The Tellie Sage: The Top Ten TV Shockers

In honor of Najai’s tragic release from this world, revealed after Sunday night’s shockfest of a Contender, I present to you a list of my Top Ten TV Shockers

A few things to keep in mind.

1. Moments are taken from both bona fide reality TV shockers and the oh-so-juicy telegraphed goodness of serial fiction that someone slipped under my prophetic radar.

2. TV twists are not always good ones. Sometimes they betray the “inner truth” of otherwise well-developed characters, simply because TV producers understand the power of the cliffhanger curveball. Shocked audiences talk about shocking moments with other budding audience members. If the shocker is an especially juicy one, more viewers will tune in. So who cares if the twist sucks as long as it is still makes you pee your pants.

3. I have a terrible memory and have only watched about six shows regularly in all my life. The only show I watched for a span of three years (post Xena and Star-Trek Voyager and circa 2000-2003) was Survivor, so you might notice a slight bias.

4. Many of these twists involve sudden deaths. There are two reasons for this. Killing off characters unexpectedly is about the most shocking thing you can for an audience desensitized to everything else. Two, what better (and more insensitive) way to honor the suicide of the Contender’s Najai, than with a list of the most shocking TV deaths?

Finally, you will not see Who Shot J.R.?, Janet Jackson’s Wardrobe Malfunction or Ashlee Simpson lip syncing her way into the Britney Spears Hall of Fame on this list, because I didn’t really care about these shocking TV moments, and because this is my Top Ten list, not Entertainment Weekly’s.

So without any further ado and with an exciting backwards countdown, here are the Top Ten TV Shockers:

10. Jenna Morasca leaves prematurely on Survivor: All-Stars to visit her ailing mother! On episode 3 of the disappointing Survivor reunion-fest, the same femme-bot competitor willing to go naked for PB and who fought against all odds as a spoiled rich kid to take home the gold in the Amazon decides to throw in the towel when her psychic energies (i.e. Survivor producers) inform her that there is more important things to life than another million dollars. The surprise Rob-to-Amber finale proposal and Richard’s crotch-tastic harassment of Susan were juicy runners-up.

9. The Ken Jennings legacy on Jeopardy! Sure, by the time know-it-all Ken Jennings won his 67th game, we were recovering from our cardiac shock, the very fact his name became a household item is worthy of making this list. No doubt the egghead’s inevitable defeat (episode 75 by Nancy Zerg) and the other 14 times contestants in Jenning’s winning games answered Final Jeopardy correctly when Jennings did not are the true shocking moments of his fifteen minutes of fame.

8. The truly unexpected death of fan favorite, Joxer, on Xena: Warrior Princess! Even after Xena had begun its slow and steady decline into plots so convoluted they’re too retarded to be predictable, this twist was a stand-out surprise. In episode 5.21 (“Eve”), Xena and Gab thaw out from a 20-year cryogenic ice-mountain sleep so that Xena’s daughter Eve can get the chance to grow up evil and end up killing Old Joxer! Shocking? It’s a scene even more anticlimactic than those season two Groundhog Day cycle-deaths we Xenites all know and love. What’s most bizarre, on a show infamous for its repeated killings and later resurrections of principal characters, Joxer never comes back to life and is only briefly seen in Hades and one of the devilishly clever future episodes (6.20 to be exact).

7. The Rock defeats Seven-of-Nine in Star Trek: Voyager guest-spot! In the classic Tsunkatse (6.15) episode of TV’s best Star Trek series, Seven of Nine is captured by aliens and forced to fight, Running Man-style, in barbaric gladiatorial combat televised for the masses. Her first match is against the hulking Champion (the Rock before he would grace the silver screen as the Scorpion King) and somehow, the Borg hottie actually loses! While some may cite the very existence of this gem of an episode as the real surprise, any media savvy historian isn’t so naïve. They will recall that underdog TV station UPN was ravings-rapturous at the time and reckoned, when it comes to Sweeps Month stunts, even sci-fi and wrestling are fertile grounds for TV cross-breeding.

6. Are You Hot? the Search for America’s Sexiest People is somehow not popular and gets all but canceled! Contestants competing to be declared ‘hot,’ and tearing up in the testimonials when told they’re ‘not,’ and Lorenzo Lamas as one of three esteemed celebrity judges should’ve made Are You Hot? the next ABC Who Wants to be a Millionaire? How America could deem itself ‘above’ this tres bonne superficial corn is beyond me. We’re talking the same folks that made Joe Millionaire popular and watched The Littlest Groom. In this same category: how Frasier managed stay on the air for over a decade!

5. Nina Mayer kills Jack’s wife on the first season finale of 24! Squarely proving that bad twists can be good twists was this sudden revelation that fellow Counter-terrorist Nina Mayer was EVIL all along! In the heartpounding 23rd hour, Jack Bauer is seconds too late when he returns to the CIA headquarters to discover the DEAD body of his beloved wife. Nina Mayer is not only an opportunistic bitch working for other bad guys, but she kills in cold blood just for good measure. Nobody could’ve predicted it because it wasn’t predictable. Nina’s dark side was obviously written into the final episode because any early hints might’ve made it less exciting a twist. Meh, I still shit my pants.

4. The accidental death of beloved Maude Flanders in the Simpson’s! Forget the lame answer to Who shot Mr. Burns? Killing off biblethumper Maude Flanders with a scarely big-time bleachers accidental plunge was jaw-dropping at its damn-diddly-damndest! Sure the show periodically advertises its big ticket shockers (the aforementioned Burns and an Ellen-sized coming-out party) but it was the permanent cartoony demise of Mrs. Flanders that puts the Simpson’s on the charts.

3. A big fat loser named Ruben Studdard defeats Clay Aiken on American Idol 2. … I thought the American people had a little taste.

2. Ayna gets torso-chopped in half in the series finale of Buffy! We knew someone would bite the bullet in the Sunnydale showdown of the century, but who decided it would be the lovable ex-Wish demon!? With fantasies of Buffy movies still dancing in my head, I must now dread a Buffyverse without my all-time favorite useless-but-hilarious character. Of course, they really should’ve seen it coming. Pairing Ayna with the closeted dork Andrew to guard a wing of the school was possibly the dumbest thing Buffy’s ever done.

1. Gretchen is the first target of Evil Richard’s alliance on Survivor: Borneo. Brainy, articulate, courageous, useful: Gretchen was the premiere definition of Survivor castaway, until obese Richard and lazy Sue proved it takes a lot more than leadership and outdoorsy skills to survive in the middle of no-where. At least where you survive by voting off people better than you. Sure any Survivor-savvy mastermind wouldn’t allow a Gretchen to last five seconds in a modern incarnation, you must admit her ousting was a gut-wrencher to say the least. But why does this one top the list? Gretchen is the first and only TV reason that I cried myself to sleep. Yes I’m serious.

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