Think Tank: When Good Shows Go Bad

Think Tank: When Good Shows Go Bad

A lot of great shows run out of steam long before they leave the airwaves. In this Think Tank, the Overthinkers discuss those once mighty shows and why they fell. What show do you think fell furthest and why?

A lot of great shows run out of steam long before they leave the airwaves.  In this Think Tank, the Overthinkers discuss those once mighty shows and why they fell.  What show do you think fell furthest and why?


The Glee reviews on Gawker have become increasingly hostile. This makes me wonder, what are the TV shows with the sharpest drop-offs in quality/fan base? I remember Heroes started off super-popular, than crashed hard in its second season. Didn’t watch it, but it went from geek favorite to object of scorn in about six months.


The OC

Chuck, though it’s less an object of scorn as it is an object lesson in quality control.  Perhaps sci-fi geeks have gotten used to being disappointed over time, whilst those of other genres are only now getting acquainted with the phenomenon?

I always like to trot out Gene Roddenbury’s Andromeda at times like this. And that show had a Dantean descent through deeper circles of mediocrity every season. Although, hey, I like to trot it out anytime, who am I kidding?

Gene Roddenbury’s Earth: Final Conflict actually had a much sharper drop-off in quality. Although that was around Season 4, not season 1. The Canadian sci-fi show Lexx also fell _way_ off the map after season 2. Season 2 is pretty interesting and scary on a Dr. Who-ish level. Season 3 is straight trash.

But none of these shows are what I would call “very good” anyway. What makes them remarkable is just how terrible they got – specifically because they were sci-fi shows that changed production companies or some other syndication contract issue such that they lost their special effects budgets and found an arbitrary reason to either make characters who had previously worn a lot of makeup look like normal people as well as maroon their characters somewhere mundane and earth-like because they no longer had the budget to show spaceships.

I would say “The Weakest Link” qualifies. It was totally hot shit in the USA for almost exactly one year, and then it just totally bombed out and recorded a shitload of episodes for like PAX and the Game Show Network.

And, while I love it dearly, by the end, _24_ was at the point where _Hard Target_ was sending it concerned emails and scheduling an intervention.

“I learned it from YOU, Dad! I learned it from watching YOU!”

One big reason why sci fi does this so much is syndication. If the production of the show and the distribution and broadcast of the show are closely linked, a show isn’t likely to be allowed to suck and lose its entire following without getting canceled, and its budget isn’t likely to be cut so severely that its show concept just doesn’t work, but it can still get produced.

If you’re shopping around a sci-fi show, it’s unlikely you have end-to-end interest from a network. You’re niche programming looking to fill spots. And you’re seen as interchangeable. So it’s more likely a sci-fi show will jump from business partner to business partner – whereas if Fox doesn’t want to show Glee anymore, other than reruns, they probably just make a different show rather than make really cheap shitty episodes of Glee.

Also with sci-fi, you see the money onscreen, so it’s easier to know for sure when the producers hit hard times or the networks aren’t interested anymore.


Twin Peaks is another example.  Also: AMC’s The Killing. The critics went nuts over the first episode, liked the second episode, and then by the fourth episode decided it was the worst show ever. And then came the season finale, which made most critics and fans  feel murdery.


By “the critics” you’re including me, right? :-)


Ah, true, true! I had forgotten about your Killing posts (sorry!), but, well, there you are :)


I own up to my sins.


Actually, I’d disagree about Twin Peaks. Sure, the second season misses out on a lot of the core factors that made the first so great (really taking its time to emphasize ambiance over plot, for one…), but there’s still a lot of good stuff going on there.  For one, the series finale is one of the most impressively shocking pieces of avante guarde artistry ever put on national television, unless–like me–you tend to turn off the sound during super bowl halftimes and watch it instead while listening to Trout Mask Replica.


In light of Perich’s new undertaking, the West Wing deserves mention here.   For a lot of fans and reviewers, the show lost its soul when Sorkin left.  Personally, I really enjoyed the subsequent seasons. Their bleak look at the impotence of even the most powerful man in the world to effect change actually helps me deal with certain political disappointments of mine.  On a similarly noncommital note, I also want to mention Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Seemed like half of the show’s fanbase started bitching the second that Dawn showed up in Season 5.

So, readers, what shows disappointed you most in the end?  What makes a show go off the rails? Sound off in the comments!

65 Comments on “Think Tank: When Good Shows Go Bad”

  1. Maarten #

    The Walking Dead, so much.

    The Walking Dead took a really strong comic book, made a really good pilot episode. From that point on, it was pretty much a constant stream of crap. You would think that it would be pretty easy to translate a work of serialized fiction into a tv-show. But for some reason they decided not to go ahead with the original storyline. Instead they decided to blow up the CDC. WHY.

    Now I just read the recaps on Videogum, which makes me feel a little better. Can’t wait for season 3.


  2. MStipeFan #

    How about Sliders? The first two seasons were fantastic. The third season was a little less good, still rather solid; but Wade (Sabrina Lloyd) “left”, replaced by Maggie (Kari Wuhrer), and they played up her sexuality like crazy, which didn’t really suit the nature of the show. Season 4 was OK, but Season 5 was just awful. Plain awful. Rembrandt (Cleavant Derricks) was NOT meant to be the leading type, and his “supporting” cast was faceless and bland. From such a promising and clever beginning, it was a startlingly quick and steep decline.


  3. I said what what #

    For me the list begins and ends with LOST.

    It seemed to brilliantly written in the first two seasons, and I was hooked on finding out how all of the various mysterious secrets all fit together. The characters were three dimensional and I cared about what happened to them.

    Then it quickly became clear that the writers themselves had no idea what any of the secrets were and had no plan at all from the very beginning. Then most of the characters became poor imitations of themselves, and they kept introducing new characters who were bland and predictable and focused too much time on them.

    By the last season I became convinced that the show itself was a long con in which the writers were trying to see how much stupidity they could get away with and still have people defend the show.


  4. Paul M #

    The original Star Trek sure did fall off a cliff in its final season, and not just because their budget was cut.


    • L6 #

      That’s partly because they lost four of their Big Five writers for various reasons. Of Roddenberry, Solow, Justman, Fontana, and Coon, only Justman stuck around to the end. And the knowledge that the show was almost certainly going to be cancelled at the end of Season 3 did wonders for everyone’s morale.


  5. Pasteur #

    Water & Power.

    Dan Harmon & Ryan Ridley’s Law & Order spinoff crossed through a lot of planes over the course of its first season, guest starring John Oliver, Joel McHale, Aziz Ansari, and more, but after episode 10, (and some would argue during), the show features a drastic dropoff. It’s a positive thing for everyone that the show was cancelled after Episode 11, which I hope no one ever has to see again.

    It’s definitely an example of “show changes drastically and fails” rather than “show fails to build on original premise and fails”, which I think are two interesting categories.


  6. Akilah #

    Gilmore Girls, post S3. Oh sure, there was the resurgence when Luke and Lorelai got together, but then, well, secret daughter.

    Oh gosh, and Alias. First two seasons were amazing, and then…time travel. Sigh.


  7. Szymaa #

    Does anyone sense this happening to “American Horror Story” already?


    • Erigion #

      I don’t think many people thought this was ever a good TV show.


      • hnarfr #

        I kinda like American Horror Story, and while I can understand that it would seem pretty awful to people tuning in looking for a serious, conventional show, I’m pretty sure all the camp, hamminess and maddening “lets snort all the coke in the house before writing the next episode” pace and intensity of every scene is entirely intentional. It’s as if the show by turning everything up to eleven manages to transcend itself through sheer force and end up as something different, surprisingly new and unexpected. That show is definitely food for some serious future overthinking.


  8. Stephanie #

    Weeds, that show should have never left the subburbs.


    • Will #

      Agreed. By the last season, Nancy had just become a pretty generic sociopathic drug dealer. I really, really hope that she’s dead. They might be able to pull a season’s worth of interesting material from her family picking up the pieces and realizing they are free without her, but I stopped rooting for Nancy herself years ago.


  9. Matthew Belinkie OTI Staff #

    Buffy is an interesting case. Yes, it seemed to lose some luster by the end, but I don’t think the shark-jumping can be tied to Dawn. After all, the most beloved episode of all, “Once More With Feeling,” was in the middle of Season 6 (of 7).

    I’d say if the show lost a step, it was the very last season. But… wait, I’m remembering how great “Conversations With Dead People” was. Really clever writing, and some great tweaking of the formula. I’d say that the last season may not be anyone’s favorite, but it doesn’t belong in on a list of shows that really fell apart.


    • An Inside Joke #

      I guess it depends on how you define “jumping the shark.” If a show began with consistently good storytelling, and eventually becomes consistently bad with a handful of bright spots, I would define that as having jumped the shark ( or having become bad, etc.)

      I feel that almost every show can continue to have good episodes long after its jumped the shark. The challenge as a viewer is determining when the good/bad ration tips enough to make it no longer worth watching.


  10. atskooc #

    “felicity”. and all it took was a haircut.


  11. Leigh #

    Modern Family. It was really funny and inventive in the first season, but now it’s totally predictable and silly. I think the creators had a little bit of sequelitis – they didn’t really understand what made the show great, and they tried to ramp up all the wrong things.


  12. Charlie Etheridge-Nunn #

    I agree about Chuck having a serious quality drop-off. One of my flatmates is a big geek too, and he’s easily bought over by a guest star from an actor who was famous on another geek show once.
    Season one was entertaining, but the seasons since have covered thin plots with guest stars, the supporting cast who seem to be in more of a Kevin Smith retail show than a spy show, and product placement which makes Gossip Girl look modest.

    Alias season five was really unfortunate. As a show which made a habit of doing shark-jump moves and still being awesome, it had some real problems when they thought it’d get renewed and they’d have to train Rachel Nichols and that guy into being the ‘next generation’ of Alias cast.

    West Wing season five onwards. It was still high quality, but nothing like it was before Sorkin left. Oh, and on that not, Studio 60, the second they started trying to actually show the sketches.


    • Leigh #

      There’s a lot of hate out there for Studio 60. But I love it. Not only do I own it on DVD, but I watch it every 3-4 months. There’s just something about those characters that appeals to me in a very deep way. Once I start watching, I don’t even notice how much of a mess the show was.


    • cat #

      I actually don’t mind the product placement too much. It almost fits with the tone of the show, what with the “Buy More” and the yogurt shop where Sarah worked, etc. I think part of the problem was that it always seemed to be in danger of cancellation which led to amazingly brilliant season endings that unfortunately required a revamp of the show. If Chuck had stayed the show it started out as in season 1, or even the show it became during season 2, I think they could have still kept it interesting. I stopped watching this season. The plot is just very dry. There’s nothing really driving the action and the threats don’t seem all that threatening. Also, there is way too much Chuck/Sarah relationship conflict. I realize it’s been a thread through the series but it was a bit much back then.


    • cat #

      If you want to talk about a show that started off fun and has since covered up thin plots with guest stars, you need to be focusing on Psych.


      • Peeks #

        Psych always had thin plots. I think with Psych it’s less a matter of the show getting worse and more a matter of them having run the same basic plot every week for several years when the novelty has long since worn out.


  13. Wright #

    I think with Buffy, it’s a case of never having gone completely down for the count; it’s just that the good and great moments slowly got further and further apart. It started way back in Season 4 (which is my favorite, personally), when instead of “brilliant” nearly every single episode, it became more like “brilliant” every other episode, and just regular “good” in between. In Season 5, some noticeable filler started to creep in, and by Season 6, there were outright bad (or at least fan-upsetting) episodes more and more frequently. This continued into Season 7, which even still had good and occasionally brilliant episodes – every once in a while. Consistency was the issue, and with a show with as much continuity as Buffy had later on, the quality of a great episode (like “Conversations with Dead People”) was undercut by the lead-up and following episodes being poor.


    • Peeks #

      An alternate way of saying the same thing is that, while Whedon and co. never lost the ability to put together a solid hour of television, the show also had a lot of its potential invested in the season long arcs, and those were of highly variable quality. I’d say I like season 4 less and season 5 better than a lot of people, but clearly the last two seasons especially just weren’t as strongly plotted which left everything adrift.


  14. L6 #

    nBSG — The last twenty minutes was like an extended version of LOST’s purgatory reveal. The natural reluctance of sci-fi fans to embrace Luddism aside, the decision to abandon all their technology was really poorly handled. And it went against the whole argument that Season 4 had been trying to make: to prevent “all this will happen again”, everyone had to learn from history and break the cycle of revenge.

    Although I’ve seen others peg the turning point earlier, in Season 4’s mutiny arc. Because the show and the heroes were stridently trying to frame their opponent’s standpoint as being “we can’t stop fighting the Cylons” as opposed to the more logical “the Cylons have stabbed us in the back twice already, and it’s outrageous to make an alliance with the race that murdered fifty billion of us.”


    • Timothy J Swann #

      I agree that Season 4, Episode 11, the episode recorded in case the show was cancelled on account of the Writers’ Strike, is a much better finale, if admittedly super bleak.


  15. Trevor #

    “The Office” is struggling post-Michael Scott, but the argument could be made that the build-up to Carell’s exit hurt the show more than anything this season. Originally I didn’t buy Andy as the new boss, in light of the fact that I thought the arc was leading towards Jim perhaps (he’s always been warily circling the bigger responsibility of managerment, in my opinion), but I’m beginning to see what they’re doing (albeit I’m the only one). I want the show to last at least another season and avoid the Newsradio Trap (a show trying to continue minus its most dynamic character ending one season later due to lack of interest, though in that show’s case they couldn’t help it; Phil Hartman was killed, not retired). I read the reviews of each episode on the AV Club and, while I can’t argue with the reviews for the most part, I think the grades are often a bit harsher than I’d assign for each episode. I thought the Christmas episode was reminiscent of past seasons’ bittersweet holiday shows, for instance.

    I stopped watching Glee the minute Sue Sylvester did an about-face on the “treating the Glee club better” last season and devolved into the show’s Frank Burns (a character that, by his or her nature, cannot change or grow because the comedy inherent in that character is built on the conflict between other characters being able to change and this character being static).


    • Chris #

      To be fair, the guy who does The AV Club reviews of The Office, Myles McNutt, seems to have a slightly more stringent grading system than your typical internet reviewer. I may be wrong, and maybe his grades are in line with everybody’s else on the site and when he says a C+ he means just barely above average, but I feel like he is a tad strict in his grades.

      Also, your “albeit I’m the only one” statement makes you sound rather ridiculous, although it may just read more poorly than you intended.


      • Trevor #

        I am used to sounding ridiculous ;-). I think the point I was trying to make is that, based on the amount of criticism that is out there regarding this season, it seems like a lot of people are losing patience with the show’s attempt to forge a new identity. Michael Scott will not be walking back through that door, unless the producers really decide it’s what the show needs (and short of killing him off, the door is always open for that). I admit, this season will likely go down as one of the down periods for the show, but I’m starting to wonder what direction they could be going in as the show progresses and the centrality of Michael Scott fades from memory (I think the show made a mistake in later seasons of focusing on Michael a lot more, obviously because they were building up to his exit).

        But again, I am used to sounding ridiculous


  16. Chris #

    I think there was a big drop off from season 10 of The Simpsons to season 11, although that wasn’t the beginning of a linear decline in the show’s quality. It has jumped around from season to season. A couple year’s ago I thought they had their worst season ever, but I really enjoyed last season and this season so far.

    Also, I loved the first two seasons of The Venture Bros, tolerated the third, and stopped watching during the fourth.


  17. cat #

    Glee is the one show I sit down to watch every week when it airs. I still love it though I think the problem is less a drop in quality and more a general erraticness. It’s difficult for them to be 100%. You’ll have the brilliant “I Kissed a Girl” episode and then you’ll have a kind of boring Sectionals episode. Characters will behave in ridiculous, unlikable ways just to create a story. You may have great writing one episode but you’ll have a lackluster song selection. Also, I think there might be some drama going on behind the scenes reflected in which of the characters gets more screen time. Still, I will keep watching.


  18. cat #

    Dead Like Me and Pushing Daisies would be my choices for shows that kind of dropped off the map. They both started off really strong conceptually but didn’t really live up to the promise of those initial episodes.


    • Gab #

      I haven’t seen Dead Like Me, but I know it’s the same creative team that made Pushing Daisies; and I bet what happened to the latter is what happened to the former, namely a small, cultish following that wasn’t enough for ratings, so it got the axe in the middle of the story, so the ending was totally rushed. I mean, the last two episodes of Pushing Daisies were one ginormous clusterf*** of information; but I enjoyed every episode up to that point. That’s one of my go-to things to watch when I’m feeling down. I agree, it didn’t live up to the concept as much as it could have, but I’d attribute that more to it getting canceled than any faults on the writers.


  19. Steven Popplestone #

    Is it to late to bring up Two and a Half Men? But I, like Fenzel, enjoy trotting it out whenever I can. I don’t watch a lot of Two and a Half Men, but I’ve seen enough to know that it is falling into it’s own type of NewsRadio trap. For me, the show really started failing when Jake (The half a man) grew up in body, but not in mind. By this time, each episode was pretty much the same jokes and the same schtick every time. (Was it that bad from the beginning?) Part of the charm of 2 and 1/2 men was that Jake was funny and the character they should have done more with. Jake grows up with Uncle Charlie, and Allan, and then all of a sudden, he’s got a deep voice, a girlfriend, and he’s about ready to do some acting outside of this show. But he still spouts the same stupid lines, which is fine, if he wasn’t saying the same thing 8 years ago. His character, along with the rest, never changed despite having all sorts of potential. He’s just the abnormally stupid chubby kid who makes everyone laugh. (Being chubby myself, I feel like this is a stereotype that has gone unpunished for too long). I can’t take the character of Jake seriously anymore, because I can’t believe him as a portrayal of an American Dragon – I mean teenager – because he is just too stupid. Now, after Charlie Sheen went nuclear, I think Ashton Kutcher has a long career ahead of him in impressions. Cocaine and hookers notwithstanding, Kutcher does a very good Charlie Sheen, straight down to having sex with two women within his first few episodes in the show! Kutcher’s character had alot of potential. Perhaps, a little too much. Did the writers mean to put Allan in the same place he is now, or was it just an accident. I think Kutcher’s character has a few to many good things going for him. It’ll never blow up in his face though. Why? It’s too much fun to see Allan suffering. Can you imagine how much different the show would be if Kutcher played some poor shclub who had absolutely nothing and washed up at Charlie’s beach house? Then, Allan would have a position of control, having that poor bum indebted to him, and we could have seen what Allan could really do. Would Allan use him, or try to help him on his feet again? What good was the writer’s strike we had a few years ago if this is the crap they’re coming up with! I cannot stand what this show has become, and I watched the season premiere to see it change, not for it too stay the same! My question is, if a show this stale, vulgar, and redundant has managed to stay on the air this long, how come some materials that are so much better get cancelled? Why do people keep watching Two and a Half Men? Should we? The popular scapegoat for good shows going bad is The Simpson’s, but it took a few seasons for it to start it’s decline, but even then, people still watched because they love the characters and the show. The characters mean something, it’s a marketing juggernaut, and everyone has a special moment they like to share about the Simpson’s. Mine is winning the Twentieth Season in an online contest on the website 100 things I learned. The Simpson’s are still going strong without actor replacements, or terribly naughty jokes. Half of Two and a Half Men’s publicity for the new season came from Charlie Sheen being fired from the show. 2 and 1/2 idiots didn’t earn their new viewers, or all the people searching it up to see what was happening, it was just a parting gift from Sheen. What a nice bastard.


  20. Gab #

    The Drew Carey Show. Totally awful by the time it ended.


  21. marc #

    I agree with L6 about Battlestar, but for me that show stopped being good way before S4. For me and my BSG obsessed friends, a fairly large group, it started taking a turn for the worse half way through season 3. When the show stopped being about the choices humanity would have to make to survive and started being all about the mystical secret of Earth. I remember watching season 4 hoping it would go back to being good only to be rewarded with the least satisfying ending ever.
    As a fan of the West Wing, I was still liking it through season 5. I stopped liking it [SPOILER ALERT] when they solved the israel/palestine conflict. I was ok with the show being a liberal fantasy, but that was just too much for me. Also, by following both the Santos campaign and the West Wing characters, Season 6 ended up feeling kind of unfocused.


  22. Dan Miller #

    How has nobody mentioned the Wire? The last season wasn’t bad TV per se, but it was so much weaker than the others (especially 3 and 4) that it felt like an abuse of trust.


    • Leigh #

      I think The Wire is kinda unassailable. Even when it wasn’t living up to its full potential, it was still better than 100% of the other shows on television. I think it ended at the perfect time, before it had a truly questionable season.


    • Matthew Wrather OTI Staff #

      I think you’re right about Season 5 not quite living up the best of The Wire. I’d tie it specifically to the serial killer plot, which strained the credulity the show had been till then at pains to earn.

      Still, The Wire Season 3 (Hamsterdam, etc.) is one of the greatest things that has ever been on TV, so it feels like we’re grading on a curve when we say that Season 5 falls short.

      In other words, like Leigh, I would put The Wire Season 5 up against most other TV, and I think it would compare favorably.


  23. Peeks #

    Gene Roddenberry’s Andromeda and Gene Roddenberry’s Earth: Final Conflict are an amusing reference point because they both were pitched in the exact same way to the exact same production company and ran into the exact same creative control and cast retention issues at about the exact same point in their production runs. But they were both probably less good shows that went bad as promising shows that turned out awful.


  24. jjsaul #

    X-Files! I wish they would have given the Lone Gunmen a few seasons instead of the last few seasons of X-Files.

    Lost became completely unwatchable for me once there was no way to pretend Abrams was doing anything but pulling new plot twists out of his bong and that energy wasted thinking about plot details was fruitless.


    • Trevor #

      I always thought the Lone Gunmen show was what the X-Files could’ve been if it hadn’t taken itself so seriously. I enjoyed that brief window of light in the otherwise dim decline of the main show. The X-Files was great for a while, but by the time of the first movie it just became a bit much.


  25. figleaf #

    Most of you are probably too young to remember but one sci-fi show that went completely off the rails and then lingered for years was Lost in Space. The cast was mainly a-list TV and film actors (June Lockheart, Guy Williams, Angela Cartwright), produced by Irwin Allen, etc. The budget for the pilot was clearly spectacularly high.

    The pilot itself was dramatic and full of suspense, the actors were engaged, the robot was as scary as it was cool, the stunt work excellent, the special effects were close to (original) Star Trek creativity, etc.

    But even before the end of the second season the budget was nearly zeroed out, the nominally headlining actors reduced to minutes of screen time a week, and the special effects boiled down to a lot of silver spray paint (ditto for the “alien” make-up department — one episode had Mexican “banditos,” complete with stereotypical accents in… silver spray paint.)

    Eventually every episode boiled down to a bunch of histrionic scenery chewing by the nominal bad guy, Dr. Smith, who interacted mainly with the 12-year-old Billy Mummy’s character.

    By the end of the series I hated that show. Although I kept watching it anyway because the robot was (and I think remains) the absolutely coolest robot in all sci-fi.

    My understanding is that Guy Williams (recruited from the fabulously popular Zorro TV and movie franchise and one of only a handful of people in the world who could successfully fly with a Bell Rocket Belt) ended up so bummed out by a) the collapsed quality and b) his evidently iron-clad contract that he started drinking and basically never stopped.

    I’m sure there were sci-fi failures before, and yeah there have certainly been failures since. But Lost in Space takes the prize, and the cake.



  26. Rob #

    For me I’m not so much interested in when a particular show started getting bad but in the narrative of decline that everyone seems to love so much. I mean, I can’t think of a single (finished) TV show where there aren’t frequent fan discussion about “the bad seasons”. I guess this isn’t always a case of decline (for example, for Friday Night Lights the “bad season” is the second), but it’s interesting how these things get totalized. For examples, Heroes was always a pretty shaky show, but we associate the first season with all its strengths and the later seasons with all its weaknesses, instead of viewing it as one object.

    It’s too late to make this into a coherent point, but I think there’s something interesting here.


  27. Gab #

    Okay, here’s a set from the same network: Rugrats. And Fairly Oddparents. Both shows jumped the shark with a similar move.


  28. Cleveralias #

    The declines of Buffy, BSG, and at least some of the blame for Torchwood have one thing in common : Jane Espenson . She’s the Ted McGinley of writer / producers.


  29. Andy #

    I think the reason a lot of Buffy fans feel like there’s a drop-off in later seasons is that the finale of season 5 was far better than that of season 7. Personally I enjoyed the seventh season much more than the fifth, it had some fantastic episodes (“Conversations With Dead People” has already been mentioned, also “Him” made me laugh my ass off) and the return to the rebuilt Sunnydale High was a great touch. Unfortunately seventh season’s overall plot was a lot weaker than that of the fifth. The First Evil couldn’t hold a candle to Glory as an antagonist and as a result the way the characters related to the over-plot felt kind of forced.


  30. Wenyip #

    With Buffy, from what I’ve read on forums, it seems more like people just hated Dawn more than they disliked anything else. Personally, I couldn’t stand Riley, so I didn’t like season 4 so much… and I shipped Buffy and Spike, which made seasons 6 and 7 seem better. This sort of thing, arbitrary liking and disliking based on the perception of a main character or the direction that a storyline is going, can have a massive effect on how people feel, but the writing/acting/etc may not have suffered at all. And in that sort of case, where it’s an arguable matter, I don’t know that you can fairly say a show has jumped the shark. Sure, the majority of the fan base might go one way or the other, affecting the ratings, but I wouldn’t use it as an example of a show that ran out of steam.

    As for Andromeda… well, it basically never had enough money to start with, but the moment it went massively downhill was when they kicked out Robert Hewitt Wolfe and started trying to make it ‘Hercules in Space’. Which Kevin Sorbo was in favour of, but which utterly ruined any chance of good writing or story arcs or anything. But the exact moment and reason it started to suck has been very well documented.


    • MrB #

      I think Dawn is treated a bit unfairly to be honest. It’s funny, in a season four episode (“The Yoko”) Spike talks about how Yoko was blamed for the breakup of the Beatles and in fact she wasn’t, she was just there when it happened. Its the same with Dawn. Buffy lost its way when they left high school and season four was truly dire (“Hush” aside). They then tried to change things around and I cant even think of a good episode in season five. One of the ways they tried to change it was Dawn, which was a mistake, but its also unfair to say Dawn made it rubbish. Trying new things made it rubbish, Dawn is a symptom of that not a cause.

      IMHO, anyway.


  31. Kerensky97 #

    I think the dropoff in fanbase and quality happens the exact same moment that the creators realize they’re no-longer an up-and-coming upstart of a program and that they are popular.

    It’s like they get big heads and think that we will automatically like anything they do rather than striving to grab our attention.


  32. An Inside Joke #

    It’s interesting how there’s a give-and-take between shows going back because they changed too much, and shows going bad for not changing. Most of the commenters on this board are pointing out shows that lost their way due to changes in cast/concept/tone, etc., but how many shows just sputter out after they spend too long following the same formula over and over again? I feel this happens far more often than in cases where shows make big changes, but people don’t really discuss those instances, maybe because it’s hard to pinpoint an exact moment and say “here’s where it became bad.”


  33. Matthew Belinkie OTI Staff #

    But this thread is drifting away from the original question: which show had the STEEPEST slide, from universally-loved to object-of-scorn?

    Keep in mind, MOST shows don’t have their best season at the very end, so some kind of falloff is the norm. What I’m curious about are the shows that started out super promising, and completely went off the rails. What show suffered the most DRAMATIC drop in quality.


    • marc #

      If we’re going with steepest, I’d have to go with Walking Dead, even though it hasn’t even been cancelled. I was super excited before it came out, loved the pilot, hated the second episode and forgot to watch the last two episodes of season 1. I think most people i know who watch it had a similar reaction. Most of my friends never even started watching season 2 and my co-workers have been constantly complaining about it and saying they’re not even sure why they watch it.


    • Timothy J Swann #

      Subnormality is such a brilliant comic, I’d forgotten that one!


  34. Cleveralias #

    I think the steepest drop off has to go to Heroes. They have the writer’s strike for an excuse but S2 onward just didn’t care any more and were just making it up as they went along. Castle and Dexter are both dropping pretty hard in the current seasons as well.


    • Bronn #

      I’ll agree with Heroes. There was absolutely nothing wrong with the first season, the whole arc was connected and pretty well plotted so you didn’t feel like you were ever getting filler. They teased you about future events, and then they happened in a satisfying manner.

      And then season 2 started. Hiro gets stranded in the past-which is a ridiculous plotline given his abilities. The terrible two-some was introduced. It seemed like the only thing they could do was create an excellent teaser for the next episode that looked interesting enough to keep you watching (for a while).

      Heroes is noteworthy in that it was a sci-fi show that didn’t have its production values drop, and there weren’t any significant cast departures. They still had all the talent that created an excellent first season and the ability to use special effects as often as they did the previous year, they just created a completely unconvincing plot arc and padded out their episodes by tossing around the idiot ball. Characters couldn’t make logical decisions, so you had a ton of filler, and then the writers strike meant they had to resolve a ton of things all at once because of how much they’d screwed around.

      It’s a situation where they knew the show was popular, but failed to realize just what it was that the fans enjoyed about it.


    • Eric #

      I agree with Heroes. I absolutely loved the first season, and didn’t finish the second. The same is true of many of my friends.

      Though I will say that, even during the first season, it always seemed to me that the show was clearly on a short countdown to mediocrity. You can’t create characters as powerful as they did (Hiro could teleport and STOP TIME until they retconned that, and Peter could have ALL OF THE POWERS just by being near somebody once) and keep the danger level both exciting and believable for long without giving them significant weaknesses. Peter had to be so whiny and indecisive and stupid because if he wasn’t he’d be terribly overpowered. But nobody wants to watch someone so whiny and indecisive and stupid.


  35. Bronn #

    Another worth mentioning was “Falling Skies.” Generally, I enjoyed the first season well enough that I found the show an interesting diversion. What held my interest was knowing that it was building toward a big finale. Then the season finale sucked. THAT was the big payoff? I will not return for season 2.


  36. Svan #

    This one’s going to be possibly even more esoteric than the existing standards of this thread, but where else would something like this be appreciated?


    Season 2 of this show is the worst thing that has ever been on television. Season 1 was the among the best. I never would have believed that adding Venture Bros to the production of SuperJail would result in the greatest TV disappointment ever.

    I’ll try to elaborate so that I’m not just celebrating my own subjectivity. Season one was chaotic fun using the images of ultra-violence to “Flesh-out” our own understanding of criminal psychology. It relished a baroque art style and told the story of an out of control prison industrial complex populated by the phantasms of criminal caricatures. The underlying story of Jack Knife reflects many of the attitudes expressed in the legal system and law enforcement culture of modern America as well as challenging the mythos of alpha male criminality. There are many laws in America which are specifically designed to protect you from the “mysterious other”. That is, a dark stranger who might harm you from outside your community. Crime happens as the result of the depraved predilections in other people. This is what Jean-Paul Sartre might also call the Anti-Semetic defense – Fighting evil with your back to good. Assuming the pre-supposed goodness of your self and of your tribe against the outrageous abuses of foreign people. Jack Knife commits crime often on the premise of being victimized by his own internal urges and the short term benefits of his immediate surroundings, and in this way conducts him self like a violent, stupid, and vulgar thug. There is a much stronger case to be made however, that it is the efforts taken to stop these perceived deficits of character cause enormously more harm and ultimately fail to correct the behaviors they are designed to confront. The story arc of the entire first season can be interpreted this way quite easily as the climax reveals a hyper-inflated Warden to be the true danger to civilization and not the felons. The harsh reality learned from the past sixty years of social psychology is that evil lives as a capacity within us all and that our civil institutions leverage a subordinate power on ethical reasoning.

    Season 1 can also generally be celebrated for the genius that is David Wain, the same terrible master mind that helped bring you Stella.
    Season 2 is a load of dog-cocks. The violence in Season 1 was always used to drive the plot in a certain direction. The Brutality would make a point about a relationship between agents within the storyworld of Superjail. It is difficult to say that the violence in the Terrarium was in any way similar to the violence in the episode where Jarred becomes the honcho of SuperJail. In Terrarium death and chaos super-imposes an atmosphere of helpless impotence onto the inmates, in which even the reward of freedom is casually replaced by additional surprise punishments. In Jarred’s episode the violence is used to transport Jarred through the prison hierarchy as well as build his character around the old Straw Dogs narrative. Does Jarred contemplate violence as a means to resolve underlying personality conflicts or as a way to capitalize on the duress of a forgiving narrative? Artistically, it was fluid, inventive, and genuinely inspired around the character of life in Super Jail. In Season 2 however, the violence is routine, occurring only as a means to display dominance between two anonymous inmates which carries the artistic merit of knowing that this burly convict is slightly more physically aggressive than this other muscle-bound convict. Whoopdeedoo.

    Super Jail Season 1 was also current with a modern conversation in cinema as to the worthiness of trying to generate three dimensional characters by using explicit backstory as the delivery mechanism. Season 1 is extremely sparing in its details about the cumulative history of its characters. There is one moment of explicit backstory for the Warden and it is maybe thirty seconds long revealing how the Warden’s father died in his own implausible mishap. Other than that, virtually nothing is known about the before-time of Alice, Jerred, the Warden, or any of the regular inmate standbys. These characters were all hugely improved by this lack of knowledge. Superjail was always about being a frenzied race through each moment, the title sequence is a prime example of packing a huge number of diverse environments into only a tiny glimmer of realization. Stabilizing the life trajectory of the characters is entirely anachronistic to the story logic of superjail. Can anyone honestly say that knowing Alice’s “true” backstory improved her as a character? Did dispelling the mystery of her gender make her more compelling? I doubt it.

    In summary, Super Jail Season 1. Bat-shit awesome. Super Jail Season 2, greatest flop of artistic talent ever.


  37. Nick Nutter #

    Monday Night Raw. Though it goes up and down, there are four points where it was so bad I stopped watching altogether. (Though, as a caveat, I watch it every week now. CM Punk is the sh*t.) 1995: BS like Mantaur and Waylon Mercy, 2001: The Invasion Angle, 2006: One of the most flat out boring years of wrestling, capped off with the world champion doing the J.O.B. for K-Fed, and 2010: Wrestlemania 26 was so bad, it broke me as a wrestling fan. It took almost a year to get over it.


  38. Nick Nutter #

    Though if you want to go for the steepest drop of all, I’d nominate these two:

    The Prisoner (the AMC Mini-Series). I was absolutely transfixed by the premier, and never watched the finale, because by the beginning of episode 5 (of 6), I just didn’t care anymore.

    24 (yeah, I said it). I LOVED Season 1. I plowed through it on DVD in a week, then went out the next day and bought Season 2. Halfway through disc 3, both were in the closet, ready to be sold back to the used store. There were so many needless plot twists shoe-horned in to keep the suspense level amped (the homemaker terrorist) that it just got unwatchable. (Though oddly enough, I enjoyed Season 7. Season 8? Different story.)


  39. benfromcanada #

    Gargoyles. The first two seasons were brilliant, it’s amongst the best mostly-serious kids cartoons (up there with Batman: The Animated Series, Avatar: The Last Airbender, Justice League and Justice League Unlimited). The first and second seasons were mostly golden. Season three, renamed “The Goliath Chronicles” after the leader of the gargoyle clan, was pretty awful. The head writer of the first 2 seasons publicly trashed the third season, and it mostly deserved it. There is a very good reason that there was no fourth season.


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