Aborted Ideas in TV Shows

Sometimes you don’t know whether a secondary cast member’s schedule will allow a certain storyline, sometimes you don’t know whether a main character might want to leave the show, sometimes the guy you cast ended up not having the chops, and other times one of the guys intended to be a bit part comes in and owns the show.

Ultimately, TV shows can only ever have vague guidelines behind anything in the season. Usually, this is hidden and simply seems like the way it was all meant to be. But occasionally, you can see the bloody stump of an aborted line of thought.

Let’s list them!

From Deadwood:

The first name in the billing during the credits is Timothy Olyphant. The opening scene is of him. Yet…it is quite clearly the Ian McShane show. I suspect that he was intended to be the main character but then ended up being of little purpose as an actor except for giving a nice crazy glare. And then of course Ian just stole the show. You have to wonder how it all would have been different if it had focused around the law-preserving rather than the law-breaking side of things.

Also from Deadwood:

[spoiler]A couple of white dope fiends kill a Chinaman and steal his delivery of opium. Swerengen decides to kill his own guy (one of the dope fiends) and leave his rival’s guy alive because otherwise his rival might try and stir up resentment against the Chinese. As it turns out, the rival plots to do exactly that anyways.

But…the big Chinaman crusade never happens. Nothing comes of this.[/spoiler]

From Sons of Anarchy:

In the first season, Half-Sack is chosen by a woman to be her hubby. Second season comes and…we never see her again.

The first example I can think of for this is The West Wing; it was originally conceived as centering around the President’s staff, with the President himself being a peripheral character who would only appear occasionally. But Martin Sheen was such a presence that he was soon shifted to being a regular character. I sometimes wonder how the series would have gone if a lesser actor had been cast as the President.

The HBO series Rome was setting up for a third season in the Holy Land by introducing Jewish characters, King Harod, etc. But it didn’t get renewed, so the plotline ends up looking kind of extraneous, since they managed to wrap up most of the rest of the story-arcs before the end of the second season.

One of the most notorious examples of this has to be the series Dallas, in which an entire season’s events (including the death of one major character and the introduction of others) were revealed to be only a dream.

Married with Children did this with Peggy’s pregnancy. Katey Sagal was pregnant in real life and rather than hid it the writers wrote it into the show. They had every intention of her (& Marcy) having babies. Then Sagal had a miscarriage and although she said she was willing to continue the story arc and wear fake belly pads the writers decided against putting her through that. So the whole think was abruptly written off as Al’s nightmare.

In Star Trek TNG, season one, Picard is portrayed as very much the French patriot. He makes several comments about the French flag and French culture. That idea seemed to die off pretty quickly.

Two words: Chuck Cunningham.

Everything on The X-Files.

On The Sopranos, the episode “The Pine Barrens” the Russian totally escapes from Paulie and Christopher, who were supposed to cap him in the woods. Nothing ever comes of his escape though.

I ALWAYS thought the Russian would show up again. :frowning:

Sam and Rebecca’s attempt to get pregnant on Cheers. There was a funny bit with Fraiser and Lilith advising them one episode, but it didn’t last much longer.

The show Empty Nest changed its premise pretty early on. It was originally going to be about a widowed doctor living alone, but in the first season–in an episode titled “Full Nest”–two of his daughters moved back in with him.

A bunch of Brady Bunch stuff, (cousin Oliver, their dog). On growing Pains, the Family adopts a kid that later just disappears.

Rumor has it that the writers of Designing Women were very upset with Delta Burke’s departure because they wanted to set up Suzanne and Anthony eloping in the final episode.

There’s also the old story about McCoy in Star Trek TOS having a daughter that Kirk would (naturally) get involved with (i.e., the “Joanna” episode that supposedly was rewritten into “The Way to Eden”).

I thought Jackie was gonna be dumped after a few episodes ofThat 70’s Show.Thank Og they didn’t.

I vaguely remember Sheridan in Babylon 5 investigating some evil organization within the Earth’s government in one episode. It seemed like it was going to be a season long mystery but it was never mentioned again.

Then there’s Peter’s Irish girlfriend in season 2 of Heroes.

Speaking of TNG the original ideas for the Borg were scrapped. They were originally suposed to be an insect species (scrapped for budgetary reasons). The episode The Neutral Zone was supposed be first part of a trilogy that introduced the Borg (hence the mysterious loss of Federation & Romulan outposts). The WGA strike wrecked those plans and we didn’t meet the Borg until Q Who? in the middle of season 2. We never did find out (canonically) what happen to the 3 humans from the 20th century.

In The Office, the writer’s strike prevented the development of a storyline where Pam’s art school friend was going to confess his love for her, and it was going to cause some Jim/Pam conflict. Hence, the weird moment where Art School Friend (forget his name) tells Pam not to give up on her art dreams and is never seen again.

Ummm…is this a whoosh?

No. I recall Sheridan telling Garibaldi that he had investigated a secret organization within the Earth alliance, and all he’d gotten so far was just the name of the group. It was something typical for a fictional conspiracy group like The Trust, or The Inner Circle, or something like that. Maybe it would have been tied to President Clark later, but the secret organization was never mentioned again.

Also on the West Wing, Sorkin originally said that Vinnick (Alan Alda) was to beat Matt Santos (Jimmy Smits) in the election. Then when John Spencer died they changed their minds and let the VP-less Santos ticket win.

Since then I he’s backpedaled though saying it was never a “sure thing” and they were still debating when they got news of his death.