicked Witch accidentally loses her broom to David, whom readers of a certain age may remember as the spirited law student who once dated the iconic Maria Rodriguez. Only when the Witch shows him some respect, David insists, will he return that precious possession. Thus begins the Witch’s campaign of terror and trickery on Sesame Street, which continues until David finds a way to outsmart her into a wholly uncharacteristic show of courtesy. This story within the episode deals with the timeless theme of overcoming fears; and as the long unavailability of the episode itself shows us, giving in to fears — especially those of public backlash — can have real consequences.

Related content:

When Mississippi Tried to Ban Sesame Street for Showing a “Highly Integrated Cast” (1970)

Alfred Hitchcock Presents Ghost Stories for Kids (1962)

Watch Twin Beaks, Sesame Street’s Parody of David Lynch’s Iconic TV Show (1990)

Watch Vincent Price Turn Into Edgar Allan Poe & Read Four Classic Poe Stories (1970)

When L. Frank Baum’s Wizard of Oz Series Was Banned for “Depicting Women in Strong Leadership Roles” (1928)

Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the Substack newsletter Books on Cities, the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

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Comments (8)
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  • Jme says:

    Lol!! So many cry babies!! Don’t like it, DONT WATCH IT

  • Peter's wife says:

    Jme ok Boomer. The shows target audience are very young children.

  • Annie says:

    Let me get this straight, man steals personal property from a woman no matter what ethnicity/culture she belongs to, meaning I don’t care if she’s been labeled a “Bad Witch” by others, and then the male oppressor DEMANDS respect from the woman being oppressed! I can see why it got pulled on that storyline Alone.

  • Lisa wurtinger says:

    Omfg for Christmas sake it’s just a character

  • Chuck says:

    The decision to ban it was made after the episode originally aired 57 years ago…is it really hard to imagine that very young children might have been scared of the Witch? And years later, in 1992, the producers of SS also decided to shelve an episode where Snuffy’s parents got divorced before it aired, as test screenings showed that kids were unable to grasp the concept and were left thinking Snuffy would never see his father again, arguing was a sign of divorce, etc.

  • Willie t says:

    It was a JOY to see Ms.Hamilton reprise her role! Brought back a good memory of my childhood from watching The Wizard of Oz.i guess the kids who were scared they nver went Trick or Treating either!! LOL 😂

  • James Rivera says:

    Too scary? R u serious? Now, The Exorcist. That was scary. I Love Margaret Hamilton as the wicked witch of the West. I saw this episode when I was a kid.🧡👍

  • Brian Johnson says:

    I’m interested in subscribing to your magazine section

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