In the writers’ room, there’s always choices to be made, about characters, about storylines, about the direction of the show. Typically, we are not privy to those choices, but every once in a while, a writer or creator shares with us the “road not traveled” on a particular series, which allows us to imagine, “What could’ve been.” Here’s the road not taken on 12 television series, decisions that would’ve completely altered the shows, that I’ve learned about in my time covering TV on the web.
1. Monica and Joey were originally supposed to be the Ross and Rachel of Friends.
2. At one point early on in Scrubs (when Bill Lawrence suspected the show would be cancelled), it was to be revealed in the series finale that the Janitor was a figment of JD’s imagination all along.
3. Glee was originally written as a movie, with an Indian character named Ranjit instead of Chris Colfer’s character. When Colfer auditioned for the role, Ranjit was written out.
4. Phil Hartman auditioned to replace the deceased announcer Johnny Olson on the Price is Right in 1985 (he didn’t get the gig obviously). Meanwhile, Dan Patrick was the first choice to replace Bob Barker, but he turned down the role, which went to Drew Carey. Can you imagine a Price is Right hosted by Dan Patrick with announcer Phil Hartman?
5. Season four of Veronica Mars would’ve fired the entire cast except for Kristen Bell, who would’ve relocated and joined the FBI as a trainee. For a long while, that was meant to be the Veronica Mars movie. I’m actally glad it didn’t happen, because I think it probably would’ve ended up like Scrubs 2.0: Well liked, but forgettable without the rest of the cast, with whom we were so enamored.
6. A plotline in Battlestar Galactica would’ve had Lee develop romantic feelings for President Roslin, which would’ve made things awkward with his father, who also had feelings for Roslin. That would’ve been just straight-up weird.
7. In Lost, Jack was originally supposed to be played by Michael Keaton and killed off midway through the pilot episode. Had that happened, it would’ve been a completely different show.
8. Albert Brooks was originally considered as a permanent host of Saturday Night Live. SNL probably wouldn’t have lasted more than 3 seasons. Now, it’s headed into its 40th.
9. Fox’s 24 was originally envisioned as a romantic comedy about the planning of a wedding over the course of a day. No, I am not kidding.
10. Natalie Martinez was originally envisioned as Chuck’s love interest in Chuck, but she was scrapped from the show (she did manage to get into a few early cast promo shots before she was let go).
11. Julianna Margulies’ character in E.R. was originally supposed to die of a drug overdose in the pilot (test audiences loved her, however, so they decided to keep her and develop her relationship with George Clooney’s character).
12. The Commodore was meant to be the Big Bad in season two of Boardwalk Empire, but Dabney Coleman’s throat cancer prevented it. Rewriting that storyline cascaded throughout the entire show, and Jimmy Darmody (and Angela) had to be pushed into a bigger role, resulting in their deaths earlier than previously anticipated. On the other hand, the death of Jimmy resulted in a larger role for Richard Harrow.