X

Join or Sign In

Sign in to customize your TV listings

Continue with Facebook Continue with email

By joining TV Guide, you agree to our Terms of Use and acknowledge the data practices in our Privacy Policy.

The Most Shocking Unscripted Moments in Television in 2018

There were a lot of jaw-dropping televised events this year

Amanda Bell
shocking-tv-moments-2018.jpg
1 of 28 Getty Images

The Most Unexpected Television Moments of 2018

2018 was a pretty bonkers year, especially when it came to what we saw unfold on-screen and in the news. From wild reality show moments to political kerfuffles no one saw coming to unexpected celebrity deaths and downfalls, there were a ton of televised moments that simply made our jaws drop. Click through to revisit some of the wildest events to unfold on the small screen through the year.

2 of 28 Mike Pont

Anthony Bourdain's death

Celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain was a downright powerhouse of the industry, with best-selling books and his food and travel seriesParts Unknown still captivating audiences. So, his death by suicide this summer was a complete shock to fans around the world, especially since it happened so closely to Kate Spade's passing.

3 of 28 ITV

Meghan Markle's estranged family hits the interview circuit

Joining a royal family might be a dream for anyone, but for Meghan Markle, it became something of a nightmare once her estranged relatives started capitalizing on her fame by bad-mouthing her in one televised interview after the next. Her half-sister Samantha Markle had played nice just after Markle got engaged to Prince Harry, but things spiraled out of control ahead of the Royal Wedding, with her constantly hitting the airwaves to blame Markle for their father's ailing health and publicly insisting she rekindle her relationship with him. Adding all of those interviews to her dad's staged photo op debacle, her brother's note to Harry that he should call off the wedding, and the last-minute switcheroo of who'd walk Meghan down the aisle, the family drama became its own sort of bitter family reality show.

4 of 28 Showtime

Sacha Baron Cohen introducing the "kinderguardians" program

On his new Showtime series Who is America?, Sacha Baron Cohen managed to disguise himself well enough to again get people in power to say ludicrous things -- this time, including Alabama's disgraced Senate candidate Roy Moore and former sheriff-turned-presidential pardon recipient-turned Senate candidate Joe Arpaio. Things got especially crazy, though, when he managed to dupe Congressmen and gun rights enthusiasts into participating in a promotional video for the "Kinder-Guardians" program, which would arm kindergarteners as a means of dealing with the scourge of school shootings.

5 of 28 Netflix

The MCU slaughter session at Netflix

Considering Disney is expected to roll out its own digital streaming service in 2019, perhaps fans should've seen it coming, but the back-to-back-to-back wallop of the MCU show cancellations at Netflix still stung. A lot. First, they let go of Iron Fist, which had a much better sophomore outing, but was still mostly meh. But very soon after that, Luke Cage was also unceremoniously dismissed. The real "wow" moment came when Daredevil, which was one of Netflix's most popular shows, was also canned, leaving fans to conclude that after The Punisher and Jessica Jones' next seasons on the streaming service, the bloodbath will catch up to those shows, too. The idea that Marvel properties could be dispensed so easily by anyone, let alone one with such strong properties, was jarring indeed.

6 of 28 AMC

The incoming of a Breaking Bad movie

While it may not have been surprising for AMC to continue on with more Breaking Bad spinoffs, considering how beautiful Better Call Saulhas turned out to be, the news that showrunner Vince Gilligan was putting together a Breaking Bad movie to finally, finally give fans some closure on what happened to Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) was an absolutely staggering, if entirely welcome, bit of news.

7 of 28 ABC

The Bachelor post-finale breakup

The word "cringeworthy" doesn't even begin to describe what we witnessed at the tail end of Arie Luyendyk Jr.'s season of The Bachelor. After offering his final rose (and a ring!) to Becca Kufrin, Arie later changed his mind and ambushed Becca with the bad news while the cameras were rolling on both. Becca's shock and disappointment were experienced in rapid succession right before the world's eyes, and for a show that has become a bit formulaic over its many seasons and spin-offs, this was like nothing we'd ever seen before. Luckily, Becca became the next Bachelorette and forged her own new love story after the fact, but still ... Arie's move was almost unbelievably harsh, and yet it did happen.

8 of 28 Netflix

The cancellation of American Vandal

One of the most bonkers show cancellations of the year happened when Netflix decided not to keep going with its hilarious mockumentary series American Vandal, after a strong -- albeit, kinda gross -- second season. The reason was probably innocent enough; the show was produced by CBS TV, and Netflix has been gradually reducing its slate of partnered properties. But considering how well-received and unique the series was, fans of the true-crime style comedy were still astonished by the streaming service's decision here.

9 of 28 Getty Images

Donald Trump facing off with Democrat leaders

The nation watched agape again as Donald Trump decided to invite live cameras into the Oval Office during his policy meeting with apparent-incoming Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer about immigration and the threat of another government shutdown. Not only did the Democratic leaders criticize him for bringing press into the room, but they also managed to get Trump to unabashedly accept full responsibility for the shutdown if it were to happen as a result of the disputes about funding the border wall. Oh, and Mike Pence was ... there. Physically, at least. To say it was an oft-repeated clip on the newswaves that week is an understatement.

10 of 28

Adam Levine embarrassing his own contestant

In an otherwise uneventful season of The Voice, Adam Levine managed to make headlines for all the wrong reasons when he threw his weight behind Reagan Strange instead of supporting DeAndre Nico, just after the latter had performed. Reagan, his team's chirpy teen pop singer, had fallen ill that day and was unable to perform in the instant save set after finding herself in the bottom three; DeAndre, however, was feeling fine and took the stage against Team Blake's Dave Fenley for the change to go forward. When Carson Daly gave Adam Levine the proverbial mic, at which time he was expected to encourage America to vote for DeAndre over Dave, he instead pleaded with voters to choose Reagan, leaving a visibly stunned DeAndre Nico out to dry right before America's eyes. What's even crazier is that it actually worked, and Reagan was sent through to the next round before ultimately being eliminated ahead of the finals.

11 of 28 NBC

Dan Crenshaw joining Pete Davidson on SNL

Pete Davidson stoked the ire of the public when he criticized the way wounded war veteran Dan Crenshaw looked as part of his election segment onSaturday Night Live's "Weekend Update." After apologizing for the joke the following week, though, Davidson really surprised audiences by welcoming Crenshaw himself to deliver some licks himself before using the debacle as a teachable moment about veteran outreach. Davidson's relationship with Crenshaw wouldn't end there, either. Crenshaw reported reaching out to Davidson after the comedian frightened fans with a since-deleted Instagram post about ending his life.

12 of 28 NBC

Timeless fans winning a two-hour finale

It worked for Sense8, and lo, it worked for Timeless fans this year, too! After NBC decided to pull the plug on its time-hopping heroes, the fanbase (dubbed "Clockblockers") organized en masse with a relentless social media campaign to save the show, and the Peacock network eventually caved, offering a two-part series finale that would make sure the show didn't end with that gnawing cliffhanger. It's pretty rare for these kinds of fan campaigns to really change a studio's mind -- and in at least one case, a network even made fun of such an effort -- so the fact that this worked out was a surprise. A pleasant one, but a surprise nonetheless.

13 of 28 NBC

Megyn Kelly getting the boot

It didn't take long for Megyn Kelly Today to cause NBC some major headaches -- from her softball interview with Vladimir Putin to her uncomfortable questions for guests like the cast of Will and Grace and Jane Fonda, Megyn Kelly seemed to be a veritable gaffe machine on the already ratings-beleaguered program. But things got really out of hand when she decided to defend the use of blackface in modern Halloween costumes, saying "when I was a kid, that was okay as long as you were dressing as a character." Kelly later apologized for the insensitive remarks, but NBC decided enough was enough and parted ways with her anyway.

14 of 28 Melina Mara

Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and Judge Brett Kavanaugh's testimonies

In a year that was chock-full of fascinating congressional testimonies, none were near as emotionally evocative and gripping as when Dr. Christine Blasey Ford stepped forward to offer the US Senate details surrounding her allegation that Supreme Court nominee Justice Kavanaugh had sexually assaulted her when she was a teenager. It was a drop-everything moment for anyone with even a finger on the political pulse as the shy woman who'd initially tried to stay anonymous came forward with such deeply personal details about her claim. Similarly impassioned as Kavanaugh himself, who insisted through tears that he had not done the things he was accused of.

15 of 28 Jeff Kravitz

A proposal at the Emmys

Glenn Weiss might not have had a household name before the Emmys, but when got his brief moment at the podium -- collecting a trophy for Outstanding Directing for a Variety Special for his work on the Oscars -- he made the most of it by proposing to his girlfriend Jan Svendsen in front of the entire watching world. Audiences did not see that coming.

16 of 28 Drew Angerer

Les Moonves' fall from grace

CBS's CEO Leslie Moonves stepped down from his network post after multiple allegations of sexual assault were levied against the executive. His wife, Julie Chen, shocked audiences of Big Brother when she used his last name for the first time on the show in the wake of the fallout, but it was Moonves' own alleged behaviors that truly stunned the television world. After an internal investigation, CBS later decided it did not have to pay Moonves' expected severance sum, claiming that Moonves had misled the company and attempted to hide evidence.

17 of 28 NBC NewsWire

Sam Nunberg's media meltdown

There've been many, many developments in the investigation(s) and prosection(s) led by Special Counsel Robert Mueller that have had news audiences gasping throughout this year, but Sam Nunberg's decision to defy a subpoena and sit for several impromptu interviews to talk about it was about as wild as it gets. In addition to claiming he was willing to go to jail for his refusal to comply -- because he simply found it too onerous to sort through his emails and find the communications that were requested -- he threw out some stunning suppositions about others involved in the cases. His behavior was so extraordinary and unexpected that CNN's Erin Burnett even asked if he'd been drinking before coming onto the program. After all the fuss of his media blitz, though, Nunberg changed his mind and decided to submit the requested documents.

18 of 28 Getty Images

Roseanne's explosive cancellation

When ABC first rolled out its reboot of Roseanne, the show was a monster hit for the network once again, so it was a total shock when the network's then-president Channing Dungey decided to pull the plug on the show after its eponymous star, Roseanne Barr, posted a racist tweet about former Obama Administration official Valerie Jarrett. It wasn't just the cancellation that had people's jaws on the floor; Barr then went on to engage in a bizarre PR war with the network, which included one worrisome video rant wherein she continued to insist that she didn't know Jarrett was black before comparing her to a character from Planet of the Apes. ABC eventually decided to kill off its leading lady and continued on with the rest of the cast and crew with The Conners, but the ghost of Roseanne's spectacular fall from grace still lingered long after she was gone.

19 of 28 Smallz & Raskind

OWN ending Love Is

The husband-and-wife-run show Love is ___, from Mara Brock Akil and Salim Akil, seemed to be on track for a second season before allegations that Salim had abused a woman during extramarital brought the show to a grinding halt. The series was based upon the real-life romance of the Akils, and OWN decided to shut down the series after a woman sued Salim Akil for physically, verbally and sexually abusing her. For a show with so much promise, the quickfire dissolution of its future as a result of the damaging claims was a bombshell.

20 of 28 Getty Images

The Helsinki Summit

After Donald Trump's closed-door meeting with the president of Russia, Vladimir Putin, which included no aides or press, the world's collective eyes were glued on the screen to see what the two would say in their joint press conference, and the shock and near-universal unrest that resulted on both left- and right-leaning media personalities was palpable. The POTUS sided with Putin over the US's own intelligence agency findings on the issue of Russia's interference with the 2016 presidential election, leaving anchors across the spectrum completely aghast at what they'd just witnessed. Trump later walked back his statements, but the moment will still rank among his most controversial on-air moments yet -- yes, even more jarring than when he saluted that North Korean general during the Singapore summit with Kim Jong Un.

21 of 28 WPA Pool

Pastor Curry leaving the royals stunned with his sermon

It might be traditional for no one to upstage the bride on her wedding day, but when Meghan Markle married Prince Harry, the big takeaway was how shaken up the royal family seemed to be during the Most Rev. Michael Curry's sermon. The American bishop brought a unique and fiery energy to the church, delivering a speech that was at times inspiring and, at others, completely mystifying, and almost no one in the crowd could contain their amusement and/or discomfort. The crowd reactions alone made it must-see TV, even for those who didn't wake up at the crack of dawn to catch the wedding live.

22 of 28 NBC

Stormy Daniels' appearance on SNL

Although it's her attorney Michael Avenatti who's racked up the most airtime associated with her legal dispute(s) with Donald Trump and his former "fixer" Michael Cohen, Trump's alleged former paramour Stormy Daniels had a few major moments on the small screen this year as well. One such was her jaw-dropping interview with CNN's Anderson Cooper that had everyone meme-ing about Shark Week. Perhaps the most arresting moment of her on-screen appearances happened, though, when she made a cameo as herself on Saturday Night Live, demanding that Alec Baldwin's version of Donald Trump resign to make her stop fighting him in court.

23 of 28 SOPA Images

Advertisers ditching Fox News' top-tier programs

People might talk, but money walks, especially in the cable news business. This year alone saw two major advertiser backlashes arise against Fox News' most popular late night hosts -- first, with companies pulling their commercials from Laura Ingraham's show over her controversial comments about Parkland survivor David Hogg, and, most recently, with companies similarly abandoning Tucker Carlson's timeslot after he insisted that accepting immigrants from Central America would make the country "dirtier." Neither event resulted in cancellations or delays of those programs, but they did reveal the increasing impact of social media backlash on TV sponsorship decisions by corporations.

24 of 28 Getty Images

The rapid rescue of Brooklyn 99

Brooklyn 99 fans were more than miffed when Fox decided to ax the show after five seasons, but they didn't have to be sad for too long because, while other revived and rescued series have at least had to wait a while, it took less than two days for NBC to scoop up the show and press forward on producing a sixth season. It wasn't the fact that Brooklyn 99 moved to another home that was stunning so much as the breakneck speed with which it all happened.

25 of 28 Getty Images

Eliza Dushku being written off of Bull after a secret settlement

When Bull returned for a third season, J.P. Nunnelly (Eliza Dushku) was nowhere to be seen, and there was a dark and upsetting reason why. The actress had quietly settled with CBS after accusing the show's star Michael Weatherly of sexual harassment on the set of the show, after he reportedly made comments about spanking Dushku, asking about a threesome and inviting her into his "rape van." Although the actor claimed his words were merely meant in jest, Dushku was not amused and made a claim against the network, which later settled by paying out her contract to the tune of $9.5 million.

26 of 28 Dave J Hogan

Disney's Star Wars and MCU show announcements

Disney fans probably expected all the studio's Star Wars and Marvel properties to make way to Disney+, but when the House of Mouse announced that they'd be rolling out original Star Wars and a bunch of MCU character shows, it was a very big deal. The Mandalorian is already well underway, as is the Cassian Andor (Diego Luna)-centric prequel to Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. Meanwhile, Disney also confirmed that Loki (Tom Hiddleston) would get a short second life on-screen with his own prequel series, with several others expected to follow. That's a whole lotta franchise content, guys.

27 of 28 Frazer Harrison

SMILF's creator denies mishandling sex scenes and discrimination

SMILF creator and star Frankie Shaw issued some strong denials and defenses in mid-December after reports surfaced that she behaved inappropriately while overseeing sex scenes and that she separated the show's writers by race. Samara Weaving, an actress on the show, raised complaints -- one of which was that, after refusing to do a sex scene that made her uncomfortable, Shaw brought Weaving into her trailer, pulled off her own shirt and asked Weaving why she had an issue being nude if Shaw didn't, an accusation Shaw denied. Even Rosie O'Donnell, a guest star, also allegedly raised concerns about behavior on set. Two days after Weaving's complaints went public, she left the show but Season 2 will go on as planned.

28 of 28 Daniel Zuchnik

Kevin Hart dropping out of the Oscars

It didn't exactly pan out on-screen, but Kevin Hart's decision to step away from his Oscar-hosting role, just days after he'd been announced for the job, was the kind of thing that would normally give a crowd whiplash. Hart refused to apologize again for some homophobic tweets that resurfaced soon after he was announced as Oscars host and instead chose to walk away altogether. As of this writing, well, the Academy hasn't found a replacement for Hart at all.