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2015’s most shocking TV moments

As we approach the end of the year, it’s a time for nostalgia, togetherness, and getting gout from too much port and stilton. It’s also time to consider the most important question: which shocking TV moments had us spluttering into our tea in 2015?

Madonna falls over

So this was the year the Queen of Pop became the Queen of Falling Over on The BRITs, which we can all agree is a rather less prestigious title. To be fair, it wasn’t remotely her fault – blame the backing dancers who’d yanked on her cape – but that didn’t stop the media treating it like it was the single most catastrophic and embarrassing moment of Madge’s career. Clearly they forgot the time she starred in Guy Ritchie’s Swept Away.

Bill Turnbull says the c-word

Spoons dropped into cereal bowls across the land when Bill Turnbull – the BBC Breakfast presenter who constantly comes across like a quietly petrified supply teacher at an inner city school – dropped the c-word on live television. Admittedly he was just mangling the words “customers” and “clients”, but his little pause beforehand made it almost seem like a deliberate, joyous act of rebellion against the daytime TV gods. And check out the little cheeky look he gave to the camera afterwards. He’s basically our generation’s Sid Vicious.

Ferne eats a spider

We’re still not entirely sure who or what a Ferne McCann is, but this apparently famous entity made us all writhe and squirm on our sofas by stuffing a live spider into her face on I’m a Celebrity. Among viewers, opinion was divided. Some were all like “Respect, yo!” and others were more like “This is wanton animal cruelty in pursuit of easy ratings” – a criticism which would equally apply to any scenes featuring a sweaty, sunburnt Duncan Bannatyne.


Lenny Henry became Sir Lenny Henry in 2015, and ITV celebrated with a montage of clips from his sparkling career – including footage of Ainsley Harriot dancing with maracas in a comedy club. OK, this probably wasn’t so much deliberate evil racism as it was accidental dunderheaded idiocy, but it still made us cringe hard enough to dislocate various vertebrae. Especially as the montage was played at the precise moment Sir Lenny was talking about diversity in the media. Oh.

Bruno’s b*llocks

When you’re curled up relaxing to Strictly, the last thing you expect is an excitable Italian man swearing right in your face. But that’s just what professional flamboyance-monger Bruno Tonioli did when he described a performance as “the bull’s b*llocks”. Cue apologies from everyone, as well as unintentionally amusing revelations in the media about Ofcom’s official swear word acceptability scale. Apparently, Bruno’s pronouncement is in the second lowest category, alongside “bloody” and “crap”. So now you know.

Deja Who

There were more brilliant Capaldi scenes in this year’s Doctor Who than you could waggle a sonic screwdriver at. But the truly staggering “mind = blown” bit was the revelation in Heaven Sent that the Doctor been trapped in a giant castle for over four billion years, constantly getting killed and resurrected in a near-infinite cycle of pain and punishment. That moment when you realised all those mountains of skulls belonged to endless dead Doctors… that was a moment.

Scott quits The Apprentice

Lord Sugar’s not someone who’s easily surprised or ruffled. He is, by any measure, an unruffleable man. But even he looked slightly wrong-footed when Scott Saunders decided to quit this year’s Apprentice, despite being on that episode’s winning team. Turns out he’d had enough of an unbelievably wealthy TV personality constantly attacking his personality right to his face in return for the slender possibility of getting investment for an inevitably doomed business venture. Smart lad, really.

Olly Murs: whistleblower

The ubiquitous Olly Murs came unstuck on The X Factor when he announced a contestant was being eliminated before the results were actually announced. This was naturally taken as 100% definitive proof that the X Factor is a fix, rather than 100% definitive proof that Olly Murs is a blathering flappy-mouthed fool. The man himself brushed it off, saying “you need to put it in perspective with everything that's going on in the world”. Olly Murs: not as bad as Syria.

Lord Grantham’s gore geyser

Downton Abbey is meant to be comfort telly. But anyone watching a certain dinner table scene this year would have been forgiven for thinking they’d channel-hopped onto some kind of misguided costume drama reboot of Alien. Lord Grantham’s exploding ulcer made him go all John Hurt in front of his horrified dining companions, with bumper amounts of blood and writhing. There was absolutely no need for such horror on a show like this, which made it all the more traumatising/glorious.

Bobby did it

Evil children. You’ve got to love them. Think of the lethal moppets in Village of the Damned. Damien in The Omen. Macaulay Culkin in Home Alone. To this list we can now add Bobby Beale, who was revealed to be his own sister’s murderer in a particularly shocking EastEnders episode. It was an enjoyable ridiculous twist in the Who Killed Lucy Beale? storyline – all that’s now left is for Lucy to step out of the shower to reveal it’s all been a dream. That would be… great.

Noah gets guzzled

Revolving doors are nightmarish at the best of times. The way you have to change your walking pace and get your timing just right and then immediately adjust your pace again to keep up with the speed of rotation… why BOTHER? Why not just have a DOOR? But it’s even worse when you get trapped in one by marauding zombies which then literally tear your face open in one of television’s grossest ever death scenes. Just ask Noah in The Walking Dead. He knows.

Lance’s death scene

Cucumber was one of the best shows of 2015, partly because it veered from comedy to tragedy in the exact same maddening way that real life does. It started as a blackly comic tale of a gay couple splitting up and hitting the dating market for the first time in ages, but just as we were settling into the romantic japes and capers, one of the men was abruptly bludgeoned to death by a would-be lover. The most shattering death scene of the year? We’d say so.

McDreamy departs

Let’s be clear: Grey’s Anatomy is a soppy, soppy show. If the act of listening to Adele while eating ice cream and staring at photos of your ex on Facebook was somehow turned into a TV drama, that drama would be Grey’s Anatomy. But they outdid themselves this year by killing off their resident heartthrob, Derek “McDreamy” Shepherd in the most protracted and emotionally punishing way possible. On the plus side, he looked so hunky while lying braindead in a coma.

Lady Colin’s cuss words

Lady Colin Campbell is essentially a shocking moment made flesh, and that’s why she was the absolute best thing about this year’s I’m a Celebrity. Whether she was calling someone a “vain old goat”, a “self-important little runt”, or casually pondering the hotness of various footballers in the manner of a creepily flirtatious nan, she provided excellent car crash telly value throughout. 

Big Brother’s big brawl

“Hag be quiet! Hag be quiet!” Thus spoke reality telly star Farrah Abraham on a now-notorious episode of Big Brother’s Bit on the Side, seconds before literally coming to blows with Aisleyne Horgan-Wallace. Filming had to be temporarily stopped as Aisleyne reportedly threw a glass and actual physical injuries were sustained. Credit has to go to Rylan, who had to face the nation and apologise for the “matter that just happened”. Truly he is the Dimbleby of rubbish reality shows.

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