Television is a medium that requires bizarre things to happen every week, like clockwork. So the most successful TV shows are often the ones which engineer recurring weirdness the most smoothly. And this can result in some... odd premises. Here are 10 classic TV shows that kind of creepy if you think about them too much.
1. Fantasy Island
In this show, people come to Fantasy Island on "da plane" and pay to have their fantasies realized by Mr. Rourke and his assistant Tattoo. Which is kind of skeevy when you think about it — especially when the show occasionally delves into dark material, like the guy who wants to hunt Mr. Rourke. But there's also the fact that Mr. Rourke is always trying to teach his "guests" a lesson by having their fantasies take an unexpected turn, and there's often a "Be Careful What You Wish For" thing, as TVTropes points out. So it's like, "I'll realize your deepest and most outlandish fantasies, for money, but then I'll mess them up in order to impose some kind of personal growth on you." And when this show was rebooted with Malcolm McDowell as Mr. Rourke, it was "darker" and replaced Tattoo with assistants who were basically Mr. Rourke's slaves, working for him as penance for their sins.
2. Blake's 7
Blake is a convicted pedophile, because the Federation brainwashed some children to have false memories of Blake molesting them. Of course, we, the viewers, know that Blake is innocent — but how does his crew know that? Oh, right, his crew doesn't care, because they're all convicted felons themselves. We're told the crew are only guilty of benign crimes like smuggling and bank fraud, but they never even seem to ask Blake whether he really did molest those kids. And then, of course, they join Blake on a murder spree, killing countless numbers of Federation soldiers (and probably thousands of innocent civilians, especially if you lay the destruction of Star One at Blake's doorstep.)
3. Bewitched and I Dream of Jeannie
These two shows both feature normal men who are in relationships with supernatural women (and Jeannie was created in response to the success of Bewitched) — and they're both about horrendous, awful, dead-end relationships. Darrin is the worst husband ever, who constantly tries to suppress what's special about Samantha — and in one episode where a client sexually harrasses Samantha, Darrin slut-shames her. He also spends a whole season fussing about whether their baby will be magical. Jeannie, meanwhile, is about a woman who lives in a bottle — voluntarily. Tony frees Jeannie in the first 10 minutes of the pilot, but she chooses to stay as his servant, and Tony takes advantage of this constantly on the show, imprisoning her in her bottle whenever she displeases him. Also, both shows have a neighbor who gets gaslighted constantly — Gladys Kravitz on Bewitched, and Col. Dr. Alfred Bellows on Jeannie — both of them have their sanity chipped away slowly over the course of these series.
4. My Mother, The Car
It's a show about a man whose dead mom is reincarnated... as a classic automobile. Which he buys. So he owns his mother, and then he drives around inside of her. And refurbishes her. Also, he spends most of the series trying to save his mother from being bought out from under him by a classic-car collector. It would take an army of Freudian analysts to untangle this one.
5. Star Wars: The Clone Wars
Basically, it's the early adventures of a genocidal maniac, during his early slide towards sadism and brutality during wartime. Where the Prequel Trilogy was explicitly charting the fall of Anakin Skywalker, this show is just a series of semi-self-contained stories of his glorious adventures, in which he mentors a troubled young girl (whose fate we never, ever learn) and starts doing things like torturing prisoners.
6. The Wizards of Waverly Place
This Disney Channel comedy is known for having a tremendous amount of incest fanfiction — but that's not too surprising, considering the huge number of incest-y moments between Alex and Justin that make it into the actual show. In one episode, a spell causes everyone to forget who Justin is, and the kids' mother actually tells her daughter to go out with him. In another episode, Alex switches bodies with another girl, who has a crush on Justin, and... you can guess the rest.
7. Touched by an Angel
In this show, "caseworker" angels follow people around and judge their actions, while also helping out in moments of crisis. The two angels, Tess and Monica, regularly team up with the Angel of Death, Andrew — who is presumably just waiting to claim anyone that Tess and Monica can't save.
8. The Ghostbusters Cartoons
The two 1980s movies about heroic science nerds who go around hunting ghosts spawned a number of successful cartoons — and just like with the two live-action movies, they raise a lot of questions. Like, the fact that dead humans are being trapped forever inside the Ghostbusters' containment grid. Including some presumably decent, well-meaning people, whose souls are imprisoned along with demons and haunts, and various malevolent spirits. The Ghostbusters are basically condemning people to a technological Hell of their own making.
9. Out of this World
This is a show about a half-human, half-alien teenager, who can stop time whenever she wants. This is a terrifying concept, especially when you consider how little impulse control most teenagers have. Eve can basically bring all of human history crashing to a halt, whenever she wants something from her parents. And since she can alter anything she feels like during one of these hiatuses, she can manipulate pretty much any events to suit her own purposes. So many ways this can go badly.
10. Quantum Leap
Sam Beckett basically goes around jumping into other people's bodies in the past — and he takes control over people at crucial times in their lives, so he can make people's defining decisions for them. So he's essentially a kind of parasite that leeches people's free will. He makes other people's life decisions according to his own ideas of what's right. As PopMatters explains:
Sam doesn't necessarily persuade people to act differently; he actually makes people's decisions for them. While the show often does see Sam trying to convince others to change, he just as often acts out a change himself in his host. It's actually a slightly disturbing spin on the idea – people improve their lives by abandoning personal agency and having someone else make their decisions for them...
The trope of "white man fixes history" looms large, especially when Sam leaps into people of other races, classes, genders, sexual orientation, etc.
Of course, PopMatters goes on to say that Sam is always portrayed as a quintessentially decent man who tries to do right, and he's sent to fix wrongs in the past, etc. etc. But still — he's a body-stealing parasite that leeches free will.
Additional reporting by Annalee Newitz.