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Mariah Carey during her NYE 2016 performance on Times Square. (Photo: ANGELA WEISS/AFP/Getty Images)

You know what they say: Never work with kids and animals, and never, ever agree to live TV.

Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway famously fell foul of that third rule, when they announced the wrong winner for Best Picture at the Oscars on Sunday (February 26).

The ensuing onstage chaos was brutal, tragic, and teeth-grindingly awkward, but, above all, it made fantastically great viewing. Do we secretly relish the schadenfreude we feel at someone else’s misfortune? You betcha. And is it the worst mistake on live TV that’s ever happened? Absolutely not.

In a crowded field, let’s consider the competition.

Jennifer Lawrence Falls Over

The Oscars is one of the biggest live TV events of the year, so it’s no surprise things go wrong from time to time. In 2013, the issue wasn’t the production, or accountants, or mistaken envelopes. It was Best Lead actress Jennifer Lawrence, and the small matter of a flight of stairs.

1937 Ship Commentary

Here’s proof, if ever proof was needed, that gaffes have been happening as long as live TV itself. In 1937, the BBC asked retired naval officer Lt Cdr Thomas Woodroffe to commentate on a review of the fleet. The trouble is, he’d been enjoying himself a little bit too much with his seafaring chums — leaving him unable to formulate anything resembling a coherent thought, let alone provide a commentary.

Wrong Winner Crowned by Australia’s Next Top Model

Talent shows are so fond of drawing out anticipation and building up the drama before they announce winners, it’s only right they fluff it up from time to time. That’s exactly what happened in Australia’s Next Top Model in 2010: Having announced the winner of season six, presenter Sarah Murdoch had to recant when a giant picture of the other contestant appeared on the screen behind her. “I don’t know what to say right now…” she said. “I’m feeling a bit sick about this.” You and us both, Sarah.

John Barrowman Falls Off His Chair

Captain Jack may be able to navigate time and space, but he’s got a nemesis in gravity. Last year, actor John Barrowman was a guest on UK chat show Loose Women, and, as such, was required to model a pair of rather fetching heels. Needless to say he took to the task like a duck to water, until the water dries up and said duck is left flailing in mid-air.

Elton John Falls Off His Chair

You’re absolutely right. There is nothing funny about people falling off chairs. They could do themselves real damage for a start. And then there’s the knock to their ego to think about. So. Not. Funny. Nope. No siree. Not even when the person in question is Sir Elton John, and his fall reduces an entire tennis court to a hushed silence, until he gets back up again and quips, “I’m not standing,” referring to his 1983 hit “I’m Still Standing.” Good recovery, sir.

Lulu the Elephant

Lulu the Elephant’s 1969 appearance on British children’s TV show Blue Peter has passed into folklore in the UK, as iconic a televisual moment as Jarvis Cocker invading Michael Jackson‘s stage at the Brits, and as central to British culture as Doctor Who or a cup of tea. It may seem like two of TV’s golden rules have been broken here — never work with animals, and never work on live TV — but this wasn’t actually broadcast live. Nope. The baby pachyderm’s trail of destruction was pre-recorded, and left as is. Ah, simpler times.

Guy Waiting for Job Interview Goes on Live TV Instead

Business school graduate Guy Goma became a national hero in the UK in 2006, when BBC News journalists mistook him for technology journalist Guy Kewney. Patiently waiting in reception at the BBC’s headquarters, Goma was expecting an interview for a job in the corporation’s IT department. What he got instead was an interview — live, and on TV around the world — about a naming rights case between Apple Corps and Apple Computers. His face on realizing the mistake is priceless; even better than that is the fact he goes on to answer the questions.

Mariah Carey’s New Year’s Eve Disaster

You don’t get more public than the live feed from Times Square on New Year’s Eve. This past NYE featured songstress Mariah Carey, who was down to perform a medley of her biggest hits just as midnight chimed. Things started off well enough with a rendition of “Auld Lang Syne,” but it was when the band kicked in to play her hit “Emotion” that things went downhill fast. Ouch.

Brooke Shields Breaks into Song at the Tony Awards

Let’s just say Brooke Shields’s supposedly “spontaneous” addition to Neil Patrick Harris‘s opening number at the 2011 Tony Awards could have done with an extra rehearsal or two. Speaking about the screw-up afterwards, the actress said: “I was beyond embarrassed. I wanted to give up show business. I f***ed up. They counted me in wrong; the teleprompter was wrong. I felt like I was having an aneurysm.” Oh snap, Brooke! Because that’s exactly what it feels like when you watch it, too.

Steve Harvey Announces the Wrong Miss Universe

Hrrng. This one is so excruciating to watch you’ll need help uncurling your toes by the end of it. Comedian Steve Harvey hosted the Miss Universe beauty pageant in 2015, and flubbed big time during the final when he announced the wrong name at the all-important moment. After lengthy applause, Miss Colombia, aka Ariadna Gutiérrez Arevalo, was forced to hand over her crown to Miss Philippines, Pia Alonzo Wurtzbach. Ouch.

What’s your all-time favorite live TV blunder?

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Filed Under: Oscars, Television
By Kat Sommers
Kat is a freelance writer for Anglophenia.