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LIVE NATIONAL TV HORROR STORIES

By Charles Apple
The Spokesman-Review

Five years ago Sunday, Steve Harvey embarrassed himself – and the entire Miss Universe beauty pageant – by announcing the wrong winner on live TV. But it was hardly the first time someone had goofed up spectacularly in front of the entire nation ...


ASSOCIATED PRESS

Steve Harvey awards the Miss Universe crown to the wrong contestant
DEC. 20, 2015

Who he was: Comedian and host of the popular TV game show “Family Feud.”

What happened: While hosting the Miss Universe pageant in Las Vegas, Harvey opened the envelope and announced the winner: Miss Colombia. The problem was: The actual winner was Miss Philippines. Harvey had read the results incorrectly. It was several long minutes before the error was corrected, to the chagrin of all.

How many saw it: 6.2 million, not counting horrified viewers in Latin America.

The fallout: Harvey’s miscue has become an internet meme for spectacular errors.


NBC

Charles Rocket drops an F-bomb on ‘Saturday Night Live’
FEB. 21, 1981

Who he was: SNL cast member and host of the popular “Weekend Update” parody news segment.

What happened: A skit ended with Rocket being shot: a spoof of the cliffhanger in the primetime soap “Dallas.” At the close of the show, a supposedly wounded Rocket said he’d like to know “who the (bleep) did it.” His colleagues were stunned.

How many saw it: That night’s episode received a 5.4 rating.

The fallout: Rocket was fired, along with most of the cast. The only two who kept their jobs: Joe Piscopo and Eddie Murphy.


GERALDO.COM

Geraldo Rivera finds the ‘Mysteries of Al Capone’s Vaults’ not so mysterious
APRIL 21, 1986

Who he was: An award-winning network journalist.

What happened: Rivera hosted a syndicated TV special in which gangster Al Capone’s secret vault beneath a Chicago hotel would be opened. After nearly two hours of buildup by Rivera, workers broke through a wall to find ... an empty bottle. “Seems like we struck out,” said a sheepish Rivera.

How many saw it: The sound of 30 million viewers collectively rolling their eyes was deafening.

The fallout: Rivera overcame the embarrassment to host a daytime talk show that ran for 11 years. Since 2001, he’s worked for Fox News.


MTV

Michael Jackson accepts an award that doesn’t exist
AUG. 30, 2002

Who they were: Michael “the King of Pop” Jackson and a somewhat starstruck Britney Spears.

What happened: At the MTV music video awards, Spears called Jackson on stage to present him with a birthday cake and said something about how, to her, he was the artist of the millennium. A confused Jackson thought he was receiving a new award, so he gushed his gratitude.

How many saw it: 11.95 million.

The fallout: The world laughed and moved on.


ASSOCIATED PRESS

Janet Jackson’s wardrobe malfunctions at the Super Bowl
FEB. 1, 2004

Who they were: Huge pop stars Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake.

What happened: During the halftime show at Super Bowl XXXVIII in Houston, they sang, “I’m gonna have you naked by the end of this song.” Timberlake then ripped off Jackson’s chest plate, revealing – oopsie! – her naked breast.

How many saw it: At least 90 million.

The fallout: Searching for online video of the incident led three PayPal employees to create YouTube. Seriously.


NBC

Ashlee Simpson moves her lips but nothing comes out
OCT. 23, 2004

Who she was: Actor and pop singer.

What happened: All went well when she sang her hit “Pieces of Me” on “Saturday Night Live.” But when she returned to sing her second number, “Autobiography,” the vocals for the earlier song came out of the speakers. Aghast at being caught lip-synching, Simpson fled the stage.

How many saw it: That night’s episode received a 6.8 rating.

The fallout: She overcame the embarrassment and even peformed again – successfully – on SNL a year later.


ASSOCIATED PRESS

Christina Aguilera forgets the national anthem
FEB. 6, 2011

Who she was: A huge pop music star who had hit the Top 10 eight times.

What happened: Singing the national anthem before Super Bowl XLV, Aguilera drew a blank on the lyrics and repeated a line. “Twilight’s last gleaming” became “twilight’s last reaming.” Ouch.

How many saw it: 111 million – an all-time TV viewership record.

The fallout: Hardly any: Twitter tittered and then moved on. Aguilera remains a regular anthem singer at NBA games.


ASSOCIATED PRESS

Rick Perry can’t remember which federal agencies he’d eliminate
AUG. 9, 2011

Who he was: Governor of Texas and a candidate for president, speaking at a nationally-televised Republican debate.

What happened: Perry bragged that once he became president, he would eliminate three agencies of government: Commerce, Education and ... Oops! He couldn’t come up with the third one. Spoiler alert: It turned out to be Energy.

How many saw it: About 5.4 million viewers.

The fallout: Perry’s support vanished and he dropped out of the race. Donald Trump later appointed Perry his – Spoiler alert No. 2 – Energy Secretary.


ASSOCIATED PRESS

John Travolta mangles the name of the singer he’s introducing
MARCH 2, 2014

Who he was: A huge movie star whose onscreen persona is one of perpetual confusion.

What happened: While introducing Idina Menzel to sing “Let It Go” at the 2014 Academy Awards, Travolta called her “Adele Dazeem.” He later complained the cue cards were different from the ones used in rehearsal.

How many saw it: 43 million in the U.S.

The fallout: Travolta became the butt of a lot of jokes, but the next year, he and Menzel presented an award together and had some fun with the flub.


DISCOVERY CHANNEL

The Discovery Channel breaks a promise to feed a python
DEC. 7, 2014

Who he was: Paul Rosolie is a wildlife author and TV nature show host.

What happened: The Discovery Channel heavily promoted a show, “Eaten Alive,” promising Rosolie would put on a special suit and allow himself to be swallowed by a python. Then, for whatever reason, the snake just. Wouldn’t. Eat. Him.

How many saw it: 4.1 million Americans watched Rosolie not get eaten alive.

The fallout: We haven’t learned a thing from the Geraldo incident, have we?


ASSOCIATED PRESS

The wrong picture is awarded the Oscar for ‘Best Picture’
FEB. 26, 2017

Who they were: Legendary Hollywood actors Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway.

What happened: Beatty and Dunaway opened the envelope to read the name of the Best Picture winner. After a moment of confusion on Beatty’s part, Dunaway announced: “La La Land.” But the actual winner was “Moonlight.” Someone had handed Beatty the wrong envelope./p>

How many saw it: 33 million people in the U.S. – it was the eighth most-watched TV show of the year.

The fallout: Perhaps the only person in the world who didn’t laugh at the debacle: Steve Harvey.

Sources: The Los Angeles Times, the New York Times, USA Today, CBS News, NBC News, the Daily Beast, the Daily Mail, Entertainment Weekly, Hollywood Reporter, Billboard, Rolling Stone, Business Insider, Internet Movie Database, TV By the Numbers, GraphTV, MTV, Slate, Geraldo.com