Sitcoms are a staple for most mainstream TV channels. Whether reruns of long-ago ended shows or scheduled episodes of new ones, sitcoms almost guarantee viewers. And as the years go by, fan theories pile up about shared universes, character crossovers and imagined scenarios. Some of these theories are decidedly dark and include The Fresh Prince being dead, Phoebe imagining all 10 seasons worth of Friends episodes and the foursome from The Big Bang Theory planning to start an apocalypse.
On this list are 10 more far-out theories that have seen the light since the airing of some of the most popular sitcoms in history.
10 Welcome to Jurassic Park
26 years ago, viewers worldwide were handed one of the bleakest sitcom series finales of all time. Dinosaurs, a show that was admittedly strange but also funny, ended with some of the characters sparking an Ice Age that led to the inevitable extinction of their species. Why did it happen? Because of greed and ongoing ignorance. Looking back now, this sad ending to a popular show foreshadowed what is happening in our time: bad decisions taking an extreme toll on our environment and ever-decreasing resources. The final line, “Goodnight. Goodbye.” is especially haunting.
Dinosaurs ran from 1991 to 1994 and while it didn’t spark a lot of fan theories at the time, there is one theory still circulating the depths of the internet. It states that the show is set in a post-apocalyptic future in which genetically engineered dinosaurs have taken over the planet after wiping out most of human civilization. The remaining humans are mostly hunters and are dominated by the super-intelligent dinosaurs.
Sound familiar? The theory is based on a “Jurassic Park”-type scenario and became popular after the movie’s release in 1993.
9 The truth about aliens revealed on Frasier
Frasier gave us 11 seasons of hilarity centered around two brothers, Frasier and Niles Crane. Originally, the show wouldn’t have focused on Frasier Crane, to avoid ‘unfair’ comparisons to its predecessor, Cheers. However, Paramount hated the original idea of Crane being a paralyzed media mogul and insisted on the show building on the existing Cheers audience. There are a few homages to Cheers in the script that made their way into the show throughout the seasons, and a lot of guest appearances by Cheers cast members.
A show that runs this long is bound to have a few theories attached to it and Frasier is no exception. Once of the craziest theories involves the late John Glenn’s cameo role during one of the show’s earlier episodes. Glenn was the first American to orbit Earth and he appears on Frasier Crane’s radio show as himself. He takes over the show and talks about his space experience. He then goes off on a humorous tangent about a government cover-up of the existence of aliens.
This let to many fans believing that Glenn wasn’t just playing a part on a show, but that he used the opportunity to reveal the truth about alien life.
8 Cheers is a rip-off
Cheers is where the above-mentioned Frasier Crane was first introduced, alongside a host of other beloved characters. Cheers ran for 11 seasons and premiered way back in 1982. It almost didn’t see its second season, however, as it was very nearly cancelled during its first airing.
There have been a multitude of theories surrounding the show including that the bar was a perfect place for Norm and Cliff to set up prostitutes with prospective clients. Another theory that gained a lot of traction is the one that claims the show is a rip-off of a lesser known sitcom called Park St. Under. This sitcom was produced for a local Boston audience and premiered three years before Cheers. Its focus was on an underground Boston bar owned by an ex-Red Sox player. The rest of the cast included a cheeky dark-haired employee, civil servant, token “old-timer” and a local psychiatrist.
Those who bought into the theory of Cheers being a rip-off of Park St. Under feel that these similarities are too obvious to ignore.
7 The Melmacians may have sparked a war
ALF, also known as Gordon Shumway, crash-landed on TV screens in September 1986. ALF is an alien from the planet Melmac with an appetite for cats to fill his eight stomachs. The show ran for 99 episodes and ended with a cliff-hanger that was only resolved when a TV movie was released in 1996. There were short-lived plans for a reboot in August 2018, but the idea was quickly scrapped.
There was also ALF: The Animated Series that aired between 1987 and 1989. This gave rise to a theory that connects ALF and the Melmacians to the tragedy that befell the ThunderCats from Thundera. The theory goes that the aliens of Melmac would have sent ships to planets other than Earth, including Thundera. Considering the Melmacians’ appetite for cats, they would have seen the ThunderCats as a food source. The ensuing conflict then led to a war giving rise to the evil Mumm-Ra.
6 Steve Harrington’s son
Parks and Recreation aired between 2009 and 2015 and had a reunion special on 30 April 2020. It is a political satire sitcom and have sparked a host of wild fan theories including Leslie Knope (played by Amy Poehler) being extremely rich and Jerry Gergich being a cult leader. And who could forget the lasting theory that Andy Dwyer (Chris Pratt) is Andy from Toy Story because they share the same first name, love guitars and are both ‘childish’.
One of the crazier rumors however is the one that maintains Jean-Ralphio Saperstein (Ben Schwartz) is the son of none other than Steve Harrington (Joe Keery) from Stranger Things. Both shows are set in Indiana, and the two characters do resemble each other in an uncanny way. Some fans have taken the theory even further by claiming that Pawnee, the town in which Parks and Rec is set, is an inversion of the Upside Down and that Jean-Ralphio is its resident Demogorgon.
5 Balki was a sleeper agent
Perfect Strangers featuring Larry Appleton and his distant cousin, Balki Bartokomous, ran for 8 seasons. It spawned a successful spin-off, Family Matters, that aired between 1989 and 1998. Perfect Strangers introduced the “Dance of Joy” that co-stars Mark Linn-Baker and Bronson Pinchot performed one last time off-screen for the studio audience after the closing credits of the series finale in 1993.
This light-hearted sitcom attracted a very dark fan theory as some mused that Balki may have been a sleeper agent for a terrorist cell. This theory was built around the storyline that saw Balki arrive from the fictional island of Mypos, find a job at the Chicago Chronicle alongside his cousin, befriend a policeman and marry a flight attendant.
This all means, according to the theory, that Mypos could have been a part of Al Qaeda and that Balki could have garnered valuable information from the prominent newspaper, his police officer friend and his flight attendant wife whilst planning ‘the perfect terrorist attack.’
4 The Tanners are in limbo
One can’t think of Full House without picturing Jesse Katsopolis and his picture-perfect smile or the adorably cute Michelle Tanner played by both Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen. The show didn’t come without real-life controversy, though. Amongst other things, John Stamos was convicted of a DUI and entered a rehab facility. Jodie Sweetin admitted in 2006 that she had become addicted to meth shortly after the show ended in 1995. The adult actors sometimes got high on set and John Stamos wanted Mary-Kate and Ashley fired at one point.
The fan theories about the show are as dark as the controversies. Some believe that ‘Uncle Joey’ is the real father of Danny Tanner’s three daughters. Others claim that Michelle Tanner never existed, due to her noted absence in the reboot Fuller House. The theory has it that Michelle was invented as an imaginary daughter by Danny to cope with the grief of losing his wife.
The creepiest theory perhaps is the one that claims Pamela Tanner was the only one to survive the fatal car crash and that the Tanners are stuck in limbo with a demon in the form of Michelle keeping them from moving on. The ‘evidence’ comes in the form of Michelle convincing Jesse to stay at the Tanner’s house because she’s ‘sick’ and Danny’s love interests always disappearing to prevent him from moving on from Pam.
3 Susan faked her own death
Seinfeld is a love-it or hate-it kind of sitcom, but a list like this would be incomplete without mentioning at least one of its persistent fan theories. Once of the stranger rumors surrounding the show is the one that compares the characters to grown-up versions of the Peanuts characters, George as Charlie Brown, Elaine as Lucy, Jerry as Linus, and Kramer as either Pig-Pen or Snoopy.
There are theories that claim Kramer is a widow living off an inheritance from his deceased wife and coming up with outlandish business ideas to keep his mind off his grief. Or, according to fans, he could just be a drug dealer.
A dark theory involving George Costanza alleges that his fiancé, Susan, faked her own death with the help of her parents to escape a life with George. Her death on the show comes after she licked the toxic adhesive on cheap wedding invitation envelopes chosen by George.
2 Unofficial prequel
Married… with Children was once called the crudest comedy on primetime television by a parents’ advocacy group, because of the show’s outrageous and sometime shocking moments. This includes a drunken Santa parachuting into the Bundy family’s back yard and causing quite a stir by dying. There is also an episode dedicated to PMS and during another episode Al and Peggy are videotaped while getting busy in a motel. All of this added to the show’s ‘trashy’ reputation, but audiences loved it regardless.
Ed O’Neill, who played Al Bundy, went on to star in another sitcom: the hugely popular Modern Family. This soon led to a fan theory suggesting that Married… with Children is an unofficial prequel to Modern Family. Al Bundy, now Jay Pritchett, is divorced from Peggy and in a second marriage with Gloria Delgado-Pritchett. He had a son and daughter in Married… with Children and also has a son and daughter in Modern Family who some fans believe share similar traits across the two shows.
1 Organized crime syndicate… of old ladies
The Golden Girls premiered in September 1985 and received critical acclaim for the largest part of its 7-season run. The sitcom won several awards including an Emmy Award for each of its four main characters. The show ended after Bea Arthur made the decision to leave, and the finale was watched by more than 27 million viewers in May 1992. The heart of the show is the group of four older ladies, Blanche, Dorothy, Rose, and Sophia, who share a home in Miami. Many hijinks and adventures ensue.
Michael Harriot from The Root has shared his own hilarious fan theory on Twitter, digging further into the show’s characters and its ‘hidden agenda’. Which, according to Harriot, is that the ladies were part of an organized crime syndicate.
His ‘evidence’ includes The Golden Girls debuting in 1985 which was the beginning of the crack cocaine epidemic. He also theorizes that Rose was the head of the organization and that she murdered her own husband for insurance money. Blanche’s father could have easily been a pimp, considering his outfits, mannerisms, and way of speaking. To top it all off, Blanche’s job as an art dealer could have provided the perfect cover for drug dealing.
Dorothy would have been the handler of day-to-day business and Sophia kept the police off their trail by burning down the nursing home she lived in.