Situational comedy, often referred to as simply "sitcom," has been one of the most popular and well-recognized genres in the history of television. While many TV enthusiasts associate this genre with multi-camera shows such as Seinfeld, Friends, and The Big Bang Theory, the genre also encompasses several other situational comedies that are shot in single-camera mode, like The Office, Parks and Recreation, and It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia.
Overall, sitcoms have withstood the test of time and are still some of the most popular shows on TV. The genre is so powerful that even streaming services like Netflix have dabbled in this medium, with original series such as Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt and the One Day at a Time revival. With so much success behind situational comedies, it is not entirely surprising to learn that these shows have also seen their share of behind-the-scenes drama, complicated network demands, and general production problems. These highly-lucrative and often long-running projects may seem easy-going, but the truth is that they are typically surrounded by controversies and internal disputes.
What’s more, there are shows that came really close to being completely different from what we know them as, having different working titles, storylines that had to change completely over time, or even characters that turned out to be much more – or much less – interesting than originally intended. With so much going on behind the scenes of these series, there are several wild details that even hardcore sitcom fans may not be aware of.
These are 20 Wild Details Behind The Making Of Iconic Sitcoms.
20 FRESH PRINCE OF BEL-AIR – AUNT VIV’S REPLACEMENT
It is hard to imagine that Will Smith, widely considered an incredibly nice guy who has been working in Hollywood for decades, has a feud with a costar from Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. However, the truth is that there is a serious beef between him and Janet Hubert, the actress who originally portrayed Aunt Viv until she was abruptly substituted for Daphne Maxwell Reid.
As the story goes, Fresh Prince of Bel-Air costars claim that Janet Hubert wanted to take up all of the space in the show, potentially even becoming its protagonist. On the other hand, Hubert claims that Will Smith and Alfonso Ribeiro (who played Carlton) ruined her career and carefully planned her exit from Fresh Prince.
19 FRIENDS – RECASTING CAROL
One ongoing storyline concerning Ross in Friends is that his ex-wife, Carol, left him for another woman. Later on, Carol and Ross have a child, Ben, and have to learn to co-parent him. The thing is: there were two iterations of Carol, played by two different actresses.
First, there was Anita Barone. The actress appeared in pivotal Friends episodes, such as when Carol visits Ross at the museum and announces that she is pregnant with his baby. Not too many episodes later, along came Jane Sibbett, who played an already-pregnant Carol. While the recasting of Carol flies under the radar of most casual Friends viewers, it is definitely one of the weirdest things about the show’s cast.
18 MODERN FAMILY – JULIEN BOWEN WAS PREGNANT IN THE PILOT EPISODE
Modern Family has now been on air for ten years, having won 21 Primetime Emmy Awards and becoming one of the most important shows on ABC. However, when the series’ pilot episode was shot nearly a decade ago, actress Julien Bowen (who plays Claire Dunphy) was not so sure that she would be cast. The reason? Well, she was pregnant.
Because Claire Dunphy is already a mom to three growing kids, it was pretty inconceivable that she would be pregnant once again. Despite that, Modern Family did choose to cast Julien Bowen, and had the actress folding laundry during basically the entire episode in order to hide her pregnant belly. When you go back and watch the first episode of Modern Family, look out for the sneaky camera movements with Claire. That’s Julien Bowen, pregnant!
17 IT’S ALWAYS SUNNY IN PHILADELPHIA – THE SHOW WAS GOING TO BE CANCELED AFTER SEASON 1
It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia is now a cult classic that has been on air for 13 seasons, with a 14th season already confirmed by FX. However, things were not always that easy for the show, which had what was considered a lackluster success back when it premiered in 2005.
As a matter of fact, according to creator Rob McElhenney, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia was on the verge of being canceled right after its very first season, but was saved because they were able to cast Danny DeVito on it. Executive producer Glenn Howerton has said that, at that point, “Our season-two pickup was predicated on if we could bring in that high-level name. Not only did it mean that we were getting Danny on the show, it meant we still had a show.”
16 PARKS AND RECREATION – CHRIS PRATT WAS ONLY supposed TO BE IN 6 EPISODES
Chris Pratt is now the huge movie star known for both volumes of Guardians of the Galaxy and the two installments of Jurassic World. However, all the way back in 2009, Chris was only an up-and-coming comedian who got cast on NBC’s new comedy Parks and Recreation. As such, Chris Pratt was only supposed to have a six-episode arc on the series, fading away as soon as his character, Andy, broke things off with Ann (played by Rashida Jones).
What ended up happening, however, is that the production team – and viewers – saw the lovable star power of Chris Pratt, and decided to extend Andy’s presence on Parks and Recreation. By season 2, there was no doubt that Chris Pratt was already one of the most important actors in the show, along with Amy Poehler, Nick Offerman, and Aubrey Plaza.
15 SEINFELD – THE REAL-LIFE INSPIRATION FOR GEORGE SUED THE SHOW
Do you ever wonder why characters on television have the weirdest names? Well, that is done on purpose, to avoid the lawsuit that Seinfeld had to go through.
One of the most widely recognizable characters on Seinfeld is George Constanza, who was brilliantly played by Jason Alexander. The thing is, Jerry Seinfeld (creator and protagonist of Seinfeld) had a real-life friend called Michael Constanza. Like George, Michael admitted to being bald and stocky, revealed that he also went to Queens College and said that he had “a thing for bathroom and parking spaces,” just like the TV character. Michael Constanza sued Seinfeld for using his identity for a TV show and ruining his personal life. In the end, Michael lost, but it was a big lesson for all other series on television.
14 THE BIG BANG THEORY – JIM PARSONS WAS BASICALLY CAST ON THE SPOT
According to Chuck Lorre, veteran sitcom creator and showrunner, he knew that Jim Parsons was his Sheldon right away. When speaking about Jim’s audition for The Big Bang Theory, Chuck Lorre described it as “the most startling audition I’ve ever seen in my life.”
As the story goes, the only reason Parsons was called to a second audition was to prove to Chuck Lorre that he could actually do all of those things again, and that his audition had not been a one-off. However, Chuck Lorre basically cast Parsons on the spot for The Big Bang Theory, never having any doubt that he was perfect for the role of Sheldon. In hindsight, it is easy to see Jim Parsons’ brilliance. However, casting an actor based on one audition is certainly rare for TV!
13 THE COSBY SHOW – LISA BONET WAS FIRED BECAUSE SHE GOT PREGNANT
At this point in time, it is not unimaginable to see the controversies that surrounded The Cosby Show and Bill Cosby himself. The comedian has been sentenced to 3-10 years in prison for assault convictions. However, back when The Cosby Show was on the air (the 1980s and early 1990s), it was hard to think anything bad of the show.
According to actress Debbie Allen, however, there was a lot of dust under Bill Cosby’s carpet. The actress has recounted how Lisa Bonet, who played Denise, was forced to leave The Cosby Show due to the fact that she was pregnant. When you take into consideration that Julien Bowen was pregnant during the entire shooting of the pilot of Modern Family, it certainly puts into perspective that the team behind Cosby could have been a lot more considerate with Lisa Bonet.
12 TWO AND A HALF MEN – CHARLIE SHEEN REFUSED TO BE IN THE FINALE
The messy behind-the-scenes drama between Two and a Half Men and Charlie Sheen is public knowledge among fans of the show. The actor was written off of the series on season 9, and his character Charlie Harper being replaced with a new character played by Ashton Kutcher.
What is not particularly known among sitcom fans is that, when Two and a Half Men decided to wrap things up on season 12, Charlie Sheen was actually officially invited to be featured on the finale episode. Even after everything that went down, showrunner Chuck Lorre invited Charlie to be back, but the actor denied the invitation. Speaking about the scene where Charlie Sheen would appear in, Chuck Lorre said, “We thought it was funny. He didn’t.”
11 THAT ‘70S SHOW – MILA KUNIS WAS 14 WHEN THE SHOW BEGAN
We all know that most TV shows featuring high-schoolers are not actually cast with actors who are under 18. In a way, That ‘70s Show was not any different. For example, even when the show first went on air, Topher Grace (Eric) and Ashton Kutcher (Michael) were already 19 years old. With that said, That ‘70s Show did something wild: they actually cast a 14-year-old Mila Kunis as Jackie Burkhart.
Speaking about the first kiss between characters Michael and Jackie, Ashton Kutcher remembers that he was 19, while Mila was 14. Fast-forwarding to the present, Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis are now married and with babies, so things definitely worked out.
10 HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER – JIM PARSONS ALMOST PLAYED BARNEY
Within the realm of situational comedies, it is hard to be any bigger than The Big Bang Theory and How I Met Your Mother. And what it is pretty crazy to realize that those two shows share a very particular connection.
Before Jim Parsons went on to play Sheldon on The Big Bang Theory, the actor auditioned for How I Met Your Mother, which premiered two years before. Jim auditioned the role of Barney Stintson, but for some reason, the production team decided not to cast him.
Instead, newcomer Neil Patrick Harris was cast as Barney on How I Met Your Mother. The other coincidence here is that both Neil Patrick Harris and Jim Parsons are perhaps the two most famous openly gay actors who starred in major sitcoms on broadcast TV.
9 COMMUNITY – CREATOR DAN HARMON WAS FIRED AFTER SEASON 3
If you know even a little bit about television, you know that being a showrunner means that you are the most powerful person on a TV show. What’s more, if you are the creator of a series, it is very unlikely for you to be taken out of it, unless the entire show is canceled altogether. Well, Dan Harmon, who created Community and ran the series for three seasons, was fired from the project in 2012.
Rumor has it that Dan was “difficult” to work with, which even caused a massive feud between the showrunner and actor Chevy Chase. For season 4, Community received new showrunners: David Guarascio and Moses Port. Then, when the fifth season came along, Dan Harmon was rehired. Is that crazy, or what?
8 THE OFFICE – JENNA FISHER REALLY WANTED JOHN KRASINSKI TO BE HER JIM
Pam (Jenna Fisher) and Jim (John Krasinski) were responsible for some of the most hilarious and heartfelt moments on The Office. Without them, it is hard to imagine that the show would have had all the success that it enjoyed. Before even the production team behind the series knew that this was a match made in heaven, Jenna Fisher already did, and was really pulling for John Krasinski to be Jim.
When it was revealed to Jenna Fisher that John Krasinski would be cast as Jim, the actress reportedly cried “tears of joy.” While there is no doubt that Jenna was right about John, it is certainly rare to hear actresses pulling so hard for a fellow actor to be cast.
7 ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT – RAINN WILSON WAS ALMOST GOB BLUTH
Every now and then, there are these odd casting overlaps between iconic sitcoms that take place. Take Rainn Wilson, for example, who became famous for playing Dwight Schrute on The Office. Before he landed that role in 2005, the actor was a finalist for the role of Gob Bluth on Arrested Development, which premiered in 2003.
In the end, Arrested Development’s Gob Bluth ended up going to Will Arnett. Thankfully, that also cleared the way for Rainn Wilson to audition for The Office and land the role of Dwight Schrute, which is arguably the show’s most iconic character. Can you imagine if Gob Bluth looked like Dwight Schrute? Thankfully, everything worked out for all of the parties involved.
6 ROSEANNE – THE SHOW HAD A DIFFERENT NAME
In 2018, the Roseanne reboot was canceled, and ABC moved on the spinoff The Conners. Not too many fans know that back when the show was still being developed, it also had a different name.
Matt Williams, who created Roseanne and was its head writer, truly believed that the series was actually going to be called Life and Stuff. “I wanted to establish it as an ensemble piece,” Williams said, making the point for the show to focus less on Roseanne herself and more on the family as a whole. Given the recent controversies that Roseanne Barr has caused, things would have been much easier for ABC if the show had indeed been titled Life and Stuff.
5 PARKS AND RECREATION – NICK OFFERMAN AUDITIONED TO PLAY MARK BRENDANAWICZ
When Parks and Recreation was holding auditions, Nick Offerman came in to read for the character of Mark Brendanawicz. To be fair, the character did not have a name at that point, but the role evolved into what became Mark.
According to Nick Offerman, his Parks and Recreation fate changed on the very same day. First, the actor received the call that he would not be moving forward in the process regarding the Mark Brendanawicz character. However, later on that exact same day, he received a call where he was told about the idea for Ron Swanson. After that, it was a smooth ride for Offerman to be cast as Ron Swanson on Parks and Recreation. In hindsight, it is odd to think of him in any other role.
4 FRASIER – KELSEY GRAMMER ONLY REHEARSED HIS SCENES ONCE
Frasier ran on NBC for eleven seasons, from 1993 to 2004. For a long time, the show held the record for most Emmy wins ever, totaling 37 awards over the course of its run. This record was only broken in 2016, when Game of Thrones won its 38th Emmy award. With that said, many fans hold up Frasier as a critical darling that was responsible for a massive cultural impact on sitcoms and television as a whole. According to Kelsey Grammer, however, the show did not need too much rehearsing to go on air.
As a matter of fact, writer Christopher Lloyd has revealed that Kelsey Grammer would “come in and rehearse a scene once.” This is in direct opposition with the standard of rehearsing scenes several times before each sitcom episode goes on air.
3 WILL & GRACE – MEGAN MULLALLY AUDITIONED TO BE GRACE
Another interesting tale of actors who auditioned for different roles involves Will & Grace. Many sitcom fans are not aware that Megan Mullally originally auditioned for the role of Grace. Then, the production team behind the show called Megan back to audition for Karen, but the actress was not sure about playing Grace’s “bougie best friend,” as she put it.
However, as the audition went on and Megan Mullally appeared to shine in the quirkiness of Karen, it quickly became obvious that this was the right fit for the actress and the show. Will & Grace had an original run of eight seasons between 1998 and 2006. Then, the series was revived at NBC, now totaling 10 seasons.
2 CHEERS – NORM AND CLIFF WERE NOT INTENDED TO BE REGULAR CHARACTERS
It is hard to imagine Cheers without Norm (portrayed by George Wendt) and Cliff (played by John Ratzenberger). However, the truth is that those characters were not intended to be series regulars.
According to John Ratzenberger, he originally auditioned for a different role on Cheers, and then suggested to the production team that the bar in the show needed to have a “know-it-all.” Thinking that this was a good idea, the writers created Cliff, who went on to become one of the series’ most important characters. The story behind Norm is very similar, as the character was never meant to go very far, but did after the team behind Cheers saw what George Wendt brought to the show.
1 3O ROCK – TINA FEY’S REAL NAME IS ACTUALLY ELIZABETH
Tina Fey is one of the most successful comedy writers in history. Besides being the head writer on Saturday Night Live for nine years, Tina created iconic projects of the likes of Mean Girls, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, and 30 Rock. Despite having such an instantly-recognizable name, many fans are not quite aware that Tina Fey’s actual name in real life is Elizabeth Fey.
Does that ring a bell? Well, that is because the character that Tina played on 30 Rock was called Liz, which is short for Elizabeth. This subtle detail essentially means that Tina Fey’s character name on 30 Rock was actually more real than the name she is widely known for in Hollywood.
Do you have any sitcom trivia to share? Leave it in the comments!