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Thinkstock/Bryan Dugan

15 Polarizing TV Plot Points

Thinkstock/Bryan Dugan
Thinkstock/Bryan Dugan

Sometimes TV shows take their plotlines too far; sometimes, they don't go far enough. Either way, viewers typically aren't afraid to voice their frustrations. Here are 15 plot points (and sometimes, major cliffhangers) that have elicited a strong reaction from fans. Spoilers ahead!

1. Dallas – “A House Divided,” March 21, 1980 (Season 3)

In its season 3 finale, Dallas posed the question that TV watchers talked about all summer long: Who Shot J.R.? It was a viral campaign, the first of its kind, to make sure viewers would tune back in for the season 4 premiere in the fall. This time, it wasn't the content that angered Dallas fans—it was the wait. Those wanting to know who shot J.R. (the show's nasty lead, played by Larry Hagman) didn't get the answer until the fourth episode of the season, making many think the network pushed the reveal to coincide with November sweeps.  (In reality, the shooter wasn't revealed because the writers had to work around both Hagman's holdout for a salary increase and the Screen Actors Guild strike.) More than 90 million U.S. viewers tuned in, and the episode still holds the record internationally for highest rated episode with nearly 360 million viewers.

2. The Sopranos – “Made in America,” June 10, 2007 (Season 6)

In the series finale of The Sopranos, mobster Tony Soprano and his family gather at a diner for supper; an unknown man watches them from the counter. The man goes to the bathroom and glances over at Tony. When his daughter, Meadow, enters the restaurant, Tony looks up and—cut to black. The finale sent viewers into a tizzy: Did the cable go out? Did the DVR malfunction? Once they realized that was truly the end of the series, fans were outraged.

3. St. Elsewhere – “The Last One,” May 25, 1988 (Season 6)

After six seasons of an '80s version of Grey's Anatomy, it was revealed that the whole show was the figment of an autistic child's imagation. Tommy Westphall, the son of the show's fictional hospital's director of medicine, is shown looking into a snow globe in the show's final scene. Tommy's dad is revealed to actually be a construction worker, and what was in the snow globe? St. Eligius Hospital. Viewers were outraged that their beloved show was really, really fictional. Because there were many cross-overs between St. Elsewhere and many other shows, some believe that a good chunk of episodic television was a part of Tommy's imagination. This theory is called the "Tommy Westphall Universe Hypothesis."

4. Little House on the Prairie – “The Last Farewell,” Feb. 6, 1984 (Post-Series Movie)

After 184 episodes on the air, Little House on the Prairie wrapped up with three TV movies. In the final installment, the town learns that a railroad tycoon owns the deed to their township, but instead of moving away, the citizens decide to blow up the town. The plot point came about thanks to an agreement the production company had with Newhall Land and Development, which owned the site where the set was built. The Prairie crew had promised to return the parcel to its original, building-free state, and decided that the easiest way to level the structures was an explosion that could also be written into the movie—but viewers were angry that the town they had grown to love was destroyed. 

5. Seinfeld – “The Finale,” May 14, 1998 (Season 9)

After nine seasons of nothing, viewers almost expected Seinfeld to get real for the finale. Nope. The crew went to jail on some wacky Good Samaritan violation, and the show ended with the same conversation from the pilot, revolving around George's shirt buttons.

6. Roseanne – “Into That Good Night, Part 2,” May 20, 1997 (Season 9)

After nine seasons, Roseanne ended on a very different note than the show's usual tone. It got serious. Roseanne revealed that things in her life weren't as they seemed: Her children really married other people, her sister was a lesbian and, most dramatically, her husband died after his heart attack at Darlene's wedding in Season 8. Fans were already on edge during the whole final season because of its absurd lottery fantasy, but the seriousness of the final episode ruined the theme of the show.

7. Quantum Leap – “Mirror Image,” May 5, 1993 (Season 5)

In the promo above, the network billed the episode as "the final leap," which led viewers to think that Dr. Sam Beckett would finally be leaping back home to his present time. In the end, it's revealed that Sam never goes home and continues to travel through time, correcting mistakes of the past. Fans who wanted a concrete ending—a final chapter of Dr. Beckett's story—were disappointed.

8. Bones – “The End in the Beginning,” May 14, 2009 (Season 4)

From the beginning, fans of the show "shipped" its leads, Booth and Bones. In this season four finale, the two are a couple and even own a nightclub. But not so fast! It's revealed that all of this is just a part of Booth's dream while he's in a coma, and viewers who wanted the pair to get together felt cheated.

9. Heroes – “How to Stop an Exploding Man,” May 21, 2007 (Season 1)

By the end of season one, Sylar and Peter were at each other's throats, and fans were expecting to see an epic showdown. What was delivered in the finale, though, was Sylar escaping while Peter's brother flew Peter's nuclear-charged body high into the sky to save the world from destruction. Fans were unsatisfied by the lackluster ending.

10. Alias – “Before the Flood,” May 25, 2005 (Season 4)

Sydney Bristow and her CIA handler/lover Michael Vaughn were finally going to get a happy ending in the season four finale. While en route to their dream destination in Santa Barbara, Vaughn revealed it was no coincidence he was Sydney's boss, and oh, his name wasn't Vaughn. Before he could explain, the two were struck by another vehicle. Viewers had to wait the whole summer to find out if the couple would survive not just the crash, but Vaughn's revelation (which made them mad, too). Fans were angry because this was basically a reset button after having waited four seasons for the couple to get a happy ending.

11. Newhart – “The Last Newhart,” May 21, 1990 (Season 8)

A few years before Bob Newhart played the mild-mannered Dick Loudon who moved to a rural Vermont town to open a hotel on Newhart, he was a Chicago psychologist in The Bob Newhart Show. The Newhart finale poked fun at Dallas by having Dick Loudon wake up as Dr. Robert Harley in bed in his Chicago apartment next to Suzanne Pleshette—the entire Newhart series had been a dream!

12. Firefly – “Objects in Space,” Dec. 13, 2002 (Season 2)

Fans were angry because Firefly, a critically-acclaimed series, didn't even get a proper finale. The show was canceled by Fox after airing 11 of the 14 episodes that had been filmed. Fans felt that Fox—which had aired the episodes out of order—didn't give the series a fair shake. (The show finally got a movie, Serenity, but many fans of the series would still like to see it return to TV.)

13. LOST – “The End,” May 23, 2010 (Season 6)

After all of the flashbacks, flashforwards, and flash-sideways, LOST fanatics were expecting a stellar ending that answered the many questions posed by the series. But the final episode didn't deliver all of the answers; even the ending isn't exactly clear, and there have been many interpretations as to what it meant. Fan reactions immediately after the finale were all over the map, and many are still annoyed.

14. Dynasty — "Royal Wedding," May 15, 1985 (Season 5)

As the entire Carrington clan attends Amanda's wedding to Prince Michael of Moldavia, the chapel is peppered with bullets from a group of terrorists involved in a political coup. The episode ends with most of the cast motionless on the floor, leaving viewers to wonder if anyone survived. In 2011, Entertainment Weekly ranked this season finale (often referred to as the "Moldavian Massacre" episode) as one of the most unforgettable cliffhangers in prime-time history.

15. South Park — "Cartman's Mom is a Dirty Slut," Feb. 28, 1998 (Season 1)

South Park Studios

Because of a multitude of hook-ups back in the day at an annual party called "The Drunken Barn Dance," Eric Cartman finds out that his mom isn't sure who his father is. The season ends with a DNA test (including every member of the Denver Broncos) and the promise of a resolution in the season 2 premiere. But when the premiere came and went with no news of Cartman's real father, fans were outraged.

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7 Fascinating Details We Learned From Classic Movie Novelizations
Universal Studios
Universal Studios

Before the rise of on-demand entertainment sources, fans who fell in love with movies didn’t have many options beyond waiting for a theatrical re-release or home video rental. Revisiting Star Wars or King Kong instead meant picking up a novelization, a book-length prose adaptation that often expanded or added to a film’s plot.

Working from early drafts of a script sometimes meant that the writers assigned to these projects referenced details that weren’t present in the finished film. These facts can range from minor (Indiana Jones’s crushing student in Raiders of the Lost Ark may have been more of a stalker) to major (the Gremlins novelization depicts Mogwais as aliens from another planet). Check out seven of the more intriguing reveals found in the paperback versions of classic films.

1. E.T. HAD THE HOTS FOR ELLIOTT’S MOM

Steven Spielberg had enjoyed William Kotzwinkle’s 1974 novel The Fan Man so much that he invited Kotzwinkle to take on a plum assignment: Novelizing the director’s big 1982 release, E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial. Although Kotzwinkle stuck to the film’s fish-out-of-water clothesline and the friendship between the titular alien and human friend Elliott, he took some time to delve deeper into the accordion-necked creature’s proclivities—specifically, the idea that E.T. was not quite the asexual being portrayed in the film.

In the novel, E.T. is depicted as having a crush on Mary, Elliott’s (single) mother. After musing that it was unfortunate Mary was showing signs of being lonely, E.T.

"…crept down the hall to Mary's room and peeked in. The willow-creature was asleep, and he watched her for a long time. She was a goddess, the most beautiful thing he'd ever seen. … Mary, said his old heart. Then upon paddle feet, he tiptoed over to her bed and gazed more closely.”

Perhaps watching someone while they sleep is considered acceptable on E.T.’s home planet. In any event, neither the prose version of Mary nor her onscreen incarnation (played by Dee Wallace) acknowledged that E.T. wanted to swipe right.

2. RENÉ BELLOQ AND INDIANA JONES WERE COLLEGE RIVALS.

Karen Allen and Paul Freeman in Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
Lucasfilm Ltd.

In the opening sequence of 1981’s Raiders of the Lost Ark, we learn that two-fisted archaeologist Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) will go to considerable lengths to acquire rare and valuable artifacts. We also discover that his archrival, René Belloq, will go a step further in seizing them. Belloq meets a satisfying, face-melting end during the movie’s climax, but viewers never learn that he and Indy had problems going back to graduate school. In Campbell Black’s novelization, it’s revealed that the two were classmates who drifted apart when Belloq plagiarized one of Indy’s essays. (The book also mentions that Indy’s love interest, Marion Ravenwood, was only 15 when Professor Jones seduced her, a fact best left on the cutting room floor.)

3. THE XEROMORPHS MIGHT BE PRETTY SMART.

In Alan Dean Foster’s novelization of 1979’s Alien, Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) is shown to be at odds with android Ash (Ian Holm) for his duplicitous behavior. Conversing with his decapitated head, Ripley discovers that Ash know more about the Xenomorph terrorizing the crew of the Nostromo than he had let on. Near death, Ash hints that the alien might be intelligent and that she should try to communicate with it.

“Did you?” she asks.

“Please let my grave hold some secrets,” Ash replies.

Onscreen, the creature seemed less interested in interacting with humans and more preoccupied with treating them like incubators. In fairness, signs of intelligent life were hard to come by in that universe following 1986's Aliens.

4. ROCKY FORFEITED HIS WORLD TITLE TO FIGHT IVAN DRAGO.

Dolph Lundgren and Sylvester Stallone in Rocky IV (1985)
MGM Home Entertainment

After watching his friend Apollo Creed get pummeled to death without doing anything to stop it, a penitent Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) travels to Russia to get revenge in 1985’s Rocky IV. The film makes it clear that Balboa’s bout with steroided Soviet hulk Ivan Drago is personal: He declares he’s not being paid for the match and will do it over the Christmas holiday, leaving his skittish wife and son to wonder if Rocky will be cognitively functional in time for eggnog.

The accompanying novelization, which is credited to Sylvester Stallone but may have been written by a ghostwriter, elaborates on Rocky’s obsession with the bout. After Creed’s death, Rocky tries to petition the sanctioning body for boxing to permit him to fight Drago. They refuse, and Rocky is forced to give up his heavyweight belt in order to compete. There are other complications—black sheep brother-in-law Paulie wrecks Rocky’s car—but most of it seems to be in the service of inserting details in place of the film’s trademark montages.

The book does correct one of the movie’s subjective flaws: Rocky is quick to throw in the towel during Creed’s beating, making Drago less an accidental murderer and more of an actual one.

5. GREMLINS ARE SPACE ALIENS THAT SPEAK ENGLISH.

The canon established by Chris Columbus’s script for 1984’s Gremlins says only that the Mogwai are a race of adorably over-fuzzed creatures that spawn demonic offspring when they get wet or are fed after midnight. In George Gipe’s novelization, readers learn that Mogwai are actually an alien race dispatched to different planets in order to display a “peaceful spirit.” Gipe also had the notion to have Gizmo and Stripe converse in the Queen’s English, with Stripe calling his rival “my dear enemy.” Joe Dante, the movie’s director, said Gipe “made up” their galactic backstory, telling Empire in 2014 that Mogwai are the result of dragons and pandas mating. It's as good an explanation as any.

6. JANINE DESIGNED THE GHOSTBUSTERS LOGO.

A screen shot from the 1984 film 'Ghostbusters'
Columbia Pictures

Released in 1984, Ghostbusters succeeded where many movies subsequently failed, mixing comedy with special effects in a story about four guys who treat ghost entrapment like pest extermination. Their secretary, Janine (Annie Potts) seems unaffected by the whole enterprise, answering the phone with “Gahhstbustahs.” But in the novelization by Richard Mueller, it’s revealed that she was responsible for the most iconic image of the business: the crossed-out Ghostbusters logo.

7. FERRIS BUELLER FUNDED HIS DAY OFF WITH SAVINGS BONDS.

Novelizing a John Hughes screenplay must have seemed like a thankless task. The prolific writer/director had a very distinctive voice that was carried by his adolescent characters. One of his most enduring creations was the title teenager of 1986’s Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, an episodic tale of a high schooler (Matthew Broderick) who decides to skip class to hang out with his friends.

The film never specifies how Bueller comes up with the cash he spends in the course of his truancy, but the novel by Todd Strasser fills in the gaps. Apparently, Bueller convinces his father to give him the location of his savings bonds, which he proceeds to cash in at a local bank. He also steals a few bucks from his sister Jeanie.

The book provides other details, like what Ferris and his friends ate at the French restaurant and the fact that Ferris is apparently friendly with Garth Volbeck, the juvenile delinquent played by Charlie Sheen that Jeanie runs into in the police station near the end of the film.

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The Muppets are Getting a Reboot (Again)
Frazer Harrison, Getty Images
Frazer Harrison, Getty Images

The Muppets have entertained audiences from television sets and movie screens. Now, The Hollywood Reporter reports the beloved characters are coming to your computer. Jim Henson's classic characters are being rebooted for Disney's new streaming service.

This isn't the first time Disney has attempted to repackage The Muppets for TV since acquiring the property in 2004. In 2015, a mockumentary-style show, simply titled The Muppets, premiered on ABC, but it was canceled after one season in light of underwhelming reviews. Disney is also producing a CGI update of the animated series Muppet Babies this March. Unlike that show, this upcoming series will star the original adult characters.

Disney has yet to announce a premiere date or even a premise for the new streaming show. Audiences can expect to see it sometime after the Netflix competitor launches in fall of 2019.

The Muppets will be accompanied by streaming versions of other classic Disney properties. Series based on Monsters Inc. (2001) and The Mighty Ducks (1992) as well as film reboots of The Parent Trap (1998) and Honey, I Shrunk the Kids (1989) are all expected to appear exclusively on the streaming service.

[h/t The Hollywood Reporter]

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