Times Viewers Got Trolled By Showrunners

When a show trolls viewers, it's not always with malice or ill intent, but rather to shake up the boring expectations an audience might have. There are so many hours of television available to you that sometimes showrunners need to do some twisted things to keep it fresh. And if you're an obedient audience and they do it right, you'll enjoy the ride. Whether it's the original Wizard of Oz troll where it's all been a dream the whole time, or something far more creative, here are a few really fun (or accidentally awful) times viewers totally got trolled by a TV show.

St. Elsewhere - Series finale

We're going back to 1988, but the finale of the hospital drama St. Elsewhere is still talked about today as the ultimate twist ending. After six seasons of Emmy Award-winning drama, the camera pans out to reveal that it's all been happening inside of a snowglobe, as the elaborate imaginings of an autistic kid. Everything that happened over 136 previous episodes was effectively chalked up to an extended dream sequence, including crossovers with multiple other TV shows, leading viewers to try to map out just how many shows may actually just be happening in some kid's head. Surprisingly, viewers did not completely freak out, but it's a feat that no one will ever be able to pull off again.

Family Guy - Brian Griffin's death

It wasn't altogether unpredictable that the insufferable Brian Griffin wouldn't stay dead forever once Family Guy killed him off in a freak car accident, but they sure didn't waste any energy trying to sentimentalize his "death." Everyone already knows that sentimental dog death is best reserved for Futurama, but Family Guy's needlessly sappy story arc featured a replacement dog, some time travel, and a quick resolution after a couple of episodes. Granted, the whole thing showed more coherence than usual, and a bit of sci-fi ingenuity, but stop trying to jerk those tears, jerks. And don't lie that it's a permanent cast change when everyone knows it's not.

Star Trek: Into Darkness - Not Khan

Prior to its theatrical debut, director J.J. Abrams and everyone associated with Into Darkness repeatedly and vehemently insisted that the main villain, played by Benedict Cumberbatch, was not a new version of legendary Trek baddie Khan Noonien Singh, but a new dude entirely, going as far as calling anyone who maintained the Khan theory "crazy." Abrams was strident enough to have earned a few true believers, but many film geeks had already seen through the veil. Of course, it was Khan all along, leaving us to wonder if Abrams trolled us, or just himself.

South Park - Cartman's Dad

It was truly a master class of low-brow multi-level trolling. After a two-month cliffhanger where the identity of Eric Cartman's father is left unanswered, season two's premiere promised to reveal all. Viewers tuned in—only to witness 30 minutes of an intentionally terrible Terrance and Phillip episode, the fictional, flatulence-based favorite TV show of the South Park kids. Not coincidentally, the offending episode aired on April Fool's Day. Cartman's father was eventually revealed to also be his mother, in a feat of unexpected biological impossibility—but was later retconned into something far more terrible. Effective triple-troll, South Park.

The Walking Dead - Glenn's Dumpster Death

Glenn's visceral demise at the hands of dumpster zombies was a whole lot more than just a plot twist, and anyone who thinks it wasn't The Walking Dead's worst troll isn't watching closely enough. Not only did Glenn show up a few episodes after his death without any real apology from the showrunners, but it was the first time that the show actually faked a death for an audience reaction. Out of character and highly suspicious, it was a frustrating fakeout that the producers have promised to not repeat any time soon.

The Office - Series Finale

Finally, a troll that everyone can get behind. As The Office drew to a close, ex-manager Michael Scott, who had departed the show a few seasons prior, had never made a guest re-appearance to visit his beloved employees. Showrunners and all of the show's principal actors insisted that the show would air its final episode without the distraction of a much-awaited Michael Scott reappearance, and everyone believed them—until Michael appeared. Briefly, and with only a couple of lines, Michael looked older, calmer, and finally content with his life, which was all the series ever needed in a true finale.

The Simpsons - Springfield's State

It took 25 years for Simpsons creator Matt Groening to mention (and later deny) that the fictional town of Springfield is located in Oregon, but only after countless gags about its nebulous, unknown location. The western region of Springfield is said to be three times the size of Texas, and the town is alternately landlocked and adjacent to the ocean. The show is even known to change state references in reruns and on DVD releases just to further confuse the audience. It's a troll that's been going on for decades which will hopefully never be solved.

Adventure Time - Fionna and Cake

There's a weird thing in the deeper crevices of nerdery where people like to take established characters, swap their genders, and send them on adventures, generally with the author's creepy self-insert character in tow. Fan fiction is a strange place, so when Adventure Time actually aired a gender-swapped episode starring Fionna and Cake (instead of Finn and Jake) out of the blue, nerds thought that all of their prayers had been answered—until it was all revealed to be the pathetic, ridiculous fan fiction of the loneliest nerd in the world, the Ice King. Was it a sympathetic portrayal of the phenomenon? It's undecided, but it certainly didn't seem too friendly. No one wants to be the Ice King.

Roseanne - Series Finale

A finale for a long-running show probably isn't the best place to troll viewers, but a few years into some absolutely terrible seasons of Roseanne, replete with pointless guest stars, Roseanne Barr finally decided to call it quits. By way of apology, or perhaps to save face, the showrunners decided to have Roseanne Connor, a writer, frame the last few seasons as a semi-fictional memoir. In a spoken conclusion, Roseanne told real and tragic story of the Connors, most of which happened outside of the imaginary story we'd all been stuck with. Good enough...or something.

Space Ghost Coast to Coast - Fire Ant

Space Ghost is notorious for skewering viewers' expectations. The animated talk show with live-action celebrities was strange enough. But intentional flubs and ad-libs, mixed with hallucinations from sleep deprivation caused by staying awake for a midnight cartoon, made Space Ghost a supremely surreal experience for viewers. No episode was harder on the viewers than "Fire Ant," which seemed like a normal interview episode with Conan O'Brien—until Space Ghost spent literally fifteen minutes of extended airtime walking slowly behind an ant. It's a sublimely useless episode, but we didn't even blink.