20 Crazy Mistakes That Saved TV Shows

A lot of work goes into a television show, though most of it doesn’t show up on the screen. Television shows can have crazy schedules and large episode orders, which  makes them much more grueling than movie shoots.

On top of the deadlines and everything that television shows have to accomplish, they also have to make sure that their content is filled with mistakes.

For the most part, these errors don’t make it through to television, but sometimes it happens. They can be massive, like a whole plot line, or something minuscule like a continuity error.

The discovery of these mistakes can be innocent and humorous, or it can entirely remove a viewer from the experience. It’s of course ideal if these mistakes don’t happen at all, but sometimes these errors can make the show even better.

That being said, it’s impressive to see when a series is able to take an unavoidable mistake and actually turn it into a selling point. Suddenly this glitch isn’t a mistake at all anymore.

It takes a lot more guts to embrace a mistake than to try and hide it, but that doesn’t mean that it’s always possible.

However, there are definitely some unbelievable situations where mistakes turn out to not only be beneficial for TV shows, but they lead to the birth of a whole new character or story arc. It all comes down to how a situation gets spun.

Accordingly, here are the 20 Crazy Mistakes That Saved TV Shows.

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20 Prison Break - Warden Pope's Tantrum Injury

It makes sense that a series with the name Prison Break would have some of its most explosive moments revolve around the actual prison break that’s the mission statement of the show.

Towards the end of the show’s first season, Michael Scofield does the impossible and actually escapes.

Unsurprisingly, when Warden Pope finds out about this development he’s considerably upset. Warden Pope explodes with anger, smashes a lamp, and flips over a table to help get out his frustration.

It’s a powerful scene, but on the episode’s audio commentary it’s revealed that Pope’s actor, Stacy Keach, actually cut his hand quite badly from this action.

It was also revealed that the actor’s reaction to his hand is completely genuine.

19 The Sopranos - Tony Burns His Hand

Sopranos Tony Fights Ralphie

The final scene of Ralphie Cifaretto on The Sopranos is definitely one of the most difficult scenes to watch from the entire series.

It’s a raw, grueling conclusion for the character and it sees Ralphie and Tony resort to extreme measures in a kitchen, of all places.

After the chaos is over, the scene is supposed to conclude with Tony putting his hands on the counter to pull himself up. The fight goes accordingly, but at the end of it all, Gandolfini accidentally puts his hands on the stove’s lit burner, instead of on the counter.

Gandolfini screams in pain, but the moment is so authentic and speaks volumes about the scene’s brutality that it was left in.

18 Supernatural - Sam's Broken Wrist

On shows like Supernatural, which involve a fair bit of fight scenes and stunt work, it’s only natural that the actors experience a little wear and tear in the process.

While the actors and stunt workers on Supernatural have a number of impressive feats to perform on the show, star Jared Jadalecki actually experienced a nasty injury off set.

Padalecki ended up breaking his wrist, which is a hefty injury that requires a cast.

Rather than stop the filming of the season or attempt to hide the cast, Padalecki’s injury and cast were actually worked into the show. Sam gets in a fight with Angela, which results in his cast, and it sticks around for most of the remainder of the season.

We wonder if Satan would have signed it for him?

17 NCIS - Gibbs' Trademark Head Smack

Even those who are not steady viewers of the long-running NCIS might still be aware of a certain quirk that belongs to Mark Harmon’s Leroy Jethro Gibbs.

Gibbs has a tendency to get exasperated with his co-workers and often think that he’s the smartest one in the room. This results in Gibbs smacking someone on the back of the head when they say something ignorant.

This quirk's origin goes all the way back to an incident when Harmon’s co-star, Michael Weatherly, kept messing up takes for a scene and so Harmon gave him a playful smack.

The crew liked it and thought that it fit with Gibbs' character so they put it in the show. From there, it has turned into his trademark quirk.

He's probably smacked most of the cast by this point.

16 Breaking Bad – The Uncut Pizza

Breaking Bad Pizza On Roof

One of Breaking Bad’s most infamous scenes that has nothing to do with its plot is the infamous moment when Bryan Cranston’s Walter White inexplicably hurls a pizza onto the roof from out of its pizza box.

Cranston performed this legendary act in a single take, but part of what makes this moment possible is that the pizza isn’t sliced into individual pieces, which is admittedly unusual.

Breaking Bad tries to save some face with this error by later having Jesse, Badger, and Skinny Pete discuss that pizza place.

They bring up that the pizza there is actually cheaper because they don’t cut their pies and they give the savings onto the customer, even if that doesn’t make any sense.

It’s at least a weird explanation for the unsliced pie.

15 Sherlock - Sherlock Refers To Watson As His "Him"

Sherlock made a lot of waves in its earlier seasons and instantly got many people’s attention for its impressive new take on the source material. Fans also thoroughly enjoyed Benedict Cumberbatch’s bold interpretation of the classic character.

It’s usually the tight scripts and unpredictable plotting that garners attention in Sherlock, but there was one situation where a random ad-lib turned into quite the contentious line of dialogue.

There’s a moment in the series when Sherlock gets particularly intoxicated and is stumbling over his words.

Through Cumberbatch’s sterling impression of a drunk person, he ends up slurring out that Watson is, “my… him.”

This intimate line wasn’t scripted, but it seemed so appropriate and perfect to the Sherlock and Watson relationship that it was left in.

14 The Simpsons – Animation Errors Through Clip Shows

Mistakes that happen in animated series are obviously quite different than the variety that happen by actors on camera.

Although there are a lot less opportunities for errors to happen, animation can still occasionally use mistakes to their advantage.

For a series that’s gone on for as long as The Simpsons, it’s not unusual for the show to occasionally resort to clip shows.

This can frustrate fans, but The Simpsons at least uses this to comment upon old episodes with some degree of hindsight and call out any mistakes that have since come to light.

A great example of this appears in the show’s second clip package, “Another Simpsons Clip Show”, when they poke fun at the episode “I Love Lisa”.

In the episode, there’s no snow outside-- even though it takes place in the middle of February.

13 Game Of Thrones - Jorah Mormont's Improvised Dothraki

Jorah actor Ian Glen talks Game of Thrones books vs. TV show

Series like Game of Thrones that are based in a totally different time period and universe have to be a lot more careful with certain mistakes.

There’s no way to explain a wristwatch or iPhone on an extra, but there are in-universe touches that the show is able to retcon and make work.

For instance, Game of Thrones’ Dothraki language is taken very seriously within the series and the fan community. The producers try to make this language as real as possible and make it consistent with what they’ve established in the past.

The creators of the language couldn't be reached in time for one particular scene with Jorah Mormont, but Iain Glen was comfortable enough with speaking it that he made up some words on the fly.

These words fit so well into the show that they were actually retrofitted into the Dothraki language.

12 Arrested Development – The Chicken Dance

Arrested Development GOB Chicken Dance Construction Site

Arrested Development is a series that has hundreds of hidden jokes and callbacks. It can be both exhausting and rewarding to keep track of them all, but there is one specific joke that has stuck out to fans.

The joke that the Bluth family is terrible at chicken impressions has become one of the most popular gags from the entire series.

The popularity of this gag is largely accidental. Originally, Will Arnett, Mitch Hurwitz, and Jim Vallely all workshopped different dances together for Gob’s first chicken dance, but the intention wasn’t for it to be a terrible impression.

Some of the weirder touches, like the decision to clap, came to the cast in the moment and instantly stuck.

This interpretation was so popular that each ensuing Bluth chicken dance is just as tone deaf and abstract, but it all stems from the original.

11 Saturday Night Live – The Debbie Downer Breakdown

SNL Debbie Downer Fallon Dratch

Let’s face it, it’s super impressive to see the performers on Saturday Night Live nail their cues and do amazing performances, but it’s also a whole lot of fun when they happen to screw up or break character.

One situation where this was pushed to its limit was with the “Debbie Downer” sketch.

The original “Debbie Downer” gained notoriety when everyone in the sketch couldn’t help but break down and change out of character.

The thing is that the audience loved this so much that it was only a matter of time until the inevitable return of Debbie Downer took place.

This time, the sketch was trying to break the cast and replicate the original’s spontaneous magic, but it’s no surprise that the spark was gone the second time around.

10 Friends – Joey’s Broken Wrist

Friends Joey Broken Wrist Cast

Occasionally art can imitate life, but this is a bizarre situation when life imitated art, which in turn, imitated life.

During the filming of Friends, Matt LeBlanc broke his wrist and his arm had to be put into a cast. However, due to Joey's airhead nature, a cast actually makes sense for the clumsy character.

They even decided to create a silly reason for why Joey had a cast.

However, this is a move that wouldn't have necessarily worked if either David Schwimmer or Jennifer Aniston were in need of wearing a cast.

The results see Joey in a cast for several episodes and his cast even fuels several of the character's storylines.

The writers could have written out LeBlanc for a few episodes with some movie excuse, but their solution works a whole lot better.

9 The Office – Michael Kisses Oscar

Michael Kissed Oscar

The Office grew from a cult hit into one of the most popular sitcoms of this generation.

There are countless episodes and moments that all stand out, but one of the series’ most memorable situations happened during its season three premiere, “Gay Witch Hunt”.

The episode ends with the infamous scene where Michael kisses Oscar on the lips to prove to everyone how comfortable he is with his orientation.

It’s an incredible moment, as is Michael’s meek “I did it” that follows, but it’s also totally unscripted. The whole bit is just Steve Carell pushing the scene to its limit and going for it.

Everyone’s surprise during the scene is genuine and it’s a great example of how strong improv skills and trusting your fellow cast members can lead to big rewards.

8 The Nanny – Lauren Lane’s Pregnancy

Television shows deal with real-life pregnancies in a number of ways that can vary from working the pregnancy into the show or removing the actress from the program altogether.

Lauren Lane became pregnant during the filming of The Nanny and the show’s flimsy attempts to hide her pregnancy were no longer working.

Instead of fighting it, the show decided to go all in and make C.C.’s elaborate ways of hiding her pregnancy even more obvious.

During one of these particular scenes, C.C. delivers some pointed dialogue that makes fun of the entire situation.

C.C. talks about how she was just watching Seinfeld, stating that the ways that the show attempted to hide Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ pregnancy were so obvious.

It created a surprisingly meta moment for the series.

7 Arrested Development – Marta’s Frequently Changing Actress

Arrested Development First Marta

Arrested Development is certainly guilty of some very complicated, elaborate jokes. There’s a lot of thought and effort put into the show’s humor, and if there's anyone who is able to take a setback and turn it into a joke, then it’s these guys.

During the show’s first season, Michael and Gob find themselves vying for the same woman, Marta.

Marta sticks around for a while, but due to scheduling conflicts, a different actress had to eventually step in to fill the role. Originally, Leonor Varela plays Marta, but she is later replaced by Particia Velasquez.

When Marta needed to appear again in a flashback, the show intentionally cast a third actress in the role in order to turn the casting change into a gag.

6 Community – Its “Gas Leak” Season

Community Season 4 Puppet Cast

Even people who weren’t fans of Community were likely familiar with the news that the show’s creator, Dan Harmon.

Harmon got fired after the show’s third season and was replaced for season four. This was heartbreaking for fans of the series, as many of them believed that the cast was now acting out of character and that the plotting rang false.

When Harmon was gloriously re-hired for the show’s fifth season, many of the inconsistencies with the show’s fourth season were explained by a massive gas leak that affected the campus.

It’s a clever way of “explaining” what happened without erasing the events of the past year.

There were also occasional references to Harmon’s firing and the changes that the show had experienced too.

5 The X-Files - Mulder's Wedding Ring

The X-Files takes a lot of leaps with its larger mythology, but sometimes the biggest surprises are tucked away in monster-of-the-week instalments.

Mulder and Scully have obviously seen a lot over the 200+ episodes of the series, but the two are still largely ciphers in many ways. Much more time is spent on monsters than on Mulder and Scully’s personal life.

The flashback episode “Travelers” gets to shed a little light on Mulder’s past, but one of its bigger bombshells is totally unintentional.

During the filming of “Travelers” Duchovny decided to keep his wedding ring on since he recently had gotten married. He wanted this minor detail to fuel rumors about Mulder's past and his pre-X-Files days.

Unsurprisingly, fans went crazy and began to speculate.

4 Hercules - Kevin Sorbo's Infamous "Disappointed" Line

Xena and Hercules

Kevin Sorbo’s Hercules is without a doubt a powerful, intimidating warrior, but that perhaps makes the circumstances of this mix-up all the more satisfying.

It’s also oddly appropriate because Hercules is widely known for his brawn, and seldomly for his brains.

One particular scene ends with Sorbo’s Hercules awkwardly saying, "Disappointed" after he exclaims, "Wait a minute... This isn't my world."

The most popular theory out there is that Sorbo confused that scene description with actual dialogue and read what was meant to be direction.

Sorbo's tried to say that his ad-lib was a nod to A Fish Called Wanda, which he says he's a fan of, but it's unclear if this is the truth or just his own spin on the situation.

Either way, the line wasn't meant to be said out loud, but it was kept in the episode anyway.

3 Hannibal – Will And Hannibal’s Final Embrace

Hannibal Will And Hannibal Embrace

Hannibal is deliriously violent, surreal, beautiful, and it inexplicably tells an incredibly strong modern love story between Hannibal Lecter and Will Graham.

The two are endlessly addicted to each other and this comes to a head in the series finale.

There’s a moment towards the end of the episode where the scripts merely says that Will and Hannibal hold each other for support, but the actors go so much farther with it. They push the limits of what’s been brewing between their characters for three seasons.

The embrace gets a lot more intimate and it even seems like they might kiss. One alternate take of the moment goes -- available on the DVD -- goes even further too.

It’s an unscripted moment that speaks to the essential bond and love between these two characters.

2 Columbo - Columbo's Wardrobe And Persona

COLUMBO, Peter Falk, 1971-93

The circumstances here with Columbo are extremely unusual, but it’s a true testament to how Peter Falk really was Columbo, inside and out.

In fact, Columbo’s wardrobe was Peter Falk's personal wardrobe. Whatever Falk would wear to set would become canon and get worked into the show.

Furthermore, Columbo's classic idiosyncrasies of fumbling, playing with a piece of paper, or asking a character for something to write with were all Falk’s own touches to throw the other actors off balance.

Nevertheless, they were worked into the show and helped define who the character was.

It’s the sort of thing you’d see now with Nick Offerman and Ron Swanson if Offerman was just exaggerated a little bit further.

1 Seinfeld - The Car Not Starting In "The Parking Garage"

Seinfeld is responsible for some of the sharpest scripts in the history of sitcoms. Larry David’s approach helped redefine what comedy could look at, and suddenly storylines that seemed innocuous could take up entire episodes.

One of the best examples of this is the episode “The Parking Garage”, in which everyone is stuck in a parking garage and unable to locate their car.

The episode is tragic enough, but at the end when they do find their vehicle, the car on set wouldn't start.

This is an even funnier conclusion, so it was used instead of the episode's original ending, which saw the gang driving away.

You can even see some of the actors laughing inside of the car when it doesn't start.


Can you think of any other mistakes in TV shows that actually made them better? Sound off in the comments!

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