7 Insane Things TV Shows Did When They Ran Out Of Money

Television: It's the warm, glowing best friend who tells you stories, keeps you company, and (just like your real-life best friends) is slowly killing you. Also like real best friends, sometimes TV is a little low on cash and has to do some undignified things to get by. The results may be hard to watch -- but on the upside, the stories of how these shows tried to make $10 pass for $10,000 are hilarious in their own right. For example ...

#7. The Walking Dead Cast Got Stranded On That Goddamned Farm Because Of Budget Cuts

AMC Studios

The Walking Dead is the smash hit show America can't get enough of, probably because its annoying cast of characters is constantly in danger of being violently killed. Think of how big the ratings would have been for Family Matters if there was always a lingering possibility that Urkel could be disemboweled at any moment.

The second season found the band of zombiepocalypse survivors holing up in a farmhouse, which seemed like a fun idea at first. But then, like the sad college friend who unexpectedly showed up to your Christmas party, they never left.

AMC Studios
In both cases, it started to get stinky after a while.

Despite the fact that the farmhouse originally appeared in only five issues of the comic book on which the series is based, the showrunners decided that we needed to see a whole season of people arguing in a living room. Oh, and the farm is run by a crotchety old man and his hot daughters, meaning the show is cribbing both from a comic book series and your great-uncle's dirty jokes.

As it turns out, the reason behind taking less inspiration from George Romero and more from The Waltons stems from a huge budget cut that the network imposed on the second season, before the pilot had even aired. The studio also provided the note that half the show should take place indoors, presumably to both save them money and make the harrowing, blood-drenched end of human civilization more warm and cozy.

AMC Studios
Because that's what people look for in zombie stories: exquisite tablecloths.

And Mad Men is somewhat to blame here -- "entire hordes of zombies" became "maybe a zombie, every once in a while" thanks to Don Draper's love of big budgets, fancy suits, and herbal cigarettes. Arguments over these budget cuts contributed to the show's creator, Shawshank Redemption director Frank Darabont, being fired and replaced by some people whom we're reasonably sure had absolutely nothing to do with The Shawshank Redemption. So great move, AMC; fire the guy who made the most beloved prison movie of all time one year before your show moves into a prison. That's the real river of shit.

#6. The Incredible Hulk Blatantly Lifted Footage From Popular Movies

NBCUniversal Television Distribution

The Incredible Hulk TV show is a beloved cornerstone of pop culture. Before the CGI monster we all know today, David Banner (renamed because "Bruce" was apparently "too gay" for the network) transformed into a green half-naked Canadian ex-football player. And that was good enough for 1970s America, goddammit.

Bizarrely, though, the first season looked to save some money (we can only assume after spending most of their budget on green body paint and disposable shirts) by shamelessly using preexisting footage owned by the studio. We're not talking about a two-second shot of a mailbox here; one episode happened entirely on an airplane, and for all the plane footage, they spliced in shots from the blockbuster flick Airport 1975. The plot of the episode was even pretty close to Airport 1975, except with the Hulk ... which, come to think of it, does sound way better.

Universal Studios, NBCUniversal Television Distribution
Avengers: Age Of Ultron ending spoilers.

The plane is especially conspicuous because it belongs to the fictional airline that only showed up in that one hit movie, which was released a mere four years before this episode. This is like if a CSI episode tried to splice in footage from Harry Potter And The Goblet Of Fire without anyone noticing.

Another episode from the same season was about Banner getting involved in a truck chase ... which some might recognize as being completely lifted from the classic TV movie Duel, about a man mysteriously terrorized on the highway by a tanker truck (which we now know was driven by a gamma-irradiated maniac). They even dressed the bad guy in The Incredible Hulk to match the mustache and glasses of Duel's hero.

Universal Studios, NBCUniversal Television Distribution
Thankfully, it was the '70s. All mustaches looked equally fake.

Again, this wasn't some obscure property; it's one of the most famous, acclaimed TV movies of all time, and it aired only seven years before the Hulk episode. Oh, and it was Steven Spielberg's first film. Yup, they took footage from a Spielberg movie and inserted the Hulk into it -- which he wasn't too happy about. At least no one has had the balls to try it with Schindler's List yet.

#5. Lost Imprisoned Its Characters For Six Episodes Because They Went Overbudget

ABC Studios

Magic numbers, haunted cabins, polar bears -- Lost was a uniquely insane show. Though a lot of people still hate it for the last-second plot twist that the entire series was just a dream Charlie from Party Of Five had after eating some suspicious Chinese takeout.

Sony Pictures Television
"And then the magic kid never appeared again, and ... man, my subconscious is a terrible writer."

Lost's creators get a lot of shit for making up the story as they went along, but in some cases, they had no choice. Even the plans they did make in advance sometimes had to change because of real-world interference. One such interference? The smoke monster of capitalism: money.

Fans of the show probably remember that the opening of the third season brought the story to a grinding halt, with several of the main characters jailed in polar bear cages by the mysterious "Others" (who turned out to be nothing but a bunch of jerks with access to polar bear cages). Jack, Kate, and Sawyer stayed trapped in there for the better part of six episodes, with nothing to do but admire their sexy, surprisingly well-groomed bodies.

ABC Studios
"At least they left us all these hair care products over here, just out of frame."

But according to Damon Lindelof, the showrunner of Lost and archenemy of the Internet, the reason behind locking up its main characters for several episodes in a row was that the season went overbudget. This isn't a problem in and of itself, except that because they frontloaded the season with the stalling, money-saving episodes, a lot of people assumed the show was out of ideas. Of course, the second half of the season built up to the series' best twist in an action-filled finale that is presumably where they blew all their money ... but unfortunately, by that point they'd already lost a ton of viewers who thought the show was devolving into a less rapey version of Oz.

#4. Star Trek: The Next Generation Pulled Together A Crappy Clip Show At The Last Minute

CBS Television Distribution

Season finales are usually reserved for epic, kickass cliffhangers that entice you into tuning back in the next season. Landmark sci-fi show Star Trek: The Next Generation followed this formula multiple times. Has Captain Picard been assimilated by the Borg? Will Worf stop the Klingon civil war? Will Geordi kill himself because every woman in the universe seems to hate his guts for no good reason?

Paramount Pictures
All of those coolant leaks were a cry for help.

The second season, however, was a whole other story. After exciting episodes in which the Enterprise encountered the Borg for the first time and Data cosplays as Sherlock Holmes in the Holodeck, the network forced the producers to end the season with the cheapest goddamn episode possible. The director said he could shoot it in five days. The studio told him to have it in three.

The result was "Shades Of Gray" (not a glimpse into the Enterprise's clandestine sadomasochistic subculture, sadly). It starts with Commander Riker pricking himself on an alien plant, which happens off-screen -- we don't even get to see the most exciting event in the entire episode. The show simply opens with Riker sitting on a tree stump, wondering why the hell Band-Aids don't exist in the 24th century.

CBS Television Distribution
"... too bad Captain Kirk, Mr. Spock, and Luke Skywalker couldn't stay longer. Man, what a fantastic adventure that was."

It turns out that Riker contracted some kind of alien virus. While usually the type of viruses Riker contracts are curable with a few dick shots, this one is quite serious. So serious, in fact, that we spend the rest of the episode in sick bay. It's less an episode of television and more like visiting a relative in the hospital. Not only that, but the only way to fight the virus is by stimulating the part of Riker's brain in which previously-shot footage is stored ... turning the season finale of a show that had been on for less than two years into a goddamn clip show.

CBS Television Distribution
None of this explains why someone draped a sequined ball gown over Riker while he was asleep.

Even the episode's writer called it a "piece of shit." That's an insult to the integrity and efficiency of our body's waste management system.

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