Sen. John McCain’s family had announced Friday that he was no longer seeking treatment for his brain cancer. Then, just a day later, word of his death ignited a flurry of alerts, as media outlets tried to deliver the jarring news that the statesman had passed.
For people who first heard the news while watching NBC’s Saturday night programming, though, the jarring didn’t stop at the announcement.
On Saturday night, NBC was airing a particularly bizarre rerun of “America’s Got Talent” that included two sumo-size men who call themselves the Japanese Belly Guys. Then NBC News cut in with a special report.
So one moment, a stone-faced Richard Lui was telling people that the former prisoner of war and 2008 GOP presidential nominee was dead at 81, and the next moment:
For those not acquainted with the comedy duo’s full act, which barely escaped elimination from the AGT judges, the Japanese Belly Guys use a creative array of everyday objects to make sounds with their corpulent torsos.
It is weird even when it’s not juxtaposed with news about a political stalwart who served more than three decades in the U.S. Senate.
The interrupted act that aired Saturday night was a dolphin love story, complete with romantic music and masks shaped like the marine mammals. The performers used air nozzles to make their bellies emit dolphin-like squeaks — which intensified as the ‘dolphins’ moved in for a passionate kiss.
Collectively, the Internet wondered what the gods of media broadcasting had just subjected them to. Some criticized NBC’s timing and suggested that whoever was in charge of the programming maybe shouldn’t be in charge of programming ever again. NBC did not immediately return a call seeking comment.
Some said the late senator would have gotten a kick out of the bizarre moment. Others sympathized, saying the people in the news studio had no control over when news broke.
But the majority reaction was perhaps perfectly summed up by one person with this tweet: “What did I just watch? What the heck?”