5 Sitcoms That Became Better After Abandoning Their Original Premises
Great sitcoms usually have a simple, easily explainable hook, like: What if a single father and his two inept buddies raised three young children while somehow avoiding the scrutiny of child services? Or, what if six attractive twenty-somethings lived in an alternate reality version of New York City populated entirely by white people?
But some famous sitcoms totally bailed on their original premises — and in doing so, improved their shows dramatically, such as…
When Happy Endings began, it featured a pretty run-of-the-mill set-up: A couple dramatically called it quits on their wedding day, leaving their friend group to navigate the split. But after just four measly episodes, this premise wore out its welcome, and the series dovetailed into a true ensemble comedy — with a powerhouse cast that included Casey Wilson, Adam Pally and Damon Wayans Jr. — in which Dave and Alex’s breakup rarely even factored into the story.
This even benefited the failed bride and groom characters, as Dave and Alex got out of their sad-sack states and spread their comedic wings, giving us the gift of Elisha Cuthbert eating ribs:
Not shockingly, Cougar Town began as a story about a middle-aged divorcee dating younger men (and, oddly, treating them like literal children).
But it wasn’t long before the show shifted away from the more cougar-y elements of the original pitch and began focusing on Courteney Cox’s character Jules’ relationships with her friends, family and 40-year-old love interest. Cougar Town changed so dramatically that there was even talk of changing the title.
It’s easy to forget that when Community began, it was more of a throwback to ‘80s college comedies, in which a cocky lawyer is sent back to school, meets a love interest and befriends a group of lovable oddballs that just might help him to change his sleazy ways.
While that setup sounds pretty predictable, by the end of the first season, the show had thankfully become more interested in exploring the characters through genre-bending narrative experiments, putting Jeff’s love life and law career on the back burner… of a stove in another kitchen.
And while it was initially envisioned as a comedy “about the sexual politics of men and women” with the original (unfortunate) title Chicks and Dicks, by Season Two, New Girl evolved into a full-blown rom-com, with Jess and Nick’s “will-they-or-won’t-they” relationship driving the show, Sam and Diane-style. Still, the show always had time for the greatest drinking game ever.
The Last Man on Earth
The highly underrated and woefully short-lived The Last Man on Earth began with a simple premise: What if a horny dirtbag survived the apocalypse and committed himself to the apparent last woman on Earth, even though she annoyed the hell out of him…
…only to discover that another, hotter woman was also still alive. Cringey jokes and a wildly unlikable protagonist could have doomed the show, but it quickly pivoted to become an oddly touching love story and a frequently poignant character study.
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