The first live transcontinental TV broadcast took place in 1951 for President Harry Truman‘s speech during the Japanese Peace Treaty Conference in San Francisco, according to the New York Times. Sure, the first big test of this new medium went well, but that just meant people started doing it all the time. And that’s basically when viewers realized that live TV means things can go amazingly, hilariously wrong in real time, and they get to enjoy the entertainment car crash from their couch.
While new technology eventually meant most shows were pre-taped and bumps could be smoothed out in the editing room, live programs in all their knife-edge glory are still around. And the scarcity of live interviews that go pear-shaped makes them all the more precious. There’s something special about live TV, and watching things go wrong is a lot of fun for viewers. Maybe not so much for the people being watched, though, especially in the cases of the clips below.
What’s a little puke between friends on live TV?
Wendy Burch, a reporter for KTLA Morning News, set out early one Fourth of July, wearing a cheery red and white shirt, with her blonde hair gleaming in the sun. Her assignment that morning was to cover the Ironman Competition on Hermosa Beach and, according to a piece she wrote for Huffington Post in 2017, she was excited to spend a few hours of her workday out in the sun.
As she details in her post, The Hermosa Beach Ironman motto is: "Run, Paddle, Chug!" That was the first red flag that this assignment might be a bit more lively than she’d originally imagined. After each athlete in the competition ran, and then swam, a full mile, they returned to the beach to chug not one beer, not two, but a full six-pack. And Wendy, standing by to interview a few participants, got right in the mix … literally.
As the participants exalted in their drunken revelry, Burch pulled one guy aside for a live (key word) interview, not realizing he had a literal bullseye with the words "puke here" written on his back in marker. The interview started off smoothly enough, until another man enters the shot and barfs his daily intake of beer and breakfast all over the guy she’s interviewing. A good amount of the barf splashes off of the man, who got his wish fulfilled that day, to be sure, and lands on Wendy, sealing her in internet viral video stardom forever.
Jim Vs. Dick
An on-air exchange between Good Day New York anchor Jim Ryan and chief reporter Dick Oliver in 2001 turned hilariously snippy. Oliver was field reporting in Chelsea regarding a tenant and landlord dispute involving a broken elevator, but, according to Ryan, only got one side of the story. Ryan set the feud in motion when he made the poor choice of calling his colleague out on what he felt to be shoddy reporting, and the whole scene unraveled live, much to the viewing audience’s delight.
The NY Post posted a transcript of the incident and it’s clear that Ryan was the one to cast the first stone with his comment "Well, if I have to teach you how to become a reporter Ollie, I’ll do that later." Oliver kicks things up a notch himself with his reply "I’ll give you lessons on how to become an editor because I was your boss once."
The station’s General Manager James Clayton gave a quote to NY Post regarding the squabble saying ""It was a little tiff and both of them regret it … Jim (Ryan) has wonderful reporting instincts and felt it was a story [Oliver] needed to pursue."
We had a very dairse, darrison
During Serene Branson‘s live report for CBS Los Angeles during the 2011 Grammy Awards she garbled her words to such a degree that many thought she’d suffered a stroke on-air. The Emmy Award-winning journalist started out fine during her coverage that night, and then her tongue seemed to get away from her. The site Know Your Meme posted a partial transcript of her coverage, and it reads like testimony from someone having a true problem: "Well a very, very heavay a heavy drit, burtation tonight, We had a very dairse, darrison … but let’s go ahead tearis tasin losh flabette bahend the pet."
Branson recovered from the flub, which quickly went viral, and during an interview with CBS LA said that she had not actually suffered a stroke, but suffered from a "hereditary, complex migraine." During her post incident interview CBS LA played the infamous clip and asked a poker faced Branson how it felt to see it. She replied that she’d seen it a few times (not hundreds, like the rest of the world?) and found it troubling. She goes on to say that at the time of the event in question she didn’t know what was going on, and felt very scared and confused, which is quite obvious when you watch the clip.
Robert Kelly’s kids are cooler than he is
During a 2017 interview with the BBC, conducted remotely from his home office, professor Robert Kelly‘s two small children barge into the room and right into viral video history. Discussing the a 2016 South Korean political scandal involving Choi Soon-Sil, Kelly is shown talking into his computer’s webcam, momentarily unaware that one lively child, and then another, burst into the room, living life to the fullest, elbow dancing away as if the world at large isn’t tuned into their dad’s office. When Kelly is alerted to his kids being in the room by the person interviewing him, he looks tense, but a bit of a smile crosses his face. Escalating an already hilarious moment, Kelly’s wife is then seen bursting into the room in an attempt to discretely wrangle the kids, but ends up making more of a production than both of the children.
Kelly and his family later gathered in that same home office for an interview with Wall Street Journal and Kelly explained that the reason he didn’t get up to move his children himself during the original interview was because he was wearing jeans. One of the many perks of working from home and conducting meetings/interviews via Skype.
As of early 2020, the original BBC YouTube clip had over 33 million views.
This lady will never look at grapes the same way again
In the late ’90s, Melissa Sander worked as a live feature reporter for WAGA-TV in Atlanta, Georgia. You might not recognize her name, but it’s a safe bet that you’d recognize her voice. Especially if heard saying what would become her catch phrase: "Oww! Ohh! Oww! I can’t breathe! Aowww! Aowww!" And if that still doesn’t ring any bells, here’s a single word that surely will … Grapes.
On the day that would end up changing Sander’s life forever, she was reporting live from Chateau Elan Winery and Resort in Georgia, covering a grape stomping competition. Ankle deep in a tub of grapes, situated on a raised wooden platform, Sander spoke into her microphone while casually stomping on the fruit beneath her feet, and then made a playful move to "cheat" in her mini competition by double timing her foot work. Sander then loses her balance, and stumbles out of the bucket, falling to the ground below, calling out in an ungodly painful noise that shouldn’t have been funny, but definitely was. So much so that video of the broadcast went on the become one of the most popular viral videos ever.
After the embarrassing incident, Sander relocated to Albany and became a weekend meteorologist for News10, according to a post by Business Insider. From there, the site Odd Culture tracks her to Philly. Hopefully Sander is able to laugh about the incident now, but she probably can’t help but wince every time she passes the grapes in the produce section of her local grocery store.
Child, who hurt you?
Anyone who’s ever walked into work on Monday morning and found themselves thrown into vapid chitchat, while keeping their own silent cries just beneath the surface, can relate to this video.
KTLA reporter Courtney Friel is reporting live, tasked with the assignment of interviewing children about their upcoming first day of school, when she comes upon 4-year-old Andrew Macias. When asked if he’s excited about his first day of preschool at City Terrace Elementary in Los Angeles, Macias answers a brave and believable "Yes!" From there, things start to unravel. His true emotions surface right around the time Friel asks if he’ll miss his mom, to which he responds with a way too defensive "NO!" What follows is a pure display of vulnerability during which Macias’ face melts into visible distress, and then tears.
Two years later, Friel caught up with Macias to see if he’d recovered and he was able to keep it together a bit better. When asked if he’s going to miss his mom for his next first day of school he answers honestly … "Yes."
Nancy Grace’s live revelation
On June 14, 2014, Detroit resident Charles Bothuell phoned the police to report his 12-year-old son, Charlie Bothuell, had gone missing from their family home, according to a release from the prosecutor’s office. The day after receiving the father’s call, police began their search for the boy, and asked for anyone with info to come forward. A timeline of the case published by WDIV Detroit reveals that Bothuell’s father, Charles Bothuell IV, took a polygraph to determine if he had anything to do with his son’s disappearance, but the results were found to be inconclusive.
After police dogs were used to search the family’s home, and the boy still hadn’t been found, the situation hit a dead end, but 11 days later, during a live appearance on the Nancy Grace show, Bothuell was told on-air that his son had been found alive, behind a "makeshift barricade" in the basement of his own home. According to a report by USA Today the child appeared to be very thin, and showed other signs of abuse on his body. When Nancy Grace breaks this news to Bothuell for the first time during the broadcast his stumped expression says all there is to say.
On January 19, 2016, the child got his revenge when his dad pleaded guilty to fourth-degree child abuse charges and lost all parental rights. Some would say the consequences should have been way more severe, but at least it was something.
What’s so weird about liking turtles?
When 10-year old Jonathan Ware was approached by KGW local news correspondent Nancy Francis during the Rose Festival in Portland, Oregon, in 2007, he had one thing on the mind. Turtles. Wearing a T-shirt with a face fully painted to look like a zombie, Ware stood patiently while Francis bent down to remark on his makeup asking, "What do you think?," and responded with what he was actually thinking at that very moment, "I like turtles." Period.
Following the newscast, the clip was uploaded to YouTube and quickly went viral. In 2010, Ware appeared on the show Tosh.0 and when asked about the whole turtles thing explained that he had just been to a turtle exhibit prior to having his face painted that day at the Rose Festival, and that’s why he answered the news correspondent the way that he did. Makes sense.
In 2014 Bustle checked in with Ware to see what he’s been up to since the whole turtle thing and found that he manages his own channel entitled "TurtleTime." There seems to be some RHONY crossover potential there.
While working as a weatherman for KMIR, a NBC-affiliated station licensed to Palm Springs, California, Chad Pradelli learned the hard way that body functions wait for no one. While conducting a live weather broadcast, Pradelli is in front of a weather map that he probably stood in front of with no issue hundreds of times before, but on this particular day the poop, if you will, hit the fan.
While pointing out weather patterns, Pradelli twitches and crumples, making small, desperate grabs at his body, before finally asking for the station to cut to commercial. While still on camera, Pradelli then runs out of the shot, but when another camera cuts to the news desk, he’s seen in the background, wildly maneuvering towards what one could only assume is the bathroom.
According to his Twitter bio, Pradelli now works as an Investigative Reporter for WPVI in Philadelphia. Hopefully by now he’s investigated how to hold his bowels.
Hey lady, there’s something on your face
Yet another example of the many ways a person’s body can betray them, Nashville-based reporter Alexandra Koehn battled live blizzard coverage for Channel 5 and lost. While on camera, Koehn went into discussing severe storms that were currently hitting Tennessee and parts of Southern Kentucky, when her nose began running … a lot. Now sure, she’s only human, and runny noses happen, especially in climates as cold as the one she was reporting from, but this level of snot reached code red status.
During her coverage Koehn was a trooper and continued talking, even though the snot was now dripping onto her lips, and she was able to finish her broadcast without causing a distraction by stopping to wipe her nose, although she probably should have. Later, she tweeted from her personal Twitter account: "People are cruel. I guess that’s a part of the biz. I did 8 liveshots in a snow storm, and was working really hard!!!"
Given the footage, her level of dedication is, um, obvious.
At least he’s passionate about something
During a 2010 broadcast of the Australian News show A Current Affair, a man named Ray Graham gave a very lively re-enactment of how he was chased into his home by a vicious seeming neighborhood dog.
As the site Know Your Meme explains, A Current Affair followed up with the man after the clip was uploaded to YouTube and quickly went viral, and he gave some insight into what he was feeling the day of the original broadcast.
"I think it’s hilarious," Graham says about the viral clip. He goes on to say that he’s watched it dozens of times and that every time he sees it, he just can’t stop laughing. Graham’s wife Carrie, who he nearly knocks over with his dog impersonation in the original clip, says that her main concern, looking back, is the state of her hair, which she hadn’t had a chance to get done before the interview.
Kid’s sketchy and dad is even sketchier
Fox 5’s Ted Pretty set out one fourth of July to get some live reactions from townsfolk regarding the holiday, and the best fireworks to purchase that season. Broadcasting from a sleepy looking stand in Las Vegas, the reporter "happens upon" a youth in a blue Under Armour t-shirt inspecting what looks to be a glossy fireworks advertisement, and asks him, "What’s the best kinda firework to buy?" The kid responds, "Wouldn’t you like to know, weather boy?"
Seeming stunned, Pretty angles away from the kid and then turns to ask, "Where are your parents?"
The clip, which everyone took at face value to be that of a reporter having his ass handed to him by a child on live TV, was too good to be true. In a 2017 Esquire article, it’s revealed that the sassy kid in the clip was actually Pretty’s own son, and the whole thing had been staged. So the answer to the question "Where are your parents?" in this scenario is: "At work, making fake news."