9 Crazy Conspiracy Theories About TV Shows

NBC
NBC

Sometimes, devoted fans get a little carried away in their efforts to interpret their favorite shows, and become convinced that there's more to what they're seeing on TV. Here are nine wacky theories they've developed.

1. Bayside High is nothing more than Zack Morris' dream world.

Before Saved By The Bell was a staple of NBC's early '90s Saturday morning programming, it was an '80s Disney Channel teen sitcom called Good Morning Miss Bliss. After a 14-episode run, Good Morning, Miss Bliss was re-tooled and re-packaged for NBC. Some of the characters, including Zack, Screech, Lisa, and Mr. Belding, stayed on, while others—like Mikey, Nikki, Milo, and even the titular Miss Bliss—were cast aside for new faces. The setting was also changed from John F. Kennedy Junior High School in Indiana to Bayside High School in California. As a result, it is believed that Saved By The Bell is nothing more than an escapist fantasy of its main character, Zack Morris. 

On Good Morning, Miss Bliss, Zack Morris (Mark-Paul Gosselaar) was, to put it nicely, kind of a dweeb. Girls weren't attracted to him, his classmates made fun of him, and Miss Bliss (Hayley Mills) was always on to his schemes. But when Zack made the jump to Saved By The Bell, he was magically transformed into the coolest guy in school. Because of this, some fans think that Zack manufactured his dream life in sunny southern California, creating a world in which all the girls want him, his peers idolize him, and he gets away with even his most ridiculous plans. 

According to the fans who subscribe to this theory, Saved By The Bell’s theme song perfectly illustrates Zack’s fantasy world. The lyrics describe his humdrum life (“By the time I grab my books/And I give myself a look/I'm at the corner just in time to see the bus fly by”), suggesting he'll be okay once he’s saved by the bell—or when he enters his fantasy world.

2. The Count feeds on the children of Sesame Street.

Children's Television Workshop

Even more outrageous is the belief among some fans that Count von Count is a bloodsucking Muppet vampire who preys on the children of Sesame Street. The number-obsessed vampire lures kids to his lair under the guise of teaching them math, so he can feed on their youth. (According to this theory, the Count is why the children who hang out on Sesame Street are constantly replaced.) Apparently, Sesame Street's adult residents are in on the Count's dastardly scheme too, because in the decades he's been on the show, they've never made an effort to stop him. 

3. The Fresh Prince is Dead.

NBC

Some fans of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air are convinced that Will was dead for the duration of the show's six-season run. Their theory fixates on the sitcom's opening theme song, which states that Will Smith was hanging out—chillin' out, maxin', relaxin' all cool, if you will—when some guys who were "up to no good" came along. As the song goes, he got into one little fight and his mom got scared, then told him he'd have to move in with his auntie and uncle in Bel-Air. But what if Will never made it to Bel-Air, and instead, died in the fight? These fans believe it was God who drove the “rare” cab to take Will to the Banks’ mansion—in this case, Heaven—which he refers to as his "kingdom."

4. Toby is the real Scranton Strangler.

NBC

The last half of The Office’s nine-season run featured a subplot focused on HR rep Toby Flenderson’s (Paul Lieberstein) obsession with the Scranton Strangler, a local serial killer. The Scranton Strangler was first mentioned during season six, and was eventually caught after a long police standoff in season seven. Toby’s fascination with the serial killer only increased when he was picked to be a juror on his murder trial. Eventually, the Scranton Strangler was revealed to be a character named George Howard Skub; Toby and his fellow jurors were responsible for sending Skub to death row. During season nine, Toby is guilt-stricken when he admits that the jury might have sentenced the wrong man to die. He even visits Skub in prison, who immediately jumps to strangle Toby.

Some believe that Toby's extreme guilt is a sign that he is, in fact, the real Scranton Strangler. At that point on the show, they argue, he has nothing left to lose: his marriage has failed, he has a young daughter whom he rarely sees, his work life is shaky, and he is unable to make a go of it when he attempts to start a new life in Costa Rica. What's more, the Scranton Strangler isn't even mentioned until Toby returns to Pennsylvania. Skub, they allege, reacted so angrily to Toby's presence because he knows that Toby framed him. 

5. The U.S. Government Canceled Firefly.

FOX

Although it had a loyal fan base and was generally well-received by critics, Joss Whedon's sci-fi drama Firefly was canceled in 2002 after airing just 11 episodes. While Fox claims the decision to cancel Firefly was based purely on its low ratings, conspiracy theorists are convinced that the U.S. government had something to do with the demise of the "space opera." The show focuses on a group of independent outlaws who fight for civil rights under the oppressive and immoral Union of Allied Planets. According to the fans who subscribe to this theory, the powers that be weren't pleased with the anti-government sentiment expressed by the show. What's more, they point out, while the show was airing, the Bush administration was trying to build a case for the Iraq War; it's no coincidence that it was canceled just three months before the invasion of the Middle Eastern country. 

6. Gilligan’s Island is Hell.

CBS

Some theorists believe that the setting of Gilligan's Island is not an island, but rather Hell, and that its sinful inhabitants all perished in the crash of the S.S. Minnow. According to this theory, each character on Gilligan’s Island represents one of the Seven Deadly Sins. The millionaire Mr. Howell represents Greed, while his work-averse wife represents Sloth. Sexy movie star Ginger stands in for Lust, while innocent farm girl Mary Ann envies Ginger’s beauty and lifestyle. The smart Professor is prideful because he can't admit that he is unable to fix the ship or get them off the island. Skipper, meanwhile, symbolizes two deadly sins: Gluttony and Wrath, because he’s always taking something out on poor Gilligan. Not that you should feel bad for the titular dimwit; these fans believe that Gilligan represents Satan. He's constantly screwing up the group's plans for rescue, and what's more, he's always wearing red.  

7. The Flintstones Takes Place in a Post-Apocalyptic Future.

Warner Bros. Television Distribution

 
This fan theory posits that the worlds inhabited by the Jetsons and the Flintstones exist concurrently. The Flintstones' civilization was "bombed back to the Stone Age" during a nuclear war, and its inhabitants were forced to start over. That's why the Flintstones use the materials (and animals) at their disposal to mimic modern technology (like when they use birds' beaks to play records). Why would cavemen from the prehistoric past need garbage disposals and record players, if not to replicate how their society once was? 

The Jetsons, for their part, live in Orbit City, a metropolis built entirely above the clouds. Ever wonder what’s below Orbit City? Many people believe that the civilization depicted on The Flintstones is happening down on Earth. In addition, some fans suspect that the only thing dividing the Jetson and the Flintstone families is income. The Jetsons can afford to live in the fancy new society above the clouds, while the working class Flintstones are forced to make do in the ruins of Earth.     

When you consider the time period during which both shows were created, this premise doesn't seem all that far-fetched. After all, both shows were developed at the height of the Cold War, during a time when Americans constantly feared a nuclear attack by Communist Russia.  

8. Jessica Fletcher Is a Serial Killer.

NBCUniversal

It’s believed that Jessica Fletcher (Angela Lansbury) on Murder, She Wrote is not just an author who writes mysteries, but is actually a serial killer who disguises herself as a novelist and amateur detective. How else could Jessica Fletcher, again and again, “randomly” stumble upon a dead body and later on, “figure out” who the murderer is? Consider, too, that Fletcher lives in the cozy coastal town of Cabot Cove, Maine, population 3,500. During the 12 years the show was on, 268 people were murdered, which would, statistically, make Cabot Cove the murder capital of the world. Either killers are flocking to the New England village, or Jessica Fletcher is a serial murderer whose gentle and pleasant British demeanor serves to throw people off her trail. 

9. Breaking Bad is a prequel to The Walking Dead.

AMC

Is Heisenburg’s blue crystal meth responsible for The Walking Dead's zombie apocalypse? At the end of Breaking Bad, Walter White’s (Bryan Cranston) blue meth is becoming more and more popular across the country, eventually making its way around the world. Some fans think that users die, only to rise again in zombie form. Those who subscribe to this theory point to the handful of Breaking Bad references on The Walking Dead

In season one, Glenn (Stephen Yeun) drives a red Dodge Challenger, which looks very similar to Walter White’s car. And when Walter White goes to return his Dodge on Breaking Bad, he takes it back to the dealership’s general manager, whose name is also Glenn.

In season two, Daryl Dixon (Norman Reedus) is trying to bring down T-Dog’s (IronE Singleton) injury-induced fever, so he pulls out his brother Merle's stash of drugs to see if anything in the plastic bag will do the trick. Pictured clearly at the bottom of the bag: blue crystal meth. Even more suspicious: before the zombie apocalypse, Merle Dixon (Michael Rooker) used to be a drug dealer. His supplier was described as “a janky little white guy” who threatened Merle with a gun and said, "I'm gonna kill you, bitch!" Sounds like Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) to me.

15 Uncensored Facts About Midnight Cowboy

Jon Voight and Dustin Hoffman in Midnight Cowboy (1969)
Jon Voight and Dustin Hoffman in Midnight Cowboy (1969)
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

On May 25, 1969, United Artists released the film Midnight Cowboy, starring Jon Voight (Texas transplant Joe Buck) and Dustin Hoffman (the sleazy Ratso Rizzo) as street hustlers in New York City. It was the first studio film to receive an X-rating (the studio refused to edit anything out), and it became the first X-rated movie to be nominated and win a Best Picture Oscar (A Clockwork Orange and Last Tango in Paris followed suit with X-rated nominations). Hoffman and Voight were also nominated for Oscars, and screenwriter Waldo Salt and director John Schlesinger ended up winning gold statuettes for the movie. After the movie became a success, the MPAA demoted its rating to an R.

Based on the novel by James Leo Herlihy, the controversial film managed to gross $44 million—about $200 million by today’s standards. The movie saved the careers of its actors, producers, and Salt, who had been blacklisted and fallen on hard times. It also produced a hit song, Harry Nilsson’s “Everybody’s Talkin’.” Here are 15 facts about the landmark film.

1. John Schlesinger was reluctant to hire Dustin Hoffman.

Like everybody else, the filmmakers associated Dustin Hoffman with Benjamin Braddock, the clean-cut twentysomething he played in The Graduate. “The truth was, I saw The Graduate as a setback, because I was determined not to be a star,” Hoffman told the Los Angeles Times. Hoffman was doing Off Broadway performances during the casting of Midnight Cowboy, so Schlesinger checked him out in a play. Hoffman frequented an automat with fellow thespians Gene Hackman and Robert Duvall; one night Hoffman showed up there with a scruffy beard, disheveled clothes, and a Bowery accent. Schlesinger said to Hoffman, “Why Dustin, you do fit right in,” and he got the part.

2. Mike Nichols tried to talk Dustin Hoffman out of doing the movie.

Dustin Hoffman appears on the set of the film 'Midnight Cowboy' in 1969 in the USA
Dustin Hoffman stars in Midnight Cowboy (1969).
Hulton Archive, Getty Images

Hot off the heels of Mike Nichols’ The Graduate, Hoffman could’ve kept his romantic lead image up, but instead he opted to take a supporting part in Midnight Cowboy. “Mike Nichols, in fact, called me up,” Hoffman told Peter Travers. “And he says, ‘Are you crazy?’ He says, ‘I made you a star. This is an ugly character. It’s a supporting part to Jon Voight.’ He says, ‘What are you doing? Why are you sabotaging?’” But Hoffman stuck to his guns and took the role. “I love the fact I was trying to remain a character actor and that was my desire,” he said.

3. Jon Voight was cast only after the original actor was fired.

Jon Voight auditioned for the role of Joe Buck and really wanted the part, but the producers chose Michael Sarrazin, whose major claim to fame is the 1969 Jane Fonda film They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? “Sometimes I would be offered a role and I would recommend somebody else—I was that kind of person,” Voight told Box Office Mojo. “Yet this one stopped me because the thing I was excited about for this piece wasn’t going to happen. I felt quite sick about it.”

Fortunately for Voight, the producers changed their minds when Sarrazin demanded more money. “It came back to looking at our screen tests back to back,” said Voight. “Apparently, Marion Dougherty, who was the casting director, was in the room and said, ‘Well, there’s no doubt who's the best actor.’ John Schlesinger said, ‘Who?’ And she said, ‘Jon Voight.’ Then, Dustin was called in to look at the tests and apparently he said, ‘When I look at my scene with Michael Sarrazin I look at myself—when I looked at my scene with Jon Voight, I look at Jon.’ That was a huge compliment. I think between these comments, that’s what tipped the balance and then John [Schlesinger] came forward, so I was very fortunate.”

4. Voight worked for scale.

Voight was so desperate to play Joe Buck that he worked for scale: “‘Tell them I'll do this part for nothing,’” Voight told The Telegraph. “They took me at my word, and they gave me minimum for Midnight Cowboy.” At the end of the shoot, they sent him a $14.73 bill for meals on the last day of filming.

5. Hoffman thought the movie would ruin his career.

The actor attended a preview of Midnight Cowboy and noticed “people walked out in droves.”

“Twenty minutes into that movie, Jon Voight has a gay sex scene in the balcony with a kid who was played by Bob Balaban, and people would get up at that point and just walk out of the theater,” Hoffman told Larry King. “We said, ‘We have big problems’ when we heard we got an X-rating and we thought this could end everybody’s career. As a matter of fact, I was talked into doing a movie I wished I hadn’t done, because they had me so frightened that I had buried myself and reversed whatever good The Graduate did.” Hoffman’s agent forced him to star with Mia Farrow in the romantic drama John and Mary to make him “look like a respectable person.”

6. Voight knew the film was destined to become a classic.

Voight and Schlesinger wrapped filming in Texas and Voight noticed how red the director’s face was. Voight thought Schlesinger was having a heart attack and asked him if he was okay. “He looked up at me and said, ‘What have we done? What will they think of us?’ After all, we had made a film about a dishwasher who lives in New York and f*cks a lot of women,” Voight told Esquire. “In the moment he’d finished it, he was shaking. All of a sudden, he saw it as banal and vulgar. He’s having an anxiety attack and I grabbed his shoulders to shake him out of it. I said, ‘John, we will live the rest of our artistic lives in the shadow of this great masterpiece.’ He said, ‘You think so?’ I said, ‘I’m absolutely sure of it.’ The only reason I said such an extravagant thing was because I wanted to get him out of it and nothing would take him out of it but that. But the statement turned out to be true.”

7. Voight and Hoffman were competitive with each other.

What made the chemistry between Hoffman and Voight work so well is they were constantly competing with one another. Hoffman became a movie star before Voight did, and that brought some jealousy to the set. “We were like Marvin Hagler and Sugar Ray Leonard, two fighters going at it,” Hoffman told the Los Angeles Times. “We knew the movie depended on the bond between us. All through shooting, we’d say to each other, out of the side of our mouths, like a fighter in a clinch, ‘Buddy, is that the best you can do?’”

8. Hoffman placed pebbles in his shoe to acquire Ratso’s limp.

“Why pebbles? It’s not like you’re playing a role on Broadway for six months where you’re so used to it, limping becomes second nature,” Hoffman told Vanity Fair. “The stone makes you limp, and you don’t have to think about it.”

9. Schlesinger came out during the movie’s production.

In the late 1960s, one's sexuality wasn't often discussed in the open. But the British director fell in love with Michael Childers, who worked as his assistant on the movie. “We were one of Hollywood’s first out couples,” Childers told Vanity Fair. “He took me everywhere. I felt a little bit uncomfortable at times, but John never did. He said, ‘F*ck ‘em.’”

“John was totally torn up, because part of him wanted to just embrace this, and another part of him was in terror,” the film’s producer, Jerome Hellman, said. “He had these fantasies that if he were openly gay on a film set, that if he tried to give the crew an order, they would turn on him. I said to him, ‘John, look, you’re the director. It’s your movie. I’m the producer, but I’m your partner. There’s nobody who can challenge your authority. If someone speaks out of line to you, they’ll be fired the same minute.’”

10. The famous “I’m Walkin’ Here” line was improvised.

The scene in which Joe and Ratso attempt to walk across the street and almost get hit by a cab was filmed guerilla-style, with a camera in a van across the street. “It was a difficult scene, logistically, because those were real pedestrians and there was real traffic, and Schlesinger wanted to do it in one shot—he didn’t want to cut,” Hoffman explained. “He wanted us to walk, like, a half a block, and the first times we did it the signal turned red. Schlesinger was getting very upset. He came rushing out of the van, saying, ‘Oh, oh, you’ve got to keep walking.’ ‘We can’t, man. There’s f*cking traffic.’ ‘Well, you’ve got to time it.’”

They figured out how to properly time the walk but then almost got run over by a cab. “I guess the brain works so quickly, it said, in a split of a second, ‘Don’t go out of character,’” Hoffman said. “So I said, ‘I’m walking here,’ meaning, ‘We’re shooting a scene here, and this is the first time we ever got it right, and you have f*cked us up.’ Schlesinger started laughing. He clapped his hands and said, ‘We must have that, we must have that,’ and re-did it two or three times, because he loved it.”

11. Hoffman threw up on set while trying to cough.

Talk about Method: Ratso has a deadly cough (consumption), and in a particular scene Hoffman got sick in real life. “Because I was so nervous that I was going to come across fraudulent and not have the right cough, I tried to do the cough as realistically as I could,” Hoffman told Vanity Fair. “Each time, I tried to do it more realistically until, finally, I did it so realistically I threw up all over Jon. My lunch came up. All over his cowboy boots. Jon looked down. He said, ‘Man, why’d you do that?’ He thought I did it on purpose.”

12. Schlesinger didn’t think anybody would make the movie today.

In 1994, the director found himself at a dinner party with a studio executive. “I said, ‘If I brought you a story about this dishwasher from Texas who goes to New York dressed as a cowboy to fulfill his fantasy of living off rich women, doesn’t, is desperate, meets a crippled consumptive who later pisses his pants and dies on a bus, would you—’ and he said, ‘I’d show you the door,’” Vanity Fair reported in 2000.

13. Me And Earl And The Dying Girl pays tribute to Midnight Cowboy.

Alfonso Gomez-Rejon's 2015 Sundance hit Me and Earl and the Dying Girl features two friends who turn The Criterion Collection movies into film school comedies. One of those films is Midnight Cowboy, renamed as 2:48 p.m. Cowboy. In the film, Greg (Thomas Mann) and Earl (RJ Cyler) portray Ratso and Buck, respectively.

Midnight Cowboy became my favorite movie,” Cyler said in a featurette on Greg and Earl’s films. “Now I can’t stop watching it. I’m addicted to it. I’ll be in my trailer. ‘RJ, whatcha doing?’ ‘Watching Midnight Cowboy with some ramen noodles right now.’ It’s just so quirky the way the parody was made, and not just because I got to wear a beautiful cowboy hat.”

14. There’s a speakeasy bar in Austin named after the film.

Midnight Cowboy the bar is located inside a former oriental massage parlor that was busted by the FBI, hence the seedy name. It has a red light—not a sign—outside to mark the place. In order to drink there, you need to make a reservation online, and when you get there, you buzz the box and give the password “Harry Craddock.” They have rules, though: no talking on your cell phone inside the bar, and no “excessive displays of public affection.”

15. A Chicago theater turned it into a stage production.

Chicago’s Lifeline Theatre puts on a lot of literary adaptations, and in 2016 they presented a stage version of Midnight Cowboy, based on the book.

Updated for 2019.

Game of Thrones Studio Tour Opening in Northern Ireland in 2020

Emilia Clarke stars in Game of Thrones
Emilia Clarke stars in Game of Thrones
Helen Sloan, HBO

In a move that only a super-popular series could pull off, it was announced last year that HBO’s Game of Thrones would be getting its own 110,000-square-foot tourist attraction in Northern Ireland (where much of the show has been filmed) featuring scenes, sets, and props from Westeros. And of course, fans were instantly interested.

While the initial plan was to open the attraction this year, that date has been pushed back and an expansion on the original concept has been added.

Linen Mill Studios in Banbridge, Ireland has partnered with Game of Thrones's creators to convert the studios into an exhibition. The sets were used for filming scenes in Winterfell and Castle Black, but the display will include props, costumes, live-action cosplayers, and set pieces representing all of the show’s locations.

While other interactive fan events have already been held, such as the display at SXSW and the Game of Thrones Live Concert Experience, this will be the most extensive and in-depth experience for diehard fans of the series.

When asked about the possibility of bringing a similar attraction to the U.S., Jeff Peters, HBO’s vice president for licensing and retail, told The New York Times that there were no set plans yet, but, “it’s possible. We get pitched all the time, and we’re open to a lot of different opportunities.”

[h/t The A.V. Club]

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