Piers Morgan's royal dramas, 'Love Island' rows, soap shocks: The most controversial TV moments of 2021

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·TV Reporter, Yahoo Entertainment UK
·11-min read
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The year's biggest TV controversies. (ITV)
The year's biggest TV controversies. (ITV)

There have been some truly memorable moments in TV over the past year and not all of them for the right reasons.

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's Oprah Winfrey interview sparked one of 2021's most controversial moments when it prompted Piers Morgan to storm out of a live Good Morning Britain episode, later quitting the show altogether.

Read more: Christmas comes early to ITV with new streaming schedule

But Morgan is far from being the only controversy of 2021's year in TV - take a look back over some of the most shocking moments from the last 12 months.

Harry and Meghan's explosive royal claims

The royals gave a landmark interview. (Harpo Productions)
The royals gave a landmark interview. (Harpo Productions)

Back in March, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle agreed to sit down with Oprah Winfrey for a tell-all interview on why they'd stepped back from royal duties and moved to California.

We expected a few interesting anecdotes, but their shock claims rocked the monarchy and have had repercussions throughout the year.

The couple opened up on Meghan's mental health struggles and the apparent lack of support available to her, and told how an unnamed royal had questioned what baby Archie's skin colour would be before he was born.

Read more: BBC iPlayer releases record number of boxsets for Christmas

A shocked Winfrey was unable to get Harry and Meghan to reveal who had asked the question, and speculation on who could have made the racist comments still continues now.

Harry's other grievances included the top level of security not being available to them after quitting the UK, and he confessed at one point Prince Charles had stopped taking his calls.

Meghan's TV controversies were still going at the end of the year with a cringeworthy appearance on The Ellen DeGeneres Show which saw her drink from a baby's bottle.

Piers Morgan storms out of Good Morning Britain

Piers Morgan stormed out of the GMB studio. (ITV)
Piers Morgan stormed out of the GMB studio. (ITV)

One of the knock-on effects from the Oprah interview led to Piers Morgan famously quitting his role presenting Good Morning Britain.

The outspoken broadcaster, who had never held back on his views about Meghan Markle, angered both viewers and his own colleagues when he questioned the Duchess's mental health claims after the US interview.

Morgan outraged mental health campaigners by appearing to disbelieve that Meghan had felt suicidal, but in the studio his own colleague Alex Beresford told him live on air: "I understand that you've got a personal relationship with Meghan Markle, or had one, and she cut you off. She's entitled to cut you off. Has she said anything about you since she cut you off? I don't think she has. But yet you continue to trash her."

Watch: Piers Morgan walks off Good Morning Britain

The presenter then stormed out of the studio after exchanging a few angry words with Beresford and although he did later return, it set in motion the end of his time as the show's star.

ITV wanted Morgan to apologise to Meghan, but as he refused to take back his views, he decided to quit the show instead and has since announced he will join Rupert Murdoch's new TV enterprise, talkTV.

Since March, GMB has tried out a number of different Morgan replacements - including Robert Rinder, Adil Ray and Alastair Campbell - but has recently signed up Richard Madeley for a more regular gig.

Love Island 2021 is most complained about series in its history

Faye Winter's row with 'Love Island' partner Teddy Soares drew 25,000 complaints to Ofcom. (ITV)
Faye Winter's row with 'Love Island' partner Teddy Soares drew 25,000 complaints to Ofcom. (ITV)

The hugely popular dating show might be a hit with viewers, but it also sparks flurries of complaints each season - and none more so than in summer 2021.

It became the most complained about series in the show's six years on air, as fans registered more than 33,500 complaints with broadcasting regulator Ofcom.

Much of the outrage related to contestant Faye Winter shouting repeatedly at her partner Teddy Soares, accounting for nearly 25,000 of the complaints, and Soares' family also weighed in on the row.

Other issues included the often-used tactic of sending contestants a snapshot of their partners' behaviour during the week they are split up and sent to Casa Amor to meet new prospective partners.

Again, it involved Winter and Soares as the out-of-context postcard, which featured loyal boyfriend Soares, appeared to show him cheating.

Steve Allen bodyshames Tilly Ramsay

Steve Allen shocked listeners. (PA)
Steve Allen shocked listeners. (PA)

Although this controversial moment actually took place on radio, it related to one of the biggest TV shows of the year - Strictly Come Dancing.

Chef Gordon Ramsay's daughter Tilly was a contestant in this year's Strictly and had surprised herself by uncovering some hidden dance talents that saw her soar to the top of the leaderboard on more than one occasion.

However, shock jock Steve Allen took the shine off Tilly's time on the show when he made some outrageously rude remarks about her on his LBC radio show.

Read more: Strictly couples share their most stressful moments of the series so far

Allen said: "She can't bloomin' well dance, I'm bored with her already. She's a chubby little thing isn't she, have you noticed? Probably her dad's cooking I should imagine."

Tilly Ramsay responded with grace. (BBC)
Tilly Ramsay responded with grace. (BBC)

Tilly hit back on Instagram with a classy response, writing: "I try not to read and listen to comments about negativity however recently being called out on a national radio station by a 67-year-old man is a step too far."

She added: "Please remember that words can hurt and at the end of the day I am only 19."

There was an outpouring of support for Tilly and Allen did eventually apologise, but not before a number of other stars including Love Island's Amy Hart opened up on his bullying comments about them, too.

Coronation Street fans outraged by Corey's trial injustice

The killing shocked soap fans. (ITV)
The killing shocked soap fans. (ITV)

One of the big soap storylines of the year was the horrific murder of Seb Franklin (Harry Visinoni) in Coronation Street, inspired by the real-life case of Sophie Lancaster.

In 2007, Lancaster was murdered as she and her boyfriend walked home and were attacked by a gang who targeted them over their Goth appearance.

Corrie viewers saw Corey Brent (Maximus Evans) and his friends set upon Nina Lucas (Mollie Gallagher) and boyfriend Seb in a similar attack, which Seb died from.

Viewers were outraged by Corey's trial. (ITV)
Viewers were outraged by Corey's trial. (ITV)

It was a shocking storyline that upset many viewers, but soap fans were outraged when the case went to trial later in the year and Corey got away with murder.

He had been trying to pin the fatal blow on Kelly Neelan (Millie Gibson) and when the verdict was returned, viewers voiced their anger that Corey was found not guilty while Kelly was sent down.

But justice was eventually served when new evidence of Corey's blood-spattered clothes was uncovered and he was sent to prison, freeing Kelly.

Richard Madeley takes on Good Morning Britain - and I'm A Celebrity

Richard Madeley had his fair share of 2021 controversies. (ITV)
Richard Madeley had his fair share of 2021 controversies. (ITV)

He's the man who inspired Steve Coogan's character Alan Partridge, so a little controversy always follows Richard Madeley around, but the latter part of 2021 has been particularly busy for the broadcaster.

Madeley was snapped up by Good Morning Britain for a number of guest presenting stints after Morgan's departure and has recently landed a more regular role.

Awkward moments on the breakfast news show included him backtracking on whether to wear a mask in crowded shops, "inappropriate" questioning of Sage scientist Prof Susan Michie about whether her affiliation with the Communist Party affected her views, and calling an Insulate Britain campaigner guest "darling".

Watch: Who is I'm A Celeb's Richard Madeley?

More recently, Madeley's departure from this year's I'm A Celebrity on day five was a huge blow to the show after he visited hospital over a minor health issue and was not allowed back in camp because he had broken the COVID-secure bubble.

However, he missed the show's main event, when the camp had to be closed for the first time in oits 21-series history and went off air for a few days to keep the celebrities safe from Storm Arwen which was raging outside.

GB News launch

A comedian pranked GB News. (Screengrab from GB News)
A comedian mooned the channel while it was on air. (Screengrab from GB News)

It was supposed to shake up the status quo of news reporting in the UK, but when GB News launched earlier this year it was hit by a swathe of controversies.

Dan Wootton drew complaints in their hundreds for his first ever show on the channel, where his opening monologue urged viewers to push back against lockdown restrictions.

Viewers had a laugh sending in prank comments to be read out on air and comedian Adam Pacitti went one step further by conducting an apparently serious interview with Wootton and Laurence Fox on video call, but strategically placing himself in front of a mirror which revealed his bare bottom.

Advertisers started to jump ship as they panicked over the channel's content, and even Andrew Neil, who launched GB News, eventually decided to abandon it - as had many of its viewers already.

Celebrities: What's Happened to Your Face? Charlotte Crosby

Charlotte Crosby was shocked by the offensive programme.
Charlotte Crosby was shocked by the offensive programme.

Channel 5 viewers switched off and complained in their droves at a programme in April that criticised Geordie Shore star Charlotte Crosby's appearance.

The reality TV star was rightly outraged at Channel 5 and Crackit Productions, who made the show, too, tweeting a long statement on how hurt and angry she felt.

She wrote: “I have seen how many of you saw it, switched off & complained – many not even 'fans' of me, just good people who know right from wrong. Thank you for that, and for your messages of love and support.”

Crosby added: “Dealing with trolls is one thing, you ignore, you block. BUT where are we as a society when the trolls are the mainstream TV channels? Will they now take responsibility for my dip in mental health and my plummeted self-esteem?

“When is enough enough?Just because we’re in the public eye, doesn’t mean we aren’t human. Fortunately I’m strong enough to deal with it but many aren’t!”

Dancing On Ice

Rufus Hound. Dancing On Ice 2021 (ITV)
Rufus Hound took his chance to call out the government. (ITV)

This year's series of Dancing On Ice was controversial for many reasons - not least, because it featured the highest number of drop outs of any series through injury, illness and positive COVID tests.

But the five celebrities who had to quit early were not the only talking points - one of them, Rufus Hound, used his unexpected success in the first show to make a political point.

Watch: John Barrowman dropped from Dancing On Ice over flashing claims

Calling out the government over free school meals vouchers in holidays which had to be campaigned for by footballer Marcus Rashford, he said: “We live in a world where the people we elect don’t want to feed hungry children, this is the least mad thing that has happened to me in a long time.”

Later in the series Rita Ora performed as a star guest, but it did not go down well with viewers who hadn't forgotten her COVID rule breaking from late 2020 and couldn't forgive, with a number of complaints lodged.

Noel Clarke and John Barrowman sexual harassment allegations

ITV will not air the final episode of Noel Clarke drama Viewpoint on its main channel (ITV)
ITV did not air the final episode of Noel Clarke drama 'Viewpoint' on its main channel. (ITV)

In April, allegations of sexual harassment against the actor Noel Clarke emerged, with more than 20 women coming forward to tell their stories about him.

The disgraced actor had his recent outstanding contribution prize from Bafta revoked and the drama Viewpoint which he starred in had its last episode pulled from the main ITV schedules as the story broke during its run.

Read more: Time's Up UK refutes John Barrowman claim that flashing is not sexual harassment

A further twist to the controversy occurred when an old interview from his days appearing alongside John Barrowman in Torchwood came to light in which Clarke claimed Barrowman repeatedly exposed himself on set.

Barrowman has continued to insist that he was trying to lighten the mood on set, but has been called out by Time's Up UK and dropped from his Dancing On Ice judging role.

COVID controversies at ITV daytime

Lorraine Kelly made her COVID jabs views clear. (ITV)
Lorraine Kelly made her COVID jabs views clear. (ITV)

Unsurprisingly, COVID and its many related rules and regulations proved a rich topic of debate for many a show this year, but it also offered plenty of chances for shock moments.

ITV's daytime shows sparked a number of complaints with chat around pandemic-related issues - notably, Lorraine Kelly suggesting COVID jab refusers needed to be "protected from themselves", and a Good Morning Britain debate on whether it was "time to ditch unvaccinated friends".

This Morning also fell foul of coronavirus controversy when Beverley Turner made an appearance where she claimed the jab wasn't effective and ended up in a heated row with host Dermot O'Leary. Turner was even rumoured to be banned from further appearances because of her irresponsible words.

Watch: John Barrowman opens up on sexual misconduct claims

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