The formula for a successful television show is a tough one to crack, and it’s rare to find a series that can pull it all off. Some TV series start off a bit shakey, but find their footing at a later date. Others take the world by storm, before falling under their own hubris. Sadly, even the Netflix generation only have so much time on our hands for binge-watching, and any show that loses their luster rarely gets a second chance (sorry American Horror Story) — especially when there’s so many other great series we could be spending our evenings and weekends on (case in point, Jessica Jones).
What is perhaps even sadder is when a show has a really good run, only to ruin it with a truly terrible final season. After all, who wants to dedicate hours, maybe even years, of our lives to a series, only to be left with a gaping hole in our hearts at the end of it all? (Yes, we’re aware we’re being overdramatic). Here are the 15 Worst Final Seasons Of TV Shows. It’s safe to say that none of these series ended on a high note.
15 . Gilmore Girls
As much as we love Gilmore Girls, it just wasn’t the same after creator Amy Sherman-Palladino left at the end of season six. ASP and her husband/collaborator Daniel Palladino upped sticks before production began on the infamous season seven, reportedly over contract disputes with The CW network. This resulted in a final season filled with storylines that not only didn’t fit with character’s previous MOs, but also lost out on the speedy dialogue and quirky charm that originally made the show a success.
Some fans don’t even acknowledge this final season as part of the official canon, whereas others feel the final series left plenty of unfinished business on the table. Fortunately, the Netflix revival, with Amy and Daniel back at the helm, has solved most of these issues – from the big question mark over Luke and Lorelai’s relationship to Rory’s seemingly never-ending ability to get everything she wants with minimal effort. (We admit, it was nice to see her struggle a bit in the new series.) ASP even got to the finish the show how she originally intended for season seven to end – with THOSE four words.
Back in 2009, FOX’s musical comedy-drama Glee became a full-on pop culture phenomenon. Created by Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk, and Ian Brennan, the show centers on the fictional William McKinley High glee club — better known as the New Directions — as well as their teacher/club director Will Schuester. Glee was responsible for putting breakout talent Lea Michele, Diana Agron, and the late Corey Monteith in the spotlight. The cast even went on tour, performing at the White House and topping the iTunes charts. However, Glee’s success was down to more than just the music. The show explored a range of issues relating to modern day teens, from underage drinking to sexuality and relationships.
Still, as the show dredged into its later years, it began to lose its momentum. Once the original cast headed off to college, writers brought in new club members, but the new New Directions didn’t capture audiences in the same way. Simultaneously, writers struggled to fit the old characters into the storylines, and Monteith’s death in 2013 was the straw that broke the camel’s back. The show gradually died out, and by the time the finale came around, it seemed everyone had just forgotten Glee even existed.
13. True Blood
When HBO first launched True Blood, fans couldn’t get enough of this supernatural TV show set in the Deep South. Based on Charlaine Harris’ book series The Southern Vampire mysteries, True Blood follows telepathic waitress Sookie Stackhouse, who lives in the small-town of Bon Temps, Louisiana. The majority of Bon Temps residents think Sookie is a little strange, which is probably why she gets on so well with the vampire Bill when he moves into town.
For the first few seasons, we all thirsted after the romance between Sookie and Bill (as well as the love triangle with Sookie’s boss Sam, a secret shapeshifter) — not to mention the ridiculously explicit sex scenes and campy humor. However, the more supernatural beings that came into the picture (witches, a demi-god, etc.), and the more outlandish the storylines became, the more we lost interest. Most fans dropped off for good when it was revealed that “every girl” Sookie was actually a fairy, and she stopped being so relatable. The final season delivered lackluster and predictable narratives, and ended with Bill dead and Sookie married and expecting the child of an unknown (human) guy. Still a better love story than Twilight., though.
12. The O.C
When The O.C. bounced onto our screens back in 2003 (yes, it really was that long ago), it was one of the most popular new dramas of the TV season. For those who somehow missed out on this defining moment of adolescence, The O.C. follows troubled teen Ryan Atwood (Benjamin McKenzie), who is adopted by wealthy Newport Beach lawyer Sandy Cohen (Peter Gallagher) and his wife Kirsten (Kelly Rowan). Along with his awkward yet intelligent foster brother Seth (Adam Brody), Ryan deals with life as an outsider in this high-class world, as well as his relationship with his new next door neighbor, Marissa Cooper (Mischa Barton). Rachel Bilson was also one of the core cast members, playing Seth’s childhood-crush-turned-girlfriend Summer Roberts.
As much as we loved the early seasons of The O.C, after Marissa was killed in a car crash in the season three finale, and the remaining cast went off to college, it just wasn’t the same. After all, the show was called “The O.C””, not “some other place.”
Alias follows Sydney Bristow (Jennifer Garner), who lives a double life as a wholesome college student and super-spy. As you can imagine, this is pretty hard-going, and the early seasons focus on Sydney’s attempts to keep her dual existence a secret, while later seasons cover her attempts at keeping her complicated life together. Although not as memorable, Alias’ over-the-top stunts and crazy storytelling inspired a range of other pop culture cornerstones, including Lost and the J.J Abrams reboot of Star Trek.
Like Lost (which we’ll get to later), Alias’ showrunners were pretty much making things up as they went along. By season four, the storylines were already silly and convoluted, with seemingly everybody turning out to be a double agent. Plus, in a case of bad-timing, Garner discovered she was pregnant just before filming began on season five. Considering the main selling point of the show was watching her fight the bad guys and kick ass, this was a big blow to the already floundering narrative. At least Alias had a reasonable finale, with writers pulling out all the stops to give the show a decent send-off. Still, it seems it was too little, too late to save the show’s rep.
10. That 70’s Show
Airing from 1998 to 2006, That ’70s Show focused on the lives of a group of teenage friends in small town Wisconsin, circa the titular decade. The sitcom was responsible for launching a range of careers, including that of Ashton Kutcher, Mila Kunis, Wilmer Valderrama, and Laura Prepon. However, the center of the gang was always Eric Foreman (Topher Grace), basically because he drove everyone around and let them hang out in his parent’s basement. The show addressed a range of issues, from sexism to generational conflict, and often included many famous guest stars from the era, including Tom Bosley and Mary Tyler Moore.
That ’70s Show had a pretty good run, maintaining consistent ratings and becoming one of FOX’s flagship shows. However, at the end of the seventh season, Eric was written out, as Topher Grace wanted to pursue other projects. Ashton Kutcher also chose to leave, dropping down to a recurring character during the final season. The writers tried to patch up the hole they left behind with the creation of new character Randy (Josh Meyers), an employee at Hyde’s record store, but the absence of the series’ original stars was most definitely felt. The storylines also became more and more clichéd, and the long-running series ended on a low.
9. Gossip Girl
Based on the book series of the same name by Cecily von Ziegesar, Gossip Girl follows the lives of a group of uber-rich Manhatten teens – party girl Serena van der Woodsen (Blake Lively), Queen Bee Blair Waldorf (Leighton Meester), womanizer Chuck Bass (Ed Westwick) and golden boy Nate Archibald, as well as poor aspiring writer/token hipster Dan Humphrey and his wannabe little sister Jenny. Narrated by the seemingly omnipresent blogger Gossip Girl (voiced by Kirsten Bell), over six seasons, we see the cast navigate the ups and downs of high society life.
Since the show ended back in 2012, much has been made of how the big reveal in the finale made no sense (Humphrey is GG? Yeah right). But it would be unfair to pin the show’s terrible ending on one episode, especially after three progressively worse seasons that also made no sense whatsoever. Although the first few seasons borrowed heavily from the books, later storylines got more and more ridiculous, leaving gaping plot holes that even mega fans couldn’t ignore. As its stars got bigger outside of the small screen, the show’s ratings got smaller, with the premiere of season six pulling in less than a million viewers. At least the show wasn’t rewarded for its sharp decline in quality, right?
8. Two and a Half Men
Two and a Half Men is the story of playboy jingle writer Charlie Harper (Charlie Sheen), who takes his uptight brother Alan (Jon Cryer) into his Malibu beach house after his wife Judith (Marin Hinkle) throws him out. The move complicates Charlie’s previously hedonistic lifestyle, and includes putting up with weekend visits from Alan’s dopey young son Jake (Angus T. Jones). Other key characters include Charlie’s sarcastic, razor-tongued housekeeper Berta (Conchata Farrell), Charlie’s neighbor and stalker Rose (Melanie Lynskey), and the brother’s bitchy, real-estate agent mom Evelyn (Holland Taylor).
Despite the sexist reputation of the show (one reviewer described it as “creepy, misogynistic comedy”), Two and Half Men held consistently good ratings. That was until half-way through season eight, when showrunner Chuck Lorre and CBS fired Sheen for repeatedly criticizing them in the press (although they officially cited “moral turpitude.”) Ashton Kutcher was bought in to replace Sheen, playing recently divorced internet millionaire Walden Schmidt. The change-over bought a temporary boost to the show, before it was finally put out of its misery in 2015.
7. The X-Files
The early seasons of the long-running sci-fi saga The X-Files are as classic as it gets. The series centers on alien-obsessed FBI agent Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) and his sceptical partner Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson), who investigate what is known as “the X-files,” unsolved cases containing supernatural phenomena. As well as “monster-of-the-week” episodes featuring everything from extra-terrestrial life to cannibals, The X-Files also had an overarching story arc focusing on internal cover-ups and secret government agendas.
Thanks to the stars’ on-screen chemistry, seasons one to five had us hooked. However, from season six onwards, the show started to go south. Filming was moved from Vancouver to L.A. for season six, to accommodate Duchovny’s busy schedule. This changed the tone of the show and alienated fans, although critics did note that the S6 had some superb standalone episodes. From season seven, the “mytharc” that held the MOTW episodes together became overly complicated and began to crumble, and things were just as bad behind the scenes. In season eight, Duchovny quit the show over contract disputes, but the show attempted to rattle on without him. Despite strong performances from Anderson, everybody knows The X-Files was about the Mulder-Scully dream team, and audiences gave up on the show until last year’s revival brought the duo back together again.
In Weeds, Mary-Louise Parker stars as housewife Nancy Botwin, who starts selling weed to make ends meet after her husband Judah (played by The Walking Dead‘s Jeffrey Dean Morgan) unexpectedly dies of a heart attack. When it first premiered in 2005, we couldn’t help but sympathize with Nancy, having been left alone with two sons to raise. Like Breaking Bad’s Walter White, she was a good person who went down a bad path out of desperation.
But as the show progressed, Nancy got more and more involved in various illegal activities, eventually rising to the top of an international smuggling ring and becoming a lot less lovable. As well as becoming a terrible person, she also gradually becomes a terrible mother, neglecting her youngest kid and dragging her oldest son Silas (Hunter Parrish) into her criminal world. Over time, Weeds went from being a quirky family drama and suburban satire to a crime saga consisting of ridiculous plot twists, and rather than Nancy paying for her sins, after eight seasons, we had to make do with a half-assed happy ending for a finale.
When Nip/Tuck first started out, it was known (and appreciated) for its campy, over the top approach. Created by Ryan Murphy (yes, that’s the same man who bought us Glee. Let that sink in for a moment), the show focuses on doctors/business partners Sean McNamara (Dylan Walsh) and Christian Troy (Julian McMahon), who co-own the controversial, cutting edge plastic surgery clinic McNamara/Troy in Miami. Much of the series’ drama comes from the doctors personal lives — Sean is trying desperately to keep his troubled family together, while shallow, egoistical Christian spends all of his time drinking, doing drugs, and sleeping with a different woman every night – as well as the turbulent relationship between the partner’s themselves.
The first few seasons are pretty wild, but just the right amount of crazy to be entertaining. However, as time went on, the storylines got more and more ridiculous, and the show increasingly resorted to shock tactics to keep its viewers interested (which of course did the opposite). In the end, Nip/Tuck was cancelled, finishing on its 100th episode in March 2010. However, it did inspire the creation of E! reality show Dr. 90210, so there’s that.
The first season of Heroes was both critically acclaimed and highly rated by fans. Airing at the outset of the superhero resurgence we’ve been experiencing for the last few years or so, back in 2006, Heroes broke the mold. A network drama about ordinary people with not-so-ordinary abilities, the show’s narrative structure and aesthetic style also borrowed heavily from comic books, which fans of the genre loved. However, by season two, viewing numbers were already beginning to drop, due to what the New York Times called “too many pointless diversions,” and not even star Zachary Quinto could save it.
Although creator Tim Kring promised the third season would learn from the mistakes of season two and bring back the award-winning magic of year one, more and more fans began to drop off, and Heroes canceled after season four. NBC attempted to reboot the franchise with a 13-episode miniseries in 2015, which despite plenty of effort from the network’s marketing department, wasn’t renewed for a second season.
Scrubs follows the lives of a group of employees at the fictional Sacred Heart Teaching Hospital – particularly young medical-intern-turned-doctor J.D (Zach Braff) – who narrates the goings on in this far from normal hospital around his surreal daily daydreams. Other cast members include surgeon Chris Turk, played by Donald Faison, Braff’s best friend on and off screen, the tough-talking nurse Carla (Judy Reyes), and neurotic fellow medical intern and love interest Elliot (Sarah Chalke), as well as the range of colorful characters that inhabit Sacred Heart.
During the show’s seventh season, NBC announced it would not be renewing Scrubs for another series. The show was then picked up by ABC. The final episode of season eight was the last for Braff, and was appropriately titled “My Finale.” The episode tied the previous seasons up nicely, and that should have been where it ended. But some bright spark decided to continue the show with a whole new cast, which didn’t go down well with critics or fans. Despite sporting some respectable talent in the new ensemble, including up-and-comers Dave Franco and Eliza Coupe, the revamped series failed to catch on, and it was unsurprisingly canceled.
As fans will attest, the first few seasons of Dexter were ridiculously engrossing. Based on the novel Darkly Dreaming Dexter by Jeff Lindsay, the show follows a serial killer who satisfies his murderous lust by doing away with other killers (as well as pedophiles, rapists, etc). Most of Dexter’s drama comes from his struggle to balance his “hobby” with his day job as a blood splatter analyst, as well as his family life and difficulty maintaining his “normal human” facade.
Although the first four seasons brought in record ratings for Showtime, the show began to recycle what were once highly original storylines. The final season was critically panned for its poor storytelling and acting (by this point, even the actors had had enough), and even Michael C. Hall admitted that the season eight finale — in which Dexter decides he no longer wants to be a serial killer and becomes a trucker — was a wash out. The actual ending was vastly different than the one former producer Clyde Phillips (who worked on Dexter in the early years and helped to make the show a success) had planned. In this alternate finale, Dexter is caught and killed by lethal injection, which makes a lot more sense than him growing a beard and suddenly dressing like a lumberjack.
The first few seasons of Lost were pretty much the most addictive thing ever. When a plane crashes on a mysterious beach, a group of survivors with wildly different backgrounds must learn to survive outside the constructs of society. On top of this, freaky things start happening, like a polar bear showing up on a supposedly tropical island and the discovery of an enigmatic hatch (plus a bunch of stuff about numbers).
When the show first started, we were all desperate to know what the big mystery was. We had so many questions, but by the time any of them were answered, fans had long stopped watching. Initially, Lost creators Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse must have had a game plan, but ABC was so impressed with the ratings Lost was bringing in that they asked them to prolong the show. The series just kept going on, and on, and eventually, the storylines stopped making sense – which is pretty impressive for a show that is all about life not making any sense. Lindelof and Cuse accurately described the narratives during this period as “turds,” and the season six finale, simply titled “The End,” has turned out to be one of the most series divisive finales ever (and left behind a hell of a lot of plotholes).
What other TV shows completely fizzled out in their farewell season? Let us know in the comments.
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