The Most Unexpected Things to Ever Happen on Live TV

Thanks to media saturation, it’s hard to truly shock an audience with something. Usually it takes something truly unexpected to blow a viewer's mind. Thankfully, live television, usually reserved for daytime news and sporting events, is one of the only places that we can truly be shocked anymore. Whenever people see shocking things caught on live TV, it freaks them out so much more than if they were watching a movie. Maybe it’s because you don’t expect anything to be truly shocking anymore, or maybe it’s because your brains don’t know how to comprehend a dual helicopter crash. Check out this list of the most unexpected things to ever happen on live television, and prepare for your brain to melt.

While there have been horrible tragedies captured on live TV, there’s also an adorable cat and maybe the most excited meteorologist you’ll ever see. Some of the items in this collection of unexpected events were massive news stories that have taken on almost mythic proportions over time, while other moments still feel like they’re so strange that they can’t actually be happening. Even though we’re telling you that you’re about to watch a series of unexpected moments, there’s no real way to prepare yourself for what you’re about to see.

Vote up the most shocking moments caught on live television, and then tell everyone in the comments section about the most shocking thing you ever saw on live TV.

  • 1
    1,582 VOTES

    The Space Shuttle Challenger Explosion

    The Space Shuttle Challenger Explosion
    Video: YouTube

    In 1986, NASA was high on its biggest PR moment since the moon landing thanks to the fact that along with six astronauts, they were sending an educator, Christa McAuliffe, into space. It's hard to say just how many people were watching television when the Challenger went into the air and then quickly burned up in front of the eyes of the world. 

    1,582 votes
  • 2
    1,351 VOTES

    Journalist and Cameraman Killed On Air

    Journalist and Cameraman Killed On Air
    Photo: Metaweb / CC-BY

    In 2015, reporter Alison Parker and her cameraman, Adam Ward, were gunned down on air by a disgruntled former colleague near Roanoke, VA while broadcasting live. The perpetrator was Vester Lee Flanagan, who once worked as an on air broadcaster for WDBJ in Virginia.

    He killed himself a short time after the murders occurred.

    1,351 votes
  • Newscaster Ends Her Life On Live TV
    Photo: flickr / CC0

    Christine Chubbock, a newscaster in Sarasota, FL in the '70s, shot herself in the head live on air after reading the statement, “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.”

    Allegedly, only one tape exists of the suicide and it may be so degraded that it's impossible to view.

    1,433 votes
  • R. Budd Dwyer Shoots Himself On Camera
    Photo: Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY
    When Budd Dwyer committed suicide on live television and in front of a group of reporters in 1987, he'd recently been convicted of taking bribes during his tenure as Treasurer of Pennsylvania. Before his sentencing he called a press conference, proclaimed his innocence, said, "Please leave the room if this will offend you," shooting himself with a .357 magnum.
    1,185 votes
  • 5
    806 VOTES

    Man Sets Himself On Fire In The Middle Of The Interstate

    Man Sets Himself On Fire In The Middle Of The Interstate
    Photo: Metaweb / CC-BY
    In 1998, Daniel V. Jones, an HIV-positive maintenance worker from Los Angeles, parked his truck in the middle of an interstate, unfurled a banner that read, "HMO's are in it for the money!! Live free, love safe or die." That's when the SWAT Team and news helicopters showed up, giving Jones the world stage to light himself on fire with a Molotov cocktail, before shooting himself with a shotgun.
    806 votes
  • 6
    601 VOTES

    Helicopters Collide While On The Air In Phoenix

    Helicopters Collide While On The Air In Phoenix
    Video: YouTube

    Two helicopters collided over the Phoenix sky in 2007 while covering a police pursuit, when both pilots failed to notice one another (which is crazy because they're both flying helicopters). The actual broadcast footage doesn't show the crash, instead the viewer saw the feed from the camera as the helicopters smashed into one another.

    However, unedited photos of the actual incident do exist (link NSFW).

    601 votes