Weekend Roundtable: TV Shows That Outstayed Their Welcome

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.

Two notes:

  1. This is not about TV shows that started out bad and are inexplicably popular. That’s another topic.
  2. 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.

Mike Attebery

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.

Tom Landy

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.

Josh Zyber

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.


  1. Csm101

    Bones and Supernatural. What the hell could they possibly be up to these days?! I abandoned both of those around the same time. Maybe around season four or five of each. I think Supernatural tried to go too big with the whole Apocalypse thing way too early in the series. I liked them taking on old Urban Legends rather than Godly creatures. The show seemed too small to try and capture a believable worldy apocalypse. Bones just got too ridiculous with how she could figure anything out from looking at some old bones. The weird artist rendering device was almost too magical to make sense. I can’t exactly remember what did it, but some of these were contributing factors.

  2. I recall advice from someone in the old “Mary Tyler Moore” show: in television, “forever” is 5 years. Chuckles the Clown lasted 3 forevers; it was past time for him to go.

    That’s why “Battlestar Galactica” of the 2000s was (generally) so good: it had to end and did. The ship was wearing out, the people were wearing out. You can be in survival mode only so long and you have to either escape or lay down and die.

    Sure, they diddled around getting there, but it got in under the “forever” limit. I admire that.

  3. Bill

    There’s no specific point but there comes a time in any series for me when I find myself watching it not because I’m enjoying it but because it has become an obligation. At that point it becomes a chore. The third year is usually when a series either shows it has longevity or is just spinning its wheels. In that category this year of becoming a bore to watch are Scorpion, The Blacklist and Agents of Shield. The writers of these three series have no idea of where they are taking their characters and we already know everything worth knowing about them.

    • Josh Zyber

      I knew everything I ever wanted to know about Scorpion within 30 seconds of the pilot episode opening.

      This has been an uneven season of Agents of SHIELD, but I’ll disagree that the writers don’t know where they’re taking it.

      • C.C.

        Agreed. Scorpion is one of the worst shows to ever to have a series. Ever.
        And that Asian “actress” is hands down the worst actor I have ever seen. In My life. Ever..
        Dreadful show.

  4. photogdave

    As soon as the leads with ongoing sexual tension get together…I’m out.
    See Castle, Bones, Moonlighting etc.

    • Bolo

      I’d say adding babies, also. Whenever they throw a new baby in the mix that wasn’t there at the start of the series, it’s usually a sign the writers have run out of things to do with the characters. Baby/pregnancy hysteria is never entertaining, and the babies never make for interesting characters.

  5. EM

    My answer may surprise anyone who’s noticed my usual fandoms—and I’m not sure it entirely jibes with the roundtable’s intent—but my nominee is Star Trek: The Next Generation.

    When the cast’s contracts were once again nearing their expiration—slated for the end of season 6—there was much speculation that there might be no season 7. However, all the regulars renewed, and the series continued its mission one more year…and sometimes I wish it didn’t. While there are a few worthwhile episodes in season 7, the overall quality represented a nosedive. This season, for instance, spawned “Genesis”, the “de-evolution” episode whose scientific premise was so slipshod the writers couldn’t even use the actual word for it—a devolution indeed! For that matter, was some sort of mental devolution responsible a few episodes earlier, in “Sub Rosa”, when Dr. Crusher pleasured herself with a ghost-candle which had been waxing between her ancestresses’ legs for the past few centuries?

    Even when episodes weren’t exploring strange new depths, there was often a phoned-in (or beamed-in) mediocrity on deck. Sometimes the Enterprise crew warped right back where they had gone before—did anyone really need “Bloodlines”’s return of the recast DaiMon Bok?—and sometimes it went where no one should go. Yeah, there were good moments too. But I think the series would have been better off if, instead of starting an appropriately named “Descent”, season 6 had come to an end with “All Good Things…”. Certainly that two-hour history of time would have been a better episode for a Stephen Hawking cameo!

  6. Charles M

    The X-Files. It should’ve ended in season 6. They had everything perfectly situated for that, but really what they were doing was removing plots and character to continue the story. It turned me off from watching TV for a very long time. That and American Gothic. Lesson I learned was that either a show is a hit and goes on an on until the ratings drop and gets cancelled, or it isn’t successful and the show gets cancelled without a satisfactory ending that answers a lot of questions.

  7. Grey’s Anatomy…dear god end this show already. My wife still watches it religiously and I find it to be one of the most grating things on tv. The first few seasons of the show were great television; fresh, funny and unique at the time. It’s since degenerated into silly, repetitive nonsense. A bunch of models in scrubs sewing overly-emotional monologues every episode. Take it off the air! I’m begging you!

    • Isn’t this like the 25th season? It certainly feels like that. There should be an entirely new award given to TV shows that have jumped the shark this frequently and yet still survive.

    • C.C.

      Sometimes I leave the tv on in the other room… When I accidentally leave it on the channel that has Grey’s in syndication, I actually run screaming from the other room just to shut off that insufferably annoying and endless Meridith Grey/Ellen Pompeo voiceover. A supercut of those endless pseudo witty voiceovers surely plays in the deepest bowels of Hell.

    • Timcharger

      Oh don’t deny it. You want Grey’s Anatomy
      to be on forever. How else will our wifes leave us alone
      for an hour? When will we find time to read HDD?

  8. Ryan M

    I agree wholeheartedly with Modern Family and The Office. I watch Modern Family out of habit, but can’t say that I even like the show anymore. The Office has been and always will be one of my favorite TV shows of all-time, but it should have ended after six seasons.

    Another fave that comes to mind is Scrubs. I renounce the dreadful ninth season (the one with med students replacing the main cast–should it even be considered a part of the series at all?), and the last two seasons were dreadful compared to the first five. I could take or leave the sixth season.

  9. I’m not a big fan of ‘South Park’ (I don’t have anything against it either, I just don’t watch the show), but all my friends say it’s still as hilarious, sharp and relevant as it was back in 1997. So are you sure it needs to be put out of its misery, Josh?

  10. William Henley

    I am with Chris on both Heros and Once Upon A Time. I jumped ship on Heros after about 4 episodes of season 2. As for Once Upon A Time, I commented on this a few weeks ago (during the cliffhanger question). The show felt like it was written with one season in mind. The show had a FANTASTIC premise, and Season 1 is solid. I cannot thing of a single flaw or anything I would change in that first season. And everything was resolved. Except, the show got renewed. so now we got to throw in a cliffhanger to introduce season 2, which they obviously didn’t know where they were going, but needed to create something to work with. Season 2 started off pretty good (not as good as season 1), but then quickly started going down hill. I stopped watching around season 3 when the show just seemed to have gone from a twisted dark adult show containing beloved Disney characters to being a soap opera for tweens. Apparently it worked for someone, because the show is in season 6 or something now.

    This bothers me to say this, but the original Full House lost its steam. Cute family show from the 80s about 3 guys raising 3 girls, gold. Add Becky, hey, she can trade punches with the best of them. Steve, okay, he’s a great character, we can keep him around. Here’s the problem – 8 years in – DJ is preparing for college, Stephanie is in like 8th grade, Michelle is 8. So the premise of 3 guys raising 3 little girls doesn’t really work anymore. So Jessie got married (that happened pretty early, so i was okay with that), but then add in Nicky and Alex to have new kids on teh show. Sorry, that didn’t work for me. Oh, and Joey is still single and living with the family. Um, no, doesn’t work. Becky and Jessie and the kids are still living there. Granted, I understand them staying there for a while, that was actually covered in the show. But several years later, and they and their kids are still living there? Vicky, I didn’t care for. Oh, and the Olsen twins, as cute as they were, could not act. Shows where they left the set and had canned laugh tracks? Awkward (the Disney Wold episode comes to mind, absolutely awful).

    Its strange that Josh menitoned The Simpsons and South Park as these shows both did go downhill several seasons in, but then in the past 5 years or show, picked back up steam. South Park and The Simpsons both, in the past couple of years, have turned out some of my favorite episodes in their respective series. With South Park now doing season-long arcs, the show hold on well.

    I got to throw in a couple of reality shows, and that is mainly because stardom has kinda gone to their heads, and people you once loved now come across as cocky. Sister Wives is a primary example of that – I LOVED the show when it came out – interesting concept that in a country where we have become so open to alternative lifestyles, it is still illegal to practice polygamy, whether by religious belief or not. It was interesting to follow the family as they fled Utah to Las Vegas, and as they struggled to find a place where the whole family could be together. Then the show fell downhill – the kids start acting out and are no longer cute, war between the wives and Cody, one of the wives and Cody go on another date together, this wife gets special treatment and it makes the others mad, Then Cody went off and got all cocky,, and I can’t stand the guy anymore. I don’t think I am going to finish episode 3, and they are like in season 6 now.

    Dance Moms has gotten old for me. This is a scripted reality show, where 80% of the show is scripted, and I knew that going in. So, season 1 and 2 you actually had some real drama on the show (One of the families left the show in real life, breaking contract), but then they started recycling stories. I think the only reason it stays on the air is the little kids who look up to the dancers on the show, but if that is the case, they should reformat the show. I caught about 15 minutes of an episode this season while flipping through channels, and it looks like they tried to change stuff up by moving everyone to LA, adding in a group of much younger girls, and having Abby be so busy she is never in the studio, but it is pretty much the same story as it has always been.

    Older shows – I think both Deep Space 9 and Voyager were this way. What is interesting with both shows is that both had a couple of good starter episodes, then about 4 or 5 episodes in, went downhill. Neither show really picked back up until around season 5. I am surprised both made it to season 5.

    I don’t think we even need to bother to discuss season 3 of Star Trek The Original Series

    • EM

      Star Trek season 3 bears a little discussion. The show had already been cancelled twice!!—but fans’ “Save Star Trek” campaigns had convinced NBC to relent. In so doing, however, NBC showed little confidence in the series, reducing the budget and assigning a death-knell timeslot. As a result, Gene Roddenberry effectively gave up. The first production of the new season, “Spectre of the Gun”, is a brilliant episode which managed to turn low-budget necessity into an appropriately haunting set design—but in a move typical of the network’s mindset, NBC instead chose to début the season with the ludicrous “Spock’s Brain” (which I do find enjoyable, albeit in a Plan 9 From Outer Space sort of way). While some good episodes and good moments were still on the way, season 3 never came close to the promise of earlier seasons, and I wonder if those letter-writing fans ever wished they hadn’t bothered. It’s fortunate they did bother; for a third season gave the series enough episodes to make rerun syndication viable, thereby nurturing and expanding the fandom that led to the franchise’s rebirth. Ironically, NBC had killed a golden goose: Although the cancellation decisions were understandably motivated by the series’ ratings underperformance, the demographics system the network would begin using soon afterward would have shown that Star Trek was pulling in the kind of audiences that advertisers would have loved to reach.

      • William Henley

        Interesting you mention Spock’s Brain and liking it in a Plan 9 From Outer Space way – I have a similar love / hate relationship with this episode. It is generally considered the worst episode of all, but I disagree – the episode was not just bad, it was hillariously bad, and I think the director and cast knew it was bad, and played it as a comedy. As such, as bad as it is, it is fun to watch, unlike some other episodes.

        But good point that season 3 gave the show enough episodes for syndication – I forgot about that.

        And there were a couple of real gems in season 3 – The Enterprise Incident, The Tholean Web, Wink of an Eye, and Turnabout Intruder, all of which are some of my favorites of the entire series. Unfortunatley, the rest of the season is so bad, many overlook those four gems.

        • EM

          “Spock’s Brain” may be missing a brain, but I am convinced that “The Alternative Factor” causes brain damage, and “The Omega Glory” makes one wish to dash out one’s own brains. “The Alternative Factor” and “The Omega Glory” are from seasons 1 and 2, respectively.

          In season 3, I would say the gems are “Spectre of the Gun” and “Day of the Dove”. “The Enterprise Incident” and “The Tholian Web” are very rewatchable, as are a few other episodes, including “Spock’s Brain” for ironic reasons. “Turnabout Intruder” is an interesting premise in need of better development. Sorry, I find “Wink of an Eye” to be star dreck, but its title is virtually rehabilitated by the excellent Voyager episode “Blink of an Eye”.

  11. Deaditelord

    Although I don’t watch much regular television, I truly despise the last two seasons of House. Previously, House had hit rock bottom, went to rehab, and finally started realizing his relationship with Cuddy. Then about halfway through season 7, for some reason the show writers decided to have House pull a complete 180. (Probably because Lisa Edelstein was leaving the show.) He starts using Vicodin again which wrecks his relationship with Cuddy. As a result, House decides to drive to some expensive hotel to get wasted on booze and Vicodin while screwing every last prostitute he can get his hands on. Later on he comes back to the hospital to announce that he is marrying one of the prostitutes so she can get her Green Card… and that’s when I stopped caring.

    I stuck around the last season and a half more out of obligation than enjoyment, but the show never recovered. By the last episode, I had no desire for another episode of House. (I would have skipped Season 9 if there had been one). To this day, I have not watched another episode despite having genuinely enjoyed the earlier seasons. I don’t see myself ever watching the show again.

  12. Thulsadoom

    My other half and I have been enjoying Castle since the beginning, but this last season has been pretty poor. The previous season was already going downhill. Up until then, I think it had maintained its enjoyability, even if not on a par with the first few seasons. Now, it’s all gone too serious, and the problem there, is that there are so many typical police procedural shows out there, trying to be uber serious. Castle (the show, not just the character) isn’t designed for uber-serious. It’s supposed to be light hearted, quirky and fun. This last season has seen precious little of that.

    I actually don’t mind that they’re getting rid of Stana. Much as I’ve enjoyed seeing the two characters come together over the years (often too drawn out), she is admittedly the most expendable cast member with the least to offer. The others are all pretty good fun (you can blame the writers though, I suppose, rather than the actress). There are all sorts of rumours going round about why she’s leaving.

    All I want, is a good finale for her character, that doesn’t negate/waste everything that’s gone before. I think her leaving could be the breath of fresh air that gives the show some new life. Much like Stargate SG1 was starting to feel a little tired, but when Farscape got canned and they brought Claudia Black and Ben Browder in, it suddenly became fun again and had some great episodes.

  13. HuskerGuy

    A bit surprised it hasn’t been mentioned yet, but I’d throw Dexter into the discussion as well. While it wasn’t near as terrible as Castle is today, it had a serious decline in quality after season 4 (I believe) and it should’ve been put down not long after that.

    • Csm101

      I’d like to pretend season eight never happened. It was absolutely terrible. I would love a redo of that season. I wouldn’t even be angry if they did the whole redo with Dexter waking up and it was all a bad dream. As bad of a cop out that is, I would be willing to take anything over what season eight gave us. I still feel season one of Dexter was by far the strongest and it never got better for me, but it was one of my favorites shows for a long time.

    • Bolo

      I tried watching ‘Dexter’, too. It started out with Dexter killing criminals who had managed to exploit loopholes in the system and avoid justice. Then it switched to him actually competing with the system, trying to beat the cops and courts to the punch. He’d expend huge effort in throwing the police off the trail of the real suspect so that he could deliver his own justice, even framing other people. It just lost me.

  14. photogdave

    I’m sure I’ll be in the minority but…Game of Thrones.
    I got so bored trying to keep track of the characters and waiting for stupid winter to come. All the names are stupid sounding fantasy clichés and so many elements of the story are just lifted from other fantasy creations that the lack of originality is glaring.
    I watched for the T&A and blood and guts for three or four seasons — I forget now — and finally called it quits after Prince, or was it King?, What-his-face Jerk Boy finally got his just-deserts.
    I’ve heard the books are pretty good but from what I’ve seen of the show, this author borrows more from other works than Robert Jordan!

  15. Josh, why the hate for NCIS & CSI franchises? We could play Jump The Shark I guess.

    NCIS – Great show, even when Kate left, but when Ziva left, hard to fill the void. CBS is trying. Now talk of Michael Weatherley leaving. Call it quits guys. Gibbs may be the main character, it’s had a good run, quit when you’re semi-ahead.
    NCIS LA & LCIS New Orleans – WHY? Never got into either.
    CSI – Great show. They still made it work when Grissom & Sara left. Lawrence Fishburne somehow held the show together, but then along came Ted Danson, sorry Ted, I loved you in Cheers but not here. Ayup, I think we would have been happy with the show ending around where Grissom leaving.
    CSI Miami – Great spinoff, held it together til the end
    CSI NY – Great spinoff – Maybe when Kankarades left it was too much to fill. Sela Ward tried and I think the show could have evolved but CBS decided no more. Maybe it was Sinise’s decision?
    CSY Cyber – WHY? Couldn’t get into it.
    Once Upon a Time – Still enjoyable. I think they brought in Elsa to keep the numbers from dropping anymore
    Grimm – Quirky Show – still unsure about. Maybe it should be done.
    Law & Order SVU – I agree. End It.
    Law & Order – Ended too soon
    Law & Order CI – Ended too soon.
    Crap shows (IMO) that should have been cancelled on Pilot Episode. Many USA originals. Suits, Royal Pains, White Collar. Yuck!

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