TV Storylines and Moments That Should Have Been a Joke

To celebrate April Fools' Day, we're looking back on some TV moments and storylines that feel more like practical jokes rather than actual plots that made it to air.

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TV Storylines and Moments That Should Have Been a Joke

When I was about 11 years old, my mom woke me up on April 1st and told me it had snowed overnight. I ran to the window with breathless anticipation. Nevermind that it had been 80 degrees the day before. Nevermind that we lived in Houston, Texas. My mom capitalized on my groggy state and pulled off an April Fool’s Day joke I still vividly remember.  

This year, corporations are up to their usual shenanigans. Have you heard about the hot dog flavored sparkling water 7-11 is introducing? And Metacritic always does a fantastic job coming up with fake titles (would watch America’s Next Top The Daily Show Host), but certainly there are things currently on the air that seem like they can’t possibly be real (apparently a show called Farmer Wants a Wife actually exists).

But this annual day of pulling pranks has made us reflect on TV storylines that felt like they should have been a joke but were, most unfortunately,  actually real. Let’s take a look:

Everything about Miranda during the first season of And Just Like That 

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When the Sex and the City continuation premiered in December 2021, it was like Miranda (Cynthia Nixon) had undergone the invasion of the body snatchers. It wasn’t that she was suddenly attracted to Che (Sara Ramirez) and exploring her sexuality—it was that she was so willing to cheat on her husband Steve and somehow justify her infidelity. Unhappy marriage? Sure, hook up with someone while your friend recuperates from surgery in the next room. Even worse was Miranda’s lack of relationship with her son Brady, whom she seemed to let walk all over her. The show began to course correct in Season 2, but by then, the damage was done.

Justin Chambers departs Grey’s Anatomy 

Justin Chambers as Alex Karev in Grey's Anatomy Season 16

It wasn’t that Chambers wanted to leave the long-running ABC medical drama in its 16th season. As part of the original cast, it’s understandable that he might want to pursue other roles or just have some time off. It’s that he left the show via a voice over. Yes, you read that right. Chambers didn’t even appear on screen for his final episode. 

Grey’s is no stranger to departing cast members. They’ve killed off their fair share and given some the rare happy ending. So what on earth happened that they had to write around Chambers’ apparent refusal to appear on screen? In an episode entitled “Leave the Light On,” which aired in March 2020, Alex wrote letters to Meredith (Ellen Pompeo), Miranda (Chandra Wilson), Richard (James Pickens, Jr.), and his wife Jo (Camilla Luddington). In the year 2020, he wrote handwritten letters really giving new meaning to the phrase “this could have been an email.” Alex had left Seattle to reunite with Izzie (Katherine Heigel, who departed the series way back in 2010) in Kansas. Izzie had used the frozen embryos she created with Alex to give birth to twins who were now five years old. He knew his current wife Jo would understand because Alex is a dad now! He has to be with his kids. Clearly no flaws with this plan. The montage-heavy and super-awkward episode remains one of TV’s biggest mysteries.

Julianna Marguiles and Archie Panjabi never appear on screen together again on The Good Wife 

In the fourth season of the CBS drama, fans started to notice that even though Alicia (Marguiles) and Kalinda (Panjabi) worked together, the two actresses were never in the same frame. The duo spent a lot of time—a lot—talking with each other on the phone. It all came to an unsatisfying conclusion when Panjabi departed the series in the sixth season finale and Kalinda and Alicia meet at a bar to have a drink. Except they don’t. The clearly green-screened scene is infamous. What happened that was so bad that Marguiles and Panjabi couldn’t even be in the same room? I’m still waiting for the tell-all book.

The series finale of How I Met Your Mother

how i met your mother ending

The ending to the long-running CBS comedy has been criticized early and often. But suffice to say, spending an entire season on the wedding of Barney (Neil Patrick Harris) and Robin (Cobie Smulders) only to have the pair divorce and Ted (Josh Radnor) realize he’s really loved Robin all this time (sorry dead, beautiful Mother!) still feels like a joke ten years later.

Will and Grace have no children in the Will & Grace revival 

When the NBC sitcom returned after an 11 year absence in 2017, the characters seemed to have a giant case of amnesia. Both Will (Eric McCormack) and Grace (Debra Messing) no longer had children. The roommates becoming parents was a big storyline in the original series. Grace was pregnant for an entire season. But in the opening moments of the revival, Karen (Megan Mullally) asks, “What happened to the children you had who grew up and got married to each other?” “That never happened,” Will replies. This idea to just disregard a show’s history isn’t new (see also: Corky and Miles not being married or even remotely romantically involved in the Murphy Brown revival), but pretending like something we spent hours of TV watching never happened always seems like a joke. 

Rory Gilmore in Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life 

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Everyone was so excited to see Lorelai (Lauren Graham) and Rory (Alexis Bledel) again when the show returned to Netflix for a four-episode arc in 2016. Although nine years had passed since we had last seen the mother/daughter duo, time had stood still for Rory, who was acting like a petulant, selfish teenager. Amy Sherman-Palladino used the Netflix run to give Rory and the series the ending she had wanted to give all those years ago but couldn’t because she was no longer working on the series. Therefore, the last words that all those who love the Gilmore Girls have to live with is Rory saying “I’m pregnant.” Eight years later, and I’m still not laughing. 

Mitch Kessler careens off a cliff on The Morning Show 

Oh how I love to hate-watch this show. It’s so fun how everyone involved thinks they are on a prestige television show. But Mitch (Steve Carell) was a bad character the show never knew what to do with until they just decided to send him off a cliff in Italy. You could almost feel the writer’s room hitting a wall, realizing they had written the character into a corner without an exit strategy and deciding to just send Mitch to his demise. 

Amy Amatangelo, the TV Gal®, is a Boston-based freelance writer and a member of the Television Critics Association. She wasn’t allowed to watch much TV as a child and now her parents have to live with this as her career. You can follow her on Twitter (@AmyTVGal).

For all the latest TV news, reviews, lists and features, follow @Paste_TV.

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