17 Popular TV Shows Almost Ended Very Differently

Is there anything worse than your absolute favorite TV show having a totally terrible ending? You’ve spent seasons and seasons getting attached to those characters and following their ups and downs, only for the writers to totally screw you over. How I Met Your Mother, we’re looking at you SPECIFICALLY. Even when endings aren’t completely disastrous, there might be little things you’d have done differently. Maybe it’s that random sub-plot that could have been tied up in a better way, or a minor character that didn’t quite get the happy ending they deserved.

TV show creators know that their ending of choice won’t please everyone. Even if the fandom at large is happy with the finale, there’ll always be a group that wonders what else could have been. To placate these unhappy folk, showrunners often reveal alternate endings to show what almost was. Sometimes, their original plans were so wacky that we’re glad they got abandoned. In other cases, you can’t help but wish that the alternate ending was the real one (HOW. I. MET. YOUR. MOTHER)! Here are just some of the popular TV shows that almost ended very differently. Did the writers make the right call? You decide…

17. Lost

I think it’s safe to say that the ending of Lost was more than a little bit weird. To summarize: Jack dies after killing the bad guy, he passes on to a purgatory-type place where all of his deceased friends and family are waiting, and they all head off to the afterlife together. The few remaining survivors on the island escape. In the episode that aired, the final battle between Jack and The Man In Black takes place on a cliff, but Lost‘s producers initially had a very different vision for these climactic events. They wanted the fight to take place in the midst of an erupting volcano, with magma and lava flying everywhere. Unfortunately for them, the idea was shut down by ABC due to the huge costs involved in filming such a stunt.

16. Hannah Montana

For a kids’ TV show, Hannah Montana was a surprisingly huge cultural phenomenon. Starring Miley Cyrus as a teenage girl with an exciting double life, the show graced our screens for four seasons before drawing to a close. In the show’s final episode, Miley chooses to go to college with Lilly over making a movie with Steven Spielberg and Tom Cruise. Friendship triumphs over all! However, the DVD release of the final season revealed that this wasn’t always going to be the case. In an alternate ending, Miley chooses to film the movie and has to bid farewell to Lilly. A flashback then shows a young Miley Cyrus telling her actual parents that she’s going to be a rockstar one day. It’s implied that just like her character, MiCy saw her childhood dreams eventually come true. It’s too emotional!

15. 24

The writers of the hit show 24 must have been one of the most indecisive teams in TV history. They’ve revealed a whole host of alternate endings to both individual seasons and the show as a whole! A common theme seems to be an inability to decide whether lead character Jack Bauer should live or die. While it was eventually decided that Bauer should survive his final episode – albeit as a Russian prisoner – 24‘s showrunners have admitted that they’d seriously toyed with the idea of killing him off. It would have been a bold move, that’s for sure!

Back in season one, an alternate ending of a more cheerful kind was considered. In that season’s finale, Bauer’s wife Teri was brutally murdered by corrupt spy Nina Myers. Originally, Teri was going to make it through the encounter and be reunited with her husband and daughter. Unfortunately for the character, the writers ultimately decided to go down the more bloodthirsty route.

14. Sex and the City

It’s been over a decade since Sex and the City aired its finale, and some fans are STILL unhappy with the TV conclusion to Carrie’s story (the films are a whole other matter). Many people felt that Big frankly didn’t deserve to get the girl and that Carrie should have kicked him to the curb. As it turns out, the show’s creator, Darren Star, actually agrees that Carrie ending up with Big was a total mistake. He felt that it strayed too much from the feminist message of the show. Carrie didn’t need a man to be happy! Two alternate endings to SATC were filmed: one in which Carrie marries The Russian (ew) and one in which she ditches all men. Why didn’t the show go with the latter? It makes so much more sense!

13. Parks and Recreation

This particular alternate ending will warm your heart, even if it’s a bit implausible. So you know how Garry ends up being the Mayor of Pawnee until his death at the grand old age of 100? Well, originally, a very different character was going to take on that role. At one point, the showrunners intended Andy, everyone’s favorite loveable goofball, to end up as Mayor! He was going to work his way up through the ranks until he got the prestigious position. Eventually, this ending was scrapped and Andy’s story ended with him becoming a dad. To be honest, maybe it was for the best. While we would have all been proud to see him achieve great things, does Andy REALLY have the work ethic to be a Mayor? We’re satisfied with him just being an adorable husband and father for the rest of his days.

12. 3rd Rock From The Sun

Quirky ’90s sitcom 3rd Rock From The Sun followed the antics of an alien family living on Earth. Beamed into human bodies as part of their mission, the extra-terrestrials got into various hilarious scrapes while trying to blend in with the rest of the population. The show’s ending was a bitter-sweet one: the aliens are beamed back aboard their mothership, leaving their lives on Earth behind. While the aliens’ High Commander Dick Solomon initially invited human his love interest Mary to join him on his space travels, she ultimately declines. Dick erases all of Mary’s memories of him, although leaves behind the feeling of love.

This emotional conclusion was almost avoided: in an original version of the finale, Dick returns after erasing Mary’s memory to abduct her. He realizes that he can’t live without his love, although she now has no idea who he is. However, this was eventually scrapped, and Mary’s wish to stay on Earth was respected. Don’t you just love it when female characters don’t have their agency stripped away?

11. True Detective

The original ending of True Detective‘s first season saw the whole thing becoming a bit Stranger Things. A lot of fans had expected the show to delve into the supernatural and were left disappointed when this didn’t happen. Instead, Detectives Cohle and Hart simply defeat the bad guys and try to move on with their lives. However, in creator Nic Pizzolatto’s first draft of the finale, some definite supernatural vibes made their way into the plot. Cohle and Hart were originally just going to vanish without a trace, possibly into another dimension or world. The Upside-Down, anyone? While this ending would have been pretty cool, it wouldn’t have made THAT much sense in the context of an otherwise real-worldly show. The late introduction of the supernatural would have been a bit random.

10. Battlestar Galactica

The ending of the popular sci-fi series Battlestar Galactica was pretty decisive, all things considered. The show ended with the titular spaceship crashing into the sun. As you’d imagine, it doesn’t exactly survive this surprise landing and is totally destroyed. Luckily, most of its crew had exited the ship before its crash to settle on the nearest available habitable planet: Earth. Originally, the famous Battlestar itself was going to end up on Earth, too. Instead of being totally disintegrated by a burning ball of hot gas, it was going to be buried and then rediscovered centuries later somewhere in Central America. Ultimately, the showrunners decided that they wanted more finality than this ending gave. The Galactica was condemned to meet its fiery doom.

9. The Hills

The producers of The Hills originally had a pretty fitting and hilarious conclusion planned for the show. Remember how the finale saw Brody Jenner bid a sad farewell to ex Kristin Cavallari as she jetted off to Europe to reinvent her life? Then it zoomed out to suggest that the whole thing was, in fact, basically scripted. Well, originally Brody was going to go home to find another ex-flame waiting for him: none other than Lauren Conrad. Conrad quit The Hills midway through its fifth season, but was going to return for this one-off cameo. However, her scene was eventually cut from the finale, and Brody ended up decidedly alone. It would have been so great to see Lauren on the show again, even if it was only a brief appearance! She was basically the best thing about The Hills. MTV denied us the chance to once again be graced with her TV presence.

8. Breaking Bad

When we speak of a Breaking Bad alternate ending, we don’t mean the comedy skit in which the show turns out to be a bad dream of Bryan Cranston‘s Malcolm in the Middle character, Hal. No, we mean the original, slightly mad ending that the showrunners had planned. It involved Walt shooting dead an entire prison bus to rescue Jesse from a life of incarceration. Yup, really. The producers decided that this was pretty extreme behavior even for Walt, and took the safer route of killing him off. Showrunner Vince Gilligan has stated that despite Walt’s previously pretty dubious actions, he couldn’t imagine him stooping to the level of killing a load of innocent prison guards and jailbirds. Fair enough.

7. Seinfeld

The ending of ’90s sitcom Seinfeld was a bit of a controversial one. Many fans were displeased that the show’s central characters all ended up in jail for failing to help a man who was being carjacked. The two-part finale involved a number of faces from the gang’s past using their pretty questionable behavior against them in the courtroom. While some felt that this was the perfect comeuppance for a bunch of characters who had no respect for society, others felt that the writers were mocking them with the somewhat bizarre conclusion. Dissatisfied fans at least had a more palatable alternate ending provided on the season’s DVD extras, in which the gang is acquitted by the jury to the horror of the judge involved. Still, this hasn’t really helped the finale’s reputation all that much. Even some of Seinfeld‘s former cast members regard it as a disappointment.

6. The Vampire Diaries

While the finale of The Vampire Diaries was undoubtedly bitter-sweet, it was originally going to be even more tragic than the ending we got. The show’s final episode sees Stefan Salvatore sacrifice himself to save his brother and his friends. He gets a message to long-time flame Elena to tell her that he’ll love her forever before making his way to the afterlife. Many tears were shed over the course of this finale. Originally, though, neither one of the Salvatore brothers were going to make it through this climactic episode. The Vampire Diaries‘ showrunners thought it would be poetic to have both Damian and Stefan die trying to save Elena, the woman they both love. Wow, guys. We’re glad that they didn’t choose this frankly emotionally traumatizing plot in the end. Nobody would have coped with it well.

5. Dawson’s Creek

The actual ending of Dawson’s Creek was so surprising that even the show’s writers didn’t intend for it to happen. Originally, the show’s team decided that Dawson was going to end up dating his neighbor and longtime BFF Joey Potter. They even began to write the episode’s script knowing that this was the endgame. However, halfway through they realized that actually, Joey’s soulmate was Pacey, and she should choose him instead. And so it was that lead character Dawson didn’t end up getting the girl. In a way, the actual ending makes sense. Joey’s love for Pacey was more mature than her childhood crush on Dawson. Still… Poor Dawson was so close to dating her! So close! Poor guy. At least he got his dream job, if not his dream girl.

4. Thirteen Reasons Why

If the author of the original novel version of Thirteen Reasons Why had stuck with his original plan, the show would also have had to end very differently. At first, Jay Asher considered having a big twist at the end of the book revealing that Hannah was actually still alive. Asher wanted her to survive her suicide attempt to give both Hannah and the people around her a second shot at life. However, he ultimately decided that such an ending would be false. Asher wanted to hit home the fact that when it comes to suicide, there are no second chances. The show followed his decision to kill off Hannah, although it’s taken a surprising turn by continuing after the events of the book concluded. Where will it go next? We’ll have to wait and see.

3. Friends

Even if you’re not a massive Friends fan, you’ll have heard about its famous ending. Rachel got off the plane! She chose to reconcile with Ross, even though he’s kind of a terrible person! While many people were thrilled by the romantic conclusion to Ross and Rachel’s love story, it very nearly didn’t come to pass. The show’s creators initially wanted to generate discussion by leaving the fate of the pair’s relationship unanswered. Rachel was always going to get off the plane, but original episode plans cut out the part where she got back together with Ross. While neglecting to tie up that loose end would have definitely got people talking, its ambiguity would have angered a lot of fans. We’re glad that they ended up getting the closure they craved.

2. Dexter

The ending of Dexter was bizarre to say the least. While many people expected that the titular serial killer would end up either in jail or dead, he actually staged an accident and ran off to live a new life as a lumberjack. Surely he deserved a bit more retribution than that? Originally, the show’s writers intended Dexter to get the ultimate punishment for his crimes: the death penalty. The final episode would reveal that the events of each season were actually memories playing back before Dexter in his final moments. His life was literally going to be flashing before his eyes. However, Dexter actually ended up getting off scot-free for his crimes. Sure, everyone he loves is dead and he’s put himself in exile, but he did kill a lot of people. He couldn’t exactly go back to living ‘normally’.

1. How I Met Your Mother

Considering the HUGE backlash that the finale of How I Met Your Mother caused, it’s no surprise that the show’s producers released an alternate ending. For anyone who somehow missed this drama, fans were not pleased that The Mother – a character we’d waited NINE SEASONS to meet – turned out to be dead. To add insult to injury, Ted ended up with his former flame Robin, making essentially the whole show obsolete. It wasn’t How I Met Your Mother, it was How I Eventually Got Together With Aunt Robin. To pacify the online angry mob, the alternate ending didn’t kill off The Mother and instead had her live happily ever after with Ted. Screw the actual ending. We’ll just settle for the unofficial one, thank you very much.

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