Have you ever wondered what could have been? It’s a pretty loaded question. Woulda, coulda, shoulda can fill up our brains. It’s not the best thought cyclone you want to get into about your own life, but it actually makes for some great TV.
TV shows sometimes end up being very different from their pilots. If you’ve ever wondered what a show could have been like if it had a different pilot… if different actors played certain parts… or what would have happened if that plot twist never happened, you’re probably a fan of alternate reality episodes.
Quite a few TV shows have looked at what things could have been like in an alternative universe. Sometimes, the results are totally different than the show we ended up with. Intrigued? These 16 television shows gave us alternate reality episodes to highlight what could have happened.
16. Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 3, Episode 9
Did you ever wonder what would have happened to Sunnydale if Buffy Summers never showed up? You probably wrote the idea off as being ridiculous because otherwise there wouldn’t have been a Buffy the Vampire Slayer TV show, right? Well, “The Wish” actually showed the scary reality of what could have happened with those vampires. The episode all started with Cordelia making a wish that Buffy never rolled into town. If you haven’t seen the episode, you can probably guess that things were bloody — we even got a glimpse of soul-less vampire-versions of Willow and Xander.
15. One Tree Hill: Season 2, Episode 20
There were some One Tree Hill plot lines that bordered on ridiculous. “Lifetime Piling Up” was an alternate reality episode that aired during the show’s second season. As these things usually seem to happen, it followed Nathan Scott‘s race car accident and a dream about what life would have been like if his Dad stayed with Karen instead of his mom, Deb. Basically, Nathan and Lucas had switched places and the results were interesting, to say the least.
14. Felicity: Various season 4 episodes
If you’ve ever found yourself in a love triangle, you might have wondered afterwards whether you truly made the right choice. We got to see whether Felicity Porter made the correct decision in not one but five alternate reality episodes where Felicity picks Noel instead of Ben. If you’re #TeamNoel, you’ll probably love it. If you will always be #TeamBen, the episodes might infuriate you especially for some of the complicated plot details about knowing things in the future, but choosing to ignore them.
13. Doctor Who: season 2, episode 6
Some could argue that the whole Doctor Who plot is based on alternate realities. But “Rise of the Cybermen/The Age of Steel” is actually a proper alternate reality episode. The episode from 2006 has David Tennant as The Doctor, taking a trip with Mickey and Rose in the TARDIS to a very different London. Yes, there are robots… or, should we say Cybermen.
12. Nip/Tuck: season 2, episode 12
The “Julia McNamara” episode of Nip/Tuck allowed us to see what Julia‘s life would be like if she married Christian after college instead of Sean. As this is Nip/Tuck we’re talking about, the alternate universe started when Julia undergoes surgery to fix her scarred face and wants her breast implants removed. She is also guided through the universe by Ava, one of the show’s most confusing characters.
11. The Simpsons: season 20, episode 10
The famous The Simpsons‘ Halloween episodes typically allow us to indulge our love of alternate universes. “Take My Life, Please” wasn’t a Halloween episode, but it still explored alternate realities. In the show, it is revealed that Homer Simpson‘s high school election was actually rigged. We’re then given the opportunity to see what his life would have been like if he was class president way back when. Who can say they haven’t fantasized about life going a bit differently in high school?
10. Family Guy: season 8, episode 1
Family Guy has dabbled with alternate realities with the Star Wars specials, but the “Road to Multiverse” episode is the one everyone thinks of when they think alternate reality episodes. This ep wins because it actually delivers multiple alternate realities in a single show. And it all begins with Stewie and Brian going on a crazy adventure. Normal stuff.
9. Star Trek: season 2, episode 4
You might expect to see alternate universe episodes now, but Star Trek was one of the pioneers of the innovative episode with its “Mirror Mirror” one from 1967. A transponder issue causes the gang to end up in an alternate universe where literally everything is flipped. And we mean everything… that is, save for one very interesting exception. We won’t spoil it for you.
8. The O.C.: season 4, episode 10
If you hung around to watch the questionable fourth season of The O.C., you were gifted with the alternate reality episode “The Chrismukk-huh?” This is not to be confused with other Chrismukkah episodes because this one takes place in an alternate reality. Basically, Ryan Atwood and Taylor Townsend somehow fall off a ladder at the same time then have the same alternate reality dream that shows what things could have been like in Orange County if Ryan never came to Newport. Spoiler alert: Marissa is still dead — and died even earlier than she had in the show’s actual timeline. It was slightly bonkers but it worked.
7. Community: season 3, episode 4
Community actually had some pretty crazy episodes. One of them was “Remedial Chaos Theory.” If you haven’t seen it, don’t let the name intimidate you because it’s not that complicated. All it involves is pizza delivery, Abed and Troy, and a Yahtzee dice that may-or-may-not hold the power to change someone’s life. If this sounds meta, know that the episode is very entertaining.
6. It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia: season 12, episode 1
It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia doesn’t really play by any set rules, but the show does have an alternate reality episode, like the others on the list. Unlike the others, though, this one involves the cast turning black. In “The Gang Turns Black,” the group watches The Wiz. After an electric heating blanket short, they realize they’ve all turned black. Yeah, it did garner some controversy.
5. Boy Meets World: season 7, episode 16
Before Girl Meets World got us into the future proper, we had “Seven the Hard Way.” After a prank war goes terribly awry, Mr. Feeny somehow manages to get all the kids in a classroom and show what could happen seven years from now if they don’t mend their friendship. Some surprising, sad and downright bizarre stuff happens. One of the most random is that Eric has become a bearded hermit known as “Plays with Squirrels.”
4. Supernatural: season 6, episode 15
There’s lots of odd stuff happening on Supernatural, hence the show’s name, so an alternate reality episode is almost expected. “The French Mistake” sees Sam and Dean in a surprising alternate reality, in a TV show called Supernatural. It sounds completely crazy and wildly meta, but just go with it, okay?
3. Roseanne: season 8
There’s nothing like throwing an alternate reality twist in a finale. That’s what happened with Roseanne. The whole thing was actually super emotional as we found out that the show was the alternate reality that was told by Roseanne Conner as she writes a book. Turns out things that happened really didn’t. It also makes for an interesting reboot.
2. The Big Bang Theory: season 7, episode 11
This episode of TBBT envisions what life for the gang would be like if Sheldon wasn’t a part of their lives after Sheldon unexpectedly leaves for his niece’s birth and the rest of the group watches It’s a Wonderful Life. “The Cooper Extraction” points out that no one would know Amy if it weren’t for Sheldon, Leonard and Penny wouldn’t be dating, and depicts a weird laundry room scene where Penny actually comes onto Sheldon. It’s a bit strange, as many things are when it comes to The Big Bang Theory.
1. Friends: Season 6, Episodes 15 & 16
Phoebe, Rachel, Monica, Chandler, Ross and Joey are an iconic group of friends and the ones who we define #squadgoals by. But, have you ever wondered what things would have been like if they were never friends? Well, the Friends producers answered that question with two alternate reality episodes. “The One That Could Have Been” part one and two showed what could have been if things hadn’t turned out like they did. Spoiler alert: There were some interesting fashion changes.