Gimmicky Television or Creative Brilliance?

The new season of the FX comedy It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia premieres October 11, and to promote the season opener they have been running gag ads all over the place. The catch is that the entire cast of the show has been replaced with new actors. It's funny enough, despite being a bit hokey.

Can you imagine, however, if the entire cast really was replaced by other actors? That would be a serious gimmick if ever there was one in television. Television has done plenty when it comes to ratings devices, black and white episodes, live episodes, musical episodes. On occasion, these methods are a sheer stroke of genius but even when they are it feels as if they are just trolling for high ratings. We've pulled out a few choice gimmick episodes - brilliant or bogus, you decide.

Seinfeld's Backwards Episode

In this episode the end literally starts at the beginning, including the closing credits. However the opening theme song is not played in reverse because when done you hear the words, "George is dead." The episode begins with the first meeting between Jerry and Kramer and flashes forward (backwards?) to the beginning of the end. When it aired people thought it was nifty; it is probably the thing that inspired Christopher Nolan to write



Gimmick Rating: 3 out of 5 neurotic New Yorkers

ER Brings Back George Clooney For a Hot Minute


fans were just enamored with Clooney's character, Dr. Doug Ross but ultimately Clooney left to become one of the biggest stars in the world, go figure. So when the show brought his character back for one shining episode, the crowd went wild, even if his story line was sort of lame. Did it bring in viewers? You betcha.

Gimmick Rating: 5 out of 5 flat lines.

X-Files' Black and White Episode

"The Post-Modern Prometheus" is the fifth episode of the fifth season of

The X-Files

. "The Post-Modern Prometheus" was filmed all in black and white and was one of those random


episodes that had absolutely nothing to do with whether the truth was out there or not. The episode had amazing ratings and won an Emmy in 1998. In addition to the black and white schlock of it all, Cher and Jerry Springer show up to lend the agents a hand, which may have helped ratings and ruined the show's credibility.

Gimmick Rating: 4 out of 5 alien probings

Community's Claymation Episode


is notorious for stepping outside the box; the show has even been known to trample the box and turn it into a glorious rainbow. In "Abed's Uncontrollable Christmas" the gang becomes stereotypical, stop-motion animated versions of themselves and attempt to "save" Christmas.

Gimmick Rating: 1 out of 5 Scantron forms

Buffy the Vampire Slayer's Musical Episode

Now a cult classic screened at midnight showings in select movie theaters, "Once More With Feeling" finds the Buffy cast under a spell that makes them unable to suppress their desire to sing. While some of the episode is very clever and some of them can actually belt a note or two, the plot is absurd and most of the songs you would fast-forward through if cassette tapes still existed.

Gimmick Rating: 3 out 5 wooden stakes 30 Rock Live Episode

If any show knows how to nail the "live" episode, it's

30 Rock

. They were so successful their first time at it, they brought the concept back for a second time. What makes their version of a live show so superior to all others that have attempted it is their use of different actors to play the characters, such as Donald Glover as a youngTracy Jordan. What is even more amazing about the show is that they did it twice, once for East coast time and once for West coast, with different celebrities making guest cameos.

Gimmick Rating: 0 out of 5 Liz Lemon sweater vests

Friends' The Alternate-Universe Episode

In "The One That Could Have Been" episode of


, the audience is given a peek into the ins-and-outs of their best buds had life taken a totally different trajectory. It's a cliché concept and you really had to have loved


enough to care what their lives would have been like had the show been written by a different team of screenwriters. It's not a great episode except for the fact that you can gloat over fat Monica.

Gimmick Rating: 5 out 5 fat Monicas

Six Feet Under, The No Cut Away Episode

In this episode of Six Feet Under, called "That's My Dog," found David (Michael C. Hall) picking up a hitchhiker, getting robbed, being forced to smoke crack, getting the snot beat out of him and not for one moment does the camera cut away. It can't be gimmicky because it's too shocking.

Gimmick Rating: 1 out of 5 bottles of formaldehyde

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