Fan theories that totally change TV shows

The ongoing nature of television series means they tend to spawn more fan theories than any other form of entertainment. Some are absolutely ridiculous—like The Simpsons predicting 9/11—while others are more plausible. Let's take a trip down the idea-rabbit hole, to bring you some of our favorite TV fan theories. 

Spongebob Squarepants: Bikini Bottom is a nuclear wasteland

In one of many popular fan theories, Spongebob Squarepants and his friends are the mutated results of nuclear fallout. The theory proposes that Spongebob, Squidward, Patrick, and all the rest of Bikini Bottom's citizens were irradiated during atomic tests, turning them into the characters we see today. But how'd that even happen? Here's the skinny on Bikini Bottom: The fictional town is located on the ocean floor under a place called Bikini Atoll. That name may sound familiar, because Bikini Atoll is real, and was famously the site of 23 atomic bomb tests in the '40s and '50s … including some underwater detonations. These explosions left the island and reef exposed to massive amounts of radioactive fallout, and Bikini Atoll remains uninhabitable to this day. Unless you live in a pineapple.

It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia: The characters are way uglier than you think

This awesome theory about It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia comes to us courtesy of a Reddit thread from 2015. In it, /u/Craigsbenedict proposes that Mac, Dee, and Dennis are not really as attractive as they appear to us viewers. The idea relies on the "unreliable narrator" premise, in which the story is told from the characters' narcissistic perspectives, and is not how things actually are. There's also some evidence to back this idea up: in the episode "High School Reunion Part 2," the gang choreograph an amazing dance routine to impress all the jerks who teased them in high school. Cut to the end of the scene, where we see that they were actually flailing around awkwardly the entire time, while the rest of the attendees looked on in horror. According to the theory, Mac actually has skinny arms, Dennis is an unattractive sociopath who relies on a twisted system to score with women, and Dee is still wearing the hated back brace of her adolescence. If the theory is true, it explains a lot of things about the show, like why the rest of the world treats three relatively attractive people like total freaks.

Rugrats: only Angelica was real

Millennials will probably remember Nickelodeon's Rugrats as a fun, quirky show about the hijinks that a bunch of babies can get into while lacking proper supervision. However, one fan theory takes a much darker view, suggesting that the babies on the show are actually figments of Angelica's imagination. She is a spoiled and lonely child, who has few friends, neglectful parents, and no siblings of her own. To cope with this, she invents playmates based on the dead children of her parents' friends. Angelica uses these imaginary children to vent her frustrations, through her bossy ways.

Wait, what? Dead children? That's right. This theory claims that Chuckie died in a car crash that also claimed his mother's life, which is why Chaz is always such an emotional mess. Tommy passed away during infancy, and his father Stu is in denial: he's constantly locked away in the basement, inventing toys for the lost son who will never play with them. Twins Phil and Lil were actually a single stillborn baby, but since Angelica never knew the child's gender, she imagined twins, one of each sex. Of course, this theory ignores the entire Rugrats: All Grown Up series, but that's okay—we prefer to pretend that show didn't happen, too.

Samurai Jack: Jack and the Professor from Powerpuff Girls are the same person

Many of the original shows on Cartoon Network appear to be set in the same universe, as we've seen numerous instances of characters making cameo appearances on the network's other shows. Perhaps the most troubling, and dark, connection is the one between Samurai Jack and Powerpuff Girls. Samurai Jack wanders around a dystopian, post-apocalyptic world, which is littered with visual references to the city of Townsville from Powerpuff Girls. Additionally, Jack strongly resembles another character from the PPG franchise—the Professor, creator and father-figure to the Girls! What went wrong in Townsville? Did Mojo Jojo finally destroy the girls, leaving the Professor to turn into a sword-wielding vigilante? We don't know for sure, but it's definitely a cool idea. Put this down as one of the more interesting fan theories floating around the internet.

Breaking Bad: Walter White is Malcolm from Malcolm in the Middle

There have been several fan theories linking Breaking Bad to Malcolm in the Middle over the years, particularly the one that posits Hal is Walt after he enters the Witness Protection Program. This theory turns them all on their heads, proposing that Walter White is actually Malcolm as an adult. Both characters are brilliant, gifted with chemistry, manipulative, have huge egos, and are adept at coming up with plans to get their way. Malcolm would likely have grown up to strongly resemble his father, portrayed by Bryan Cranston. Malcolm and Walter both have overbearing mothers that they dislike. Malcolm's surname is never officially revealed on the show, which doesn't rule out the possibility that it is White. And finally, despite being mistreated in various ways by most of his immediate family, Malcolm has one relative who actually seems to appreciate him and his genius—his grandfather, coincidentally named Walter. Perhaps Malcolm cut ties from his family after college, adopted his grandfather's name, and started a new life for himself in Arizona. That obviously didn't end so well, but as Malcolm/Walt would be the first to tell you, life is unfair.

Pokémon: Ash is forever young because of a magical Pokémon

The true nature of Ash Ketchum, protagonist of the popular Pokémon television shows, spawned this fan theory. Why is Ash always ten years old? Through 19 seasons and 18 movies, Ash is perpetually a pre-teen. Time definitely passes on the shows, as Ash spends weeks trekking through the various regions on his quest to collect badges and become a Pokémon master, so by all accounts, he should be at least in his late-teens by now.

The answer may have come in the very first episode of the anime, when Ash witnesses a beautiful bird Pokémon flying into a rainbow. At the time, he did not know what it was, but we later find out that this was a legendary Pokémon called Ho-oh. The Pokédex entry in the Black/White video games tells us that anyone seeing Ho-oh is promised eternal happiness. Since Ash's fondest wish was to forever travel the world collecting and training Pokémon, the Ho-oh granted this wish, giving Ash eternal youth.

Sherlock Holmes and Mr. Spock are related

This one isn't just one of the most popular fan theories—it's actually backed up by canon! In the movie Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, Spock states, "An ancestor of mine maintained that if you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the solution." If you're a fan of the Sherlock Holmes novels, you'd probably recognize the quote, first uttered by Holmes himself in the 1890 story The Sign of the Four. Spock's mother is human, which means he would be descended from the brilliant and logical detective via her side of the family tree.

If that isn't meta enough for you, then how about this: in the BBC reboot of Sherlock, Benedict Cumberbatch uses the quote himself while talking to Watson. Watson scoffs at him and replies, "Alright, Spock, just take it easy," implying that he thinks Sherlock stole the quote from Star Trek. It is only logical that our mind be blown.