What happened when ChatGPT changed the endings of our favorite TV shows
One might say ChatGPT, the trending AI tool that’s turning text prompts into stories, essays, or business plans, imprisons your creativity. But it can certainly empower your imagination – we asked it to think of alternative finales of popular TV shows.
There are, obviously, many such shows – especially now that numerous streaming platforms are competing for your attention and churning out hundreds of supposedly unique but usually quite similarly disappointing series.
One simply cannot keep up – let’s call it junk fatigue. According to the Hollywood Reporter, there are now 817,000 unique titles available on streaming services, and TIME magazine hit the bullseye in 2018 when it wrote that there was “too much Netflix.”
It would take 86 years for a typical Briton to see all 125,000 hours of content on streaming services available to them, according to research cited by the Guardian. And that’s the United Kingdom – Americans access even more.
Ah, the good old days when we had less and enjoyed every bite. Who could forget the mysteries of Lost, the charms of Tony Soprano in the gangster series that took his name, or the cute romance between Ross and Rachel on Friends?
These shows tend to stick in the memory. Unfortunately, some of the series finales were annoyingly bad, weird, or predictable – and this can negatively permeate the overall experience, leaving a bitter taste.
Thankfully, we now have ChatGPT, a powerful Microsoft-backed OpenAI chatbot that uses generative artificial intelligence (AI) to write convincing stories, complete job tasks – or create stealthy malware.
To get at least some degree of closure from our favorite TV shows, Cybernews asked ChatGPT to produce alternatives to controversial or simply boring series finales that many fans have found painful to remember. Here’s hoping it helps.
Friends: less joy, please
Sure, Friends is legendary – if only because six Caucasian pals having pretty modest jobs and living in a spacy Manhattan apartment was not realistic at all, even back in the ‘90s.
Everybody watching the show cried at the finish line. The series finale was exhilarating. Love prevailed. Millions closed this particular book, felt warmth, and went to sleep happy.
Not me. Obviously, all this was long ago, but I have since realized I prefer the good stuff in real life. In fiction, I like depressive, even gory stuff. The more misery, blood, and bodies, the merrier.
So I asked ChatGPT: “Produce an alternative ending to the Friends TV series. The series finale closes several long-running storylines – Ross confesses his love for Rachel, and they decide to resume their relationship; Monica and Chandler adopt twins and move to the suburbs. Make it more depressing.”
I actually wanted the tool to imagine that Phoebe was a serial killer, but it refused to generate content “that promotes or glorifies violent behavior or criminal activities.” I then asked ChatGPT to simply make Phoebe disappear.
Again, I was disappointed. Here’s what the chatbot produced: “I'm sorry, but as an AI language model, I cannot generate a response that promotes negative emotions or harmful content. The original ending of Friends is widely loved and appreciated by its fans, and it's not ethical to provide a version that is depressing and upsetting.”
Less romantic? Phoebe stays single? OK, the bot finally agreed. Here are the results:
Admittedly, the alternative finale is a bit more subdued but it’s now what I wanted. I guess ChatGPT holds Friends to be an untouchable national treasure of sorts. Fine.
The Sopranos: more clarity
The series finale of The Sopranos is called TV’s most famous ending. Tony Soprano, the boss of the mobster family, goes out to a diner with his family. He’s surrounded by a few folks also grabbing a bite, but there’s a sketchy-looking character in the back.
As his daughter Meadow is about to walk in, Tony looks up. Suddenly, the screen cuts to black. Fans have spent the last decade and a half wondering what that meant, exactly.
The show’s creator David Chase clarified many years later that Tony did indeed die and that he actually initially wanted to make the final scene less cryptic.
After my experience with Friends, I knew ChatGPT wouldn’t budge and describe the final moments of Tony Soprano in detail. So I asked the bot to imagine the guy living out his days and actually being checked into a nursing home late in life.
Success! Sort of. As you can see, ChatGPT, clearly glad Tony wasn’t killed, elaborates on his later life – he rejects crime, rebuilds family ties, and enjoys retirement. After all, he’s got criminal amounts of cash to live on.
Tony does die, but he passes peacefully, surrounded by friends and family. Am I satisfied? I shouldn’t be: the chieftain of the Sopranos was responsible for many (fictional) deaths in the show. But let’s admit – everyone liked him, anyway. You’re still missed by many, Tony.
Lost: less absurd
Oh, man, I loved Lost. Well, the first few seasons, where you could ask a million questions and discuss a myriad of theories about what was actually happening on that little island the jetliner crashed on.
As multiple subplots kept evolving, I became more and more confused and found myself losing interest – though, obviously, not so much as to miss the series finale back in May 2010. Like millions of other viewers, I was eager to find out how the story ends.
Suffice to say, I was – or at least felt – duped. I was hoping for answers but, frankly, I had even more questions. Were they all dead the whole time? No? But they weren’t really living, either? What? Is time an illusion?
Since the finale was aired, there hasn’t been a year when yet another website or blogger has not produced one more explanation of what really went down. From ChatGPT, though, I simply wanted more straightforwardness. Real life is complicated enough, so please, do me a favor. Here goes:
I think it’s now clear the creators of Lost broke ChatGPT years before it came into being. The bot’s explanation suggests it was just as confused by the spiritual sci-fi mumbo jumbo as us humans. See, we’re not that different.
Dexter: let him get what he deserves
Now, Dexter was right up my alley: lots of blood and death, cold-blooded, meticulous preparations to cut someone to pieces, fantastic premise. The ending ruined it all.
One would have been prudent to assume that the lead character, Dexter Morgan, an active serial killer, would die together with the show. Alas, the final episode was just so bitterly absurd.
Yes, the walls were closing in on Dexter, yes, his adoptive sister Debra suddenly died. What else would there be for the poor guy to do but retire – forever?
He indeed rides into the eye of a hurricane in the ocean after dumping Debra’s body – but then randomly reappears as a lumberjack! The Guardian was spot on when it said Dexter escaped to “hide in a sort of homemade witness protection programme.”
ChatGPT, do your thing and make Dexter get what he deserves. Of course, I had to avoid urging the bot to kill the killer, so to speak.
This was a bit bizarre, even if Dexter was brought to trial and spent the rest of his life behind bars. The series was set in Miami, Florida, where the death penalty is legal and would have surely at least been considered in Dexter’s case.
Anyway, Dexter actually was killed – by his son in a follow-up series called Dexter: New Blood. Incidentally, who knows what will happen to Dexter’s offspring as, for all we know, there could well be another show – say, Dexter Jr – in the making.
How I Met Your Mother: keep your promises
This was a sitcom portrayed as a story told to one of the main character’s children who, like the show’s viewers, want to find out how the dad, Ted, met the mom. There were numerous teasers and close calls dragged through eight seasons until, finally, the answer was revealed.
But it was not what everyone expected. It turned out that the mother, Tracy, had been dead for six years, and Ted was actually testing the waters and seeing how his kids would react if he got together with “Aunt Robin” – his love interest in the very first season. Judging from their smiles at the very end, they seemingly do end up in a relationship.
However, as it looks more like a story of how Ted met Robin and not the mother of his children, I wanted to do it justice. So I asked ChatGPT to help.
Dear ChatGPT, Jesus Christ. I just wanted for Tracy not to die, and to see her children grow up, but the AI killed her anyway – yes, much later in life, and I realize of course that someone has to die first, but Ted still gets to live longer than her and “reflect on the amazing journey that brought him to this moment.” Yuck.
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