Any good showrunner knows that you need to get your audience hooked as quickly as possible. Countless TV shows have a strong first season which pulls in the viewing figures up and secures itself for renewal. Unfortunately, so many series have no long term view, and they fall apart thanks to ridiculous plotting and loose threads.
10. Two and a Half Men
When it first aired, ‘Two and a Half Men’ had an exciting hook. Charlie Sheen played a hedonistic jingle writer living as a bachelor in a Malibu beach house, only to have his world shattered when his uptight brother and nephew move in. It was the role Sheen was born to play but, despite maintaining a steady viewership of 15 million (helping Sheen nab a $1.8 million fee per episode), the show soon struggled for storylines and relied on quick, cheap gags. After Sheen’s highly publicised departure, the creator still felt he could rescue the show with the addition of Ashton Kutcher. Despite being given a further two seasons, the results were more abysmal and it came to a close after 262 episodes.
9. Gossip Girl
Based on the book of the same name by author Cecily von Ziegesar, ‘Gossip Girl’ revolves around the lives of privileged young adults living on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. Their exploits and affairs are all narrated by the omniscient and mysterious titular blogger. Although it was pretty much a well-done soap opera, the first season was both popular and gripping as it focused on a character’s sudden return after a mysterious disappearance. Suddenly, the show became ridiculous with everyone hooking up with each other. The charm was gone. Critics and fans alike took pleasure in condemning the finale which revealed who ‘Gossip Girl’ really was – causing plot holes galore and widespread viewer indignation.
8. Desperate Housewives
When the housewives of Wisteria Lane debuted in 2004, audiences were hooked by this exciting new soap. Following the lives of the lead characters as they worked through their domestic struggles whilst facing the secrets and mysteries of their sinister suburbia, ‘Desperate Housewives’ received rave initial reviews. However, the writers simply couldn’t keep delivering A-standard episodes week after week. To keep things fresh, the series suddenly jumped forward five years after the season 4 finale. But this didn’t seem to help and we were treated to outlandish plots – including the bizarre sudden blindness of a supporting character. It all finally came an end after 8 seasons, becoming the longest running television show with an all female lead cast.
7. Grey’s Anatomy
Premiering in 2005, ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ is a medical drama centring on the lives of surgical interns and residents as they become seasoned doctors, all the while still trying to keep their personal lives and relationships afloat. Despite maintaining high viewership and going strong after an astonishing 11 seasons, this is one series that should have been cancelled a long time ago. Silly storylines included the death of a heart transplant patient who later reappeared as a ghost and an entire musical episode in the 7th season. Lead actor Patrick Dempsey even believed it to be a step in the wrong direction, commenting “Last year we had the singing episode, which I think was a big mistake”. Thanks to fans who will probably never jump ship, the show has been resuscitated year after year.
Controversial British teen drama ‘Skins’ followed the lives of a group of teens living in Bristol through their two years of sixth form. The series held no punches and dealt with a series of contentious storylines related to mental illness, sexuality, drugs, death and bullying. The first series was a ratings success and nabbed favourable reviews. After a gripping climax which left the fate of a central character unknown, fans were eager for its return. Despite an adequate second season which saw some downpoints but gave closure, the writers replaced the entire cast with a new one for season 3. It was at this point the quality dropped even more substantially; it seemed as though every storyline had already been covered and we were simply in it for the shock value. Shockingly, the show concluded after 7 seasons, but should have really ended after the first 7 episodes.
5. The O.C.
Much in the spirit of previous teen dramas like ‘Dawson’s Creek’, ‘The O.C.’ follows a group of teenagers and their families living in the affluent region of Newport Beach. The show centred on Ryan Atwood; a troubled teen who is given a second chance when he is adopted by the wealthy Cohen family. Along with his surrogate brother Seth, the storylines revolved around the culture clash the family suffer as they mingle with the close-minded people who surround them. The first season started with high ratings and was seen as a pop cultural phenomenon, but viewers and reviews soon began to take a sharp dive as the show progressed with increasingly ridiculous storylines. Even the creator saw season 3 as “a complete mess” and felt that a few characters had unsatisfying storylines. Although season 4 saw a return to form, the damage was done and ‘The O.C’ was promptly cancelled after its 92nd episode.
4. True Blood
Based on ‘The Southern Vampire Mysteries’ anthology of books by Charlaine Harris, ‘True Blood’ hit our screens in 2008, riding high on the vampire hype train. In its fictional world vampires had ‘come out’ and announced their existence to humanity thanks to the creation of the synthetic blood, ‘Tru Blood’. The series revolves around a telepathic waitress with a heart of gold and her interactions (and love triangles) with some sexy looking Southern vampires. The first season was fairly low key with a plot centred around a serial killer as well as exploring the themes to changes in society; those who support the vampires, and those who are repulsed by their existence. Unfortunately, with each series renewal new supernatural forces were brought into play. This included werewolves, shapeshifters and even fairies. What started off with great potential spiralled down until we were just watching it for the sex scenes.
3. Prison Break
Fox’s hit show ‘Prison Break’ started with an intriguing premise. Dominic Purcell plays Lincoln Burrows, a convicted felon who is wrongfully arrested for murder of the brother of the Vice President. His brother Michael Scofield, played by Wentworth Miller, is a structural engineer who intentionally gets himself arrested with the hopes of breaking out with an elaborate plan. Along the way, the two make uneasy alliances with a smuggler, a psychopath and a mafiosa. After a nail biting season finale, the group managed to escape the prison with guards hot on their heels. Season 2 follows our fugitives as they plan to escape to Panama, a country with no extradition with the US. Unfortunately, the writers seemed to be losing steam fast, with each episode going downhill in quality. Season 3 decided to go back to the roots of the series with the gang plotting as escape after being imprisoned in a corrupt Panamanian prison. Despite their best efforts, the show got more out of control before a lackluster final season tried to wrap up all the loose ends satisfactorily.
From the mind of the person who brought us ‘Nip/Tuck’ and ‘American Horror Story’ came a much more family friendly, mainstream show in the shape of ‘Glee’. A musical drama-comedy, the show follows the high school glee club, New Directions, as they compete in hopes of winning the glee nationals. The series was initially well received for its exploration of social issues facing teenagers but by the series renewal it had moved well away from satire and the cast became the stereotypes they were once lampooning. Even worse, ‘Glee’ started to focus on celebrity cameos, ranging from Carrot Top to Gwyneth Paltrow, as it lost its deft, subtle touch. Even diehard ‘gleek’ fans had to admit that they could sigh a breath of relief when it finally came to an end in the sixth season.
‘Heroes’ was an audacious big budget effort from NBC. The show capitalised on the superhero craze as it followed ordinary people who suddenly discovered they have superhuman abilities after a solar eclipse. The main antagonist was the ever mysterious Sylar (played by Zachary Quinto); a super powered serial killer who targets other superhumans and steals their powers. Unfortunately, the exciting premise took a sharp dive in the second season. Sylar, who was the most intriguing character, was depowered before finding his powers again and then proceeded to flip-flop between hero and villain every other episode. A host of new characters were brought in, all equally unappealing as each other, but with no real structured plot ‘Heroes’ was finally cancelled after a shortened fourth series. A new miniseries has been announced, but time will tell if there is any interest left in this dead, superpowered horse.