- Jesse Pinkman almost died in season 1 of Breaking Bad, but the character’s value led to his survival and helped the success of the show.
- Zooey Deschanel almost didn’t read the script for New Girl due to the show’s original title, which would have drastically changed the series.
- Stranger Things was almost set in New York, but the decision to change the setting to Hawkins, Indiana transformed the show’s atmosphere and storylines.
Some of the most iconic TV shows were almost very different from their final incarnations. The process of creating a television series is a lengthy one, and everything from casting to writing choices can shape what the end product becomes. In some cases, creators go into writing and filming with one vision for the story and come out with another. In fact, this has happened with some of the best TV shows of all time.
Given the strong associations viewers make between TV shows and their characters, casts, and overarching stories, it’s difficult to envision most hits turning out any other way. Learning about original plans for well-known series can be a jarring experience, especially when those plans don’t involve some of the biggest characters and moments present in the finished episodes.
15 Breaking Bad (2008-2013)
Jesse Pinkman Almost Died Early On
Breaking Bad is known for its iconic duo, but Walter White and Jesse Pinkman weren’t originally supposed to be partners for the entire show. In fact, Jesse Pinkman was going to die in season 1, but Vince Gilligan decided not to go through with this plan after realizing the value the character brought to the table (via New York Magazine). Given how popular Aaron Paul’s character and Breaking Bad became, not killing Jesse worked in the series’ favor. It’s hard to envision what Walt’s journey would have looked like without him — and that’s not to mention that Hank Schrader nearly died in Breaking Bad season 1 as well.
14 New Girl (2011-2018)
Zooey Deschanel Almost Didn’t Read The Script
New Girl is one of the most iconic sitcoms to come out in the 2010s, and most immediately associate the series with its lead, Zooey Deschanel. Deschanel plays the quirky and entertaining Jess Day, and it’s difficult to imagine the show without her presence. However, New Girl‘s lead almost didn’t pick up the script to audition. New Girl‘s original title, Chicks & Dicks, alluded to a much different kind of series — one that didn’t initially catch Deschanel’s eye (via Glamour). If New Girl had kept its first title and failed to cast Deschanel, the show would undoubtedly hold a much different place in pop culture.
13 Stranger Things (2016-Present)
The Hit Netflix Show Was Almost Set In New York
Stranger Things is among Netflix’s biggest original series, and its setting contributes to its enduring popularity. The supernatural show takes place in the fictional town of Hawkins, Indiana in the 1980s, and its atmospheric backdrop helps everything else fall into place. Oddly enough, Stranger Things almost took place in New York; its original title was even Montauk, alluding to the Long Island village it would have been set in. While Montauk isn’t exactly Manhattan, the coastal town would have given off much different vibes than Hawkins’ rural, Midwestern location. The original Stranger Things plan also focused more on the adults, killed off Eleven, and could have been an anthology.
12 One Tree Hill (2003-2012)
The Teen Drama Could Have Been A Movie
One Tree Hill ran for nine seasons, but the popular teen drama was almost very different. According to Building a Winning Team: The Making of One Tree Hill (via YouTube), Mark Schwahn initially conceptualized One Tree Hill as a movie. The feature film would have been titled Ravens, an allusion to the basketball team Lucas and Nathan Scott play for. The WB liked the concept, but they insisted it would work better as a TV show. Fortunately, this is the format the teen drama eventually took. A movie would have condensed the characters’ storylines, and they wouldn’t have become so iconic.
11 Full House (1987-1995)
The Sitcom’s Original Premise Was Much Different
Full House is a classic sitcom revolving around a family coming together to raise three girls after their mother dies. However, this wasn’t the show’s original premise. The original Full House was called House of Comics, and it centered on three comedians who lived together. The popularity of other family-oriented sitcoms gave rise to the show Full House actually became. The sitcom kept Joey as a comedian to honor its initial premise. Still, Full House would have looked much different if its storylines focused primarily on three adults rather than a house brought to life by the Tanner children.
10 How I Met Your Mother (2005-2014)
Ted Could Have Ended Up With The Mother
How I Met Your Mother presents itself as the story of how Ted Mosby met his children’s mother, but the show’s ending — one of the most-hated TV finales of all time — flips this premise on its head. It reveals that the mother is dead, and the entire point of Ted’s narrative is to ask his kids’ permission to date their Aunt Robin. It’s an odd choice, and it’s one that almost played out differently. Per Business Insider, the show’s creators were torn about the conclusion. An alternate HIMYM finale almost saw Ted and Tracy staying together. This would have completely changed how the story is viewed in hindsight.
9 Lost (2004-2010)
Jack’s Role In Lost Wasn’t All That Prominent
Although ABC’s Lost had a huge ensemble cast, Jack Shepherd was arguably the show’s main character. He became a leader on The Island, and many of the other plane crash survivors wouldn’t have gotten by without him. Lost originally planned to kill Jack in the pilot episode, a development that would have completely upended everything that came after. Without Jack, another leader would need to arise — or the other characters would have had a much more difficult journey. Either way, there’s no denying that Lost wouldn’t be the same without Jack. Thankfully, the original plan never came to fruition.
8 Cheers (1982-1993)
Frasier Wasn’t Supposed To Be A Regular Presence
Another character who originally had a smaller role, Frasier wasn’t meant to become a regular presence in the 1980s sitcom Cheers. Kelsey Grammer’s character was also supposed to appear for a few episodes, but his performance left a mark on the show’s creators. Not only did they keep him around for longer, but Frasier went on to have his own spinoff series. Although the show without Frasier isn’t totally unimaginable, Cheers would have been somewhat different without his presence — and it wouldn’t have spawned its most popular spinoff.
7 Supernatural (2005-2020)
A Shorter Run Would Have Been Much Different
Supernatural aired on The CW for a whopping 15 seasons, and there’s even speculation about the Winchesters returning for Supernatural season 16. This lengthy run allowed the series to explore many of its supporting characters in further depth, and it took the Winchesters’ journey to some very unexpected places. However, Supernatural was originally meant to be just five seasons. If the show had ended with the season 5 finale, “Swan Song,” Castiel and Crowley wouldn’t have become such prominent characters. Additionally, some of the most iconic episodes, scenes, and villains wouldn’t even exist.
How Supernatural’s Original Five-Season Plan Ended
Supernatural was originally supposed to run for a maximum of five years but is now readying season 15. How did that original plan come to an end?
6 The Big Bang Theory (2007-2019)
The Original Title Suggested A Smaller Scope
The Big Bang Theory‘s original title was Lenny, Kenny, and Penny, and it hinted at a much different approach to the hangout comedy. With Kenny representing Sheldon Cooper in the show’s trio, Lenny, Kenny, and Penny would have focused primarily on the three main characters rather than expanding to have an ensemble cast. Given how much better The Big Bang Theory got after abandoning its initial premise, it’s disheartening to realize the series almost didn’t prioritize characters like Amy, Raj, or Howard. Thankfully, the title change left the door open to switch up the sitcom’s premise later as well.
5 Parks And Recreation (2009-2015)
The Show Was Intended As A Spinoff Of The Office
Parks and Recreation very clearly drew inspiration from The Office, but as it continued, it set itself apart from the earlier workplace sitcom. This would have been more difficult to do if Parks and Rec had become an Office spinoff — the initial plan when the series was in development. If Pawnee’s Parks Department inhabited the same world as Dunder Mifflin, Parks and Rec would have played out very differently. There might have been crossovers and cameos within the two series, and Parks and Rec might never have escaped The Office‘s shadow.
4 Buffy The Vampire Slayer (1997-2003)
Several Absences Would Have Made A Very Different Show
Buffy the Vampire Slayer is a show that’s essential to understanding the 1990s, and its most recognizable characters are still associated with their time on the series. It’s hard to picture Buffy without its central cast, but several members almost didn’t make it into the final product. For one, Sarah Michelle Geller nearly didn’t play Buffy Summers, as a few other actors were considered for Buffy the Vampire Slayer‘s lead role. Additionally, Willow’s actor changed from the original Buffy pilot, with Alyson Hannigan taking over from Riff Regan later on. Fans will be grateful things worked out the way they did, as both actors are perfect in their roles.
3 Game Of Thrones (2011-2019)
It’s Hard To Imagine The HBO Show Without Emilia Clarke
Game of Thrones changed pop culture and fantasy television forever, and its huge ensemble cast is partially responsible for its success. It’s hard to imagine the show without one of its most important presences: Daenerys Targaryen. Emilia Clarke played the character to perfection over Game of Thrones’ eight seasons, but she almost wasn’t the Mother of Dragons in the HBO show. In Game of Thrones’ unaired pilot, Tamzin Merchant played Daenerys instead. Had Merchant been cast, Game of Thrones would have turned out quite differently — and another version of Dany would have dominated the cultural conversation.
2 Succession (2018-2023)
Logan Roy Could Have Died In Season 1
Logan Roy’s death took the world by storm in Succession season 4, but the series would have been much different if he’d perished earlier. Creator Jesse Armstrong actually considered killing Logan at the end of Succession season 1 — and at one point, even at the end of the first episode (via Deadline). Doing so would have changed everything about the HBO series, putting the Roy children in a totally different fight for Waystar Royco. Ultimately, keeping Logan was the right call, as his presence complicated the family drama and showed exactly why the Roy kids were so messed up.
1 The Walking Dead (2010-2020)
Carol Nearly Perished In Season 3
Carol became a fan-favorite from The Walking Dead, and Melissa McBride’s character helped shape the series into what it is today. However, she almost didn’t make it past the third season. Speaking with Looper, creator Scott Gimple admitted that there were plans to kill Carol in The Walking Dead season 3. Thankfully, these didn’t come to be, allowing Carol to blossom into one of the show’s best survivors (and later pop up in spinoffs like The Walking Dead: Daryl Dixon). The original series and the franchise would look different without Carol, even with all the other characters to focus on.
Source: New York Magazine, Glamour, YouTube, Business Insider, Deadline, Looper