Popular TV Shows That Were Surprisingly Changed By Real-Life Events

TV shows typically depict a fictional world, but sometimes, they have to make last-minute changes when real life interferes. We’re often left shocked when our favorite character gets written off a show or an episode gets postponed. While the producers could be making a creative decision, oftentimes, those changes are due to non-fictional reasons.

From devastating tragedies to hiding an actress’ pregnancy, here are the surprising reasons 20 of your favorite TV shows were changed by real-life events.

1. Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Buffy Summers with a large cut on her forehead.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer | The WB

Season 3 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer was interrupted twice due to the Columbine High School massacre. The first episode was titled “Earshot,” and it was set to run only one week after the real-life shooting. The plot involved a student climbing to their school clock tower with a rifle.

Though it’s revealed that the student was planning to commit suicide and not harm other students, it wouldn’t have been appropriate to air the episode so shortly after the tragedy. Instead, the episode was postponed and WB aired a Buffy rerun.

While fans were understanding of the first delay, they were unhappy when the Season 3 finale, “Graduation Day, Part Two,” was also postponed. This episode involved school violence and had been pushed two months past its scheduled air date, due to lingering fear involving Columbine. After hearing out fans’ frustration, WB posted the episode online rather than on TV.

Next: This scene had to be changed because of the Sept. 11 attacks.

2. Friends

Friends was a monumental hit at the time of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, and an untimely scene in an airport had to be altered. Season 8’s “The One Where Rachel Tells Ross” involves Monica and Chandler jetsetting on their honeymoon, only to be outshined by another set of honeymooners receiving all the newlywed perks. This, however, was not the original plot.

The scene that got replaced involved Chandler joking about a bomb, causing the couple to be detained by airport security. In 2007, the deleted scene was uploaded to YouTube, in the hopes that “the scenes can now be viewed in the spirit which they were originally intended.”

Next: This TV show had a choice to make with their star’s pregnancy.

3. New Girl

Jessica and Nick stand in a living room as they talk to each other.

New Girl | Fox

If an actress is pregnant while filming a TV show, the writers, directors, and producers have a few options. They can either write in the pregnancy, strategically hide the bump, or have the actress temporarily written off the show. New Girl chose the third option once Zooey Deschanel’s bump grew to be quite obvious, and they actually came up with a reasonable storyline during her maternity leave.

During Deschanel’s real-life pregnancy, her character, Jess, gets selected for jury duty in Season 5 of New Girl. Jess is put up in a hotel room while on the jury, and Megan Fox steps in as Reagan to sublet her room and fill in the missing female dynamic.

As the show is centered around Jess, Deschanel made her return to the show once “jury duty” was over.

Next: Here’s the real reason why a character was left at the altar.

4. Grey’s Anatomy

Dr. Christina Young standing in a white jacket behind a gray background.

Grey’s Anatomy | ABC

Season 3 of Grey’s Anatomy didn’t just end in Dr. Preston Burke leaving Dr. Christina Yang at the altar for shock value. Isaiah Washington, the actor behind Burke, had been fired from the show as a result of referring to his costar, T.R. Knight, with a homophobic slur.

He apparently used the slur in an on-set fight with Patrick Dempsey and then repeated the word when attempting to deny the controversy backstage during the 2007 Golden Globes.

Next: This show was hit with a difficult tragedy.

5. 8 Simple Rules

Kaley Cuoco stares angrily at Amy Davidson while John Ritter looks on in a living room set for '8 Simple Rules'.

8 Simple Rules | ABC

8 Simple Rules was hit with a difficult tragedy that altered the fate of their show. John Ritter, who played Paul, suddenly died of a heart attack only a few episodes into Season 2. The show took a hiatus, but decided to write in the death of his character upon its return.

They hired James Garner as Cate’s father and David Spade as her nephew, but the show’s dynamic was lost without Ritter. ABC ended up cancelling the show after the third season.

Next: This scene was eerily similar to a real-life shooting.

6. Mr. Robot

Mr. Robot and Elliot staring each other down.

Mr. Robot | USA Networks

The Season 1 finale of Mr. Robot was ill-timed and shockingly similar to a horrifying moment in real life. In 2015, an ex-broadcaster shot and killed his former colleagues, Roanoke, VA news reporter Alison Parker and cameraman Adam Ward — live on air.

On Mr. Robot, a chilling scene involves someone committing suicide on air during a live interview, so USA Network postponed the episode by a week and released the following statement:

The previously filmed season finale of Mr. Robot contains a graphic scene similar in nature to today’s tragic events in Virginia. Out of respect to the victims, their families and colleagues, and our viewers, we are postponing tonight’s episode. Our thoughts go out to all those affected during this difficult time.

Next: This episode was delayed out of respect.

7. Documentary Now!

A man holds a gold rifle while wearing a plaid shirt and black suspenders.

Documentary, Now! | IFC

The 2015 Roanoke, VA shooting also delayed the airing of “Dronez: The Hunt for El Chingon,” an episode of Documentary Now!. In this episode of the mockumentary series, Bill Hader and Fred Armisen depict journalists hunting down the dangerous drug kingpin, El Chingon.

Out of respect, the episode was delayed by a week, and another episode, “Kunuk Uncovered,” aired in its place.

Next: This acronym understandably got removed from the show.

8. Archer

Archer loads a hand gun.

Archer | FX

When FX’s beloved show Archer included a not-so-beloved acronym, they knew it was time for a change. During its first five seasons, Archer’s spy agency was named ISIS, standing for International Secret Intelligence Service. The show understandably decided to shy away from the acronym, so during Season 6, movers subtly (yet obviously) rolled away their ISIS sign in the background.

Archer’s spy agency got taken over by the CIA, and their old name was never acknowledged again.

Next: This actor’s substance abuse led to his absence on the show.

9. Frasier

Fraiser standing in his living room with Lillith.

Fraiser | CBS

Though a small bump in the world of Frasier, the reasoning for Kelsey Grammer’s absence during an episode was not so small. In an episode of Season 4, Niles filled in for Frasier during his radio show so he could attend a radio psychiatrist’s convention.

Grammer, who plays Frasier, had actually checked himself into rehab following a car crash due to substance abuse. His drug and alcohol addiction was reportedly spurred by not just one, but four of his family members’ deaths.

When Grammer was only 13, his father was shot and killed in a home invasion. In 1975, His sister was abducted, raped, and murdered at age 18 by Freddie Glenn during a killing spree in Colorado. He also lost his two half-brothers, Stephen and Billy, in a scuba diving accident.

Next: This actor quit the show in an act of protest.

10. Law & Order

The blue, red and white 'Law & Order' behind a black background.

Law & Order | NBC

Ben Stone may have resigned from his position on Law & Order during Season 4, but in reality, it was Michael Moriarty making the decision to leave. Moriarty, who played Stone, quit the show and moved to Canada in 1995 in an act of protest.

This was the result of a disagreement with Attorney General Janet Reno regarding her effort to “end violence on television and trample on rights of free expression as guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution.” Moriarty clearly felt strongly that Law & Order wasn’t inciting real-life violence, as Reno accused.

Next: This actor had an altercation with a writer.

11. Criminal Minds

The cast of 'Criminal Minds' standing in a line.

Criminal Minds | CBS

If a fan favorite gets written off a show, it’s got to be for good reason. That was definitely the case of Unit Chief Aaron Hotchner on Season 12 of Criminal Minds. The actor behind Hotchner, Thomas Gibson, apparently had an altercation with a writer on set and led him to being fired. He’d been on the show since Season 1, but that didn’t stop them from writing him off two episodes into Season 12.

The plot was framed that a serial killer was stalking Hotchner’s son, so he and his son had to go into witness protection. He was never to be seen again, and fans weren’t exactly pleased with the character’s abrupt ending.

Next: This actor got too old for his character.

12. LOST

The 'Lost' cast standing on a cliff overlooking an ocean.

Lost | ABC

Most fans of LOST are torn between whether they loved or hated the ending. However, we can pretty much all agree that Walt getting written off the show by getting abducted by the Others was kind of weird. The reason for his exit from the show: puberty.

Malcolm David Kelly’s growth spurt happened at a much faster pace than the seasons did, so if Walt stayed on the show, he’d look like a very mature 10-year-old boy. He made a small appearance later in the series, but the show couldn’t hide the fact that he looked much older.

Next: This episode was too similar to the shooting at Pulse Nightclub.

13. The Last Ship

Tom Chandler in a sparring match surrounded by other people.

The Last Ship | TNT

In the wake of the traumatic news involving the 2016 shooting at Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, Florida, TNT’s The Last Ship postponed the airing of their Season 3 premiere. The plot eerily reflected the massacre, which included a shooting at a Vietnamese nightclub.

TNT said in a statement, “As a result of the shootings this weekend in Orlando, tonight’s originally scheduled season premiere of The Last Ship has been postponed. Our hearts are with the victims and their families.”

Next: This actor was sentenced to jail time.

14. That ‘70s Show

The cast of 'That 70's Show' in costumes in a basement.

That ’70’s Show. | 20th Century Fox

We had no idea that Tommy Chong and his character, Leo, on That ‘70s Show were so alike. Leo was written off the show due to real-life jail time involving the sales of bongs and marijuana pipes on the Internet. In addition, nearly one pound of marijuana was apparently found in a raid of his home.

Chong was sentenced to nine months in jail and fined $20,000. After he did his time and paid his dues, he returned as his lovable character on That ‘70s Show.

Next: This episode was delayed because of the Boston Marathon bombings.

15. Castle

Nathan Fillion stands on a boat in ABC's 'Castle'.

Castle | ABC

The 2013 Boston Marathon bombings left the U.S. with a devastating shock. Taking this into consideration, Castle delayed an episode involving dismantling a bomb, titled “Still.”

The timing would have been too close to the real-life tragedy, so they were able switch the episode with the next one in line and aired “Still” the following week.

Next: This actor drunkenly broke into a bank.

16. 30 Rock

Liz, Jenna and other characters standing in front of a table filled with other characters.

30 Rock | NBC

Rip Torn said goodbye to playing Don Geiss on 30 Rock during Season 4. The writers killed off his character after Torn was arrested for drunkenly breaking into a bank. According to a police report, he was found “with a loaded revolver and was highly intoxicated.”

His charges included burglary, criminal trespass, and criminal mischief and weapons charges, according to Daily Mail.

Next: The series premiere of this show was pushed back.

17. Shooter

Ryan Phillippe holds up a gun.

Shooter | USA Network

The series premiere of USA Network’s Shooter was put off due to the 2016 Dallas, Texas police shootings during a Black Lives Matter protest. The protest was peaceful, but a sniper disrupted the plea for justice by fatally shooting five police officers.

Shooter follows a former military sniper, so given the similar content, USA Network decided to postpone “as a show of respect and to honour the fallen officers.”

Next: Fans hated this storyline.

18. Friday Night Lights

Characters from 'Friday Night Lights' sitting at the bank of a car on a football field.

Friday Night Lights | NBC

Even though the writers of Friday Night Lights still defend the Landry and Tyra murder storyline, many fans gave up on the show because of it. The plot involves Landry accidentally beating Tyra’s stalker to death, and then Landry and Tyra dumping the body. It turned a high school football show into a weird criminal case, and it received plenty of backlash.

Due to fans’ distaste and the 2007 writers’ strike, the storyline was put to an end. However, viewers didn’t like how that was handled, either. Landry’s guilt was eating him up inside, so he confessed to all his wrongdoing. He received no jail time, went back to Dillon High School, and everything returned to normal. Not exactly believable.

Next: An entire storyline had to be rewritten.

19. Scandal

Fitz stares at Olivia as Jake looks at him in the background.

Scandal | ABC

What used to be a surreal world of imaginary politics now isn’t too far from reality. Kerry Washington, star of Scandal, has admitted that Donald Trump’s presidency has significantly impacted the direction of the show.

According to TV Line, “An entire storyline had to be scrapped when it too closely mirrored the actual investigation into Trump’s ties with Russia.”

Next: Prominent scenes were removed from this episode.

20. American Horror Story: Cult

Clowns with red noses and white face paint standing in rows.

American Horror Story: Cult | FX

American Horror Story’s purpose is to scare the audience, but they know not to cross the line when it isn’t appropriate. An episode of American Horror Story: Cult titled “Mid-Western Assassin” aired on Oct. 10, 2017, only nine days after the Las Vegas shooting at a country music festival. The shooting left 58 dead and hundreds wounded, making it the largest mass shooting in U.S. history.

Producer Ryan Murphy decided to remove prominent scenes in the episode that included gun violence, but he did keep the storyline in the background of the episode.

Murphy said of his editing decision, “I believe I have the right to air it, but I also believe in victims’ rights and I believe that now is not the week to have something explosive or incendiary in the culture.” He also noted, “It was meant to be an obvious anti-gun warning about society. I never do anything to offend.”

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