When discussing finales, we have both the series and season variety. For the most part, we will be discussing the SERIES finale because they hold so much more weight. In the age of binge-watching, a series finale is enough to completely turn viewers away. After all, why go through all the ups and downs of an entire series, why dedicate that much time to watching an entire show if the ending sucks? For most people, knowing a show has a weak ending is the kiss of death. Well, many of the shows on this list suffered from bad endings. For fans of the show who went through the experience only to be disappointed in the end, knowing that things might have been different is even worse. You see, many of the entries on this list (10 to be exact) had alternate endings planned out. Most of them even shot alternate endings. In some cases, the alternate endings were shot to throw the cast, crew, and public off the scent. If no one knows which ending is real, nothing can be spoiled. Sometimes, however, alternate endings were shot because the showrunners weren’t sure how they would end it. In a few of those cases, they chose wrong…very wrong.
Listen, alternate endings are neat to think about and see when they’re available, but they don’t change much. The canonical ending is the real ending, and no amount of alternatives can change that. Basically, this is an exercise in what could have been. We’ll look at the alternates endings of 10 shows that were considered and, in some cases, made, but it won’t change the past. What’s done is done. We will also look at a few shows that we wish would have ended differently. Here are 10 TV Shows You Didn’t Know Had Alternate Finales (5 We Wish Did).
15. Twin Peaks
Although it came with the very first episode, Twin Peaks did have an alternate ending that was made. The alternate ending was more like a quick tie-up for the pilot, allowing it to be a standalone mini-movie. They shot an additional 20 minutes of footage that tied up the events and solved the mystery. This was essentially done to ensure that the network could sell the show no matter what. If the network abandoned the show after the pilot, the team could still sell it with the alternate ending to Europe as a completed project. Well, Twin Peaks was picked up and was hugely successful. The additional footage that was shot for the alternate ending was used in other spots throughout the show.
14. The Simpsons
Though “Who Shot Mr. Burns” was a two-part episode that bridged seasons six and seven, it is one of the best-known episodes of The Simpsons and one that countless people have seen, so we thought it would fit well here. When it came time to create the mystery that we all loved, the animation team wanted to ensure the conclusion was kept secret. They withheld all the information from the animators, save one. They then recorded and animated several alternate endings, each with a different killer. The hope was that some of these would be leaked to throw people off the scent of the true killer, but much to their surprise, nothing was leaked. Later, the alternate endings would be aired as part of the “138th Episode Spectacular,” so we all got to see what could have been.
The first season of 24 was enormous. People were obsessed with the show and it was pretty groundbreaking in terms of style and delivery. In the real first episode, Jack Bauer’s wife, Teri, is killed. It was tragic. But the creators were wary about letting it be known that Teri was going to die, so they wrote and filmed three endings, two which had Teri live. These can be seen on the special features of the DVD, box sets, and online. Obviously, Teri’s death was necessary for plot and character development, and it made for one of the more shocking finales of that era.
Many people look at Lost as having one of the most disappointing finales in TV history. There are those who defend the ending by trying to explain it, but understanding it is only half the battle. That is still not enough to excuse how anti-climactic it is. Well, the plan was much different. The plan was to have a finale battle between good and evil while the volcano, the personification of the island’s evil boiling over, was to erupt. The problem was that the network was too cheap and claimed that they couldn’t afford it. This alternate ending would have likely answered more questions than the one we got, but we would have still been left baffled. It just seems that the writers never had answers themselves. They were just flying by the seat of their pants the entire time, creating new questions with each episode without any hope of ever answering them. Lost will go down as one of the most unsatisfying shows of all time.
11. How I Met Your Mother
The king of all terrible series finales. We may never again see such a disappointing final episode—an episode that undoes the events of an entire season in a few minutes and a finale that renders pointless an entire TV series and even the title of the show. This is what we got with How I Met Your Mother. It turns out that the creators had a decision to make and they chose horribly wrong. They had another possible ending, one that tied the series up nicer (but still pretty weakly). There was no divorce, no death, and more happiness. It wouldn’t have been great, but the alternate finale would have been infinitely better than the trash we got.
10. The Sopranos
The Sopranos was one of the shows that changed the entire landscape of television. It was on the cutting edge of the modern TV drama and helped pave the way for the current New Golden Age of television. The show had a huge following and as the series finale neared its closure, the creators wanted to ensure that everything about the ending was kept secret. Partly because of this and partly because they weren’t quite sure how to end the show, they shot three alternate endings. Ultimately, they chose the most controversial and the most ambiguous ending. While it may have ruffled some feathers, the ending isn’t really considered all that bad. The other endings have never been leaked or seen by fans, but we know that they would have been clearer about what happened at the diner. One of the show’s actors, Mark Servitto, said of one of the alternates, “The scene cut as the guy was advancing towards him as if he was about to shoot Tony. It was, I think, less ambiguous that Tony was going to get shot.”
9. Game Of Thrones
Even though we haven’t even seen the finale yet, we already know that Game of the Thrones is shooting/has shot multiple endings for the show. This is in an effort to fight against pirating and leaks, thorns in the side of this show since it was first released. Since no other show is as popular, no other show is at as much risk of having their secrets spoiled. Casey Bloys, the president of programming at HBO, confirmed this by saying, “I know in Game of Thrones, the ending, they’re going to shoot multiple versions so that nobody really knows what happens… You have to do that on a long show. Because when you’re shooting something, people know. So they’re going to shoot multiple versions so that there’s no real definitive answer until the end.” The final season of Game of Thrones is one of the most highly-anticipated season in TV history, so we kind of expected these kinds of precautions.
8. The Hills
The Hills certainly wasn’t our cup of tea, but it was a popular show when it was on and the drama around it created quite the stir. As for the finale, that too garnered a lot of discussion. The show shot two endings. The one that aired is generally considered the weaker of the two, but it was interesting in that it revealed that the final scene was shot on a studio backlot, having a little fun with all the talk about the show being scripted. The alternate finale, one that many see as the stronger finish, had the show’s initial star, Lauren Conrad, return and show up in Brody Jenner’s apartment.
7. Sex And The City
When Sex and the City finally came to a close, people were happy, but those who watched the show were conflicted. The finale seemed a little too neat and tidy and as the creator of the show, Darren Star, has said, went against what the heart of the show was about. “I think the show ultimately betrayed what it was about, which was that women don’t ultimately find happiness from marriage,” he said. “Not that they can’t. But the show initially was going off script from the romantic comedies that had come before it . . . At the end, it became a conventional romantic comedy.” According to the star, Sarah Jessica Parker, they did shoot alternate endings, one which would have had her return to New York City alone and find peace in her friendships, her single life, and the city. That ending would have made perfect sense.
Seinfeld is considered by many to be the greatest sitcom ever created. It was enormous, and the people had insanely high expectations for the finale. When it did come, fans were a little underwhelmed and the reviews were mixed. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t great. There was an alternate ending shot and this can be found as an Easter egg on the DVD set and online. In the alternate ending, instead of being thrown in jail, the gang was found not guilty of their crimes. Neither ending was particularly effective. However, during the seventh season of Curb Your Enthusiasm, Larry David created a Seinfeld reunion of sorts, which “was viewed by many as his attempt at a do-over.” During this episode, Jerry Seinfeld even makes reference to this, claiming that they already screwed up one finale.
5. WE WISH: Dexter
We all know how disappointing the series finale of Dexter was. Hell, the entire final season was pretty weak, but that’s another story altogether. The finale came and went, and Dexter became a lumberjack who apparently abandoned his dark passenger or didn’t. It was silly and massively disappointing. Well, according to Clyde Phillips, an executive producer on the show, there was talk of an alternate ending. In Phillips’ mind, the finale would have been much different, and it would have been much better.
“In the very last scene of the series,” Philips explained, “…Dexter wakes up. And everybody is going to think, ‘Oh, it was a dream.’ And then the camera pulls back and back and back and then we realize, ‘No, it’s not a dream.’ Dexter’s opening his eyes and he’s on the execution table at the Florida Penitentiary. They’re just starting to administer the drugs and he looks out through the window to the observation gallery. And in the gallery are all the people that Dexter killed—including the Trinity Killer and the Ice Truck Killer, LaGuerta who he was responsible killing, Doakes who he’s arguably responsible for, Rita, who he’s arguably responsible for, Lila. All the big deaths, and also whoever the weekly episodic kills were. They are all there. That’s what I envisioned for the ending of Dexter. That everything we’ve seen over the past eight seasons has happened in the several seconds from the time they start Dexter’s execution to the time they finish the execution and he dies. Literally, his life flashed before his eyes as he was about to die. I think it would have been a great, epic, very satisfying conclusion.”
4. WE WISH: Battlestar Gallactica
Even though there were about half the Battlestar Gallactica fans who enjoyed the epic series finale, the other half of fans were left disappointed. The show ended in a strange way that felt unsatisfying. Although there was a nice pretty bow put on the series, many of the major plot lines were left unanswered or incomplete and some that were completed were done so in cheap ways. Speaking to those cheap methods, George R.R. Martin, the author of A Song of Ice and Fire series, chimed in saying, “Battlestar Galactica ends with ‘God Did It.’ Looks like somebody skipped Writing 101, when you learn that a deus ex machina is a crappy way to end a story. Yeah, yeah, sometimes the journey is its own reward. I certainly enjoyed much of the journey with BSG. But damn it, doesn’t anybody know how to write an ending anymore? Writing 101, kids. Adam and Eve, God Did It, It Was All a Dream? I’ve seen Clarion students left stunned and bleeding for turning in stories with those endings.”
3. WE WISH: Weeds
At the end of Weeds‘ third season, the protagonist, Nancy, burned down her entire operation. Obviously, there were still some loose ends that needed tying up, but this would have been an excellent spot to end things. Instead, the show dragged on for a while longer. Fans became disinterested and viewership lagged. The actual series finale that we got wasn’t the worst in history, but it was pretty bad. There were some high moments in the finale and some real low points. It should have been better, and it could have been better if it was done earlier, but money rules all people.
2. WE WISH: Scrubs
This entry might be a little unfair because the finale for Season Eight of Scrubs, the episode that was called the series finale, ended up not being the finale. That episode was great. It summed up the series perfectly. It felt right. But then, the show came back. It came back for an extra season with new actors and a terrible excuse. We watched it and we threw up in our mouths a little. Most Scrubs fans just ignore this finale season because it is a disaster. It should have never been born, so we pretend it never was.
1. WE WISH: Friends
Although we really like the finale of Friends, we decided to include this because the alternate ending that was pitched online by a fan got a lot of love. Really, the way Friends ended was just fine. Some people complain about Ross and Rachel’s somewhat rushed ending, but that had more to do with extenuating circumstances (Jennifer Aniston‘s schedule) than anything else. The final season was also cut back by several episodes, which eliminated some of the lead up to the finale, but that’s besides the point. We enjoyed it and millions of others did too. Still, that didn’t stop one fan from imagining a different finale. In this alternate ending, we are made to realize that we have been witnessing a drug-fueled dream by a homeless and crazy Phoebe the entire time. She would go outside Central Perk staring at the five actors (playing different characters) sitting down inside enjoying a coffee and commenting about how that crazy lady is watching them again. It’s dark but interesting. Though this just blatantly rips off St. Elsewhere, it’s worth discussing.
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