TV audiences can be a fickle bunch. With competition on every channel, writers have to make sure that they are crafting engaging characters with compelling story lines. Sometimes, this is easier said then done and writers are forced to get creative, or lazy as the case may be, in order to inject new life into a fledgling show.
Occasionally these gambles pay off, but most of the time audiences are left wondering what went wrong. And then there are some TV shows that went so far off of the deep end, many questioned what the writer’s were smoking when they thought up these twists.
Here are 12 TV Shows That Got Really Weird.
12. Twin Peaks
When the body of the Homecoming Queen in the fictional town of Twin Peaks is found washed up on a beach wrapped in plastic, an investigator with the FBI is dispatched to solve the murder. This 1990 serial drama created by David Lynch and Mark Frost was a top-rated show and a critical darling. The strength of the pilot catapulted the show in the nation’s collective psyche unlike anything else that had come before it.
Starting with a simple, yet captivating, premise, Twin Peaks poised the entire country to ask, who killed Laura Palmer? As audiences watched each episode with bated breath, the show quickly became an examination of American society and culture, criticizing and sometimes parodying small town America. The series was known for being unsettling in its depictions and examinations of characters, often employing offbeat humor and campy acting, which added to the surreal nature of the show.
With double lives, conspiracies, visions and supernatural elements, including extradimensional space and ghosts, Twin Peaks became like a fever dream of weirdness. Declining ratings forced the shows creators to reveal Laura Palmer’s killer mid-way through the second season, while the following episodes continued to explore the seedy underbelly of a supposedly picturesque American town, but with the resolution of the murder, the bizarre happenings in Twin Peaks simply weren’t enough to keep people interested. The show has been incredibly influential, and is even poised for a return on Showtime in 2017, proving that, once again, the owls are not what they seem.
A culturally significant television series, Lost had fans obsessing over every little detail, ranging from set pieces to bits of dialogue. The original promotional material for the first season makes the show seem as though it is a sort of modern reimagining of the Robinson Crusoe story, with a group of plane crash survivors struggling to stay alive on an uninhabited island. Even those of you who never watched the iconic series know that what the show was actually about was much, much bigger than that.
Starting off as a fairly straightforward show, Lost quickly spun out of control with cryptic clues, bizarre happenings, frustrating cliffhangers and unique flashbacks, flashforwards and flash-sideways. The show sought to examine big questions like faith and spirituality, all under the guise of time travel, alternate timelines, conspiracies, ancient conflicts, fringe science, the supernatural and a dude who’s winning lottery numbers are seriously bad luck.
With plot twists galore and theories that are still being debated today, Lost skirted definition by jumping in and out of genres and bending them to its will. Regardless of how you feel about the series as a whole, Lost was a unique television show, the likes of which we may never see again.
The story of a sheltered high school student, The titular character of Felicity is Keri Russell (before she became a Soviet spy in The Americans), setting off into the world naïve and ready to discover herself. Of course this journey of self discovery begins because some guy she was crushing on in high school writes in her yearbook. Crazy we know, but not weird. Not yet at least.
So Felicity’s inner-stalker kicks in and she heads to New York City. In addition to the normal academic and social pressures of college life, Felicity finds herself in a romantic triangle with her high school crush and her hunky resident advisor. It’s fairly standard young adult drama from there, as evidenced by the fact that the incident which caused the most buzz is the one where Felicity decides to get a haircut.
The fourth season (aka senior year) rolls around and we finally get to see how Felicity’s decisions will shape her entire life. There’s regret and heartbreak, but ultimately these hardships have made Felicity a stronger, more grounded woman.
Nope, just kidding. Instead, Felicity travels back in time to the beginning of her senior year so she can “fix” all of the “mistakes” she made, officially making the most interesting thing about this show Keri Russell’s fantastic follicles.
9. The Flintstones
This Hanna-Barbera cartoon has been one of the most enduring pieces of pop culture in television history. Even if you’ve never seen an episode about the denizens of the Stone Age town of Bedrock, you know who Fred and Wilma Flintstone are, and we’re betting you can even picture what they look like in your mind.
The Flintstones have been around so long that patriarch Fred and his best bud Barney were shilling for cigarettes during commercial breaks. After five seasons, ratings were slipping and the writers scrambled to find a way to make The Flintstones fresh. Their solution was the addition of a little green alien named The Great Gazoo.
Fred and Barney stumble upon a flying saucer that has crash landed in Bedrock and meet the tiny floating alien. Despite constantly mocking the Stone Age buds for being stupid, Gazoo tags along for the remainder of The Flintstones run. The Great Gazoo has the ability to teleport, travel through time and materialize objects out of thin air, however these fantastic powers were often used to indulge in Fred and Barney’s crippling gambling addictions and further oppress their subservient wives. It was a simpler time.
8. Battlestar Galactica (2004)
Humans create advanced robots called Cylons and use them as a slave race. The robots realize that they’re getting a raw deal and rebel against their creators. This sparks a war that sees the human race getting wiped out in one fell swoop, save for a fleet of ships comprised mostly of civilians. The last military warship, the Battlestar Galactica is the last beacon of hope for humanity’s survival.
After a number of seasons of space dogfights and sexy women who may or may not be robots, the show ended with the survivors of the war heading for Earth. When they arrive, they decide to shun all of their technology by hurtling it into the sun, viewing their technological achievements as inadvertently causing the war that resulted in the near-annihilation of the entire human race.
The series then cuts to present day New York City, with two of the main characters of the show walking down a sidewalk, seemingly unseen by the people around them. The two ghostly apparitions take notice of various computers and other high tech devices, and discuss whether history is meant to repeat itself, revealing that the events of the series took place in the ancient past, and not the distant future. Minds were officially blown.
7. St. Elsewhere
The pioneer of modern medical dramas, St. Elsewhere was a series that featured aging doctors who were training interns life saving techniques and critical decision making. The series gained recognition for its gritty, realistic portrayal of the professional lives of hospital staff, and for launching the careers of several Hollywood mainstays, like future Oscar winner Denzel Washington.
The series developed a cult following, and eagle-eyed viewers of the show were treated to numerous crossovers and allusions to other popular television shows at the time, including an episode where some of the doctors go to grab a drink at Cheers, and the names of various characters from other TV shows being announced over the hospital’s loudspeakers.
For the majority of its run, St. Elsewhere was, by today’s standards a fairly standard medical drama, save for the series’ final episode. The finale depicted Tommy Westphall, the autistic son of one of the show’s main characters, holding a snow globe, the inside of which housed a replica of the hospital where the show took place. It is heavily implied that the entire series is a figment of the boy’s imagination.
As mind blowing as that is, if that interpretation is correct, then a staggering amount of TV shows ranging from Cheers to every iteration of Law & Order to The X-Files are all a product of the boys imagination, as a result of the series’ crossovers and nods to other shows.
An extremely popular primetime soap opera that ran for fourteen seasons, Dallas was a series that revolved around the wealthy, feuding family members of a Texas oil tycoon. The series was originally developed as a modern take on the Romeo and Juliet story, with the children of two feuding families getting married despite their families’ history.
Their love story turned tragic by the end of the eighth season however, as Bobby Ewing, Romeo to Pam Barnes’ Juliet, was killed. In reality Patrick Duffy, the actor who portrayed Bobby, wanted out of the show in order to pursue other projects, but once Dallas had lost quite possibly the only character who was a decent human being, ratings began to slip faster than the BP oil leak of 2010.
Producers from the show managed to coax Duffy back, but since his character was killed and Dallas was a realistic drama devoid of witchcraft and sorcery, writers had to get creative. Nah, we’re just kidding. They simply brought Duffy back in an infamous shower scene and proceeded to tell everyone that the entire ninth season was a dream. Shockingly, the show stayed on the air for another four years.
Dan Harmon’s meta-comedy is one of the best examples of a cult hit in recent memory. A brilliant and legitimately funny show that featured numerous pop culture references, Community often lampooned and parodied various television and movie tropes.
In the beginning, however, Community was a much more straightforward comedy, featuring a dodgy lawyer who goes to a community college to re-obtain his law degree after he is disbarred for having faked his college education. Along the way, he meets a variety of kooky characters who he develops long lasting friendships with while studying for exams in the school’s library.
Also, they are turned into puppets, experience various alternate realities including one that’s pretty dark, are turned into zombies after eating tainted Army surplus rations, jump on a trampoline in a seemingly magical secret garden, and a bunch of other weird stuff that proves Community was one of the smartest shows on television.
The success of Roseanne proves that everybody loves a show about a blue collar family who experiences bouts of unemployment as long as those family members do so in a self-deprecating manner. Generally considered one of the greatest TV shows of all time, Roseanne tackled some heavy issues, all while deftly balancing humor and drama. The Connor family was one that virtually all of middle-class America could relate to, and one that was instantly more recognizable than the majority of depictions of families on television at that point.
In addition, Roseanne was a trailblazer for how female characters were written for the small screen. The show is often credited for being one of the first to show a female-dominated household and where the likability of the female characters were not a direct result of their appearance.
For all of the things Roseanne did right, the ninth and final season of the show felt like a completely different show. Abandoning the theme of the daily struggle of blue collar life, the ninth season saw the Connors winning the state lottery to the tune of $108 million. The episodes are all borderline surreal, like the one were Roseanne stops a terrorist attack aboard a train with Steven Seagal.
As questionable as all this was, the most eye rolling decision was to reveal that the entire series was a memoir that Roseanne Connor had written about her life, and to further infuriate audiences, she claims that she twisted major plot points around, rendering the entire series as nothing but a figment of a fictional character’s imagination.
3. Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Joss Whedon’s Buffy was a strong female character who was chosen to be the world’s only defence against the evil creatures of the Hellmouth. With her middle aged advisor/librarian and group of friends affectionately known as the Scooby Gang, Buffy faced down vampires, demons and any other nasty that reared its head in the idyllic town of Sunnydale.
All of the characters that populated the Buffyverse well loved by fans of the show, that is, until the fifth season with the introduction of Dawn, Buffy’s younger sister. Not only was Dawn was a brat who fans couldn’t stand, but her very existence had fans struggling to make sense of the show.
For four seasons, Buffy was explicitly referred to as an only child, however when Dawn showed up, no one questioned her sudden appearance. All of the characters in the show accepted her as if she was there from day one, something that didn’t sit well with fans.
This was ultimately explained by stating that Dawn was some kind of “key” to interdimensional worlds and, to keep her out of the hands of some bad guy, she was planted with Buffy so that she would keep Dawn safe. To achieve this, everyone was brainwashed into thinking Dawn was always there, through some sort of magic mumbo jumbo, but Dawn actually is a real girl, and is actually Buffy’s biological sister, or something. Even in a show where supernatural occurrences are commonplace, this was a tough pill to swallow, especially since Dawn was so annoying.
2. Family Matters
Even though this sitcom stars Reginald VelJohnson as a police officer, sadly, Family Matters was not about the Twinkie loving cop from Die Hard. Instead, this show was a paint-by-numbers sitcom featuring the day-to-day lives of an African-American family living in Chicago. Audiences weren’t terribly impressed with the show, so the writers decided that they needed to inject some novelty into the show to make it a little more appealing.
That is when TV audiences were introduced to Steve Urkel. Originally meant to be a bit-character, Urkel proved to be so popular (the character even had it’s own breakfast cereal, Urkel-O’s), that the writers had no choice but to make him the center of the show.
Family dynamics went out the window in favor of a cliché nerd. Of course, an accident-prone walking catchphrase with a fondness for cheese tends to get played out rather quickly, and writers had to find a way to keep audiences interested. Which of course meant making Urkel into a mad scientist.
Urkel inexplicably turns into an expert in fringe science and has no hang ups about tinkering with the very fabric of space time, like when he and Carl Winslow go back in time and hang out on a pirate ship. Or that time they went into outer space. Or that other time Urkel cloned himself as “Stefan Urquelle” and proceeded to engage in a love triangle with himself, all decisions which made the title of the show increasingly irrelevant.
1. Baywatch Nights
Baywatch was never exactly highbrow entertainment, but it was one of the most popular television series on the planet due to its schlocky and provocative action. Hoping to capitalize on the incredible popularity of the show, series creators decided that a spinoff was a surefire way to milk some more green out of the Baywatch cash cow.
The idea that they ran with was one where The Hoff’s Mitch Buchannon and that dude who rode the quad up and down the beach hang up their red swim trunks and solve beach-related crime as private detectives.
The notable absence of slow motion shots of buxom women running down the beach resulted in less than stellar ratings for the spinoff, so the creative team decided to take the show in a new direction in which The Hoff and company became low rent versions of Mulder and Scully.
The second season of Baywatch Nights featured a human/fish hybrid, vampires, a reanimated Viking warrior, werewolves from Yugoslavia, a homicidal computer game, vengeful spirits, space spores that spawned a deadly alien virus… you know what? This show is more than weird, it’s crazy. Crazy awesome.
Can you think of any other shows that got a little too weird for comfort? Let us know in the comments!