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.

20 Facts About Eyes Wide Shut On Its 20th Anniversary

Warner Bros./Liaison via Getty Images Plus
Warner Bros./Liaison via Getty Images Plus

In the late 1990s, stories about what was happening on the set of Stanley Kubrick’s already-secretive film Eyes Wide Shut constantly made headlines. Everyone wanted to know what was going on behind the scenes with real-life celebrity couple Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman, and the 15-month shoot only intrigued people more. Finally, the film was released on July 16, 1999—more than four months after Kubrick had passed away. While there is still a lot we don’t know about the movie, here are 20 things we do.

1. Eyes Wide Shut is based on a 1926 novella.

Eyes Wide Shut is loosely is based on Arthur Schnitzler’s novella Traumnovelle (Dream Story), which was published in 1926. Considering that the movie takes place in 1990s New York, it is obviously not a direct adaptation, but it overlaps in its plot and themes. “[The book] explores the sexual ambivalence of a happy marriage and tries to equate the importance of sexual dreams and might-have-beens with reality,” Kubrick said. “The book opposes the real adventures of a husband and the fantasy adventures of his wife, and asks the question: is there a serious difference between dreaming a sexual adventure, and actually having one?”

2. Production on Eyes Wide Shut began in 1996.

By then, Kubrick had been holding onto the rights to Traumnovelle—which screenwriter Jay Cocks purchased on his behalf, in order to keep the project under wraps—for nearly 30 years. Kubrick had planned to begin working on the film after making 2001: A Space Odyssey, but then got the opportunity to adapt A Clockwork Orange.

3. The studio pushed Stanley Kubrick to cast A-list names.

Terry Semel, then-head of Warner Bros., told Kubrick, “What I would really love you to consider is a movie star in the lead role; you haven't done that since Jack Nicholson [in The Shining].”

4. Stanley Kubrick wanted to cast Alec Baldwin and Kim Basinger.

Kubrick liked the idea of casting a real-life married couple in the film, and originally considered Alec Baldwin and Kim Basinger. (He also liked the idea of Steve Martin.) Eventually, he went with Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman, who were married from 1990 to 2001.

5. London stood in for New York City.

Though the film is set in New York, it was filmed in London. In order to construct the most accurate sets possible, Vanity Fair reported that Kubrick “sent a designer to New York to measure the exact width of the streets and the distance between newspaper vending machines.”

6. Some of the shots in Eyes Wide Shut required no set at all.

In order to give the movie a dream-like quality, the filmmakers used an old-school method of shooting—and a treadmill. “In some of the scenes, the backgrounds were rear-projection plates,” cinematographer Larry Smith explained. “Generally, when Tom’s facing the camera, the backgrounds are rear-projected; anything that shows him from a side view was done on the streets of London. We had the plates shot in New York by a second unit [that included cinematographers Patrick Turley, Malik Sayeed and Arthur Jafa]. Once the plates were sent to us, we had them force-developed and balanced to the necessary levels. We’d then go onto our street sets and shoot Tom walking on a treadmill. After setting the treadmill to a certain speed, we’d put some lighting effects on him to simulate the glow from the various storefronts that were passing by in the plates. We spent a few weeks on those shots.”

7. Eyes Wide Shut holds a Guinness World Record.

The film has a place in the Guinness Book of World Records for the longest constant movie shoot, with a total of 400 days, which was a surprise to the cast and crew. Cruise and Kidman had only committed to six months of filming. The extended shoot was a lot to ask of Cruise in particular, who was at the height of his career. He even had to delay work on Mission: Impossible II to finish Eyes Wide Shut. He didn’t seem to mind though. “We knew from the beginning the level of commitment needed,” Cruise told TIME. “We were going to do what it took to do this picture.”

8. The script for Eyes Wide Shut kept changing.

Todd Field as Nick Nightingale in Stanley Kubrick's "Eyes Wide Shut
Warner Bros. via Getty Images Plus

According to Todd Field, who portrayed piano player Nick Nightingale (and is an Oscar-nominated filmmaker in his own right), “We’d rehearse and rehearse a scene, and it would change from hour to hour. We’d keep giving the script supervisor notes all the time, so by the end of the day the scene might be completely different. It wasn’t really improvisation, it was more like writing.”

9. Tom Cruise developed ulcers while shooting Eyes Wide Shut.

“I didn't want to tell Stanley," Cruise told TIME. “He panicked. I wanted this to work, but you're playing with dynamite when you act. Emotions kick up. You try not to kick things up, but you go through things you can't help.”

10. Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman slept in their characters' bedroom.

In order to reflect their real-life relationship, Cruise and Kidman were asked to choose the color for the curtains in their on-screen bedroom, where they also slept.

11. The apartment featured in the movie was a re-creation of Stanley Kubrick's.

According to Cruise, “The apartment in the movie was the New York apartment [Stanley] and his wife Christianne lived in. He recreated it. The furniture in the house was furniture from their own home. Of course the paintings were Christianne's paintings. It was as personal a story as he's ever done.”

12. Stanley Kubrick temporarily banned Tom Cruise from the set.

Nicole Kidman and Tom Cruise star in Stanley Kubrick's 'Eyes Wide Shut' (1999).
Warner Bros. via Getty Images Plus

Given his penchant for accuracy, it’s quite possible that Kubrick wanted to stir up some real-life jealousy between his stars in order to help them embody their characters. In a fantasy sequence, Kidman’s character has sex with another man, which motivates the rest of the film’s plot. Kubrick banned Cruise from the set on the days that Kidman shot the scene with a male model. They spent six days filming the one-minute scene. Kubrick also forbid Kidman from telling Cruise any details about it.

13. It took 95 takes for Tom Cruise to walk through a doorway.

Six days for a one-minute scene is nothing compared to the time Kubrick had Cruise do 95 takes of one simple action: walking through a doorway. After watching the playback, he apparently told Cruise, “Hey, Tom, stick with me, I’ll make you a star.”

14. Security on the set was tight.

Aside from Kubrick, Kidman, Cruise, and their tiny crew, no one was allowed on the set, which was heavily guarded. In May 1997, one photographer managed to capture a picture of Cruise standing next to a man that the photographer thought was just an “old guy, scruffy with an anorak and a beard.” That man was Kubrick, who hadn’t been photographed in 17 years. After the incident, security on the set was tripled.

15. Paul Thomas Anderson spent some time on the set.

One person Cruise did manage to sneak onto the set was his future Magnolia director, Paul Thomas Anderson. While there, Anderson asked Kubrick, “Do you always work with so few people?” Kubrick responded, “Why? How many people do you need?” Anderson then recalled feeling “like such a Hollywood a**hole.”

16. Stanley Kubrick makes a cameo in the movie.


Warner Bros.

He’s not credited, but the film’s director can be seen sitting in a booth at the Sonata Café.

17. Stanley Kubrick died less than a week after showing the studio his final cut of Eyes Wide Shut.

Kubrick died less than a week after showing what would be his final cut of the film to Warner Bros. No one can say how much he would have kept editing the film. One thing that was changed after his death: bodies in the orgy scene were digitally altered so that the movie could be released with an R (rather than an NC-17) rating. Although many claim that Kubrick intended to do this, too. "I think Stanley would have been tinkering with it for the next 20 years," Kidman said. "He was still tinkering with movies he made decades ago. He was never finished. It was never perfect enough.”

18. By the time Eyes Wide Shut was released, a dozen years had passed since Stanley Kubrick's last directorial effort.

Eyes Wide Shut came out a full 12 years after Kubrick’s previous film, 1987's Full Metal Jacket.

19. Eyes Wide Shut topped the box office during its opening week.

The film earned $30,196,742 during its first week in release, which was enough to take the box office’s number one spot—making it Kubrick’s only film to do so.

20. Tom Cruise didn't like Dr. Harford.

One year after the film’s release, Cruise admitted that he “didn’t like playing Dr. Bill. I didn’t like him. It was unpleasant. But I would have absolutely kicked myself if I hadn’t done this.”

An earlier version of this article ran in 2015.

Top 50 Best-Selling Artists of All Time

Paul McCartney of The Beatles and Mick Jagger of The Rolling Stones sit opposite each other on a train at London's Euston Station.
Paul McCartney of The Beatles and Mick Jagger of The Rolling Stones sit opposite each other on a train at London's Euston Station.
Victor Blackman, Express/Getty Images

Who are America’s all-time favorite musicians and bands? When it comes to the best-selling artists of all time, The Beatles still rule—yes, even a half-century after their breakup. According to the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), these are the 50 best-selling artists of all time.

  1. The Beatles

Albums sold: 183 million

  1. Garth Brooks

Albums sold: 148 million

  1. Elvis Presley

    Elvis Presley is seen playing the guitar in his 1966 film, 'Spinout'
    Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Albums sold: 146.5 million

  1. Eagles

Albums sold: 120 million

  1. Led Zeppelin

Albums sold: 111.5 million

  1. Billy Joel

Albums sold: 84.5 million

  1. Michael Jackson

Albums sold: 84 million

  1. Elton John

    Elton John plays a concert in 2008.
    LENNART PREISS/AFP/Getty Images

Albums sold: 78.5 million

  1. Pink Floyd

Albums sold: 75 million

  1. AC/DC

Albums sold: 72 million

  1. George Strait

Albums sold: 69 million

  1. Barbra Streisand

    Barbra Streisand
    Terry Fincher, Express/Getty Images

Albums sold: 68.5 million

  1. The Rolling Stones

Albums sold: 66.5 million

  1. Aerosmith

Albums sold: 66.5 million

  1. Bruce Springsteen

Albums sold: 66.5 million

  1. Madonna

Albums sold: 64.5 million

  1. Mariah Carey

    Mariah Carey performs during the 2019 Billboard Music Awards at MGM Grand Garden Arena on May 1, 2019 in Las Vegas, Nevada
    Ethan Miller, Getty Images

Albums sold: 64 million

  1. Metallica

Albums sold: 63 million

  1. Whitney Houston

Albums sold: 58.5 million

  1. Van Halen

Albums sold: 56.5 million

  1. Fleetwood Mac

Albums sold: 54.5 million

  1. U2

    The Edge and Bono of the rock band U2 perform at Bridgestone Arena on May 26, 2018 in Nashville, Tennessee
    Jason Kempin, Getty Images

Albums sold: 52 million

  1. Celine Dion

Albums sold: 50 million

  1. Neil Diamond

Albums sold: 49.5 million

  1. Journey

Albums sold: 48 million

  1. Kenny G

    Kenny G performs onstage during the "Clive Davis: The Soundtrack of Our Lives" Premiere Concert during the 2017 Tribeca Film Festival at Radio City Music Hall
    Noam Galai, Getty Images for Tribeca Film Festival

Albums sold: 48 million

  1. Shania Twain

Albums sold: 48 million

  1. Kenny Rogers

Albums sold: 47.5 million

  1. Alabama

Albums sold: 46.5 million

  1. Eminem

    Eminem performs onstage during the 2018 iHeartRadio Music Awards which broadcasted live on TBS, TNT, and truTV at The Forum on March 11, 2018 in Inglewood, California
    Kevin Winter, Getty Images for iHeartMedia

Albums sold: 46 million

  1. Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band

Albums sold: 44.5 million

  1. Guns N’ Roses

Albums sold: 44.5 million

  1. Alan Jackson

Albums sold: 43.5 million

  1. Santana

Albums sold: 43.5 million

  1. Taylor Swift

    Taylor Swift performs onstage at 2019 iHeartRadio Wango Tango presented by The JUVÉDERM® Collection of Dermal Fillers at Dignity Health Sports Park on June 01, 2019
    Rich Fury, Getty Images for iHeartMedia

Albums sold: 43 million

  1. Reba McEntire

Albums sold: 41 million

  1. Eric Clapton

Albums sold: 40 million

  1. Chicago

Albums sold: 38.5 million

  1. Simon & Garfunkel

    Pop duo Simon and Garfunkel, comprising (L-R) singer, Art Garfunkel and singer-songwriter, Paul Simon, performing on ITV's 'Ready, Steady, Go!', July 8, 1966
    Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Albums sold: 38.5 million

  1. Foreigner

Albums sold: 38 million

  1. Rod Stewart

Albums sold: 38 million

  1. Tim McGraw

Albums sold: 37.5 million

  1. Backstreet Boys

Albums sold: 37 million

  1. 2 Pac

Albums sold: 36.5 million

  1. Bob Dylan

    Bob Dylan
    Evening Standard/Getty Images

Albums sold: 36 million

  1. Def Leppard

Albums sold: 35.5 million

  1. Queen

Albums sold: 35 million

  1. Dave Matthews Band

Albums sold: 34.5 million

  1. Britney Spears

    Britney Spears performs at the 102.7 KIIS FM's Jingle Ball 2016
    Christopher Polk, Getty Images for iHeartMedia

Albums sold: 34.5 million

  1. Bon Jovi

Albums sold: 34.5 million

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