10 TV Shows That Started Out Great But Went Downhill Fast

TV Shows That Went Downhill

Cheapism / Amazon / Warner Bros.

Cheapism is editorially independent. We may earn a commission if you buy through links on our site.
TV Shows That Went Downhill
Cheapism / Amazon / Warner Bros.

Going Once, Going Twice, Going Downhill

As much as we love binging a good TV show, we often wonder why so many go downhill after just one or two seasons. Despite starting strong with captivating storylines and solid character development, they quickly draw us in only to disappoint us. Struggling to maintain that initial momentum, many of these shows fall victim to convoluted plots, character inconsistencies, and loss of direction leading to a rapid decline in viewer interest. 

Whether it was due to overambitious story arcs or creative burnout, here are once-popular TV shows that began with great promise but quickly went south. 

Heroes TV Show
Heroes/TV Insider

1. 'Heroes'

Initially drawing in millions of viewers with its story of ordinary people discovering extraordinary abilities, the "heroes" in the show quickly went from looking heroic to looking absurdly goofy. Each character's journey to understand and control their powers was compelling at first — and it created an ensemble cast that worked well together. But the series lost its charm as it progressed, with increasingly confusing plotlines and character arcs that failed to keep up with the show's original premise. 

By the second season, the narrative had become muddled and subsequent seasons failed to recapture the magic, leading to a significant drop in viewership.

Related: Worst Reboots of Beloved TV Shows

Warner Bros.

2. 'Westworld'

"Westworld" began as a thought-provoking exploration of artificial intelligence (AI) and human consciousness within a futuristic theme park. The first season's intricate storytelling and philosophical questions captivated audiences worldwide. But as the series progressed, the storyline became overly complex and muddled, with timelines and character motivations becoming difficult to follow. Main characters were also not given enough time to develop, which led to a disconnect with the audience.

The shift from the park's contained narrative to broader, less coherent themes in later seasons led to a significant drop in viewership and interest. It was canceled in 2022.

Related: Beloved TV Shows That Critics Were Wrong About

‘Prison Break’ (2017)

3. 'Prison Break'

This show captured tons of attention with its thrilling narrative of a man orchestrating a prison escape to save his wrongfully-convicted brother. The first season's suspense, action, and clever planning had us on the edge of our seats, but the series became less credible as it continued. With increasingly outlandish plots, repeated escapes, and improbable scenarios, the show strained its believability and ultimately lost that realistic edge that initially drew viewers in.

By the fourth season, even the show's staunchest fans felt the series had overstayed its welcome. The show ended in 2017, though some believe it was actually canceled.

Related: Most Popular TV Show the Year You Were Born

Dexter TV Show

4. 'Dexter'

"Dexter" started strong with its unique premise of a forensic expert leading a double life as a vigilante serial killer going after criminals in Miami. The show's early seasons were praised for their dark humor and moral complexity. However, the later seasons suffered from weaker storylines and character developments that felt forced and inconsistent. Plot twists also became less convincing, and the introduction of new characters often failed to resonate with viewers. 

The show's controversial ending, which many fans found unsatisfying and untrue to the character's journey, only compounded the series' decline.

Related: Cult Favorite TV Shows That Were Canceled After One Season

"Lost" TV Show
Lost/Lostpedia Fandom/ABC

5. 'Lost'

This action-packed survival show intrigued audiences with its mysterious island adventures and complex character developments. The initial seasons, especially season one, successfully blended science fiction, supernatural elements, and character-driven drama. But despite its initial success, the show became notorious for its unresolved mysteries, convoluted plots, and a finale that left many viewers unsatisfied. 

The ambitious narrative also became increasingly confusing — and the lack of clear answers frustrated fans who had invested in the story's many twists and turns. 

For more stories like this, please sign up for our free newsletters.

The Walking Dead

6. 'The Walking Dead'

This post-apocalyptic series was initially praised for its intense drama, character development, and gritty portrayal of survival in a world overrun by zombies. But over time, its repetitive story arcs, prolonged character conflicts, and departure of key actors like Andrew Lincoln led to declining interest and viewership. The show's willingness to kill off main characters also kept viewers on the edge of their seats, but in a bad way. (Justice for Glenn!) 

Despite occasional strong episodes, the series struggled to maintain the momentum and emotional impact of its earlier seasons. It concluded in 2022 after 11 seasons. 

Related: Gifts for Preppers and Zombie Apocalypse Survivors


7. 'Glee'

"Glee" started off as a refreshing and heartwarming musical comedy-drama about a high school singing club in the fictional town of Lima, Ohio. The show's first seasons were praised for their unique blend of humor, diversity, and emotional storytelling. However, as the seasons progressed, the series struggled with inconsistent storylines and character development, often veering into melodrama territory. 

The addition of numerous new characters and subplots further diluted the original charm, leading to a decline in popularity and overall viewership. The series ended in 2015 after the death of Cory Monteith (Finn Hudson in the show). 

Related: 22 Cool Movie and TV Tours Across America

True Blood

8. 'True Blood'

This fantasy, horror drama initially captivated audiences with its mix of supernatural elements and Southern Gothic charm. The early seasons managed to balance romance, horror, and social commentary pretty effectively. But as the series progressed, it became increasingly erratic — complete with bizarre plot twists, an overabundance of supernatural creatures (werewolves, fairies, witches, shape-shifters; you name it), and character changes that alienated its core fan base. 

The show's final season and conclusion also left many viewers disappointed. The wrap-up felt rushed, with several key storylines left unresolved.

Game Of Thrones: Seasons 1-7

9. 'Game of Thrones'

We get it — this is a controversial one. "Game of Thrones" became a cultural phenomenon with its political intrigue, complex characters, and unpredictable plot twists. The early seasons, based on George R.R. Martin's novels, were highly praised for their depth and storytelling. However, as the series outpaced the source material, the writing (and apparently the show's budget, too) started to decline

The final seasons, particularly the rushed and controversial finale (how did Daenerys not hear the bells?!), were criticized for character arcs that felt inconsistent and an ending that left many fans feeling unsatisfied (or even betrayed).

Related: 26 Stunning 'Game of Thrones' Filming Locations Worth Visiting 

Amazon / The CW

10. 'Riverdale'

"Riverdale" started with a promising premise, offering a dark and modern twist on the classic Archie Comics' characters. The first season's blend of mystery, drama, and teenage angst captivated audiences and set up intriguing storylines around the central murder mystery. But as the series progressed, it became increasingly erratic and over-the-top. Storylines grew more outlandish by incorporating bizarre plot twists, supernatural elements, and convoluted narratives that just didn't work. 

The show's reliance on shock value and sensationalism also overshadowed its original charm, leading to a decline in viewership and critical reception.