When you think about live TV, you get the feeling it’s going to be entertaining regardless of it being in a good or bad way. Whether something awkward just happened, or something totally awesome, it’s pretty fun to watch. But you have to admit, the most remembered ones are the most disturbing. It just shows that it’s the real deal as opposed to something that was completely set up. It’s almost like watching a movie but it’s really happening and you can’t help but feel those chills.
These disturbing moments can also do the network a favor or a disservice. It’s all about publicity today and when live TV makes news, it drives the audience to the brand of the show or overall the network. This is a good thing most of the time but no one likes bad publicity. At the end of the day, it’s great television for the audience. However, there have been some other disturbing moments that are just plain terrifying.
So below are 15 of the most disturbing moments that have occurred on live TV that you’ll probably recall and get those chills like you did the moment it happened.
15. O.J. Simpson’s Car Chase
This was too weird to watch. When O.J. Simpson was accused of murdering his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, the world was all over their TV screens to keep up with the headlines. But nothing was more entertaining to watch than when the NFL running back was seen driving his white Bronco in what eventually turned into a car chase, a rather low-speed one. Everyone tuned in as networks were all over the chase, covering it live, making it the biggest headline of the whole O.J. Simpson court case. This happened back in 1994, when these live coverages were golden and almost like an action thriller for the audience. The scene of all the cops chasing this white Bronco with one of the most wanted men in history was one of the most disturbing yet fascinating moments to watch on live television.
14. The O.J. Simpson Trial Verdict
Although the low-speed car chase was the most entertaining, the actual court case was also one to remember. When the verdict was read and found the former football player not guilty of murdering his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend Ron Goldman, people everywhere felt defeated, almost as if they were lied to their faces. The world didn’t have social media back then so the historic reaction to this American moment was caught all over television and still lives on today. This all led to a new chapter of racial divisions, something that has continued to grow and is still present today. No court case has been as disturbing as the O.J. Simpson Trial. Besides it being disturbing, this live TV moment has just become one of the highly debatable verdicts of all time. In the end, it made great television back then and the subject still makes good television whenever it’s brought up.
On September 11, 2001, the most tragic event in American history occurred. Major news channels started reporting that a plane crashed into the World Trade Center but that wasn’t it. Another report came right after. This time it was another plane crashing into the South Tower. From there, everyone was left with no words after what they saw on national television. The news then broke that this was absolutely a terrorist attack but no one needed the news to break that because unfortunately, it was obvious as soon as everything happened. When people saw those planes crash, it all felt like a personal attack on all of us. To this day, when the anniversary date of 9/11 comes, everyone begins to go back and remember where they were when the event happened. From the ones who were in the city to the ones who lost loved ones to the crash and to the rest, the pain and devastation lives on and will forever feel present.
12. JetBlue Airways Flight 292 Emergency Landing
We have watched news break about flights not making it or landing in an emergency but this one was one to be remembered. The emergency landing of JetBlue Airways 292 was such a shocking event to watch unfold on our TV screens. It was almost like a movie, except a lot more tense. What’s even more tense is apparently the passengers were also watching the event on their on-board televisions. We were already freaking out just watching it from our living rooms, we can’t imagine how those passengers felt. What made it more movie-like was the actual emergency landing. If this were to turn out the other way, it would’ve been one of the worst tragedies we have ever witnessed.
11. The 1972 Olympic Games Massacre
As a much anticipated event that millions gather to watch, this moment was devastating to watch. A militant terrorist group known as Black September went on to the 1972 Olympic Games to hold members of the Israeli Olympic team hostage at an apartment building. The terrorist group ended up killing 11 of the Olympic team members. Unfortunately, because live news coverage was quick, the terrorist group caught everything as well which gave them a chance to prepare to respond to the police. The major news outlets got to broadcast everything except the worse parts. However, live images began to spread and people couldn’t believe their eyes when they saw masked terrorists and a hostage getting shot. It was too much to grasp but little did they know, this act of international terrorism was bound to continue to this day.
10. The Balloon Boy Hoax
On October 15, 2009, residents of a small city in Colorado witnessed one of the world’s disturbing moments on live television. A runaway gas balloon was flying around with reports of a child inside. People all over the world were watching with fear, believing this was all going to end as a tragedy. There were even reports of the boy falling off the balloon but nobody was sure and just stayed watching until the end. After an afternoon full of terror, the audience was relieved to learn the child was hiding in the attic of his home the whole time. But that wasn’t the end of that. People began to accuse the parents of a possible hoax and a follow-up interview with the boy caused even more suspicion. Knowing how people are today trying to get the attention they think they deserve, we wouldn’t be surprised if this was the case. But hoax or not, it was something entertaining to watch.
9. The Fall of the Berlin Wall
The shocking demonstration of the Berlin Wall coming down was all caught on live TV. The wall stood for 28 years but then in 1990, it was going to go down. The wall, separating East Germany from West Berlin, came crashing down over a two-year period from 1990-1992. People watched from their living rooms, NBC’s Tom Brokaw broadcasting the whole event of the fall of Communism. For about three decades, people knew of Europe as divided so it was shocking to watch this piece of history happen. Although it was live on their TV screens, it still stunned everyone and was crazy to watch as it was something no one thought was ever going to happen. However, this moment of history was actually something positive that happened in the world unlike most of the disturbing moments on live television.
8. Dale Earnhardt Dies in a Crash During Daytona 500
In 2001, people watched Dale Earnhardt live his last day while he was doing what he loved – car racing. The sport has its reputation for jaw-dropping accidents and loyal fans from all over the world are used to watching such misfortunes happen. However, when the death of NASCAR’S biggest star happened, the audience wasn’t sure what to think anymore. Earnhardt collided with Ken Schrader and crashed his car into a wall at the 2001 Daytona 500 at an estimated 161 mph and was immediately found dead. It was definitely a tragedy that the audience hasn’t forgotten to this day when they watch NASCAR broadcasts. The American professional stock car racing driver and champion team owner died at 49 years old. He was known as “the Intimidator” due to his aggressive and fearless driving. Today, his son Dale Earnhardt Jr. can be seen doing what his dad enjoyed doing.
7. The 2000 Presidential Election
When it was Gore versus Bush for the 2000 Presidential Election, CNN announced that Al Gore was going to be our President after finding out Florida’s 25 electoral votes were in favor of him. But then major news networks started announcing Bush as our next President and it kept going on like this for a while. Americans were wondering how the nation would be under Al Gore or George Bush depending on the network they were watching the election on. It was for sure the most memorable election until this past one where it was announced that an inexperienced, reality TV personality was going to be our official President for the next four years. At this point, it looks like Trump will forever top the most disturbing moments in presidential election history.
6. The 1989 San Francisco Earthquake
It’s something that people have been talking about a lot since California is due for another major earthquake and yet, it hasn’t happened which means it’s going to be major. When people look back on the 1989 San Francisco Earthquake, they specifically think about the game between the SF Giants and the Oakland Athletics because the natural disaster was caught on live TV during the game. The sports broadcast was just a regular broadcast, with thousands watching the game but they did not know what was about to occur. Suddenly, the live coverage of the game was interrupted by the biggest earthquake ever to hit California. People watching from home saw their home screens go from the regular broadcast to a generic World Series graphic that had reporters trying to explain what was going on to stunned audience. People got to watch all this unfold in real time; it was too much to be true.
5. Christine Chubbuck’s Live On-Air Suicide
In 1974, the audience experienced such a disturbing moment that if it were to happen today, it would’ve been a million times worse because of the internet. A suicide was caught on live TV which we would’ve still been able to watch online if it were to happen today. Christine Chubbuck was an American television news reporter for WTOG and WXLT-TV in Florida. At the age of 30, Chubbuck decided to end her life on live TV. That day, she was doing her job, reporting the news until she went off-script and said, “In keeping with Channel 40’s policy of bringing you the latest in blood and guts, and in living color, you are going to see another first: attempted suicide.” She then pointed a gun behind her right ear and shot herself. Production then went on to a public service announcement and the crew found a chilly note that detailed the event. It even included what hospital she would be taken to and which news reporter would take her place. To say this was disturbing would be an understatement.
4. Janet Jackson’s Super Bowl Flop
Perhaps the ultimate nip-clip of nip-slips, the 2004 Super Bowl duet with Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake during the halftime show was one of the most awkward TV moments in history. During the performance, JT was holding onto Jackson and reached over to her top and exposed her right breast to the whole world. It really feels like it was just yesterday because the moment lives on to this day and people can’t help but bring it up when the football event comes around. Although, ever since Beyoncé gave us the best halftime performance, it’s this performance that took the Super Bowl halftime shows to another level. As soon as the event was over, stricter standards took action not only for future Super Bowl telecasts but overall live television. It was a moment that led to question about how flexible TV can get when exposing sex to the audience on screen.
3. Casey Anthony Found Not Guilty
July 5th, 2011 brought Americans together to watch the ending of the case of Casey Anthony. The Orlando, Florida mother was charged for murdering her two-year-old daughter, Caylee Marie Anthony, in 2008. So on this day, people gathered around their TV screens to hear the verdict. Everyone was pretty confident that the then 25-year-old mother was going to be found guilty, so it was another reason why this moment on live television was super anticipated. However, the audience was taken aback when the verdict was read and the jury found Anthony not guilty. Just as expected, people were outraged and expressed their huge disappointment on TV and social media. On the other hand, Anthony’s face was full of relief and tears of joy. We haven’t had such a court case broadcasted like this since the O.J. Simpson Trial.
2. The Toppling of Saddam Hussein’s Statue in Firdos Square
This day was supposed to be a day where everyone would come together for peace and triumph. Everyone was watching the U.S. troops and Iraqi civilians topple the imperialistic statue of Saddam Hussein, held at Firdos Square in Iraq, because it marked the beginning of world peace. However, when you think about everything happening today, that day on April 9, 2003 seemed like it was all just an act or staged. But an act or not, it still happened and stood as a moment of victory and an important time during a war that has remained infamous to this day. Even images that remain online are used to remind everyone about a powerful time in American history.
1. The Iraq War Itself
It was the war itself though that millions of people got to watch on live TV and keep up with the internet, especially during a time when these two outlets were just beginning to spark. We got to watch what was happening around the world thanks to live coverage and the internet. So when the United States entered the Iraq War on March 19, 2003, everyone made sure to make time to watch an historic moment play out. Not to mention, the first attack video that the Americans launched called Operation: Shock and Awe was on every major news outlet and that was the access that people were waiting for to keep up with the whole war. Many young people got to experience seeing what a real war looked like since the people of older generations got to experience the Gulf War. It was like watching an action thriller movie, except it was real life with real people risking their lives.