TV shows should have an expiration date. The length of a series can sometimes be its greatest strength. The time provided by an episodic structure gives a series a way to explore avenues and plots that movies simply can’t manage. All too frequently, however, that length can become a show’s greatest weakness. There’s a delicate and tricky balance of telling a story for a time, but not too long, in order to find that perfect ending. All the series on this list didn’t stick that landing, not by a long mile.
These are shows that went far past where they should’ve ever ventured and ended years too late. They didn’t all start off terrible, though a few shows here never even had a halfway decent season. These are also series that were victims of their own success. Their stories reached (or could’ve reached) a pitch-perfect ending, but they went way beyond it and became very different – and much worse – as a result.
Before we get started, you’ll notice a couple notable shows missing from the list, like The Simpsons. While The Simpsons probably should’ve called it quits somewhere around season 11, it’s never become quite that horrible. The Simpsons isn’t great anymore, but it can still occasionally be good. A similar situation befalls the likes of The X-Files, which did (and continues to) last too long, but there are more good seasons than bad with Mulder and Scully. For the series collected here, the scales fall in the opposite direction.
Here are 17 Terrible TV Shows That Went On WAY Too Long.
Throughout Glee’s six seasons, it became increasingly easy to make fun of it. During its run, Glee became one of the most hated shows on TV, and most of that vitriol came from people who didn’t even watch the show. While the hate was a little bit overblown, it wasn’t unwarranted.
After a semi-solid but goofy first season, Glee quickly went off the rails. The characters became gross parodies of themselves, and there appeared to be an incredibly forced effort for the show to tackle every hot button issue of the time.
Halfway through season 2, it became abundantly clear that Glee had used up all its best material in the first season and half. There was nowhere left to go that didn’t feel repetitive, but the show went on for another four years, which felt like forty.
17. Desperate Housewives
Desperate Housewives had a schlocky title, but that was always the intention. The series was aiming for a quirky night-time soap and it succeeded … for a time. The truth is that Desperate Housewives fell into a similar trap as Glee. It had a wild first season, and then spent every subsequent year trying to imitate that magic with diminishing returns.
The series began with the death of Brenda Song’s Mary Alice Young and the mystery surrounding her demise. The death of the character was so important that she actually became the narrator. By the end of the first year though, the mystery of Mary’s death was wrapped up completely, and yet Song remained the show’s narrator for the next (insanely long) six seasons. The show never escaped the feeling of the first year, constantly reminding viewers that it was never as good as it started.
Here’s another show that would’ve been best served as a one-season wonder. When Awkward premiered, it seemed like it could be MTV’s chance to enter the original programming game with a serious contender. The first season of this high school comedy was quirky, fun, and unlike anything else on TV.
Unfortunately, the next four seasons tried their hardest to tear down everything that made the first season so great. Main character Jenna became incredibly unlikable. It was nearly impossible to root for her, which was a major disappointment given the fact that she began the series as the ultimate underdog.
Worst of all, the show leaned heavily into the romance angle. Multiple love triangles popped up, each more unoriginal than the last. Romance was never the show’s strongest element. and by the fifth and final season, it was the entire show. Awkward began as a parody of the standard high school drama – and then became exactly what it was parodying.
David Boreanaz has enjoyed a highly understated, but highly impressive, career on the small screen. Since his first major acting job on Buffy the Vampire Slayer in 1997, the actor has had a job as a TV show series regular every year. The biggest chunk of that resume, sadly, is devoted to his time on Bones.
In many respects, Bones was completely harmless. Boreanaz and his co-star Emily Deschanel were charming and had some fantastic chemistry together. It’s hard to call that a justifiable reason for a series to be on the air for more than a decade (12 seasons in total), however.
Bones was never truly awful, but it was never quite good either. It was aggressively mediocre, and it followed the all-too-familiar procedural structure of having a genius who couldn’t manage their personal life. There are things that are worse than being boring, we suppose?
Honestly, the first two seasons of Dexter are fantastic. If the series had been given a tight two or three season order, it would’ve been the story of one of TV’s best antiheroes. Instead, Dexter was dragged out for seven long years. No matter how good it started out, ultimately, there were more bad seasons of Dexter than good ones.
By the end of Dexter, he wasn’t an interesting, morally ambiguous antihero anymore. Dexter was a bland superhero without powers, surrounded by a cast of morons and one-dimensional monsters.
Unfortunately, the TV world doesn’t seem to have wrapped their heads around the source of the shortcomings of Dexter‘s later years. The show’s final showrunner, Scott Buck, continues to get high-profile work. With every horrible show that Buck helms, whether it be Iron Fist or Inhumans, it’s clear that the last years of Dexter weren’t a fluke. Learn the lesson, Hollywood.
When 24 premiered in 2001, it was innovative and oddly refreshing. 24 was never a happy show, but it moved so quickly and felt so unique that it was a welcome addition to the TV landscape. As 24 progressed throughout its nine seasons and spin-offs, though, that shiny new feeling wore off fast.
24 told one or two great stories – and then continued to retell them ad nauseum. After season 3, every subsequent year followed the exact same formula. There was one tragic death to open the season, one mole working against the heroes, and ton of Jack Bauer torturing people.
The series morphing into TV movies and a rebooted miniseries did help freshen things up in the slightest, but the change-up merely highlighted how stale and formulaic 24 became during its entirely too long run.
12. The King of Queens
Before Kevin James “gifted” the world with the comedic duds that are Paul Blart: Mall Cop 1 + 2 and every Adam Sandler movie after 2007, he was starring in the humor black hole known as The King of Queens.
King of Queens is the definition of cookie cutter sitcom. It had the hot wife and significantly less hot husband dynamic, the stereotypical dorky friends, and the show even managed to throw the wildly eccentric goofball into the mix as well. King of Queens was a humorless smoothie of far better sitcoms, but it still managed to go on for nine seasons, with over 200 episodes.
11. Full House
Full House is a childhood favorite of many. This doesn’t keep it from, objectively, being a terrible piece of TV. Full House is a product of its time and it fit in perfectly with the ABC’s family-friendly TGIF line-up from the 1990s. While some of the TGIF entries had depth to them and can still be enjoyed, Full House simply cannot be logged into either category.
Full House was less a TV show and more of catchphrase factory. The central family (and Kimmy Gibbler) weren’t so much lovable as they were loud. Every single member of the eponymous house was designed to be a larger-than-life character in some way. It wasn’t endearing – it was plain exhausting.
Full House certainly didn’t deserve the eight seasons it received in its original run. We’re not even going to touch on the god-awful Netflix revival whose value is entirely based in nostalgia.
10. Prison Break
Plenty of TV shows have outgrown their title and continued for years, with some even improving after breaking free of their original premise. Prison Break doesn’t have that success story. Once the prison had been broken out of at the end of season 1, there was nowhere for the series to go, and it showed.
Prison Break was exciting and pulse-pounding adventure while the Scofield brothers were trying to free themselves. Everything that followed the first year was just a pale imitation. The show lost its spark, and then simply remixed the greatest hits. The recent revival season made it crystal clear that the gift of time had brought no wisdom with it. Prison Break’s fifth season occurred years after its last outing, but was just repetitive as the four years the proceeded it. Fans might love the characters (and actors), but the plot does nothing to support them.
9. True Blood
True Blood hit HBO in the midst of pop culture’s big vampire craze that was sparked by the Twilight saga. True Blood leaned heavily into the indirect Twilight connection as well, being ten times racier and sexier than anything that relatively modest romance had to offer. If Twilight was for tweens, True Blood was for adults … or at least, it should have been.
The cast of True Blood might’ve been devastatingly attractive, but the material around them was mind-numbing. At its best moments, the series was a fun, campy night-time soap with a lot of skin. At its worst moments, which were voluminous, it was an indeterminable experience of stupid people doing even stupider things.
Claire Danes has won several awards for her work in Showtime’s Homeland, and her performance as Carrie certainly deserves those accolades. Homeland, as a show, doesn’t come close.
Here we have another small screen tale that’s seemingly become a victim of its own success. The first season became incredibly popular, and that resulted in the expected outcome (Brody dying) having to be delayed. This delayed fate just made the whole series suffer and lose a lot of the grit that made it so palpable in the first season.
If Homeland had been a single season affair, it would’ve been an incredible look at a post-9/11 world with a deep exploration of what it means to fight the War on Terror. After season 1, Homeland became a more risque 24 with far more unlikable characters. The show is still going not-so-strong and might come to an end with season 8, but its best days are way behind it.
7. 7th Heaven
7th Heaven’s reputation has been marred by the news of Stephen Collins’ sexual abuse against underage girls. While the revelation makes it impossible to look at the show’s patriarch in a flattering light, it’s not the show’s only problem. Long before Collins’ reprehensible behavior become public knowledge, 7th Heaven was a hot mess.
The series lasted 11 seasons (seriously…how??) but it never rose above the quality of an after-school special. 7th Heaven was rather unique for how greatly it emphasized religion and traditional family values, but a strong point of view doesn’t (always) make for great art.
7th Heaven wanted to be a family soap opera with all the twists and turns, but still needed to hit its religious message. The result was that it became a rote checklist of morality more than a TV show.
6. The O.C.
While The O.C. was a melodramatic but self-aware teen soap in its first season, the subsequent three seasons were an exercise in boredom. The O.C. stopped being a fun bit of escapism after its inaugural outing, choosing to ramp up the ridiculousness of the plot while pulling the tone down to truly depressing levels.
In The O.C. seasons 2 and 3, everyone was miserable. Fans still had Adam Brody as Seth Cohen, and Melinda Clarke chewing up every scene she could, but honestly … not much else. The show made nearly every character an unlikable and a dejected shadow of their former self. This was especially true of Marissa, who became so hated that her death in season 3 was welcomed with cheers, rather than the intended tears.
Recent TV comedies have proven that characters simply don’t need to be likable to be watchable. In fact, the characters being awful human beings happens to be the central joke of several notable series. Even with that truism in mind, the success of Entourage makes very little sense.
Though Entourage was classified as a comedy, there was never a single genuinely funny moment in its eight seasons. Entourage was a never-ending cycle of a series where a bunch of incredibly unlikable guys did nothing. At a certain point, the series managed to devolve into a cavalcade of celebrity cameos. And frankly, every celebrity who appeared would’ve been more interesting to watch than the fake famous people that were the supposed “heroes.”
Every Entourage season followed the same formula. Things always looked they were going to go terribly for Vince and the gang, but somehow, things worked out. This formulaic approach didn’t need eight seasons to develop, let alone one terribly tacked-on movie.
4. How I Met Your Mother
The series finale of How I Met Your Mother is insulting and disappointing. The show veered wildly off course before that final hour, however. The first two seasons represent everything magical about romantic comedies. They were heartwarming, charming, and (above all) romantic. Starting at season 3 and beyond, the show steeply declined.
Ted became an increasingly miserable and irredeemable character as Barney went from amusing side character to the insufferable lead. Neil Patrick Harris is magnificent, but Mr. Stinson was never meant to have such a commanding presence on How I Met Your Mother. Barney was best used as a side character, but when he became the focal point, the show turned into a much more cynical and mean-spirited tale.
If Ted had met the mother in a reasonable amount of time, this could’ve been avoided. HIMYM‘s insanely long nine season run ended up sucking out all the joy and magic. In a way, the series finale was the ending the series deserved.
3. Family Guy
FOX’s Animation Domination line-up probably wouldn’t exist without Family Guy. The truth is that Family Guy was nearly completely forgotten. The animated comedy was cancelled by FOX after season 2 in 2000, only to reprieved for a third season at the last second. This was one of FOX’s biggest programming mistakes in the new millennium, which is saying quite a lot.
The Family Guy that was cancelled was a show worth saving. It was irreverent and dirty but also deceptively clever. The revived version has since grown into the lowest common denominator of comedy. Family Guy mistakes shock value for humor and has been trying to push the envelope as fair as possible for far too long.
2. Two and a Half Men
It’s not always true, but more often than not, when a TV show replaces its lead, the quality of the show tanks. While Two and a Half Men’s behind-the-scenes drama that led Charlie Sheen being fired and Ashton Kutcher was fascinating, the show took a major dive as result. Still, the series should have ended long before Charlie left.
The post-Sheen era of Two and Half Men is not as good, but it’s not as if the series was great to start. Sheen’s character was the one unique thing about the show, but the fact of the matter is that this one was devoid of heart and brains since its inception.
The current slate of superhero programming owes a lot to Smallville, both directly and indirectly. (Arrow, in particular, can trace its existence back to this Superman origin story.) But there’s no reason it needed to take nearly a decade for Clark Kent to become the Man of Steel.
Of course, Smallville is not without its moments. Tom Welling is, rightfully, a favorite Superman actor for many, and its early season are certainly crowdpleasers. Still, there’s no getting around that Smallville has more disappointing years than satisfying ones.
Smallville was never a masterpiece of superhero storytelling, but it was enjoyable enough while Clark was still in high school. The second Clark graduated and the show moved on from its namesake, things plummeted. The last half of Smallville somehow moved both too slowly and way too fast. It goes through all the motions of being a classic superhero origin, but was constantly held back by having Clark not actually becoming Superman. It might be the best live-action representation of Clark and Lex’s relationship to date, but that’s the only thing the show managed to nail in its decade on air.
What show do you think went on too long? Do you disagree with any of these shows? Sound off in the comments!
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