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10 Most Insane TV Show Storylines Ever –

 

Television has always had the ability to wrong foot audiences, far more so than movies. Telling a series of stories over several years has pitfalls unique to the medium: storylines have often been rewritten at the last minute to cover actors whore pregnant, deceased or who simply chose to leave, while changes in vital executive producers, the showrunners, can often mean that season three of a show has a significantly different feel to season two.

And then there are the completely whacked out stories. Not the shocking-but-awesome scenes that come out of nowhere, like The Red Wedding in Game Of Thrones or some of wrestlings best heel turns: the stories that make Twitter explode and give writers like me ammunition for headlines for five days straight.

No, we’re talking about the ones that result in dropped jaws and utter silence. The ones that make you worry for the health of the producers of the show. The ones that make you turn to your family, friends, loved ones and pets and ask What is going on here?

We’re talking about the most insane television storylines of all time and, of course, there are spoilers within, so check yourself before you wreck yourself.

10. Tony Soprano Dreams He’s A Travelling Salesman

Like its spiritual successor Breaking Bad, The Sopranos is littered with dream imagery and metaphor, sometimes actively breaking into the storyline in the form of dream sequences – as it should be for a TV show which, in its formative years, centred around a middle-aged mobster undergoing psychoanalysis. However, the beginning of the final season took it several stages further, and potentially one step too far.

The premiere of season six saw Tony’s uncle, Corrado Junior Soprano, increasingly suffering from dementia, accidentally shoots Tony at the end of the episode, believing him to be his long-dead nemesis Little Pussy Malanga. The following two episodes saw Tony in a coma in hospital while his soldiers, family and rivals schemed and plotted without him and Tony dreamed he was a mild-mannered travelling salesman, who’d lost his wallet and briefcase in a classic mix-up with an individual by the evocative name of Kevin Finnerty. That’s right, creator and showrunner David Chase used this key part of the narrative to have Tony address issues of alienation and mid-life crisis in an existential near death experience.

The riskiest storytelling gamble in the show’s risky history, it paid off when the two episodes were cited as two of the best of the entire series, and the first, Join The Club, would receive two award nominations for best director.

9. How I Met Your Mother’s Final Season Covers One Weekend

How I Met Your Mother initially found itself with unfavourable and mostly unfair comparisons to a similar show about the lives and loves of twentysomething friends in New York City. Twenty guesses what that show was called.

Where How I Met Your Mother parted company from other, similar sitcoms was in its gimmickry. With the titular framing device detailing the conclusion of the story, the show was laden with so many references, callbacks, flashbacks, flashforwards, special episodes, themed episodes and odd narrative devices that anyone unfamiliar with it dipping into it in later seasons would have been forgiven for wondering if some hapless TV executive had lost their minds to hallucinogens.

Season nine, the controversial send-off of the show, was no exception in fact, it was to prove the rule in spectacular fashion, creators Carter Bays and Craig Thomas revealing before the season premiere that the all 24 episodes would form an arc-based narrative taking place over one weekend. At 22 minutes per episode, that’s nearly nine hours of situation comedy, with the situation being a wedding at a hotel one weekend. That’s a skinny premise for a 90-minute movie, never mind a full-length season of a hit sitcom.

Critics are divided as to whether the idea was creatively successful, or just a little stupid, and the series finale certainly turned some heads, the majority of viewers concluding that they had wasted nine years of their lives waiting to meet The Mother.

8. Community’s ‘Darkest Timeline’ Story

How I Met Your Mother may have made its name on gimmicked stories, but Community is the real deal: an off-the-wall sitcom set at a community college that’s given the 21st century television audience some of the wildest and weirdest episodes they’ve ever experienced. Individual stories have seen: a Claymation Christmas episode, a war between blanket forts in the halls of the college, several iterations of the paintball war there are just too many to count, each utterly brilliant in their own way.

But one of the best and most popular episodes of all time, a dinner party at the apartment with the whole group invited, takes the biscuit. Season Three’s Remedial Chaos Theory invites us to explore (via a roll of a die) the various alternate ways in which the evening could have gone had a different member of the group gone downstairs to collect the pizza. Each timeline created was hilarious enough, but the final timeline – dubbed, the darkest timeline, sees Pierce die due to an infected leg wound, Jeff lose an arm, Troy lose his larynx, Annie be committed while Shirley becomes an alcoholic. Britta ends up just dying a blue streak into her hair, indicating that even the darkest version of herself is still clueless. All because Troy went and got the pizza.

The show would return to the darkest timeline later on in the third season, and again in the fourth, as the characters from that alternate universe would attempt to take over the Prime Timeline, in a nod to Star Trek that Community has now managed to completely usurp and make its own.

7. Life On Mars Is About A Trip To Mars

This adaptation of the hit UK drama sees the US version of protagonist Sam Tyler also hit by a car in the 21st century to wake up, inexplicably, in 1973. Where it sharply deviates from the UK version is at the ending, where producers attempt to explain the seemingly inexplicable.

While the UK version of Life On Mars went for two seasons and was given the ending that they intended, season one of the US adaptation would prove to be the only one they got, the show being cancelled part way through. Fortunately for the cast and crew, they had notice of the cancellation in sufficient time to put together an ending for the show. Unfortunately, the ending was uniformly panned by viewers and critics alike as being utterly bobbins. We won’t spoil the ending of the original series for you, as its not the point of this entry and its also really rather good.

The US version, however, has a completely different and tragically literal spin on things both the 1973 version of Sam’s life and the 2008 version were fakes, virtual reality stories programmed by a computer designed to keep him stimulated while in hibernation on the first manned trip to Mars. Yes, they decided that the title should actually explain the mystery.

Sometimes it’s a wonder how some people in television keep their jobs. Still, the US version starred Harvey Keitel as Gene Hunt. Thats some heavyweight casting.

6. The Lost Season Six Flashes

ABC

Avid watchers of ABC’s Lost were treated to a whole lot of skipping about in time during the six season run of the show, with flashbacks taking up half the narrative of the first three seasons, and flashforwards beginning in season four (well, technically earlier, but that’s another story). As if that wasn’t confusing enough, actual time travel (as opposed to the story itself dancing backwards and forward it time) reared its ugly head in the story in season five, with half of the main cast having escaped the island, while the other half travel back in time on the island to the 1970s.

Season six, however, treated us to something entirely different: flashes sideways apparently. The finale of season five saw the survivors, trapped in the past, attempt to detonate a hydrogen bomb on the island in order to prevent the original plane crash that began the series. It honestly makes much more sense when you’ve seen the show. Okay, maybe not much more.

With the cast returned to the present day once more and utterly flabbergasted as to a) why they were still on the island and b) why, if the bomb hadn’t reset history, the blast hadn’t just killed them (the audience was none the wiser), the now-traditional intercut flashbacks began showing viewers a different world of Lost€ a world in which, it appeared, the plane crash actually had not occurred. Had the detonation of the bomb instead created an alternate timeline?

No, was the less than emphatic answer come the series finale. The apparent alternate timeline sideways flashes were in fact glimpses of a metaphysical afterlife that the protagonists had created in order to find each other after death, recall the most important time of their lives, and content, find the freedom to move on to whatever was next one last example of Lost playing mind games with its audience before calling it a day.

5. The Entire Final Season Of Fringe

Always the crazy mad scientist cousin to The X-Files conspiracy-obsessed lone gunman (and there are plenty of theories that suggest that Fringe actually takes place in the same universe as The X-Files, making it a successor in more ways than one), Fringe actually one-upped itself come the abbreviated final season. Well, it was a J.J. Abrams show.

Already dealing on a daily basis with the kind of strange phenomena that would make up the oddest X-Files episodes, the protagonists had, throughout the first four seasons, been visited by strange men, Observers, with alien physiologies and mindsets. Even the episodes which didn’t feature Observers would have one of the bald, albino men in suits somewhere in the background.

At the end of season four, we were suddenly yanked into the future, where in 2035 the Observers had subjugated the human race, revealing themselves to be the human race from the 27th century. The entire rest of the show would be a dystopian post-apocalyptic guerilla war to restore history. Utterly bananas.

4. Dallas Wipes Out Its Entire 9th Season

Beginning with the funeral of series favourite Bobby Ewing, long-running prime time soap opera Dallas would proceed without him, whipping up 31 episodes of high-octane, high-quality frothy nonsense over the course of the 1985-1986 television season. But the usual melodramatic intrigue, Machiavellian scheming and shoulder-padded fury was interrupted in the season finale, Blast From The Past, which saw plot threads being brought towards a devastating, explosive conclusion only to have heroine Pam Ewing awake in the next scene in her own bed.

Hearing the shower running, Pam went to investigate, to find her dead husband Bobby wishing her good morning, as the utterly barmy finale freezeframed on his face, then cut to credits. The beginning of season ten the following year would reveal that the entire of season nine had been a particularly vivid dream of Pams, and the ninth season would henceforth be referred to as the Dream Year.

It wasn’t the last time such a device would be used to retcon massive amounts of story. Most memorably, in 1990, US sitcom Newhart would end with the entire thing from start to finish having been a cheese dream of series star Bob Newhart’s previous sitcom character in The Bob Newhart Show.

In 1988, on the other hand, hospital drama St. Elsewhere would conclude with the implication that the entire show had been a dream in the mind of an autistic child but thats a whole other can of worms.

3. Baywatch Nights Becomes Kolchak The Night Stalker

In 1995, David Hasslehoff produced a spin-off of his hit series about hot lifeguards in tight red swimming costumes, intending it to be a detective series along the lines of Magnum, PI. That’s exactly what the first season was about, with his lifeguard Mitch Buchanan starting a detective agency with a cop character from the main show. They would follow basic police and detective drama plots involving unsolved murders, kidnapped damsels in distress and amusing undercover work.

The oddest story involved Buchanan dressing up in drag. With series ratings plummeting (possibly after viewers saw David Hasslehoff dressed as a woman and panicked), the Hoff decided to go for broke in season two and capitalise on the recent runaway success of The X-Files. Season two, with no explanation, premiered as a science-fiction and supernatural investigation show, the pop rock theme tune replaced by one of Hasslehoff’s own songs, the credits full of candles, skulls, screams and immense, immense amounts of cheese. Storylines suddenly included aliens, demonic possession, mummies, ghosts, holographic Dungeons & Dragons games, vampires the kitchen sink probably made an appearance as well.

The sea change in the show didn’t help ratings, and season two would see Baywatch Nights axed.

2. The Horrifying Dinosaurs Series Finale

For those who don’t remember, Dinosaurs was kind of like The Flintstones or Roseanne, only with anthropomorphic puppet dinosaurs as the blue collar sitcom family, the Sinclairs. Appearing in the early nineties, Dinosaurs saw traditional sitcom storylines played out for younger viewers to a laugh track. So far, so fluffy despite the high concept and the puppetry, it wasn’t a million miles away from the family sitcoms it followed, and certainly wasn’t a parody like The Simpsons or Family Guy.

Then the show was cancelled, and the series finale aired in July 1994, and families across America were traumatised for life. In the final episode, due to an environmental catastrophe caused entirely by the hubris of the dinosaur population, an Ice Age begins to set in, and everyone we’ve ever met during the course of the four seasons of the kiddie-friendly show freezes to death. It was genuinely that horrifying.

The last scene sees the Sinclair family huddled together in their home for warmth while the anchorman on their television wishes everyone Goodnight. Goodbye. And then the camera pans outward to show the family home gradually covered in snow.

If you were a kid in 1994s USA, that’s probably how you lost your innocence, right there.

1. Felicity Travels Back In Time

Debuting in 1998 as a part of The WB Networks parade of lightweight dramas featuring wiseacre teenagers with self-referential dialogue, Felicity’s unique selling point (aside from the hairstyle of the titular protagonist) was that it followed the course of the heroines college life.

Created by a then-unknown J.J. Abrams, each season was intended to specifically represent a year of college, from freshman and sophomore through to junior and senior, and episodes would, unusually for shows based around college, actually show the cast attending classes and, you know, learning things, as well as learning important things about themselves of course. Throughout its run, the show was your usual tangle of love triangles, misunderstandings, break-ups, make-ups and delayed gratification for audiences, just like fellow teen drama Dawson’s Creek, which debuted the same year.

Where Felicity differed was in the final season, which was intended to finish entirely as expected: with Felicity, our strangely self-obsessed and mop-headed heroine, finally choosing which boy to settle down with, as she and the rest of the cast graduated college. And then, at the eleventh hour the network decided to give the show an additional five episodes. Rather than shunt them in before the projected finale, producers decided to give themselves and their dwindling audience one last little treat. Time travel. Yes, Felicity would, through means of a magical spell, travel back in time and affect her own past, making a series of different decisions in an effort to change the place her life had ended up in, and in so doing completely screw up the lives of all the people around her (not that she’d ever cared about that kind of thing).

The series would finally bow out with her mature and considered reflection that she’d made the right decision after all, and that there had been little point in trying to change history just as audiences had been screaming at her for five whole pointless episodes. Well, it was a J.J. Abrams series.

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