24 Shows We LOVED & Then Completely Gave Up On

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The sixth and final season of Downton Abbey premiered last night on PBS. Here's a confession: I haven't actually watched Downton since sometime in the middle of season 3. I know; it's a great show. Trust me, I very much appreciate Julian Fellowes' masterful storytelling and attention to period detail. I know everyone revolted when Sybil and Matthew died. I read all about it in the news. I just couldn't bring myself to watch it, okay?

After speaking with friends and family members and scouring the internet, I see that my Downton Abbey experience is a tale as old as time. Sometimes a show bursts into the cultural zeitgeist, and for the first season or two, it's all people are talking about around the watercooler. (Kids, a watercooler is where office workers gathered to discuss things before Twitter.) Then, for various reasons, viewers just lose interest.

Why? Well, sometimes, the show goes off the rails. Signs of this include introducing random new characters (ahem, Nikki and Paulo on Lost), plotlines getting increasingly more batshit insane (Nip/Tuck or basically any Ryan Murphy show), and two characters being paired up who shouldn't be (Nick Miller and Jessica Day on New Girl). At times, the show can't keep up the fascinating momentum with which it debuted. In the case of shows that hinge on a central mystery, writers often struggle with what to do after that mystery has been solved.

Not every show is going to be awesome and amazing from beginning to end, and I completely understand that. What's different about the following series is just how indelible of a mark they left on our lives when they premiered. They were appointed viewing every week. Then suddenly, they weren't. We hardly even noticed when or if they ended.

I'm sorry, Glee. I definitely stopped believing. To be honest, I forgot you were even on after season 3.
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Gilmore Girls (2000-2007)
Starring: Lauren Graham, Alexis Bledel, Kelly Bishop, Scott Patterson

We know, blasphemy! But before you protest, let us say these two little words: season 7. Yes, the season when creator Amy Sherman-Palladino and her husband Daniel Palladino departed the show over contract disputes. Most true Gilmore Girls fans don’t even acknowledge this final season as part of the official story. Yes, we’ve watched it, but only after holding out in protest and then finally giving in because we needed more G.G. in our lives. How were we supposed to know Netflix would give us the revival everyone was wishing and hoping and thinking and praying for? We’re not soothsayers!
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The O.C. (2003-2007)
Starring: Ben McKenzie, Peter Gallagher, Mischa Barton, Adam Brody, Rachel Bilson

When The O.C. was good, it was oh-so-amazingly juicy and great. In the pilot, a smart boy from the wrong side of the tracks (McKenzie) gets picked up by the police while helping his brother steal a car. His county-appointed lawyer Sandy Cohen (Gallagher) decides to take him home to the upscale community of Newport Beach, and voilà, a wonderful fish-out-of-water story for the ages is born. Getting a glimpse into the posh lives of Orange County socialites afforded a deliciously soapy look at how the other half lives in Southern California, and viewers were fully invested in characters like Seth Cohen (Brody) and Summer Roberts (Bilson).

As the seasons went on, though, the mystique wore off. The teenage characters went off to college, and it just wasn’t as interesting once they left Orange County. Plus — and this is by no fault of The O.C.’s — tons of imitators rushed to cash in on the show’s success. MTV debuted Laguna Beach: The Real Orange County in 2004. Bravo introduced The Real Housewives of Orange County in 2006. The real versions were much more engaging than the scripted one. Did you even know that Seth and Summer got married in The O.C.’s series finale?
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Nip/Tuck (2003-2010)
Starring: Dylan Walsh, Julian McMahon, Joely Richardson

As with many Ryan Murphy shows, Nip/Tick kicked off with two seasons of batshit crazy you just had to watch. The show follows the exploits of plastic surgeons Sean McNamara (Walsh) — the practical, risk-averse one — and Christian Troy (McMahon) — the egotistical, risk-taking one — whose lives are linked both personally and professionally.

The first few seasons have just the right amount of fucking nuts, signature Ryan Murphy camp. The later few, well, they’re just too ridiculous, even for a Murphy series. When a show’s pilot episode features one of the main characters snorting cocaine off a hooker’s ass, though, is it really any wonder that it eventually went off the rails (yeah, yeah, pun intended)?
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One Tree Hill (2003-2012)
Starring: Chad Michael Murray, James Lafferty, Bethany Joy Lenz

This show ran for nine seasons. NINE. Star Chad Michael Murray, for whom the CW basically created it, peaced out after season 6. That’s usually a sign things should end, but OTH kept on chugging. Some fans kept watching, but many thought the series had run its course.
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Lost (2004-2010)
Starring: Matthew Fox, Evangeline Lilly, Jorge Garcia, Josh Holloway

Oh, Lost. Some of us may or may not have spent most of our semester abroad hitting “next episode” on the seasons 1 through 3 DVDs. The first few seasons are just that engrossing. Passengers from a downed jetliner wash up on a mysterious island, and not only do they have to figure out how to survive outside the laws of any official society and social contract, but they also discover a mysterious hatch (the numbers!) and other odd phenomena.

The problem with Lost was this: When a show is this precise and mysterious, the endgame has to be known and mapped out from the beginning. Even if it’s a runaway ratings hit, the creators need to set an end date with the network and walk away. ABC obviously loved the ratings Lost brought in, though, so showrunners Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse were forced to introduce new characters (Nikki and Paulo, ugh) and keep the mystery dragging on in a way that even they admit in retrospect didn’t actually make sense. They even confess to begging ABC to let them end the show, pointing to storylines they call “turds,” like the flashbacks that explain how Jack (Matthew Fox) got his tattoos in Thailand.

Still, many former viewers who had dropped off sometime during the show’s six seasons tuned in to watch the finale on May 23, 2010. “The End” remains one of the most contested series finales in television history. It has left behind many lingering questions. Lost: an enigma until the very end, and even in its afterlife. We have to go back!
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Desperate Housewives (2004-2012)
Starring: Eva Longoria, Felicity Huffman, Teri Hatcher, Marcia Cross

Everyone is hiding secrets behind closed doors on picture-perfect Wisteria Lane. Season 1 is narrated by Mary Alice Young (Brenda Strong), whose suicide rocks the placid neighborhood in the pilot. Figuring out why she died is the central mystery of the first season, and each subsequent season of Marc Cherry’s dramedy had a different central mystery. Nothing could quite live up to the breakout success of the show’s initial outing, though. It was deliciously soapy and satisfied all suburban Americans' urges to peek over their neighbors' hedges and into their windows.
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Weeds (2005-2012)
Starring: Mary-Louise Parker, Hunter Parrish, Kevin Nealon, Elizabeth Perkins

Jenji Kohan’s black comedy about a newly widowed suburban mother of two who starts selling marijuana to make ends meet was deliciously dark when it first premiered. Nancy Botwin (Parker) and her sons (Parrish and Alexander Gould) live in the picturesque, cookie-cutter town of Agrestic, California, where there’s more than enough action to come up with plotlines for several seasons. Unfortunately, the show moved beyond the world of Agrestic, and most audience members lost interest.
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The Office (2005-2013)
Starring: Steve Carell, John Krasinski, Jenna Fischer, Rainn Wilson

The original U.K. version knew when to quit, and we have just the right amount of pointedly droll comedy because of it. The U.S. version, however, dragged on for way too long. Michael Scott (Steve Carell) left the show in season 7, and it never quite felt the same in his absence.
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Grey’s Anatomy (2005-present)
Starring: Ellen Pompeo, Justin Chambers, Chandra Wilson

How could anyone not love a show with female leads who, when they’re not saving lives, get to ogle men who also save lives and have fun nicknames like McDreamy and McSteamy? When Shonda Rhimes’ medical drama premiered, viewers wanted more, more, more of Meredith Grey (Pompeo) and Derek Shepherd’s (Patrick Dempsey) love story. For the first few seasons, the hookups and actual medical cases on the show were woven together in a way that didn’t feel overly melodramatic.

Then, a combination of behind-the-scenes drama and too much on-screen drama caused many viewers to abandon the docs at Seattle Grace Hospital. Some audience members shifted their focus to Rhimes’ newer offerings — Scandal and How to Get Away with Murder — which feel fresher.
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Photo: Michael Muller/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank/ Getty Images.
Heroes (2006-2010)
Starring: Hayden Panettiere, Masi Oka, Milo Ventimiglia

“Save the cheerleader, save the world.” That's the recurring chant and tagline of Heroes’ critically acclaimed, highly rated first season. In 2006, we weren’t in the same superhero bonanza that we’re currently experiencing, so there was a clear niche to be filled with this network drama about ordinary people with extraordinary abilities. The show’s storytelling structure mirrors that found in many popular comic books, which fans of the medium recognized and appreciated.

The series started off with an extremely novel, engaging premise. But by season 2, ratings were already waning. Convoluted plotlines fueled a further drop-off in season 3, and the show was canceled in season 4.

Even the belief that Heroes nostalgia exists turned out to be misguided. The show was rebooted for the fall 2015 season as Heroes Reborn, but it got off to a rough start and never quite found its footing. It remains unclear how long it will continue.
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The Hills (2006-2010)
Starring: Lauren Conrad, Audrina Patridge, Heidi Montag, Kristin Cavallari, Whitney Port

Even though the show was totally fake and machinated by producers, the first few seasons of The Hills are a perfectly mindless and enjoyable romp through the glittery lives of twentysomethings in Los Angeles in the early aughts. Lauren Conrad really does appear to fall out with Heidi Montag because of the latter's relationship with one of the most evil villains in the history of reality television — Spencer Pratt. Also, Conrad's mascara tears will never be forgotten.

But then, Conrad leaves the show in season 5. She’s replaced by her former nemesis from Laguna Beach, Kristin Cavallari, who’s just not quite as good at pretending that everything happening on the show is actually her real life. It doesn’t help that producers basically try to slot her into Conrad’s existence, giving her Conrad’s same friends (Lo Bosworth and Audrina Patridge) and love interest (Brody Jenner) to work with. Wait, did The Hills producers basically Single White Female Lauren Conrad with Kristin?
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Dexter (2006-2013)
Starring: Michael C. Hall, Jennifer Carpenter, James Remar

A serial killer (Hall) fights his murderous urges by doing away with only those who he feels deserve to die. During the day, he works as a blood-spatter forensics expert for (drumroll please) the Miami Metro Police Department. The premise, a TV adaptation of Jeff Lindsay’s Dexter novels, is quite a juicy one. But by the sixth season, critics were noting that the show seemed to be recycling storylines. Even Michael C. Hall admitted the finale was very WTF.
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Gossip Girl (2007-2012)
Starring: Leighton Meester, Blake Lively, Ed Westwick, Penn Badgley

“Gossip Girl here. Your one and only source into the scandalous lives of Manhattan’s elite.” For the first few seasons, that was enough. The fashion, parties, and beautiful people cavorting around provided a voyeuristic look into a lavish world most viewers would never get to see otherwise. Queen Bee — that’s Blair Waldorf (Meester) — rules Constance Billard School for Girls with an iron fist, and she and her frenemy Serena van der Woodsen (Lively) provide constant fodder for their very own Perez Hilton-like gossip site, which follows their every move. They are the celebrities of the Upper East Side, after all.

Of course, the same thing happened to Gossip Girl that happens to basically every high school-set show. The actors start looking too long in the tooth to believably be in high school anymore, so off to college they go. The college-based storylines on G.G. don’t quite work, though, so the characters all sort of leave their respective New York City-based schools without any official explanation. From there, the plotlines get even more ridiculous. Secret daughters come out of the woodwork. Nate Archibald (Chace Crawford), who we’ve all been led to believe isn’t the sharpest tool in the shed, starts to run a newspaper. On second thought, maybe only a stupid person would invest in print media in 2012.

No one was really watching by the time the last episode aired in 2012, although some former fans did tune in for the finale to see the big reveal of Gossip Girl’s identity. Turns out it was Dan Humphrey (Badgley), a.k.a. Lonely Boy, which makes basically zero sense. So not only did people give up on the show, but the series finale incensed former viewers who tuned back in for one last, nostalgic hurrah.
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True Blood (2008-2014)
Starring: Anna Paquin, Stephen Moyer, Ryan Kwanten, Sam Trammell

When it premiered, viewers thirsted for HBO’s True Blood like a vampire thirsts for blood. The series, which is based on Charlaine Harris’ The Southern Vampire Mysteries, is set in the fictional town of Bon Temps, Louisiana, where extremely attractive vampires and humans coexist. For the first few seasons, audiences were hooked — especially on Sookie (Anna Paquin) and Bill’s (Stephen Moyer) love. It also helped that True Blood has some of the most explicit sex scenes ever, and that the plotlines can border on pure camp.

Over the course of the series, Bon Temps also sees the emergence of other supernatural creatures, including werewolves (hi, Alcide), witches, and shapeshifters. It’s also revealed that the psychic flashes Sookie experiences in earlier seasons were actually the result of her being a faerie. That’s actually when most fans dropped off. Sookie was supposed to be the everygirl and audience conduit into the series. When she suddenly becomes a faerie and takes up with Eric (Alexander Skarsgård), viewers aren’t about that life.
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Jersey Shore (2009-2012)
Starring: Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi, Jenni “JWoww” Farley, Mike “The Situation” Sorrentino, Paul "Pauly D" DelVecchio

Admit it: Season 1 of Jersey Shore was GREAT. Not like, "golden age of television" great, but more of a “Holy shit, these people exist” spectacle. Then, of course, the cast went through the usual reality-show process of seeing themselves on television, becoming quasi-celebrities, and growing more self-aware. They started censoring their behavior on-camera, which made their antics far less enjoyable. Now, all we have left are memories of "CABS ARE HEEERE."
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Glee (2009-2015)
Starring: Lea Michele, Cory Monteith, Matthew Morrison

When it premiered, Glee was a cultural phenomenon. Ryan Murphy’s subversive show about a high school glee club made up of underdogs, football players, and cheerleaders mixed song and dance into a cutting dramedy about the modern-day teenage experience, and audiences ate it up with a bedazzled spoon. The cast went on tour, performed at the White House, and recordings from the show climbed to the top of the iTunes charts.

With each passing season, however, the show lost more and more steam. It faced the conundrum all high-school set shows do of how to incorporate existing cast members into the series once their characters graduate and move away for college, without it feeling forced. The members of New Directions brought in to replace the originals didn’t resonate as strongly with audiences. Star Cory Monteith, who played beloved football player Finn Hudson, passed away in 2013.

By the time the final episode of Glee aired on March 20, 2015, most former viewers would probably have been shocked to hear the show was still even on. It went out to no fanfare. Everyone had stopped believing.
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Downton Abbey (2010-2015)
Starring: Maggie Smith, Michelle Dockery, Laura Carmichael, Hugh Bonneville

Americans and Brits alike were captivated by this extremely English period drama when it debuted. Downton Abbey provides a glimpse at the pervasive upstairs/downstairs divide that existed in British class structure well into the early 20th century, and it’s truly captivating.

Not only does D.A. have legions of devoted viewers, but the real-life locale that serves as the fictional Abbey, Highclere Castle, saw tourism skyrocket as a result of the show. The series also has some majorly high-profile fans. George and Amal Clooney reportedly considered getting married at Highclere, and Kate Middleton visited the set in March 2015.

Once Matthew Crawley (Dan Stevens) died in season 3, though, many fans felt the show lost its luster — especially since we’d already lost Lady Sybil (Jessica Brown Findlay). Some of the plotlines were just too esoteric, like one about the moving of a dustbin. The show is ending after six seasons in 2016 (the final episodes already aired in the U.K. in 2015; there’s a delay in the U.S.), and a lot of formerly gung ho audience members have just stopped tuning in.
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Photo: Courtesy of Mathieu Young/ABC Family.
Pretty Little Liars (2010-present)
Starring: Troian Bellisario, Ashley Benson, Lucy Hale, Shay Mitchell

Who is A, and why is she terrorizing Spencer (Bellisario), Hanna (Benson), Aria (Hale), and Emily (Mitchell)? That’s the question that plagues the titular pretty little liars for quite a few seasons. Seriously, creator Marlene King did a bang-up job of stretching out the reveal for as long as she did.

But that reveal, though. It disappointed many of PLL’s devoted fans. Will they actually stop watching the show? That remains to be seen when it returns this month. The story will jump five years ahead to catch up with the characters in their mid-twenties, which might also alienate some younger fans and cause them to tune out.
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Photo: Courtesy of Carole Segal/Netflix.
The Killing (2011-2014)
Starring: Mireille Enos, Joel Kinnaman, Billy Campbell

During season 1, we were all dying to know who killed Rosie Larsen (Katie Findlay) and shoved her body into the trunk of an abandoned car. By season 2, the writers faced the confounding question that all series based on a central mystery come up against eventually: what to do when said mystery is solved. Plus, they were facing increased criticism from viewers who realized that detectives Holder (Kinnaman) and Linden (Enos) are actually terrible at their jobs. The show hit an undeniable sophomore slump, and while season 3 tried to rewrite the past with a fresh case, it was too late to course-correct. Netflix tried to resurrect The Killing after AMC, well, killed it, but it only lasted for one more season.
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Photo: Gilles Mingasson/ABC/Getty Images.
Revenge (2011-2015)
Starring: Emily VanCamp, Madeleine Stowe, Gabriel Mann

Oh, Revenge, you had such promise and soapy allure. Amanda Clarke (Emily VanCamp), who now goes by Emily Thorne, returns to the Hamptons with a new identity to avenge her father’s false imprisonment, reputation ruin, and death. She’s got unlimited funds and devious schemes that she’s carefully plotted to slowly bring about the downfall of her father’s former business partner and lover, Victoria Grayson (Stowe). What Amanda can’t foresee are all of the feelings returning to her ancestral home and reuniting with her childhood friend Jack (Nick Wechsler) will bring up.

The conceit works extremely well for a season or two, but of course, mysteries eventually have to be solved, and revenge plots must be carried out. During season 4, by which time ratings were already falling, it turns out that Emily/Amanda’s father has actually been alive the entire time. The back-from-the-dead plot is a storytelling device that must be handled extremely deftly, because it can veer into cheesy, too-easy territory. Oh, the long-dead father isn’t really dead? Give us a storyline we HAVEN’T seen before, Revenge creators.
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Photo: Courtesy of John P. Fleenor/FOX.
New Girl (2011-present)
Starring: Zooey Deschanel, Jake Johnson, Max Greenfield, Lamorne Morris

A quirky, adorkable girl goes through a breakup and moves into a loft full of equally quirky (for different reasons) guys she finds through an ad on Craigslist. It could either be an episode of To Catch a Predator or the premise of a cutesy sitcom, and luckily, it’s the latter. When the roommates are single and dating people outside the loft, everything is hunky-dory.

Then, the writers gave in to the undeniable chemistry between Nick (Johnson) and Jess (Deschanel). Listen, we understand that they needed to acknowledge the will-they/won’t-they situation building up between the two roommates. The tension was crackling. It made for some highly enjoyable episodes, like “Quick Hardening Caulk.”

The thing with Nick and Jess’ relationship, though, is that it would have been better left as a “won’t they.” Rather, a “will they, won’t they; they give it a go and decide it’s a no.” Not every roll in the hay needs to result in a relationship, especially when it leaves the other characters with nothing to do on an ensemble show. New Girl lost its mojo and direction when it paired up Nick and Jess, so breaking them up (after way too many episodes devoted to their relationship) was probably the best way to go. Unfortunately, many viewers lost interest and decided not to stick it out.
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Photo: Courtesy of Stephan Rabold/Showtime.
Homeland (2011-present)
Starring: Claire Danes, Mandy Patinkin, Rupert Friend

Some of our mothers would argue that Homeland has never jumped the shark. Many other viewers who once extolled the Showtime series’ virtues from a mountaintop, however, quit sometime during the second or third season. Still more of us were never quite able to keep watching past season 1 because of that damn cacophonous jazz music they insist on using to score the show.
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Photo: Courtesy of Patrick McElhenney/NBC.
The Mindy Project (2012-present)
Starring: Mindy Kaling, Chris Messina, Ike Barinholtz

When we heard that all-around funny lady and amazing writer Mindy Kaling was getting her own sitcom, our only question to the network gods was, “What took you so long?” We couldn’t wait to see what Kaling came up with. The first season was a little rocky — it was hard to strike a balance between Mindy Lahiri’s (Kaling) personal and professional life — so the show was retooled for season 2. Still, we stuck with it.

Then, the show pulled a New Girl. It paired up Mindy and Danny (Chris Messina). At first, this relationship seemed almost magical and rom-com-ical. After all, we know that Kaling loves romantic comedies (just like her character on the show), so she wouldn’t let us down in creating television’s first truly successful adaptation of the classic movie format. Except...she kind of has.

The Mindy Project got its own fairy tale when Hulu rescued it from cancellation, only to have Danny and Mindy’s relationship completely deteriorate in season 4. Yes, this is extremely realistic (not all love stories have happy endings), but what’s most disappointing is how much differently Mindy acts around Danny than she does when she’s with anyone else. Gone is the strong, assertive woman who’s not afraid to express her beliefs, desires, and feelings. In her place is someone who’s afraid to assert that she doesn’t want to be a stay-at-home mother, shuts down instead of communicating, and then lashes out when the going gets truly tough. It’s just not something we ever thought we’d see from a Mindy Kaling character.
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Photo: Courtesy of Lacy Terrell/ HBO.
True Detective (2014-present)
Starring: Woody Harrelson, Matthew McConaughey, Colin Farrell, Rachel McAdams

Picture a mountain, if you will. Picture season 1 at the top of that mountain. Picture season 2 at the bottom. This analogy is over.
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