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This year's most epic live TV fail

Last month, the most famous family in the world was probably that of Robert Kelly, a previously unknown professor of a South Korean university. Kelly and his family were the protagonists of one of the most viral TV fails in history, viewed around the world million of times. Interestingly, their family blooper raised not only laughs, but also some serious social debate about racial stereotypes.

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Last month, the most famous family in the world was probably that of Robert Kelly, an American professor of Political Science at Pusan National University in South Korea. On 10 March Kelly was speaking on Skype from his home office, giving a live interview on BBC World News. The BBC was asking him about the dramatic political situation in Korea when, all of a sudden, a different kind of drama began. Kelly’s 4-year-old daughter Marion gatecrashed his home office. “I think one of your children just walked in,” said the interviewer. Kelly tried to push his daughter away, but into the room strolled his 9-month-old son James. A moment later, Kelly’s Korean wife Jung-a Kim ran in and frantically dragged the two little intruders out of the office. Kelly, clearly embarrassed, apologized and finished his interview.  

From family blooper to global sensation

Kelly was convinced that no television network would ever call him again to speak. He was wrong. The BBC chose Kelly’s interview as its favourite live TV moment of the week. The video quickly went viral on Twitter and became very popular on YouTube. Kelly and his family became internet memes. Media outlets around the world showed or posted the video of the blooper. Probably hundreds of millions of people saw it. Professional and amateur comedians did spoofs and parodies of Kelly’s BBC interview. Comedian Trevor Noah even called it “the greatest moment in the history of television. Ever.” Noah also said, jokingly, why he thought Kelly did not get up from his desk to lead his children out of the room: because he probably wasn’t wearing any pants!  

Press conference

Kelly and his family returned to BBC News for another interview to talk about the blooper, their sudden fame and their family life. They also spoke to many other journalists. “I made this minor mistake,” said Kelly about not locking the door to his home office, “that turned my family into YouTube stars. It’s pretty ridiculous.” Kelly assured everybody that he and his wife do not mistreat their children. Maybe Kim had been a bit forceful in getting them out of the office, but that’s because she was trying to save the interview. He also said that he did not fight with his wife after the blooper and they did not punish their children for gatecrashing his office. Kelly also said that the event was not staged, as some people had suggested. The interview, he added, simply caught “a regular family off guard.” At the end of the day, he and his family were happy that their blooper had made so many people laugh – it was “pretty hysterical,” he admitted. Kelly, answering another question, also added: “yes, I was wearing pants!”  

Harmless assumption or outright racism?

Besides laughter, the family blooper sparked some serious social debate. Many people believed that the Korean lady in the video was the nanny, not Kelly’s wife. For some it seemed a reasonable assumption. They claim that Kim’s attitude seemed that of a nanny who had lost control of the children and who was worried she might lose her job. For others, making this assumption was a clear sign of stereotyping, if not of outright racism. They argue that if you think that an Asian woman in a white man’s house can only be a nanny, then you are jumping to a racist conclusion. Would you have thought the same if the woman had been white? Kelly himself said that the assumption that Kim was the nanny made them “pretty uncomfortable.” For sure, the video offers an opportunity to reconsider one’s assumptions: are they based on facts or on stereotypes?  

Useful websites: 1) Here is the video of Robert Kelly’s interview and an article on the social debate it initiated: 2) Here’s an excerpt of the follow-up interview with Kelly and his family. Check out the ‘read more’ link too: 3) Here is the transcript of their press conference: 4) Here’s comedian Trevor Noah’s comment on “the greatest moment in the history of television. Ever.” 5) What if it had been a woman in Robert Kelly’s place? Check out this funny parody: 6) Here’s a parody of the Kelly interview that plays on racial stereotypes:


COMPREHENSION 1) Read the article and complete the sentences with the right alternative. 1. Marion and James
  1. were invited into the office.
  2. entered into the office without asking permission.
  3. were already hiding in the office.
2. Robert Kelly is Jung-a Kim’s
  1. interviewer.
  2. father.
  3. husband.
3. Kelly believed that his BBC interview was
  1. a success.
  2. his last television interview.
  3. the best TV moment of the week.
4. The BBC
  1. helped Kelly’s interview become viral.
  2. tried to stop Kelly’s interview from becoming viral.
  3. did parodies of Kelly’s interview.
5. The BBC called Kelly again because
  1. they wanted him to apologize.
  2. they wanted to ask him personal questions.
  3. they wanted to ask him about South Korea.
6. The family blooper happened because
  1. it was staged.
  2. Kelly hadn’t locked the door to his home office.
  3. his wife mistreats their children.
7. Kelly said that after the interview
  1. he got angry with his wife.
  2. he mistreated his children.
  3. he didn’t get upset at his wife or at his children.
8. Kelly admitted that
  1. his children were hysterical.
  2. the failed interview was hysterical.
  3. the people who found the video funny were hysterical.
9. Kelly considers his family
  1. a normal family.
  2. a special family.
  3. a troubled family.
10. Kelly’s failed interview proved that
  1. most people are racist.
  2. Asian women usually work as nannies.
  3. some people made incorrect assumptions.
  VOCABULARY 2) Complete the sentences with the following words. blooper  *  forceful  *  to spark   *  spoof  *  stereotype  *  off guard  *  to stage  *  to gatecrash  *  to jump to conclusions  *  frantic  *  hysterical  *  outright  *  media outlet  *  intruder 1. A humorous mistake on television or in a film is called a 2. I admire her very much: she has a ______ and determined personality. 3. You are judging them too hastily. You are ______ . 4. She was ______, acting out of desperation. 5. ______ means both very funny and emotionally uncontrolled. 6. A light parody is called a 7. An example of a ______ is saying that all Chinese people are good at kung fu. 8. ______ something means to produce it for public view; for example, you can ______ a play, an event or a protest. 9. The ______ got into the house through the window and stole the television. 10. He was not invited! He ______ the party. 11. ______ means completely and openly. 12. Lightning hit the tree and ______ a fire. 13. Newspapers, radio, television and the Internet are all ______ . 14. You caught me ______. I was not expecting to see you here.   GRAMMAR – Making questions 3) Look at the statements that Robert Kelly made during his press conference. Write the questions he was answering:
  1. ______________________________________________________
The woman in the video is my wife, Jung-A Kim, not my nanny.  
  1. ______________________________________________________
The first child to enter is our daughter, Marion.  
  1. ______________________________________________________
The second is our son, James.  
  1. ______________________________________________________
No, Jung-A did not use too much force in removing the children from the room.  
  1. ______________________________________________________
No, I was not shoving Marion out of the way.  
  1. ______________________________________________________
Yes, I was wearing pants. I choose not to stand, because I was trying to salvage the interview.  
  1. ______________________________________________________
No, this was not staged.  
  1. ______________________________________________________
No, we did not fight about the blooper afterward.  
  1. ______________________________________________________
Our floors are hardwood, which is why Jung-A slid into the room.  
  1. ______________________________________________________
We have no comment on the many social analyses of the video. SHORT ESSAY 4)  Do you think it’s acceptable to assume that Jung-a Kim was the children’s nanny, or do you think that such an assumption is an unfair stereotype? Explain. (60-80 words)   5) Kelly’s interview is just one of a long line of TV bloopers. Is there one that you know of and that you find particularly funny? Describe it. (60-80 words)

(Carlo Dellonte) (Image credits: screenshots from BBC)  


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