Thanks to the spread of things like the internet and the rise of nerd culture, many people from all around the world have been able to share their own personal thoughts and beliefs about their favorite stories and series. Sometimes they have theories that paint the heroes of stories into a whole new light. Other times, it suggests the alternate reality or interpretation of the world around the characters. It can even reveal a surprising connection between shows.
It’s a fun way to look back at the kind of stories that we love, and that applies to the television series we fall in love with too. Here are 15 of the best fan theories about television shows that we hope aren't true.
15 Phoebe is imagining everything
Of all the friends that star in, well, Friends, Phoebe is the one that stands out in terms of upbringing. While the rest of the cast came from relatively healthy home lives and families, Phoebe had a much more difficult childhood. She spent most of her early years on the streets without her parents, robbing people to feed herself. While it’s nice to see that she escaped that kind of life and ended up becoming a part of a family of her own, some fans think that she actually never made it off the streets. A theory suggests that Phoebe imagines most of the events of the show, watching a group of people inside a coffee shop from outside.
The whole series is just an extended daydream of this crazed drifter, wondering what it would be like to be a part of their lives. It explains how someone from her background, otherwise completely unconnected to the rest of the group, could just show up and become so important to a group of people, including a college professor and television actor. And it helped explain away little touches of reality (like how they can afford those apartments or always get out of work to go to a coffee shop) too, just being the details she wouldn’t think about in her fantasy.
14 The Fresh Prince isn't alive
The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air was the show that introduced the world to future blockbuster star Will Smith, with a fun fish-out-of-water story about a slacker from the streets of West Philadelphia. As the theme song explains, Will gets sent to live with his rich uncle and aunt in Bel-Air after he terrifies his mother by getting into a fight. He spends most of the show generally being the coolest guy in the world and lives a fairly fun life. But for some fans online, that’s just too simple. Instead, some fans think that Will never actually made it to Bel-Air at all.
The fan theory describes a version of events where Will actually didn't survive that fight from the theme song. The taxi that comes to take him to California is apparently actually God, taking him Will to his own personal heaven. There, Will works through his issues and enjoys a pretty perfect life beyond the occasional small fright. Even the most harrowing and tragic situations of his life and issues don’t ever seem to have any lasting consequences, hinting at something bigger that resets each day for him to just be another enjoyable adventure. Wow. Now we’re depressed.
13 Buffy never woke up
One of the creepiest episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer (which, considering it’s a horror series, is saying something) saw Buffy infected with a venom that messes with her sense of reality. She goes back and forth between the real world of monsters and magic, and a more mundane version of events where she’s a mental patient in an asylum, insane and convinced she’s in a magical world.
It’s an unsettling idea and the end of the episode even implies that the mundane reality is the actual world and that Buffy really just is a catatonic mental patient.
For some fans, that’s more than enough proof that Buffy has imagined everything we’ve seen so far in the show and they hold out that this is the true ending of the series. Show creator Joss Whedon has even come out with how much he likes this theory, which just makes it even scarier for us. Who’s to say that kind of madness and terror couldn’t happen to anyone? And how would they even know? They’d be mad and never realize the horrible truth. In a show full of vampires and werewolves and all kinds of otherworldly monsters, that’s the creepiest threat of all.
12 Walter White is Malcolm
Bryan Cranston was most famous as the bumbling but well-meaning Hal from Malcolm in the Middle, at least initially. The actor transformed into one of the biggest names on television with the success of Breaking Bad, thanks to his role as Walter White in the dramatic powerhouse series. Though, people didn’t suddenly forget his earlier comic work. Some early fans suggested that Hal and Walt were actually one and the same, but it’s much more fun to imagine that a later theory is correct and that it’s actually Hal's son, Malcolm, who grows up to become the dealing teacher.
Both characters are brilliant compared to their peers and maybe have a little too much pride. Both also have surprisingly short tempers, which can lead to them doing some very cutthroat things to win out in the end. Plus, Malcolm growing up to look just like his Dad and estranged from his mother, makes for a much more realistic depiction of what Malcolm would be like in his later years of life. It forms a powerful kind of connection between the series. This is the kind of theory that makes both shows better, to be honest, finding a through-line that connects both series and complements their similarities.
11 Eric Foreman is in a coma
That '70s Show was a fun sitcom about a group of friends growing up in the 1970s together in Wisconsin. But the show also has a noticeable dip in quality halfway through the series, eventually becoming almost unwatchable by the final season. But one eagle-eyed fan has an idea to explain that. During one scene in the middle of the fourth season, the characters are all hanging out on a water tower when Eric Foreman loses his balance and falls.
While it’s treated as a gag within the context of the show, in reality, it would have been a much more serious incident and injury.
The theory suggests that the fall actually left Eric in a coma and that the rest of the show is all in his mind. It explains an earlier moment where the characters heard about an otherwise unexplained teen in a coma over the radio and actually makes for a clever reveal. It also explains the increasingly off timeline in the later years of the show, which leads to Eric finally leaving town and moving on from his friends and family. His mind provides him with the closure he never got in his real life and makes the depressingly bad episodes of the show at least a little better in context.
10 "St. Elsewhere" is connected to everything
St. Elsewhere was a slightly above average medical drama from the 1980s, that managed to last for six seasons. The show is more remembered nowadays for the surprising ending at the climax of the finale. One of the characters was the young Tommy Westphall, who briefly appeared every once in a while as the son of one of the doctors. But in the final episode, a zoom out of the hospital reveals that it was really just a snow globe this whole time and an autistic Tommy has been staring into it and imagining the events of the entire show in his mind. But a handful of shows had brief crossovers with St. Elsewhere, so wouldn’t that mean those shows were also just in his mind?
This theory suggests that there’s a web of connections between a massive number of television shows and that they all take place inside the mind of a lonely autistic boy. This includes sitcoms like Cheers, crime dramas like Law & Order, comedies like Arrested Development, even fantasy and sci-fi shows like Firefly and Star Trek. They can all be tied to this theory and all just happen in that one boy's mind, which would be nuts.
9 Meredith has Alzheimer’s
Grey’s Anatomy has gone to some truly bonkers places over the years, but there might have been an explanation for it this whole time that we just never saw. Meredith Grey has been narrating the entire series, implying that the entire series is a story that she’s been telling someone. But the discovery that she has a predisposition for Alzheimer’s in the ninth season paints the narration in a new light.
It suggests an unreliable narrator to an extent and makes us question everything we've ever seen. The entire story of the show is put into question.
There’s no way to know for sure whether or not all the details that Meredith has been relaying through the show are accurate or if they're her just trying to fill in the blanks where her memory has failed. This explanation could account for a lot of the more insane or odd developments of the series (looking at you, ghost hook-up). The disease could be having an impact on her mind and memory, especially if she also developed dementia as part of the disease. It offers a realistic, dark explanation for why the show has taken some of its more extreme turns and actually makes those bizarre moments more powerful.
8 Scully is immortal
During the course of the X-Files, FBI special agent Dana Scully ends up going through a whole lot of dangerous situations. But some fans think it was more than just good fortune that kept her alive for over a decade of adventures. It’s been suggested that Scully might actually be more supernatural than she ever knew and is immortal. While she's proven to be a tough and clever survivor, this inability to be harmed in any permanent way may have played a role in her continued survival of the series.
A fortune teller predicted that Scully would live forever, an event that might have come to fruition in the sixth season episode “Tithonus.” During that episode, an immortal photographer explains how he became immortal. Although it’s initially scoffed at, Scully soon finds herself in the same exact situation. During the episode, Scully manages to turn away from mortality and take his place as a new immortal. It explains how she dodges every other threat in the series and makes her a bigger and even more important character in the mythos of the world. Plus, it gives her a supernatural ability outside of the show’s typical alien storylines, which is always appreciated.
7 Zach Morris is imagining everything
Zach Morris is the main character in Saved by the Bell, leading a privileged and perfect life as the most popular student at Bayside High in sunny California. But that wasn’t always the case. Technically, the first season of the show was actually called Good Morning, Miss Bliss and was a much more down to Earth series than Saved by the Bell became over time, featuring Zach as a much more realistic teenager. Instead of being portrayed as the big man on campus, he's just another teen trying to figure out high school.
The show wasn't even totally focused on him, with the actual title reflecting the teacher Ms. Bliss as the focus more than Zach.
But when he moves across the country for the first season of Saved by the Bell, his entire life transforms into the dream version of a teen’s high school experience. He becomes the most sought-after school hero, amidst a cast of exponentially odd friends. Some fans think the shift came because he really is just imagining the rest of the series, an escape from the life he was leading as an average student.
6 Toby (or Jim) was the Scranton Strangler
There’s a running joke in the later seasons of the US version of The Office about a serial strangler terrorizing the small town that the show is set in. The hunt for this man becomes a recurring theme in the show, and he’s even caught and put on offed row by the end of the series. But there are some fans who think there’s evidence that the wrong man was convicted of those crimes. Perpetual sadsack Toby returns to the show just around the time the Scranton Strangler is active. His declining mental health and personal life could be blamed for the kind of anger that would make Toby go off the edge.
But there’s an even more sinister interpretation that paints the main character, Jim, as the actual strangler, at least according to some fans. There are little traits of his (like his domineering attitude and fixation with tricking people) that could have a darker meaning if he’s actually the strangler himself. It even makes the sweet moments between him and Pam take a dark tone for the viewers and could make their final embrace a whole lot more frightening. We're just going to to go with the theory about Toby because we can't handle it actually being Jim.
5 Gilligan’s Island is actually a bad place
Gilligan’s Island is one of those defined classics of television. It's the kind of show that people may have never seen but implicitly know. The show is about the people who were aboard a boat when they crashed onto an island, leaving them marooned. Each episode was about the seven people trying to get off the island and Gilligan inadvertently ruining it by wrecking whatever plan they had to finally make their escape.
But while viewers at the time thought it was just a silly comedy, there might have been a darker meaning to the story than audiences ever expected.
A theory suggests that none of the people from the boat actually survived the crash and they’ve all passed on and gone to hades. Six of the people on the island represent the seven kinds of mortal sins, each of which is the cause of their current situation. Meanwhile, the seemingly jovial but idiotic Gilligan (who’s always dressed in red, for what it’s worth) is actually the devil. He torments them endlessly and ruins all their attempts to escape their predicament, not through accident but by design. It makes the classic show way more interesting and turns Gilligan into one of the most devious villains in television history if it's true.
4 Dennis is super messed up
All five members of the It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia cast have gone through periods of being pretty horrible people. The five have done terrible things during the run of the show, being cruel and petty for little to no reason. But one of them has been implied to take things a little further than the others and even gone as far as to off people. Dennis is the vain, image-obsessed “leader” of the group. But as the series has progressed, the character’s charm has been revealed to be a facade of a frightening individual.
He’s systematic and creepy throughout the series, and even has a method to manipulate and exploit women. But there have been hints throughout the series about his thoughts somehow could even be worse. Some fans theorize that the character has actually off people. He’s obsessed with skin and has a passion for breaking people. One episode even hinted at the “tools” that he keeps in his trunk, including duct tape. His friends have noticed this degradation too, but they're also horrible people in their own right who don't really ever do anything about it. This theory actually follows right along with the tone of this series.
3 Jaime will turn on Cersei
One of the longest-running subplots of the Game of Thrones has been the longstanding hatred between Cersei and Tyrion Lannister. Cersei blames her brother for the ending of their mother (who lost her life after giving birth to Tyrion), but passionately loves her twin brother, Jaime. Part of the hatred is further explored in the books with a prophecy Cersei heard when she was younger.
While television audiences heard most of the prophecy in the fifth season of the show during a flashback, there was one part from the book that was left out.
Cersei was also told about how she would be vanquished at the hands of “valonqar” a term in the story that means “little brother.” This immediately made her think of her younger brother Tyrion and has only amplified her hatred. But a detail in the story is that she’s actually minutes older than the honorable Jaime. He might actually end up being the one to take her out and some fans suggest that’s why that part was left out of the show. Because forcing Jaime to harm one of the only people he loves in the world sounds exactly like something this show would do. Come on, that's how this series gets its kicks and would make perfect sense.
2 Doogie Howser grows up to be House
There has always been a big name medical show on television. Shows about doctors have been a constant source of entertainment, but there might be more connections between the shows than we ever expected. But sometimes, they can actually find some way to make both better as a result. One fan theory suggests that the lead characters from House and Doogie Howser are actually one and the same. Doogie Howser was the first real role for Neil Patrick Harris and showcased him as a teen genius who had already become a prolific doctor.
But this theory suggests that growing up as a doctor made him exceptionally cold. thanks to the years of cold hard professionalism. He's been having patients pass away under his care since before he could legally drive, so no wonder he ends up as something of a wreck. It’s exactly the kind of backstory that could explain why someone would end up being like House. All it requires to work is a name change, which someone like House would probably do anyway to try and avoid some of the recognition his former identity brought to him. It’s a fun way to bond the two shows and makes their growth all the more interesting as a result.
1 Jessica Fletcher was bad
Jessica Fletcher is the hero of Murder She Wrote, a mystery writer who spends her downtime investigating cases and using them as material for her books. During the show, she ends up seeing a lot of crimes. They even seem to follow as she moved around the East Coast, always finding some way to involve her in the investigation. Some fans have called that incredibly bad luck.
Others think there’s a much deeper, darker reason why she’s always surrounded these incidents.
The theory suggests that Jessica Fletcher herself is committing some of the crimes and covering them up to make herself out to be a hero and arresting others for her crimes. She even has a distinct trait of keeping mementos from her actions, in the form of telling the story directly to the world through her writing. It makes the show incredibly dark, and changes everything about the premise of the series. It’s a perfect fan theory and can make watching the show again into a whole new experience. It transforms the entire premise of the show into something frightening and just makes us want to watch it from the beginning with this new thought at the forefront of our minds.
References: Nme.com, Ranker.com, Ranker.com, WhatCulture.com, LazyDayNotebook.Wordpress.com, PasteMagazine.com, EW.com, Bustle.com, Cracked.com, Buzzfeed.com, GilligansIsle.com, AVClub.com, BusinessInsider.com, reddit.com, TheBlot.com