That '70s Show

10 Most Inconsistent TV Shows That Were Always Retconning Themselves

As the lore of a television show grows and develops, the canon can often become inconsistent and result in a retcon, and beloved shows aren't exempt.


  •  Inconsistencies in TV shows can break the spell of their fictional world and frustrate viewers.
  •  Friends had several inconsistencies with birthdays, geographical knowledge, and character introductions.
  •  Retcons in shows like Roseanne, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Heroes, and That ’70s Show altered established storylines.


As a show progresses, it’s not unusual for a TV show to forget what was once established, with many becoming so inconsistent that they retcon themselves. Whether it has been on the air for months, years, or even decades, a show’s lore is what often keeps audiences on the hook. But when it reverses itself, forgetting core details about its world and characters, that’s when the cracks start to show.

While many shows can often explain themselves out of inconsistencies through plot and character development, there are others that either forget their own past or simply don’t acknowledge it. This can often break the spell of the fictional world they created, which can be frustrating to watch as a viewer. Often, this is just on an individual occasion, but some movie and TV retcons happened after too many contradictions forced the writers’ hands. At other times, the retcon wasn’t intentional, but another example of inconsistent continuity.

10. Friends

Everyone Seemed To Forget Everything, All The Time

The hit sitcom Friends had several inconsistencies throughout its 10-season run with both its main cast and side characters. One confusion that is often spoken about is the gang’s differing birthdays throughout the show. For example, Ross’ birthday had been stated as being in both October and December, as well as Joey supposedly being the youngest member of the group, only for it to be shown that he turned 30 before Rachel did in the episode “The One Where They All Turn Thirty.”

Friends‘ geographical knowledge was lacking, too. Phoebe’s (Lisa Kudrow) on-off boyfriend David (Hank Azaria) repeatedly spoke about living in Russia, Minsk specifically, except Minsk is the capital of Belarus. Monica and Chandler’s growing relationship in later seasons also saw the pair have their big “I love you” moment twice. Of course, the biggest inconsistency is Rachel and Chandler’s first meeting, which happened on three separate occasions: once as young college students, again in their early twenties, and finally for a third time in the pilot.

9. Roseanne

An Entire Season, Wiped Away

Roseanne‘s biggest inconsistency came as an entire season, which saw its storyline completely disregarded upon its revival in 2018. At the end of Roseanne season 9, it was revealed that its events had been fictionalized by Roseanne (Barr) in a book she’d been writing. The Conners hadn’t won the lottery, and Dan (John Goodman) had died from the heart attack he’d had in season 8.

When season 10 rolled around, however, Roseanne retconned Dan’s death. This was explained as, once again, another plot in Roseanne’s book, and that Dan had never died at all. Although an unusual and slightly confusing choice, Dan’s return in season 10 was definitely for the best, given that he was one of the sitcom’s best characters.

8. Brooklyn Nine-Nine

The Show Can’t Make Its Mind Up About Hair

While Brooklyn Nine-Nine is generally pretty plothole-free, there are inconsistencies in the details of individual characters. For example, on more than one occasion, Jake (Andy Samberg) states that he is unable to grow facial hair. This is then disproved in season 5 when some of its very first scenes show him deep into his prison sentence with a full beard and mustache. Although it’s a little patchy, it’s still very prominent.

There are also a few inconsistencies with Hitchcock (Dirk Blocker) and Scully’s (Joel McKinnon Miller) past. For example, there is one mention that Hitchcock went bald at the age of fifteen, but during the flashback of their younger selves in the 1980s, he clearly has a full head of hair. Throughout Hitchcock and Scully’s backstory, it had been implied that the two had always been the unattractive, bumbling idiots that they’re known for being, but this flashback showed them as ridiculous hunks.

7. Heroes

Claire’s Origin Story Makes No Sense

The groundbreaking NBC superhero drama Heroes saw its narrative hit some setbacks with the 2007 WGA strikes, but its most noticeable inconsistency was with one of the greatest Heroes characters of the series, Claire (Hayden Panettiere). In the pilot, it was clearly explained that she’d developed a superpower during puberty that allowed her to heal herself from injuries. This is even proven in season 1, after she was killed by Brody (Matt Lanter) only to bring herself back to life once the tree branch she’d been impaled upon was removed.

However, when Claire crosses paths with her biological mother, it is revealed that she supposedly had these powers as an infant and had survived a fire in which she had been believed to have perished. It seemed unusual that, despite the show going so far to define the origins of her powers, this ended up not being the case. The retcon implies that her self-healing abilities just disappeared during her childhood, with no explanation as to why.

6. That ’70s Show

A Child Is Lost To A Very Smokey Timeline

That ’70s Show is also known for having multiple inconsistencies during its eight-season run, but one That ’70s Show theory explains the timeline issues. The show is set from 1976 to the final moments of 1979, but across its run, That ’70s Show aired five Christmas episodes. This doesn’t make any sense chronologically, seeing as its eight seasons cover less than four years’ time.

However, That ’70s Show’s biggest inconsistency is with Tina Pinciotti (Amanda Fuller). Donna’s (Laura Prepon) younger sister Tina appears once in season 1 and is then briefly mentioned again in season 2 before disappearing. Following her final mention in “Vanstock,” there is a meta-joke with an announcer asking, “What ever happened to Midge’s daughter, Tina?” but after this, Donna is frequently referred to as an only child. No explanation was ever given as to what happened to the character, but it does fit in with the humor of the show.

5. Riverdale

The Structure Of The American School System Has Never Been So Confusing

While Riverdale has several plot holes, its most notable one is with Jason (Trevor Stines) and Cheryl (Madelaine Petsch) Blossom in season 1. The siblings are supposedly twins, but details throughout season 1 seem to suggest otherwise. The most glaring detail that argues this is that the two are in different grades.

Although there’s the possibility that one of them had been held back, it seems unlikely, given that the two were both relatively smart. Also, it was revealed in season 1 that Jason had gotten Betty’s (Lili Reinhart) sister Polly (Tiera Skovbye) pregnant, and that the two were in the same grade. Once again, with Polly being Betty’s older sister, it didn’t make any sense that Polly and Jason would have shared classes, but so would Betty and Cheryl.

4. Buffy The Vampire Slayer

A Sneaked-In Sister

While Buffy the Vampire Slayer‘s insertion of the character of Dawn (Michelle Trachtenberg) was technically a retcon, it was done purposefully. While there were clues in Buffy that hinted at the Dawn twist, it still completely changed Buffy’s (Sarah Michelle Gellar) personal history that had been previously established. For four episodes in season 5, none of the characters seem to acknowledge that Buffy is no longer an only child and carry on as if Dawn had always been there.

Dawn’s presence is then explained as the Key, a living energy that had been given a physical form as a human teenager for Buffy to protect. Each member of the Scooby gang had been implanted with fake memories of Dawn, which explained why none of them reacted to her arrival. Despite those memories not actually being real, it felt like a bit of a cop-out from the writers, and her introduction could have been done without retconning Buffy’s past.

3. Scrubs

Bromance Beginnings

Scrubs’ biggest inconsistency surrounds how Turk (Donald Faison) and J.D. (Zach Braff) met. During the show, there are two stories as to how their friendship began. One occasion shows a confident Turk, back when he had a full head of hair, introducing himself to J.D. Later on, the story changes, and the two say that they met as they moved into their dorm room as assigned roommates.

While this could be put down to one of them having a slightly different perception to the other, it does happen again, but this time with Elliot (Sarah Chalke). In the pilot, Elliot and J.D.’s first meeting is shown on screen, and Turk is there with them. Later, Turk recounts J.D. telling him about meeting Elliot, which makes no sense. Although this could be down to the two men having terrible memories, it seems odd that they don’t correctly remember their first encounter with the woman who would become one of the closest people in their lives.

2. The Big Bang Theory

Perhaps Science Has Fogged Their Brains

In 12 seasons, it’s not surprising that The Big Bang Theory had some inconsistencies. For example, Sheldon’s (Jim Parsons) famous knock was explained as being an ingrained response after accidentally walking in on his father having an affair, but earlier episodes saw him have the ability to knock just once. Although this could be down to the writers having not come up with the concept yet, but it easily could have been rectified.

Another retcon in The Big Bang Theory is the elevator. In season 1, Leonard (Johnny Galecki) tells Howard (Simon Helberg) that it had been broken for two years. However, in the season 3 episode “The Staircase Implementation,” the story behind how it broke is revealed. Following a science project gone wrong, Sheldon placed the experiment in the elevator to prevent Leonard, Raj (Kunal Nayyar), and Howard from being blown up. Not only are the flashback sequences in this episode set in the year 2003, which contradicts the timeline, but it also confirms that Howard was already aware of how it broke down.

1. Game Of Thrones

Family Trees Aren’t The Only Confusion

Game of Thrones saw a lot of inconsistencies, and season 8 really highlighted the show’s plotholes. Through the show, Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) is characterized as a compassionate leader toward the oppressed (though admittedly less so to those in power). Despite years of claiming she was nothing like her father, the Mad King, season 8 sees Daenerys snap and burn down an entire city of innocent civilians despite them waving a white flag. Although it’s normal for core characters to go through big developments as a show progresses, this one just felt completely out of place.

Travel in Game of Thrones also caused several inconsistencies in the series. In earlier seasons, characters were vocal about how long it would take them to reach a destination. It took Sam (John Bradley) and Gilly (Hannah Murray) nearly an entire season to make it to Oldtown, but later on, Davos Seaworth (Liam Cunningham) managed to seemingly teleport between Dragonstone to King’s Landing at the drop of a hat. It could be explained that travel scenes were reduced to be able to focus on the plotlines more, but it seems unusual after the show had already defined the rules of travel.

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