CBS Airing TV’s Greatest Surprises Tonight [Updated]

Thursday, June 17th, 2010 Update:

Here’s a list of the greatest surprises courtesy of the Boston Examiner‘s Gina Carbone:

  • 30. Kris Allen beats Adam Lambert on “American Idol” Season 9, leaving Simon Cowell seated and speechless (2009)
  • 29. Tina Fey as Sarah Palin on “Saturday Night Live” (2008)
  • 28. Newhart finale is a dream from The Bob Newhart Show (1990)
  • 27. Ellen DeGeneres’ character comes out as gay on “Ellen” (1997)
  • 26. Bobby James Ewing comes back to “Dallas,” with the producers saying the previous season was just a dream (1986)
  • 25. Susan dies on “Seinfeld” (1996)
  • 24. Lucy and Italian lady fight while crushing grapes on “I Love Lucy” (1956)
  • 23. The “All in the Family” premiere (1971)
  • 22. “The Twilight Zone” surgeries twist episode (1960)
  • 21. John Doe mystery patient on “Grey’s Anatomy” turns out to be George (2009)
  • 20. Chandler and Monica’s surprise relationship on “Friends” (1998)
  • 19. Baby mixup between Petrie and Peters on “The Dick Van Dyke Show” (1963)
  • 18. Retired Johnny Carson almost reads top 10 list on “Late Show with David Letterman,” but walks away as crowd continues cheering (1991)
  • 17. Col. Blake’s plane is shot down on “M*A*S*H” (1975)
  • 16. Jonny Fairplay lies about his “dead” grandmother on “Survivor: Pearl Islands” (2003)
  • 15. Michael hits Meredith with his car on “The Office” (2007)
  • 14. Sam reveals his hairpiece on “Cheers” (1993)
  • 13. Janice shoots Richie after he hits her on “The Sopranos” (2000)
  • 12. Joseph curses out and physically challenges Chef Ramsay on “Hell’s Kitchen” Season 6 (2009)
  • 11. Omar is shot by a 12-year-old boy on “The Wire” (2008)
  • 10. Future President Clinton plays saxophone on “The Arsenio Hall Show” (1992)
  • 9. Marie drives car through the wall on “Everybody Loves Raymond” (2000)
  • 8. Burning helicopter kills Dr. Romano on “ER” (2003)
  • 7. Pregnant Texan Jessica Robinson wins the first million on “Deal or No Deal” (2008)
  • 6. Rosalind Shays falls down elevator shaft on “L.A. Law” (1991)
  • 5. John Carpenter uses Lifeline to call his father and announce he’s about to win the million on “Who Wants to be a Millionaire” (1999)
  • 4. Mark Harmon’s secret service agent is killed in a convenience store robbery on “The West Wing” (2002)
  • 3. Marie Osmond faints on live TV after the Samba on “Dancing with the Stars” (2007)
  • 2. Agent Todd is shot in the head after taking a bullet for Gibbs on “NCIS” (2005)
  • 1. Sept. 13, 2004 on “The Oprah Winfrey Show”: Oprah gives all 276 audience members a car. Value? Over $7 million (2004)

Original post:

From 8-9:30PM ET tonight, CBS will be airing “TV’s Greatest Surprises: A Paley Center for Media Special,” which “will count down television’s 30 biggest surprises in prime-time television history with their stars and producers telling the stories behind them,” according to CBS.com. The moments “have been selected based on a survey by Nielsen Entertainment ranked by television viewers.” The Paley Center for Media has a page about the special that includes video clips; the same video clips can be found at CBS.com as part of a video trivia quiz. Although one of the surprising moments is said to be from Dallas (you know the one) I wouldn’t be surprised if the bulk of the moments are from the past two decades. I’d love to be proven wrong, though. Survivor‘s Jeff Probst hosts.


8 Comments

  • The Paley Center for Media has a MAJOR problem: they no longer produce yearly specials [which rotate on all major networks] that celebrate television history and innovation: instead, they “outsource” their specials through independent production companies, and now, it always turns out the same…a “countdown” show of the, say, “25 Greatest TV Belches Of All Time”…and fronted by a host/hostess associated with a top-rated show of the network that’s carrying it [this year, it was Jeff Probst of “SURVIVOR”…UGH!!]. And the excerpts of each “choice” are mostly from the ’70s onward [with the exception of “I LOVE LUCY”], because network executives are worried too many “older” clips {especially those in black and white} would scare away the younger viewers (18-34) their advertisers are trying to unload their products upon.

    Personally, I’d like to ask curator Ron Simon and current president Pat Mitchell if they’ve actually SEEN their specials lately- because if I were the head of a museum that’s trying to preserve TV history and getting people to take its collection seriously, I’d cringe at the content of them, and issue a public apology, promising NEVER to attempt such “cheap” and pandering reality specials (including what I saw last night) ever again! And if that meant walking away from the broadcast networks and presenting future, more meaningful Paley Center specials on cable {where television content is evidently more respected and appreciated these days}, I’d do it!! NO MORE PANDERING to the “lowest common denominator”, no sir!!!!! Television is more than stringing together “countdown” specials {let the E! Entertainment cable channel handle those}. And why the hell should I care what Donald Trump thinks about “THE TWLIGHT ZONE”? Why not, say, someone like William Shatner himself, who starred in “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet”? Or Donna Douglas, who was in “Eye Of the Beholder”? That’s the idea of the Paley Center in the first place…have the people directly involved in the original productions discussing their personal recollections. Or was it because they weren’t “available”???

    I won’t be joining the Paley Center for Media as a member anytime soon….especially if they keep grinding out these mediocre specials.

  • Ken Toops says:

    I’m glad that stupid wardrobe malfunction wasn’t on there!

  • Jeff Wildman says:

    There is little I can add to what has been said by Mr. Grauman about the Paley Center’s “historical” specials that play more like Saturday morning Tween-TV than any kind of credible look at broadcast history.

    If you know anything about the current administration within the Paley Center, it’s little wonder that their integrity as a research and education facility has drifted far from the original concept and intent. William S. would likely be spinning in his grave if he knew what these clowns have done with his initial legacy.

  • RGJ says:

    I will admit to be being surprised that Oprah was “TV’s greatest surprise” and not some moment from a reality show.

  • Mike S. says:

    Barry, as always, has hit the mark. The special was somewhat entertaining, but a letdown for those of us who take television history very seriously. First off, I’d like to know if the survey used as the basis of the countdown allowed respondents to fill in their favorites, or did they have to pick from among 50 or so pre-chosen “moments.” Second, there was little if any context explaining the choices or why they were a “great surprise.” And third, using outside production companies is a lazy way out in my opinion; I’d like to know how much input the Paley Center For Media actually had in the making of the special. Seems to me as if the production company and CBS were dominant.
    I’m on Barry’s side: If the Paley Center truly cared about the history of television, it would get more involved in any future specials and show them on a cable network that cares about television history, leaving the instant pop culture rankings to the broadcast networks and E!

  • Barry I. Grauman says:

    I appreciate your kind comments about my objection to this “special”. Ken, I don’t believe CBS wanted to remind viewers THEIR network was responsible for Janet Jackson’s “wardrobe malfunction” during that 2005 Super Bowl half-time show, so that was deliberately left off the list of choices viewers were given in the voting process….

    As for Oprah’s “surprise moment”, nobody seems to have taped the aftermath, where Oprah’s “face mask” slowly melted away, revealing a Lucifer-like profile, hissing and growling in a sinister gutteral groan, “And now, your souls are all mine!!! MINE!!! MINE!!!!!!!!! BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAA!!!!!!!”.
    ;)

  • pBOB says:

    What no Rhoda running in the streets of New York the day of her wedding? The Darin switch on Bewitched? The return of Jamie Sommers on SMDM?

    IMO Reality shows should have their own list.

  • Mike S. says:

    Of course, Oprah’s surprise moment didn’t help Pontiac, which was cut by New GM five years after her giveaways of G6 sedans. Oprah can do many things, but saving a iconic nameplate from obscurity isn’t one of them.

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