Top 10 Awkward Moments in Live TV

Script written by Nick Spake. Um, did that seriously just happen?! Join WatchMojo.com as we count down our picks for the top 10 awkward moments in live TV history. For this list, we’re taking a look at offensive, humiliating, and downright shocking incidents that were captured on live TV, catching everybody off guard. We’ve excluded moments that were initially released on the Internet, like Michael Bay’s breakdown at Samsung’s press conference. Special thanks to our users da_enfrocer, Christal J, Janelle Saucedo, 2000g and Mohammed Al-hooti for submitting the idea on our Suggestions Page at WatchMojo.comsuggest
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Script written by Nick Spake.

Top 10 Awkward Moments In Live Television History


Um, did that seriously just happen?! Welcome to WatchMojo.com, and today we’re counting down our picks for the top 10 awkward moments in live TV history.

For this list, we’re taking a look at offensive, humiliating, and downright shocking incidents that were captured on live TV, catching everybody off guard. We’ve excluded moments that were initially released on the Internet, like Michael Bay’s breakdown at Samsung’s press conference.

#10: Martin Short’s Late Wife
“The Today Show” (1952-)

In 2012, Martin Short dropped by “The Today Show” to promote “Madagascar 3.” Things started cheerfully as funnyman Short discussed his family with Kathie Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotb. The interview suffered great turbulence, however, when Kathie Lee asked Short about his enduring marriage to Nancy Dolman. Apparently Kathie Lee didn’t get the memo that Nancy had passed away from ovarian cancer two years earlier. Short was courteous enough not to tell Kathie Lee about his wife’s departure on air, but behind his smile we can clearly see the poor guy’s grief.

#9: Tom Hanks Drops the F-Bomb
“Good Morning America” (1975-)

Tom Hanks is such a clean-cut everyman that it’s actually hard to imagine him casually swearing, but the truth is every person occasionally lets an F-bomb slip. On this 2012 episode of “Good Morning America,” Hanks channeled one of his many characters from “Cloud Atlas.” He got a little too into character, though, and uttered one of the seven words you can’t say on TV. Hanks immediately apologized to the audience and made fun of himself. It’s awkward for sure, but few actors could play it off better than Hanks.

#8: Geraldo Finds Nothing in Al Capone’s Vault
“The Mystery of Al Capone’s Vaults” (1986)

Al Capone was one of the most notorious and iconic gangsters in American history. When Geraldo Rivera hosted a live special unveiling the contents of Capone’s secret vault in 1986, approximately 30 million people tuned in to see what treasures awaited – the spoils of a vast criminal empire, the bodies of his enemies, whatever. In the ultimate anticlimax, Rivera and his crew found exactly… nothing. With no pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, Rivera apologized to the audience, half-heartedly sang a song, and slinked off in defeat. To date, the blunder is has been mocked in popular culture mercilessly.

#7: Balloon Boy Interview
“Larry King Live” (1985-2010)

The balloon boy hoax took America by storm for about five seconds in 2009 when Richard and Mayumi Heene allegedly released a gas balloon that unbeknownst to them had their son Falcon inside. Later that day, the six-year-old boy was found hiding in his house. When Wolf Blitzer interviewed the family, Falcon revealed that his parents had cooked up this entire ruse as a publicity stunt. In exchange for his fifteen minutes of fame, Papa Heene was sentenced to 90 days in jail and paid tens of thousands in restitution. Now if only Falcon could really fly away from his parents’ clutches.

#6: Samuel L. Jackson or Laurence Fishburne?
“KTLA Morning News” (1991-)

We all get certain celebrities mixed up, white, black or other. When you’re an entertainment journalist, though, you need to get all the facts straight, especially when you’re doing live TV. In this 2014 “KTLA Morning News” interview, Sam Rubin accidentally confuses Sam Jackson with fellow African-American actor Laurence Fishburne. While Rubin tried to make peace and move on, Jackson wasn’t willing to let it go. If these two had been in the same building, Jackson probably would’ve sat Rubin down and started quoting the bible in furious anger.

#5: Kanye West Crashes Taylor Swift’s VMA Speech
“MTV Video Music Awards” (2009)

Kanye’s had his fair share of uncomfortable TV appearances, like when he dissed George W. Bush on a Hurricane Katrina telethon. But the rapper broke new ground for jackassery at the 2009 VMAs when Taylor Swift won the award for Best Female Video. Unable to fathom the idea that Beyoncé’s “Single Ladies” didn’t win, Kanye jumped onstage, stole Swift’s mic, and proclaimed that his beloved Beyoncé was the true victor. Kanye was subsequently booed offstage and removed from the ceremony. This move was so dumb, even President Obama couldn’t contain his opinion. Fortunately, Taylor got her happy ending later that night.

#4: Sinéad O’Connor Tears Up the Pope’s Photo
“Saturday Night Live” (1975-)

Seeing how “Saturday Night Live” is well, live, the late night variety show has inevitably produced a few controversial unscripted moments. The program hit a particularly rocky speed bump in 1992 when Sinéad O’Connor appeared as the musical guest. Protesting sexual abuse in the Catholic Church, O’Connor sang Bob Marley’s “War” a cappella and held up a photo of Pope John Paul II. After ripping the photo into shreds, she implored audiences to “fight the real enemy.” At least “SNL” would never have a musical moment this awkward again…

#3: Ashlee Simpson Lip-Syncing Incident
“Saturday Night Live” (1975-)

In 2004, Ashlee Simpson was booked as “SNL”’s musical guest. Although Simpson’s “Pieces of Me” went off without a hitch, things got muddled with her second song. Instead of singing “Autobiography” as planned, the vocals for “Pieces of Me” started to play again before Simpson even opened her mouth. Caught lip-syncing, Simpson tried to salvage the performance with an awkward dance then shamefully walked off stage. As embarrassing as the ordeal was, it didn’t stop Simpson from returning to “Saturday Night Live” a year later with no complications.

#2: F**k It, I Quit
“Anchorage 11 KTVA News” (1980-)

Anybody who’s lost passion for their work has likely fantasized about quitting in a blaze of glory. Speaking of blazes… Charlo Greene got to live the dream when she quit her job as a reporter for KTVA News. After reporting on the Anchorage, Alaska medical marijuana organization the Alaska Cannabis Club, Greene revealed herself as its owner, and said she’d decided to put less time into journalism and more into legalizing marijuana. Rather than giving her bosses two weeks notice, she came out and said exactly what was on her mind. Greene’s now-former colleague was at a loss for words.

Before we drop our jaws at our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions:

- Interview with Wrong Guy

“BBC News 24” (1997-)

- Product Breaks

“TechTV News” (1998-2004)

- Jetpack Doesn’t Work

“Fox 5 Morning News” (1985-)

- Rap Freestyle Fail

“Talk of Alabama” (1994-)

#1: Janet Jackson’s Wardrobe Malfunction
“Super Bowl XXXVIII” (2004)

The final score of Super Bowl XXXVIII was an afterthought – hell, we bet you don’t even remember who played! All anyone recalls is the event’s legendary halftime show. As Justin Timberlake joined Janet Jackson onstage, the two icons performed a duet of “Rock Your Body.” Towards the song’s conclusion, Timberlake reached out and tore off a piece of Jackson’s clothing, exposing her right breast. It was visible for less than a second, but the boob seen ‘round the world resulted in a public outcry. Almost ten years later, the incident now known as “Nipplegate” is still the defining wardrobe malfunction.

Do you agree with our list? What live TV moment left you speechless? For more entertaining Top 10s published every day, be sure to subscribe to WatchMojo.com.
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