Fan theories have been around forever, but once the internet let people actually spread their insane babble across the web instead of as mad crayon scribblings on their bedroom walls, they really took off.
I’ve spent many an afternoon (OK, many a 3 a.m.) pouring through these theories just to see what madness people can string together from offhand comments and gags.
In the end, while these are all still certifiable nonsense, I have to admit that they are actually super fun to think about. Not only for how they recontextualize these shows, but for what little details people pick up on to spark these theories.
Here are a few TV fan theories from the ‘90s that have stood out to me as being particularly nuts … but also somehow plausible.
Full House — Joey is DJ, Stephanie, and Michelle’s real father
Already a dark premise for a show, Full House stars a single father to three girls who somehow convinces his brother-in-law and best friend to move in with them to help raise his daughters. This already suspect premise only gets weirder when some theorist out there claimed that Joey, not Danny, is actually the three girls’ father.
The theory breaks down like this: Why would Joey give up his entire life just to help a friend raise his kids full time? I don’t know about you, but I’m hesitant to agree to water a friend’s plant twice a week.
Next is the genetic link. Danny has brown hair and Joey blonde—just like all three girls. According to science (which I’m trusting without any research of my own), even if Danny’s wife was blonde the chances are only 12.5% that their offspring would be blonde as well.
Pretty slim odds to happen three times, isn’t it?
Rugrats — All the babies are in Angelica’s mind
We’re already in the realm of talking babies, so I wouldn’t consider anything to be out of the realm of possibility when it comes to Rugrats, but this one actually goes pretty deep.
In the show, how come the babies can talk to each other and Angelica, but only she can talk to adults?
There’s a lot of detail here, so I’ll sum up the best bits.
Each baby stems from a different place in Angelica’s mind. Tommy died as a baby, leading Stu to become obsessed with his work making toys. Chuckie died in the same car crash as his mom, leaving his dad a nervous wreck. And Phil and Lil were never born, so Angelica created them as twins since she never knew if they would’ve been a boy or girl.
The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air (1990-96) — Will dies in the opening
That “one little fight” Will gets in during the opening of The Fresh Prince may have been way worse than we thought.
Almost the entire series is based around the lyrics of the theme song, which I know any literature teacher would be proud of for the level of depth this person pulled from a silly rap.
The theory goes that the line about Will’s mom sending him to Bel Air is her accepting he needs to move on to the afterlife, which he gets to in a cab driven by God, and becomes a king in the Kingdom of Heaven, aka a prince.
It even incorporates more metaphors from the song’s full version not included in the TV broadcast.
SpongeBob SquarePants — Mr. Krabs killed Pearl’s mom for Krabby Patty meat
Are you ready kids? No, I don’t think you are.
Mr. Krabs is the lovable pirate-talking greedy crab who runs the fast food restaurant Spongebob works for making the delicious Krabby Patty. What’s strange about this Krab is that his daughter Pearl is … a whale?
The theory goes that Krabs hunted down and killed Pearl’s mom as meat for his Krabby Patties, but finds the infant Pearl by her corpse. Being the businessman that he is, Krabs takes in Pearl to raise her, waiting until she’s fully grown for easy patty meat.
Yeah, I admit it’s incredibly inefficient for someone as money-grubbing as Krabs to raise a whale for, what, 20 years until she’s big enough to make a couple hundred burgers?
Power Rangers — The Power Rangers are child soldiers
I never thought this as a kid, but as a (physical) adult, it is strange how many shows feature young kids being the heroes of the world.
The Power Rangers were already teens, but this theory suggests that Zordon recruited them to fight a proxy war between him and Rita.
When you think about it, humans really never had any skin in the game. It was all Zordon and Rita. But Zordon gave us cool outfits and Megazords, so….
Futurama — Bender only became a criminal after meeting Fry
When Bender was introduced in the first episode of Futurama, he was a depressed robot building suicide booths. Throughout the entire episode he’s a goof, but not explicitly selfish or anything.
Later on, and this is where the theory comes in, Bender gets electrocuted in the Head Museum and reboots.
Due to this reboot, his personality latches on to what he sees first, which happens to be a bunch of renowned criminals.
Is this just an overly complex justification for the writers evolving the character? Yes, yes it is.
Saved by the Bell — It was all Zack Morris’ dream
Man, I thought Zack Morris was the coolest kid in the world watching reruns of Saved by the Bell. This theory, that his entire life at Bayside High is just in his mind, actually pulls in a show the actor was previously on called Good Morning, Miss Bliss.
I’ve never seen that show, where apparently the “real” Zack is a boring child of divorce in Indiana who only dreams of being the super-popular, untouchable, cool guy who skates through life.
This is another deep dive of a theory that, again, even draws out details from the theme song to back it up.
The Simpsons — Homer has been in a coma for over 20 years
I was a fan of The Simpsons just like anyone else, but some people are way too big of fans to come up with this kind of theory.
By drawing connections between lines, connecting them in a timeline, and referencing the differences between pre and post “coma” episodes, this theory is a wild ride.
In short, the theory is that Homer goes into a coma during a 1993 episode where Bart puts him in the hospital with his April Fool’s day prank, along with a falling vending machine, and no episode since taking place outside his vegetative mind.
Pokémon — Nurse Joy is a Pokemon
I believe Pokémon could’ve easily avoided this massive point of contention, and I’ll fight anyone who doesn’t think it is, if they didn’t actually name every nurse in the show Nurse Joy. Use the same character, go ahead, maybe just color their hair different, but when they’re all exactly the same and have the same name, people go nuts.
Thus, Nurse Joy can’t be a normal person to exist simultaneously in ever PokeCenter in the world, right? That would be stupid. No, she has to be a humanoid Pokémon herself to explain why there are so many of her.
Samurai Jack + Powerpuff Girls — Professor Utonium and Jack are the same person
This is one that, until pointed out, made me feel stupid for not realizing it sooner.
Jack and Utonium do look basically the same. To be fair, that just means short black hair and a square face, but the theory is deeper than that.
A key piece of evidence, if I stretch the meaning of that word, is that Jack finds a dilapidated billboard that says “Talking Dog Says…” in his first episode, which also appears in Townsville from Powerpuff Girls.
It also suggests Aku was made from chemical X, Jack loses and regains his memory, and all the stuff a perfectly healthy mind would think up.