Over the years, dozens of TV shows have tried to predict the future with varying success. If a lot of 20th-century shows had been correct, we’d all be zooming around in flying cars and popping to the moon for our weekend breaks. Obviously, that hasn’t come to pass. However, other predictions have been totally accurate – some to a freakishly accurate extent. How on earth did an animated sitcom like The Simpsons manage to predict something that even political analysts doubted would happen? Was it just a freakish coincidence that shows predicted huge disasters years before they happened? And how did a very unexpected sitcom character manage to correctly guess where Osama Bin Laden was hiding out?
While it’s unlikely that our most popular TV writers are all secret psychics, some of their accurate predictions are pretty phenomenal. Here’s a roundup of the most surprising TV prophecies that ended up coming to fruition. Maybe we should start to pay a bit more attention to what The Simpsons says…
Family Guy – Caitlyn Jenner’s Transition
How can anyone forget Caitlyn Jenner’s groundbreaking announcement back in 2015 that she was a transgender woman undergoing transition? It confirmed the public’s suspicions after months of speculation and was a brave and powerful move. We were all mostly just glad that Jenner was finally able to live as her happy, authentic self. However, shortly after Jenner made her announcement Family Guy fans began to murmur about a prediction their favorite show had made. Back in 2009, TV’s most eloquent baby Stewie Griffin had referred to Jenner as “an elegant, beautiful Dutch woman.” Is this a sign that the show’s writers already knew that Jenner would make her transition in six years’ time? Seth MacFarlane refused to comment when asked about the episode in question, stating that he was too afraid of offending anyone. Still – it’s a pretty spooky prediction.
The Lone Gunmen – a 9/11 plotline
Short-lived X Files spin-off The Lone Gunmen may not have ran for many episodes, but it still managed to cram in a spooky prediction in its brief run. In March 2001, the pilot episode of this little-known show featured the titular Lone Gunmen thwarting a plot to fly a hijacked plane into the World Trade Center. Sound familiar? Just six months later, an identical plot occurred in real life – otherwise known as the 9/11 terror attacks. While very few people initially picked up on the links between the TV show and real-life events, conspiracy theorists have since claimed that The Lone Gunmen was a warning about the attacks that was roundly ignored. Even the writers have considered that the coincidence was eerie.
The Simpsons – the horse-meat scandal
While not the BIGGEST incident The Simpsons has predicted, there was a strange reference to the 2013 horse meat scandal almost twenty years before it came to pass. Back in 1994, an episode aired that featured Lunchlady Doris sneaking horse meat (including testicles) into her school dinners. Massive ew. Decades later, it turned out that such meat as a disgusting secret ingredient wasn’t actually too far-fetched.
It turned out that thousands of meat-based products in the U.K. and Europe actually contained horse meat, from small trace amounts to huge lumps of the stuff. It led to the adoption of a much stricter food testing regime across the continent. Many horrified consumers went vegetarian for a while until their food was safe again. Maybe we should have listened to The Simpsons all those years ago…
Scrubs – the Janitor predicted Bin Laden’s location
Of all the people you’d have expected to know the whereabouts of infamous terrorist Osama Bin Laden, the Janitor from Scrubs isn’t exactly near the top of the list. However, an off-hand comment made by the character in an episode of this hit sitcom has been hailed by many as a prediction of Bin Laden’s eventual whereabouts. Back in 2006, The Janitor engages an eager J.D. in a debate about the war in Iraq. However, he suggests that the U.S. should actually start looking for Bin Laden in Pakistan. Where was the al-Qaeda ringleader eventually killed in 2011? That’s right – Pakistan. Clearly, the Janitor’s talents were totally wasted in his cleaning job – he should have been in government!
Spooks – predicted the London 7/7 bombings
British spy drama Spooks was one of the BBC’s most popular TV shows back in the 2000s. It dealt with a fair few plot lines surrounding bombings, terrorists, and major disasters over the years, as you’d expect from a spy show. However, one particular storyline stood out due to its uncanny reflection of real events. In June 2005, the show filmed an episode that involved a train line being bombed by terrorists. However, a mere month later the London Underground actually underwent such an incident in the infamous 7/7 bombings. For a while, it looked like the Spooks episode would simply be cut: it was deemed too close to the mark to show in the aftermath of such a tragedy. However, it was heavily edited and shown alongside a statement confirming that its relation to real-life events was purely coincidental.
Black Mirror – British PM David Cameron’s “pig incident”
Anyone who’s watched the first season of Black Mirror will know exactly which episode I’m referring to when I mention the British Prime Minister. Frankly, thinking about “The National Anthem” is enough to make anyone’s stomach churn. The episode involves a fictional PM having to have sexual intercourse with a pig on live TV to prevent a member of the Royal Family from being killed. It’s pretty difficult to watch, but at least viewers could rest safe in the knowledge that nothing like that could ever really happen. Or could it? In 2015, a tell-all memoir was published that claimed the then-PM David Cameron had once put his junk in the mouth of a dead pig. The similarities to Black Mirror were quickly observed, with its writer Charlie Brooker tweeting “Sh*t. Turns out Black Mirror is a documentary series.” How awkward.
The Simpsons – Disney taking over Fox
Another Simpsons episode, another uncanny prediction. However, this one’s only come true within the last few weeks! In the 1998 episode “When You Dish Upon A Star,” Homer makes friends with Hollywood stars Alec Baldwin, Kim Basinger, and Ron Howard. Of course, the hapless Simpson patriarch totally messes things up and by the end of the episode is the subject of restraining order. While the whole episode is basically a Simpsons classic, there’s one particular scene that has recently caught people’s eye.
At one point, Ron Howard visits Fox Studios to pitch an idea for a movie. The camera pans to a sign that reads “20th Century Fox: A Division of Walt Disney Co.” Just a few weeks ago, this became a reality: Disney acquired Fox in a multi-million dollar deal! Did Matt Groening somehow know this would happen twenty years ago? Perhaps…
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – Google Glass
Ah, Deep Space Nine. This 90s incarnation of the Star Trek franchise was cheesy as hell, a bit silly at times, but ultimately incredibly entertaining. It featured a motley crew of humans, aliens, and robots living in a space station somewhere in the Milky Way. Being set over three hundred years in the future, the show featured a lot of wacky technology. Its writers thought that such devices would be beyond the human race’s capabilities for many years to come. However, turns out they underestimated us – well, specifically, they underestimated Google. In the series, alien alliance The Dominion wear a glass headpiece that’s basically identical to the Google Glass system. Google has admitted to using Star Trek as an inspiration for its own version of Siri – did they borrow this bit of tech from the franchise too? Quite possibly.
Star Trek: The Original Series – the Moon Landing
Turns out Star Trek has form when it comes to accurately predicting the future! Many fans claim that the original series correctly predicted the 1969 Moon Landing. A 1967 episode set way, way in the future correctly guessed that the Apollo 11 space mission would take place in the year it did. There’s no way the writers could have known that to be true – it must have been a very lucky stab in the dark! The episode also noted that the launch would take place at Cape Kennedy with three astronauts on board. They did get the time wrong, however, stating that the launch would take place at 6 am EST when it actually happened at 9:32 am. Still, as predictions go, this one is freakily accurate!
The Chris Rock Show – O.J. Simpson’s book
Before Chris Rock made it in Holywood and became an in-demand actor and Oscars host, he was a standup comedian who had his own HBO show. The Chris Rock Show premiered in 1997 and ended up winning Rock an Emmy. It also featured a segment that led to Rock making a pretty eerie prediction. “Chris Rock Remembers” featured the comic looking back on people who’d allegedly graced his studio in the past. In a 1999 edition of the show, Rock jokingly referred to O.J. Simpson dropping by to promote a fictional videotape entitled “I Didn’t Kill My Wife… But If I Did, Here’s How I’d Do It.” Years later, O.J. actually released a book called If I Did It: Confessions of the Killer. Was he inspired by Rock’s joke? Did Rock just have really good predictive skills? We’ll never know.
Quantum Leap – the result of Super Bowl XXX
Quantum Leap was a slightly cheesy 1990s sci-fi show that basically involved a scientist traveling in time a lot. The main character, Sam Beckett, had developed something called the Quantum Leap Accelerator (hence the show’s title) that enabled him to jump to any specified point in time. In one episode aired in 1990, Beckett jumps back to the 1960s to intervene in a high school football game. When he returns to the present – 1996, for him – his buddy Rear Admiral Al Calavicci mentions he’d just been watching Super Bowl XXX. He noted that the Pittsburgh Steelers were trailing by three points – something that actually ended up happening when said Super Bowl took place. Although this was most likely a total coincidence, it’s still pretty freaky that a show would correctly guess such a specific detail six years before the game took place.
Parks and Recreation – The Cubs winning the World Series
Unlucky baseball team the Chicago Cubs finally ended their 108-year drought in 2016, winning the World Series in a dramatic fashion. Most of their fans were too busy being totally swept away with joy to remember that a Parks and Recreations episode had correctly predicted their team’s win.
In an episode released in 2015 but set in 2017, co-creator Michael Schur personally inserted a line about his team into the script. Some of the show’s characters are visiting Chicago when it’s noted that the city is in a good mood due to winning the Series the year before. The line was generally scorned when the episode was first released, but viewers were soon forced to eat their words. Nobody saw the win coming – apart from the Parks and Rec team, apparently.
The Simpsons – the faulty election machines in 2012
Does The Simpsons have a psychic in the Writer’s Room? We’re starting to think so… In 2008’s “Treehouse of Horror” Halloween episode, one segment shows Homer desperately trying to vote in that year’s presidential election. While Homer repeatedly tries to vote for Barack Obama, the election machine keeps on changing his entry to read John McCain‘s name. Fast-forward to the 2012 election, and something spookily similar took place. A video emerged of a Pennsylvania election machine changing a vote for Obama to a vote for his then-opponent Mitt Romney. Maybe somebody watched that old Simpsons episode and found election-rigging inspiration… Either way, the machine was taken out of service and the votes rectified.
Person of Interest – the Edward Snowden scandal
Science-fiction show Person of Interest basically became a documentary after the events of June 9th, 2013. The entire show was based on government surveillance and other shady actions and had previously featured an episode that became painfully relevant.
In 2012, the episode “No Good Deed” showed a whistleblower from the N.S.A. leaking secrets about the true extent of illegal government surveillance. If this sounds familiar, it’s because it’s exactly what happened with Edward Snowden in 2013. The whistleblower on Person of Interest was even young and fresh-faced, just like Snowden. The writers of the show found the whole Snowden situation pretty surreal when it unfolded!
The Simpsons – Trump becoming President
Hit animated sitcom The Simpsons is infamous for being able to foretell the future with terrifying accuracy. One of the major events it correctly predicted was the ascendancy of Donald Trump to the presidency. In 2000, the show aired the episode “Bart to the Future.” As you might expect from a title like that, it transported the show decades into the future. Unsurprisingly, feminist icon and general badass Lisa Simpson has managed to become President. While sitting in the Oval Office with her advisors, President Simpson makes an off-hand comment about her predecessor, President Trump, making a bit of a financial mess of the country. Does that mean we could well get President Simpson in 2020? We’d be so down for that. Sure, she’s a fictional character, but let’s face it – stranger elections have happened.
Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In – numerous events of the 1980s
Popular 1960s and 70s sketch show Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In has become pretty famous in recent times due to its oddly prophetic “News of the Future” segment. While all of the headlines suggested by the comedians were obviously supposed to be jokes, some of them actually ended up coming true! Rowan and Martin predicted that the Reagan presidency would happen in 1988 and that the Berlin Wall would fall in 1989. Those are some oddly time-specific guesses for events that would take place decades in the future! Nobody guessed it would be the case: the audience howled with laughter at the suggestion of President Reagan taking office. I wonder if they were laughing twenty years on…