It costs a lot of money to make a TV program, as even a cheap reality show needs people to hold the cameras and the sound equipment. The production schedule on a lot of big American TV shows is also packed, with little room for errors or screw-ups. This means that you don't see a lot of deleted scenes on the home releases for these shows, at least compared to the amount you see for movies.
There have been a few instances where the ending of a TV show has been changed partway through production, due to any number of factors. It's possible that the producers felt that the ending was too bleak and needed to be changed, or maybe they felt that the conclusion would be unpopular with the fans and would get a negative reception, so they quickly threw something together at the last minute as a replacement.
We are here today to look at the significant episodes of TV shows that had their ending changed at the last minute-- from the dreams of a young Miley Cyrus to the more satisfying conclusion to the show about nothing.
Here are the 15 TV Show Episodes You Didn’t Know Had Alternate Endings!
15 How I Met Your Mother - "Last Forever"
The final episode of How I Met Your Mother received a scathing response from critics and fans alike. This was due to how dark and sad it was, as the girl who was revealed to be the titular "Mother" dies from a terminal illness, which isn't really an appropriate way to end a long-running sitcom.
"Last Forever" reveals that Ted fell in love with Tracey McConnell, whose death is covered in a single brief moment.
The How I Met Your Mother: The Whole Story, season 1-9 DVD set came with an alternate ending that was far better received by fans, due to the fact that it ignores the whole death angle. Ted meets the woman that he was destined to be with and they lived happily ever after.
14 Pretty Little Liars - "The Lady Killer"
The summer finale of the third season of Pretty Little Liars was an episode called "The Lady Killer." This episode ended with the revelation of the identity of the betrAyer.
It turns out that Toby is a member of The A-Team, which is revealed during a sequence where is wearing a hood that obscures his identity. The audience doesn't see his face until he turns around.
There were concerns about the identity of the betrAyer leaking to the press before the episode could be broadcast, as the final scene was shot outside.
Three different endings were shot as a precaution, with the two others showing Caleb and Paige as the betrAyer, with them being the hooded individuals in the final shot. These extra endings were included on the season 3 DVD of Pretty Little Liars.
13 Lost - "The End"
The final episode of Lost was polarizing among fans due to the fact that it didn't even attempt to answer many of the questions that people still had about the story. The finale focused on giving closure to the stories of each character, rather than providing answers to the mysteries of The Island.
Those of you wanted to see the real ending of Lost were forced to shell out money, as the true ending was saved for the DVDs. "The New Man in Charge" was a short epilogue that featured Ben visiting the Dharma Initiative workers who were providing the supply drops for The Island.
Ben and Walt then help Hurley escape from the mental institution that he was interred in, with the suggestion that they planned on returning to the Island.
12 Breaking Bad - "Felina"
Newhart ended with the revelation that the whole show had been a dream of the character from The Bob Newhart Show, which was the program Bob Newhart had made before Newhart. This ending has since been parodied by other shows, including Breaking Bad.
The Breaking Bad DVD boxset contains an alternate ending for the show. It is revealed that all of Breaking Bad was just a bad dream of Hal from Malcolm in the Middle, which also starred Bryan Cranston.
He wakes up in bed with his wife and tries to describe all of the horrible things that had happened in Breaking Bad, which she thinks is hilarious, considering how much of a wimp he is normally. The final shot zooms in on the hat that Walter White wore as Heisenberg, while the Malcolm in the Middle theme plays.
11 Hannah Montana - "Wherever I Go"
The most popular fan theory of all is the idea that the main character of a piece of fiction was actually dreaming the whole thing. You can find passionate arguments online for this being the case for every protagonist in every major TV show ever made.
There have been a few TV shows that have used the "It was all just a dream" as the actual ending, such as The Brittas Empire and Life on Mars.
Hannah Montana was originally going to end the entire show with the revelation that everything had happened in the imagination of a young Miley Cyrus, who was then put to bed by her parents.
The decision was made to use a more conventional ending, as there were fears that the young audience of the show wouldn't understand what was happening.
10 24 - “Day 1 11:00pm – 12:00pm”
The most likely reason why a TV show has multiple endings is to prevent leaks. If the show is going to end with some huge event, then the creators might film several different possible outcomes in order to prevent the definitive answer from reaching the press.
The finale of the first season of 24 had multiple endings shot for this very reason. The producers wanted to prevent the revelation that Teri Bauer gets killed in the final episode from being revealed before it was shown, as it was intended to be one of the major events of the first season of the show.
The alternate ending shows Teri surviving her encounter with Nina Myles and being reunited with her family. This ending was included in the season one DVD.
9 Sex And The City - "An American Girl In Paris - Part Deux"
Sex and the City had a polarizing ending among the fans of the show. This is to be expected from any story with a focus on romance, as you are always going to disappoint the fans who wanted to see the main character end up with the person that they believe they should be with.
It's not like Carrie from Sex and the City could have ended up in a polyamorous relationship with all of her friends-- or could she?
Sex and the City had three different endings that were filmed to keep the conclusion a secret from the press. One of these was the ending where Carrie ends up with Mr. Big, while another has her asking her friends to be the maids of honor at her wedding to Aleksandr. The final ending has Carrie proposing to her three friends and asking them to marry her, which they politely decline.
8 Sabrina The Teenage Witch - "Inna Gadda Sabrina"
There have been a few occasions when networks have tried to cross over all of their shows in a single event that happened in one night. The most famous example of this was Blackout Thursday, which involved several NBC shows suffering from the same blackout in New York City, which tied them all together.
It was due to an event like this that an episode of Sabrina the Teenage Witch has multiple endings. The episode "Inna Gadda Sabrina" features Sabrina going back in time to the '60s using a magical Time Ball.
"Inna Gadda Sabrina" originally ended with Salem traveling to Philadelphia, so that he could make his appearance in Boy Meets World. This ending was changed in syndication so that Salem "disposed" of the Time Ball in his litter box after he accidentally swallowed it.
7 Red Dwarf - "Out Of Time"
The sixth season of Red Dwarf had a hellish production, due to the fact that the creators had only been given a short period of time in which to shoot the whole thing. This was due to the BBC wanting to air the new season during the summer, which meant that every episode had to be completed within a few months.
"Out of Time" was the final episode of the sixth season of Red Dwarf and the cast and crew have talked at length how hard it was to shoot. This was due to the fact that it was still being written as it was being filmed.
The final scene of "Out of Time" ended on an ambiguous note, with the possibility that the crew had just been blown up. The original ending that was filmed confirmed that the crew had survived the battle and they had almost caught up to Red Dwarf.
6 The Simpsons - "I'm Goin' To Praiseland"
The Simpsons had one of the most famous alternate endings of all time. The mystery of who shot Mr. Burns became a huge television event, with legitimate bets being held in Las Vegas over the likely culprit, with Homer being the most popular choice.
An alternate ending showing Waylon Smithers as the guilty party was filmed in case of a leak and later shown in "The Simpsons 138th Episode Spectacular".
One of the later episodes of The Simpsons also had an alternate ending that was saved for the home releases. "I'm Goin' to Praiseland" featured Ned Flanders building a Christian theme park named Praiseland in honor of his deceased wife.
The episode ends with Ned being forced to shut down Praiseland. The original ending featured Praiseland being blown up, as it was revealed that the religious visions people were having were the result of a gas leak.
5 Lost - "There's No Place Like Home"
Lost had one of the most rabid fanbases of any TV show in existence. These were the kind of fans who were desperate for any sort of clue or spoiler about upcoming episodes, which led to the production of the show becoming more secretive over time.
The fourth season of Lost concluded with "There's No Place Like Home, Parts 2 & 3" which were two separate episodes. The last shot of the season showed one of the main characters in a coffin, which was meant to be the biggest revelation of the episode.
In order to keep the identity of the deceased character a mystery, the producers filmed three different potential candidates in order to prevent leaks. Locke was the person who was meant to be in the coffin, but endings were also shot that showed Sawyer and Desmond in his place. These endings were later shown on Good Morning America.
4 The Smurfs - "The Lure Of The Orb"
It might be hard to believe, but there was once an episode of The Smurfs that dealt with drug addiction.
"The Lure Of The Orb" features an evil witch who takes on a beautiful form so that she can pass on a magical orb to the Smurfs. This orb gives extra energy to those who touch it, which eventually wears them down and causes them to be exhausted.
Poet becomes addicted to the orb's power, which results in the other Smurf's destroying the orb. Those who were addicted to the orb's power go looking for the witch, who uses the addictive quality of the orb to make them her slaves.
"The Lure Of The Orb" originally ended with the witch not being punished for getting the Smurfs addicted to magical drugs. This led to a new ending being created for the international version of the episode, which shows the witch being transformed into a frog as punishment for her wicked deeds.
3 3rd Rock From The Sun - "The Thing That Wouldn't Die"
The show 3rd Rock from the Sun has one of those endings that becomes more disturbing the more you think about it. This is due to the fact that Dick has to leave the Earth, but he uses his memory erasing powers on Mary so that she would forget everything about him.
This act probably would have driven Mary crazy, considering how many of the events of her life over the previous years had involved Dick and his family.
An alternate ending was filmed in case the show was commissioned for another season. Dick reappears in Mary's car while totally nude, as he couldn't bear to live without her. Mary is terrified, however, as she has no idea who he is due to the memory-wipe. Dick then abducts her, which leaves the show with a cliffhanger ending.
2 Seinfeld - "The Finale"
Seinfeld might have The Sopranos beat in terms of having the most polarizing ending of all time. One of the most popular sitcoms of the '90s ended with a story that no one could have anticipated. The fact that it was the fifth most-watched episode of a TV show of all time in America did nothing to help this fact.
"The Finale" involves the main characters watching from the sidelines as a man gets carjacked. This results in them being arrested and put on trial, which involves anyone they ever wronged coming to speak against them in court. The show ends with the cast being sent to jail.
An alternate ending was filmed and later featured on the Seinfeld home releases. It shows the cast receiving a "Not Guilty" verdict, which shocks the judge.
This was likely a one-off joke ending, as it doesn't provide any closure to the story and we don't see what happens next. They may as well have run this ending, as it's not like the original one could be hated any more than it was.
1 Red Dwarf - "Only The Good"
"Only the Good..." was the final episode of season 8 of Red Dwarf. This episode had similar production issues as "Out of Time" which meant that multiple endings were filmed, due to numerous rewrites that were happening as it was being filmed. This was partly due to an expensive scene in an earlier episode that featured a CGI T-Rex, which drained the budget for later episodes.
"Only the Good..." was originally going to end with Ace Rimmer saving Red Dwarf from being destroyed. This was changed to an ending where Rimmer is the only person still on the ship as it is being destroyed from within.
An alternate ending was shot which involved Rimmer saving the ship, while the crew was still outside in escape pods. Rimmer would take over Red Dwarf, as he was now the highest-ranking member of the crew.
Can you think of any other TV show episodes that had different endings? Let us know in the comments!