Deaths, season finale cliffhangers, scorned housewives, more deaths, reality show twists, lovesick celebrities, still more deaths, provocative kisses and mind blowing series finales ... we've got 'em all in our list of the 50 most shocking moments in TV history.
From Oprah's wagon of weight loss and Sue Hawk's snakes-and-rats speech to a certain couch-jumping action star and the granddaddy of all cliffhangers, take a trip down primetime memory lane and prepare to say, "Whoa!" all over again.
50. The Sin of the Father
'The X-Files' -- 'One Son' (Feb. 14, 1999)
More shocks regarding Jeffrey Spender (Chris Owens) were to come -- that he had survived and that his father had subjected him to disfiguring experiments, for example -- but none were more jaw-dropping than when his Cigarette Smoking Man papa (William B. Davis) shot him in season 6, after finding out Jeffrey knew what CSM had done to the ex-Mrs. CSM.
49. A Woman Scorned
'Desperate Housewives' -- 'Bang' (Nov. 5, 2006)
While Carolyn Bigsby (guest star Laurie Metcalf) was seeking revenge on her adulterous, grocery store manager hubby, she ended up taking the entire supermarket hostage. Completely unhinged, Carolyn snapped when she heard Lynette's (Felicity Huffman) rival Nora (Kiersten Warren) had tried to steal Lynette's hubby, Tom, and she killed Nora. But the drama wasn't over, nor the hostages released, until Carolyn shot Lynette and was killed herself when a quick-thinking hostage grabbed her gun and turned it on her.
48. Look at the Wagon She's Draggin'
'The Oprah Winfrey Show' -- 'Diet Dreams Come True' (Nov. 5, 1988)
The Big O had starved herself for months, ingesting nothing but liquid protein shakes, to fit into a pair of size 10 Calvin Klein jeans. But sporting the skin-tight jeans wasn't enough proof of her weight-loss success: She came out on stage, wheeling a wagon packed with 67 pounds of globby fat, representing the amount of globby goo she'd dropped from her frame. Despite the display's impact, Oprah later called it a huge mistake. "Two hours after that show, I started eating to celebrate," she said. "Of course, within two days those jeans no longer fit!"
47. Punch Drunk Hate (UGH)
'Jersey Shore' -- 'Fade to Black' (Dec. 17, 2009)
As preview clips had teased, there were going to be throwdowns on the 'Jersey Shore,' and some of them were going to involve the female cast members. But seeing the short-statured, tall-haired Snooki getting socked in the face by a burly dude in a bar? That was shocking. And so disturbing that, even though MTV had been airing the clip of the punch since the show's Dec. 3, 2009 premiere, the network declined to air it again during the episode that dealt with the situation, and followed the episode with a PSA about violence against women.
46. Sipowicz, You Crack Us Up
'NYPD Blue' -- 'The Final Adjustment' (Nov. 22, 1994)
Amy Brenneman's butt? Okay. Sharon Lawrence? Check. Even David Caruso's ... alright. But no one was prepared for the dumpy derriere of one Det. Andy Sipowicz (Dennis Franz) when it was bared for all to see as Sipowicz prepared to take a steamy shower with his girlfriend Sylvia (Lawrence). At least two full on shots of the nekkid Sipowicz not only shocked viewers, but also provided plenty of fodder for Jay Leno, Conan O'Brien and, later, 'Family Guy.'
45. "Chloe ... Edgar ..."
'24' -- 'Day 5: 6:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m.' (March 6, 2006)
David Palmer and Michelle Dessler had already died earlier in the season, but neither of those deaths were sadder than the shocking ending met by lovable CTU geek Edgar Stiles (Louis Lombardi), who was off checking on a fellow employee and just missed making it into the safe room after the office was exposed to the deadly Sentox gas. He said pal Chloe's name as he fell to the ground, leaving Jack Bauer, Chloe and Audrey Raines to helplessly watch him die.
44. Snow Job
'St. Elsewhere' -- 'The Last One' (May 25, 1988)
You can't talk about great series finales without mentioning 'St. Elsewhere,' the NBC medical drama that featured stars like Denzel Washington, Mark Harmon and Howie Mandel, and tackled provocative story lines like AIDS, rape and sex in the morgue. The show's series ender, though, topped all that, as viewers were left with the impression that six seasons of hospital activity were really just the imagination of Dr. Westphall's (Ed Flanders) autistic son, Tommy (Chad Allen), who, in the last scene, is fascinated by a snow globe with a replica of the series' hospital inside.
43. The Family That Drinks Together ...
'Rescue Me' -- 'Drink' (Sept. 1, 2009)
The show's returning for another season, so we're guessing Denis Leary's Tommy Gavin will make it, but it was still a good season-ending cliffhanger, and a shocker of one at that, when Uncle Teddy (Lenny Clarke) shot Tommy at the bar, and held everyone hostage so they had to let Tommy bleed out. Why? Teddy's wife was killed in a car accident after Tommy had cajoled the whole family (most of them alcoholics) into drinking.
42. Snakes and Rats
'Survivor' -- 'Season Finale' (Aug. 23, 2000)
Sue Hawk didn't win the first season of 'Survivor,' but, while casting her jury vote for who should take home the $1 million prize, she made what remains the most memorable, and one of the most shocking, speeches in reality TV history. Explaining why she was voting for sneaky Richard Hatch, instead of her former friend and ally Kelly Wiglesworth, Hawk said, "This island is full of, pretty much, only two things: snakes and rats. And in the end of Mother Nature, we have Richard the Snake, who knowingly went after prey, and Kelly, who turned into the rat that ran around like rats do on this island ... I believe we owe it to the island spirits we have come to know to let it end in the way that Mother Nature intended: For the snake to eat the rat."
41. Madonna Kissed Two Girls ... And They Liked it
'2003 MTV Music Video Awards' (Aug. 28, 2003)
Missy Elliott won video of the year honors, 50 Cent was named best new artist in a video and Justin Timberlake's Britney Spears-mocking 'Cry Me a River' won multiple VMAs. But what you most likely remember from the 2003 VMAs: That opening number smooch between Madonna and Britney ... and Madonna and Christina Aguilera.
40. Mama of Anarchy
'Sons of Anarchy' -- 'Albification' (Sept. 8, 2009)
We knew nothing good was going to come of "white separatists" Ethan Zobelle (Adam Arkin) and A.J. Weston (Henry Rollins) coming to town, especially as far as SAMCRO was concerned. But the season 2 premiere ended with one of the most brutal, stunning moments in the show's history, as Weston and two of his cronies (and with the help of Zobelle's daughter) kidnapped, beat and raped SAMCRO mama Gemma (the Emmy-deserving Katey Sagal), who still defiantly ignored their demand that she warn SAMCRO from selling guns.
39. Every Rose Has Its Thorn
'The Bachelor' -- 'After the Final Rose: Part One' (March 2, 2009)
In 'The Bachelor' 13th season finale, single dad Jason Mesnick asked Texas sales rep Melissa Rycroft to marry him, and she accepted his ring. But less than an hour later, in the post-finale 'After the Final Rose' special (which, in real world time, was two months after the show was filmed), Mesnick dropped the bombshell that his feelings had changed. Well, his feelings for Rycroft, anyway. He no longer wanted to be with her. But the runner-up, Molly Malaney, the one he'd sent packing? He wanted to start things up with her again, and she was game. And though many who'd been charmed by Mesnick now thought of him as a cad, less than one year later, he and Malaney were married and the ceremony aired on ABC as 'The Bachelor: Jason and Molly's Wedding' in March 2010.
38. Watch That Last Step ...
'L.A. Law' -- 'Good to the Last Drop' (March 21, 1991)
Rosalind Shays (Diana Muldaur) was certainly not the most well-liked attorney, and she had already been part of a big surprise for viewers when she and enemy Leland McKenzie were revealed to be secret lovers. But no one, most unfortunately, Rosalind herself, could have seen this one coming: She and McKenzie were standing in front of an elevator, chatting and waiting for the elevator doors to open. The bells rang, signaling its arrival, and Rosalind turned and immediately stepped through the doors ... and down an empty elevator shaft, where only her screams signaled that she was on her way to her deadly fate. One of primetime's more twisted deaths, made more so by that (admittedly clever) episode title.
37. The Slap
'The Real World: Seattle' -- 'Irene Calls It Quits' (Sept. 22, 1998)
More than a decade before Snooki's reality world abuse, MTV fans were shocked by the infamous 'Real World' slap, in which Irene, who was leaving the 'RW' house and the show, told her roommate Stephen that she thought he was gay. Offended, Stephen tossed her favorite stuffed animal into the water, then ran down the car she was in, opened the door and slapped her. He nearly got kicked off the show (his roomies voted that he could stay if he attended anger therapy sessions), Irene continued her departure and, flash forward a decade to the 'Real World Awards Bash' in 2008, where Stephen revealed that he's happily engaged ... to a man.
36. The Voice GERD Around the World
'Saturday Night Live' -- 'Jude Law/Ashlee Simpson' (Oct. 23, 2004)
Busted! The only one more shocked than the studio audience and at-home viewers when Ashlee Simpson was caught using a vocal track during her performance on 'SNL'? Simpson herself, who jumped around the stage awkwardly for a few minutes, then exited, stage right even. The singer at first blamed her band for playing the wrong song, then later claimed she'd used a guide track because of her acid reflux.
35. Boob Tube, Indeed
'The Price Is Right' -- (Sept. 14, 1977)
The lesson that should have been noted by all future contestants of 'The Price Is Right': Maybe a tube top isn't the right attire for this show. It sure wasn't for Yolanda Bowsley, who began her run to Contestant's Row after announcer Johnny Olson called her name. Unfortunately, just as she "came on down," so did her tube top, exposing her chest and prompting editors to cover them on screen with a big blue bar. Host Bob Barker's response: "I know you truly love me, but you don't really love me this much, do you?"
34. Strange Bedfellows?
'Thirtysomething' -- 'Strangers' (Nov. 7, 1989)
There were calls of protest to ABC (and a $1.5 million loss of pulled ad dollars), as well as letters of support, for what, despite being a relatively low-key scene that lasted less than two minutes, was also a pivotal one: When artist Russell (David Marshall Grant) and new boyfriend Peter (Peter Frechette) were shown chatting in the afterglow of sex, it was the first time a gay couple had been seen in bed together in primetime. Future tie-in: Grant once again works with 'thirtysomething' star Ken Olin, as both are producers (and Grant a writer) on ABC's 'Brothers & Sisters,' which also prominently features gay characters.
33. Death Notice
'M*A*S*H' -- 'Abyssinia, Henry' (March 18, 1975)
It was no secret that McLean Stevenson was leaving the show, so, though his 4077 colleagues would miss him, they were also happy that Stevenson's Col. Henry Blake had gotten his discharge and was headed home from the war. A going away party and hugs and well wishes sent Blake on his way, but at the end of the episode, Radar (Gary Burghoff) delivered heartbreaking news to the staff in the operating room: "I have a message. Lieutenant Colonel ... Henry Blake's plane ... was shot down ... over the Sea of Japan. It spun in. There were no survivors."
Backstory: Producers wanted to capture genuine shock at the news, so the actors were given the script pages that contained Blake's death right before the ending was filmed. And the plot worked: Viewers were so surprised and outraged by the death that they wrote letters to the network, and Stevenson, who was unhappy with his character's demise, made a cameo on an episode of 'The Carol Burnett Show,' where his Col. Blake was floating on a raft, screaming "I'm OK! I'm OK!" The death also sparked a shift in the show's tone, from straight situation comedy to a frequently more serious dramedy.
32. The S-Word Happens
'South Park' -- 'It Hits the Fan' (June 20, 2001)
In a hilarious episode that mocked everything from curse words and the FCC's confusing standards on indecency to 'NYPD Blue' and network censorship, 'South Park' creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker had Cartman and company utter the word "sh*t" more than 160 times, which we know because the counter in the corner of the screen kept track throughout the episode. Most surprising fact: Stone and Parker say Comedy Central didn't agree to air the episode uncensored when they planned on saying the s-word a handful of times. It was only when they went for the hundreds of utterances that the network agreed it was obvious parody and gave the thumbs up to let, well, sh*t unfold unexpurgated.
31. With a Friend Like This ...
'The Wire' -- 'Middle Ground' (Dec. 12, 2004)
Drug business partners (and childhood friends) Avon Barksdale (Wood Harris) and Stringer Bell (Idris Elba) betray each other in this episode, and it seems pretty clear that only one of them will survive the actions they've taken against each other in the end. Bell is the less bloodthirsty of the two, with his economics classes and desire to turn his business interests legitimate, while Barksdale's main commitment is towards keeping himself in power as Baltimore's top drug man. In this shocking instance, Barksdale wins, turning Brother Mouzone (Michael Potts) and Omar (Michael K. Williams) against Stringer, who they shoot and kill inside the condo development Stringer saw as the beginning of his future as a real estate mogul.
30. Lucy Is Preg ... Uh, With Child
'I Love Lucy' -- 'Lucy Is Enceinte' (Dec. 8, 1952)
It's difficult to imagine now, but in 'I Love Lucy's' day, TV shows weren't even allowed to use the word "pregnant" on air (hence the French word for pregnant being used in the episode title). But Lucille Ball was indeed enceinte in real life (with son Desi Jr.) and on the show, as Lucy, with son Ricky, marking only the second time a TV character had been pregnant on air (the first was Mary Kay Stearns on the 'I Love Lucy'-ish 'Mary Kay and Johnny'). And Lucy's big reveal to TV hubby Ricky (real-life hubby Desi Arnaz): She requested that Ricky sing 'We're Having a Baby' at the club.
29. Valentine's Day Massacre
'ER' -- 'Be Still My Heart' (Feb. 10, 2000)
Med student Lucy Knight (Kellie Martin) had had her share of problems fitting in at the ER since joining the show in season 5, but, after clashes with Romano, Hathaway and pal Carter (Noah Wyle), finally seemed to be more comfortable by season 6. So, of course, that's when she ran into schizophrenic patient Paul Sobriki (David Krumholtz), whom while in a delusional state, sneaks up behind Lucy -- on Valentine's Day -- and uses a knife meant to cut a Valentine cake to stab Lucy in the chest, neck and abdomen. Sobriki would also attack Carter before he was done, but it was Lucy who died from her wounds, in the next episode, 'All in the Family.'
28. You've Just Been Kanye-d!
'2009 MTV Video Music Awards' (Sept. 13, 2009)
Who wasn't happy that Taylor Swift became the first country artist to win the VMA for Best Female Video? Rapper Kanye West, who jumped on stage, interrupted Swift's acceptance speech, took her microphone and expressed his displeasure that Beyoncé's 'Single Ladies' video didn't win the Moonman. "Yo Tay, I'm really happy for you, and I'mma let you finish, but Beyoncé had one of the best videos of all time. One of the best videos of all time." Swift, who was scheduled to perform live just moments later, looked stunned, the crowd booed West and Beyoncé, who won Video of the Year honors later in the show, invited Swift on stage to finish her speech. West, meanwhile, went on 'The Jay Leno Show' to apologize, was called a "jackass" by President Obama and gave us a permanent entry in the pop culture slang dictionary: to get "Kanye-d" is to get interrupted.
27. Two for the Death of One
'Lost' -- 'Two for the Road' (May 3, 2006)
There had already been shocking deaths on 'Lost' -- Boone, Shannon, the poor Oceanic 815 pilot -- but this episode raised the bar, with not just one, but two major characters biting the dust, and at the hand (or more specifically, hand with a gun in it) of another major character. Michael (Harold Perrineau) was being blackmailed by The Others: If he freed Henry Gale (Michael Emerson), they'd release his kidnapped son Walt (Malcolm David Kelley). Michael's plot to spring Henry involved shooting Ana Lucia (Michelle Rodriguez). But just as he pulled the trigger, Libby (Cynthia Watros) walked in, and Michael had to shoot her to cover up shooting Ana Lucia (which in itself was to cover up his release of Henry).
26. A Fowl Ending
'M*A*S*H' -- 'Goodbye, Farewell and Amen' (Feb. 28, 1983)
The 'M*A*S*H' series finale remains the most-watched non-sports event in TV history, and, at 2.5 hours long, it was an event-packed episode. But the most shocking, and heartbreaking, moment came when 4077 doc Hawkeye (Alan Alda) remembered what had led to his earlier nervous breakdown. Hawkeye was riding on a bus full of people when gun-toting enemies were rumored to be in the area, and he initially remembered yelling at a woman to keep a chicken quiet so the enemy would not discover them, prompting the woman to kill the chicken. But when a sobbing Hawkeye finally remembered what had actually happened, the source of his breakdown was clear: The woman had been carrying a baby, and, fearing its crying would lead the enemy to find and kill everyone on the bus, she smothered her child.
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
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)
A link for anyone who hasn’t actually seen it- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iYw8JR1N
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.
Any moments you think should have been included?