There are some shows that stay great forever, things like Castle and Psych come to mind. Then there are shows that never really started strong and go downhill from there, shows like Under the Dome and Revolution. And then there are the shows that I’m talking about here, shows that start out fantastic, run for a season or two and go straight to hell. They go from being one of my favorite shows to one that I really can’t stand and often drop, or just stick with out of sympathy for how it used to be in the good old days. These are shows like Continuum, Orphan Black and the original Heroes.
I started thinking about this after Continuum came back and we re-watched the first season of Heroes in anticipation for the upcoming Heroes Reborn. Why, oh why did these shows go on as long as they did?
Starting off with Continuum, which is now, at least when I write this, in it’s abbreviated final season, this is a show that I thought was amazing in the first season, a unique take on time travel that continued, with a little less enthusiasm, into the second season. Then we got to the third, where the whole thing just fell apart, where the whole story focused on Alec and his changing the timeline and it just stopped being fun at all. In fact, the show had drifted so far beyond what made it great in the first season, I’ve really given up caring about any of the characters or trying to make any sense of the storyline. I don’t care about the future, they’ve done so much to make it pointless, I really don’t care if any of the characters survive, I don’t care if Kiera gets back home to see her son (she doesn’t seem to give a damn about her husband, she never mentions him at all), I just want to see the whole thing wrapped up. And show creator Simon Barry said he wanted this thing to run 7-10 seasons to tell his “grand vision”? Forget it!
Then we move to Orphan Black, which I will tell you I loved during the first season. Tatiana Maslany is still an amazing actress who can play multiple roles expertly and she deserves any awards they can throw her way. Unfortunately, while the first season was fantastic, they’ve drifted from what made it so by adding all of the Castor nonsense and suddenly it stopped being about Sarah and her clone sisters, an intimate and interesting tale, and started being about massive conspiracies that were altogether unbelievable, religious cults, and genetic diseases, none of which are at all interesting. I only continue to watch it to see Maslany do her thing. It’s really gotten to be a soap opera more than anything else, they spend more time talking about Cosima’s relationships and Alison’s really absurd drug business, none of which makes me care about the characters at all. I want to see the story of the clones. That’s it. Nothing more. If I cared about the soap opera crap, I’d tune into Days of our Clones.
Finally, and this comes from re-watching the first season, Heroes was an amazing show back in 2005. It was one of the few shows that I absolutely was home to watch every single week, that everyone talked about, that everyone obsessed over. Re-watching it, it’s still that fantastic show. Then came the second season and they just redid the first season all over again. I don’t think show creator Tim Kring had a clue what to do with the show after it became incredibly popular. He had no real idea what to do with it and as it limped on, it just got worse and worse until by the time it ended with season 4, it was a mercy killing. I think Heroes, more than any other show, contributed to my insistence that show creators come up with an overarching storyline for the entire run of their show so that it doesn’t fall into the disaster that Heroes did. It should have continued to be great. It just wasn’t.
I think that some showrunners have a really solid idea what the show should continue to be like, planned out several seasons in the future. They have a cohesive concept of what the show is, what it’s going to feel like and what the story beats are going to be. And then there are others that just… don’t. Or maybe they do and they lose sight of what made their show such a success to begin with. Perhaps that is even sadder than the creators who have no clue whatsoever.