The Most Haphazard Ways TV Shows Have Hidden An Actor's Pregnancy
Way back in 1947, Mary Kay and Johnny, the very first sitcom to ever air on network television, starred a young married couple. When Mary Kay became pregnant in real life, it was written into the show. But in the 70+ years since then, many actresses have hidden their pregnancies from television audiences, often because it makes little sense in terms of the show's plot for her character to be sporting a noticeable baby bump. So producers and writers have had to come up with ideas about how to work around an actress's pregnancy while filming, and some of the solutions are more ridiculous than others. Popular solutions are to hide the celebrity's pregnant belly underneath baggy clothes or behind oversized props, or to write the character out of some episodes by sending them out of the country. But there have also been solutions involving alien abduction, pretending to be a pregnant inmate, and developing a compulsive eating disorder.
Which of the below are the worst or most unbelievable pregnancy cover-ups ever seen on TV?
Jane Leeves was pregnant in real life during Season 7 of Frasier. The show decided to hide the pregnancy by giving Daphne a compulsive eating disorder that was her way of trying to deal with her complicated relationship with Niles Crane. Leeves had to don a fat suit in order to explain her weight gain; eventually the writers sent Daphne off to a health spa. When Daphne returns from the spa, she tells Niles her therapist believed her weight gain stemmed from her insecurity about her relationship with him. This pronouncement leads to an argument, but the couple makes up after he realizes part of their problems stemmed from the fact he had put Daphne on a pedestal instead of seeing her as the real, flawed person she was.
Interestingly, in Season 5 the writers had Peri Gilpin's character, radio producer Roz, get pregnant even though Gilpin was not pregnant in real life.
- Photo: CBS
The producers and writers of How I Met Your Mother had to work around Alyson Hannigan and Cobie Smulders's respective pregnancies during Season 4. Most of the time, they simply hid the actresses behind props or dressed them in oversized costumes. The most creative idea they came up with was to use Hannigan's baby bump by having her character take part in a hot dog eating contest. After Lily gobbles down 29 hot dogs, she proudly shows off her "food belly."
When Hannigan was expecting her second child a couple of years later, the producers decided to simply write her condition into the show as her character's romantic relationship was at the point where having a baby made sense.
When Melissa Fumero became pregnant, the producers and writers of Brooklyn Nine-Nine at first attempted to hide her baby bump behind props like giant file folders and by dressing her in oversized clothes. But then they came up with the idea of having her character go undercover in a woman's prison as a pregnant inmate. Her character was given a pillow to wear under her clothes to simulate the pretend pregnancy, and the storyline allowed Fumero to not have to worry about hiding her real-life baby bump.
This story arc takes place over the final three episodes of the show's third season. Originally, another female detective is chosen for the assignment, but her cover is quickly blown when one of the prisoners recognizes her. Fumero's character isn't sure that she could successfully pull off the fake pregnancy; at one point she asks her boyfriend Jake and one of her co-workers whether or not they think anyone would believe her story. Jake responds, "I mean, I guess I can see it?" even as he tries to adjust the fake (Fumero's real) belly.
- Photo: The CW
Jaime King was pregnant during Hart of Dixie's third season. Instead of writing the pregnancy into the plot, the producers decided to have her character, the scheming Lemon Breeland, go visit her grandmother for a few episodes while King was on maternity leave. “I shot until the day before I gave birth, literally, then went back six weeks later... it was gnarly!" King told Us Weekly.
King had to delay her return to the show because she was suffering from postpartum depression.
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At the time that Lisa Bonet became pregnant, she was actually on the Cosby spinoff A Different World rather than on The Cosby Show. Debbie Allen, the executive producer of A Different World, tried to convince Bill Cosby to let them have a storyline about unmarried college student Denise Huxtable becoming pregnant. But Cosby refused because he didn't want any of his television children to appear anything other than wholesome.
He put Bonet back on The Cosby Show, then the writers came up with a plotline where her character drops out of college and heads off to Africa for several months after landing a job as an assistant to a photojournalist. When she returns to Brooklyn, Denise doesn't have a baby of her own; instead, she has a new husband and stepdaughter whom she springs on her family without any warning.
During the third season of Cheers, both Shelley Long and Rhea Perlman were pregnant in real life. While Perlman's pregnancy was written into the show - Carla already had several children, so being pregnant made sense for that character - the direction of the show would have been completely altered if Diane had a baby. Producer Ken Levine later explained that the staff came up with the solution of sending Diane off on a European vacation with her new boyfriend, Frasier Crane.
They shot the European vacation scenes before Long started to show, then inserted the episodes into the latter part of the season, when she was too far along in her pregnancy for it to be hidden. They also put her behind oversized props like the bar and hid her belly by having her wear an apron.