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    Controversial TV Storylines, Characters, And Relationships That The Writers And Directors Wish They Could Go Back And Change

    I can't believe some of these actually happened.

    Spoilers ahead!!!

    Note: Some of the following contains mentions of sexual assault.

    1. "The Principal and the Pauper" is one of the most loathed episodes of The Simpsons, with many fans and critics marking it as the point where the show jumped the shark.

    Principal Skinner and the "real" Skinner

    In the episode, Principal Skinner is revealed to be an impostor (whose real name is Armin Tamzarian) who has been assuming the identity of a military friend long thought to be dead.

    Armin and the real Skinner

    However, all of the characters eventually realize that they like the impostor Skinner better than the "real" Skinner and send the latter away, forcing everyone to agree to never mention any of this again.

    Simpsons creator Matt Groening eventually called the episode and its storyline "a mistake" in an interview with Rolling Stone, and in the Season 9 DVD introduction, he said it was one of his least favorite episodes.

    Matt Groening
    Image Group La / The Walt Disney Company / Getty Images

    Harry Shearer, who voices Skinner, also said in an interview with East Bay Express that he told the writers from the beginning that he hated the storyline: "I said, ‘That’s so wrong. You’re taking something that an audience has built eight years or nine years of investment in and just tossed it in the trash can for no good reason, for a story we’ve done before with other characters. It’s so arbitrary and gratuitous, and it’s disrespectful to the audience.'"

    2. We all know Spike from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, right? Fan-favorite villain turned hero?

    Greg Gorman / 20th Century Fox / Courtesy Everett Collection

    Subject of controversy post–the "Seeing Red" episode?

    Well, turns out that show creator Joss Whedon low-key hated the character. At the very least, he was NOT pleased about Spike's popularity, or the idea of turning him into a love interest for Buffy.

    Joss Whedon
    Rodin Eckenroth / Getty Images

    Spike had been a villain in Season 2 but was gone for most of Season 3. He came back for Season 4 and was in the show until it ended.

    Whedon even threatened to fire James Marsters, who played Spike. Marsters recounted, "I came along and I wasn’t designed to be a romantic character, but then the audience reacted that way to it. And I remember he backed me up against a wall one day and he was just like, ‘I don’t care how popular you are, kid, you’re dead. You hear me? Dead. Dead!’"

    James Marsters
    Dia Dipasupil / Getty Images for ReedPOP

    "And I was just like, ‘Uh, you know, it’s your football, man. OK,'" Marsters finished. He said Whedon was not joking and never apologized. He did clarify that he felt Whedon was angry not at him but, rather, at the situation, as Whedon did not want vampires to be portrayed as romantic (although someone should tell that to Angel).

    Obviously, in this case the fans won out, as Spike became a main character for seasons 4 to 7 — and even got together with Buffy.


    3. Speaking of Buffy...there's one character's death that the executive producer at the time, Marti Noxon (who had taken over for Joss in Season 6), stood by at the time but now regrets: Tara's.


    Tara was one-half of one of the first lesbian couples on mainstream TV. The death has been the subject of controversy and is often cited as a part of the "bury your gays" trope.

    "I think that killing Tara was — in retrospect, of all the people, did she have to die?" Noxon said to Vulture of the controversial decision.

    Marti Noxon
    Frazer Harrison / Getty Images

    4. Another main character's death that the creators regret? The unexpected death of lead character Marissa Cooper in The O.C.

    Marissa dies in Ryan's arms

    Turns out, The O.C. creator Josh Schwartz is still conflicted about the character's death.

    Schwartz in 2019
    Getty Images for ReedPOP

    In an interview with MTV, Schwartz called the decision to kill off Marissa "complicated" and explained, "There were a lot of factors involved, and it was something we really wrestled with. There were a lot of reasons, both creative and cynical." He also added that the fanbase's distraught reaction to the controversial character's death surprised him: "What we found was, and this was a really good lesson for us, if somebody posts something online, it's a one-to-one ratio. They are not speaking for 1,000 people. The people who were the most vocal online weren't speaking for everyone, and we realized that people were very attached to that character. There was a lot of anger and fan art that came our way."

    5. On another The O.C. note, Schwartz also said he regrets the way the Season 3 storyline between Johnny and Marissa was handled.

    Johnny and Marissa
    Warner Bros. / Everett Collection

    During the storyline, Johnny developed an unrequited love for Marissa and later drunkenly fell off a cliff to his death. Johnny's death greatly impacted Marissa and arguably led to her character's spiral that season.

    "I think, for a lot of us, the Johnny storyline was probably one we'd like to have a do-over on," Schwartz said in an interview with HuffPost.

    Warner Bros. / Everett Collection

    6. Remember when Berlin died on Money Heist? Well, turns out that series creator Alex Pina regrets killing him off!

    Alex Pina
    Pablo Cuadra / WireImage via Getty Images

    Pina was allegedly forced to kill off Berlin by the "higher-ups," who felt the character didn't "fit with the times."

    Pina called him a "misogynist, narcissist, and psychopath" but said he made the show interesting.

    Netflix / Antena 3 / Courtesy Everett Collection

    Script coordinator Javier Gómez Santander also said if they'd known how popular the show would get, they probably wouldn't have killed him off. 

    7. Shonda Rhimes kind of regrets killing a character too — the minor character Dylan Young, who was the bomb defuser in the famous Grey's Anatomy episode with the patient who had a bomb in his chest.

    Dylan behind Meredith as she holds the bomb in the patient's chest

    Rhimes said that actor Kyle Chandler would pitch her ideas where his character didn't explode, but she didn't take him up on any of them because exploding was what the character was written to do, even if she didn't want to do it. "I did not expect to have Kyle Chandler," she said. "I didn’t want to explode him."

    Shonda smiling
    Toni Anne Barson / WireImage via Getty Images

    8. One more character death the creators wish they could go back in time on: Lexa from The 100. Creator Jason Rothenberg walked back on the show's controversial decision to kill off Lexa and even issued the fandom an apology letter.

    Alycia Debnam-Carey as Lexa
    CW Network / Everett Collection

    Lexa, one of Clarke's love interests, was killed off shortly after she and Clarke slept together. Her death was highly criticized by the LGBTQ community for contributing to the "bury your gays" trope.

    Rothenberg said he was stunned by the backlash from fans and "heartbroken" over the criticism.

    Rotheberg at "The 100" panel at New York Comic Con
    Dia Dipasupil / Getty Images for New York Comic Con

    “Knowing everything I know now, Lexa’s death would have played out differently,” Rothenberg wrote. “Despite my reasons, I still write and produce television for the real world, where negative and hurtful tropes exist. And I am very sorry for not recognizing this as fully as I should have.”

    9. A huge part of The Vampire Diaries was the love triangle between Elena and brothers Damon and Stefan.

    Promo shot with Damon, Stefan, and Elena
    Kharen Hill / The CW / Courtesy Everett Collection

    Elena spent most of the first three seasons with Stefan, then most of the subsequent three seasons with Damon, before leaving the show.

    Well, it turns out that one Vampire Diaries showrunner was NOT a fan of the person Elena ended up with, Damon.

    The CW

    In fact, Kevin Williamson wanted Elena and Stefan to end up together.

    Kevin Williamson on the red carpet
    Jason Davis / Getty Images

    In speaking about the series finale, Williamson told Deadline, “I always thought it would be Stefan and Elena. They were sort of the anchor of the show, but because we lost Elena in Season 6, we couldn’t go back."

    The CW

    He continued, "You know Nina could only come back for one episode — maybe if she had came back for the whole season, we could even have warped back towards that, but you can’t just do it in 42 minutes.” 

    10. One more love triangle that a show creator doesn't view too fondly...the love triangle with Dean, Rory, and Jess on Gilmore Girls.

    Randy Tepper / The CW /Courtesy Everett Collection, The WB / Carol Kaelson / Warner Bros. / Everett Collection

    In this case, it's not that Gilmore Girls writer Amy Sherman-Palladino felt that Rory ended up with the wrong person — it's that she wishes viewers wouldn't focus on this triangle at all, which suggests she is possibly not a huge fan of the storylines, looking back.

    Amy Sherman-Palladino
    Rachel Luna / WireImage via Getty Images

    "Sometimes I wish that the Dean and Jess thing weren’t so prominent because in the grand scheme of Rory’s life, who her boyfriend was when she was 16 years old is such a small event," Sherman-Palladino told Time. "Everybody should go back and think about their boyfriend at 16 and then reevaluate whether that should be the focus of the conversation."

    11. Having Spinner and Emma drunkenly get married and then decide to stay together on Degrassi: The Next Generation has been heavily criticized by both fans and the cast.

    Spinner and Emma wedding

    During a 2018 interview with Miriam McDonald (who played Emma), executive producer Stephen Stohn called having Spinner and Emma end up together "one of the biggest regrets of his life."

    Stephen Stohn in 2018
    Degrassi — the Official Channel / YouTube / Via

    However, in a 2021 interview with BuzzFeed, Stohn revealed that he thinks Emma and Spinner are probably still married: "You sort of think, Well, people do weird things — and somehow, maybe it was meant to be. I think they're still married. And they've got a child, I'm sure."

    More recently, Degrassi director and producer Stefan Brogren, a longtime defender of the relationship, came out against it in an interview with AV Club.

    Stefan Brogren in 2018
    Che Rosales / Getty Images

    "Being the director of it, I have to find the reason why I love them getting together. So, for a long time, I have fought to defend that relationship. I’m at a point where I give up because obviously, Sean and Emma is a way more exciting story for them to get together in the end," Brogren said. He also tweeted, "You're welcome, Degrassi fandom. You win."

    12. On another Degrassi note, the relationship between Miles and Tristan in The Next Generation and Next Class has become controversial in recent years, mostly because of anti-bi comments by Tristan's character that went unaddressed.

    Tristan calls Miles a "manwhore" and says, "Is there another name for someone who humps anything that moves?"

    In 2021, Degrassi creator and producer Linda Schuyler said that she would definitely write certain aspects of that relationship differently now.

    Linda Schuyler
    Araya Doheny / Getty Images

    "It would definitely be handled differently now," Schuyler said in an interview with BuzzFeed. "As society moves on, we move on. I mean, if I want to get really critical, I would like to go like 500 episodes back and change a line of dialogue here and there."

    13. Another problematic storyline that a show's creator wishes they could redo...the storyline about Chandler's transgender parent on Friends, who was played by Kathleen Turner.

    Kathleen Turner as Chandler's parent
    Warner Bros. / Courtesy Everett Collection

    Friends co-creator Marta Kauffman said, "I think we didn’t have the knowledge about transgender people back then, so I’m not sure if we used the appropriate terms. I don’t know if I would have known those terms back then. I think that’s the biggest one," she said when asked about how the show might change if they were making it today.

    Marta Kauffman smiling
    Frazer Harrison / Getty Images

    14. Kauffman also said she regretted the Friends storyline where Phoebe dates her sister Ursula's stalker.

    Phoebe talking to Ursula's stalker

    "We did a lot of rewriting on that to make it work," she told the Hollywood Reporter. She also said of rewatching the show, “It’s much harder for me to enjoy the good moments when there are moments in it where I’m going, ‘Oh my god, we let that happen? We did that.'”

    15. And finally, let's end with a positive one: It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia may seem like a super-successful show now, but after the first season, it was not getting good ratings, so FX told the show creators that they needed to add a big-name star or risk losing the show.

    Season 1 cast of the show
    F/X Network / Courtesy Everett Collection

    Danny DeVito — who would go on to be the star brought onto the show — was suggested, but the writers were wary.

    Show creators Glenn Howerton, Charlie Day, and Rob McElhenney on the red carpet
    Todd Williamson / Getty Images

    "It's not that we were reticent to the idea of adding Danny to the show," co-creator Glenn Howerton said. "It's that we were reticent to add a name to the show. You know, because we kinda liked that we were no-names and it was this weird, small thing, you know?"

    In fact, the writers said they didn't want to add DeVito or anyone at all — and the network said they'd scrap the show. Against their own wishes, they agreed to meet with and later hired DeVito.

    DeVito on the show
    Byron Cohen / FXX / Courtesy Everett Collection

    However, in this case, the decision they were against turned out to be the best thing for the show. DeVito is widely regarded as one of the best TV character additions!


    Did any of these surprise you? Disagree with any of the creators here? Tell us your thoughts in the comments!

    Correction: A previous version of this article mistakenly identified Dylan Young as the patient, not the bomb defuser, in #7. Oops!