#2. Scrubs -- J.D. Was Supposed to Be Mentally Ill
The Show You Know:
Next to marketing Bud Light as "beer," the biggest lie ever told is probably describing Scrubs as a "comedy-drama." I'm not saying that the series never had its more emotional moments, but in the end, Scrubs was essentially a show about how two men can love each other without it being gay, and even if it was gay, that would still be totally cool.
The series focused primarily on John "J.D." Dorian (Zach Braff), a young man who split his time between working at Sacred Heart Hospital, bromancing Donald Faison, and waging a prank war on the facility's antagonistic janitor (Neil Flynn), because did I mention that this show had less drama than a Teletubbies Christmas special?
What We Almost Got Instead:
Creator Bill Lawrence has stated numerous times that if he'd gotten word that Scrubs was to be cancelled after the first season, he would have revealed that the janitor was actually a figment of J.D.'s imagination the whole time.
The janitor appeared all the way back in the pilot episode, where he accused J.D. of sabotaging a sliding door, marking the start of series-wide hostilities between the two of them. In the character's defense, the crazy custodian wasn't planned to be a real person, but something that J.D. kept hallucinating due to an undiagnosed brain tumor or his vivid, zany imagination. In any case, the planned reveal would completely change J.D.'s characterization from that of a lovable goofball to someone in desperate need of psychiatric help.
In more heartbreaking news, it'd also be revealed that "Turk" was nothing but an IV stand
that J.D. kept dragging around with him.
According to Lawrence, holding on to the Imaginary Janitor card was why no one really interacted with the character initially. But as the series kept getting renewed, the janitor was eventually upgraded to real-person status and series regular, with his lack of human interaction in Season 1 presumably explained by off-camera racist outbursts.
#1. E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial -- Basically Poltergeist With Aliens
The Movie You Know:
E.T. is so full of sugary wholesomeness that reading a basic synopsis of the movie is enough to send you into a fatal diabetic coma: "A lonely 10-year-old boy befriends a friendly and goofy-looking alien stranded on Earth." Bam, at least one of you is now dead, which you can blame on Steven Spielberg for being foolhardy enough to direct a feel-good movie about friendship set in the freaking suburbs.
What We Almost Got Instead:
Back when Spielberg first started work on E.T. in 1980, the movie was called Night Skies and, appropriately, told a much darker story about murderous aliens that could kill with a single touch of their bony death-fingers.
This summer, they're coming ... to give you the finger!
The script for Night Skies was written by John Sayles, who came up with a straight-up horror tale in which a suburban family was being terrorized in their home by evil aliens who wanted them dead. Spielberg loved the idea and immediately went into pre-production, but midway through sort of changed his mind about the dark tone of the film. Perhaps he wanted to do something more positive with the whole concept of aliens after Close Encounters of the Third Kind, or maybe he sensed that there was something amiss about a movie that could be summarized as "the attack of the killer finger-bangers from space."
It was definitely the first one, though, because Spielberg loved Sayles' initial idea so much that he eventually took it, replaced the word "alien" with "ghost," and reworked it into the screenplay for Poltergeist.
"Hey, I got a call from my son. Is he still here?"
Spielberg even claimed that the two movies were meant to be sides of the same home-invading coin. Poltergeist was about "suburban evil," while E.T. was about "suburban good" -- one was paranormal, the other extraterrestrial, but both dealt with scared middle-class people making contact with something they didn't understand, but which didn't speak Spanish this time.
One element of Night Skies did survive Spielberg's rewrites, though: the part about a good alien named Buddy befriending an autistic child. With a few changes, that blossomed into the plot of E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, which bizarrely came thiiiis close to showing E.T.'s pals trying to finger a bunch of kids to death.
Cezary Jan Strusiewicz is a Cracked columnist and editor. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.