Television programs and movies deal with current events a lot of the time as a way to create sensational, relatable plots for their audiences. But, sometimes the real world gets a little too real, and creators decide to change their plots to respect and acknowledge what's going on. Here are a few incredible examples for you of when real-life events changed what we saw on the screen. Bet you had no idea these things happened behind the scenes!
Mid-Western Assassin Episode Has To Be Manipulated
Watching American Horror Story is always a thought-provoking, spine-tingling experience, especially when the episodes reflect what's going on in current events. At these times, it feels like we're almost watching an episode of Black Mirror instead. One such episode was titled Mid-Western Assasin, and featured a storyline riddled with violence that was meant to promote gun control. But, nine days before the episode was supposed to air, a shooting at a Las Vegas festival left 58 dead.
Producer Ryan Murphy decided to remove some of the scenes of violence from the episode but still chose to air it, as he felt that the anti-gun warning was more important than the risk of offending anyone.
Family Guy Pays Tribute To Princess Leia
Seth MacFarlane is known for joking about everything under the sun in his shows, but sometimes, these animated programs also include emotional scenes as well. In one particular episode of Family Guy, the show's creators have Peter deliver a eulogy for one of the show's regular characters, a woman named Angela. The kicker is that Angela was played by Carrie Fisher, and when Fisher passed, they decided to give her a proper send-off.
As most fans recognize, this was Seth McFarlane's way to say goodbye to one of his idols. As Peter says, "I may have lost a boss but Heaven has gained a princess."
Even Spiderman Can't Escape The Web Of Current Events
In July of 2001, the first Tobey Maguire Spiderman movie came out to rave reviews. But, soon after, Sony had to go back and manipulate the film, as well as most of their promotional materials. Turns out, since Spiderman is a hero for the city of New York, there was one scene they filmed where the web-slinger snares a helicopter between the two Twin towers. But, then in September, the towers were toppled in the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
Sony edited the towers out of trailers for the film and replaced any of the promotional posters that featured the buildings in the background.
Who's That Girl, It's Jess!
New Girl is one of those shows that could almost be considered a cult classic. If you love it, you love it, and let us tell you, we love it. But, while they were filming season five, Zooey Deschanel was actually pregnant! The show's creators had to decide whether to write the pregnancy in, hide Deschanel's baby bump entirely, or cut her out for a few episodes. They went with option number three, placing Jess on jury duty for the duration of Deschanel's pregnancy.
The show's creators then brought in Megan Fox to shoot a few episodes so that the show's dynamic wouldn't swing and become too masculine.
And That's The End Of Don Geiss
30 Rock was a show that was no stranger to scandal, and after actor Rip Torn got himself into some trouble with the law, the show's creators needed to find a way to deal with it. Apparently, Rip Torn had gotten a little too drunk and decided to try to rob a bank, so NBC couldn't reasonably keep him on the show anymore. Instead, they wrote an episode where his character passes away so that Alec Baldwin can mourn him.
One of the other scandals involving 30 Rock is that they filmed an episode featuring blackface. When the Peacock streaming service came out, this episode was pulled.
Poor Dr. Yang Always Has It Rough
Sandra Oh is one of the most important actors on the Grey's Anatomy set, and her character Dr. Cristina Yang is a part of more of the show's important storylines than anyone else except for maybe Dr. Grey herself. But, in one season, the shocking wedding fiasco that sees Dr. Yang left standing alone at the altar, turned out not to be a planned scene! Isaiah Washington, who was supposed to marry Dr. Yang, had just been fired from the show for using a homophobic slur.
Washington tried to do an apology tour after being fired from the show, but his PSAs and statements were all a little too late for some people.
Mr. Hooper's Passing Taught Us All About Death
Sesame Street is an all-time classic television show because it manages to distill complex concepts into simple, comprehendable lessons for children. In one episode in particular, the show has to tackle death after William Lee, who played the grocer Mr. Hooper from the show's outset, passed away. Big Bird is understandably distraught, but the other residents of Sesame Street rally around to help him understand what happened and accept the loss of his friend.
There are a number of great interviews that came out after this episode aired where the actors discussed how they tried to approach such a complicated subject.
Michael Moriarty Moves To The North Country
The mid-90s were a tumultuous time in the United States, and Hollywood wasn't exempt from this trouble. In fact, Hollywood was directly embroiled in all the nonsense during these years, as producers and directors were going head to head with Attorney General Janet Reno, and a justice department striving to end displays of violence on television. To actor Michael Moriarty, who played Executive ADA Ben Stone, Law and Order was advocating for a reduction in violence, and he was so disgusted with Reno that he decided to leave the country entirely.
That's the way Moriarty recounts the story, but Executive Producer Dick Wolf tells it a different way, so we're not sure who to believe.
You're Not My Supervisor!
Archer is one of the funniest animated comedies on TV. The show's creators have done a great job of keeping each new season fresh by inventing clever storylines and experimenting with different diegetic techniques, but, that doesn't mean they've been able to escape criticism. As fans of the show will remember, at the outset the spy agency being covered on the show was actually called ISIS. But, after the terrorist group ISIS became a real issue in the mid-twenty-teens, the show's creators had to make a change.
In the scene where they address the change, you can see movers rolling the ISIS logo out of the spy offices while none other than Christian Slater briefs the team about their new assignments working for the CIA.
Even Zoolander Had To Account For 9/11
After the 9/11 terror attacks in New York City, almost everything started to change. For one, the entire New York City skyline was different. There was heightened tension, and a lot of fear running rampant all around the United States. And, for a lot of Hollywood producers, they now had films slated to come out that featured the Twin Towers in the background. Would leaving them in be appropriate, or a sad reminder of what had happened?
Ben Stiller decided to err on the side of caution and digitally removed the Twin Towers from Zoolander, so audiences didn't even have to think about it.
We're Not Even Going To Talk About This Show's Ending
When it comes to Lost, everyone has an opinion. Unless, of course, you never watched the show, and then maybe you're better off than the rest of us. Still, personal opinions aside, there was one thing that happened through the course of the show that confused everyone equally, and that was Walt's disappearance. The show's creators tried to make it so he was abducted by the Others, while in reality, the actor was just aging too fast for them to be able to use him anymore!
The actor who played Walt, Malcolm David Kelly, continued having a successful career after the show, earning himself a number of further acting roles and even breaking out into music.
Riverdale and 90210 Have An Emotional Crossover
Riverdale was an instant hit on the CW, a large part in thanks to its lovable characters and recognizable cast. A fan favorite was Luke Perry, who also starred in a very popular show several years ago that you might've heard of, a little number called Beverly Hills 90210. Unfortunately, Perry passed away unexpectedly from a stroke while Riverdale was still filming. But, to send his character off honorably, the show's creators brought back one of his 90210 costars, Shannen Doherty.
The storyline they went with is that Perry stopped to help Doherty, and was killed after being struck by a vehicle. It's a very poignant and emotional sendoff for a beloved actor, gone too soon.
Buffy The Vampire Slayer Waits To Discuss School Shootings
The Columbine High School shooting in Colorado in 1999 forever changed the way that American students go to school. In the aftermath, a lot of officials attempted to blame violent media for causing the attack, so the creators of Buffy The Vampire Slayer actually decided to manipulate their season schedule and avoid any flak. Two weeks after the shooting, they were supposed to have an episode about possible violence at the school, but they saved it for after the season was over.
By waiting, and changing the episode a bit, Buffy's creators actually turned "Earshot" into a standalone episode that does a good job of discussing mental illness. If they had just aired it, it would've forever been known as the Columbine episode.
The NewsRadio Cast Was Still Reeling From Hartman's Passing Too
Anytime we lose a friend, a family member, or a pet, it's a heart-wrenching experience. On the set of NewsRadio in the 90s, the whole cast lost one of their closest friends and coworkers, Phil Hartman. Phil played a heel on the show, so they were always making jokes at his expense, but the episode about his funeral took on a different tone. The actors actually decided not to rehearse the episode so their emotion would be more real on screen.
Hartman dies of a heart attack on the show, but in real life, the story is much more gruesome. Hartman was actually murdered by his wife, who then took her own life.
Sesame Street Dedicated Four Episodes To Dealing With 9/11
The tragic attacks on the World Trade Center on September 11th, 2001, rattled the United States and changed television programming schedules across the country. Creators didn't know how to address what had happened, mainly because so many Americans still were unsure what exactly had happened. Thankfully, the producers over at Sesame Street had some practice dealing with complex issues, and were able to finish out their 33rd season with four episodes dedicated to the tragedy.
In one of these episodes, Elmo realizes he's afraid of fires. But, a nice, local fireman teaches him that there are adults out there to help him in a time of need.
Leo, Man, What Are You Doing Here?
Many of us practically grew up watching That 70s Show. And, if there were any times that we were with friends and weren't watching the show, we were probably sitting in a circle like Kelso and Foreman and Fez and Hyde always are. But, what some people might not know is that Leo, the burned-out hippie who runs the photo hut, is actually played by none other than famous marijuana-legalization advocate and actor Tommy Chong.
Chong was actually arrested and jailed in the early 2000s for selling drug paraphernalia on the internet, and his cellmate in prison was none other than the actual Wolf of Wall Street, Jordan Belfort.
Glee Sends Actor Cory Monteith Away With A Heartfelt Sendoff
Glee wasn't just a television show, it was like a movement. All of a sudden, people started joining Accapella groups at school, and the weekly cover from Glee was charting on iTunes every week without fail. But, in 2013, one of the show's main characters had to be written off after actor Cory Monteith died of an overdose at the age of 31. They dedicated an episode to him, with characters singing ballads about how they'll miss the late actor.
Afterward, the show's director came out and said that creating that episode was one of the hardest things he'd ever done. But, they did it for Cory, so it was worth it.
8 Simple Rules Was Never The Same After This
8 Simple Rules... For Dating My Teenage Daughter was a typical American family sitcom about a suburban mother, father, and set of kids just trying to get by and get along. But, the show took a drastic turn when the family's father, beloved actor John Ritter, passed away of an aortic disorder at the age of 53. To address his passing, the show's creators decided to have the family patriarch pass in the exact same way.
For the episode about John's passing, the producers decided not to include a live audience, so that there is no laughter. The silence is deafening, and serves to further the episode's message.
Hannibal Creator Requested That The Network Pull This Episode
Although the association between this episode and the event that caused its cancellation is pretty weak, we still respect Creator Bryan Fuller's decision to pull one episode of their show Hannibal from NBC. In the episode, a mother suffering from mental issues brainwashes her children into thinking it's alright to kill other children. But, after the Sandy Hook shooting in Newtown, CT, which left 20 children and seven others dead, Fuller decided that the parallel imagery might be too much for some people.
This is one of the major issues with television shows like Hannibal, or Black Mirror. Audiences have to be ready to discuss the themes presented, and it's hard for creators to know when the right time to say something will be.
Mr. Robot Had To Delay It's Season One Finale
The season finale is usually the most important episode of a season of television. It lets us know what to look forward to for next season and should tie up (or fail to tie up, if they want a cliffhanger) any loose ends from the previous season. But, in 2015, the season finale of Mr. Robot had to be postponed when an attack on a news station in Virginia left three dead.
They were able to air the episode a week later, but, many people were still afraid to watch. Still, the show was able to recover and went on for three more seasons afterward.
The One With The Bomb
Friends remains one of the most popular sitcoms of all time, and the reunion event they put on TV last year brought in massive viewership. But, even a top-tier show like Friends isn't immune when it comes to current events, and audience sensibilities. In one particular episode, the cast had to reshoot a scene to cut out a Chandler joke that could've been construed as offensive, where he makes an offhand quip about bringing a bomb on a flight.
The episode was supposed to air just a few short weeks after 9/11, so the show's creators thought better of including the joke.
Documentary Now! Actually Gets Serious
Documentary Now! is one of the funniest, strangest, and most original projects to have come out in recent years. Bill Hader, Fred Armisen and friends do an incredible job of taking the piss out of classic documentaries, offering instead some critiques on the way we're led to believe that certain aspects of stories are more true than others. But, after the 2015 Roanoke, Virginia shooting of two journalists, their Dronez episode had to be postponed.
This was the same shooting that also forced Mr. Robot to postpone its season finale. Both shows had episodes dealing with journalists being killed and wanted to let things cool down before attempting to joke about it.
Spin City Just Wasn't The Same After Fox Left
Michael J. Fox is one of the most beloved actors of his generation thanks to his roles in Back To The Future and the tv show Family Ties. The actor made headlines in the early 2000s however, when he announced his Parkinson's diagnosis, and revealed that he'd be stepping away from Fox's hit TV show Spin City because shooting schedules had become too grueling. The show then gave him a special, send off episode that addressed his leaving,
Afterward, Fox was replaced by Charlie Sheen, but ratings quickly cratered. Interestingly enough, in a similar but very different situation when it was Sheen being replaced on Two and a Half Men, things actually got better, not worse.
Agent Hotchner, No Longer Reporting For Duty
Criminal Minds was an audience favorite for good reason. They weren't afraid of addressing some pretty heinous crimes, and insane subjects over the course of the show. Plus, each one of the actors on the show had a solid, individual personality, and was well-liked by the fans. But, after twelve successful seasons with the same crew at the helm, one of the show's main actors, Thomas Gibson, who played Agent Hotchner (or Hotch), was written off the show.
Apparently, Gibson had an altercation with a writer on the show, and they had to remove him from the production. In the series, they frame this departure as Hotch going into Witness Protection to save his son from a serial killer.
Castle Has To Tread Lightly As Boston Marathon Events Unfold
Castle was a serious police procedural, and it's creators didn't mess around when it came to featuring sensitive content in episodes. However, after the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013, which left three dead and hundreds injured, the Castle crew had a big decision to make. Their originally slated episode for that week in mid-September had to do with defusing a bomb, and they were worried that audiences would be too traumatized to tune in or enjoy.
The show's creators wound up switching when two episodes would air, and pushed the bomb-defusing episode back a week out of respect. They also acknowledged the chronology of the show would be off, but figured audiences would understand.
Shooter Winds Up Shooting A Little Too High
USA Network really thought they were on to something when they produced Shooter, a remake of a 2007 Mark Wahlberg movie based on a Stephen Hunter novel. And, to be fair, the show got great ratings on Rotten Tomatoes and IMDb, so audiences enjoyed it. However, when a 2016 Black Lives Matter protest devolved into violence after a sniper started taking shots at police officers, the show's creators felt that they should delay the premiere of their first episode.
A lot of the situations we're discussing in this article have to do with television shows trying to handle complicated, disturbing topics, but deciding ultimately that people are already dealing with those situations in their real lives. This is just another one of those examples.
All's Fair In Football and Murder on One Tree Hill
Throughout the twenty aughts, for some reason, TV shows felt the need to add in episodes that had little to nothing to do with their main storyline. And for some reason, it always had to do with murder. One Tree Hill broke out a whole storyline about someone's father killing a student, and Friday Night Lights wasn't much better when they ran an entire storyline about characters Landry and Tara murdering someone and hiding their body.
Fans hated the storyline, and then the 2007 writers strike occurred. So, to try to keep the show going, the creators tried to bury that storyline and bring things back to normal. For a lot of fans though, this fun football show had already been ruined by that point.
Scandal Has To Try To Avoid Scandal
Shows about politics have always been popular, and they have the opportunity to deal with current events in a different light than apolitical shows ever do. However, over the past few years as American politics have become more and more high-intensity and surreal, some shows are having trouble keeping their storylines from mirroring reality. Scandal is one such show where they had to change the storyline for an entire episode after it almost exactly mirrored an investigation about President Donald Trump's dealings with Russia.
Still, the show was able to recover and put on a storyline that viewers resonated with, but didn't remind them so much of the nonsense going on in the actual Oval Office.
Complaints And Grievances Wasn't This Album's Original Name
Throughout 2001, George Carlin was preparing material and getting ready for a standup special with HBO, which he was going to call, "I Kind Of Like It When A Lot Of People Die." The typically bombastic Carlin knew that people would be offended by the name, but as he often did with his comedy, this was meant to promote some critical thinking and discussion with his audience. However, after the September 11 attacks, Carlin had a change of heart.
Carlin and HBO decided instead to call the program Complaints and Grievances, which was also a fitting title. And, when he finally recorded and released the show in December of 2001, it was an immediate smash hit.
San Andreas Promotional Materials Started Looking A Little Different
San Andreas, a big Hollywood blockbuster featuring Dwayne the Rock Johnson, was supposed to play with the concept of a major earthquake striking at the San Andreas fault, affecting much of the Western United States. However, just a few weeks before the film's scheduled release date, a massive earthquake struck Nepal, killing thousands. In an attempt to use all the press the movie was getting for good, the studio's then decided to add end carts on their trailers giving people information about how to help Nepal.
This earthquake was so powerful, it also triggered a deadly avalanche on Mt. Everest.
Killer Kids Understandably Make People A Bit Uncomfortable
We all know Macaulay Culkin from the Home Alone movie series, but when the child actor was just hitting his teenage years, he tried to break out into some more serious roles that we don't know quite as well. One of these, a film called The Good Son, featured Culkin playing a psychotic, death-fixated child, which sounds incredibly interesting. But, after two British 10-year-olds murdered two-year-old James Bulger, right before the film was slated to be released, the British film industry decided to cancel it entirely.
Even though the film was released to American audiences, that might not have been the best decision. It has a whopping approval rating of 26% on Rotten Tomatoes.
Gone Baby Gone Upsets British Audiences Rather Badly
Gone Baby Gone was Ben Affleck's directorial debut, and if you haven't seen it, you must. This well-produced thriller is disturbing, thought-provoking, and features some incredible actors, including Affleck's brother, Casey. However, the plot of the film very closely mirrored a famous British news story about a missing four-year-old named Madeleine McCann, and after more people made the connection, British theaters decided to pull the film. Affleck felt that this was in good taste, but it can't have felt good to have your directorial debut pulled from theaters.
Thankfully, this hiccup didn't derail Affleck, and he continued making the movies that we know and love, like the Town, and Argo.
Even A Name Change Couldn't Save This Movie
Sometimes, Hollywood producers practice this bad habit where they create a film with a very weak storyline, but inject a bunch of famous actors and expect that it'll liven things up. That rarely works, and most of the time the film isn't only a flop, but a financial disaster to boot. The Watch was one of those films. It definiteily didn't help that this film was originally marketed as, The Neighborhood Watch, and that it came out right after a neighborhood watchman murdered Trayvon Martin.
We hate to say it, but this is just one of those movies that we definitely won't be watching twice.
Law And Order Dedicates An Entire Season To First Responders
In the wake of 9/11, Americans were too busy hoping for more people to emerge from the rubble of the World Trade Center to think about the long-term consequences. But, soon after, people started realizing what the long-term health effects that to this day are still plauging first responders would be, and they realized that the death toll was still climbing. For this reason, Law and Order dedicated its entire third season to the victims, and the first responders.
Law and Order was slated to come back on the air for season three just two weeks after the tragedy. So, they had to pull their tribute together pretty quickly.
The King Of Pop Died The Day This Movie Premiered
Sacha Baron Cohen doesn't joke around when it comes to pushing the boundaries of comedy. He's a genius creator and an excellent character actor, and his creation and portrayal of personalities like Ali G, Borat, and Dictator Aladeen have inspired an entire generation of comedians and moviegoers. That being said, Cohen also has some tact when he needs it. He even went back and edited a piece of his film Bruno on the day it was released, solely to show respect to Michael Jackson and his family.
Bruno was supposed to feature a pretty heinous scene with LaToya Jackson, Michael's sister, being interviewed. But, when Michael passed on the day of the premier, Cohen decided to cut the scene entirely.
The Famous Pie Fight Looked A Bit Different At First
Here's a weird coincidence for you– the first day that Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, an unbelievable black comedy about nuclear war, was test-screened, was the exact same day that President John Fitzgerald Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas. This forced the film's producers to change a few scenes in hopes that they wouldn't offend American audiences still reeling from the unexpected assassination.
One scene that was changed was the pie fight, wherein the American President was struck in the face. The original line in the film had to do with a young President being struck down in his prime, but this hit a little too close to home, so it was removed.
Gangster Squad Flops, Then Offends, Then Flops Again
Gangster Squad was released in early 2012 to mixed reviews, but the film wound up receiving a lot of negative press after it had already been out for a few months. The terrorist attack at an Aurora, Colorado movie theater wound up very closely resembling a scene from Gangster Squad, so the movie's producers decided to pull that trailer and bring actors back in for some reshoots to replace the scene.
Even after all of that, however, the film was still met with mixed reviews. A lot of people were left wondering if they shouldn't have just let the project go after the Aurora attacks.
A Six Month Delay Saved This Movie
Colin Farrell is great in comedies, he's great in dramas, and he's really great in the movie Phone Booth, a psychological thriller about a man who is trapped in a phone booth thanks to a homicidal sniper. The film was slated to be released in November of 2002, but a series of actual sniper attacks across the Eastern United States in the month leading up to the film's release led the studio to delay the film.
When Phone Booth was finally released to the public in April of 2003, it was met with rave reviews. So, this is one example where a slight delay wound up paying off.
The Last Ship Had To Postpone Season Three
When TNT's The Last Ship was coming back to air for its third season, the show's producers were excited about a serious plotline that involved a shooting at a Vietnamese nightclub. Considering The Last Ship is a post-apocalyptic drama, the plotline makes sense. But, after a gunman walked into Orlando's Pulse Nightclub and opened fire, killing fifty, the show's creators showed some tact and decided to wait to start the season until people had been given a moment to reflect.
Unlike other instances where show creators could just manipulate the order of episodes, this was a season premier, so the whole season actually had to be pushed back.
The Studio Spent Almost $2 Million In Today's Money
Buster Keaton was a visionary of film, and his movies were all the rage in the 20s and 30s. However, when they were wrapping up filming on Steamboat Bill Jr. in 1928, a flood on the Mississippi river wound up killing hundreds of people, and Keaton was forced to reconsider how to finish the film. So, instead of a flood, the studio built some new sets and ended the movie with a cyclone instead.
The resulting set changes cost the studio upwards of $130,000, which equated to almost $2 million today! That's a lot of money to avoid offending people, and the film didn't do so well at theaters either!