Monday, February 08, 2010

'Heroes,' 'Ugly Betty,' and other TV shows that burned hot, then burned out - Sepinwall on TV

In today's column, I take the occasion of the "Heroes" season finale - which could well be the series' finale, as well - to look at some other TV shows that went from phenomenon to afterthought surprisingly quickly.

Anybody around here actually still watching "Heroes" at this point? How has the carny season been?

86 comments:

Anonymous said...

Here is to hoping Glee ends up on this list.

Thomas said...

Still watching it. Not quite sure why. At this point, it's like watching an exercise in bad writing. And not just bad because the show is horrible - no, there's still good ideas being created. Peter spending time inside Sylar's brain, silly as it sounds, could have been quite interesting. But they spent the larger part of the episode pounding a hammer at a silly 'mindwall', not really going anywhere. The characters have become even bigger idiots than the writers, going back constantly on their own decisions. Backstories are being created at the last minute, when needed, to create some emotional ground for decisions: suddenly we were told the carny villain was being evil because a woman introduced out of nowhere didn't love him, and suddenly HRG/Bennett had another wife with a kid, who was killed by a superpowered-person, which caused him to dislike superpowers. And Hiro's braintumor? Vanished, because he had a court-case in his head, that involved visions of his father, George Takei, and every extra character from the past four years they could round up.

There's a lot of good ideas still left in Heroes, but the writers seem utterly incapable of exploiting it properly. Really makes me wish Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse, or a similar writing-team that plans ahead better would get a crack at a Heroes-like show. Heck, even the Fringe-team, rocky as that show's progression is at times, could probably run Heroes far better.

Karen said...

What a great list! Of all the shows I've actually watched here (which is all of them except the reality shows), I DID give up on them before they were finally put out of their misery.

Another show I gave up on--though for different reasons, I think--was "The X-Files." With the emphasis on Scully's pregnancy and then Duchovny's departure, it lost its spontaneity and its humor and, at last, my interest.

Other burnouts are "House" (longer-term, granted) and "Gossip Girl," which have finally dropped from my DVR lineup, forced out by "Chuck" and "How I Met Your Mother."

AM said...

Heroes has been brutal. Instead of creating depth and meaning with the characters, something happens and its "next", lets move on. It's painful to watch at times and needs to end.

You probably could add Nip/Tuck to the list as the Carver saga was its peak and ultimate downfall. (Glee fans take note) To the casual observer, you probably wouldn't even notice that its down to its final 4 episodes as thier hasn't been a peep in the media about it. It was a must-see for everyone at one point.

Dan said...

S4 started quite well, with more focus on character, and the dripfed mystery of the carnival worked fairly well until about episode 11, but now they've spent the back-end of the year padding and going down ridiculous avenues to keep the story going. Heroes should really be a 13-episode long season.

The lower budget this year has also meant a crippling lack of action, and the writers aren't adept enough at writing the characters to turn that into a plus point. They've also had to contend with a few actor absences (most notably Ali Larter), so some of the rewrites have been unfortunate (HRG now teaming up with a woman shoehorned into the story via flashback). And Hiro/Sylar continue to be utterly redundant now.

Anonymous said...

entourage...i dropped heroes and ugly betty after the strike and even though i think of that as pretty good timing i still regret watching those season 2 eps. Actually the ugly betty was okay, specifically the premier with justin's dad. heroes was crap for the whole shortened season.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Other burnouts are "House" (longer-term, granted)

House was too good for too long (and is still insanely popular) to qualify. The idea is shows that were briefly huge (in ratings and/or buzz) and then fell just as quickly off the table, whether they were canceled right away (Twin Peaks) or not (Moonlighting, Heroes).

vmarshmellow said...

I disagree about Ugly Betty. Sure, it doesn't have the same buzz as it did in season one and the writing now isn't as sharp, but the stories and, for the most part, the writing is still good, and the characters are great. For these reasons, I don't think it should be put in the same category as Heroes, which had a sharp decline in all areas of quality after season 1. Heroes should have been put out of its misery a while ago. Ugly Betty still has fans and the stories and characters are still engaging. It's really NOT its time to go.

Television has a very hard time keeping shows with a young, female main protagonist on the air (My So-Called Life, Veronica Mars... at least Buffy lasted a good 7 seasons). TV needs to have that voice represented on its landscape, and Betty was a great one to do so. I hope the networks are able to replace her with another great, young female protagonist fast.

Ugly Betty had some missteps over the years, but what TV show hasn't? Even if you can name one or two, many of the best ones have faltered. It's a shame Ugly Betty is being punished for that.

Tom Galloway said...

Heroes' fall is even odder, given the Tim Kreig written piece (I believe in Entertainment Weekly) around the middle/end of the second season where he basically admitted that all the fan complaints about the second season were right. But the actual corrections never seemed to happen.

Millionaire wasn't just killed by overexposure. The producers started monkeying with basics that made it popular. In my, admittedly biased, opinion, a big plus was the initial phone test to get on; you had people winning who never would've made it past your average game show contestant coordinator, but nevertheless seemed real (and Regis did an excellent job with such). Combining the shift to using said average game show contestant coordinators (supposedly in the name of diversity, since a large percentage of phone test passers were middle-age white males...something that doesn't come as a shock to anyone who looks at who the best players on the University Quiz Bowl circuit and Jeopardy! tend to be [I'm not saying this is a good thing, but it is an observable thing]) and an overload of "celebrity" episodes, and it became a very different show in many ways.

Alan, surprised you didn't mention the Adam West Batman as a flame out example. The first, debuting in January, season had the two weekly episodes finishing at #s 5 and 10 in the ratings (and ABC was, at the time, close to early Fox in terms of general ratings, having only two other shows in the top 30). In the second season, it dropped out of the top 30, and by the third, only once a week and having added Batgirl, season it was down to 48th and cancelled.

Lyle said...

I'd add Gossip Girl to the list, the buzz has suddenly gone silent thanks to, as usual, the kids going to college.

Anonymous said...

What about _Desperate Housewives_?

Anonymous said...

To me the ultimate winner (loser?) in this category is Joan of Arcadia. The first season had big media buzz, great ratings, and an Emmy nomination for best drama. The second season was a critical and ratings flop and it didn't even get a third season. I've never seen such a huge burnout before or since.

Mike said...

I think David E. Kelley deserves to be in the Hall of Fame on this one. Every one of his shows that lasted more than 2 seasons ended up stumbling over itself pretty dramatically (The Practice, Picket Fences, Boston Legal, Boston Public, Chicago Hope. . .)

Billiam said...

Season two started slowly, but I thought the last few episodes of it were mostly pretty good. The "corrections" made for season 3 made the show worse.
Season 4 started off promising by making its stories character-based again. But it hasn't been able to recapture the excitement inherent in the first season. And so while it hasn't been bad, the last half especially hasn't really risen above the level of "decent."

TMoss said...

If "Betty" is on here, it should be with an asterisk. Granted, the show's second season was largely a creative derailment but, like "Heroes", some of that had to do with that year's writer's strike which hurt a lot of shows with a serialized nature.

HOWEVER, the show got itself back on track in season three as unpopular and aimless storylines were largely abandoned or quickly resolved.

Unfortunately, the only viewers who remained were the show's core following. ABC didn't help matters by ridiculously tossing the show to Friday nights.

The show's move to Wednesday nights at 10pm by ABC was more a righting of a wrong than anything else as the show's cancellation was announced three weeks later.

Despite the rating's woes, the show has been on point creatively and will at least have the opportunity to go out on a creative high -- unlike many of the other shows on the list.

Carrie said...

Great list. One quibble, though: although The O.C. had lost it's buzz by that point, season four is really a gem. So much so that The O.C. is the only series where I can throw away my OCD necessity to own a "complete set" of DVDs -- I happily just have seasons one and four.

Tracey said...

(hanging head in shame) Yes, I'm watching Heroes. Actually, this season has been a bit better than the last few, but as Thomas and Dan pointed out, it's got some serious problems. The main flaw in it, I think, is that they keep trying to do a season-long arc instead of stand-alone episodes, but they just don't know how to make it all hang together! Twin Peaks syndrome, a friend of mine calls it: it feels like the writers don't know where it's going, so they just stumble down blind alleys and take us into cul de sacs of narrative. Early in the season, Samuel (the carny) kidnapped Charlie (Hiro's girlfriend), which was intended to be a major motivator ... but that's barely been mentioned since then, and there's no hint of what happened to her. Maybe that will come back in the finale, but I've lost faith in the writers.

Loss of faith: I think that's a key component in what causes some of these things to flame out. You put your trust in the writers that all these ideas they toss at you are going to mean something... and then they don't, and you lose faith. In the first season, they made a big deal about a weird DNA-fragment-like symbol that showed up all over the place, and fans were getting into all kinds of speculation about what it meant... and they never did anything with it. It disappeared in the second season. That's how you lose even the most rabid fans.

Mark S. said...

The biggest problem with Heroes was the second season. It appeared as if the producers were surprised there would be a second season and they didn't know what to do.

When season 2 started with Hiro in the past and both Sylar and Peter had amnesia. It just seemed ridiculous. They never could figure out what to do with Ali Larter or Greg Grunberg and the show flailed it's way into irrelevance.

Another show that had a great first season and then went downhill fast was Picket Fences. The first season was amazing (remember the serial bather) and then in season 2, they decided to bus inner city kids in and the show collapsed on it's own quirkiness.

Craig Ranapia said...

It was a sensation for a couple of months, but Frost and Lynch admittedly didn’t believe they’d be renewed, and had no plan in place when they were.

That's true up to a point, but in a funny way Twin Peaks was also a victim of its own success. Both Lynch and Frost have said when it was a weird little seven episode mid-season replacement, it was basically ignored by ABC -- and tonally it goes some places that are still seriously weird and dark for network TV. Then, when it was a pop culture phenomenon and critical darling, ABC seemed determined to smooth out all the jagged edges that made the show interesting in the first place. (Not helped by Lynch being away shooting 'Wild at Heart' -- which was a pretty odd move for a show so rich in his very quirky sensibility.) What ultimately killed Twin Peaks -- the moment Lynch and Frost solved the murder of Laura Palmer.

If "Betty" is on here, it should be with an asterisk. Granted, the show's second season was largely a creative derailment but, like "Heroes", some of that had to do with that year's writer's strike which hurt a lot of shows with a serialized nature.

You say the same about Lost, which is about as serialised as a show can get -- and in the previous season, while I feel rather sorry for the poor jerks stuck with the thankless roles of Nikki and Paulo, season three also contained some of the show's best episodes.

Ugly Betty, sorry to say, was a case of waiting too long for too little. And to be honest, I don't think all the cast changes and meh-some storylines (a kinder, gentler Willie and MArc? On what planet was that a good idea?) really paid off.

sean said...

Alan,

I'm curious to hear what you think about the idea that Heroes may still get another season in order to qualify it for syndication?

I don't know any details about what it takes for a show to be in syndication or what it would mean in revenue for NBC.....but as a frequent visitor of your blog and other entertainment sites, i've seen this brought up a lot.

I've seen it in a few different message boards/comments sections. Someone says something along the lines of "Heroes will still get a 5th season if only to push it to 100 episodes and make it available for syndication".

Is that possible? Could that be an option?

It doesn't really matter to me either way. The show has gotten so silly that each episode I watch I find myself saying "That's soooo stupid".

finisimapersona said...

I'm not sure if this qualifies as a bona fide burnout, since I wasn't living in the States at the time it debuted and I'm not sure if it had as much of an impact with critics and viewers alike, but "ED" certainly seemed to burst out of the gate only to end up limping towards the finish line.

A lot of friends who caught the pilot told me about it, and when I managed to pick it up I could see why. A simple-yet-engaging premise, lots of quirky characters, en endearing lead, funny recurring gags ("Five bucks..."), great guests... And yet, I started to lose interest around the end of season two, or so.

Oh well, at least the insufferable principal Dennis Martino managed to reinvent himself as that smarmy one-liner-spewing machine named Roger Sterling.

Anonymous said...

I will be shocked if Heroes doesn't come back. Not only will a 5th season allow it to hit 100 episodes, but NBC is in such a bad state that it's actually still a success by their standards.

silverscreen4109 said...

I stuck with Heroes all through season 2 and the beginning of season 3. Then I made the mistake of getting invested in the Sylar/Elle storyline and felt like they were really redeeming Sylar. And then, Sylar killed Elle. And I was done with Heroes.

Zac F. said...

The last episode of Heroes I've watched was the one where the carny leader made the building fall down at the very end. I've got every episode since then on my DVR, but can't bring myself to watch them. That should tell you just how far the show has fallen in my eyes.

Would Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip qualify? I know it was only on for one season, but the buzz surrounding it before it's premiere was astronomical. It started off with a fantastic pilot, stumbled for quite a few episodes and then finished up nicely, but by then, the damage was done thanks to an overstuffed cast and story lines that didn't seem to go anywhere. It doesn't help that the Danny pursuing Jordan story was beyond stupid. Any reasonable woman would have slapped him with a PPO.

If Friday Night Lights would have been canceled after the second season, I would have put it on the list due to the stupid murder plot in Season Two.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Would Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip qualify?

Shows with great pilots that fell off immediately after is a different, much longer list. Also, in my own opinion, the Studio 60 pilot wasn't that good. That was more a case of Sorkin fans being super-excited that he had another show on the air, then taking a few episodes to realize the many, many things wrong with it.

Clevelle said...

I thought the demise of IN LIVING COLOR wasn't due to recycling by the creators, but network interference. I believe there was at least one season of that show that didn't even feature Keenan or Damon Wayans.

Completely agree with the idea that GLEE may be the next of this bunch. Speaking for myself, it appealed to the part of me that loves music and likes to see/hear great performances of it, but beyond that, the stories are weak, if not obnoxious and I've already given up on it. Won't be surprised if that's what happens next year.

Whoever mentioned NIP/TUCK and ENTOURAGE were also spot-on.

Alan Sepinwall said...

One quibble, though: although The O.C. had lost it's buzz by that point, season four is really a gem.

You are correct on that - as I wrote a lot at the time - and an earlier draft of the column had a line about that, which then got cut to fit the print space in the newspaper. I've since restored it.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Entourage, alas, doesn't qualify because there are still lots of people who think it's awesome and can't understand why people like me hate on it.

Craig Ranapia said...

Alan:

Any interest in doing a companion column on shows that went the other way?

Someone certainly needs to tell the Vatican about Parks and Recreation, because the pilot corpsed.

Miguel said...

My favorite part is when Peter borrowed the Haitian's powers then proceeded to attempt to confront a guy with the power of pistol. He left Claire applying pressure on a guy's wound while she shouted "Wait! I'm the one who can't get hurt by bullets!" Then when the gunman found and pointed his gun at Claire, Peter said "you want to point a gun at someone, point it at me." The "goddammit Peter" look on Claire's face was priceless.

dez said...

The main flaw in it, I think, is that they keep trying to do a season-long arc instead of stand-alone episodes, but they just don't know how to make it all hang together!

Kring thinks he can write comic books on TV, and, well, he can't.

And what's with Robert Knepper's wandering Irish accent this season? Do the directors and other actors seriously not notice it? It's so distracting that it's hard to take him seriously as a villain. "Heroes"'s inattention to detail is one reason I've been so disappointed it. That, and the lack of joy in Hiro this season.

NJ Mark B said...

It wasn't just the celebrity episodes that killed WWTBAM, it was the incessant reruns of those episodes.

The show started as a special event in August when everyone else was in reruns. But when it became a regular series, they fell into the same broadcasting cycle as any other series.

"Heroes will still get a 5th season if only to push it to 100 episodes and make it available for syndication".

"100 episodes" is no longer the magic number (if it ever was) or great hurdle where if you have it, you can go into syndication and if you don't, you're shut out.

These days, most series go into syndication starting after 4 years, after which (figuring 22-24 per season) they only have about 88-92 eps.

The only requirement is that a sufficient number of stations (or barring that, a single cable outlet) think people will want to watch it.

How many years did The Honeymooners run ... with just 39?!

Tom Sanford said...

Would "Commander in Chief" count? It started off with great buzz, great stories, good ratings, then the second half of the season it was so bad it seemed like it was trying to get cancelled.

Bitsy said...

My issue with Ugly Betty was that these great character developments would happen, like Daniel having a son that ended up being Alexis's, only to have both the son and Alexis wiped out (granted that was partially because of ABC forcing out any remotely controversial characters), or even with Wilhelmina's baby, or her boyfriend, both getting snatched up out of the plot once the climax had occurred. I crave character development, not cul de sacs.

Mark said...

Does Northern Exposure belong on this list? What about Thirtysomething? I also think to some extent the Sopranos fits the bill.

I agree that Twin Peaks is the quintessential one-year wonder--but what an amazing year it was.

jenmoon said...

I tend to lose interest in a show either when the writing goes off the rails or I'm bored.

Heroes...'nuff said there. I guess we could blame it on the creators not wanting to keep any of their actors per season but being forced to do so, but the constant switching motivations and lies (was West evil or not? The writers sure don't know) just made people annoyed. I recently started listening to "The Tobolowsky Files" and apparently he didn't know what the hell was going on with his character on the show either.

In the case of Ugly Betty, I was thoroughly bored by the Daniel/Willi/Molly/Connor quadrangle, COMBINED with being really annoyed at the "Waah! Betty, move back home to take care of your father!" storyline, snapped, and couldn't watch it any more. I've popped in briefly here and there and thought things like, "Bringing back Willi's daughter? Mistake," and given up again.

And My Name Is Earl, well, it seemed like the writers got bored with the premise way too soon and then started switching to new, lamer premises (Earl in a coma + Alyssa Milano = argh).

I liked Joan of Arcadia, but the only thing I really thought went off the rails there was breaking up Adam and Joan, that kind of smacked of "mandatory breakup." But it could have gone interesting places in season 3, darn it.

Jon88 said...

Another reader surprised "Nip/Tuck" didn't make the article, especially given its direct link to "Glee." Which I would have mentioned in the Comments at the newspaper's website, except that didn't work. Pfui.

Heather said...

Oh dear Glee might actually go to that route too. I am already wondering out loud how they're going to continue the series when the kids graduate.

Mike said...

I was watching Heroes earlier this season, but couldn't handle it anymore about halfway through. I started fast-forwarding through all Claire scenes, which helped, but not enough. I finally stopped watching once the new year rolled around. So all in all, the carny season has sucked.

Anthony Strand said...

Some excellent choices in the comments - Ed and My Name is Earl, especially. Ed was so much fun for that first season, and then it instantly became non-stop, ridiculous "Keep Ed and Carol apart for no reason" nonsense.

As for "My Name is Earl", I remember reading a lot in the first season about how it was going to be the single-camera sitcom that finally gave that format a mainstream hit. By the beginning of the second season, it seemed like nobody remembered it even existed.

Those same articles usually listed The Office as one that was narrow in its appeal. And if anything, that turned out to be NBC's signature comedy of the decade. Mostly through reruns and DVDs, but still. People love that thing.

Kristen said...

They gave Bennett a previous wife? WTF?

I only stopped watching a few weeks ago (I held out as long as I could), but for the past couple years I've just had it on while I do other stuff. My main complaint is that they do the same story over and over, but have the characters get dumber and dumber.

Alan Sepinwall said...

I would not, by the way, be shocked if NBC were to renew Heroes. Angela Bromstad developed it at the NBC/Uni studio and has a sentimental attachment to it, plus it does very well overseas and in terms of other ancillary ways that aren't reflected in the Nielsens. They could order one more season and treat it as a kind of loss-leader, where they don't care how it does on NBC so long as it makes them money elsewhere.

Of course, that kind of thinking led to The Jay Leno Show.

Josh said...

If Heroes comes back, then Chuck and Community are both coming back, right? Because those shows have better ratings (Chuck's are far better), and Chuck has a more rabid fanbase. Or does that not count to the uber-smart NBC execs?

dez said...

They gave Bennett a previous wife? WTF?

Previous wife with bun in the oven. Plus, it was an interracial marriage. Brief and politically correct, too!

Alan Sepinwall said...

NBC owns Heroes (and therefore makes money on things like foreign sales), while outside studios produce Chuck and Community.

I'd say odds are good for Chuck and pretty good for Community, but the ownership thing can't be overlooked.

Col Bat Guano said...

I dropped Heroes after the New Year. I just couldn't take another plot line built up as important only to be dropped five episodes later. That and the Claire/roommated implied romance.

Although Glee has been a lot of fun, I can see it getting old fast.

Josh said...

Ah, I'd forgotten about that magical word: ownership. I guess I'm just not aware of how much extraneous money can be made off a show that gets roughly 4 million viewers each week now. Not being snippy with you, Alan; I'm just a bit baffled that Heroes has even a sliver of a chance of renewal, while Chuck does far, far better.

Anonymous said...

I had a Heroes post ready to go, but Thomas's post (2nd one from the top) said it all much better than me.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Okay, this is kinda funny. Someone from Trump's company, at his request, e-mailed me a bunch of news clippings designed to dispute my inclusion of The Apprentice on the list. Of course, all the clippings were about either season 1 (i.e., before I said the show fell apart) or the Celeb edition (which is essentially a different show, and the only way the format works given what Trump turned into after original-recipe season 1).

dez said...

The Hair reads Alan! You must feel so proud :-)

srpad said...

I gave up on Heroes midway through last season. When they had their winter break, I decided I didn't care enough to come back but I just wanted to say that I love these "big picture" type articles. I wish that you did more of them. If it helps, I read (and buy) the ledger evey day!

Craig Ranapia said...

Okay, this is kinda funny.

But admit it -- a little tickle of the ego that Trump (or more likely, someone in his office) reads your column? :)

Anonymous said...

This reminds me of this Bulwer Lytton dishonorable mention from 2005:

"James found "Spider-Man 2" to be quite an average movie, like a superhero episode of "Dawson's Creek," but not from the excellent first season, nor from the horrible final seasons, but rather from somewhere in the mid-run of the show, when it wasn't as good as it used to be but it didn't totally suck yet."

David J. Loehr said...

Two that popped immediately to mind were the 60's "Batman"--which I see has already been mentioned--and "The Man from UNCLE," which picked up steam in season 1, believed its hype in season 2, tilted into full camp in season 3 and died during an abbreviated season 4 despite a return to more grounded, decent stories.

Anonymous said...

if anyone can tell me what the point of the carny thing has been id love to hear it

they just really need to kill off most of this cast and move on.

Hyde said...

Does Northern Exposure belong on this list?

I think not, because that was actually a terrific show for the majority of its run, though I agree its last season was an abomination.

I'd add Gossip Girl to the list, the buzz has suddenly gone silent thanks to, as usual, the kids going to college.

I would argue that Gossip Girl was never a hit to begin with, though it was phenomenally successful at generating buzz.

I would not, by the way, be shocked if NBC were to renew Heroes...

There's another factor at work here too: NBC just flat out needs scripted programming.

I agree that David E. Kelley has just about mastered this phenomenon. With the possible exception of Chicago Hope, which didn't have as far to fall because it was never great to begin with, none of his shows have maintained their quality past year two. Picket Fences was particularly tragic--they may have been the best show on TV in its first season.

I would also throw Dirty Sexy Money into the mix here: very entertaining for a few months, but never the same after the writers' strike.

Henry said...

Smallville, maybe Alan? And this isn't because it fits with the theme with Heroes. It was popular for a couple of seasons then just dropped off the table and is now so long in the tooth that it seems to be barely watched.

Karen said...

Not to squelch Alan's magnificence, but I'm sure it's not so much that Trump reads What's Alan Watching?, as it is that his office has a Google feed of everything that mentions his name.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Karen's theory is certainly the more likely option.

What's odd is that I made the exact same argument about what killed Apprentice in my Best of the '00s list of reality shows, and heard not a peep. Maybe The Trump Organization takes December off?

Ingrid said...

Smallville is one of these shows. It is way past its prime and I constantly taunt my husband for still watching it. Supernatural is going the same route. They need to end that show this year.

Gossip Girl is also starting to burn out. They should have ended it in season 2.

I think part of the problem would be solved if TV shows in the US were planned to last a predetermined amount of time (one or two seasons. That way nobody is tempted to prolong a show as infinitum at the expense of quality.

Matt S said...

Bernie Mac Show---huge hit first 2 seasons---people were barely aware of its existence by the end (yes it didn't help that fox ended up putting it quietly on fridays after bouncing it around the sked like a ping pong ball for most of its 3rd year.)

Titus--altho that was hardly a giant hit--but quality wise there's a big dip between those first 2 seasons and the 3rd season.

Dark Angel--that show was gigantic its first season--often getting like 10-12 mill viewers every Tuesday night---then Fox decided to ship it off to Fridays in favor of 24 (which was good for 24 but terrible for Dark Angel which died.)

Craig Ranapia said...

I think part of the problem would be solved if TV shows in the US were planned to last a predetermined amount of time (one or two seasons. That way nobody is tempted to prolong a show as infinitum at the expense of quality.

I think the Lost boys would agree with you there, and I'll go even further. I'm really enjoying the second seasons of Being Human and Survivors.

(Series one of Survivors premières on BBC America, Saturday, at 8/7 central. Being Human will return later this year.)

I think a lot of it comes from the six episode seasons. Perhaps you can indulge two or three (or more) episodes of filler when you've got an order for 13-20, not when that's half your run tossed off.

Sonia said...

Someone said that David E Kelley should be in the Hall of Fame here - I agree. Most of his shows start out SO strong and then just die, making you wonder if you were hallucinating those first 20 or so shows...LOL

I'm not sure I'd include thirtysomething or FNL on this list -- not sure if those shows would qualify as major hits that just flamed out.

Nip/Tuck -- definitely burned out. I stopped watching after they showed what would happen in the future. Thanks a lot. And how many serial killers/plastic surgeon can there be?

Entourage is just not good anymore. Not like it was.

And In Living Color was a MUST SEE in it's heyday. I remember seeing Jim Carrey do stand up at a club in NJ (during his short ILC run) and we were all pinching ourselves b/c we had the opportunity to see such a MAJOR talent do his thing on a small stage. I still laugh thinking about KIW saying "NO Emmy? NO peace!" LOL

Heroes and Ugly Betty certainly qualify -- The first season of Heroes was pretty close to perfect, with "Company Man" being one of the most amazing episodes of ANY show, ever. And Ugly Betty was just adorable, but some of the story lines just got silly...it was so much better when Betty had to deal with people judging her on her appearance. The abuse she endured from Mark and Amanda was both hilarious and sad. I dunno...the show just became a giant sad joke. Time for her braces to come off now...

And yes, I'm afraid Glee might wind up on this list...but rather than be afraid, my daughter and I will enjoy the show for what it is now, pure fun!!

Jon said...

I've enjoyed s4 of Heroes quite a bit, after being ready to quit before Fuller came on last year. It's not s1 good, but very watchable again. Probably time to put it out of its misery though.

Paula said...

Alan, you forgot Murder One? The first season with Daniel Benzali was considered one of the finest programs around. The second season on the other hand with Anthony Lapaglia was blah.

Jim said...

I'd add Six Feet Under (skimmed through the comments, didn't see it mentioned). Every season, almost every show had its moments, but by the end of the run they even made Rachel Griffiths boring.

Great finale, though

LAprGuy said...

Saw the convo on Twitter and then went to read the list. Thanks for reminding everyone about "Moonlighting" - I remember several weeks where new episodes were due and repeats aired instead!

Sad to write that "HIMYM" is being penciled onto my "I think I'm done with this show" list right now. It's not in ink yet, but very close.

Hatfield said...

I agree with Craig, except I'd say all dramatic and/or serialized shows should just have a max/minimum of 12 or 13. Certainly filler would still appear, but not as much as with longer seasons. I just feel like only six wouldn't be long enough for the truly great shows, even if it improved some of the good but not great lot

Craig Ranapia said...

Fair point well made, Hatfield. I didn't find the last episode of 'Caprica' as gripping in its own right, overall, as 'Rebirth' but there's obviously a lot being set up to play out later. "Filler" is a bit harsh.

But I'd still argue that FlashForward would be a damn sight better if it had been a five episode mini-series, a la Torchwood: Children of Earth. The shorter run, IMO, forced everyone to turn out a piece of work that was all killer, no filler -- there was, quite literally, no time to do anything else.

To put it another way, not every poem has to be the length of Paradise Lost or The Divine Comedy to be beautiful. Sometimes, a sonnet or even a haiku gets the job done, and the art lies in knowing when that's all you need.

Hatfield said...

Yes! There are numeroud shows that are based on great ideas that just don't have any kind of creative longevity. Dollhouse, for example, was much better once they knew they were ending, and I think it could have been one very interesting 13-part miniseries if that had always been the intent. Maybe two 10 episode seasons.

Otto Man said...

Maybe The Trump Organization takes December off?

Nah, they were probably busy caroling with orphans and working at soup kitchens.

Kenrick said...

Oh Heroes. How I had great hopes for you. The biggest tragedy in my mind is that it had such a promising premise and failed so miserably (after season one). I'm not so bummed that this particular series failed, but I'm more bummed that this might prevent other people to take a crack at a series with essentially the same initial premise.

For me, Dexter has burned out. Loved season one. Season two was entertaining enough. Then I didn't get past the first few episodes of season three.

Anonymous said...
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Alan Sepinwall said...

Hi. There's a "Chuck" post already up at the top of the blog. Please do not discuss/spoil tonight's episode of "Chuck" in other posts. Thank you.

Rinaldo said...

I think Alan's initial examples are pretty much the ideal ones, and many of them came to mind when I saw the title.

Does Northern Exposure belong on this list? What about Thirtysomething?

Not sure about Northern Exposure. Was it ever a really big deal? It sure did fizzle out toward the end, though. I likewise don't think Ed qualifies as "burning hot" at any point in its run; it had a quiet appeal to its fans but was never the show everyone was talking about, was it?

I definitely disagree with thirtysomething as an example: as far as I know it was never a ratings barnburner, but its loyal audience (me included) pretty much stayed to the end, and I don't think there was ever a dropoff in quality.

Allison DeWitt said...

The thread may be coming to a close but it's a very interesting one.

Someone said that David E Kelley should be in the Hall of Fame here - I agree. Most of his shows start out SO strong and then just die, making you wonder if you were hallucinating those first 20 or so shows.

Some certainly made me think I was hallucinating later episodes. "Picket Fences" ..the one called "Away in the Manger "..alien DNA being injected in cows, maybe but they were breeding human babies...geezus.

When you want to hit your TV with a bat, it's not a good sign.

I think it may be a combination of a novelty wearing off, a change in writers or just that the writers stay and can't be as original as they were. "Glee" definitely shows some warning signs. Shows can get stuck in lame soap opera story lines with forced controversies, heartbreak, "when will they get back together?" plots, or they get too depressing.

Oh, "Joan of Arcadia"..alas, you were one of the latter. And you had such a great cast.

IMO, "Heroes" couldn't find anything as compelling as the great "Save the cheerleader, save the world" theme. I gave up in the second year except for a few peeks.

Jenny said...

I got one burnout for you -- Prison Break! It fits the bill entirely. A good first season with huge audience response and then... well, I for one, was thrilled when it was cancelled this past spring, because the fourth season was truly awful.

It would be kind to say it was a victim of the writerss strike, but its truncated third season was, in my opinion, quite good and certainly better than the second season.

I'll second (or third, or whatever) Joan of Arcadia. I loved the first season so hard, but was glad when the second season was the last.

And weirdly enough, both of these series involved Wentworth Miller. Hm.

jacarr said...

Malcolm in the Middle maybe? I didn't watch it, but I seem to recall it get a good bit of buzz.

My quick research at the Font of all Knowledge says it had 20+ million viewers for its first and second episode and ended its first season with an average of 12 million viewers (not helped by Fox shuffling it all over the schedule). Its final 2 seasons had ratings under 6 million viewers.

njames said...

The Drew Carey Show went from unknown to smash hit to unknown again.

Matt S. said...

I don't think Malcom in The Middle or drew carrey show could count here because those were gigantic hits for the large majority of their run-----they didn't begin to shed their audience until their last 2 years---which is normal for any long running show---Drew Carrey was on for 9 years---the fact that he got good ratings for the large majority of those years doesn't mean the show burned hot then burned out--it just means abc was stuck with a multi year contract with its star that it couldn't get out of (or didn't feel it was worth the millions it would take to get out of) if 2 and a half men were to suddenly take a massive nose dive in ratings--it would still be on for another 2 seasons because cbs signed a massive multi year contract with the cast and producer.

would That 70's show sount? that show was over with all its contracts after its 7th year but fox realizing it had Zero sitcoms greedily wanted it around for one more year.

cgeye said...

I never screamed "I hate you, I hate you!" at a TV series before, but I did when Sylar on-the-nosed "It's a Brave New World" last night. Good God, NYC is a metropolis, with possibly thousands of mutants about in Manhattan, and this clown Samuel needs people *that close* to cause mayhem?

And haven't people been exposed to the reality of them at least once? Wasn't there a plague or something? A fight in Kirby Plaza?

They gave Bennett a previous wife? WTF?

Previous wife with bun in the oven. Plus, it was an interracial marriage. Brief and politically correct, too!


And the corker? The miscegenationist Noah was a playwright? Those boys in the writers' room were that jealous of the Cigarette Smoking Man's writing career? Anyone see a creative bone in Noah's body? Any encouragement of his kids doing drama? A Playbill on a coffee table? *sigh*

Jemiah said...

Still watching Heroes. Still loving it. Never stopped. And I hope intensely for a fifth season; I want to see what comes next. I am intensely sorry that I am in such a small minority in having immensely enjoyed the entire series. I always thought that it was strange that anybody but me liked the show in the first place; I guess it was a fluke after all, and a viewership of one extremely avid fan isn't really enough to justify a $10 million-per-episode budget. I only wish it were.

DJ Doena said...

I actually liked the beginning of Season 4. It was slower, the world wasn't immediately at risk and the characters could develop without running from desaster to desaster.

Then I began to wonder where this was all heading and wished they would speed up things a little.

Then Hira had his weird trial where I never understood how that healed him.

Then I figured out that the end would be like "X-Men The Last Stand".

That was three episodes ago. And I thought to myself: Ok, now will everything come slowely together, they will show how Cello-Woman is involved and in the end the Heroes will fight Samuel.

And then happend last week and someone said to me: This week is the last episode.

And I thought: WTF? First they don't do anything for 15.5 episodes and then they rush things to an end because they run out of time?!?

I haven't seen the finale yet but I cannot imagine how they'll find an even slightly feasible way to bring Claire/HRG, Peter/Sylar, Hiro/Ando AND Cello-Woman to the fair in one episode and have a decent showdown.

They are propably letting me down like they did with that ridiculous Katana ramming attack in Season 1.

Anonymous said...

"Heroes" totally broke my heart when Sylar killed Nathan, and I was refusing to come back for this year. Hubby convinced me to give it a try, and I'm seriously glad I did -- S4 has been almost as good as S1. I do hope there's a S5, despite the COMPLETELY POINTLESS AND FIXABLE death of Nathan. Granted the Sylar-as-Nathan storyline was interesting, why fire one of the top five actors on the show?

"Heroes" is "Passions" for the sci-fi set: cheeseball soap opera. You cannot take it seriously. In fact, you cannot assume that the writers remember what happened a few episodes ago, or that they even have rules for their universe. (Seriously. Doing something burns energy, just like moving muscles. Every time Claire regenerates or Sylar uses telekinesis, they should immediately have to run off and scarf down a dozen cheeseburgers, or faint from hunger.)

But why can't sci-fi fans have a cheeseball soap? We have our gritty drama (BSG), our serious soap (Caprica), our formula franchises (Star Trek and Stargate), our interesting flawed miniseries (Dollhouse), our western (firefly), our teen series (Buffy and Angel) -- why not a popcorn show?

dez said...

The problem with "Heroes" can be summed up in two words: Tim Kring. They seriously need to fire him and then give Bryan Fuller (my two-word solution) free reign and any amount of money he wants to fix the show. First up: Get rid of Sylar. Then get rid of Claire. Course-correct the damage done to HRG, then make Hiro become bad-ass Future Hiro (but without the melancholy) and go from there. Hell, I'll even accept Peter if the give him a brain transplant.

Then Hira had his weird trial where I never understood how that healed him.

All that did was give him the will to live and tap back into his powers the "right way" (i.e., not being selfish). The doctors operating on his brain tumor healed him. The ending they gave Charlie and Hiro was about the only thing they did right in the season (and possible series) finale.

Ant$ said...

Heroes this season has been downright awful.

the only scenes worth watching have Hiro and Ando in them...




this season's Big Bad has to be one of the worst in the history of television!!!