Top 10 Biggest Live TV Disasters



Top 10 Biggest Live TV Disasters

VOICE OVER: Phoebe de Jeu WRITTEN BY: Nathan Sharp
These live TV disasters still have us chilled. Our countdown includes the Balloon Boy hoax, flaming arrows, Steve Harvey's famous bungle, and more!

Top 10 Live TV Disasters

Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 live TV disasters.

For this list, we’ll be looking at broadcasting snafus and goofs that occurred on live television.

Which of these disasters would you not want to be caught in? Let us know in the comments below!

#10: Milli Vanilli Ruin Their Own Careers

German R&B group Milli Vanilli were extremely popular in the late ‘80s, winning the Grammy Award for Best New Artist and scoring five top five hits in the United States. But everything started crashing down on July 21, 1989. During a live performance on MTV, their hit song “Girl You Know It’s True” began to skip, indicating that they had been lip-syncing. Furthermore, a man named Charles Shaw came forward and declared that he had sung on their debut album, not the credited Fab Morvan and Rob Pilatus. This accusation, plus the disastrous live TV performance, eventually culminated in the truth - Morvan and Pilatus were imposters. They were fired by music producer Frank Farian, and Milli Vanilli quickly disappeared from the public consciousness.

#9: BBC Interviews the Wrong Guy

This could very well be the funniest blunder ever seen on national television. On May 8, 2006, tech expert Guy Kewney was scheduled to interview live on the BBC concerning a recent court case involving Apple. However, the staff mixed him up with Guy Goma, a business graduate who happened to be interviewing at the BBC on the same day. Goma was ushered on stage, quickly wired up, and soon launched into a live interview with host Karen Bowerman. Goma tried his best to answer the questions, but it was very obvious that something was off, especially considering the shocked reaction that Goma conveys at the beginning of the interview. And the worst part of it all? He wasn’t even hired.

#8: The Balloon Boy Hoax

Live TV is fascinating. You can follow a national news story in real time, and you can also watch it deflate in an instant. On October 15, 2009, the country watched enraptured as a gas balloon floated through the air with a six-year-old boy supposedly trapped inside. However, the boy was later found in the attic of his home, prompting allegations of a hoax. This was seemingly confirmed during a live interview with Wolf Blitzer, when the boy said his family “did this for the show.” A law enforcement affidavit later concluded that the parents had planned the hoax in an attempt to drum up interest for “future media interests.” The Heene family continues to deny that it was a hoax.

#7: Steve Harvey’s Famous Bungle

Steve Harvey may be a consummate professional, but he will always be remembered for a simple bungle. At the conclusion of Miss Universe 2015, Steve Harvey declared Colombia’s Ariadna Gutiérrez the winner. However, he awkwardly bumbled his way back on stage and told the crowd that he had messed up. Gutiérrez was actually the “1st runner-up,” and the Philippines’ Pia Wurtzbach was the real winner. Harvey had gotten confused while reading the results, as “1st” was located beside Gutiérrez’s name. The mistake made headline news, became an internet sensation, and continues to haunt Harvey to this day. Just fourteen months later, Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway took some of the heat off Harvey by announcing the wrong Best Picture winner at the 89th Academy Awards.

#6: The Infamous Super Bowl Fiasco

An infamous piece of TV history occurred on the night of February 1, 2004 - AKA Super Bowl 38. As everyone knows, Justin Timberlake accidentally ripped off the outer layer of Janet Jackson’s shirt while performing a dance move, briefly revealing her breast and nipple shield. This instigated a national discussion the likes of which has rarely been seen before or since. It was front page news across the country, with some calling it an indecent act of American immorality. Janet Jackson ended up blacklisted by many radio stations and television music channels. It also led to the creation of YouTube and added the term “wardrobe malfunction” to the Merriam-Webster's Dictionary. Talk about an unforgettable halftime show.

#5: Flaming Arrows

During a live quarterfinals performance on “America’s Got Talent,” stuntman Ryan Stock swallowed a steel rod with a target attached to the end. This target poked out of his mouth and was supposed to be shot with a flaming arrow by his fiancée, Amber Lynn Walker. This seems like a bad idea, not only from a safety standpoint, but a live TV standpoint as well. A stunt like this can go catastrophically wrong, and it nearly did. The flaming arrow ended up pegging Stock in the throat, causing him to grimace in pain and quickly pat away any potential flames. The judges and audience watched the stage in silent worry before host Nick Cannon assured everyone that Stock was OK.

#4: Anthea Turner’s Terrible Accident

Back in the late ‘80s, TV presenter Anthea Turner was hosting a live children’s program called “UP2U.” Turner was on location reporting on a pageant conducted by the British Armed Forces. A motorcycle stunt was planned for Turner’s story, but miscommunication resulted in a horrible accident. As Turner was sitting on the back of a truck, the pyrotechnics exploded in her face and set her on fire. Families watching from home were understandably shocked and frightened, as they did not know the extent of Turner’s injuries. She ended up suffering numerous burns and temporary hearing loss, and she successfully sued the BBC.

#3: The World Series Earthquake

The 1989 World Series is perhaps the most famous of the modern era. Not because of the games, but because of what happened before one. Shortly after the pre-game ceremony began for game three, the Loma Prieta Earthquake struck San Francisco’s Candlestick Park, interrupting the video feed and distracting sportscasters Tim McCarver and Al Michaels. Viewers at home were met with loud static, a “technical difficulties” graphic, and the creepy sound of screaming fans. Luckily, no one within the stadium was injured, despite its extensive shaking. In fact, the game is credited with saving lives, as people usually on the roads were either at the game or watching from their homes.

#2: Richard Belzer Is Choked Out

Back in the mid ‘80s, actor Richard Belzer hosted a cable talk show called “Hot Properties.” To promote the first WrestleMania, Belzer hosted the event’s marquee stars, Hulk Hogan and Mr. T. Belzer asked Hogan to demonstrate a wrestling move, so Hogan put him in a chinlock. However, Hogan took the bit a little too far and ended up knocking Belzer unconscious. He then dropped the limp Belzer to the ground, causing his head to hit the floor. Belzer played it off after waking up, but it was obvious that he had been hurt. Belzer required nine stitches on his head and later sued Hogan for an undisclosed amount. He bought a farmhouse in France with the proceeds, which he named Chez Hogan.

Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions.

Kanye West Interrupts Taylor Swift
Arguably the Most Famous Thing to Ever Happen at the VMAs

Madonna Falls at the BRIT Awards
The Singer Is Violently Yanked Off Stage by Her Cape

Gemma Collins Falls
Collins Falls Through the Stage After Announcing a Winner

#1: The Gary Stollman Incident

Back in August of 1988, a man named Gary Stollman strolled onto the set of KNBC and held TV presenter David Horowitz hostage. Stollman held a gun to Horowitz’s back and ordered him to read a rambling manifesto filled with conspiracy theory gibberish. Viewers at home only witnessed the initial attack, as the feed was intentionally cut shortly afterwards. Horowitz then obliged the gunman, who was not aware that he had been taken off the air. The manifesto ended with the revelation that Stollman was actually holding an unloaded BB gun, and he placed it on the desk beside Horowitz. Stollman was promptly arrested and later pleaded guilty to the misdemeanor of false imprisonment, resulting in three years’ probation.