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?

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#2 on The Best Shows Currently on the Air

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#6 on The Best Current Action TV Series

#17 on The Best TV Shows Based on Books

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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.

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#14 on The Best Current Historical Drama Series

#1 on The Best Current Fantasy TV Series

#1 on The Best Shows Currently on the Air

#2 on The Best Current Action TV Series

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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.

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#3 on The Best TV Shows Based on Books

#5 on The Best Streaming Netflix TV Shows

#2 on The Best of Premium Cable TV Series

#3 on The Best TV Shows to Binge Watch

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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.

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