I can say from experience that live broadcasting is a place where a lot can go wrong.

I’ve had live microphones cut out because they were zapped by lightning.

Computer systems that could never, ever fail did.

And guests for 9am shows show up long, long past 9, or sometimes not at all.

Those of us in the business can say, hey, it’s just a hiccup on the air. It’s not like anybody died.

Except for one live broadcast where an on-air performer did die.

This was on the program Armchair Theatre, which was a drama anthology series that ran for years on a television network in the UK.

Each story was performed by a company of actors, and they were live.

There were no second takes, no do-overs; whatever happened while the show was on the air is what viewers at home saw.

On November 30, 1958, Armchair Theatre was airing a story called “Underground.”

It was based on a stage play called “Few Were Left,” and even if everything had gone right, it was going to be a somber show.

The actors were all playing people who happened to be in an underground subway station when a hydrogen bomb went off.

So they had to figure out how to survive at the end of the world, with the kinds of conflicts you would expect in such a situation.

The actor playing the antagonist was Gareth Jones (not the journalist Gareth Jones who was the subject of the 2019 movie Mr. Jones).

The show proceeded smoothly through the first few scenes, but not during act 2.

There are different accounts of what happened next.

In one, Jones told the crew offstage that he wasn’t feeling well and then passed out in his seat.

In another, the live actors were waiting for Jones to come back on set and tell them something that would advance the plot, only to watch him fall before he got there.

Either way, he never made it back to the show.

Gareth Jones died, likely of a massive heart attack.

He was only in his thirties!

And, ironically, it’s said that his character was supposed to die of a massive heart attack during the broadcast.

The cast and crew didn’t know they were in the middle of a real-life tragedy.

They only knew a key actor in their live TV broadcast was out, and the show was continuing.

During a commercial break, the producers took the lines Jones would’ve said and assigned them to other actors.

It was the least worst option given the circumstances, but it was still often awkward.

The characters would have to say things like “and if he were here now, I’m sure he would ask,” etc. etc.

The rest of the cast made it through the show.

But it will likely not shock you to learn that, not too long after the broadcast of “Underground,” Armchair Theatre (and really TV as a whole) moved to mostly prerecorded episodes.

In May 2023, a woman in Indianapolis got home from work early in the morning and went out to check her mail.

Authorities say a man pointed a gun at her and took $100 in cash.

Then he asked if she would friend him on Facebook.

She did, but then contacted authorities, who promptly arrested her robber/Facebook friend.

The Tragic 1958 Death Of Actor Gareth Jones During A Live Television Broadcast (Grunge)

A man robbed a woman at gunpoint, then asked her to ‘come chill,’ police say (Washington Post)

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