Televised Oddities: 25 WTF Moments and Weirdest TV Shows

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1Turn On

Turn On

Turn-On, a sketch comedy show from 1969 was considered to be so bad that one station refused to continue airing it after the first commercial break and several other stations that were scheduled to air it later that evening refused to air it all together.


2. In 2007, UK broadcaster Channel 4 announced to broadcast a season of programming called “Wank Week.” It was expected to consist of a series of three documentary programs about masturbation. The decision came under public attack and it was canceled.


3. St. Elsewhere was American medical drama which was aired on NBC between 1982 and 1988. Over its six-season, it had a 137-episode run. Tommy Westphall who was an autistic was a minor character in the series. The common interpretation of the show’s final episode, “The Last One”, is that the entire St. Elsewhere storyline exists only within Westphall's imagination.


4. On January 3, 2005, FOX aired a reality show named “Who's Your Daddy?” It started with an adoptee who was introduced to eight men and had to figure out which one really was her father. If she got it right, she would win the cash prize of $100,000. If she got it wrong, the “dad” who had conned her took the money. Only one episode aired and it was canceled due to low ratings and strong controversy.


5. The Intercept (Perehvat in Russia) was a popular 1997 Russian TV show. The contestant had to “steal” (actually, be given the keys to) a car and avoid the police for 35 minutes. If the contestant successfully avoided the police, he won the car. The car chase was done in the real Moscow streets and had to obey traffic laws. At its peak, the show had 60 million viewers per episode.


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6Penitents Compete

Penitents Compete

Turkey was planning a TV show in 2009 named Penitents Compete, in which a rabbi, a Buddhist monk, an Orthodox priest, and an imam attempt to convert 10 atheists each week, with any converts offered a free pilgrimage to one of the four holy sites. The country’s religious board denied permission for an imam to appear and the program was canceled.


7. In 2005, there was a TV show named Sperm Race which piloted in Germany. Twelve contestants donated their sperm to a lab where doctors observed their seed race towards an egg. The winner of the race was given the title of Germany's most fertile man and also a red Porsche.


8. Between 2006 and 2012, millions of people in China gathered around their television sets every Saturday night in to watch “Interviews Before Execution”, an extraordinary talk show which interviewed prisoners on death row in the weeks, days or even minutes before they were executed.


9. Whisker Wars was a reality show that followed a group of American beard and mustache growers as they fought over who had the most epic beard to take out the title of Top Beard in the World Championship competition in Norway. It aired in 2011 and 2 seasons were produced.


10. In 1983, NBC launched a sitcom named Mr. Smith, which was about a talking orangutan named Mr. Smith who had an IQ of 256, who eventually went on to became an important political advisor. Only one season was aired.


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11Inejiro Asanuma

Inejiro Asanuma

In 1960, Inejiro Asanuma, who was chairman of the Japanese Socialist Party, was stabbed to death during a televised debate by a 17-year old with a samurai sword. The young militant nationalist rushed to the stage and stabbed Asanuma between the ribs on his left side, killing him.


12. In 1985, Richard Belzer on his talk show requested Hulk Hogan to demonstrate one of his signature wrestling moves. After being asked several times, Hogan put Belzer in a front headlock, which caused Belzer to pass out, drop to the floor and smash his head open. Belzer later sued Hogan for $5 million and settled out of court.


13. In 1984, British comedian Tommy Cooper had a heart attack and died on live television halfway through his act. Since his act consisted of failed magic tricks, the audience assumed it was part of his act and laughed/applauded during his final moments.


14. In 2008, an Indian news channel aired “The Great Tantra Challenge”, where a tantric practitioner named Surinder Sharma was challenged to kill a man named Sanal Edamaruku using only his tantric powers. After hours of trying, the tantric claimed that he could not kill him because the god he prayed to was protecting him. Edamaruku replied that he was an atheist.


15. In 1974, Florida Newscaster and TV personality Christine Chubbuck killed herself with a pistol on live TV. Her last words were, “And now, in keeping with Channel 40's policy of always bringing you the latest in blood and guts, in living color, you're about to see another first - an attempted suicide.”


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16I Have a Secret

I Have a Secret

In 1956, the TV game show “I Have a Secret” featured a special guest, Samuel J. Seymour, who was the last living person to have witnessed the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. Seymour was 5 when he was taken to the theater the night Lincoln was shot and saw John Wilkes Booth jump off the balcony and break his ankle.


17. On December 22, 1989, Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu, along with his wife Elena was executed by a firing squad. A TV crew was present to record the execution and aired the footage on Romanian television on Christmas Day in 1989.


18. In 2011, two Dutch TV presenters literally ate each other on a show named Proefkonijnen (meaning Guinea Pigs). The two presenters of the show underwent surgery to have pieces of their flesh removed from their bodies. One of them gave a piece of his butt cheek, while the other gave up a part of his abdomen. A TV chef cooked the tiny pieces of flesh in sunflower oil, and the presenters ate them.


19. In 1999, during a botched aerial stunt at the WWF live pay-per-view ‘Over the Edge’ event, 34-year-old WWF wrestler Owen Hart fell almost 80 feet from the rafters of Kemper Arena into the middle of the ring, where he died in front of a crowd of over 18,000 fans. The harness that was supposed to slowly lower him into the ring prematurely snapped, causing his fall.


20. In 2015, reporter Alison Parker and her cameraman, Adam Ward, were gunned down on air by a disgruntled former colleague near Roanoke, Virginia 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.


21Daniel Jones

Daniel Jones

In 1998, an HIV-positive maintenance worker from Los Angeles named Daniel V. Jones 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.


22. In 1987, Budd Dwyer who was the former Treasurer of Pennsylvania called in a press conference and committed public suicide live on national television. He had been convicted for accepting a bribe and just before he shot himself, he claimed that he had been framed. After his suicide and further investigation, Wiliam T. Smith, whose testimony was largely used for Dwyer's conviction, admitted to lying under oath.


23. The shooting of Lee Harvey Oswald, the man accused of killing US President John F. Kennedy, is the first known instance of a murder seen live on television. In 1963, while being transferred to a new prison, Jack Ruby leapt from a crowd and shot Oswald at point blank range, all while news cameras were rolling.


24. In 1995, Veteran Shawn Nelson walked into an unlocked Armory in San Diego and drove away with a 57-ton tank. He destroyed traffic lights, poles, and several vehicles, and almost toppled a bridge. He led police on a 23-minute televised chase, which ended when he tried to cross the highway into oncoming traffic but got stuck on the median. A police officer was then able to climb on top, open the hatch, and shoot him.


25. During the live broadcast of the 2010 European Poker Tour tournament, an armed gang stormed the hotel in which the event was taking place and made off with $1.2 million. Several players and the hotel staff were wounded in the robbery, which lasted less than 3 minutes.

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