Most TV shows are chock-full of entirely fictional characters, but they inspire real-life passion. "My So-Called Life" was canceled after one amazing season in 1995 and I'm still pretty ticked off about it. People were so obsessed with "Veronica Mars" that a Kickstarter campaign raised 6 million bucks to fund a movie, which premiered in March of 2014 [source: Harnick]. Fan theories arise from the same sort of fervor, often even long after a given TV show has gone off the air.
Many fan theories are complete and total conjecture, giving people a way to expand upon their favorite characters and plotlines without any real evidence or proof. However we do know that TV writers have been known to take a "more than meets the eye" approach to storytelling. Just ask the guys who created "Lost," which was peppered liberally with literary and obscure historical references designed to intricately weave subtle connections between characters and plotlines [source: Zemier]. So really, it's not all that far-fetched that some of these fan theories could have a hint (or a large helping) of truth to them. But don't take my word for it – read on and judge for yourself!
Charlie Brown Has Cancer
"Peanuts'"Charlie Brown was drawn by Charles Schulz to be a representative of the imperfections of everyday human life. He has troubles, insecurities and puts up with some pretty rotten friends and neighbors who give him rocks when he's trick-or-treating. Seriously, who does that to a little kid?
Anyway, one fan theory abounds that poor Chuck's perpetually hairless, down-and-out state has more to do with cancer than self-esteem or bad luck. In fact, theorists go so far as to say that our lovable protagonist is merely dreaming up his experiences from the confines of his sickbed, rather than experiencing them firsthand [source: Temple]. So, is there any truth to this depressing idea? The legendary cartoonist Schulz has since gone to the Great Pumpkin Patch in the sky, so we'll never know for sure, but my guess is an emphatic 'no,' seeing as how lovingly he portrayed Charlie as the "hero" figure, despite his obvious shortcomings. After all, even Charlie eventually managed to kick that pesky football, so there's definitely room for a little positivity.
Jessica Fletcher Is a Serial Killer
I don't know about the rest of you, but I've never stumbled upon even one dead body, let along enough to fill up 12 seasons of a television show. Not the case for Angela Lansbury's Jessica Fletcher! This sweet, but razor-sharp British writer turned amateur detective, was the central character of the popular series "Murder, She Wrote," which ran from 1984 to 1996. Some fans posit that Fletcher was actually a serial killer who parlayed these many dozens of murders into her best-selling mystery novels. Cap that off with the fact that she's a widow who never reveals the nature of her late husband's passing and you have a theory that actually has some good legs on it. How does a Maine town of 3,500 have 274 killings? [source: Cintron] A little suspicious, no?
Plausible as this theory may be, I'm going to put my rose-colored glasses back on and enjoy Lansbury's soothing accent, maternal nature and penchant for tea. One thing's for sure, though -- if I lived in a town as small as Cabot Cove and people persisted in dropping like flies, I'd be on a one-way train to somewhere with a less grisly murder rate -- with haste.
Here's Another Killer: The Count
"Sunny Day/Sweepin' the clouds away/On my way to where a vampire is going to feast on my innocent young blood before moving on to his next nubile victim." So go the lyrics to the "Sesame Street" theme song, although I guess I took some liberties with the third line. Long before Edward Cullen burst onto the scene in all his sparkly "Twilight" glory, our hearts were stolen by Count von Count, of "Sesame Street" fame. He's helped us count all those batty-bats and eased some of our fears over Creatures of the Night and other scary stuff.
Unfortunately for us paranoid few, it seems that everyone's favorite purple vampire could be far more sinister than his friendly demeanor would have us believe. After all, what the heck is a vampire doing in the land of Muppets and giant birds and grouches, anyway? The answer (according to some fan theorists, anyway) is simple, my friends – The Count feasts on the blood of young Sesame Street-goers, while enslaving the resident adults as his minions. It's the only thing that explains why you never see the same kids for more than a couple of episodes. Well, that and the fact that they're probably just actors who have to go to school and get older and stuff. My guess is that the makers of this beloved children's show are unlikely to ever cop to this idea being true, but in a world where Elmo (or his voice if you're being picky) can be unsuccessfully sued for sex crimes, I guess anything is possible.
Zack Morris Resides in Fantasyland
Die-hard "Saved By the Bell"-ers may already know that the ultra-cheesy, but mega-popular 1990s sitcom was actually a spinoff of "Good Morning, Miss Bliss," a Disney Channel show that included such characters as Zack Morris, Mr. Belding, Lisa and the loveable nerd Screech. The show ran from 1987 to 1989 and took place in Indiana, not California, where SBTB was set [source: IMDB].
The conspiracy lies herein: During GMMB, Zack was – don't shoot the messenger – a loser with zero mojo. All of a sudden, SBTB debuts and he's been transplanted with a number of friends and his principal to sunny California, where he always manages to pick up girls, make mistakes and learn his lessons in a disarming, amiable fashion. While Zack and co. maintain their previous character names, a couple of his "best" friends are never seen again (maybe they crossed paths with the Count during the move?). The theory is that SBTB is an elaborate fantasy world in which Zack is the Golden Boy Who Can Do No Wrong, as opposed to the sad guy with crappy friends and no game [source: Bailey]. Is it possible? I guess so, but it's more likely that producers saw greater potential for Zack's character as a stud ladies' man and decided to take him somewhere he'd be able to look good in a bathing suit.
Max and Ruby Are Dead
If you don't know who Max and Ruby are you probably don't keep regular company with young children. Anyone who has endured more than a couple episodes of this Nickelodeon show about two young bunnies has noticed one very prominent characteristic: Their parents are nowhere to be found. You see pictures of them on the walls and occasionally Grandma or a neighbor (probably Child Services in disguise) pops in, but that's about it. This leaves the bossy older sister and her toddler brother to cook for themselves, throw their own birthday parties and take the bus crosstown to the shopping mall, something I won't even do now and I'm 36 years old.
Other viewers were as puzzled as I about this obvious neglect, and put together a disturbing theory. Apparently, it's not uncommon for female rabbits to absorb their unborn babies, or "kits." So perhaps Max and Ruby were absorbed by their mother before birth; therefore they are dead and the show depicts their "lives" in the Bunny Hereafter. (Grandma's passed on too, so that's why she's sometimes shown) [source: Farrier].
Although I would like to be able to put this nagging issue to bed for weary parents, I doubt that Rosemary Wells, who authored the successful series of books on which the series is based, ever envisioned her characters as being a fuzzy version of the walking dead. It's far more likely that she didn't want to muddle the storyline with too many characters and instead let Ruby be the bossy-pants bunny she was destined to be.
'Jericho' Was Stifled By The Man
If you missed the launch, demise and unsuccessful re-launch of "Jericho" (2006-2008), you weren't the only one. This short-lived but critically lauded series about life in post-nuclear explosion America was hailed by critics and a small contingent of fervent fans. Unfortunately, Jericho was canceled after one season of storytelling on the lives and challenges of life in a devastated land. Fans revolted and managed to wage a successful campaign to have the show rebooted, only to be canceled again soon thereafter.
Low ratings apparently weren't enough of an explanation for Jericho enthusiasts. Nope, they zeroed in on Big Brother as a likely culprit for the demise of the series, since much of the second season focused squarely on government oppression and an impending revolution by incensed citizens. Interestingly, fans of Joss Whedon's "Firefly" have insisted that the 2002 series about futuristic renegades met the same oppressed fate [source: Bailey].
For what it's worth, I don't believe this theory one little bit. The government loves us and wants to protect its people! Now, please excuse me while I go put on my "I Heart Big Government" T-shirt. Can't be too careful, folks -- I never know who's going to wind up reading my articles!
The Tommy Westphall Universe Hypothesis
Young Tommy Westphall was an ancillary character of the hit 1980s medical drama "St. Elsewhere." The show, which ran for six years, pulled a major twist in the 1988 series finale when it strongly suggested that the entire series along with all its characters, mishaps and other happenings, were the product of the autistic child's imagination. By this logic, conspiracy theorists have deduced that any other show featuring a "St. Elsewhere" character is also one of Tommy's internal creations, and any other series that said show crossed over to is affected as well. Since one of the doctor characters appeared on "Homicide: Life on the Street," the latter show is also part of Tommy's imaginations. So, this impacts like 10 or 20 shows? Wrong -- try 375 (at last count). That's right, folks. "St. Elsewhere" is clearly the Kevin Bacon of the television show industry.
Proponents of this theory have gone so far as to suggest that all of these shows exist in their own specific universe, or even a multiverse (I didn't know such a thing existed) chock-full of all our favorite characters with their intermingled storylines. If shows like "The Simpsons," "X-Files," "Law & Order," "The Facts of Life" and even "Friends" never truly existed in this universe, I'm going to figure out how to book passage to wherever the heck theirs is located [sources: McDuffie, The Tommy Westphall Universe]. "The Rachel" most definitely happened, in my mind, and no one can tell me otherwise!
The Fresh Prince Is Dead
If you're starting to notice a trend, you're a pretty sharp tack. People are dead and dying all over the place in these fan theories! The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air ran from 1990 to 1996, with each episode kicked off by a rap detailing how a boy from the mean streets of Philly wound up in a posh mansion in Bel-Air. Specifically, his mom shipped him off to live with family following a run-in with a well-known thug.
According to a widely spread fan theory, the character of Will Smith (played by actor Will Smith) was actually killed during the altercation described in the opening sequence. So when he hops a plane to California and jumps in a cab, he's actually embarking on an otherworldly journey. (God is the cabdriver). Fans insist this is also why we rarely see Will's parents, explaining away their sporadic appearances as visits to the teen's grave. Morbid? Yes. True? I sure hope not ... although it would explain that appearance by Boys II Men as a performance by Heaven's choir of angels. Those guys harmonize just a little bit too well for that to be a coincidence.
Springfield's Stuck in a Time Warp
I was 10 years old when The Simpsons began its history-making run in 1989. Now I'm aging and raising a family and stuff, while Bart and Lisa are still stuck in grade school. What gives? I have always attributed their static state to an "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" mentality. After all, the show is still generating laughs more than two-and-a-half decades later, so clearly the lives of a "young" family provide plenty of fodder for a successful comedy.
Some fan theorists, however, insist that the city of Springfield is actually "trapped inside a space-warping tesseract" [source: Vitto]. The rest of the world can change and grow all it wants, but the residents of Springfield are simply not able to, because they are trapped in a time loop. The characters do recognize that time is passing (for instance, the family visits Italy where Sideshow Bob is now living with a wife and child), although they remain unaffected by it. The theory also accounts for how the characters are able to take the occasional trip, since tesseracts can shift location as needed. It's just as well for everyone to maintain the status quo, anyway. I'm pretty sure Maggie would snap if someone took away her binky after all these years.
The S.S. Minnow Was a Drug Vessel
"Gilligan's Island" was the epitome of wholesome family fare during its 1964-1967 run. This band of randoms managed to (mostly) keep their cool while being stuck on a desert island with nothing to eat but coconut cream pies and zilch to do but try to fix that darn boat. At least ... that's what the creators would have you believe!
Fan theories about this classic show have abounded since far before the "Interweb" was available to spread them. Why would a wealthy man carrying a ton of cash bother taking a "three-hour tour" on a small boat manned by a skipper with a bumbling sidekick? What was a movie star doing there, with all her feather boas and evening gowns packed for such a short trip? For that matter, why did everyone seem to have so many extraneous clothes and supplies for an excursion that should have had them home by lunchtime?
Either we're being too nitpicky, or the obvious explanation is that millionaire Mr. Howell was on a waterway drug deal, and had the good sense to load up enough cargo just in case an aqua-bust occurred and a getaway boat chase became necessary. He paid off Gilligan to ferry him. The Skipper, too. You can't help but feel bad for Mary Ann in this situation, since theorists peg her as an undercover federal agent aboard to witness/manage the criminals [source: Bailey].
It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood, as HowStuffWorks finds out more about Fred Rogers.
Author's Note: 10 Creepy TV Show Fan Theories
I'm all about reading between the lines, coming up with hypothetical situations and otherwise trying to figure stuff out ... but please, please, please fan theorists – stop killing people off. It's just so depressing to think that "The Carlton" might not have ever truly happened!
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