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Deader Than Disco: Live-Action TV

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  • Can an entire network be deader than Disco? If so, then if MTV isn't there right now, then it is perilously close. Even when the channel's decay became evident in the late '90s and early '00s, MTV was still a relevant force in American pop culture, turning many bands and artists into superstars and airing shows like The Real World, Beavis And Butthead, Daria, and Jackass that hauled in viewers by the boatload and had people talking. And that's not even mentioning the power MTV wielded back in The Eighties. Now, while it's still kept relevant by a handful of hit reality shows and the Video Music Awards, most young people and former fans know it primarily for being the poster child of Network Decay.
    • Total Request Live was the destination for members of Generation Y during its run. It's difficult in retrospect to describe just how much of a colossal hit it was with teenagers of the late '90s and early '00s. It was parodied in music videos, TV shows, and movies, it made Carson Daly a star, it became a standard stop for any promotional tour (even for non-musicians, with the likes of John Travolta and Tom Cruise coming to promote their films), it launched the careers of an entire generation of musicians, and became a general cultural touchstone. Mariah Carey's famous Creator Breakdown was on TRL, for starters, alongside 4/5ths of the Backstreet Boys using TRL to announce that AJ McLean was entering rehab. *NSYNC, The Backstreet Boys, Britney Spears, Jessica Simpson, Christina Aguilera, Beyoncé, and countless others have said that TRL essentially "made" them.

      However, all things come to an end. TRL's playlist was dominated by bubblegum teen pop, which had pretty much the entire pop music world in a stranglehold at the time. Once that environment faded in the mid '00s and pop music grew more diversified, TRL began to fade from relevance. The real killer, however, was the internet making music much more widely available, to the point where having a show like TRL act as a central hub of pop music simply didn't work anymore. It's telling that not only has TRL disappeared, but there hasn't been another "Top Ten" countdown show to take its place.
    • If MTV truly does die, it would be a Karmic Death, as the first video it ever featured was "Video Killed the Radio Star", a subtle hint that the network would be competing with radio broadcasting. (The song itself and the video, however, were generally well-received, even if the group never really became popular.)
  • In the United States, daytime soap operas have fallen victim to this trope. Back in The Seventies and The Eighties, ratings for daytime soaps hit peaks of 30 million viewers for events like the Spencer wedding on General Hospital, and ad revenues from them helped to fund the networks' elaborate, expensive, all-but-nonprofit news divisions, as well as tide the whole network over in years when the Prime Time lineup was struggling. Now (as Values Dissonance has marched on, with themes then considered as "taboo" being commonplace nowadays) soaps are lucky to pull in three million, and some people are recommending that the networks drop them altogether and replace them with talk shows and other daytime fare — which some networks are already doing. The phrase "daytime soap opera" has come to be synonymous with pure dreck in the minds of many TV fans, associated with bad writing, outrageous plots and shoddy acting, something that can be seen whenever disgruntled fans of a Prime Time series talk about how bad writers or actors "should never have been let out of daytime." A list of theories explaining this fall can be seen on the Soap Opera page.
  • Reality TV did in the trashy tabloid talk shows of the '90s, which quickly lost their monopoly on the display of social rejects, miscreants, and degenerates hungry for their 15 minutes of fame. Unlike talk shows, reality shows didn't have the middle man of a host who was ostensibly trying to "help" them, and had more variety than the basic talk show format. Today, the only "Trash TV" hosts still standing are Jerry Springer and Maury Povich, their competitors (Geraldo Rivera, Phil Donahue, Jenny Jones, Ricki Lake, Sally Jessy Raphael) having all been canceled. Oprah Winfrey, now retired herself, who popularized the "Trash TV" format, distinguished herself by going "upmarket" in the mid-nineties, during the height of the trend.
  • It is probably not a coincidence that the Variety Show died out around the same time that specialized cable channels began taking off, since they allowed viewers to enjoy just musical groups, stand-up comedy, etc. without having to wait out performers and segments they weren't interested in. Once in a while, a performer will try to revive the format, but this never works. Later, NBC tried to pull it off with The Jay Leno Show. They were hoping that cheap, product-placement-backed programming would allow them to stem their losses. It didn't work so well, suffering from such abysmal ratings that NBC attempted to move it to late night after half a season. This led to Conan O'Brien's departure from The Tonight Show when he objected to the schedule change.
    • The death of the variety show could also be attributed to the decreasing cost of televisions. Back in The Fifties and The Sixties when variety programs were at their most popular, a television was an expensive investment and there would typically be only one TV per household, if the household had a TV to begin with. When televisions became much less expensive, the need for specialized programming to appeal to the various members of a household became much more apparent. Then cable television took off in The Seventies and The Eighties and put the final nail in variety's coffin.
    • In a similar fashion; the Sports Anthology genre (invented and led by Wide World of Sportsnote ) died out with the rise of sports networks like ESPN, which offered the kind of variety of sports Wide World offered 24/7.
  • Space adventure (or spaceship) based sci-fi shows, once the staple for television sci-fi, disappeared after the cancellation of Star Trek: Enterprise and the rotting away of Andromeda. The Stargate Verse also slowly faded into the purgatory of Saturday afternoon reruns. Genre TV shows are now essentially represented by Earth-based, character relationship-based drama shows with a few sci-fi elements thrown in, such as Eureka, LOST, True Blood, and the new V. The reimagined Battlestar Galactica despite its outer space setting, still focused more on character relationships and political drama than space adventure. This widespread paradigm shift is commonly attributed to the desire to attract more female viewers.
  • "Next Generation" type television shows: These were shows that essentially updated classic shows from two or three decades past and provided an in-universe continuation of the premise. Surviving cast members from the original often appeared either in guest roles (playing older versions of their characters in keeping with the actor's advancing age) or only in the pilot episode in which they simply pass the torch. Named after Star Trek: The Next Generation which takes place in the Star Trek timeline 78 years after The Original Series. This has been replaced by "re-imaginings" which do not take place in the same universe as the original series and are not subject to the continuity of the original series. However, original series cast members can and do make guest appearances as characters who may be completely different from the character they originally played. Richard Hatch, Apollo on the original Battlestar Galactica, appeared in the 2003 reimagining as a character quite different from Apollo. Jane Badler plays a character named Diana in the 2009-10 V series, but not the same Diana that she played on V in 1984-85.
  • Network newscasts. In the past, families gathered around the TV every evening to watch Walter Cronkite or Dan Rather for 30 minutes. With the growth of 24-hour news networks and online news, many people stopped watching the traditional newscasts, which are on when most people aren't even home.
  • Kid Com shows that don't involve some kind of celebrity focus are dying out. There are very few Dom Com low-concept shows that focus on the characters living a relatively normal life. The reason is the success of Hannah Montana and executives trying to capture that market to get the next big Idol Singer. (The huge success of the Diary of a Wimpy Kid franchise may be partially because it serves the audience that liked Slice of Life kidcoms.)
  • The "classic sitcom" format, while still somewhat popular among audiences (most of CBS' biggest hits are such shows), no longer dominates the Big Four networks due to the success of shows like Modern Family, 30 Rock and the U.S. remake of The Office, which are usually made in the single-camera format rather then the traditional multi-camera one and avoid using sitcom staples like a Laugh Track and a Studio Audience. Multi-camera sitcoms have risen in popularity on cable channels such as FX and TBS, but critics tend to look down their noses at them and the form in general.
  • Similarly, the "Working Class Family" Sitcom died sometime in The Nineties. This can probably be attributed to the increased number of Americans attending college, the rise in niche entertainment rendering the "everyman" of such shows obsolete, the rise in post-modern sitcoms like Seinfeld and How I Met Your Mother, and shows like The Simpsons and Married... with Children making it almost impossible to take such shows seriously anymore.
  • "Late Night Creature Feature"-style shows: A former staple of Friday and Saturday night television, particularly on stations that weren't network affiliates, were locally-produced shows dedicated to airing B-grade horror or science fiction movies, with such umbrella titles as Chiller Theater or Shock Theater. Notable, invariably tongue-in-cheek hosts of such shows included Vampira, Doctor Madblood, and Svengoolie; Elvira, Mistress of the Dark kept the format going well into The Eighties. (All this was parodied by SCTV with Count Floyd.) The timeslot wasn't necessarily late at night — it may have been as early as 9 p.m., or alternatively scheduled for weekend afternoons. But as The Eighties progressed, the films aged along with the viewers that appreciated them, the "Big Three" networks began adding more and more national fare to the late and overnight schedules, pay and basic cable networks bought up the rights to many movies en masse (USA Network, in its first two decades, had the weekend block Night Flight and its successor Up All Night, which were effectively their versions of this concept), and independent stations dried up as new networks like Fox took them over. Mystery Science Theater 3000 is widely considered the Last of His Kind, but in fact there are a few shows that have revived the format with public domain films and reached the national syndication market in The New Tens (Elvira's Movie Macabre, the San Francisco-based Creepy KOFY Movie Time, Wolfman Mac's Chiller Drive-In), quietly killing time on weekends on minor network affiliates like MyNetworkTV's. New generations of viewers discovering these films typically prefer to view them uncut, commercial free, and without the distraction of host segments. The concept of the Internet Video Review Show has also helped in that the reviewers cut the films down to their most prominent parts and analyze their tropes while getting rid of extraneous plot.
  • Low-budget, high concept TV shows that use the Canada Does Not Exist trope. During the late 80s and early 90s, these were a staple for shows in multiple genres such as action-adventure (Highlander), youth drama (Catwalk or Degrassi), sci-fi/horror (Friday The 13th: The Series or War of the Worlds), and police drama (21 Jump Street). Toronto and Vancouver were at the time encouraging locations for low budget television even offering incentives to American producers. The low low budget connected with small-name actors (many of them Canadian) allowed for a proliferation of inexpensive entertainment aimed at various niche audiences. The nowhereland setting for these shows allowed for them to appeal to viewers in both the U.S. and Canada. Today, the new low-budget market is Reality Television which can be produced in Hollywood and appeal to a mainstream American audience. Although in terms of dollar amount, Episodes of Reality shows today probably cost more than an average episode of Highlander, they are easier and faster to produce (as they are not script oriented), have a quicker return in revenue, and appeal to a mass audience. Other genres are still around but mostly manifest themselves as expensive tentpole franchises with high production values, big name stars, and an unambiguous major American city setting.
  • The Jiggle Show. During the Seventies and Eighties, shows like Three's Company, and Charlie's Angels, and, to a lesser extent, the Wonder Woman series and The Dukes of Hazzard that were long on beautiful actresses but (perceived as) a little short on plot were incredibly popular, and the joke was that they were especially popular amongst sexually frustrated men who would be willing to sit through thirty minutes of flimsy dialogue for the chance to see Suzanne Somers in a bikini or Farrah Fawcett run after a bad guy in a tight sweater. The genre peaked with Baywatch, but with the rise of easily accessible pornography on the internet and more liberal views towards sexual matters, shows that are expecting to coast solely on the beauty of their casts are finding themselves disappointed. This was best demonstrated in 2011, when The Playboy Club and a revival of Charlie's Angels both got canned after only a few poorly-rated episodes and scathing reviews.
  • Cinemax still has their After Dark block known more by the Fan Nickname "Skinemax" of softcore films and shows going on, though the films have gotten progressively cheaper as time goes on and adult actors find better work with the Internet, while the shows can no longer coast by on the Strictly Formula plots of the past; they more resemble soaps with adult plots and believable plot development than redundant spins on Pizza Boy Special Delivery. Meanwhile Showtime instead began to carry adult reality shows like Polyamory: Married & Dating and Gigalos rather than getting writers and actors involved with diminishing returns.
  • Anthology series: The visual version of short story collections, these are essentially any regular series without a recurring cast or continuing storyline from episode to episode. They can contain a little bit of everything, with many styles of writing, acting, and direction from episode to episode. These were once very popular for genres like science fiction, fantasy, and especially horror (after all, the concept of recurring characters somewhat removes suspense) that often involve Hitchcockian twists or morality plays. Alfred Hitchcock Presents, The Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits, Faerie Tale Theatre, Tales from the Darkside, The Storyteller, and Tales from the Crypt are some of the many acclaimed examples of this style of show, which persisted well into The Nineties. Anthologies often allowed exposure for upcoming actors and a fun break from the usual for already established actors. But in general, television since the Turn of the Millennium has been more concerned with character development and story arcs to draw viewers in — impossible to accomplish with anthologies where each story must be told in one hour or less — and with occasional exceptions like Masters Of Horror, the anthology show has fallen out of favor.
  • "Period"-themed comedies, which were popular particularly during the 70's and early 80's (Happy Days, American Graffiti, etc.) seem to have fallen out of favor around the turn of the millennium. The last real noteworthy movie example was 1998's The Wedding Singer, while the last noteworthy television example was That '70s Show (which was really a mockery of 1970's nostalgia rather than a true nostalgic throwback to that era). This is no doubt due to how limited such comedy tends to be - one can only make so many jokes about things like pet rocks and Rubik's Cubes before they grow stale and predictable (nevermind that the era being lampooned was probably heavily dominated by its own sense of nostalgia for an earlier time). On the other hand, certain period-themed dramas such as Mad Men (set in the 1960s) and Freaks and Geeks (set in the early-1980's) have garnered a lot of critical acclaim not only for their high production values and excellent storytelling but for how honestly and respectfully they treat their respective time periods.
  • The daytime Game Show. A saturation of shows on the Big Three in the late 80s-early 90s helped kill it, as did the debut of the nighttime syndicated versions of Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy! in 1983 and 1984 respectively (Wheel debuted in daytime in 1975, and continued to stay on daytime until 1991). These two shows became so successful that they still thrive in syndication 30+ years later, and were almost singlehandedly responsible for terminating the likes of Tic-Tac-Dough and Family Feud.
    • Also helping in the decline was the rise of cable, paving the way for a huge wave of low-budget shows. While many were short-lived bombs, the cable boom did produce a few beloved shows such as Supermarket Sweep. It also resulted in the creation of GSN (Game Show Network) in 1994, allowing fans a haven for reruns of beloved older shows.
    • ABC gave up on daytime in 1991 after a revival of Match Game.
    • NBC dropped Sale Of The Century and Super Password in March 1989, daytime Wheel in June (which moved to CBS a few weeks later), and Win Lose Or Draw later that year, followed by Scrabble in March 1990. Wheel returned to the network in January 1991 (replacing a short-lived revival of Lets Make A Deal), but finally ended its daytime run that September. Classic Concentration left in 1991, but continued to air in reruns for a bit. In 1993, the network tried an hour-long block of a Scrabble revival and Scattergories, along with the also short-lived Family Secrets. Their last attempt was Caesar's Challenge in 1993, but after it ended in January 1994...
    • After losing the 1988-94 revival of Feud, CBS had only The Price Is Right to its name. Price remained the lone holdout for daytime network game shows for a good 15 years until the same network launched a successful Lets Make A Deal revival in 2009.
    • Feud ultimately came back in syndicated form in 1999, and has managed to survive to this day despite three changes in host.
    • In 1999, Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? spawned a new and often-copied trend of flashy, big-budget shows, often quiz related, that threw around vast amounts of money. That big-money move eventually fizzled out after ABC saturated their schedule with Millionaire, although it quickly moved to daily syndication and has managed to hang on ever since. In the times since, only Deal or No Deal (2005-09 on NBC, 2008-10 in syndication) has been successful in the "big money game show" field.
    • Cable game shows pretty much died off in the wake of the big-money move of the early 2000s, as the cable shows didn't have the flash or prize budget of the Millionaire types. GSN made many a valiant effort in the 2000s, but other than Lingo (2002-07, plus a short-lived revival in 2011), none of them stuck. However, The Hub has found relative success in this field with Family Game Night.
    • All game shows nearly faced extinction after the quiz show scandals of The Fifties, in which it was revealed that many of the hit game shows on American television (most notably Twenty One) were being rigged by the networks in order to increase tension for viewing audiences. Game shows were anathema to networks for almost twenty years before Merv Griffin took a risk with Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy!. (Still, some people have long memories, and the scandal is the reason many people believe the voting on American Idol is rigged.)
  • Cable also pretty much killed off scripted shows in first-run syndication. Shows in first-run syndication were massively popular in the Nineties (Baywatch, Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, Xena: Warrior Princess,) however, shows that have tried since then haven't had the same success. First-run syndication was something of a shaky market anyway (after a show was bought, the station could air them whenever they wanted, and some would exile them to 1 AM dead zones, and even if they weren't, varying timeslots made it nearly impossible to advertise since many people couldn't figure out where or when to tune in, with the best they could do a generic "Check Local Listings.") With a guaranteed timeslot on cable and a promise of frequent reruns, shows that normally would have went the route of first-run syndication instead went to cable networks, and shows in first-run syndication struggled (She Spies, Mutant X), along with Infomercials being more dependable sources of revenue. While first-run syndication is still used to create daytime fare like game shows, talk shows, and courtroom shows, Legend of the Seeker might go down as the last-ditch attempt at a scripted series in first-run syndication.
  • TV movies on the Big Four networks. In the 1970s, television networks began producing 90-to-120 minute TV movies as a new form of serialized television, and despite the low budgets and quick shooting schedules, managed to attract a lot of name talent whose schedules otherwise prevented them from committing to a television series. Many of them got big ratings; it was often that you could see a TV movie pull in one-third and even half of the television-watching public. However, increasing budgets and (again) the rise of cable television led to a decline of quality to the point where the glory days were forgotten in favor of being Snark Bait among viewers for their low budgets, Strictly Formula plots, and bad acting. Nowadays, the Big Four prefer to be more conservative with budgets while TV movies are strictly done for cable, where many networks have more money to spend due to being light on in-house production. And while pay networks like HBO have garnered much acclaim for their TV movies, most people nowadays think of the format as nothing but one Lifetime Movie of the Week, Hallmark Channel Tastes Like Diabetes-fest, Wal-Mart/Procter and Gamble co-sponsored sapfests, or next-to-no-budget Sci Fi Channel creature feature after another.
  • The Afterschool Special was a mainstay of the Big Three Networks for most of the 1970s, '80s, and 'early 90s. Initially, they were simply special programs aimed at kids and teens, which could be educational and/or entertaining, light or dark. But dramatic Very Special Episodes about various controversial topics such as abuse, STDs, drugs, teen pregnancy, etc. eventually became the usual output. Their depictions of such issues garnered them quite a bit of critical acclaim at the time, as television was otherwise very shy about dramatizing them, let alone to children. But, as discussed in the excellent Platypus Comix retrospective of ads for the trope-naming ABC specials (both parts can be found here), eventually the topics were discussed/depicted in both prime time series and daytime talk shows, kids — who, when the shows launched, didn't have a lot aimed specifically at them save for Saturday morning lineups — found other entertainment options on TV, and network affiliates became peeved that the shows preempted popular regular programming (such as said talk shows). ABC, the Trope Maker, stopped doing them in 1996, and nowadays they are mostly remembered only as a source of Narm Charm.
  • 3-D television. Shortly after the third boom of 3-D movies in the late '00s, TV manufacturers tried to get in on what was thought to be a booming market, with Sony incorporating 3-D into the PlayStation 3 and tech analysts predicting that 3-D would follow high-definition and become part of the fabric of the average person's viewing experience. The boom lasted only a few years at best, its fall roughly coinciding with when moviegoers (in the West, at least) turned against 3-D movies themselves. In addition to having many of the same problems 3-D movies had, both the sets themselves and the movies were priced at a premium, and 3-D televisions also required their own electronic glasses that were fragile and costly to replace. The latter factor ruined their application in watching sports, which had been hyped as the format's Killer App (much like it had been for HDTVs), as inviting people over to watch the game became really expensive with all of those glasses. 3-D content outside of movies is hard to find and shrinking in quantity, and one TV manufacturer, Vizio, has stopped making 3-D TVs altogether.

    Specific 

American Broadcasting Company

  • Moonlighting was arguably the coiner of the term Dramedy. What really made the show stand out was its penchant for Breaking the Fourth Wall, where on occasion the characters would talk to the audience or otherwise show knowledge that they were characters in a television show ("Don't go much lower. They'll take us off the air."). This progressed in later seasons to become a pure No Fourth Wall series. It's however perhaps best known for being the classic example of how a show can fall apart when Unresolved Sexual Tension is resolved, or how a hit show collapses due to a perfect storm of behind the scenes chaos. When the fifth season was shortened due to a TV Strike, ABC put the show down.
  • After Grace Under Fire finished the 1993-94 season as the higest-rated new comedy on television as well as finishing in the Top 10 of the Nielsen's that year and the year after that, series star, Brett Butler's behavior became increasingly erractic. Her addition to pain-killers and paranonia over creative control soon lead to a revolving door of producers, writers, and co-stars. Eventually, after falling to 45th place in the ratings for its fourth season, ABC cancelled Grace Under Fire after just 14 episodes into the 1997-98 season.

BBC

  • The Benny Hill Show has slowly faded away from British popular conciousness in a way that exact contemporaries like the still beloved Morecambe and Wise and The Two Ronnies have not, largely due to Values Dissonance. Since cancellation the show has rarely been aired in Britain leading to the ironic situation that most Britons in their late twenties or younger who do know anything about Benny Hill were generally introduced to him through the frequent homages to and parodies of his show in American media.
  • During his life, Jimmy Savile was an iconic and beloved British TV presenter, hosting Top of the Pops and Jim'll Fix It and raising funds for charities and hospitals. Not long after his death in 2011, however, it came out that he had molested hundreds of young girls during his long career. The public turned against him virtually overnight, with many organizations that Savile had been a part of disowning him, signs and plaques bearing his name being vandalized and removed en masse, and his own family taking down and destroying the ornate headstone on his grave out of respect for the victims. His reputation was sealed by an ITV documentary in 2012 detailing his crimes, which managed to cause a scandal when it revealed that some in The BBC, the National Health Service, and British law enforcement knew about what he was doing (or at least suspected it) and were complicit in covering it up. Today, he is a reviled figure in Britain.
  • Little Britain was extremely popular in its day as a satire of certain things that were prevalent in Britain at the time. However, from Series 3 onwards people got sick of it. The jokes had worn themselves into the ground, the new characters introduced seemed to just be done for shock value, and the show and its actors were ultimately so overexposed and overmarketed that people could not stand to watch it anymore. In addition, many people who enjoyed it when they were teenagers look back on it as adults and realised all the jokes are based around making fun of minorities, which is something that was controversial enough at the time and now is completely outdated. If you ask any teenager who didn't watch it when they were younger about it chances are they don't know it. If you ask someone who grew up with it, chances are they regret it.
  • Dead Ringers - As it was based on current events and then popular celebrities and politicians, each series became this a short time after airing. The BBC knew this and only ever released the first series on DVD, despite there being seven produced in total. The radio series fared better as it was often based on radio shows and pop culture that were still around years later (hence most series are available on CD or Cassette) and did not require you to suspend your disbelief from the impressionists not looking like who they were meant to be. However, the satirical impression aspect of the show is pretty much a dead trope - people are more likely to watch stand up comedy or read internet articles for the same jokes, without the tacky concept.

CBS

  • The Ur Example for television may be TV personality Arthur Godfrey, who was extraordinarily popular in the early 1950s. Viewers turned against him after his folksy, friendly, gee-shucks demeanor was shown to have been an act; he was actually a cruel, egotistical taskmaster who fired a popular singer on one of his shows on the air for going to his grandmother's funeral instead of taking a dancing class he didn't actually need.
  • During its network run, Murphy Brown was one of the most talked about, critically acclaimed shows on the air. Today, it's nowhere to be found in syndication, and first season DVD sales were so poor that the second season was never even released. The show's reliance on topical humor is almost certainly a factor; jokes about Dan Quayle aren't nearly as funny 20 years later. It definitely doesn't help that its defining moment, Murphy's pregnancy and the subsequent feud with Dan Quayle, not only happened relatively early (the show ran for another six seasons after that), but has aged poorly — it seems quaint by today's standards for Dan Quayle to have made such a big deal about a single mother on television.
  • The only reason why The Beverly Hillbillies got to number one in the ratings is because old people loved it. CBS eventually figured out that, although it was getting great ratings, those ratings were coming from an audience that advertisers didn't care about, which led to its cancellation. The same thing happened for several other shows, like Mayberry RFD and even Gunsmoke. There's even a whole page at The Other Wiki, "rural purge", about these cancellations of rural-themed and senior-targeted programs. Several of the other shows listed on that page (Hogan's Heroes, Family Affair), which were also popular in their day, are similarly no longer appreciated as anything but kitsch, mainly due to the fact that most of the people who liked them in their heyday were over 50 when they were canceled, and are now dead. While they still have their viewers (judging by the ratings for TV Land reruns and the existence of DVD box sets for many of them), few will cite them as truly great television.
    • In The Nineties, older viewers might explain why Touched by an Angel was a Top 10 show at the height of its run. It often outdrew The Simpsons in its Sunday nighttime slot (despite never being a critical favorite and regarded as glurge at its worst), it launched a Spin-Off in Promised Land (which lasted three seasons), and reruns of the show were central to the young PAX network's lineup. When its time slot was switched to Saturday nights for its final two seasons, ratings plunged, and while it's still in cable reruns, it's mostly seen as a joke now.
    • This happens a lot, though... lots of classic series, even ones that are considered good, are often given a backseat because they don't attract the audiences the powers that be want. Or they just don't attract that much attention in general, with the audience becoming younger, not many people remember it as much as others did. Of course, the lack of readily-available reruns these days doesn't help.

Fox

  • A variant: Ally McBeal never went from all-popular to all-hated, having both admirers and haters at its peak. Instead, it went from The Extremely Important Show That Expressed The State of The American Woman Today to a half-forgotten joke that's best remembered for featuring the first online Memetic Mutation to become mainstream, the Dancing Baby, being the series that Robert Downey, Jr. was on as he spiraled out of control, and for being that "single female lawyer" show that Futurama made fun of. Everybody, love it or hate it, used to think it was a cultural milestone — Time did a cover story on it, calling it a low point in the history of American feminism, and New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd went through a period where she mentioned it in literally every single column that she wrote (amongst all of this, it was also heavy analyzed by scholars because the character of Ling Woo, played by Lucy Liu, was pretty much the only Asian character of any real substance on television at the time.) A decade later, it's a footnote of the late '90s. It's telling that Hayden Panettiere's time on the show is barely mentioned, not even as an Old Shame.
    • According to Chris "Rowdy C" Moore of TV Trash, part of the reasoning for why Ally McBeal falls under this trope is because of David E. Kelley's subsequent series Boston Legal proceeding to overshadow Ally McBeal (which became according to Rowdy C, one of the rare shows where the main/lead character is actually The Scrappy) in popularity.
    • This Life occupied a similar position in the UK as Ally McBeal did in the USA, albeit as a less comedic form of drama — something akin to being the most important show on TV in the mid-to-late nineties. Then, once the late-twenty-somethings who watched it grew up and had children, the younger generation couldn't see what all the fuss was about. Sex, drugs and young lawyers? Old hat.
  • As noted above, shows that fall victim to The Chris Carter Effect have a tendency to slip into this once their lack of long-term Myth Arc planning becomes apparent.
    • Let's start with the Trope Namer. The memory of The X-Files' excellent early years was badly sullied not long after the movie came out. Its final three seasons were widely ill-received, leading up to an embarrassing and frustrating case of No Ending that, to many fans, showed that the writers had no clue what they were doing and were making things up as they went along. What die hard fans were left had their interest killed by a ho-hum movie released in 2008. While the show's legacy can still be readily seen, and there remained enough fans to get it a continuation in the form of a "season 10" comic book, the most celebrated episodes nowadays are the stand-alone Monster of the Week episodes, whereas the Myth Arc, which had once been among the chief draws, is now viewed as where the show fell apart.
    • Twin Peaks, like The X-Files, was once a cultural phenomenon. However, ABC executives forced David Lynch to resolve the show's central mystery much earlier than he wished to, feeling that audiences wouldn't stick around that long, leaving it without an anchor for its array of subplots. Now, if the show is ever brought up, it's either by worried network execs afraid that their hit genre show will become the next Twin Peaks, or by fans who think that their show is Jumping the Shark. Like The X-Files, while its legacy lives on, it is today remembered as a prime example of how short-sighted Executive Meddling can run a great show into the ground. Most fans tell people getting into the show to stop watching after The Reveal of who killed Laura Palmer.
    • Heroes. During this show's first season, critics and audiences alike were praising it as the next LOST, and it managed to be a credible rival to that show, even breaking out of the Sci-Fi Ghetto and getting an Emmy nod for Best Drama Series. The fact that Heroes hit its stride just as LOST was going through one of its lowest points helped it pick up a lot of disgruntled fans of the latter show who were growing bored waiting for the plot to get moving, as Heroes' writing seemed to be a direct response to the slow pace of LOST's much-maligned third season.

      Unfortunately, the Second Season Downfall kicked in hard. Bryan Fuller left to make Pushing Daisies, and the 2007-08 WGA Strike killed an entire half-season's worth of plots and a planned spinoff. The show spent the next two seasons flying off the rails and hemorrhaging viewers as the writing staff struggled, and failed, to figure out how to salvage it. Heroes' sudden fall gave birth to a TV colloquialism called "Heroes Disease", used to describe when a show that burned hot in its first season burns out afterward as a result of having run out of storylines and gotten too broad and sprawling for its own good. Not even Fuller's return in the fourth season could save Heroes, as NBC, reeling from the flop of The Jay Leno Show and fed up with the show's big budget and lack of ratings to show for it, pulled the plug at the end of that season, just as it was becoming good again. Once viewed as the show that would save NBC after many of its hit '90s sitcoms came to an end, it instead came to be seen as a symbol of all the problems that NBC had over the course of the '00s.

      That said, NBC is planning to relaunch the series in 2015 with a 13-episode Mini Series called Heroes Reborn, so it remains to be seen if the show can still recover.
  • When The O.C. premiered in 2003 it became a pop culture sensation overnight. Critics praised the show for its clever dialogue, excellent writing, and interesting characters, and it was one of the highest-rated television shows in its time slot. For its second season Fox moved the show to a competitive Thursday nighttime slot, which ended up costing it viewers. There's also a general agreement among fans that the quality of the show declined in the second season, although it was still pretty good. Season 3 is almost universally considered to be the show's worst season due to it introducing several new characters who were disliked by fans as well as the overall tone becoming more serious and angsty, thus causing the ratings to drop even further. When Season 4 rolled around the show began to improve in quality, returning the focus to the main cast members and bringing back the comedy. Unfortunately, by that point most people had given up on The OC and it was cancelled due to low ratings.
  • Glee has become victim of its own attempts to capture lightning in a bottle. The first and, especially, second seasons were critical and commercial darlings, garnering high praise and earning high ratings and actually dethroning American Idol as the network's crown jewel. With its growing exposure, the writers attempted duplicate what was garnering all the praise, at the expense of the what made it well liked in the first place. Latter seasons saw more emphasis put on Ship Teasing, LGBT storylines, and tribute episodes to popular artists. This resulted in the show alienating their audience, and the ratings of the series have been free-falling since the third season. After the death of cast member Cory Monteith in 2013, it has been decided that the show will end in 2015.
    • Part of the problem was that around the time of the second season, Glee was at an all time high for its popularity to the point where it ended up displacing American Idol as Fox's Flagship Series and Adored by the Network started to kick in full force. With the aforementioned decline in quality of the plots, by the third season, ratings began to rapidly tank that by the end, they were actually lower than the first season's. By the time 4th season premiered, Fox caught on to the declining popularity and moved the series onto Thursday nights. If the current ratings are anything to go by however, the damage has been done.
    • The show ran into serious trouble in its second season with characters constantly changing motives and personalities, character development going backwards, plots coming out of nowhere, and the show becoming the preachy Public Service Announcement it used to mock. Any pretense of realism the show had had disappeared by the end of Season 2-the Glee Club inexplicably went from a broke bunch of misfits in Season 1, which was a huge part of the show's charm, to being able to assemble and perform any musical number instantly, complete with jaw-dropping effects, by the Season 2 premiere.
    • The decline was much more noticeable in season 3, which had Broken Aesops galore and constant RetConning of forgotten plots. Sugar, Wade, and Rory were one-dimensional and obnoxious, and characters broke up, cheated, and hooked up for no good reason.
    • In the fourth season, the show had multiple concurrent plots, with New Directions members in Lima, Connecticut, Los Angeles, Kentucky, and New York City, and couldn't develop and pay attention to all of those at once. Fan-favorite Sue left the series mid-season, they added a bunch of new characters who were flanderized versions of the original cast (for example, Kitty is pretty much a fill in for Quinn), and Sectionals, Regionals & Nationals, previously a huge part of the show, came out of nowhere and disappeared afterwards.

MTV

  • The Tom Green Show. Tom's Cloud Cuckoolander-on-crack behavior was certainly a big draw for a while; kids & teenagers loved him, parents couldn't stand him, and the show only seemed to get bigger with every bad review. Circumstance and changing taste brought it all crashing down: Tom had a bout with testicular cancer which halted production for a while, Tom's reputation nose-dived after his ill-fated directorial debut Freddy Got Fingered, Jackass was a newer, fresher take on physical shock comedy, and when Tom made his comeback, it was in the form of a talk show, which was cancelled after a few months. If he's remembered for anything now, it's either by bad movie buffs for the aforementioned film, or serious '90s kids.

NBC

  • Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In was the top rated show for two straight seasons and was a cultural icon in the 1960's (it would also launch the careers of Goldie Hawn and Lily Tomlin). However, the show being one big Unintentional Period Piece led to a fast ratings drop in the fourth season and an eventual cancellation. Nowadays, the show is barely remembered outside of a few references in books and specials on the history of television and is rarely aired on television due to the dated nature.
    • It also picked up a substantial hatedom for its part in Star Trek getting Screwed by the Network, to the point that several performers actually left the show in protest to NBC's treatment of Star Trek, and their own exec producer's role in that treatmentnote , which is when Rowan and Martin dropped out of the top ten in ratings.
  • My Name Is Earl was a rather popular show during its four season run from 2005 to 2009 with a devoted following and acclaim for its star in Jason Lee (it was also a part of a meme involving Earl being chased by a man with no legs). Today, the show is almost totally obscure as reruns are almost never run and the show's cast having hardly done anything since (the show ending on a cliffhanger probably didn't help either).

    Fictional examples 
  • Ironically (given the show's own place on this list), one of The X-Files' signatures was Mulder's snarky "Deader than Disco" pop cultural references, as typified by this exchange:
    Putative Vampire: Don't you want to live forever?
    Agent Mulder: Not if drawstring pants are coming back.
  • In the Burn Notice episode "Odd Man Out", Sam quotes the trope name in describing what will happen if they try to ambush the Villain of the Week by hiding behind explosive drums.
  • NCIS: Los Angeles features Deeks quoting the trope name as well, while describing the Victim of the Week in "Collateral", an ex-CIA agent turned wildly successful video game developer, who had been blown to bits by his lighter.

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