Recent news that behind-the-scenes turmoil at ABC’s long-running ‘Castle’ will result in one of the co-leads exiting the series begs the question: How is ‘Castle’ even still on the air? Once a fairly amusing riff on the crime procedural genre, the show ran out of steam a long time ago and has been coasting for years. It doesn’t need another season. This week’s Roundtable looks at other TV shows that may have started good, but eventually outlived their usefulness.
- This is not about TV shows that started out bad and are inexplicably popular. That’s another topic.
- This is not about TV shows that had a specific jump-the-shark moment where they turned from good to bad. Rather, it’s about shows that, over time, just lost their spark and stopped being interesting anymore.
I used to find ‘Modern Family‘ absolutely hilarious. The first few seasons were always funny and never predictable, but something happened right around the time the show’s primary cast members renegotiated their contracts. Around the start of the fourth season, the storylines became not just predictable, but unbelievably repetitive. Every episode followed the same beats: Mitch and Claire acted like assholes, Cam got hysterical, Phil did something doofy, Gloria over-enunciated some baseless fear, and Jay… well, Jay has always been awesome. Long live Ed O’Neill! But by and large, it was like the drivers decided to slip the show into neutral and coast their way through to syndication heaven. It’s a shame, because the early seasons had some of the funniest stuff I’d ever seen on TV.
There was a time when ‘Supernatural‘ was one of my all-time favorite shows, but sadly this series is well past is prime. For me, the show really started to tank around the time of the “Turducken” season that focused on the incredibly boring Leviathan villains. After brothers Sam and Dean Winchester had saved the world multiple times by this point already, these baddies were underwhelming to say the least. I had hoped things would get better once that storyline ran its course, but unfortunately the show just became a repetitive mess. I mean, you can only have your main characters argue about the same topic every other episode or get killed off and resurrected so many times before viewers just don’t give a crap anymore, right? The magic of ‘Supernatural’ is simply gone and has been for a while.
M. Enois Duarte
After recently revisiting ‘That ’70s Show‘ on Netflix, I was reminded how bad the series became in the last two seasons. The first few seasons were by far the best, with one hilarious episode after another. The entire cast displayed terrific chemistry and camaraderie, making their friendship believable. I would say the show started having issues somewhere between the fourth and fifth seasons. While still pretty funny, many of the gags and jokes didn’t quite have the same punch or surprise as before.
You could almost tell writers were struggling to come up with new ideas and where to take character arcs. The real end came when Ashton Kutcher and Topher Grace, the two stars who were largely responsible for the show’s humor, left the series. In the final two seasons, the producers and writers were noticeably desperate to keep things going but only succeeded at making the show weird and completely devoid of comedy. Jackie and Fez started dating, Donna hopelessly wandered into scenes without a clear direction, Josh Meyers’ character was more annoying than funny, and Steven got married, half-black and became the owner of a record store. The show overstayed its welcome for two years before finally calling it quits with a series finale set on December 31st, 1979.
Chris Boylan (Big Picture Big Sound)
The two that come to mind immediately are ‘Heroes’ and ‘Once Upon a Time’. ‘Heroes‘ not only outlasted its creator’s original ideas and compelling storylines, but the writers thought it would be a good idea to give the series a reboot just a few years later. Fool me once, etc. For something that started off so interesting (“Save the cheerleader, save the world!”), the series really tanked in its later seasons. When the menacingly cool Sylar (played deliciously by Zachary Quinto) put on an apron and started baking cookies, I knew the show was over, even if the studio was still in denial.
As for ‘Once Upon a Time‘, again, it was an interesting premise. Storybook characters exist in their own reality and have been sent to our world by an evil queen’s vengeful curse. While I like the idea of showing redeeming qualities in even the most vile characters (something ‘Game of Thrones’ does so well), in ‘Once Upon a Time’, the character motivations and changes of heart strain plausibility. Apparently everyone gets to be a Dark One at some time. Except Pinocchio/August. He’s just cool. He doesn’t need any dark magic for that. Too bad his character has been relegated to the sidelines and turned back into a kid… or a puppet… or something. Did I mention I lost interest?
Adam Tyner (DVDTalk)
Maybe it was habit. Maybe it was Stockholm Syndrome. Maybe it was the delusion that the show would be able to pull out of its seemingly endless tailspin and coax a few laughs out of me again. I genuinely have no idea why I continued suffering through the last few seasons of ‘The Office‘.
Its approach to comedy got entirely too broad, devoid of that deft touch that former show-runner Greg Daniels had at blending the ridiculous with the mundane. Pam, who’d once had so many really terrific arcs, mostly just seemed to be there to complain after becoming a mom for the second time. I could probably count on one hand the number of TV sitcom characters who’ve been as nails-on-chalkboard to me as Catherine Tate was on ‘The Office’. Ryan and Kelly are at it again! Golly, Kevin sure is fat and dumb! Oh, let’s cut away and see how Jim’s sports management agency is doing… zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz… Sorry! Dozed off there for a minute.
The only moderately amusing thing as ‘The Office’ limped to the finish line is the contempt the show’s writers seemed to have towards Ed Helms’ lengthy hiatus. He ducked out of the show for a month or so to film ‘The Hangover Part III’, and the writers took that as a challenge to make Andy as irredeemably loathsome as they possibly could. Oh well. At least we got Ellie Kemper out of that smoldering train wreck, so it wasn’t a total loss.
In addition to the aforementioned ‘Castle’, other currently-airing shows that have grown long-in-the-tooth and need to be put out of their misery include ‘The Simpsons‘, ‘South Park‘, ‘The Big Bang Theory‘, and ‘Law & Order: SVU‘. (I’d also mention any and all of the ‘CSI’ or ‘NCIS’ franchises, but those shows have always been crap from Day One.)
Looking back to the past, the same thing happened to the likes of ‘ER‘, ‘The West Wing‘ and ‘How I Met Your Mother‘.
What TV show do you think kept going long after it ran its course? Tell us in the Comments.