They come into our lives and become an intricate part of it. They’re there for us in times of happiness, loss, and heartbreak. Often, we can turn to them for comfort during moments that seem hopeless. Other times, it’s all about happiness and the excitement of getting to see them. Sometimes, it’s just once a week for a few months and other times, it can be all at once. Of course, there are also the times when they suddenly change. They might change for the better or they might end up being a shadow of who they once were. No, we’re not talking about family, friends, or loved ones…we’re talking about our favorite TV shows. Well, technically, a TV show could be considered family or a loved one.
Nowadays, there are endless amounts of TV series and a thousand different ways to watch them. Some fans can become obsessed with their shows and will never miss an episode. Many still love to wait each week for a new episode while others prefer to binge-watch. Regardless of what type of show, it’s a pretty great time for television due to the plethora of options. However, some of the most popular TV series will often make drastic changes. In particular, they’ll make changes to the plot of the series. This is done for numerous reasons and the results vary. Some TV series benefited from the change and led to great improvements. That’s not always the case, though, as several TV series were greatly hindered by the changes. Here is a look at 15 Biggest Plot Changes In Popular TV Shows.
15. The A-Team
The A-Team followed members of a Special Forces unit that is on the run “for a crime they didn’t commit.” The A-Team aired from 1983 to 1987 and starred George Peppard, Dirk Benedict, Dwight Schultz, and Mr .T. Each episode usually focused on a self-contained story of the characters trying to clear their names. Initially, the series was very popular and had a growing fan base. However, due to the predictable nature of the format, ratings began to steadily decline, which caused the network to panic. The series was overhauled and went in a new direction. The A-Team agrees to secretly work for the CIA while still on the run. The series took on a Mission: Impossible style and included elements of espionage, politics, and overthrowing dictators. Unfortunately, none of these changes improved the ratings and in fact, had the opposite effect. The series was cancelled after season 5 due to low ratings.
Fringe is one of the few shows that made changes to the plot that greatly improved the series. The series followed the Fringe division of the FBI dealing with supernatural and paranormal threats. It aired for 5 seasons from 2008 to 2013 and starred Anna Torv, Joshua Jackson, and John Noble. Initially, the series was a simple ‘mystery of the week’ show with the occasional monster here and there. Soon, the series moved away from that format and had more long story arcs spanning several episodes and seasons. The show went deeper into the series’ mythology by introducing parallel universes and alternate timelines. Fringe made another drastic change to the plot in the final season when it jumped forward 24 years into the year 2036. The series now took place in a dystopian future where the heroes must restore the past. The series had a bit of a rough start but the changes they made turned the show around.
Smallville followed a young Clark Kent as he struggles to understand his origin and superpowers. The idea was to follow Clark before he became Superman while growing up in Smallville. The series aired for 10 seasons from 2001 to 2011. Tom Welling portrayed Clark Kent to rave reviews. The creators promised “no tights, no flights.” The series started out with strong ratings but they gradually declined over time. In the early seasons, the series was a villain of the week with the occasional story arc. For the most part, it dealt with Clark coming to terms with his abilities and adulthood. However, in season 8, Clark left Smallville to embark on life in the big city of Metropolis. He didn’t officially become Superman but he came pretty close. The series focused on his battles with various villains and his romance with Lois Lane. Regardless of the change in direction, Smallville remained popular with its fan base.
Dollhouse revolved around human operatives known as Active or “Dolls” that are implanted with new false memories each week. The series followed Doll Echo as she went on new missions. The series starred Eliza Dushku as Echo and some of her assignments include assassinations, going undercover, and intimate encounters. The series started off with self-contained stories and the show struggled with ratings. As the show progressed, a series-long arc of Echo becoming self-aware and battling the corporation, Rossum, developed. The ratings were still low but a fan base was growing. The series started to explore the mythology, purpose, and technology of the Dolls. The series gained momentum heading to the series finale but the rating never really reflected that. Towards the end of the series, there is a major time jump into a post-apocalyptic future. Set 10 years in the future, the series would have likely continued in this new format. However, the series was cancelled after two seasons.
11. Prison Break
Prison Break followed two brothers—one who has been wrongfully imprisoned and the other that breaks him out. The series aired for 5 seasons from 2005 to 2017. The issue that Prison Break ran into is that there are only so many ways to break out of prison. The first season did very well in the ratings and focused on Michael (Wentworth Miller) attempting to break his brother, Lincoln (Dominic Purchell), out of jail. In the second season, the series focused on the characters on the run. The second season had very little to do with a prison break. By the third season, they were all back in prison and had to break out again. The fourth season completely shifted focus from a prison break to become a mystery thriller as the characters brought down a conspiracy-filled government agency. The fourth season concluded in 2009 but was revived in 2017. The series returned to the original premise of breaking out of prison.
The groundbreaking sitcom Seinfeld revolved around four friends living in New York. Famously, the series is about nothing and follows the mundane but outrageous aspects of life. Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld created the series that aired from 1989 to 1999. It starred Jerry, Jason Alexander, Julia Louis-Dryfus, and Michael Richards. However, Seinfeld started out with a slightly different premise. In the first season, it premiered as The Seinfeld Chronicles and was more focused on the stand-up aspect of it. The original idea was to follow the lives of two stand-up comedians living in New York. It also didn’t include Elaine (Louis-Dryfus), as Larry didn’t want to do the typical sitcom romance. The series was picked up for a second season and was retooled. In this case, the changes to the plot actually improved the series. There was less of an emphasis on the stand-up and Elaine was added. Both Larry and Jerry admit that Elaine was the missing piece of the puzzle.
9. 8 Simple Rules For Dating My Teenage Daughter
8 Simple Rules For Dating My Teenage Daughter revolved parents Paul and Cate Hennessey as they raised their three kids. In the first season, Paul is put in charge of the kids after Cate accepts a new full-time job. However, Paul tends to be a bit strict especially when it comes to his daughters. The series aired for three seasons from 2002 to 2005 and starred John Ritter, Katey Sagal, Kaley Cuoco, Amy Davidson, and Martin Spanjers. While filming the second season, John Ritter suddenly died of a heart attack. The series was forced to change its premise from a father in charge to a widower raising three kids. The character of Paul was killed off in order to deal with Ritter’s death. The series added James Garner and David Spade to the cast. However, the series never recovered from Ritter’s death and was cancelled after the third season.
8. Baywatch Nights
Baywatch Nights was a spin-off of the massively popular series Baywatch. The series revolved around Mitch Buchannon and Sgt. Garner Ellerbee (Gregory Allen Williams) operating a detective agency. David Hasselhoff reprised his role from Baywatch but the series struggled from the very beginning. The series aired from 1995 to 1997 and initially followed the format of a different murder and mystery each week. However, as the series’ ratings continued to decline, the network felt that a major change was needed. Due to the enormous success of the X–Files, Baywatch Nights switched to a paranormal/science fiction genre. The ‘murder of the week’ format was dropped in favor of ‘monsters of the week.’ Williams left the series and a paranormal expert, Diamont Teague (Dorian Gregory), was added to the series. Regardless, the ratings continued to plummet throughout the second season. The series was cancelled after the second season concluded.
The animated adult sitcom Archer is known for constantly changing up the plot and format of the series. The series revolves around the arrogant and rude Archer Sterling. The first four seasons follows Archer as he works for the fictional spy agency, International Secret Intelligence Service (ISIS). Archer was the best spy in the world working for his domineering mother. At the end of season four, the US government disbanded ISIS, and the characters are out of work. In season 5, the characters used a stockpile of cocaine to start a criminal empire. The series was renamed Archer: Vice and featured the characters becoming criminals in a Miami Vice-style season. In season 6, the series reverted to its original format of a spy series. In season 7, the series made another change when the characters opened their own detective agency in LA. The 8th season was dubbed Archer Dreamland. Archer is in a coma and finds himself stuck in 1947.
6. Happy Days
Originally, Happy Days revolved around teenager Richie Cunningham, his family, and high school friends as they dealt with life in the ‘50s and ‘60s. Happy Days aired for eleven seasons from January 15, 1974 to September 24, 1984. Initially, the series starred Ron Howard as Richie and attempted to depict life in the ‘50s. However, ratings struggled for the first two seasons, which resulted in a change in the series. The series adjusted its focus from Richie to his friend, Arthur “The Fonz/Fonzie” Fonzarelli. Henry Winkler portrayed the ultimate cool guy, The Fonz in a minor role. He ended up being the breakout star and was immensely popular. Howard eventually left the series and The Fonz became the true star. Happy Days became more and more about the wild exploits of Fonzie. The Fonz became one of the most iconic characters in television history…even having his own merchandise.
5. Doctor Who
In 1963, the world was introduced to the time-traveling doctor and his time machine, TARDIS. Doctor Who revolves around The Doctor and his companions as they travel through space and time battling various enemies. The series first ran from 1963 to 1989 and was revived in 2005. Twelve actors have portrayed twelve different incarnations of The Doctor, due to his ability to regenerate. The series is ingrained in British culture and is one the most iconic British figures in television. The series has been enormously successful since the beginning. However, the series was envisioned as an educational program for children targeted at families. The idea was to travel to various time periods to educate children on history. This was the reason to have his companions be his granddaughter and her two schoolteachers. The series soon changed its focus to a more violent science fiction time-traveling series aimed at a much older audience.
In 2004, Oceanic Flight 815 crashed onto a mysterious island. The survivors struggled to live on the island and with each other, while they are all haunted by their pasts. Lost aired from 2004 to 2010 for six seasons and starred an ensemble cast, including Matthew Fox, Evangeline Lilly, Josh Holloway, and Terry O’Quinn. The first season focused on the survivors and resulted in Lost winning the Emmy for Outstanding Drama series. However, with each season, Lost delved deeper into the series’ mythology moving away from what the series first was. Supernatural elements such the Smoke Monster and science fiction elements like the hatch were all introduced. In season three, the series introduced flash-forwards showing the lives of 6 survivors that left the island. However, the biggest change came in season 5 when the series introduced time travel. The series followed two different timelines with one taking place in 1977 and the other in the present.
Apparently, there is nothing better than a vampire private investigator. The producers of Angel had to learn that the hard way. Angel was a spin-off of the beloved supernatural series, Buffy The Vampire Slayer. The spin-off revolved around Angel as he works as a private detective. For the first four seasons, Angel and his associates battled supernatural forces and the international law firm Wolfram & Hart. The series starred David Boreanaz as the tortured soul Angel. The series started off with a huge amount of momentum but gradually declined in ratings. The creators decided to make a drastic change to the plot at the end of season four that many critics believe hurt the series. Angel went from being a neo-noir vampire detective show to being a vampire law show. Angel took over the law firm he’d been battling for four seasons. Ratings declined at a much faster rate, and the series was cancelled at the end of season 5.
2. Family Matters
ABC sitcom Family Matters revolved around police officer Carl Winslow, his wife Harriette, and their family. Well, at least that’s what the show was for a few episodes. Family Matters was a spin-off of another ABC sitcom, Perfect Strangers. From 1989 to 1997, Family Matters was a major part of ABC’s TGIF lineup. Initially, the series was about the every day life of the Winslow family and the difficulties they came together to face. In the middle of season 1, the series introduced the Winslow’s nerdy next-door neighbor Steve Urkel. Jaleel White portrayed the ultra nerd Steve Urkel in a minor role. However, Urkel became the breakout star of the series and eventually, the main character. The series shifted away from The Winslows to focus on Urkel. The series revolved around Urkel and his crush on Laura Winslow, science experiments and many misadventures. Steve Urkel became an iconic figure of the ‘90s.
The medical comedy Scrubs aired for 9 seasons from 2001 to 2010. However, most fans of Scrubs don’t acknowledge season 9 as it had only ruined the series for many people. Scrubs starred Zach Braff as John “J.D.” Dorian. The series was a critically and commercially acclaimed success. The series originally revolved around the lives of interns and doctors at Sacred Heart Hospital. The series concluded its run on NBC with the episode “My Finale.” However, the series was picked up for a ninth season on ABC. The producers had never planned on a ninth season. The series made a major change in the plot for the next season. The setting changed from a hospital to a medical school. A few characters would return in smaller roles but a whole new set of cast members was introduced. The series focused on the new students and the faculty. However, the ninth season completely bombed and was cancelled after only a few episodes.
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