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Remember the time the Brady Bunch threw a huge kegger and then had to rush to get Jan's stomach pumped? Or that time Fred Flintstone beat his bird record player to death because it kept skipping? Of course you don't, because those are terrible, terrible ideas that we just made up.

But you'd be surprised by how close some great TV shows came to destroying themselves with equally awful storylines. Maybe it's the pressure to try to stay fresh and interesting, or maybe it's the fact that Hollywood is 70 percent cocaine. Whatever the cause, only last-minute interventions from sanity and sobriety saved us from the following disasters.

5
Breaking Bad -- The First Season Almost Ended Like a Saw Movie

Sony Pictures Television

Walter White's moral descent from milquetoast high school chemistry teacher to full-fledged villain slowly played out over Breaking Bad's five-year run, or roughly two days of calling in sick and watching Netflix in your underwear. And while Bryan Cranston's living room now resembles an IKEA ball pit filled with Emmys, it's hard to imagine the show succeeding if it had followed the original storyline, where Walter goes from sad sack cancer patient to deranged psycho killer over the course of, like, a long weekend.

Sony Pictures Television
"That's not even enough time for me to grow evil facial hair."

Fans of the show have known for a while that Walt's partner in crime, Jesse Pinkman, was originally slated to die at the end of the first season. While this would have surprised viewers and drastically lowered the show's final "bitch" count, it's the aftermath of Jesse's death that would have been a twist equal parts shocking and unbelievably idiotic.

Sony Pictures Television
So kind of like Season 2's twist ending.

According to series creator Vince Gilligan, Jesse was to be knocked off by a rival drug dealer. An enraged Walter in turn kidnaps this dealer and locks him in his basement, and then presumably tells his wife and son that it's infested with raccoons or something. Makes sense so far, but what happens next would have blown the show's crazy load for good.

First, Walter rigs up a shotgun on a tripwire so the dealer could kill himself whenever he wanted. Walt then turns into the Jigsaw Killer by lopping off a toe, a finger, or some other body part every day before cauterizing each wound with a blowtorch. Which, holy shit, even by the standards of the monster Walter became in the later seasons, or by the standards of any human being with even a remote shred of sanity left in them, is pretty cruel.

Sony Pictures Television
"And then I'm going to cover you in ants. And the ants are going to use tiny little chainsaws.
And the chainsaws are going to be dipped in ricin ..."

It gets worse. The dealer holds out for weeks, and eventually Walter Jr. ventures into the basement, probably wondering why his dad was always covered in blood after doing the laundry. When the dealer learns that he's Walter's son, he grabs Jr. and finally fires the shotgun, killing them both. End of Season 1!

Fortunately, no one else at AMC was thrilled with the idea, because kidnapping babies and blowing up South American psychopaths wouldn't seem quite so extreme after the show had already gone full-on torture porn. Not to mention that the whole premise of slowly turning an everyday guy into a villain would have been shot to hell if Walter had become a madman at the first opportunity. That's like learning Anakin Skywalker went to the dark side because he was asked to stay late and do some filing. Although we do have to admit that Walt Jr. getting his head blown off by a tortured killer is a way better use of the character than having him just mope around for five years.

Sony Pictures Television
"Goddamnit, will you stop asking if we can have breakfast for dinner!"

4
Futurama -- A Sad Episode Gets Way Sadder

20th Century Fox Television

Cartoons that elicit genuine emotion from viewers are few and far between. Sure, we all shed a single tear at the moving opening montage of Up and that episode of Scooby Doo, Where Are You? where Shaggy declares his love for Scooby, but the Futurama episode "Jurassic Bark" is perhaps the only cartoon you can admit to full on bawling at as an adult and not having people judge you.

20th Century Fox Television
A story so sad, the Internet won't Rule 34 it.

You all know the story, and if you don't, well, spoiler alert for a 12-year-old Futurama episode you really should have watched by now: Fry discovers the fossilized body of his dog, Seymour, and is going to have him cloned, but he changes his mind at the last minute when he discovers that Seymour lived for over a decade after Fry had left him. Fry assumes Seymour went on to have a happy life with a new owner, which would be a touching ending, until a flashback shows us that Seymour waited for Fry to come back every day until he died, proving Fry horribly wrong. You then discover that the room you're in is unusually dusty.

20th Century Fox Television
... so damn dusty.

It's an episode that made many people ask, "How is it I can cry at a comedic science fiction cartoon, but I can't express my feelings to my friends and family?" Well, get your Zoloft out, because the episode was originally going be about Fry finding the body of his mom.

20th Century Fox Television
"Now this we can pornify!"

Yeah. Mentally walk yourself through the episode with that switch made. Imagine Fry finding his mother's petrified body at a museum and having to protest to get her back. Imagine Bender getting jealous of Fry's attachment to his mom and eventually trying to destroy her body in lava. Imagine Fry calling off the cloning process at the last second, assuming that his mom got over the mysterious disappearance of her son and went on to have a long, happy life. Then imagine a final scene where we watch a woman grow old and die while constantly clinging to the faint hope that her beloved child will come back to her.

Unsurprisingly, this premise got the ax after the writers realized that Fry dragging his mom's fossilized corpse around New New York would be "too upsetting" to viewers. It's like if Psycho got turned into a gut-wrenching family tragedy. We're going to go out on a limb and guess that Fry destroying his own mother's second chance at life might have played as less touching and more psychopathic than the writers had originally envisioned, although we would have been curious to know how many moms got tearful phone calls as soon as the episode finished airing.

20th Century Fox Television
"I just wanted to call to say I promise to never throw your corpse in a pit of lava, no matter how many dumb chain emails you send me."

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3
Cheers -- Sam Almost Gets AIDS

CBS Television Distribution

Not a lot of 1980s sitcoms tackled the AIDS crisis, probably because the combination of a light-hearted comedy and a devastating disease is the polar opposite of peanut butter and chocolate. Try watching Philadelphia with a laugh track if you don't believe us.

Nevertheless, the producers of Cheers almost shot an AIDS episode, presumably because they wanted to grapple with a serious issue but felt that examining alcohol addiction would have torpedoed the show. In what was originally going to be the sixth season cliffhanger finale, ladies' man Sam Malone would find out that one of his 8 million ex-girlfriends was HIV-positive. Then Woody would say something stupid and Norm would try to sneak another beer.

CBS Television Distribution
"Hey, Sam, think you could AID me with another beer?" *laugh track*

The episode made it as far as rehearsals before everyone realized that maybe the "Does Sam have AIDS?" storyline wouldn't quite be the laugh-fest viewers were hoping for. According to producer and co-creator Les Charles, "The specter of AIDS was taking all the humor out of it." You know, like AIDS tends to do.

With the jokes about Sam's potentially life-threatening illness not landing as well as the jokes about Frasier's pomposity and Cliff's trivial musings, the episode was scrapped and replaced with something less horrific. The series finale instead ended up introducing the long-running plotline of Rebecca potentially getting together with Sam, which was funny and well-received because neither of them had AIDS.

CBS Television Distribution
"Hey, what about something lighter, like an abortion subplot?"

The AIDS episode was never revisited thanks to the 1988 writers' strike and the fact that, again, it was a comedy story about a beloved main character possibly getting a terminal disease. And so it was left to rot among other unproduced Very Special Episodes of classic sitcoms, like the episode of Who's the Boss? where Tony gets beaten and left for dead in an alley and "The One Where Chandler and Joey Confront a Holocaust Denier."

Warner Bros. Television
"Could he be any more anti-Semitic?"

2
Star Trek -- The Enterprise Turns into a Giant Baby

CBS Television Distribution

Star Trek is one of the most beloved shows of all time, and between people having Star Trek weddings, getting Star Trek tattoos, and remodeling their small, crappy apartments to look like 24th century small, crappy apartments, it's easy to forget just how many episodes of the show were absolute shit.

But even on a show that featured space hippies, Spock's brain getting stolen, and Captain Kirk being brainwashed into a Native American cliche, no episode can hold a tricorder to the awfulness of one proposed episode. "Rock-a-Bye-Baby, or Die!" sounds more like a third-rate murder mystery than a sci-fi adventure, but the truth is even stupider than that.

CBS Television Distribution
Like space hippies stupid.

The script, which was bought by Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry but never put into production, began with the Enterprise hitting some weird space debris that causes the ship to be possessed by the soul of a newly born baby (apparently those are just floating around out there in space, which should put an interesting spin on the abortion debate). But while the episode could have confronted controversial issues like "Does life begin at conception, or after taking control of a Galaxy-class starship?" it instead gets very silly, very fast.

With Tom Selleck, Ted Danson, and Steve Guttenberg unable to assist, the Enterprise crew is forced to look after the baby-ship. It soon starts cooing and crying, prompting Uhura to pacify it, because even though Star Trek is set in the future, it was still made in the 19-"Women Are Only Good for Babies and Boobs"-60s. Seeing as there's no giant intergalactic breast for the Enterprise to space-suckle, Uhura sings "Rock-a-Bye-Baby" to the Enterprise in what would have been a strong contender for the stupidest moment in Star Trek history.


But not the winner.

The baby ages rapidly, at first amusing itself by playing with the ship's doors and elevators before almost killing everyone by flying toward an enticingly "pretty" sun. The baby-ship then starts talking, referring to Kirk as his father and asking as many annoying questions as real 5-year-olds. Sadly, a scene where the ship poops proton torpedoes didn't make it into the script.

Meanwhile, the Enterprise picks up a pair of violent criminals from a planet of sentient crocodiles, because the future is stupid. The villains trick the now teenage ship into setting them free, presumably by promising to buy it beer, and take control of the bridge. But by then the ship has become a young man who realizes his error, and so he flies the ship straight at the sun again until the criminals surrender. Sadly, the Enterprise gets a little too close, and the sentient part of the ship dies after Kirk tells it how proud he is. But not to worry -- on the planet of the croc-people a baby is born, and its cries are the same as the young ship's. Like, whoa, man.

CBS Television Distribution
"Who has two thumbs and isn't paying child support? This guy."

After Roddenberry acquired this space-train wreck of a script, another big shot on the show took one look and mercy-killed it. Television history is the better for it, although if the episode actually had been produced, all Star Trek vs. Star Wars debates would end with the unimpeachable "at least the Millennium Falcon never turned into a goddamn baby" argument.

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1
Seinfeld -- Elaine Gets a Gun

Sony Pictures Television

Everyone knows the premise of Seinfeld: Four friends sit around a coffee shop and chat about dating, work, and the minutiae of everyday life. Oh, and one of them is packing heat.

Sony Pictures Television
No, not him.

In a bizarre storyline even for the standards of the "show about nothing," a second season episode titled "The Bet" was to involve Elaine buying a handgun after a bet between her and Jerry about how easy it would be for her to get one (you know, just like you bet your friends in college). Sets were built, characters were cast, and table reads were held before everyone involved realized that deadly weapons weren't a good a comedic foil to complaints about airline food.

Sony Pictures Television
"And what's the deal with semi-automatic magazines? If you can't flip through one in a doctor's office, why call them magazines?"

It was the table read that basically scuttled the episode. In one especially disturbing scene where Elaine was hanging out with Jerry, she was supposed to point her gun at her head and then at her stomach while asking, "Where do you want it, Jerry? The Kennedy? The McKinley?" Shockingly, the insinuation that her character was a suicidal maniac upset Julia Louis-Dreyfus, so her next line was "I'm not doing this."

The episode still went to rehearsal, but after about 20 minutes, the cast basically revolted. After a few bigwigs discussed the episode, they all agreed that it was a terrible premise and took it around back to, well, not shoot it, we guess, but you know.

Sony Pictures Television
"Just throw it in the dumpster next to the prostitute-killer Kramer stories."

Not many other details of the episode have been released, but we do know that the B-story was about Kramer claiming he had sex with a flight attendant and George, betting him that he's lying, dragging Jerry and Elaine to the airport to find out. We can only assume that Elaine would have used the threat of violence to get the answer, setting Seinfeld down a dark, twisted path that would have culminated in a series finale that ended with Jerry creepily uttering "Hello, Newman," followed by a cut to black and a gunshot.


J.M. McNab writes and podcasts for Rewatchability.com. You can also find him on Twitter @Rewatchability.

For more on fantastical television shows, check out 22 Awesome Ways to Reboot Classic TV Shows.

Related Reading: Some of your favorite shows were a nightmare behind the scenes. You can't imagine how bad the uniforms on Star Wars: The Next Generation must have smelled. And if you're interested in some mind-blowing bits of foreshadowing in your favorite shows, click here. And did you know the first episode of Sherlock predicted the character's apparent suicide? Keep the pop culture nerd train going with these mind-blowing fan theories about your favorite movies and shows.

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