It wasn’t until the late 1950s that the television started becoming a common household item. By 1962, 90% of Americans owned a TV. Nowadays, it’s not uncommon for people to own multiple television sets. With such a high demand in the product came multiple networks to capitalize on this mainstream invention. The general public was caught hook, line, and sinker.
Throughout the evolution of television, many channels have come and gone, but the initial purpose has never been stronger: entertainment. There’s something for everyone, whether it be drama, action, comedy, horror, science fiction or fantasy. It’s hard not to find at least one program you’ll enjoy on TV.
With so much programming, sometimes the more memorable things audiences have seen from the comfort of their living room have come unexpectedly and with shocking results. With such a powerful means of information, certain events are near impossible to miss. When shocking occurrences from all over the world can be viewed with the push of a button, entertainment is brought to a new level of extremity.
The list below contains some of the most shocking moments caught on live television. This list holds many controversial situations and it should not to be perceived as a “favorite” or “top” list in any way, shape, or form.
11. The O.J. Simpson Car Chase and Trial
Getting away with murder isn’t easy… unless you’re O.J. Simpson. Millions watched as the Simpson trial unfolded on live TV, making a mockery of the judicial system. Prior to the trial news, cameras covered a slow-speed chase involving Simpson which began the start of the infamous antics soon to follow.
The trial took place over a twelve month period, during which many questionable occurrences unraveled. O.J.’s defense team, led by Johnnie Cochran, was able to convince the jury of his innocence. The evidence presented spawned the famous line “It doesn’t fit, you must acquit,” referring to the glove Simpson supposedly wore when he killed his wife. In the end Simpson, was shockingly found not guilty, proving money and fame can go a long way.
10. Manila Hostage Crisis
On August 23, 2010, former police officer Roland Mendoza hijacked a tourist bus, holding 25 people hostage. Mendoza’s motives were wildly hypocritical, claiming he had been unfairly dismissed from his job. A hostage situation hardly seemed fitting for the demand of a fair hearing.
The 10 hour standoff was all caught on live TV; sadly, it ended with the deaths of eight hostages, while seven others were injured. Mendoza was also shot down in the process, concluding this whole ordeal and ending the reign of a true madman.
9. 1972 Olympic Massacre
With the respected athletes who take part in the Olympic Games only able to compete every 4 years, no one expected the travesty that took place in 1972. In response to the prior arrest of 234 Palestinians, a terrorist group named “Black September” resorted in taking the Israeli Olympic team hostage.
This act of terrorism took place in an apartment building in Munich over the course of two days, resulting in the death of 11 Olympians, who sadly never even got their chance to compete. Because of the in-depth televised event, the terrorists were able watch and anticipate the authorities’ every move.
8. The Fall of the Berlin Wall
The Berlin wall stood for 28 long years, separating East Germany from West Berlin, but it all came crashing down over a two year period between 1990 and 1992. However, before the military could begin the official demolition, countless citizens got a head start with hammer and chisel in hand.
This shocking demonstration was all caught on live TV. People from all around the world watched as German citizens chipped away at this communist barrier, a sight no one ever expected to see. NBC’s Tom Brokaw covered most of the event, capturing the long awaited unification of Germany.
7. Rodney King Riots in Los Angeles
Los Angeles broke out into one of the country’s biggest riots ever following the acquittal of four police officers charged for the assault on Rodney King. Thousands of people took part in the riots over a six day period and the TV cameras caught it all.
People watched the horrific event from their homes, shocked by the extent of violence that took place. Everything from looting, arson, assault, and killings were fed into TV screens across the country. This brutal flood of anarchy resulted in the deaths of 53 people, leaving over 2000 injured. Police brutality is a serious matter and should never be overlooked.
6. Japanese Tsunami
Natural disasters are common fair in many Hollywood movies, but when CNN captured the harrowing site of the tsunami that hit Japan in 2011, it wasn’t easy to watch. The monstrous waves reached heights of up to 40.5 meters, turning countless towns into watery tombs.
The rushing waters devastated everything in its path. Boats, cars, roadways, it didn’t matter; the destruction was insurmountable. The tragic event took the lives of over 13,000 people and resulted in $235 billion in damages, making it the costliest natural disaster in world history. To capture such a world disaster on camera is rare, but it shows the impact mother nature can have, reminding us not everything we see in the movies is fiction.
5. Waco Siege
When the ATF (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives) obtained a search warrant for a compound owned by the religious group Branch Davidian, the last thing they expected was a full-tilt firefight.
The group was suspected of weapon’s violations, which clearly turned out to be true since the ATF was fired at before they could even conduct their search. This resulted in the deaths of four ATF agents and six Branch Davidians, but the gun battle didn’t end there. A siege was then initiated by the FBI, which lasted a long 51 days.
Eventually, the FBI resorted to tear gas, hoping to force the modern-day bandits out of the compound. Amongst all the chaos, a fire broke out engulfing the compound, killing 76 people. This entire gun battle was caught on live TV where people watched as the movie-like siege played out in real time.
4. Challenger Tragedy
On January 8th 1986, American shuttle orbiter Challenger lifted off, despite the warning of cold temperatures. Sadly, seventy-three seconds after launch, the shuttle exploded into a plume of smoke and fire, killing the whole crew inside.
This tragedy was viewed by millions who watched in disbelief as the burning spacecraft plummeted into the Atlantic Ocean. Adding to the shock and sorrow was the death of Christa McAuliffe, a civilian high school teacher who was aboard the craft. She had earned the spot through NASA’s “Teacher in Space Program”. This tragedy led to a two year long hiatus from NASA; flights resumed again in September 1988.
3. Oswald Assassination
The lone sniper who took the life of John F. Kennedy met a similar fate – though his was more point blank.
On November 24, 1963, Lee Harvey Oswald was shot in the abdomen during his transfer from the Dallas police station to a nearby county jail. His shooter turned out to be nightclub operator Jack Ruby, who deliberately stepped out of the crowd surrounding Oswald and shot him point blank.
This incident was caught on live TV, where the country watched as the man who killed their president receive the ultimate form of karma.
2. The Moon Landing
While it wasn’t necessarily caught on live television, one of the most important events in history was viewed by 600 million people live from their living rooms.
The year is 1969. The mission: send man to the moon. What seemed like an impossibility became reality when the aforementioned 600 million watched as world famous astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin set foot on the moon. Armstrong’s famous words, “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind” says it best.
There is, however, a lot of discrepancy concerning the actuality of the whole thing. Many conspiracy theories have been circulating since Apollo 11 first landed the two astronauts on the moon. Regardless of what you believe, this was truly an awe-inspiring moment for millions and will always be remembered as one of the most watched events on television.
When a plane crashed into the north tower of the World Trade Center, major news channels quickly began airing a live feed of the incident. Shortly after the cameras started rolling, a second plane collided with the south tower sending a chill down the spine of all those who watched this horror unfold.
Clouds of smoke filled the sky as the 110-story skyscrapers burned above New York city. The panic in New York took a turn for the worst when the towers came crashing down in a menacing wave of dust and smoke.
This vile attack was coordinated by Islamic terrorist group al-Qaeda and resulted in the death of nearly 3000 people. September 11 is one of the saddest days in American history; the shocking live footage will forever be a haunting memory for all those who watched.