How do the mighty fall? When it comes to television, it’s a combination of factors. Some television series — like Breaking Bad and The Wire — managed to keep momentum going throughout their entire run. But many, if not most, become harder and harder to watch as the years drag on.
Sometimes, it’s a slow decline. Other times, series completely go off the rails, seemingly without warning. Crazy plot lines. A lack of originality. Characters that are killed off too soon — or not soon enough. All of these things can make a once-buzzed about series fall out of fans’ good graces. And while TV fans are notoriously devout when they find a show they like, even the most ardent fans will eventually give up on a series if its show runners make too many missteps. Here are five current TV series that went from “can’t miss” to “can’t watch.”
1. True Detective
When HBO announced they were teaming up with Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson to produce a gritty, serial crime drama, the idea sounded ambitious — some might even say crazy. And the first season of True Detective was crazy, in the best way possible. The series felt more like an experience than a television show — with first rate performances from a high-caliber cast, out-there characters, and cutting-edge storytelling. When the first season wrapped up in 2014, many fans eagerly awaited the next installment, which promised an entirely new story and cast.
Unfortunately, last year True Detective delivered on the new, but it was in no way improved. The second season was bogged down with dull and unlikable characters and a far less compelling storyline. By the end, a majority of fans — from the casual to the devout — completely abandoned ship. And HBO will have a hard time getting that core fan base back if they choose to continue True Detective in Season 3.
Once upon a time, this gripping Showtime series about the CIA’s counter-terrorism efforts was one of the most lauded shows on television. For the first few seasons, Carrie (Claire Danes) fought with mental health issues and increasing paranoia as she tried to determine whether a recently released hostage soldier Brody (Damien Lewis) was radicalized. It was mesmerizing television — from Carrie and Brody’s increasingly complicated relationship to the high stakes that befell each of the multi-layered, flawed characters. But by the end of the third season, many of the characters were making the same mistakes again and again and the plot became increasingly implausible. As a result, Homeland became largely unwatchable. While it’s now wrapped up its fifth season — and some critics feel it has redeemed itself — it was too late for many fans who had long since stopped caring.
An FBI agent and anthropologist work together to solve challenging crimes. They have increasingly obvious sexual tension. Will they or won’t they get together? For many seasons of Bones, that premise kept us watching. It was a fun mix of fascinating crime stories and will-they-or-won’t-they speculation. Spoiler alert — they did. And while Bones (Emily Deschanel) and Booth (David Boreanaz) make for a perfectly serviceable on-screen couple, much of the magic of the series was lost. The plot often felt rote and derivative once they settled into domestic bliss. Now in its 11th season, Bones is one of those shows you sometimes see commercials for and marvel that it’s still on, since the magic has long since been gone.
4. The Daily Show
Until recently, Comedy Central’s The Daily Show was a main source of news and entertainment for many of us. And that was undeniably thanks to its recently retired host, Jon Stewart. For more than 15 years, he stunned us and made us laugh with his quick-witted analysis of current events. While The Daily Show was always bolstered by an unbelievably strong supporting cast of satirists-as-news-correspondents, it became abundantly clear this summer that Stewart was the glue that held the series together. It’s not that Trevor Noah hasn’t done an impressive job as Stewart’s replacement — imagine trying to fill those shoes. But he hasn’t quite found his stride yet, and unfortunately many TV fans and critics don’t want to stick around to wait for him to figure the gig out.
5. American Idol
In its 13 years on the air, American Idol has made a big impression. It resurrected the talent show. It gave a platform to high-profile talents like Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood, and even season nine cast-off Tori Kelly. But while American Idol once held the promise of letting the audience create a superstar out of an ordinary singer, it’s recently failed to deliver. Sure, there’s a winner every year. But over time — despite shaking up the judging panel — the process has begun to feel redundant. And while most of us can remember when Chris Daughtry was shockingly eliminated from the competition in 2005, how many of us even know who won in 2015? American Idol has taken the hint from its waning fan base — the latest season, which concluded in January, was its last.