You definitely have to suspend disbelief when you watch television; otherwise, you will not enjoy the program. You have to accept certain things; for example, if you’re watching a period piece, there will likely be an anachronism or two.
However, certain inconsistencies and such are particularly egregious, to the point viewers get very irritated. Once in a while, you really have to wonder what the writers were thinking. Were they even paying attention to their own story?
Of course, the argument could be made that viewers today get way too nitpicky. Nobody cared about story consistency on television fifty-five years ago. People were happy if they could even afford a television. Those things were extremely expensive once upon a time, which is why television repair was once a respected career.
In the image above, there is a scene from “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”, which was enormously popular when it first aired—and still is. After the show ended, it was continued in comic book form.
One of the people in the image is Angel, the vampire with a soul who went on to star in a spinoff called “Angel”, which was also very popular during its five-year run.
Vampires don’t breathe, right? Buffy had just drowned after getting bit by a vampire, so she needed mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. Angel couldn’t do it, though—vampires have no breath. However, as viewers have pointed out, Angel talks, and breathing is sort of necessary if you want to speak.
Another vampire on “Buffy” regularly smokes cigarettes. Let’s just agree the whole “vampires being able to breathe” thing in the Buffyverse was treated in a sort of inconsistent fashion. Vampires were even choked, which shouldn’t have impacted them.
The “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” thing is just one example of television story inconsistencies and errors. Here are ten more examples!
1. Rory’s Age On “Gilmore Girls”
Character ages aren’t very consistent on most television shows, honestly. Rory’s age on “Gilmore Girls” is just one of many examples. In the early part of season one of the show, it was established that Rory was sixteen. She then had a birthday in the show’s sixth episode. However, she somehow managed to remain sixteen—which is a neat trick.
In several episodes that followed, including one in the second season, it was said that Rory was sixteen years old.
Character ages are particularly inconsistent on soap operas; there’s actually a pretty well-known term out there called “soap opera rapid aging syndrome”, or SORAS. It refers to the practice of making child characters older in order to suit storyline purposes. While the practice is most commonly associated with soaps, it happens in prime time shows too.
One example of SORAS occurred on the soap opera “The Young and the Restless” with the character named Billy Abbott. The character was born in 1993; by 1999, he was sixteen years old. A similar thing happened on the Australian soap “Neighbors” with the character of Ben. There are examples from British soap operas as well, including “EastEnders” and “Emmerdale”.
2. Donna’s Sister in “That ‘70s Show”
In one episode of the hit series, the character of Donna had a sister. That sister was never mentioned again.
Characters disappearing without any sort of explanation is not an uncommon occurrence in television, actually.
Have you heard of the “Chuck Cunningham Syndrome”? On the show “Happy Days”, Richie Cunningham had a brother named Chuck for the first couple of seasons. He wasn’t written off the show—he just disappeared and was never referred to again.
Established characters who simply disappear from a television program are often referred to as victims of the “Chuck Cunningham Syndrome”.
Other victims of the ““Chuck Cunningham Syndrome” include Bobby Martin from “All My Children”, Dr. Goodman from “Bones”, Topanga’s older sister from “Boy Meets World”, and Julia Wilcox from “Frasier”.
3. Birthdays on “Friends”
“Friends” first aired in the 1990s, and writers back then were not very concerned with consistency. Over the course of the popular series, Ross actually had three birthdays. In the first season, he claimed it was in March. In a different episode, he claimed his birthday was in December. In an episode from season nine, he said it was in October.
There were a lot of inconsistencies on “Friends”, actually. For example, did you ever notice that Ross’ son wasn’t at his wedding to Emily? That’s sort of strange, really, as Ross was shown to be a pretty devoted father. Did the writers forget Ben existed?
At one point, Phoebe claimed that her birthday was in February. Later, she said it was in October.
4. Michael from “The Office” Doesn’t Know How to Ride a Bike, Apparently, But He Does
Like many sitcoms, the American version of “The Office” was not terribly consistent. At one point, the character of Michael was shown trying to learn to ride a bike; in an earlier episode, however, he was donating his old bike to a toy drive.
There were other inconsistencies and continuity errors on “The Office”, too. For example, during one episode in season five, Meredith reveals she had been sleeping with a representative from the company Hammermill for six years in exchange for discounted paper. However, Dunder Mifflin was not allowed to sell Hammermill products until season three.
The names of Andy’s parents also change throughout the course of the series.
5. When Did Chandler and Rachel Meet, Exactly?
As we mentioned earlier in this article, the writers of “Friends” weren’t terribly obsessed with continuity. Therefore, it seems as if Rachael and Chandler actually met for the first time on three different occasions. The first time that they met “for the first time” was in the show’s pilot. They also met “for the first time” in two other episodes.
6. Jess From “New Girl” Does Not Need Glasses
If you look at the photo, it is pretty obvious that the character of Jessica Day does not actually need glasses. There are no lenses. Her “glasses” are just frames.
Of course, the lack of lenses could be because lenses are problematic on the set of a television show or a movie. They can potentially cause lens glare, which would be quite distracting. It would also prevent us from properly seeing the eyes of actress Zooey Deschanel.
“New Girl” premiered in 2011 and tells the story of a teacher in her early 30’s who moves into a loft apartment with three guys. It was considered one of the year’s best new comedies by critics, and it has been nominated for many awards, including Primetime Emmy Awards and Golden Globes. The seventh season—the show’s final season—premiered in April of 2018. It will only be eight episodes long.
7. The Finale of “Will & Grace” Was Just a Dream
Like many American television shows—including “Roseanne” and “Gilmore Girls”—“Will & Grace” has recently been revived. The revival is doing quite well, in fact, and was renewed for a 10th season in August of 2017. There will also be an 11th season, meaning that the revival will have at least three seasons.
The show premiered in 1998. When it first ended, the main characters each had children with their respective partners. When the show was revived in 2017, it was revealed that the children were all part of a dream had by the character Karen.
It is worth noting that the cast reunited back in 2016 in order to get Americans to vote in the Presidential Election; that reunion is partially responsible for the show’s revival.
The reveal that a character had been dreaming part of a series—or all of it—is not unique to “Will & Grace”. The entire “Newhart” series was a dream of Bob Hartley, the main character from “The Bob Newhart Show”. Actor Bob Newhart played the main characters on both “Newhart” and “The Bob Newhart Show”. Newhart’s finale, while quite surreal, is still considered one of the best finales of all time.
If you’re not familiar with what is known as “The Tommy Westphall Theory”, you should definitely look it up.
In the finale of the show “St. Elsewhere”, you come to learn that the entire series took place inside of the mind of an autistic child. The kid’s name was Tommy Westphall. That’s all well and good, and it was an interesting way to end the dramatic television series.
However, characters from “St. Elsewhere” appeared on and interacted with characters from other television shows, including “Cheers”. As a result, the characters from “Cheers” are part of the fictional “St. Elsewhere” universe, which also means that the characters from “Frasier” are part of that universe—which exists in the mind of the autistic boy. The character of Frasier Crane appeared on the television program “Wings”.
At one point, the vast majority of American television could have existed in the mind of Tommy Westphall—including “Law & Order” and “The X-Files”. In theory, there are over 400 television programs that could be a part of Tommy’s universe because of crossovers with “St. Elsewhere”.
8. Jess is Claustrophobic, But She’s Also Not
As we mentioned earlier, “New Girl”—like most sitcoms past and present—is not terribly concerned with continuity. In one episode, Jess claims to be claustrophobic; just an episode later, she is hiding in a closet with other characters, and she does not seem bothered by doing so.
9. Marshall From “How I Met Your Mother” Can’t Fight, But He Is Also a Great Fighter
When it comes to American sitcoms, “How I Met Your Mother” paid a lot more attention to continuity than most; in general, the show did a great job. However, it was on the air for nine seasons, so mistakes were inevitable.
One mistake involves the character of Marshall. In one early episode, Marshall claims that he has never been in a fight. A few seasons later, he is seen having intense fights with his brothers and beats up a guy single-handedly.
Jason Segal, the actor who portrayed Marshall, is 6’4”, and he definitely looks like the sort of a guy who could win a fight. In addition to playing Marshall on “How I Met Your Mother”, the 38-year-old starred in the show “Freaks and Geeks”.
Segal has also starred in numerous films, including “The Muppets”, “Forgetting Sarah Marshall”, “Sex Tape”, and “Knocked Up”
10. “That ‘70s Show” Had Eight Christmases
The hit FOX sitcom “That ‘70s Show” lasted eight seasons, but it only took place over a roughly four-year period—from May of 1976 to late December of 1979. There should have only been four Christmases celebrated on the show, as a result. However, eight were actually celebrated. I suppose that’s what happens when shows last a little too long.
The show, which starred Mila Kunis, Ashton Kutcher, Laura Prepon, and Topher Grace, aired its final episode on the 18th of May in 2006. Over 200 episodes were aired, and it was considered one of the flagship shows of the FOX network. It was nominated for many awards over the years, and it is still regularly broadcast in the United States.
There are actually countless examples of continuity errors and inconsistencies in television history. For example, two different dogs played “Eddie” on Frasier; the original dog was getting too old, so he had to be replaced by his son.
Here are other examples. Uncle Jesse’s family name on “Full House” changed, and the character of Judy disappeared from “Family Matters”. The latter was actually a victim of “Chuck Cunningham Syndrome”. There are countless continuity errors on “Friends”.
These days, because of binge watching and online streaming services, writers are a little more careful when it comes to continuity; however, nobody’s perfect, and there will definitely be inconsistences and errors as long as television exists.