CLOSE
Thinkstock/Bryan Dugan
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.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
STF/AFP/Getty Images
arrow
Food
How to Make Miles Davis’s Famous Chili Recipe
STF/AFP/Getty Images
STF/AFP/Getty Images

Miles Davis, who was born on May 26, 1926, was one of the most important and influential musicians of the 20th century, and changed the course of jazz music more times in his life than some people change their sheets. He was also pretty handy in the kitchen.

In his autobiography, Miles, Davis wrote that in the early 1960s, “I had gotten into cooking. I just loved food and hated going out to restaurants all the time, so I taught myself how to cook by reading books and practicing, just like you do on an instrument. I could cook most of the great French dishes—because I really liked French cooking—and all the black American dishes. But my favorite was a chili dish I called Miles's South Side Chicago Chili Mack. I served it with spaghetti, grated cheese, and oyster crackers."

Davis didn’t divulge what was in the dish or how to make it, but in 2007, Best Life magazine got the recipe from his first wife, Frances, who Davis said made it better than he did.

MILES'S SOUTH SIDE CHICAGO CHILIK MACK (SERVES 6)

1/4 lb. suet (beef fat)
1 large onion
1 lb. ground beef
1/2 lb. ground veal
1/2 lb. ground pork
salt and pepper
2 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. cumin seed
2 cans kidney beans, drained
1 can beef consommé
1 drop red wine vinegar
3 lb. spaghetti
parmesan cheese
oyster crackers
Heineken beer

1. Melt suet in large heavy pot until liquid fat is about an inch high. Remove solid pieces of suet from pot and discard.
2. In same pot, sauté onion.
3. Combine meats in bowl; season with salt, pepper, garlic powder, chili powder, and cumin.
4. In another bowl, season kidney beans with salt and pepper.
5. Add meat to onions; sauté until brown.
6. Add kidney beans, consommé, and vinegar; simmer for about an hour, stirring occasionally.
7. Add more seasonings to taste, if desired.
8. Cook spaghetti according to package directions, and then divide among six plates.
9. Spoon meat mixture over each plate of spaghetti.
10. Top with Parmesan and serve oyster crackers on the side.
11. Open a Heineken.

John Szwed’s biography of Davis, So What, mentions another chili that the trumpeter’s father taught him how to make. The book includes the ingredients, but no instructions, save for serving it over pasta. Like a jazz musician, you’ll have to improvise. 

bacon grease
3 large cloves of garlic
1 green, 1 red pepper
2 pounds ground lean chuck
2 teaspoons cumin
1/2 jar of mustard
1/2 shot glass of vinegar
2 teaspoons of chili powder
dashes of salt and pepper
pinto or kidney beans
1 can of tomatoes
1 can of beef broth

serve over linguine

nextArticle.image_alt|e
Fox Photos, Getty Images
arrow
entertainment
4 Fascinating Facts About John Wayne
Fox Photos, Getty Images
Fox Photos, Getty Images

Most people know John Wayne, who would have been 111 years old today, for his cowboy persona. But there was much more to the Duke than that famous swagger. Here are a few facts about Duke that might surprise you.

1. A BODY SURFING ACCIDENT CHANGED HIS CAREER. 

John Wayne, surfer? Yep—and if he hadn’t spent a lot of time doing it, he may never have become the legend he did. Like many USC students, Wayne (then known as Marion Morrison) spent a good deal of his extracurricular time in the ocean. After he sustained a serious shoulder injury while bodysurfing, Morrison lost his place on the football team. He also lost the football scholarship that had landed him a spot at USC in the first place. Unable to pay his fraternity for room and board, Morrison quit school and, with the help of his former football coach, found a job as the prop guy at Fox Studios in 1927. It didn’t take long for someone to realize that Morrison belonged in front of a camera; he had his first leading role in The Big Trail in 1930.

2. HE TOOK HIS NICKNAME FROM HIS BELOVED FAMILY POOCH. 

Marion Morrison had never been fond of his feminine-sounding name. He was often given a hard time about it growing up, so to combat that, he gave himself a nickname: Duke. It was his dog’s name. Morrison was so fond of his family’s Airedale Terrier when he was younger that the family took to calling the dog “Big Duke” and Marion “Little Duke,” which he quite liked. But when he was starting his Hollywood career, movie execs decided that “Duke Morrison” sounded like a stuntman, not a leading man. The head of Fox Studios was a fan of Revolutionary War General Anthony Wayne, so Morrison’s new surname was quickly settled. After testing out various first names for compatibility, the group decided that “John” had a nice symmetry to it, and so John Wayne was born. Still, the man himself always preferred his original nickname. “The guy you see on the screen isn’t really me,” he once said. “I’m Duke Morrison, and I never was and never will be a film personality like John Wayne.”

3. HE WAS A CHESS FANATIC. 

Anyone who knew John Wayne personally knew what an avid chess player he was. He often brought a miniature board with him so he could play between scenes on set.

When Wayne accompanied his third wife, Pilar Pallete, while she played in amateur tennis tournaments, officials would stock a trailer with booze and a chess set for him. The star would hang a sign outside of the trailer that said, “Do you want to play chess with John Wayne?” and then happily spend the day drinking and trouncing his fans—for Wayne wasn’t just a fan of chess, he was good at chess. It’s said that Jimmy Grant, Wayne’s favorite screenwriter, played chess with the Duke for more than 20 years without ever winning a single match.

Other famous chess partners included Marlene Dietrich, Rock Hudson, and Robert Mitchum. During their match, Mitchum reportedly caught him cheating. Wayne's reply: "I was wondering when you were going to say something. Set 'em up, we'll play again."

4. HE COINED THE TERM "THE BIG C."

If you say you know someone battling “The Big C” these days, everyone immediately knows what you’re referring to. But no one called it that before Wayne came up with the term, evidently trying to make it less scary. Worried that Hollywood would stop hiring him if they knew how sick he was with lung cancer in the early 1960s, Wayne called a press conference in his living room shortly after an operation that removed a rib and half of one lung. “They told me to withhold my cancer operation from the public because it would hurt my image,” he told reporters. “Isn’t there a good image in John Wayne beating cancer? Sure, I licked the Big C.”

Wayne's daughter, Aissa Wayne, later said that the 1964 press conference was the one and only time she heard her father call it “cancer,” even when he developed cancer again, this time in his stomach, 15 years later. Sadly, Wayne lost his second battle with the Big C and died on June 11, 1979 at the age of 72.

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios