tv programs 14 TV Shows That Gave You Plenty of Reasons to Stop Watching  

Ann Casano
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The standard, generic television of yesterday has been replaced. In the 21st century, the golden age of TV, there are a plethora of shows that test audiences, punishing viewers with blood and gore, while killing off beloved characters. Netflix, cable, and pay channels do not have to adhere to network standards, and they are willing to take risks in an effort to gain viewers. Sometimes, it all gets to be too much.

SPOILERS from this point on, FYI

When The Walking Dead writers killed Glenn, many fans vowed to give up on the apocalyptic drama forever. Even though The Walking Dead is known for its brutally violent episodes, watching Negan pound our beloved friend to death with his spiked bat, Lucille, made even the toughest viewers cringe with agony.

Long-running dramas like Grey’s Anatomy and Dexter have featured their fair share of tough episodes to sit through. Fans became so enraged with Derek's sudden death on Grey's or Rita’s on Dexter, they felt the writers betrayed them. If you didn’t cry when Derek died, there might be something seriously wrong with you.

Lost probably had the most frustrating episodes of any program on this list. Who didn't want to give up on that show at some point? Be honest - how many times did you should "What the hell is going on?!" as you made your way through Lost, even if you'd seen it all before and knew what was coming. 

This collection also features programs that staled over time. For example, there wasn’t one specific episode of Modern Family that made you want to break up with the show, but the comedy is not anywhere near as funny as it used to be. And, as always mention anything you feel is left out in the comments.  

The Walking Dead is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list 14 TV Shows That Gave You Plenty of Reasons to Stop Watching
Photo:  AMC

The Cliff Notes:

  • Carol blows Lizzie's head off
  • Negan beats Glenn's eye out
  • General feeling of hopelessness


The Unabridged Version:

There's an agreement a viewer makes with The Walking Dead, a horror show about the zombie apocalypse: you must accept not everyone is going to make it. Along the unpaved and endless road of survival, main characters will die, and it's gonna be really hard to say goodbye. The Walking Dead is an unforgiving show, unashamed to be brutally graphic to the point where most viewers need to cover their eyes.

Despite the spectator-horror show agreement, many fans could no longer bear to stomach the gruesome deaths of characters who became their friends. The Walking Dead sparked its fair share of outrage during Season 4, Episode 14 ("The Grove"), when Carol killed little Lizzie after the girl stabbed her younger sister, Mika, to death because she didn't get the difference between the walking dead and the living. Carol took Lizzie outside and told her to look at the flowers, then shot her in the back of the head.

If you survived "The Grove," chances are you can survive any episode of the show. At least, until the Season 7 premiere, when the world saw Negan's sadistic turn as demigod. He killed Abraham, and it was brutal. Everyone loved Abraham, but he wasn't one of the original members. His death wouldn't cause mass exodus. It almost felt like the audience got off easy after an off-season of rabid speculation on who would be the one to die.

Then Negan turned to Glenn, and bashed his head so hard his eye popped out, while his wife and friends watched in agony. It was heart breaking. Fans took to social media, expressing outrage, declaring they were done with the show forever, it had become too unbearable. Glenn was one of the originals, viewers watched him grow up and become a leader, a brave warrior willing to do anything to help his post-war family.

It's hard to imagine a villain making as immediate an impact in the inundated landscape of TV baddies. However, Jeffrey Dean Morgan's Negan, with his smug smiles and cruel heartlessness, make The Governor look like Mary Poppins. Audiences have learned not to fear the walkers on The Walking Dead: it's other people our crew of friends must fear. You have to wonder whether Negan beat the humanity out of Rick and company, who now must become slaves in his ruthless realm. If our heroes don't think there's hope left in their apocalyptic world, what's the point in living? What's the point in watching?

Also Ranked

#2 on The Best Current Adventure TV Series

#5 on The Best Current Action TV Series

#2 on The Best Shows Currently on the Air

#3 on The Scariest Shows on TV Right Now

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Game of Thrones is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list 14 TV Shows That Gave You Plenty of Reasons to Stop Watching
Photo:  HBO

The Cliff Notes: 

  • Red Wedding
  • Eddart Stark beheading
  • Glamorization of rape
  • Rampant misogyny
  • General sense of maliciousness
  • Extreme, nauseating violence


The Unabridged Version:

"Don't worry, a show wouldn't remorselessly murder its lead characters." 

That stale sentiment was laid to rest during the penultimate episode of Season 1 of Game of Thrones, when the Lannisters made sure Eddard Stark lost his head in order to keep their incestuous family secret. Game of Thrones never shies away from over-the-top violence. It's a misogynistic show filled with rape, blood, and the unnerving fear that no character is ever safe.

Even with that uneasy knowledge, another penultimate episode ripped the hearts out of fans, Season 3's, "The Rains of Castamere." Audiences know it better as the one with the Red Wedding.

The Red Wedding was the ultimate massacre. Fans lost the man who would be king, Robb Stark, and his mother, wife, and unborn child. The scene was a horror to behold, not for the faint of heart nor weak of stomach. No matter how infamous the Red Wedding has become in HBO lore, it also must have signaled the end for viewers who could no longer tolerate a show so intent on punishing fans.

Perhaps even more heartbreaking than the death of several major characters, there was nearly a Stark reunion before the massacre. Arya Stark and the Hound were just outside the castle of the Frey Wedding, seconds away from reuniting with a mother and brother she hadn't seen since Season 1. What a joy their reunion would have been. But there is little joy in a show like Game of Thrones. And while many celebrate the program's wide-ranging story scope and refusal to play by the narrative rules, for some, the heartbreak and violence is much too much to handle.

Also Ranked

#16 on The Best Current Historical Drama Series

#1 on The Best Current Adventure TV Series

#1 on The Best Current Action TV Series

#1 on The Best Shows Currently on the Air

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Dexter is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list 14 TV Shows That Gave You Plenty of Reasons to Stop Watching
Photo:  Showtime

The Cliff Notes:

  • Rita's dead and the baby in a pool of blood
  • The Debra incest WTF-is-going-on? story
  • The considerable decline in quality
  • The obscenely boring will-they-ever-catch-him plots


The Unabridged Version:

There were plenty of times audiences could have tapped out over the course of 8 seasons of Dexter, a Showtime hit about a serial killer with a moral code. The tension-filled program was littered with violent murders, none more disturbing than the shocking Season 4 finale, when Dexter finally takes care of the Trinity Killer after chasing him for the entire season.

When we think it's over and Dexter has killed the villain, we find out the Trinity Killer had one last brutal murder left in him before his trip to hell. Dexter comes home to find his wife Rita lying dead in a bathtub filled with her own blood, while their infant son sits on the bloody tile next to his deceased mother.

If you made it past Rita's gruesome, sudden death and the endless "will they or won't they finally catch Dexter" plotlines, there's a chance you totally lost faith in the show when Dexter's sister, Debra, becomes convinced she's in love with him (they're not blood related). She was always the one person Dexter could sort of confide in, so the idea that she's romantically in love with him was totally awkward, and stank of a long-running show running out of ideas. Dexter continued for two more seasons after the pseudo-incest romance, and featured one of the more disappointing finales in cable television history.

Also Ranked

#3 on The Best TV Shows Based on Books

#5 on The Best Streaming Netflix TV Shows

#3 on The Best TV Shows to Binge Watch

#2 on The Best of Premium Cable TV Series

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Downton Abbey is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list 14 TV Shows That Gave You Plenty of Reasons to Stop Watching
Photo:  PBS

The Cliff Notes:

  • Lady Sibyl's death
  • Matthew's death
  • General sense of melancholy
  • Costume dramas with English accents prone to making you generally weepy


The Unabridged Version:

You'd think a British Masterpiece Classic upstairs/downstairs period drama would not play well Stateside. Yet Downton Abbey, with its uppity aristocratic British charm and often over-the-top soapy dramatics was a massive commercial and critical hit in the US.

Of the three adult Crawley girls, Lady Sybil was the most relatable: as pretty as Mary, without the snobbery or pretense; as intelligent as Lady Edith, without the hopelessness. Sybil was kind and caring, a trailblazer fighting for women's rights. She even defied her parents and lineage by marrying Tom Branson, a chauffeur without a drop of aristocracy in his blood. 

When Lady Sybil died during Season 3 due to complications during child birth, it was as devastating as any TV death over the past decade. Making matters worse, it initially appeared that, if Sybil's father, Lord Grantham, had heeded Dr. Clarkson, who diagnosed Sybil with preeclampsia, she may have been saved.

Despite the tragedy of watching Sybil's shocked family mourn her passing mere moments after giving birth to her daughter, most fans stuck with Downton Abbey. The reason for mass exodus came two seasons later, with the sudden, and equally tragic, death of Mary's husband, Downton heir Matthew Crawley.

Matthew survived the great war, recovered from a potentially devastating spinal cord injury, and won the heart of Lady Mary, who, at least to outsiders, appeared to be the coldest fish in all of England. Then, while on the way home from the hospital, only hours after Mary gave birth to their first child, Matthew died in a car accident. The kicker is, the episode aired on Christmas Day in the UK. Merry Christmas indeed.

Matthew's death will go down as one of the most tragic and shocking in TV history. It caused a lot of viewers to break up with the show. That kind of wretched heartbreak is not considered proper Sunday night entertainment. Matthew's death was not the end of Downton Abbey, however. It remained on the air for six strong seasons.

Also Ranked

#9 on What Shows Do You Most Want on Netflix Streaming?

#20 on The Best TV Shows to Binge Watch

#78 on The Greatest TV Shows of All Time

#68 on The Best TV Shows of The Last 20 Years

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24 is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list 14 TV Shows That Gave You Plenty of Reasons to Stop Watching
Photo:  Fox

The Cliff Notes:

  • Teri's death
  • Mostly just Teri's death
  • But seriously, did they really do Teri like that?


The Unabridged Version:

Fox's 24 was a totally new narrative concept: each one-hour episode would unfold in "real-time" (there are commercials to consider, and Jack must have to go the bathroom at some point) over the course of 24 hours, so each season takes place in one day. During the finale of Season 1, Jack Bauer, Director of Field Ops for the Counter-Terrorist Unit, beats the ticking clock and saves presidential nominee, Senator David Palmer.

Jack also discovered Nina, his co-worker and sometimes lover, was the mole inside of CTU. After he saved the day, he shared a happy tear-filled moment with his daughter, who was kidnapped and presumed dead. It appeared as if everything was going to work out fine, until Jack discovered Nina killed his wife, Teri, before being taken into custody. The final image of the finale was Jack cradling his dead wife in his arms.T

This was a polarizing plot twist. Some applauded the show for denying viewers a happy ending and having the bravery to kill a main character. Others were so dismayed they swore off the show forever. Fox was actually so torn over the finale, an alternate happy ending of Jack, his wife, and daughter all safely together was shot. In the end, the network went for shock value, and 24 lasted for eight seasons.

Also Ranked

#44 on What Shows Do You Most Want on Netflix Streaming?

#31 on The Best TV Shows to Binge Watch

#23 on Canceled Shows We'd Most Like to See as Movies

#51 on The Best TV Shows of The Last 20 Years

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Lost is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list 14 TV Shows That Gave You Plenty of Reasons to Stop Watching
Photo:  ABC

The Cliff Notes

  • Mysteries on top of mysteries
  • Questions with no answers
  • Is this show just a turducken of unanswerable questions?
  • How is any of this possible?
  • Are they just making this sh*t up as they go along?
  • This giant stone foot is cool, but what about that temple, and the smoke monster, and the hatch, and the pirate ship, and Penny's boat, but wait, it's not Penny's boat, and Daniel Faraday and holy hell is there a road map to all of this?


The Unabridged Version:

There could have been dozens of times you wanted to breakup with Damon Lindelof and Carton Cuse's deserted island saga. Is it okay for a show to keep asking questions, to keep bringing up new mysteries without providing answers to previous quandaries? Lost was certainly a once-in-a-lifetime show, but sometimes its brilliant writers stepped on their own two feet, and wound up frustrating viewers instead of entertaining them.

Throughout the show's six up-and-down seasons, audiences got to know a lot of characters, all with elaborate back stories. It was enough getting to know the survivors of Oceanic Flight 815, so when the Others came into play, it became extremely difficult to keep everyone's story and agenda.

There were also several seemingly unnecessary plots, which took up time and didn't add anything. The hatch, the island traveling back in time, the smoke monster, Locke's resurrection, the healing power of the island, the numbers (4, 8, 15, 16, 23, 42), the Dharma Initiative, the polar bear, even the ending. What did it all mean? Can anyone even remember? Obstacles and mystery are vital when creating drama, but sometimes writers just have to give the story a chance to breathe.

Also Ranked

#8 on The Best Streaming Netflix TV Shows

#8 on The Best TV Shows to Binge Watch

#20 on The Best Sci Fi Television Series of All Time

#29 on The Greatest TV Shows of All Time

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Modern Family is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list 14 TV Shows That Gave You Plenty of Reasons to Stop Watching
Photo:  ABC

Cliff Notes:

  • Just kinda started sucking
  • Became what it was satirizing
  • That baby sucks


The Unabridged Version:

Seinfeld was on for nine seasons, Friends ran 10, and the American version of The Office went nine. All of those shows performed well in the ratings from start to finish and, for the most part, were still making people laugh.

Entering its eight season in 2016, Modern Family was played out. Ratings were down and the show was tired. It went from being a cutting, insightful mockumentary to a mediocre sitcom about the things it once satirized. Also, doesn't bringing in a new character (Joe) always signal the dreaded jump-the-shark moment for a sitcom?

As for when, specifically, audiences want to give up on Modern Family... well, as as a show gets progressively less funny from episode to episode, how do you know exactly when it's time to leave? You just know. It's a lot like a break up. 

Also Ranked

#5 on The Best Shows Currently on the Air

#1 on The Best Current TV Shows the Whole Family Can Enjoy

#4 on What Shows Do You Most Want on Netflix Streaming?

#28 on The Most Important TV Sitcoms

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Grey's Anatomy is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list 14 TV Shows That Gave You Plenty of Reasons to Stop Watching
Photo:  ABC

The Cliff Notes:

  • George's death
  • Denny's death 
  • Lexie's death
  • Mark's death
  • Derek's death
  • Is this show ever going to end?


The Unabridged Version:

It's a hospital drama, some of the patients are going to die. They're sick, and these young, good-lucking doctors can't save everyone. But what happens when a show starts killing off its regulars? Grey's Anatomy has been on for 13 seasons. Creator Shonda Rhimes has had to deal with actors wanting to leave, and it is a drama, so why not make their exits as dramatic as possible?

The first regular to die was George O'Malley, during the Season 6 premiere. He got run over by a bus trying to save a woman's life, while on his way to tell his mother he was enlisting in the army. Fans could have also broken up with Grey's after watching Izzie's love interest, Denny Duquette, die after finally getting a new heart. Sure, Denny's ghost came back in Izzie's hallucinations (she had a brain tumor), but it wasn't the same. 

Fans could have also dropped out after Meredith's half sister, Lexie, was killed following a plane crash. Her demise was agonizing and slow: she was crushed to death. And don't forget Mark Sloan, who died in the hospital after the same crash, even though he seemed perfectly fine. 

The mass exodus hit its peak during Season 11, when Derek died in a car accident after getting improper care at an understaffed hospital. Spectators had to endure Meredith's loss as if it were their own. Derek's tragic death hit hard and caused many viewers to do the ugly sobbing cry that probably should be reserved for when personal tragedy hits us in real life. Even with all the pain and suffering fans have endured, Grey's Anatomy does relatively well in the ratings, and doesn't get enough credit for being a well-oiled machine that keeps on chugging, no matter who the writers decide kill off.

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#56 on The Best Shows Currently on the Air

#25 on The Best TV Shows Streaming On Hulu

#87 on The Best TV Shows to Binge Watch

#45 on The Best Current Dramatic TV Shows

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