So, you have your ratings-healthy TV show and everything is going well, but with an end on the horizon, just how do you close things out? With pressure from the Powers That Be and from adoring fans, most people are out for blood when it comes to TV finales.
No one likes knowing how their favorite show will end, and it is up to the team behind the scenes to keep us shocked and satisfied in equal measure. Whether you decide to kill off the lead, put together some star-crossed lovers, or simply end with a cut to black, ending a show is often even harder than bringing it to our screens in the first place. Shows like Prison Break may have risen from the TV graveyard once more, but with every show having some sort of definitive ending, there are so many options that the writers go through before they settle on the one that airs.
While no TV finale is ever going to be able to please everyone, there are those that nearly got a very different close to their final chapter. Sometimes the other option could’ve been the better choice. With that in mind, here are 15 Amazing Alternate Ways TV Shows Were Supposed To End.
15. How I Met Your Mother
Will anyone ever stop lamenting over the How I Met Your Mother finale? After 208 episodes, fans finally got the reveal that “Mother” was Cristin Milioti’s Tracy, but the happiness wasn’t to last. In a particularly grim twist, Tracy had been dead for six years, and the whole show was a test to see if the kids would accept Robin and Ted. It’s safe to say audiences didn’t!
After so much wasted time and energy, the show forcing together Robin and Ted was one of the worst TV decisions since Friends joined Rachel and Joey. It is no surprise that co-creator Carter Bays announced that the season 9 DVD would include an alternate ending where Tracy didn’t succumb to a terminal illness.
With Tracy and Ted getting their happily ever after, the final shot would be the yellow umbrella floating down the road in the rain and everything coming up hunky dory. Although the alternative was likely finished before HIMYM ended, some still feel like it was equally a cop-out. Whether the alternate ending would’ve actually helped appease the critics is unknown, but to this day, the finale backlash continues!
14. Breaking Bad
After five seasons of acid baths and blue meth, Vince Gilligan’s uber-violent Breaking Bad came to an equally bloody end. With Bryan Cranston’s Walter White previously giving up his life of crime for a cabin in New Hampshire, the self-proclaimed Heisenberg returned for one last stand.
“Felina” memorably saw Walt bow out in a hail of bullets while taking out the Neo-Nazis, but Gilligan had toyed with the idea of Walt living to fight another day. There were many ideas for alternate endings, but by far the best was Walt breaking into jail to free Jesse Pinkman if he had been caught for his crimes – imagine Prison Break but with Cranston and Aaron Paul.
You can only imagine that Walt and Jess would continue on their own Thelma & Louise journey to destruction, which is more uplifting than the ending we got. However, with Walt getting his comeuppance and a bittersweet ending, Breaking Bad’s actual swansong is one of the best on this list.
For those who had stuck with the blood-soaked life of Dexter Morgan, it isn’t hard to see why some may be more than a little vexed by the finale of Dexter. Michael C. Hall’s psychotic forensic scientist gave up his life of revenge killings and promptly took up a new life as a lumberjack in Oregon.
In esscaping his crimes – and justice – there was no moral story to Dexter’s ending, which left audiences colder than one of his victims. Clyde Phillips served as EP and showrunner until the end of that shocking Trinity Killer season, and he revealed how he was supposed to end the show before his departure. In a particularly morbid finale, Phillips pitched that Dexter would wake up from a “dream,” only to realize that he is actually strapped to an execution table.
The camera would zoom out from Dexter’s impending death and focus on the gallery, which is conveniently stocked with those who lost their life because of his actions, including the likes of Rita, Doakes, and LaGuerta.
As a pioneer of the sitcom drama, Seinfeld will be remembered for its cast of amoral scoundrels. So, when the series came to an end in 1998, it was a dash of karma that the four leads were found guilty of their crimes – or were they?
Aptly named “The Finale”, the gang were put on trial for not helping after a carjacking, but it soon turned into Jerry and co. being judged for their actions over all nine seasons. They were obviously found guilty and sentenced to some jail time, while the show ended with Jerry’s stand-up routine in a prison jumpsuit. It could’ve all been very different, and the DVD for season 9 contains an alternative verdict of “not guilty.”
The whole episode was criticized for being meta before meta was even really a thing, so the fact that Jerry, George, Elaine, and Kramer could get off with their crimes would likely split audiences even further, but at least it wouldn’t have been such a hard swerve.
The most unforgettable will-they-won’t-they couple has to be Ross and Rachel on Friends. From the moment Rachel Green entered Central Perk in that wedding dress, fmany fans hoped that Ross Geller would get her girl.
Over the next decade, Marta Kauffman and David Crane did their best to bring them together and pull them apart – they even got married – but even the possibility of Paris couldn’t break up TV’s greatest couple. There may have been that infamous break from season 3, but Ross and Rachel were destined to get back together.
Some things are just meant to be, but the star-crossed lovers coming back together was a bit too easily signposted for some. Crane noted that putting Ross and Rachel together for the finale might be a little obvious, and he had originally planned to cut their romantic reunion at his apartment.
10. Sex and the City
HBO’s Sex and the City was never supposed to end with the relative happiness that it did. Tying six years of will-they-won’t-they in a neat bow, some were left disappointed that SATC went down the classic rom-com route. However, Carrie and Mr. Big nearly parted ways for the finale.
If “happily ever after” isn’t your bag, creator Darren Star originally envisioned an ending that didn’t have Carrie and Mr. Big in Paris, and instead saw the relationship writer opt for cocktails with the gals. There may have been two movies since the finale aired, and while Carrie and Big are still happily married, but Star’s original version was more in keeping with the show’s feminist message.
It is hard now to imagine a world where Carrie didn’t get her “perfect” man, but splitsville from Big would’ve been an interesting choice. Since the finale, Star admits that he regrets his decision and says he should’ve stuck with single Carrie doing her own thing in a pair of Jimmy Choos without the need for a man.
With polar bears, time travel, and smoke monsters, you could accuse ABC’s Lost of being a little far-fetched at times. Much more than just a tale of survival, showrunners Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse jumped the shark more times that viewers could care to count.
If you stuck with the island adventure until season 6, you may remember that the whole final season was something about saving the world from a demon in a bottle. Almost as divisive as Dexter’s swansong, the finale left many fans equally confused and annoyed. However, the writers originally had a dramatic finale set to a fiery volcano.
As a physical metaphor for Hell and damnation, the last episode would have the ultimate showdown between Matthew Fox’s Jack and the incarnation of the smoke monster as Terry O’Quinn’s John Locke.
8. True Detective
HBO’s True Detective was all anyone could talk about in its premiere year. From the brilliant directing by Cary Fukunaga to the golden pairing of Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson, what wasn’t there to love?
After eight weeks of twists and turns, there was the satisfying payoff that the leads survive, but also that strange final act discussion on light vs dark and the meaning of life. However, writer Nic Pizzolatto revealed an altogether more unsettling ending where he imagined that Rust and Marty would literally just disappear.
Arriving at the home of Errol Childress, the detectives would enter the maze of Carcosa, only to reach the central chamber and be sucked into a black hole created by the Black Star visions that had haunted the duo. Back in the real world, detectives Gilbough and Papania were left to clean up the mess, and viewers were still left with as many dangling plot points and head-scratching questions as the real ending. Pizzolatto’s The X-Files ending would certainly have explained some of True Detective’s more supernatural elements, at the very least.
7. White Collar
Ah, the old fake death scam, why didn’t we see that coming on White Collar? Pulling off possibly his greatest con, Neal Caffrey was revealed to be alive and well after letting everyone – including Peter – believe he was dead for over a year. Everything was put in place for new beginnings and a possible continuation, but it could’ve been decidedly different.
Creator Jeff Eastin said there were a couple of ideas floating around, but two involved a flip of the coin. With Neal a free man, he goes to the Flat Iron building and lets the coin decide his fate. If it was heads, he would get into a limo with Mozzie and become the greatest criminals ever, but if it was tails, he would become the head of the White Collar division and the world’s greatest lawman.
There was a final option, with a Christopher Nolan Inception-esque finale where the screen cut to black before the coin lands. Either way, Tim DeKay and Matt Bomer pitched the ending we got, which Eastin confessed was much better than his idea.
6. Battlestar Galactica
Reimagined from the campy ‘80s series, 2004’s take on Battlestar Galactica was definitely more of a serious affair that needed an ending to fit. However, if a montage of dancing robots didn’t quite quell your thirst for a good finale, Ron Moore threw out several possible ideas for how it could’ve gone.
There were four seasons of death and destruction, but instead of sending the fleet into the sun, Moore toyed with landing the ship on Earth to be discovered thousands of years later. An archaeological dig would discover Galactica, but it would all be a bit too meta for Moore’s eventual vision.
In keeping with the depressing ending he settled on, Moore had also toyed with Ellen being turned by Cavil and attempting to destroy Galactica from the inside. Ultimately, the writer’s strike scuppered that one, and so Galactica was sent hurtling into the sun with its fleet instead.
5. Twin Peaks
David Lynch’s Twin Peaks has never been afraid to confuse viewers, but heading back to the very first episode, it was nearly a completely different tale of the unexpected.
Filmed for international release, an alternate ending to 1990’s “Pilot” was created as a mini-movie in case the series wasn’t picked up. Warner Home Video had agreed to finance Twin Peaks, but only if they could make their money back. Lynch’s contract stipulated that he had to shoot a closed ending to the episode that would wrap the Laura Palmer mystery in plastic.
With 25 minutes of extra footage, the alternate ending sent Cooper into the basement for a dramatic confrontation with BOB, and would then pick up in the Red Room decades later. While available on the DVD release, Lynch liked the footage so much he incorporated it into later episodes of Cooper’s dreams.
4. The Hills
As part of that “reality” boom, MTV’s The Hills was a staged look at the lifestyles or the rich and the famous. When it ended in 2010, the out-there ending panned to a studio backlot as a nod to the show’s scripted nature.
As part of MTV’s retro TV programming, fans can now watch the alternate ending with the return of original The Hills star Lauren Conrad. Conrad had bowed out of the show during season 5 to focus on booming business endeavors, but her return could’ve been exactly what the show needed to finish in the style it deserved.
It turns out that Conrad is the mystery woman who stopped Kristin and Brody’s relationship from going any further, and turning round on the coach, a grinning Conrad was back for show’s ending. Instead, the finale cut the Brody apartment scene and ended with Kristin heading to the airport.
3. Parks & Rec
No one was ready to say goodbye to political satire Parks and Rec when we did, but with a near-perfect ending, at least it bowed out in greatness. Looking to the future, the finale saw Andy and April with a bouncing baby boy and Jerry become mayor of Pawnee. Did you know that someone else was originally tipped for the job?
Amy Poehler may have been the shining star of the show, but a pre-Guardians of the Galaxy Chris Pratt was equally brilliant as the dim-witted ex-boyfriend of Rashida Jones’ Ann. Though only intended to be part of the first season, the team were so impressed with Pratt, he was quickly bumped to series regular.
Although Parks and Rec made it to seven seasons, the creators had started planning a possible end much earlier. Around the time of season 3, co-creator Mike Schur imagined a finale where Pratt’s lovable Andy is the one who becomes mayor. It would be great to think that in some sort of alternate timeline, goofy Andy actually did make it into office. Well, he’d get our vote!
2. Nurse Jackie
Edie Falco’s Jackie Peyton was left on death’s door after snorting heroin in the Nurse Jackie finale. Merrit Wever’s Zoey is last seen stroking Jackie’s her hair and ambiguously telling her, “You’re good, Jackie. You’re good.”
Some fans felt that showrunner Clyde Phillips could’ve come up with something a little more original than a “did they die or not?” ending. Well, he did at first. Instead of a drug-fuelled farewell, Phillips planned a fiery inferno.
The alternate ending would have Jackie rescuing a heroin patient from a fire in the ER, only to be caught in the flames and left for dead in the basement. Just as cheery isn’t it? However, as an artsy metaphor for freedom from addiction, Jackie would later emerge from a small window as a “birth” and run down an alleyway to her new life. The whole basement set was built in mind for the scene, but it was later used for other storylines and the finale ending was put in place.
1. The Sopranos
Long before Game of Thrones was planning alternate endings to stop those spoiler hounds, HBO’s The Sopranos was hoping to keep the end of Tony Soprano a closely-guarded secret. Who could forget that controversial cut to black?
The late, great, James Gandolfini was superb as the tough guy mobster, but this ending still has people asking WTF actually happened, over a decade later. Who knew that a simple trip to the diner could cause so many unanswered questions?
As for alternate endings, creator David Chase revealed that one of the options shot saw a fellow diner approach Tony before the infamous cut to black. It still wasn’t a clarification on Tony’s fate, but it did help to further amp up the assumption that the Italian stallion was “whacked.”
Chase himself maintains that Tony survived that family meal time, but most fans wanted some sort of comeuppance for Tony.
Are these alternate endings better than what we got? Let us know in the comments!
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