Those TV shows we love, the ones with beloved and familiar characters we welcome into our homes week after week? They could have been a lot different, had creators gone with their original ideas and instincts.
Fraiser was a smash hit for NBC, running from 1993 to 2004 and winning the Emmy for Best Comedy Series a record five times. It transplanted the fussy psychologist Frasier Crane (Kelsey Grammer) from Cheers into a new setting, as a radio psychologist in Seattle living with his retired policeman father. That wasn’t even remotely the initial concept. In 1989, Grammar signed a deal with three Cheers producers to make a new show when Cheers finally ended. The quartet was so afraid that the new show would earn unfavorable comparisons to the popular Cheers that they set out to make a brand-new show—Grammar was going to play a paraplegic publisher of a conservative magazine who rarely left his apartment and who was attended to by a sassy nurse. The studio in charge of the show hated the idea, and suggested a Frasier-based spinoff of Cheers instead.
Atlanta is one of the most acclaimed shows on TV today, starring Donald Glover (who also created the show and directs some episodes) as Earn, a young man in Atlanta trying to manage his cousin’s rap career, stay in the good graces of his on-again/off-again girlfriend…and deal with increasingly strange characters and surreal adventures episode after episode. Glover had a vision in mind, but he had to downplay some of the more bizarre aspects to get it onto FX. He pitched it to the network as similar to Community, the wacky college sitcom he starred in for NBC, but with he and Craig Robinson (Darryl from The Office) palling around Atlanta. Glover, who is also a musician under the stage name Childish Gambino, also promised a new song in every episode.
The Big Bang Theory
CBS put The Big Bang Theory on the air in 2007 after creators Bill Prady and Chuck Lorre revised and reshot the pilot CBS rejected a year earlier. While it was always a show about scientists and “the girl next door,” the main characters were fundamentally different. The pathologically relationship-averse and logic-minded Leonard (Jim Parsons) was at first a sex-obsessed guy named “Lenny” who makes donations to fertility clinics. The female lead wasn’t sweet and bubbly Penny (Kaley Cuoco), but a tough as nails woman named Katie invited to live with the scientists. Also, the show didn’t yet have its original theme song by the Barenaked Ladies—it used Thomas Dolby’s 1983 hit “She Blinded Me With Science.”