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20 Ways Your Favorite TV Shows Were Almost Completely Different

 

TV shows don’t always go to plan. Sometimes low-ratings will mean the network pulls the plug, others the lead actor walks away, necessitating a complete rejig of the series.

But where TV has the advantage is the ability to adapt almost on the fly. Most U.S. network shows, for example, can flip things around mid-season if something isn’t working, or at the very least use the summer break to change things up, which can lead to plans being altered.

Other times it might be the conception stage, with various plans being tossed around before the idea that will then make it to air is settled upon. Pitches are made, altered, scrapped, and whatever the reason, there are a number of beloved, celebrated TV shows that came close to being very different at various points of their run.

20. Only Fools And Horses – Who Wants To Be A Millionaire Was Going To Be The Finale

BBC

Only Fools and Horses ran for seven series from 1981-1991, before returning for a number of special trilogies that would eventually end with 2003’s Sleepless in Peckham, becoming one of the most iconic British sitcoms in the process.

However, at one point it looked like the series was going to have to wrap-up in Series 5, after David Jason announced his intention to leave the show. The episode Who Wants To Be A Millionaire was going to be the finale, which would see Del Boy heading off to Australia, with creator John Sullivan planning a spin-off centred around Rodney, titled Hot-Rod.

Luckily, Jason had a change of heart and the series continued, but if he hadn’t then we never would’ve had Del falling through the bar, the Jolly Boys’ Outing, or the Trotters dressed as Batman and Robin.

 

19. Angel – Kate Was Going To Have A Much Bigger Role As A Villain

Mutant Enemy Productions

Kate Lockley is one of the most infamous instances of a TV character disappearing without a trace, having been an important part of Angel’s first two seasons before leaving due to actress Elisabeth Röhm having scheduling conflicts.

While Season 2 started Kate down a path of being anti-vampire, it would’ve been taken a lot further had she stayed on the show. The plan was for her to become an associate of Daniel Holtz, a vampire hunter, with a father-daughter-like relationship with him.

This eventually became new character Justine Cooper, but the impact on Angel (both the character and show) would’ve been far greater with Kate involved, and likely would’ve stretched beyond Justine’s time on the show too.

 

18. Seinfeld – Costanza Could’ve Been Played By Chris Rock Or Danny DeVito

NBC

It’s hard to imagine Seinfeld without the core cast of Jerry Seinfeld, Jason Alexander, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, and Michael Richards, but one of those was almost very different.

Talking on The Howard Stern Show back in 2015, Alexander reveals that the role of George Costanza was hotly-contested, with the likes of Steve Buscemi and Alan Grier at least testing for it.

What’s more, though, is that both Chris Rock and Danny DeVito were offered the part before Alexander and turned it down. Alexander’s performance, and his chemistry with Seinfeld, is a huge part of the show’s appeal, and it’s impossible to imagine anyone else in the role, and DeVito and Rock both would’ve been very different kinds of Costanza.

 

17. Supernatural – It Was Going To Be About A Reporter Investigating Urban Legends

The WB

Supernatural creator Eric Kripke spent around a decade developing the show before it made it to air back in 2005.

Originally planned as a movie, it then became an anthology TV series, before he settled on the idea of it being centred on a tabloid reporter travelling around the country, fighting demons and investigating urban legends in the name of uncovering the truth.

This was the pitch he initially tried to move forward with but, when The WB turned it down, he came up with the idea of the characters being brothers and the Supernatural that’s been running for 13 seasons was born.

 

16. The Office (U.S.) – The Farm Was Going To Lead To A Dwight Spin-Off

NBC

Although The Office was flagging creatively by Season 9, it was still a popular series for NBC and one they were looking to continue in any way possible.

The plan, then, was for a spin-off based around Rainn Wilson’s Dwight Schrute, with episode The Farm set to serve as a backdoor pilot for the series, whcih would see Dwight running Shrute Farms.

However, the episode was badly received by viewers, leading to the project being scrapped. Although it wouldn’t have necessarily altered The Office itself, it would’ve further impacted upon its legacy, and given fans another reason to lament the direction the show had gone in.

15. 24 – Teri Bauer Originally Survived

Fox

The Season 1 finale of 24 concludes with the shocking death of Teri Bauer, irrevocably changing the nature of the series and the character of Jack.

However, it wasn’t always the case that Teri was going to die, and indeed the decision wasn’t made until the last possible minute. Two alternate endings were shot, one which had Teri being shot but surviving, and another where the trigger was never pulled, with deliberation over whether the show needed a more upbeat conclusion, before execs eventually decided she had to go.

Given how much impact this had on Jack’s life and development, it would’ve been a completely different series had she lived.

14. Firefly – There Was A Seven Season Plan

Fox

Few TV shows have been so tragically short-lived – and subsequently mourned – as Firefly. Joss Whedon’s space western was cancelled by Fox before its first season had even ended, but has gone on to become a cult classic, along with receiving a follow-up movie, Serenity, to tie up some loose ends.

However, it needed much more than just one film to conclude everything, because Whedon’s vision would’ve seen the show run as long as Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Although he hasn’t revealed specifics on what would’ve happened, he has spoken before of having a seven-year plan for the series and its characters, which the show, even based on just one season, was definitely set up for. Had it happened, fans would never need to lament one of the great modern TV tragedies, but instead would celebrate (had it kept up the same quality) an all-time great series.

13. Lost – Jack Was Going To Die In The Pilot (And Be Played By Michael Keaton)

ABC

Although Lost took its time to focus on all of the survivors, Matthew Fox’s Jack was at the show’s very core, with the series starting and ending with him.

That wasn’t always the case, though, because Jack was originally set to die early on. As in, halfway through the very first episode, with the character being eaten by a monster.

As if that’s not different enough, the show was also looking to cast a name actor to better sell the shock of the death, with Michael Keaton being eyed for the part (Fox, meanwhile, initially auditioned for the role of Sawyer).

12. Peep Show – It Was Conceived As A Beavis & Butthead Style Comedy

Channel 4

Peep Show is one of the U.K’s finest sitcoms, with central figures Jez and Mark becoming increasingly demented over the course of nine seasons, but the initial plan would’ve had them even more deranged from the get-go.

The series was originally conceived as a sort of live-action Beavis and Butthead show, which would’ve seen Jez and Mark commenting on various TV shows, with the point-of-view angle used to show their view of the television.

It was changed when David Mitchell and Robert Webb wanted to get more from the characters, but the POV style remained. It was obviously for the better, and yet, somehow, this might just have worked too.

11. Doctor Who – Hugh Grant Could’ve Been The 9th Doctor

StudioCanal

With a history spanning over 50 years, it’s no surprise that there have been various cancelled plans for Doctor Who, and indeed various actors who’ve almost played the Time Lord (perhaps most famously, Brian Blessed turned down the part of the Second Doctor).

In terms of ‘NuWho’, though, the one who really stands out is Hugh Grant, who turned down the chance to play the Ninth Doctor ahead of the 2005 revival.

Grant himself has expressed regret at turning it down, and while Eccleston did a good (and underrated) job it would’ve been fascinating to see what he brought to the role.

The actor hasn’t done much sci-fi work, so that would’ve been interesting to witness, and if he could’ve brought some of the same eccentricity and theatrical nature he’d later deliver as a villain in Paddington 2, it could’ve been something wonderful, and very different from Eccleston’s version.

10. The Simpsons – Kamp Krusty Was Pitched As The First Movie

20th Century Fox

The premiere of Season 4, Kamp Krusty was a strong episode to kick off one of the very best seasons of The Simpsons, but it could’ve been a much bigger affair.

After seeing a cut of the episode, producer James L. Brooks called the writers and suggested that it instead be used as the basis for a feature-length movie. The writers, however, had already stretched the episode out to fill the run-time, and felt it wasn’t possible to turn into a movie.

The issue thankfully wasn’t pressed much further, but had the network really forced it then this could’ve been the very first Simpsons movie, 15 years before the one we actually got. Had it happened, it would’ve had a real impact on the production of the show, right in the middle of its golden age.

9. The West Wing – The President Was Only Supposed To Be A Supporting Character

NBC

The President wasn’t initially going to be in The West Wing at all, at least not properly. Instead he’d merely be someone that was occasionally glimpsed in the background, to keep the focus on the staff.

Once they realised that wouldn’t quite work, they brought in Martin Sheen for the pilot, plus sporadic appearances from that point out, with the actor only signing on for four episodes at first.

Aaron Sorkin and his team were so impressed, and also realised audiences might find it strange to only catch occasional glimpses of the President, that they brought him in full time, and Jed Bartlett became a leading figure in the show, with Sheen winning numerous awards for his performance.

8. Jessica Jones – It Was First Developed For ABC

Marvel

With sex, graphic violence, and themes surrounding sexual abuse and addiction, Jessica Jones is among the darkest superhero stories ever committed to the screen, but it would’ve been a lot lighter had the original idea gone ahead.

Before Netflix stepped in to build a whole universe, showrunner Melissa Rosenberg had developed the series for ABC, the network who’ve since produced Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

And while it still would’ve contained some of those themes to be true to the character, there’s no way they could get away with as much on ABC as they have Netflix, meaning it would’ve been a completely watered-down version of the show.

7. Frasier – Niles Originally Didn’t Exist

NBC

It’s impossible to imagine Frasier without Niles. The character is crucial to the success of the show, giving Frasier someone to spar with and elevating its farcical nature, with David Hyde Pierce and Kelsey Grammer complementing each other perfectly.

But there’s a reason the character of Niles, or just the idea of Frasier having a brother, was never mentioned on Cheers: he didn’t exist.

There were no plans to introduce a sibling for Frasier during the conception of the show either, until one of the casting directors found a photo of Pierce and showed it to the creators, pointing out how much he looked like a younger version of Grammer. Before long they were looking at tapes of his previous performances, and the character of Niles was created.

6. Buffy – Tara Was Going To Return From The Dead

Mutant Enemy Production

Joss Whedon is no stranger to killing off characters, and ranking high among the most devasting deaths in his shows is that of Tara, who was fatally shot by Warren in Season 6’s Seeing Red.

While the death had a massive impact on the show and Willow’s character, there were plans in place for her to return in Season 7.

The idea was that Buffy was going to get one wish, which she’d pretend to Willow she’d used on shoes. Willow would then question if she’d *really* used the wish on footwear, to which Buffy would reply “of course not” and leave the room, with Tara then appearing behind Willow.

It sounds like another tearjerking moment, and would’ve altered the make-up of the final season, but a deal couldn’t be worked out with actress Amber Benson and the moment never happened.

5. How I Met Your Mother – Victoria Would’ve Been The Mother

CBS

How I Met Your Mother’s creators Craig Thomas and Carter Bays may have had the ending planned for years – it was even filmed at the time of the second season – but they did have a contingency plan.

When the series looked like it’d end with Season 8 – before CBS negotiated the 9th and final season – the creators said that they planned to reveal Victoria as the mother.

Quite how they’d have managed to work the character into things like the yellow umbrella and being Cindy’s roommate is anyone’s guess, and it also would’ve meant no Cristin Milioti, no drawn-out Season 9 wedding plot, and no How Your Mother Met Me.

4. The Walking Dead – Andrea Was Going To Last

AMC

If there’s one character that fans of The Walking Dead really disliked, even more than Lori, it was Andrea. Annoying, selfish, and nothing like her badass comics counterpart, the character was the worst translation made from page to screen.

Thankfully, she didn’t stick around too long, with the character unceremoniously killed off in Season 3. It might’ve been a waste of what should’ve been a great arc, but it would’ve been difficult to turn things around.

Had they stuck to the original plan, though, then that would’ve had to have happened. Actress Laurie Holden has revealed that she had an eight-year deal, which would’ve involved her character getting together with Rick and following the same arc as she does in the comics. At Walker Stalker Con back in 2016, Holden said:

“I was supposed to end up with Rick. I was supposed to save Woodbury on a horse, and I was buying a house in Atlanta. I got the call at 10 o’ clock the night before, while I was shooting, from the showrunner who is no longer a part of The Walking Dead, saying that they couldn’t write the episode and that he was killing my character. So we all got the script everybody on the set was sobbing. I felt like I got shot. None of it was supposed to happen the way it did.”

3. Friends – Courteney Cox Could’ve Been Rachel

NBC

While Friends almost wasn’t called Friends, it’s likely it still would’ve had the same success with a name like Insomnia Cafe or Six Of One, and that’s because of the cast. It’s impossible to imagine anyone else in those roles, and the chemistry between the six main actors made the show a huge hit.

Courteney Cox will always be known as Monica Geller, but she initially auditioned for the role of Rachel Green. The producers obviously had interest in casting the actress, but ultimately decided she was a better fit for Monica.

Jennifer Aniston, on the other hand, was originally set to audition for Monica. However, when the producers decided Cox was a better fit, they had her read for Rachel instead. So had things gone a little different, The One With Two Parts could’ve been the whole show.

2. Game Of Thrones – The First Pilot Was Very Different

HBO

Game of Thrones is now the biggest show in the world, so much so that it’s insane to think that it struggled in its earliest stages.

The pilot episode, Winter Is Coming, is a brilliant hour of television, but it’s not the first version of the Season 1 premiere to be made. A very different version was initially shot, which included different actresses in the key roles of Daenerys Targaryen (Tamzin Merchant) and Catelyn Stark (Jennifer Ehle), and was directed by Thomas McCarthy.

Among the reported differences are less of a focus on the Starks, more formal language, and longer scenes that dragged on, with major issues being cited around the lack of understanding of characters and relationships. Due to the negative reaction, creators D.B. Weiss and David Benioff took the unusual step of reshooting almost the entire thing with a different director (around 90% was redone) and had they not done that, who knows what kind of life the show would’ve had, if any at all.

1. Breaking Bad – Jesse Was Going To Die In Season 1

AMC

For five seasons we witnessed the descent of Walter White and the rise of Heisenberg, but right alongside him was Jesse Pinkman.

A criminal with a good heart underneath it all and expertly played by Aaron Paul, it may have been Walt’s arc that gripped us, but it was Jesse everyone was rooting for, and without him a lot of Walt’s story just wouldn’t have worked (killing Jane, for example, is the major turning point for his character).

Jesse, though, wasn’t supposed to make it past Season 1. The original plan was for him to die during the first season, and even when the writers’ strike cut it severely short, they were still going to have Tuco kill him in the finale. Vince Gilligan, however, realised how much potential Paul had and ended up changing his mind, and writing his way into TV history instead.

 

 

 

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