Page 2 of Shocking Television Moments: No. 25 - 1
by AOL TV Staff, posted May 20th 2010 6:01AM
25. Out of the Closet
'Ellen' -- 'The Puppy Episode' (April 30, 1997)
Viewers knew it was happening, and stars like Oprah Winfrey, Billy Bob Thornton, Laura Dern, k.d. lang, Melissa Etheridge, Demi Moore and Dwight Yoakam lined up for guest gigs, but the way that Ellen Morgan (Ellen DeGeneres) came out as a lesbian still managed to be surprising and hilarious. After meeting and clicking with Susan (Dern), Ellen recognized the truth about her sexuality and went to the airport to tell her new friend. But as she was saying the words "I'm gay," Ellen realized she was talking into the intercom system, and that she was telling the entire airport about her news. The episode, which had drawn protests from anti-gay groups, also drew more than 40 million viewers and coincided with DeGenres' real-life coming out in Time magazine.
24. Big Bad Voodoo Daddy
'Twin Peaks' -- 'Arbitrary Law' (Dec. 1, 1990)
FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) spent a season and a half (and ingested a lot of damn fine coffee and pie) trying to find out who had killed Twin Peaks homecoming queen Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee), and after all that time, the revelation of the big baddie came with shock after shock: It was her dad, Leland Palmer (Ray Wise)! Who'd molested her throughout her teens! Because he was possessed by the demonic BOB! Who had probably molested him when he was a child! Leland also killed Laura's lookalike cousin! And after Cooper arrested Leland, BOB forced Leland to kill himself!
23. Roe v. Wade v. Maude
'Maude' -- 'Maude's Dilemma, Part 2' (Nov. 21, 1972)
The 'All in the Family' spin-off never shied away from controversial topics, tackling mental health, drugs and menopause during its six-season run, but 'Maude's' most memorable and polarizing moment came in the show's premiere season, when 47-year-old Maude (Bea Arthur) found out she was pregnant. Unhappy with the idea of becoming a new parent at her age and fearful of the risks, Maude, with the support of her hubby Walter (Bill Macy), decided to have an abortion, two months before Roe v. Wade made abortion legal nationwide (it was legal in New York, where Maude lived, already).
22. A Family Affair
'The Shield' -- 'Family Meeting' (Nov. 25, 2008)
Plotting bad cop Vic (Michael Chiklis) was always confident that he'd continue to weasel his way out of trouble, but his fellow Strike Team member (and dirty cop) Shane (Walton Goggins) believed he was out of options in the show's series finale. His wife was likely headed to jail, he was on Vic's hit list and likely to end up dead or in jail and there would be no one to raise Shane's son Jackson. Shane's desperation was palpable when he bought flowers and a toy for his wife and son and then returned home, where he spoke to a neighbor. The neighbor called the police, who arrived at Shane's house just as he was putting a gun to his head. With their former co-worker dead by his own hand, Claudette (CCH Pounder) and Dutch (Jay Karnes) were still in for another shocker when they looked in the bedroom, where Shane's wife, Mara, and Jackson were also dead, presumably also killed by Shane.
21. A Kiss Is Not Just a Kiss
'Star Trek' -- 'Plato's Stepchildren' (Nov. 22, 1968)
This is another of those shocking moments that seems like no big deal today, but when TV's first interracial kiss on a scripted program happened in 1968, network executives were concerned that it would spark a very negative viewer reaction. The buss in question: It was between Capt. Kirk (William Shatner) and Lt. Uhura (Nichelle Nichols), and NBC and 'Trek' producers were so concerned about potential reaction to the kiss that it unfolded in the story as something the characters were being forced to do by Parmen, leader of the Plutonians, who was holding them hostage. In her 1994 autobiography 'Beyond Uhura,' Nichols says viewer mail response to the kiss was overwhelmingly positive, with girls writing in to ask her what it was like to kiss Shatner/Kirk and guys writing to Shatner to ask the same thing about her.
20. I Take Thee ... What's Your Name?
'Friends' -- 'The One With Ross's Wedding ' (May 7, 1998)
Everyone knew Ross (David Schwimmer) was still in love with Rachel (Jennifer Aniston). Chandler knew, Joey knew, Monica knew, Phoebe knew, Rachel knew and Ross himself probably knew. Okay, there was one person who didn't know, and that was Ross's new fiancée Emily (Helen Baxendale). The whole gang (minus the preggers Phoebe) had flown to London to see Ross take wife number two, but, with Rachel as a last-minute guest and a pre-ceremony conversation with her fresh in his mind, when it came time for Ross to say "I do" to Emily, what he actually said was, "I Ross, take thee ... Rachel." Oops. No surprise that Emily ended up being the second ex-Mrs. Geller.
19. Roseanne Calls a Do-Over
'Roseanne' -- 'Into That Good Night' (May 27, 1997)
Like several other series finales on our list, the 'Roseanne' wrap-up was a game changer. Roseanne Conner (Roseanne) had always talked about wanting to be a writer, and in the finale, we learn that she is. In fact, all the events that had unfolded throughout the show's nine seasons were the work of Roseanne's writing imagination. In reality (in the fictional show's "real" reality), as Roseanne reveals in a monologue, Becky was actually married to David and Darlene was married to his brother Mark, Roseanne's sister Jackie was a lesbian and Dan Conner (John Goodman) had died after suffering a heart attack. And, in a bit of news that erased what was the show's jump-the-shark storyline, the Conner family never won the lottery.
18. Sinéad O'Connor Declares War
'Saturday Night Live' -- 'Tim Robbins/Sinéad O'Connor' (Oct. 3, 1992)
She was singing an a cappella cover of Bob Marley's 'War' when she set off a minor one between her and Catholics. While crooning the tune, Irish singer Sinéad O'Connor changed the lyric "racism" to "child abuse," as a protest against sexual abuse in the Catholic church. But it didn't end there; O'Connor then produced a photo of Pope John Paul II, which she proceeded to tear into pieces and toss at the camera after saying, "Fight the real enemy." 'SNL' producer Lorne Michaels and his staff had no idea what O'Connor planned to do, and in all rebroadcasts of the episode, video of the singer's rehearsal performance was swapped in. In fact, the original performance had not been aired in on TV until the April 23, 2010 episode of MSNBC's 'The Rachel Maddow Show,' which featured an interview with O'Connor.
17. A Bad Romance
'1994 MTV Music Video Awards' (Sept. 8, 1994)
It was no small feat to make this moment we all remember from the '94 VMAs ... Madonna popped up with surprise guest David Letterman, on whose show she had just made a profanity-laced appearance. But the newly-wed Michael Jackson and Lisa Marie Presley managed to top that twosome, taking the VMA stage and being greeted by a standing ovation. "And just think, nobody thought this would last," Jackson said, before grabbing his wife and planting a giant kiss on her. Presley laughed and the pair left the stage, with her later, to no great surprise, admitting that her hubby's publicity team planned the stunt.
16. Mob Rules
'The Sopranos' -- 'Long Term Parking' (May 23, 2004)
Once she admitted to fiancee Christufuh (Michael Imperioli) that she'd been blackmailed by the FBI into giving them information on the Sopranos family mob activity, it was clear that life as she knew it wasn't going to continue for Adriana La Cerva (Drea de Matteo). She begged Christopher to run away with her, but he instead gave her up to mob boss Tony (James Gandolfini), who concocted a ruse about Christopher attempting suicide, which sent a guilty Adriana off in a car with mobster Silvio (Steven Van Zandt) to meet up with Christopher at the hospital. There was no hospital, of course. Silvio drove Adriana into the woods, and as she crawled across the ground begging for her life, he shot and killed her.
15. Mommy, Dearest
'Buffy the Vampire Slayer' -- 'I Was Made to Love You' (Feb. 20, 2001)
It's not like Buffy Summers (Sarah Michelle Gellar) didn't have enough on her plate already, what with the vampire slaying and all. But the universe threw another major curve at her in this episode. Buffy's mom Joyce (Kristine Sutherland), divorced from Buffy's dad Hank, had finally gone on an enjoyable date, and returned home happy and making jokes about getting frisky with the fella. Which made her from-out-of-left field death all the more sad and heartbreaking, as Buffy later that evening found her mom, who had suffered a brain aneurysm, dead on the living room couch.
'Six Feet Under' -- 'Ecotone' (July 31, 2005)
With his second marriage pretty much done in by the fact that he'd just committed adultery with his stepsister, Nate Fisher (Peter Krause) was getting dressed after the fling when he felt numbness in his right arm. "My arm is numb ... numb arm ... numb arm ... narm," Nate slurred as he dropped to the floor. Later, at the hospital, the brain hemorrhage led to a brief coma, but Nate seemed to be on the road to recovery, visiting with his family and making plans to end his marriage. So it was another shock when, with his brother David (Michael C. Hall) sleeping at his bedside, Nate had a final dream and died, with David waking up to find him flatlining.
13. Jumping the Couch
'The Oprah Winfrey Show' (May 23, 2005)
Tom Cruise was enthusiastically (and then some) telling pal Oprah Winfrey about his new girlfriend, Katie Holmes, in this episode, when he suddenly hopped up on The Big O's couch, and pumped his fists in the air. "You're gone ... you are gone," Oprah said of Cruise's giddy behavior, which included pounding his fist on the floor repeatedly, giggling when Holmes' name was mentioned and, finally, dragging the 'Dawson's Creek' star from backstage and onto the set. After effect: "jumping the couch" became the new catchphrase for people, especially celebs, who engaged in "strange or frenetic behavior."
12. Split Screen Sadness
'The View' (May 23, 2007)
It would end up being Rosie O'Donnell's final appearance as a 'View' co-host, and she would later say her decision to leave came down to the split screen the show's director had employed during her heated discussion with co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck. Conservative Hasselbeck had taken issue with O'Donnell's comments about the war in Iraq, and O'Donnell had taken issue with the fact that Hasselbeck, she said, had not defended her right to express her opinions. O'Donnell called her co-worker "cowardly" and the loud discussion, which lasted for more than five minutes, ended only when the director finally went to a commercial break.
11. Like Father, Like Son?
'Dexter' -- 'The Getaway' (Dec. 13, 2009)
When you're a serial killer who murders other serial killers, there's a good chance you're going to make some enemies. Such was the case with Dexter Morgan (Michael C. Hall), who, in the show's fourth season, had aggressively gone after the wackadoo "Trinity" killer, Arthur (John Lithgow). Dexter got his man, killing Trinity in the season finale, but returned home to a shocking scene: His wife Rita (Julie Benz) had already been killed by Trinity, and Dexter's son Harrison was sitting on the floor in a pool of blood. The scene was reminiscent of how a young Dexter had been left sitting in blood after the murder of his mother, a situation that sparked his serial killer ways.
10. Rocker Shocker
'American Idol' -- 'Elvis Presley Week' (May 10, 2006)
Had fans assumed he was safe? Did they think he'd gotten cocky? Or did they really just not enjoy his performances of 'Suspicious Minds' and 'A Little Less Conversation'? We'll never know exactly why Chris Daughtry was sent packing in 'American Idol's' fifth season, since the "rocker dad" was one of the season's favorites to win. His ouster was a shock to viewers, his fellow contestants, the 'AI' judges and Daughtry himself -- "I'm a little bit in shock," he told host Ryan Seacrest -- but the fourth-place finish certainly hasn't hurt his post-'Idol' career. Daughtry is third in 'Idol' alumni record sales (behind Carrie Underwood and Kelly Clarkson), with his first two CDs each going platinum and selling more than 5 million copies.
9. Bob Newhart: Dreamweaver
'Newhart' -- 'The Last Newhart' (May 21, 1990)
In the series finale of comedian Bob Newhart's second hit sitcom, his Dick Loudon refused, unlike his kooky neighbors, to sell his Stratford Inn to a Japanese businessman who planned to turn the whole town into a golf resort. Dick and wife Joanna (Mary Frann) remained in town, running the Inn, and five years later, were visited by their now-wealthy, still-nutty former employees and friends. The reunion ends with Bob getting hit in the head with a golf ball, and the scene fades to black as he passes out. Next scene: A light is turned on ... by Dr. Bob Hartley, Newhart's character from his 1972-78 sitcom 'The Bob Newhart Show.' Bob Hartley, we see, is talking to his wife Emily (Suzanne Pleshette), and telling her that he just had a crazy dream about being an inn owner in Vermont! Yes, a la the dream season of 'Dallas,' the 'Newhart' series finale cleverly proposed that the entire series had been nothing more than a dream of Dr. Bob's.
8. Crash Into Me
'Alias' -- 'Before the Flood' (May 25, 2005)
The 'Alias' season 4 finale found long-suffering spies Sydney (Jennifer Garner) and Vaughn (Michael Vartan) finally on their way to a much-deserved vacation in Santa Barbara and a much-awaited elopement. Vaughn, heeding Sydney's spy mama's advice to always be honest with her daughter, was driving along when he decided to drop a couple of bombshells on Syd: First, his name was not really Michael Vaughn. Second, it was no accident that he had been assigned to be her CIA handler several years. Third ... actually, there was no third, because before Vaughn could even explain one and two, a car suddenly crashed into his driver's side door and the season came to a sudden, shocking, cliffhanger-y end.
7. Dream a Little Dream
'Dallas' -- 'Blast From the Past' (May 16, 1986)
It has become the symbol for ridiculous TV plot developments (so much so that the aforementioned 'Newhart' series finale was a spoof-y homage): The events of the entire ninth season of 'Dallas' were nullified in the season finale when Pam, who had just married boyfriend Mark -- since ex-hubby Bobby (Patrick Duffy) had been murdered by her sister in the season 8 finale -- woke up the day after her wedding, went into the bathroom and opened the shower door, to find ... Bobby, who bid her a "Good morning!" Yep, he was alive! As we'd learn the next season, Bobby had never died -- season 9 was Pam's dream.
6. Boob Tube, The Sequel
'Super Bowl XXXVIII Halftime Show' (Feb. 1, 2004)
The worst part of the Janet Jackson/Justin Timberlake/boob scandal from Super Bowl XXXVIII? How many times we had to hear the phrase "wardrobe malfunction" afterwards. According to Jackson, that was exactly what had happened when she and Timberlake were performing his 'Rock Your Body' during the live halftime show: He got to the line "I'm gonna have you naked by the end of this song," and pulled off part of her costume, which revealed, for half a second, her nipple shield-adorned right breast. As Jackson claimed, it was a "wardrobe malfunction," an accident, though others charged that Timberlake and Jackson had planned the event to, ahem, titillate audiences. The result: Lots of viewer complaints and an FCC fine against Viacom, parent company of Super Bowl broadcaster CBS, for a total of $550,000.
'Lost' -- 'Through the Looking Glass' (May 23, 2007)
We were used to the flashbacks ... that's how a good deal of 'Lost' had unfolded throughout its first three seasons. And as the third-season finale played out, we once again were treated to glimpses of the island-dwellers' lives off the island. Jack (Matthew Fox) was at work as a surgeon, but was experiencing a miserable life: Drinking, addicted to drugs and planning to commit suicide by jumping off a bridge ... someone else from the island had died, and Jack was the only person who attended the funeral ... and, in the final scene, Jack met up with his island pal Kate (Evangeline Lilly). But it was this pivotal moment in which we were introduced to a new 'Lost' device, the flashforward. As Jack talks to Kate, he pleads with her to do something that, he feels, they're destined to do: return to the island. That's right: this Jack and Kate we're seeing are in the future, and they've escaped from the island. Mind-blowing enough on its own, but the fact that Jack was now saying they had to go back meant 'Lost' fans were in for a lot more mystery and adventure when the show returned for season 4.
4. Teri Bauer and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day
'24' -- 'Day 1: 11:00 p.m. – 12:00 a.m.' (May 21, 2002)
Teri Bauer (Leslie Hope) had been kidnapped, raped and suffered a bout of amnesia, all while pregnant with heroic hubby Jack's (Kiefer Sutherland) second child. As '24's' first season, and Teri Bauer's bad day, wound to a close, it seemed like the worst was behind the Bauer clan, who'd managed to stay alive and thwart some very bad dudes (and a really bad dudette) along the way. So it was to Jack's -- and the viewers' -- horror when he wandered into a CTU room and found his dead wife's body. The evil, traitorous Nina (Sarah Clarke) had killed her, and the death was just the show's first hint that almost any '24' character was considered to be expendable.
3. Kimberly Wigs Out
'Melrose Place' -- 'The Bitch Is Back' (April 27, 1994)
Relative to other shocking TV moments, this one might not seem all that shocking. But ask any 'Melrose' fan (we're talking the original 'Melrose Place' only, of course) about the most shocking scene in the show's history, the most memorable scene, and invariably they will say this one. When Kimberly (Marcia Cross), who was thought to have died after the accident in which a drunken Michael (Thomas Calabro) crashed his car, returned, seemingly unscathed, to her creep of a boyfriend, then crept out of bed one night and went into the bathroom, stood in front of the mirror and removed her wig (whut?!) and revealed a doozy of a scar across her head. Unscathed she wasn't, physically nor emotionally, as the Melrose dwellers would soon find out.
2. Don't Stop!
'The Sopranos' -- 'Made in America' (June 10, 2007)
It's only several years after the mob/family drama's controversial series finale that we've come to appreciate how smart it was; at the time, we wanted to throw a shoe at the screen just like everyone else. In the tense episodes leading up to the finale, Soprano family (and "family") head Tony (James Gandolfini) had been one of the few members of his crew to survive the gangster war that had claimed several of his enemies and several of his own cohorts. One of his capos had turned FBI informant, and as Tony, Carmela and A.J. sat down for onion rings in a Jersey diner, a strange man kept staring at Tony. With Journey's 'Don't Stop Believin'' blaring from the tabletop jukebox, the man heads to the bathroom (near Tony's table), Meadow runs toward the diner, Tony looks up and, with Steve Perry singing "Don't stop!" the scene, the episode and the series does. Stop, that is, as the screen cuts abruptly to black. No footnotes, no postscripts ... we either make our own call about what happened to the Sopranos, or we wait for series creator David Chase to make good on those rumors of a big-screen 'Sopranos' movie.
1. The Shot Seen 'Round the World
'Dallas' -- 'A House Divided' (March 21, 1980)
It's not like he didn't have it coming. In fact, there were so many people who'd been wronged by ol' J.R. Ewing (Larry Hagman), that it was tough to narrow down the list of suspects who might want to do him harm. Still, J.R. always seemed to come out on top, so it was a shocker when someone crept into the Ewing Oil offices and pumped two shots into the wily oil baron, setting off what remains TV's all-time greatest cliffhanger with the "Who shot J.R.?" guessing game in the summer of 1980. PS -- In case you don't remember, it was J.R.'s sister-in-law, and lover, Kristin (Mary Crosby) whodunit.
Tell us: What television moments shocked you the most?