Six Shocking Moments From Mainstream TV

When you really like a particular TV show that you watch week after week at the same time, never missing an episode, you begin to feel connected to it. This is not some two hour movie or two hundred page book that suddenly comes to an abrupt stop. This is an ever evolving storyline with characters who wax and wane emotionally. And often times, while watching those shows, we feel like we are taking that journey with them. Like we are experiencing the ups and downs as the characters do. It makes the whole experience more fulfilling, but it also sets the viewer up for some truly emotionally wrenching moments.

I have compiled a list of some moments from TV shows that have a truly resonating impact on the viewer for a multitude of different reasons. Reality TV is not real TV, though, so do not expect to find any of that chum floating in these waters. Also, be forewarned, there might be some spoilers ahead.

Heroes: Claire Bennet (almost) raped and (slightly) killed

This one is tough for me because I am still bitter towards this show because it started SO strong (season one) and got SO weak (every other season), but I digress. I was completely shocked when this scene happened, either way.


A pretty little high school girl (known for doing mostly Disney films) gets mistakenly killed while some creeper is trying to rape her under the bleachers. That in itself would have been shocking enough, but then to have her wake up on the table with her flesh peeled back and her splayed, wide open from the autopsy, was just insane. This was a prime time show on a major network. This was not some “playing after 10 pm on AMC” type of stuff. This was a show that was bringing in families to watch together. Cue shock and awe, and everyone in the living room, staring at the screen in silence.

I can see inside her. Looks like lasagna.

I still can’t figure out how they pulled this off without getting in a ton of shit for it. Is it because she was an immortal character who could heal herself? Did that make it OK to rape and kill a young girl during prime time and then show us her guts? I still have no idea, but it definitely shocked me when I saw it.

Punky Brewster: Cherie gets locked in a fridge and suffocates

How cruel and unexpected was this episode of Punky Brewster? It goes like this: Henry (the old guy who may have adopted but probably kidnapped Punky) buys a new fridge and puts the old one out in the back yard. The kids play hide and seek, and ofcourse the racist TV writers make the black girl go hide in the old fridge and die.

Apparently the trauma of it all caused her to grow up with loose morals.

Seriously, she hides inside the fridge and no one can find her, and by the time they do SHE HAS SUFFOCATED. The girl is f***ing dead. And then Punky has to perform CPR (that she conveniently learned earlier in the episode) to save her friends life, which she does.

But let’s flashback for a second to THE DEAD LITTLE GIRL SITTING LIFELESSLY INSIDE OF THE FRIDGE. I don’t care who you are or how you were raised, if you were young and watching this episode you got traumatized, straight up. Sorry about the terrible quality of the video, but at least we have footage confirming this.


It is sweet that Punky saves Cherie in the end, but I never got past that idea of the girl, sitting in the pitch black fridge, frantically clawing at the fridge from the inside until she slowly runs out of air and dies. They don’t show THAT part on the show, but that is pretty much how suffocation in a fridge works, so thanks for that, guys. Nothing says “kid’s show” like a dead kid in a fridge.

American Horror Story: Tate shoots up the school

I know just as well as you guys that American Horror Story could have filled this list by itself. That show had more taboos per episode than some whole seaons of shows. It seems its sole purpose was to push the envelope for what could be said and done on TV.

But by the end of the season, it just started to become too expected. You KNEW something vile and insane was coming, and that made it far less insane. Oh, except for that one scene where Tate killed a bunch of his classmates during a school shooting.

Generally, if you see this in the halls of your school, you may want to go home sick ASAP.

You guys need to understand that is about as taboo as you can get, ESPECIALLY on TV. Outside of the (brilliant) Gus Van Sant movie Elephant, school shootings are a subject most movies just won’t even touch upon, never mind TV. And to have a major character be the shooter, and then to have him confronted by the kids he killed, bearing their scars and all, was shocking to see.


Sorry the clip is so weird, but finding an actual clip of the scene has proven to be incredibly difficult, and that clip seems to do best at summing up that scene and the aftermath. Plus, I love the ironic and somewhat literal use of the song Pumped Up Kicks. It fits eerily well with it, actually.

Truthfully, the show ended up being a lot like LOST in the sense that some of the more interesting subplots never truly fleshed themselves out (WHY DID THEY KILL OFF ADDY?), but the school shooting scene was a moment when everyone collectively sat up and said : You are allowed to do that on TV?

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  1. Oh man, out of all of these, Buffy’s mom dying affected me the most. I just sat there completely stunned. Then as soon as Giles came in the house I burst into tears. They did that scene so well, you could literally feel the anguish and disbelief in the room.

  2. “The body” was my favorite episode of Buffy. From her reaction to seeing her mom dead (fixing her skirt so the EMT couldn’t see her legs, cleaning up the vomit on the carpet) to Anya not understanding death and feeling so helpless, it was a great episode.

  3. Buffy was the king of these kinds of moments. I’ve watched The Body a dozen times and still tear up. It’s easily the most heart-wrenching hour of TV you’ll ever see.

  4. Howsabout the scene from the second season of The Wire where pansy little brother grows a pair and slings lead at the electronics store? Just thinking about that I can’t not drop my jaw.

  5. Quick side note: I honestly regret leaving off THE MISFITS, because that show had SO many moments that truly shocked me, but I know so few people have seen it that I feared ruining it for people so I went with scenes on shows I thought would be mostly spoiler-free for people.

  6. Definitely a great list. “The body” Buffy episode was definitely a shocking moment for me though. I had no idea what to say when her mom passed, it was definitely shocking and sad.

  7. Yeah, “Game of Thrones” is shocking… unless you’ve, y’know, read the books.

    News flash: George R.R. Martin exemplifies the TV Trope “Anyone Can (and will) Die.” Putting anything from the show here as being a particularly unexpected or surprising event will fast become like being amazed that in a Harry Potter movie they used those wand things AGAIN…

  8. Add the whole first episode from season 5 of 24 and Michael shooting Ana Lucia and Libby on Lost, but other than that good list.
    (there are quite a few shockers in Lost but that one gets me every time)

  9. @ Someguy WHAT????!!!! GAME OF THRONES IS A BOOK? SERIOUSLY???OMFG!!! You are definitely NOT the first person to use that condescending line to an internet writer, so thank you. I will now go rush out and buy the whole set so as to appease souls like you. Jeez, next thing you’ll tell me Walking Dead is a ongoing comic book or something, and my tender mind would not be able to fathom that.

  10. I guess this list is things that were shocking in a messed up way. But I think the most shocking scene in TV was the end of season 4 of Dexter when Rita was dead. How could anyone see that coming besides 10 seconds before you actually see it. I probably stared at my TV for 5 min after the credits rolled cause I couldn’t believe that actually happened.

  11. What about the whole ending of the Sherlock BBC episode “The Reichenbach Fall.” Anyone familiar with Sherlock Holmes knew what would happen, but I certainly wasn’t expecting the writers to change it up or handle it like they did. The actors were fantastic, and I really thought they had killed him off for real. The whole thing left me feeling depressed for days afterwards.

  12. I’m not going to quibble with your choices, they are all good, though I must admit when I watched that Punky Brewster episode with my then-9 year old daughter, as soon as Punky learned CPR my daughter said, “Uh oh someone’s going to be needing CPR in this show.” The second that little girl hid in the refrigerator my daughter shot me the funniest, “I told you so” look that I burst out laughing. So yeah, I remember laughing at a moment that gave you the heebie jeebies.

    I might add, that since you included Game of Thrones you really should have, in all fairness, included the The Sopranos. Hell, that show made a “Fade to Black” script direction shocking.

  13. ..Pumped up kicks fits the scene….because Mark Foster explained the song’s meaning to Spinner UK: “‘Pumped Up Kicks’ is about a kid that basically is losing his mind and is plotting revenge. He’s an outcast. I feel like the youth in our culture are becoming more and more isolated. It’s kind of an epidemic. Instead of writing about victims and some tragedy, I wanted to get into the killer’s mind, like Truman Capote did in In Cold Blood. I love to write about characters. That’s my style. I really like to get inside the heads of other people and try to walk in their shoes.”

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