8 TV Shows That Have Lost Their Mojo
Television shows become like friends. They’re good company on lonely days, imploring you to think, laugh, cry, and spend time with a few characters you come to know and love (or at least tolerate). But like friends (or Friends), they can also overstay their welcome. Blind to quality and concerned primarily with profitability, networks are prone to keeping shows on air far longer than most fans know they ought to, leading so many great series to unfortunately jump the shark. These current TV shows that have lost their mojo have tested my limits as a viewer a few too many times, but fans can take comfort knowing the early episodes will still be around — just like memories of old pals that have changed irreparably over the years.
1. The Simpsons
Where once The Simpsons was the epitome of creative comedy on network television, the beloved animated series has become the poster child for shows that have passed their prime but continue anyway, now in its 27th season and showing no signs of stopping. The first nine (or so, depending on who you ask) seasons of the show were truly brilliant and, in one way or another, inspired most of the best comedy series and writers in television since. But the modern seasons feel somehow hollow in comparison. The jokes are forced, and worse, the characters are often all wrong, pale imitations of the ones we knew and loved in the first seasons.
2. Family Guy
While we’re on the subject of adult animation (and particularly series inspired by the Simpsons template), Family Guy was once a show deserving of praise — a low-rated animation underdog that found a hundred unique ways to be hilarious per episode in its original run on Fox. It felt like it had something to prove, but something was lost when the show was revived in 2005 due to high DVD sales and rerun ratings on Adult Swim. The jokes were increasingly desperate, overlong, and irrelevant to each week’s flimsy half-baked plot, and the characters — never Family Guy‘s strong suit in the first place — became obnoxious exaggerations of their former selves, completely abandoning the idea that the characters were a family who actually, kind of, loved each other.
3. The Walking Dead
Let’s be honest — The Walking Dead has always been a series defined by its wonderful potential, a high bar set by the source material and online buzz that the show itself could never quite reach due to a reliance on soapy character drama and repetitive story beats amidst all the ambitious horror world building. Each season has its high water marks and defenders, but I’d say the bad has been threatening to outweigh the good since around season four, and the ludicrous developments and confused plotting of Season 6 make things look grim for future episodes.
4. Law & Order: Special Victims Unit
The Law & Order series and its spinoffs have always been about procedural crime-of-the-week drama over any actual character development, but amidst all its intimate recounts of violent sexual crimes, NBC’s Law & Order: SVU actually managed to create a compelling, if slow, arc for Christopher Meloni’s Elliot Stabler before he was unceremoniously dumped offscreen in the show’s 13th season finale. Mariska Hargitay’s Olivia Benson has been left to carry the series since, but without their partner dynamic and Meloni’s performance, there’s little to distract from the ugly true crime exhibition and unsubtle moralizing nowadays.
Like any Shonda Rhimes series, Scandal is all about the entertainingly dense dialogue and soapy inter-character relationships at its core — far more than it’s about the actual goings-on of political insiders and crisis management firms. But the over-the-top developments of recent seasons — including a real declaration of war after the kidnapping of series star and presidential mistress Olivia Pope engineered by the villainous vice president — have pushed things too absurdly far away from reality while also rendering every major character completely unlikable.
6. Grey’s Anatomy
The monster hit of a hospital series upon which Rhimes built her career has also gone severely astray in recent years, though it took far longer to lose its mojo than Scandal has. After arguably 10 seasons of shaky yet mostly consistent soapy yet truly unpredictable drama full of well-articulated sentiments, Grey’s Anatomy seems to have finally run out of directions to go, resulting in plenty of desperate plot developments and character shakeups — including the unceremonious killing of a favorite character since the beginning — that make it clear the series should call it quits sooner rather than later.
7. Modern Family
Modern Family has always been television comfort food, bringing the mockumentary setup of The Office to a multi-generational family sitcom that was old-fashioned and unthreatening where The Office was often painfully awkward and biting in its satire of corporate life-wasting. Over time, the show’s safe approach to its subject has become increasingly boring and formulaic in between miscalculated attempts to tackle actual issues. Oh, and most importantly — it’s not funny anymore.
Wait, Bones is still going? Even though it was founded upon an only mildly interesting procedural concept (an anthropologist who solves crimes with bones, and also people call her Bones!) and a will-they-won’t-they dynamic that should have been resolved as “they will” after only three seasons? Wow. Fox really needs to let Bones and Booth get together so the show can finally end.
Follow Jeff Rindskopf on Twitter @jrindskopf
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