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15 TV Shows With Toxic Sets That Were Called Out By The Cast And Crew
15 TV Shows With Toxic Sets That Were Called Out By The Cast And Crew,"Many of us were, to varying degrees, manipulated psychologically and emotionally. More than one of us is still in treatment for post-traumatic stress. Many of us were put in uncomfortable positions and had to swiftly learn to fight back."

15 TV Shows With Toxic Sets That Were Called Out By The Cast And Crew

A few days ago, The Kelly Clarkson Show was called out for allegedly cultivating a toxic work environment. One current and 10 former employees anonymously reported to Rolling Stone instances of favoritism, bullying, harassment, and low pay, with one former staffer saying it was “by far the worst experience I’ve ever had in my entire life.”

Bravo / Via giphy.comDuring the early days of the pandemic, watching old reruns of ANTM became everyone’s favorite past-time. But it wasn’t long before people started calling out just how problematic the show really was.

When Business Insider spoke to 30 former contestants and crew of the show, they recounted moments of being put in physical danger, body shamed, and forced to recall past trauma. One contestant recalled being eliminated and subsequently asked by a producer if her late father would be “disappointed in her.”

The show also poorly addressed race and sexual orientation, eliminating a contestant for having “rough skin” while telling openly gay contestants they were either “too masculine” or “too feminine.”

In 2020, Tyra Banks addressed the ANTM criticism in a tweet saying, “Been seeing the posts about the insensitivity of some past ANTM moments, and I agree with you. Looking back, those were some really off choices. Appreciate your honest feedback and am sending so much love and virtual hugs.”

Amy Sussman / Getty Images for ABA

2. The Ellen DeGeneres Show

EllenTube / Via giphy.com

We all know this one by now. Ellen banked on her seemingly friendly and bubbly personality, but things behind the scenes were allegedly VERY different.

Speaking anonymously, current and former employees mentioned instances of racism, bullying, and retaliation. One Black employee said they simply walked out after facing several microaggressions and being told by a writer, “I’m sorry, I only know the names of the white people who work here.” 

Another said they were fired after taking medical leave to check into a mental health facility. Apparently, asking for any sort of medical or bereavement leave was an uphill battle with HR. 

Ellen responded to the massive backlash, stating that she had no idea what was going on behind the scenes of her show and that the criticism surrounding her was fueled by misogyny.

Steve Granitz / WireImage,

3. One Tree Hill

The CW / Via youtube.com

One Tree Hill was the teen drama to end all teen dramas (that I admittedly watched religiously). Unfortunately, off-screen, things were reportedly less than ideal.

In 2017, 18 members of the cast and crew including Sophia Bush (Brooke Davis), Hilarie Burton (Peyton Sawyer), and Bethany Joy Lenz (Haley James Scott) signed a letter to Variety accusing showrunner, Mark Schwahn, of sexual harassment.

“Many of us were, to varying degrees, manipulated psychologically and emotionally,” it reads, “More than one of us is still in treatment for post-traumatic stress. Many of us were put in uncomfortable positions and had to swiftly learn to fight back.”

The letter was written as a response to a Twitter thread by a former writer of the show, Audrey Wauchope. In her tweets, Wauchope reported that Schwahn would subject female staffers to unwanted touching, petting their hair, and massaging their shoulders.

After an investigation, Mark Schwahn was subsequently fired from The Royals, his show at the time. Cast and crew of that show also accused Schwan of inappropriate behavior.

Monica Schipper / FilmMagic

4. The O.C.

Fox / Via giphy.com

Speaking of teen dramas, we can’t forget The O.C. in all of this. In a 2013 interview with Vulture, Tate Donovan, who played Jimmy Cooper, admits that the young cast of the show “developed a really bad attitude” and “just didn’t want to be doing the show anymore.”

Mischa Barton, who played Marissa Cooper, also apparently had some issues with other cast members. In a 2004 interview with Elle, she subtly body-shamed her costar, Rachel Bilson (Summer Roberts), stating, “I think I’d be scared of having her voluptuousness. I like being understatedly sexy.”

Barton also reported that bullying on set led her to leave the show in 2006.

Bilson admitted to being “pretty confused” by Barton’s claims, adding that she would “like to talk to her and find out what her experience was from her perspective because I saw things a little differently.”

Kmazur / WireImage for InStyle Magazine

5. Buffy the Vampire Slayer

The WB / Via giphy.com

In 2021, Charisma Carpenter, who played Cordelia Chase in Buffy and the spinoff Angel, claimed that creator Joss Whedon “abused his power on numerous occasions” and was “casually cruel.” 

In a Twitter statement, Carpenter recalls the moment when she told Whedon she was pregnant. “He ask me if I was ‘going to keep it,'” she writes, “and manipulatively weaponized my womanhood and faith against me.” She was then fired from Angel after giving birth.

Shortly after Carpenter’s statement, Michelle Trachtenberg (Dawn Summers) opened up about Whedon’s inappropriate behavior and how he was not allowed in a room alone with her.

After showing support for her costars, Sarah Michelle Gellar (Buffy Summers) also spoke about the “extremely toxic male set” on the show.

In a 2022 Vulture profile, Whedon denied most of the charges against him, but admitted to having affairs on the set of Buffy. He told interviewers he felt “fucking terrible about them” but quickly followed up by saying he felt like he “had to” have the affairs as he was “surrounded by beautiful women.”

Variety / Penske Media via Getty Images

6. iCarly

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Jennette McCurdy, who played Sam Puckett, has been known for speaking out against her treatment on the show, most notably in her memoir I’m Glad My Mom Died.

She mentions Dan Schneider, the creator of an array of Nickelodeon shows, massaged her shoulders and pressured her to drink at 18 years old.

She also recalls being yelled at by Schneider during a kissing scene with her costar Nathan Kress (Freddie Benson), which marked her first kiss on and off-screen.

McCurdy wrote that Nickelodeon offered her $300,000 in “hush money” to keep her experiences with the network quiet. She declined.

7. Zoey 101

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Zoey 101 is yet another Dan Schneider creation that has been called out, most notably by Alexa Nikolas, who played Jamie Lynn Spears’s on-screen friend Nicole Bristow.

During an interview on the podcast, Real Pod, Nikolas recalled Schneider insisting on being there for all of her wardrobe fittings and that he would often sexualize the underaged girls he worked with.

She also mentioned getting yelled at by Britney Spears after Jamie Lynn told her older sister that Nikolas had bullied her (Britney has since apologized). Nikolas was then written out of the show after apparently being told by Schneider it was called “‘Zoey 101 not Nicole 101.'”

Nickelodeon parted ways with Schneider in 2018, but in a 2021 interview, he broke his 3-year silence, expressing his desire to return and denying the allegations made against him.

Brian To / FilmMagic

8. Grey’s Anatomy

ABC / Via giphy.com

In an interview with Variety, Ellen Pompeo opened up about the alleged toxic culture for the first decade on the set of Grey’s Anatomy. 

“The first 10 years we had serious culture issues, very bad behavior, really toxic work environment,” she recalls.

The first instance of that behavior goes back to 2006, when Isaiah Washington (Dr. Preston Burke) used an anti-gay slur on set during an argument with Patrick Dempsey (Derek “McDreamy” Shepherd). Washington was let go from the series after Season 3.

In 2010, Katherine Heigl (Izzie Stevens) left the series in the middle of her contract. The move came two years after she pulled herself out of the Emmy race, explaining, “I did not feel that I was given the material this season to warrant an Emmy nomination.”

Pompeo also brought up the pay disparity between her and Dempsey, stating that he was getting paid “almost double” what she was making. Dempsey was allegedly the cause of many “HR issues” throughout his tenure on the show.

Pompeo later mentioned in her interview, however, that she and Shonda Rhimes “turned the culture around” on the show.

Emma Mcintyre / Getty Images for GLSEN

9. Dr. Phil

Nbc / NBCU Photo Bank / NBCUniversal via Getty Images

In 2022, former and current employees spoke to BuzzFeed News about the racism, verbal abuse, and retaliation they endured on the set of Dr. Phil, hosted by Phil McGraw.

Producers of the show were accused of openly mocking Black and Latino guests, and employees said they were discouraged from booking people of color.

Guests were also apparently manipulated to get a better story on air. One employee even recalls being instructed to tell a guest not to take her prescribed medication before coming on the show in an effort to make her look “unstable.”

Even “minor slip-ups” would allegedly result in hurls of verbal abuse “for hours and hours on a regular basis,” and several employees’ mental health suffered severely.

Attorneys for executive producer Carla Pennington and McGraw denied the allegations, adding that, “Dr. McGraw categorically denies racist conduct, and CBS does not tolerate racist conduct.”

Nicholas Hunt / Getty Images

10. The Idol

HBO / Via youtube.com

The Idol, HBO’s newest drama set to premiere next month, has run into its fair share of issues on set. Dreamed up by Abel Tesfaye, aka The Weeknd, the series was meant to be completed in 2022. But its original director, Amy Seimetz, exited pretty abruptly last April.

Seimetz was replaced by Sam Levinson, the creator of Euphoria, in May 2022. According to accounts from 13 cast and crew members who spoke to Rolling Stone, he ended up scrapping most of Seimetz’s version of the show.

Levinson quickly shifted the show to be more Euphoria-esque, reportedly ditching the “feminist lens” it was being told through and dialing up the sexual content.

One production member notes that the show “went from satire to the thing it was satirizing.” 

In a tweet, Tesfaye shared a clip of his character mocking Rolling Stone, calling the publication “irrelevant.” He later shared with Vanity Fair that he “thought the article was ridiculous. I wanted to give a ridiculous response to it.”

Frazer Harrison / WireImage

11. Late Night with David Letterman

CBS / Via youtube.com

In October 2009, Letterman admitted on-air to having affairs with staffers, the details of which unfurled over the following days. One being Stephanie Birkitt, who rose from being an intern to a regular on-air talent during her tenure on the show. 

The relationship was no secret to the rest of the crew as they reportedly witnessed the special treatment she was given by Lettermen.

A few weeks later, Nell Scovell, the second female writer ever hired on Late Night, wrote a piece in Vanity Fair about her experience working on the talk show. She highlighted Letterman’s affairs and the “sexual favoritism” he showed toward those he was sleeping with.

Letterman’s admission in 2009 received a laugh from his audience and a shrug from other media stars. At the time, he apologized to his staff and wife, but Vice points out that the scandal still feels “unresolved.”

Michael Tran / FilmMagic

12. The Flash, Supergirl, Legends of Tomorrow, and Arrow

The CW / Via youtube.com

In 2017, 19 sources who worked on the sets of the DC shows The Flash, Supergirl, Legends of Tomorrow, and Arrow anonymously reported to Variety instances of inappropriate touching and sexual harassment by showrunner Andrew Kreisberg.

In interviews, former staffers claimed that Kreisberg would touch and kiss them without their consent and make them visibly uncomfortable by asking for massages.

Staffers also referred to vulgar comments they said Kreisberg would often make toward women and how they would avoid dressing a certain way in order to not be sexualized.

One woman recalled a female staffer being told by Kreisberg, “Wow, you look so tired that I don’t even want to have sex with you anymore.”

Kreisberg denied the allegations, telling Variety, “I have made comments on women’s appearances and clothes in my capacity as an executive producer, but they were not sexualized. Like many people, I have given someone a non-sexual hug or kiss on the cheek.”

Jb Lacroix / WireImage

13. Boy Meets World

ABC / Via youtube.com

In 2022, Danielle Fishel (Topanga), Rider Strong (Shawn), and Will Friedle (Eric) gave a behind-the-scenes look into everyone’s favorite ’90s sitcom.

On their podcast, Pod Meets World, Friedle and Strong, the show’s “heartthrobs,” mentioned that they weren’t necessarily thrilled about having to repeatedly film kissing scenes.

“It really is horribly uncomfortable, and to do it in front of an audience and hearing people go ‘woo’ and all this, it’s really uncomfortable,” Friedle confessed, also referring to the power dynamic between the main cast and background actors.

Fishel then revealed that at just 12 years old, her job was reportedly threatened after the show creator, Michael Jacobs, was less than pleased with her rehearsal. She also mentioned the “huge pay disparity” between her and her male costars.

On top of all that, Trina McGee, who played Angela, tweeted about the racism she experienced on set, saying she was referred to as “aunt Jemima” by her costar Friedle (who has since apologized).

Called aunt Jemima on set during hair and make up. Called a bitter bitch when I quietly waited for my scene to finish rehearsing that was being f’ed up over and over due to episode featuring my character. Told “ it was nice of you to join us” like a stranger after 60 episodes

— Trina McGee (@realtrinamcgee) January 12, [email protected] / Via Twitter: @realtrinamcgee

14. Community

NBC / Via youtube.com

Chevy Chase, who played Pierce Hawthorne on the show, apparently repeatedly clashed with many cast and crew members.

In 2012, Chase left an angry voicemail for former showrunner, Dan Harmon. Harmon leaked the voicemail during a live comedy show, in which Chase referred to Community as a “mediocre fucking sitcom.” Chase was apparently frustrated that his jokes were always cut out during editing.

A few months later, Chase apologized for using the n-word on set after once again growing frustrated with his character. A source said his outburst and subsequent racial slur were apparently not directed at the show’s Black cast members: Donald Glover and Yvette Nicole Brown.

However, Glover revealed in a 2018 New Yorker profile that Chase would often disrupt his scenes and “make racial cracks.”

After three and a half seasons, Chase was written out of the show and given a rather sudden and comedic death. When asked about his previous behavior, he replied with, “I am who I am.”

NBC / Via youtube.com

15. Criminal Minds

Cbs Photo Archive / CBS via Getty Images

In 2018, 19 former and current staffers revealed to Variety the abuse they reportedly endured from cinematographer Greg St. Johns. 

An anonymous email sent out to crew members of the show claimed St. Johns engaged in “the inappropriate touching of genitalia, rear ends, verbal abuse, [and] retaliatory firings” and that the issue was made aware to producers a month prior.

One former crew member recalls being fired after confronting St. Johns for “grabbing him on the rear end.” St. Johns was fired after the report, and Disney and CBS Studios were sued in 2020 after sliding the sexual harassment under the rug for so long.

In 2022, ABC Signature paid $3 million to settle the sexual harassment lawsuit brought forth against the show.

Cbs Photo Archive / CBS via Getty Images