Don’t you just love TV? Isn’t it great how your favorite show can act like a blanket made up of your best friends? And don’t you just love how a series will never end, and get exponentially worse as time goes on? So, about that last thing. You know you’ve seen a few shows that went on way too long and wondered what happened to make them get so bad. Some of the worst TV seasons ever have occurred because a good show suddenly soured, and ruined what was good about it in the first place.
Everyone has suffered through bad seasons of good tv shows, hoping the show will get better next year. How does this happen? What makes a show go wrong? It can be a lot of things. Writer turnover is a very real thing on long-running shows. Sometimes the person who created the series leaves and terrible shows with great first seasons are what happens when show running goes horribly wrong.
You can probably name at least three great TV shows with terrible final seasons just right off the top of your head. You may have even defended some of these shows that should've been one season to your friends. But you know, deep in your heart, there was no reason to watch seven seasons of well-dressed people complain about relationships while selling black tar heroin on Madison Avenue. Take a break from watching the 10th season of Drug Buddies to read about these shows with writers rooms that probably should've taken their cyanide capsules after Season 1.
The first season of Heroes approached the concept of superheroes in a really interesting way. It basically put you inside an X-Men comic, but instead of starting in Xavier's school you were hanging out with someone who hadn't yet realized they had powers. The season works as a complete narrative where the characters either choose to accept the responsibilities of their powers or turn into baddies and then there's an epic face off. Great. How do you follow that up? How about with a second season that flashes back to 1977 where you find out about some guys who work in a government facility. Yeah... no thanks.
Heroes should have cut its losses and had one great season, but instead they trudged on for three more seasons (one of them truncated by the writer's strike), and a reboot that wasn't so great. Heroes would have been excellent as a mini-series, or even a low budget action film. It's a shame that there aren't any producers at NBC with time travel powers.
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Lost would have been an amazing one and done series. Think about it: a twenty-something episode mystery where Jack has to figure out why a plane full of super hot people crashed on an island with a smoke monster, and you would never had to have dealt with any of that metaphysical mumbo jumbo that took up the fifth and sixth seasons. Does one season sound like it's too long for you? What if Lost were just a two hour made-for-TV movie that begins and ends with the plane crash? Is your head exploding right now?
When it comes down to it the mystery of Lost wasn't worth sitting through for six years. It's rare that any long-term series can hold its original aura for so long, but Lost immediately fell apart in Season 2, and how the show was allowed to go on past its initial season is the real mystery.
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Fun fact: Highlander was on for six seasons. You probably haven't seen one episode of this spin off of a movie about sword bros fighting each other to the death. The series began in syndication, which used to be a way to keep your show from having to worry about ratings because it had been paid for up front by paid cable companies, so it had carte blanche to do whatever it wanted as long as nerds kept tuning in and buying fake swords through mail order.
Over the course of the six years Highlander: The Series was on the air, so many willy-nilly changes were made to the mythos the Highlander film universe was irreparably changed for the worse. Or maybe the better? It's honestly hard to tell when your measuring stick is Highlander 2. How many stories could there really be about men with swords swording each other to the death? At least 119, apparently.
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If you've read the autobiography Netflix series Orange Is the New Black is based on, you know the first season took plenty of liberties with Piper's story, but that's adaptation for you. Arguably, Piper's story could be told in one season. Hell, she's given an out at the end of the the first run of 13 episodes, which is when the series jumps its first shark. Piper decides to stay in prison, making sure the show can carry on indefinitely rather than tell one spectacular story.
To reiterate, a privileged white woman decides to stay in prison. At which point the show becomes a directionless compendium of anecdotes reducing the lives of its characters to trivial humor and exploitative pageantry.
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