12/05/2013

When Good Shows Go Bad



I started thinking about this the other day when I was watching a show that I used to love and thought what has happened to the programmes that made me excited for a Saturday night?

Photo by Irregular Shed

I can think of two particular examples that jump into my head straight away when I think of Good Shows that went Bad. And it will be here where I will try to analyse what I liked about the series in the first place and what went wrong.


Doctor Who Doctors Collage
Doctor Who...
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 We'll start with Doctor Who shall we? This is the programme that I mentioned above that influenced this article. Now most people would be shocked - it is not exactly a show that is failing in the ratings, but to me, it is just not in the same league as it once was. I am mainly talking about the revival of the series here (2005), since I never watched any of the classic episodes. I first tuned in on a whim, after hearing all the fuss I thought I would give it a go. And I'm glad I did, with Christopher Eccleston as the Doctor and Billie Piper as Rose,the companion, Doctor Who was energetic, engaging, witty and the characters full of life - all thanks to showrunner Russell T Davies, who helped revive the show for a new generation. After a brief stint, Eccleston was replaced with David Tennant, who was so natural in this role, it was like he was born to play it. He was able to balance the humour and drama well with the audience always gripped on the edge of their seat. Such was the popularity of Tennant, that on announcing he was departing the show, it was met with cries of anguish from the audience to who he announced it to. I, myself was eager for a fresh start on the show as after three seasons, it started to become repetitive. Little did I know that the show I loved would turn into something I'd have to force myself into watching due to loyatly. When Matt Smith was announced as the Doctor and after his brief entrance in Tennant's final episode, I didn't like him. I took an instant disliking. Here was the most emotional episode ever to be aired and this bouncing goofball comes barging in, ruining the atmosphere. I have since learned that actually, different to Tennant as he is, Smith wasn't the problem and he wasn't actually a bad actor. The problem, and I've spoken to and heard from several people who agree, is the writing and direction of the show. I couldn't quite put my finger on it to begin with - I figured it was just me, after being such a fan of Tennant, not being able to accept a change. I've since realised that actually the whole show seems off. I came to this conclusion after watching Smith's Doctor star in The Sarah Jane Adventures (written by Davies) and loving the way he way he was portrayed. Steven Moffat took over the role of showrunner after Davies had left, to the delight of me as he had written quite a few good episodes previously. This excitement soon wore off, after seeing that the characters are lacking - coming across as two-dimensional; the stories are dull and bleak, all merging into one; storylines and arcs are repetitive. Considering Moffet had promised to not feature classic monsters and aliens in his series, they do have a funny way of popping up every episode. Oh look, another dalek that's been defeated several times before, how terrifying...All of his characters that I never cared for - Amy Pond, the Doctor's companion; River Song, the Doctor's 'wife'; Madame Vastra, Jenny and Strax are so dull, I stopped watching. They never brought anything new and exciting to the show. It was only with the departure of Amy Pond that I started tentatively watching again, noticing that it isn't as bad as it was during seasons 5-6 but it is also nowhere near the quality of the earlier seasons of the revival. The characters have lost their heart, one of the great features of Davies' era. He made you care deeply for them, so much that you'd laugh at their jokes and cry along with the sad scenes. Whereas in Moffet's era, the characters could disappear for all I care and I wouldn't even miss them.


Supernatural
Supernatural
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My next choice is Supernatural. Another great show that I was dismayed to discover how bad it went so quickly. Supernatural is a TV show about two brothers who hunt any and every supernatural being out there. The plot normally sees the boys going up against urban legends. With humorous dialogue and great chemistry between the two leads, Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki, I instantly loved it - eagerly awaiting the next episode each week. The creator, Eric Kripke had a five year plan where the show would have wrapped up and ended in a natural way...until the studio got a bit greedy and started to continue the show further beyond the plan. Kripke stood down and that is when the show fell down a long, black hole that it never recovered from. The show originally started to get really good from season 4 - that was the point where I went from being a casual viewer to being hooked. The episodes were well-thought out with the overall arc intriguing - the boys taking on the challenges of Lucifier and the misconceptions that all angels from heaven are the good guys. The addition of Misha Collins' angel Castiel was an extra bonus. It continued being great in the next season, keeping the balance of the overall arc with stand-alone episodes that broke up the tension of the serious episodes. With the news that Supernatural was picked up for season 6, news that should have brought me joy, it instead filled me with apprehension. If Kripke had a five-year plan and they go beyond it, surely it will just feel stretched out? Unfortunately, I was not wrong. The first episode of season 6, after the amazing finale of season 5, felt forced and left me and others who I watched it with/spoke to afterwards with a bitter aftertaste. Even the actors seemed to me like they were forcing themselves to bring their characters to life. After refusing to give up on the show, I eventually could take no more after they drastically changed characters and started to repeat storylines. The show had lost its spark and I gave up watching it altogether after the end of season 6. I never knew a TV show that could go so bad so quickly as Supernatural did. It went from amazing and original up to the end of season 5, to dull and lifeless from the first episode of season 6 onwards.

Nothing upsets me more than when a show I love changes direction and is the opposite to what I fell in love with. Most prgrammes around normally slowly change into a tired concept but these two examples changed dramatically when the showrunners both changed. I just hope that other TV shows I love don't go in the same fate.