A lot can happen on live television, whether it’s planned or unplanned, or in many cases, planned very poorly. And once it’s live, it’s forever, and mistakes will be shown and talked about all over the Internet. Here are ten of the worst events ever aired on live television. These events range from variety shows to awards shows and news events that unfolded horrifically.
There are several variety shows and specials on this list. With all the money that goes into these productions and all of the people and talent involved, you would think everything would run smoothly, at least for the most part. Nope. Many things that sounded like a good idea at the time, seriously failed to deliver. Between sloppy camera work and snooze-inducing entertainment- it makes you wonder what were they thinking? Why didn’t they just cancel this thing?
Some of these television disasters are news events gone horribly wrong. From car chases to unexpected deaths, some things just shouldn’t be aired on television. Although many programs are on a delay, sometimes five seconds isn’t enough time to react properly. Particularly during times of great pressure, humans make mistakes, which often warrant even greater apologies from networks. Especially when those mistakes were on purpose…
There are also several awards shows on this list. Awards shows are just open invitations for epic failures. Not every actor, singer or performer is really equipped to handle live television when it comes to hosting, acceptance speeches and even their own performances, even if they’ve performed hundreds of times before.
10. Peter Pan Live
On December 4, 2014, Allison Williams, best known for her role on HBO’s Girls and as news anchor Brian Williams’ daughter, attempted to fill the shoes of Mary Martin and Sandy Duncan in the worst broadcast disaster of the year, Peter Pan Live! Live was also the opposite of her co-star Christopher Walken, who basically phoned in his entire performance. This was also supported by sloppy camera work and audio. The actors were allegedly lip-syncing all of the songs from a dress rehearsal. But the question is, why did they ever agree to this awful production to begin with? Between the dated story (yep, they changed Ugg-A-Wugg to True Blood Brothers, which was more like Ugg-A-What?) and all the things that could go wrong and did in terms of production, the highlight of the show was watching Melissa Joan Hart’s Wal-Mart commercials (they were very cute).
9. Rosie Live
On November 26, 2008, variety show Rosie Live aired dead on arrival. Even a star-studded guest list including Alanis Morisette, Liza Minnelli, Kathy Griffin, Rachael Ray, Clay Aiken, Alec Baldwin and Conan O’Brien couldn’t save the show. Rosie’s Broadway Kids (whoever they were) also performed and clearly, they were too young to know better. The show was universally panned by critics including Mary McNamara of the Los Angeles Times, who said, “For those of us who are, and remain, Rosie fans, who think The View will never quite recover from her departure, who think her desire to resurrect the variety show was, and is, a great idea, disappointment does not even begin to describe it.” At least it finished third in its time slot.
8. The Oscars With James Franco & Anne Hathaway
It is a universally known fact that James Franco can do anything from starring in movies, Broadway, getting a degree from Yale, writing poetry, directing and possibly curing cancer, but the one thing he couldn’t do was host the Oscars. Franco and actress Anne Hathaway hosted the show in 2011. It was quite possibly the worst ceremony ever. Franco seemed like he was half awake and quite possibly high. Hathaway fell flat when it came to being funny, overcompensating way too hard for her co-host’s lack of energy. Hopefully we can blame Franco’s lack of energy on being too busy with everything else he does.
7. Rockefeller Center Tree Lighting 2014
The 2014 Rockefeller Center Tree Lighting Ceremony was awful for so many reasons. In all fairness, it wasn’t NBC’s fault entirely. It was terrible timing. People protesting the Eric Garner decision, where a grand jury cleared a white NYPD officer in the chokehold death of black man, tried to shut down the ceremony on Twitter (#shutitdown) and in person, on live television. However, the ceremony went on as planned, despite a huge police presence and the feeling of a looming threat. But nothing could top the awful Mariah Carey performance of her classic song, All I Want For Christmas Is You. All the entire crowd wanted was to never hear Carey perform again.
6. Kanye West Disrupts Taylor Swift at 2009 VMAs
Who could forget Kanye West’s terrible disruption of Taylor Swift’s acceptance speech for the Best Female Video award at the 2009 VMAs? West was extremely disappointed that Beyoncé didn’t win. So, as Swift was saying “I always wondered what it would be like to maybe win one of these someday, but never actually thought it would happen,” West grabbed the mic and exclaimed “Taylor, I’m really happy for you, and I’m gonna let you finish, but Beyoncé had one of the best videos of all time.” Beyoncé looked on horrified. Just minutes later, like a champ, Swift performed her song You Belong To Me, live on a subway. West later apologized, but the entire show was tainted with his action. After all, that award belonged to her.
5. Jordan F. Romero’s Live Suicide
In September 2012, Arizona police were persuing Jordan F. Romero, who was a suspect in a car jacking, in a high-speed chase. Near an open field, Romero left his car, got out and started running. Then he stopped suddenly, and shot himself. While airing live on Fox News, the action was on a five second delay, but it wasn’t enough time. Anchor Shepard Smith could be heard telling the cameraman to cut away several times, but it was too late. Shepard apologized for the error in the next segment saying, “That didn’t belong on TV. We took every precaution we know how to take to keep that from being on TV. And I personally apologize to you that that happened.”
4. Janet Jackson’s Wardrobe Malfunction At The 2004 Super Bowl Half Time Show
It could be argued that Janet Jackson’s wardrobe malfunction during her performance at the 2004 Super Bowl Halftime Show wasn’t exactly bad, depending on who you ask, but the aftermath most certainly was. Justin Timberlake accidentally pulled a piece of Jackson’s costume off and her breast was shown for exactly 9/16th of a second on live television (luckily she was wearing a pasty on her nipple), but even that was too long, especially for the family viewing event of the year. CBS was slapped with a $550,000 fine for the incident and the term wardrobe malfunction became part of the cultural lexicon.
3. The 2000 Presidential Election
The 2000 presidential election was one of the most important and closest elections in American history. It was intense. At around 8pm EST, several major news networks (including CNN) erroneously predicted that Al Gore won the election in the very important state of Florida (they have 25 electoral votes). So, essentially they announced Al Gore would be the new president. Hey, he did invent the Internet. By 9:55pm, CNN retracted its prediction and the other major networks followed suit. Americans had their eyes glued to their television sets, completely confused, intensely watching the very close race.
2. The Infamous OJ Simpson Car Chase
On June 17, 1994, former NFL superstar led the Los Angeles Police on a low speed car chase. He was supposed to turn himself in that day, for the double murder of his wife Nicole and her friend, Ron Goldman. At 11:00am, Simpson’s attorney, Robert Kardashian (yes, that Robert Kardashian) read a letter from Simpson to the media, which sounded like a suicide note. Around 6:20pm, a motorist on the 405 Freeway in Orange County spotted OJ in his white Ford Bronco, driven by OJ’s friend, Al Cowlings. The chase started around 6:20pm and although 20 police cars tailed him, Cowlings was only driving 35mph. It was prime time for Los Angeles rush hour traffic. Cowlings told police that Simpson was in the back of the car with a gun to his head. Over 20 helicopters ended up covering the event on live television. The chase ended at 8:00pm when Simpson drove back to his Brentwood home, went inside for an hour and ultimately surrendered himself to police.
1. Jet Blue Airways Flight 292 Emergency Landing
There might not be anything worse than watching your imminent death broadcast on live television, but that’s exactly what happened with the emergency landing of Jet Blue Flight 292, on September 21, 2005. After taking off from Bob Hope Airport in Burbank, the pilot realized the landing gear wouldn’t retract. The nose wheel was rotated 90 degrees to the fuel box, so the plane could potentially explode when landing. The pilot was forced to burn off fuel for over two hours, flying in a figure 8 pattern between LAX and Burbank. Jet Blue planes are equipped with satellite television, so the passengers watched the live news coverage of their flight. Luckily, they were able to land and no one was injured.