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, a couple of critically acclaimed scripted series (primarily Teen Wolf,) and the Video Music Awards, most young people and former fans know it primarily for being the poster child of Network Decay.
    • 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.)
  • Cartoon Network fell victim to this in Belgium ever since Medialaan decided to compete with the kid channels that were on Belgian television (which are Ketnet, Nickelodeon, Disney Channel and Cartoon Network themselves) back then with VTM K Zoom which was launched in Oktober 2009. It suddenly became quite clear that if Cartoon Network would have a Cash Cow Franchise Medialaan would have that particular one as well that they could air on the 2 channels that they have that air animation (which are 2BE and VTM K Zoom). Not only would this be problematic for Cartoon Network because they would be one channel that had to compete with one and a half channels (since 2BE airs other stuff as well from 17:00 to midnight), but Medialaan also owns the Belgian airing rights to other Cash Cow Franchises that Cartoon Network does not really own such as the Belgian airing rights of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic. As of 2011 Cartoon Network is only accessible through special airing rights in Belgium and you got to either be a diehard Cartoon Network fan or a diehard fan of that one rare show that airs on it that Medialaan does not own since owning it costs a lot more than regular cable. Kind of sad for them, since ever since their expansion to the BENELUX in 2001 they seemed to have a stable market there and they are still successful in The Netherlands.
  • 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. It also didn't help that, around 2003-2004, tabloid talk shows were being accused of recycling the same plots and scenarios over and over again. Today, the only "Trash TV" hosts still standing are Jerry Springer and Maury Povich, probably only because their shows are subsidized by the state of Connecticut under a large tax subsidy to NBC, and curmudgeonly conservative talker Bill Cunningham, whose show merely exists to fill The CW's hour of daytime and is an Old Shame to many of their more respected affiliates. Their competitors (Geraldo Rivera, Phil Donahue, Jenny Jones, Ricki Lake, Sally Jessy Raphael, Montel Williams) 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.
    • The entire traditional newscast model is near non-existent for cable news any longer. Except for the fringe services like BBC World News, Al Jazzerra America and RT, the only traditional 'news-weather-sports' newscast on cable news is MSNBC's First Look at 5 in the morning; every other newscast is pretty much required to have a story introduced for a talking head debate somehow.
  • 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 than 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.
    • However, the multi-camera format has had much better success selling in syndication and finding general audiences while many of the acclaimed single-camera series had struggled in ratings (in the cases of 30 Rock and Community) and failed in syndication (in the case of The Office) despite positive reviews. Also, many of the classic multi-camera format series (such as Seinfeld and Friends) still hold up today against newer series. If anything, the single-camera format could be this trope if these viewing and sales trends continue.
  • 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, Tales from the Crypt, and The Wonderful World of Disney 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). There is also the tendency for such shows, despite their period setting, to reflect the values of the decade in which the show is being produced (such as female empowerment and downplaying racism). On the other hand, certain period-themed dramas such as Mad Men (set in the 1960s) and Freaks and Geeks (set in the early-1980s) 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 Let's Make a Deal), but finally ended its daytime run that September. 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 Let's 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 21) 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, with Baywatch and Xena each holding onto the title of world's most popular show at one point or another.) 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 unholy timeslots such as 1am. Even if they weren't, varying timeslots made it nearly impossible to advertise; since almost every market had a different schedule, commercials and print ads couldn't show a time or channel, only being able to tack on a generic "Check Local Listings.") With a guaranteed timeslot on cable and a promise of frequent reruns, along with Infomercials being more dependable sources of revenue, 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 endured an ill-conceived retool and imploded, Mutant X simply stopped despite solid ratings after the production company went bankrupt, and all of the shows made by the Herc/Xena production team, such as Beastmaster, Cleopatra2525, and Jack-of-All-Trades, all of whom were hobbled by the same problems that plagued Xena's later years, namely a lot of the behind-the-scenes talent in New Zealand jumping ship and moving over to The Lord of the Rings, simply couldn't match their predecessor's success and withered away.) 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 specifically for the American market. Some first-run series may still run in weekend syndication, but are mainly Canadian content or European-financed action fare that was rejected by most cable networks.
  • 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. Also helping is that with many cable networks and websites getting into the series business, actors who in the past had to be content with taking a TV movie role in-between jobs can happily reject them for a much more lucrative and satisfying role in a show guaranteed to make 10 episodes at the least rather than being reduced to paint-by-numbers Damsel in Distress fare; those that want to stick with TV movie-like roles can instead take work in much shorter true crime reenactment shows airing on Lifetime, Investigation Discovery, A&E and the network newsmagazines.
    • 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, including Oprah). 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.
  • As noted on the main page, 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.
  • Live-action educational shows for kids: This concept was around for a while before taking off in the The Seventies with such PBS shows such as Mr Rogers Neighborhood, Reading Rainbow and the still running Sesame Street providing a mix of educational content and light entertainment, usually with recurring characters. Similar, lesser-known shows ran in syndication during The Seventies and The Eighties, including Romper Room, The Great Space Coaster, Joya's Fun School, and The Magic Garden. By the following decade they fell out of fashion as all the independent stations were merged into networks who, in the wake of 24/7 cable networks for kids and greater restrictions on advertising to children, unanimously decided that such children's television was not profitable. While Sesame Street still persists on PBS, most of that network's Edutainment shows are animated rather than live-action these days. To meet the FCC's educational programming requirements, networks and their affiliates either repurpose programming from cable or run blocks of live-action, documentary-style shows from producers like Litton Entertainment. About the only places where variety-style educational shows are still being made/shown are Christian-aimed cable channels such as TBN and Daystar.
  • Interstitials, usually locally made vignettes of an educational nature mostly aimed at children, shown between different shows and time slots, mostly during daytime. The biggest reason these died is because of the way local TV changed in the early-mid '90s and these were no longer in the station's budget to produce and air and were mostly filled in place by more advertisements.
  • Network signoffs at midnight. Usually a stock footage vignette with scenes of nature or patriotic imagery juxtaposed with a narrator stating the current time, followed by a prayer or the national anthem, then after this, the screen would fade to the test signal. After the 1990s with the rise of late night television, networks no longer do this, instead filling time(usually midnight-4:30 am) with paid programming blocks or repeats of programming from the day.
  • Older medical dramas (from the 1960s and '70s) such as Ben Casey, Dr. Kildare, Medical Center, and Marcus Welby, M.D. have have been long absent from TV screens. This most likely has to do with these older shows now coming across as incredibly dated, hackneyed, and melodramatic in comparison to modern medical shows like ER, House, and Grey's Anatomy (all of which, offered more realistic plots and graphic depictions). And in the cases of Ben Casey and Dr. Kildare, another factor working against them is the fact that both shows were made in black and white, which more than often, considered a turn-off by many younger viewers.
  • The TV Western genre was huge in the 1950s and '60s with shows like Gunsmoke and Bonanza. And yet, it's practically completely gone today due to the problematic representations of minorities and women along with oversaturation of the genre.
  • The "high fantasy" sitcom. From the 1960s through the '90s, there were many sitcoms (Bewitched, I Dream of Jeannie, Mork and Mindy, Alf, 3rd Rock from the Sun, Sabrina the Teenage Witch and the later seasons of Family Matters being probably the most popular) dealing with out-there concepts such as aliens, magic powers and wacky science experiments, with the comedy naturally coming from putting these concepts in a real-world setting. This subgenre faded away sometime around the Turn of the Millennium for two reasons. The first is that, after shows like Cheers and especially Seinfeld became huge, sitcoms began skewing more towards an older audience that naturally wanted something a little more realistic. The second is that the success of Buffy the Vampire Slayer made high fantasy dramas a viable genre, showing that such out-there concepts as magic and vampires in an otherwise Real Life setting can indeed be portrayed in a reasonably serious manner. As of this writing, The Neighbors is probably the only "fantasy" sitcom since the '90s to find some kind of audience, and even that only lasted two seasons before cancellation.
  • Norman Lear practically pioneered the Very Special Episode trope for American prime-time TV. All in the Family, Maude, Good Times, Sanford and Son, One Day At A Time, and The Jeffersons were all thick with Anvilicious plots and Points To Be Made. So were his later series, but by then people had become less tolerant of his anvils. Then again, All in the Family, Sanford and Son, and The Jeffersons had highly sympathetic bigots, which lightened the intended anvils in those series. These episodes were most common in the 1980s (Diff'rent Strokes was arguably the most notorious as one episode even had an appearance by then First Lady Nancy Reagan), which were softer mutations of the aggressive politics of the aforementioned '70s shows like Maude and All In The Family. One theory for we got a lot of these special episodes because in the 1970s and '80s, there was an increase in the number of children at home alone after school. This increase in the number of latchkey kids was due to more women (mothers) entering the workplace and a lack of low-cost childcare. While both parents working isn't a big deal now, but back then it was a scary, new thing that people had mixed feelings about. In effect, the writers said, "We've got these poor, motherless kids alone every week, let's try to entertain and educate them at the same time." These sitcoms in essence, became more of a throwback to the 1950s style sitcom plus the social issues from the 1970s. The downside however was that very special episodes (or at least the worst kind) often presented an overly simplistic (with no ambiguity what so ever) picture of a very complex issue that customarily concluded neatly. In other words, they were glorified (if somewhat patronizing) public service announcements or Emmy-bait. They've largely fallen out of favor since then for most shows due in part to the increasing number of shows, particularly dramas, where issues such as drug/alcohol abuse, violence, sex and death are dealt with on an almost weekly basis, and then you have the Dramedy genre that regularly mixes comedy with serious issues. Other factors that may have killed the Very Special Episode trend include sitcoms simply getting too ironic to allow for such earnest polemics (for instance, far subtler social commentary seeps through nearly every episode of The Simpsons), audiences have becoming too familiar with TV conventions to accept such easy closure, and the rise of post-modern sitcoms like Seinfeld and Friends.
  • Clip shows were very prominent up until the 1990s as a way to show viewers the best scenes from a sitcom of the past season(s). These were always well watched as a lot of TV episodes weren't not as widely available on video as they are nowadays since the arrival of DVD. Thus people had to wait for the shows to reappear in syndication if they wanted to see those moments again. DVD and video channels on the Internet pretty much destroyed the need for clip shows, as everything needed is now available there.
  • Erotic TV series are pretty much dead too. Why tempt your audience with some pathethic series where the characters talk about sex most of the time and only share their bed together for one scene where you see nothing at all? Shows like The Red Shoes Diaries would pretty much be a waste of time nowadays, since porn is available all over the Internet. For free!
    • Not to mention that thanks to cable, TV shows that used to tease nudity can now show it openly, which is probably another reason Jiggle TV (see above) seems to have died out as well.
  • A lot of 1960s, 1970s and 1980s TV action series were built around a cheesy premise, but still family friendly at the same time: The Saint,The Six Million Dollar Man, Kung Fu, The A-Team, Charlie's Angels,... This genre seems to have died somewhere in the 2000s as HBO's drama series considerably upped the ante in quality. As a result many of these kind of cheesy action shows are nowadays directly made into kids' shows, because the makers know they can't reach the adult audience with the same amount of crap they made in the past.

    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 erratic. Her addiction to pain-killers and paranoia over creative control soon led to a revolving door of producers, writers, and co-stars; her TV son was recast after the original one was flashed by Butler. 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.
  • Twin Peaks, at its peak, 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. 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. Showtime, David Lynch and some of the main cast are now preparing for a 2016 revival, so time will tell how that will go.
  • The Drew Carey Show was a long-running show in the late '90s and early 2000s whose popularity was arguably on par with contemporary shows such as Everybody Loves Raymond, The King of Queens, and Friends. However, unlike those shows, The Carey Show is nowhere to be found in syndication, on DVD, or even on YouTube. It is a good guess that the campy nature of the show, made worse in later seasons with Drew's contract safety, hasn't really stood the test of time very well.
  • When NYPD Blue premiered it broke new ground in the cop drama genre, was critically acclaimed for its acting and was hugely controversial for its swearing and nudity. Now it's barely even remembered as just another cop procedural and interest has waned so much that after the fourth season's DVD release in 2006 no further seasons have been released with the prospect of the other 8 seasons ever seeing DVD becoming increasingly unlikely as time goes on. (although all twelve seasons have been released in the UK).
    • The show's disappearance from American cable and broadcast syndication didn't help matters. Still, David Milch's continued attempts at high concept HBO dramas could help renew interest, especially now that the whole series (including the last 4 seasons in HD) is on Amazon Prime Instant Streaming. It's one of their few notable titles not available on competitor Netflix Watch Instantly. The American subchannel network Heroes & Icons will also begin to air the series in 2015.
    • The Seasonal Rot is probably also a contributing factor in the show fading from the public conscious: general opinion seem to be that the last four or five seasons simply weren't as good or interesting as the first seven or eight.
  • Desperate Housewives was a gigantic show (especially at its peak) when it was originally airing but seems to have completely disappeared from the cultural consciousness right after it finished. It perhaps in hindsight, seemed too much like a product of its time.
  • While not exactly forgotten, the legacy of LOST is none the less, fragmented. The basic premise was easy to grasp but the show differs greatly on how much a viewer has seen of it, not helped by how convoluted the show gets. This ultimately, hinders conversation greatly.
  • At its peak (Season 3), Growing Pains was the fifth rated show in America, it made a teen idol out of Kirk Cameron, and it helped launch the career of Leonardo DiCaprio. Now, some 20+ years after its series finale, the show hardly does does well in syndication (while the show did enjoy a nice little run on the Disney Channel in the late '90s, the show in particular flopped big time on Nick At Nite) and has to date only had three seasons worth (Growing Pains bear in mind, lasted for seven) of DVD sets released. Part of the issue could stem from the dissonance of Kirk Cameron regarding his controversial religious and moral beliefs (which ultimately interfered with the quality of the show). Another factor arguably has to do the notion that Growing Pains simply hasn't aged well due to it being very cliched and interchangeable (with just about all of characters seemingly hell-bent on delivering witty one-liners to each other) with other sitcoms of that period (e.g. Family Ties and The Cosby Show). Growing Pains actually, arguably only really seemed engaged when blatantly going against the family sitcom format, as with hour-long tributes to Halloween shot in the style of various horror films or occasional peeks through the fourth wall.
  • Ellen was successful enough in its early seasons to warrant annual renewal, due largely to Ellen Degeneres' perceived appeal and comic ability, but only with Ellen's coming out did the show make its way into the wide public consciousness and hit a critical plateau. However, after the initial coming out frenzy, the show's ratings declined and ABC began feeling the pain of a backlash regarding the "gay content" being exhibited. The final episodes of Ellen were criticized for focusing too much on gay issues, a criticism begun in anti-gay circles but which spread to the mainstream media. Eventually, even some members of the LGBT community, including Chaz Bono (who at the time was the media director for GLAAD), began to criticize the show's serious new tone as well. ABC pulled the show from the air in May 1998 after five seasons. Ellen and more importantly, the coming out episode could be seen as revolutionary for its time, they nowadays, seem like period pieces akin to The Boys in the Band.
  • During the '90s, Home Improvement was neck and neck Seinfeld for the distinction of being the biggest sitcom on TV. The latter is entrenched into pop culture, while with the former, people would probably struggle to name five characters from the show today. While Home Improvement for the most part, wasn't necessarily a bad show (it was definitely smarter and more likable than almost anything on TGIF during that era with the exception of maybe, Boy Meets World), it was none the less, merely an okay one. Therefore, if you wanted sharper, cutting edge comedy, your best bets at the time were The Simpsons, Seinfeld, Roseanne, and Married... with Children. Despite being one of the highest-rated show on TV for years, it isn't brought up very often, nor do you see it on TV as much as, say, Seinfeld, Friends, or even Frasier.
  • Webster aired for six seasons, the first four on ABC and the last two in first-run syndication for 150 episodes in total. During its original run, drew a large audience of younger viewers — in fact, Webster's largest audience was children. Despite all of this, in the years since Webster went off the air in 1989, it has more or less faded into the background. USA Network aired reruns of the show from September 22, 1997 to March 13, 1998. It also aired on Superstation WGN from September 21, 1998 to September 2, 1999 (which was, to date, the last time that Webster appeared on national television). To date, only the first four seasons have been released on DVD. And we all know who Emannuel Lewis is, the series itself never really get any real respect except from people who loved it. A huge part of the problem was that Webster stuck too close to the then-popular Diff'rent Strokes formula and format that it ultimately failed to have an identity of its own besides having a “cute kid”. Also when compared to another '80s kidcom in the form of Punky Brewster (which was always intentionally targeted to kids and therefore, knew they were there own show, the demographic it was targeting, and didn’t try copying the Diff’rent Strokes formula), Webster was a more of a traditional sitcom and had adult stories.
  • Despite airing for a total of 11 seasons (the first four on ABC and the remaining seven on CBS), and being responsible for the creation of another long-running sitcom, The Andy Griffith Show, Make Room For Daddy (AKA The Danny Thomas Show) has only had seasons five and six have been released on DVD. From February 1, 1987 to 1991, only the show's fifth through ninth seasons were shown on Nick At Nite. TV Land has also shown several of the Marjorie Lord episodes. Being in black and white probably hurt it in TV syndication (due in no small part, being immediately unappealing to younger viewers), although I Love Lucy never really suffered from that.
  • Even though Head of the Class was a top 30 rated show during all of its five seasons on the air, it has basically been forgotten and cast aside in syndication and has to date, never been officially released on DVD. One possible reason is that when compared to other high school based shows around the same era like Saved by the Bell, Head Of The Class was a more highbrow/intelligent show. Another suspect is that Head Of The Class is terribly dated in regards to many of the episodes revolving around whatever issues were circling at the time. In fact, one famous episode from Season 3 filmed at the still then standing Soviet Union. What also didn't help was the infamous fifth and final season in which Billy Connolly replaced Howard Hesseman as the star, which in return, made the students little more than a glorified audience for Connolly's stand-up routine.

The BBC

  • 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, and entire swaths of the Top of the Pops library are now either off-limits or have those who attended its tapings blurred out to the point of absurdity as any young person Saville met in that audience could be a possible victim.
  • 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. However, the series is still beloved among those who watched the similar TV series Spitting Image (which predated Dead Ringers by more than a decade).
  • 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.

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 only syndicated presence is on an Encore pay channel which requires a premium channel price to watch, 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.
  • Archie Bunker's Place was popular in its day, beating Mork and Mindy head to head, but is seldom syndicated and only one poor selling season came out on DVD. It ultimately lacks all the stuff that made the still popular All in the Family so great: controversy, social consciousness, satire,...
  • The Jack Benny Program - Jack Benny was a hugely popular entertainer in the US for decades (first on radio, then on TV), but his shows almost never appear in rerunsnote . This most likely has to do with the portrayal of Rochester, Jack's live-in African American servant.
  • Cagney & Lacey ran for seven seasons from 1981-1988 and was the first show to deal openly with child incest as a psychological factor in motivation of a later crime. Now despite being a fairly big deal at the time, can you find anybody who can seriously say or remember a single thing about it beyond it "Had two lady cops"? A large part of the problem regarding Cagney & Lacey is how arguably, badly the show has dated itself.
  • Picket Fences won the Emmy for Outstanding Drama Series two years in a row. But who talks it (along with a fellow David E. Kelley produced Emmy award winning series, The Practice) about today (only the first season of Picket Fences has been released on DVD)? Both shows arguably suffered from "the David E. Kelley effect". In other words, make a popular show that has a loyal fan base and then when you get tired of it sabotage it with controversial plots and story lines with your favorite characters acting in out of character and hateful ways.
  • Alice (1976) finished four of its nine seasons in the top ten, spawned a popular catchphrase in "Kiss my grits!", and yet, it seemed to be practically forgotten even before it went off the air.
  • Two and a Half Men was once upon a time the king of sitcoms, and a definite pop culture trending show. Now? Yeah, it's mediocre and an afterthought.
  • During its first four seasons, Kate And Allie was a top 20 rated show. As a matter of fact, during its first season (1983-84), it was #8 in the Nielsen ratings (the highest for a sitcom). It also bared a groundbreaking premise for its time involving two divorced women with children living in the same apartment together. Despite all of this (as well as providing Jane Curtin a couple of Emmys Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series), the show now a days seems to be largely forgotten. A lot of this arguably has to do with joke-writing (despite its daring premise) being fairly stale, despite solid performances from the lead actresses. More to the point, the idea of a single woman raising a child simply doesn’t seem so provocative anymore when compared to the early '80s.
  • Maude lasted for six years in no small part to good writing and Bea Arthur. The Nielsen ratings for Maude were high (at its peak, it ranked at #4), in particular, during the first seasons of the program (during the heyday of topical sitcoms, which its presence helped to create), when it was regularly one of the top-ten highest-rated American television programs in any given week. It's usually remembered for featuring one of the first (positive) portrayals of abortion in TV history, when Maude realizes she's pregnant by her husband but makes the decision that she's just too old to have a baby. Her family supports her and she comes out of the situation (for the most part) better for it. Keep in mind this episode premiered just two months before the Roe v. Wade decision made abortion legal nationwide. These days, Maude however has traditionally done poorly in syndication. Maude reruns showed up briefly on TV Land in 1999 and Nick at Nite in 2001 and only the first season was released on DVD in 2007. Its heavy topicality/strident preaching (Maude was more or less, a nonstop, pious rant on on a single topic (feminism), whose ideas were novel in the 1970s but we've more than likely, heard a million times since then) and often dark humor most certainly didn't. Several other factors for why this may now be the case are: In contrast to its parent program All in the Family, Maude simply wasn't as funny, had weaker writing, and featured a less memorable supporting cast. Also in hindsight, Archie Bunker could be seen as a more liable protagonist than Maude Findley because Archie's extremist beliefs were constantly derided and existed as the series' principal source of comedy. Everything that made him unlikable was mocked and shown to be from ignorance. Meanwhile, Maude's extremist beliefs, though they got her into comedic predicaments, could not be truly mocked by the series. Not only did most of the creative team personally identify more with the character, but the progressive mood of the time would not allow for derision of the kind afforded Archie. Sure, she became the butt of jokes, but she couldn't be shown as ignorant or outdated. And because she was equally extreme, just as obnoxious, and NOT shown as ignorant, she was a less lovable character.
  • Although the Cybill attracted an average of 10.4 million over the course of its first three seasons, nominated for twelve Emmy Awards, and won a Golden Globe Award for Best Television Series – Musical or Comedy in 1996, it was abruptly cancelled by CBS in 1998. After the conclusion of the series, creator Chuck Lorre and staff writer Alan Ball later said that working on the show was a brutal slog due to star Cybill Shepard’s raging ego. Shepherd herself, alleged that the network was uncomfortable with the show's feminist leanings and frank depiction of female sexuality.
  • Despite lasting for nine seasons and being a top 20 show (peaking at #8 in its second) for the first eight of those nine seasons, One Day At A Time is probably best remembered nowadays for its Ear Worm theme song, a preponderance of Very Special Episodes, and the offscreen travails of cast member Mackenzie Phillips. To add insult to injury, the show has pretty much been off the radar syndication-wise since the late 1990s and only the first season has to date, been released on DVD. The show's strident feminism perhaps hasn't aged all too well, nor has the overall presentation, which comes across as a videotaped stage play with the typical formula being a problem comes up, is discussed and resolved, the resolution is then discussed, and the show ends with a hug or a laugh). More to the point, what was at the time a groundbreaking premise (a show about a divorced mother starting anew), as time went on, the situation became so normal in society and on TV, that the premise lost its unique punch. In addition to its topicality, much of the problem with One Day At A Time, is that the characters grew up. Setting aside Mackenzie Phillips' problems, Valerie Bertinelli's character Barbara went from discussing being a virgin to being married. At the outset, the girls (Julie and Barbara) drove most of the action, but the crux of the show was their mother Anne's reaction to their problems and situations. Significant time was also devoted to Anne's relationship, friendships and career. Because of this, One Day At A Time didn't have enough youth appeal but also seemed out of place among the grown-up syndication hours. With that being said,One Day At A Time, revamped itself several times during its nine year run. When these changes would happen in a new season, they weren't so jarring. But in syndication, one week you might be watching Anne dating Richard Masur, a few weeks later, the girls might be married and how did Glenn Scarpelli get there?
  • Even though Yes Dear aired for six seasons for a total of 122 episodes (the show remained in production until 2006, when CBS announced a sixth season but cut the order of 22 episodes to 15), the show was practically forgotten about by CBS even when it was still on the air (due in no small part to minimal promotion and constantly changing timeslots). To make matters worse, to date, the series has never been officially released on DVD. Yes Dear was in effect, sort of CBS' equivalent (albeit less easy to hate or noteworthy) to According to Jim.

Disney Channel

  • The anthology series Walt Disney Presents (better known as The Wonderful World of Disney) has jumped between all three of the major networks. Its traditional airing time was sunday evenings starting at either 7:00 or 7:30. It was a popular family show for the first few decades of its running (since 1954). Its ratings fell starting with The Seventies and The Eighties due to a lack of new Disney material being produced at the time and reliance on airing dated material. The eventual introduction of The Disney Channel also appeared to make the show seem pointless. At one point in the '80s, the show was actually cancelled because of this. Although, eventually brought back, its showing was sporadic throughout The Nineties but there was still a notable lack of newly produced Disney material that wasn't already on the Disney Channel. The rise of other technologies such as home video and DVD slowly did the program in, even after it was brought back in 1998 after Disney purchased ABC. After getting by with several telefilms and premieres of the lower-grossing projects Disney had, the show eventually ended as the move of the NFL's highlight game to Sunday nights on NBC, CBS's ratings resilience with 60 Minutes, the end of networks airing most films outside of holidays and Fox's animated lineup resulted in it ending in 2008 with a broadcast of The Chronicles of Narnia The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.
  • Hannah Montana was once an incredibly popular show and Miley Cyrus was a prime example of a Teen Idol. She is now an adult and has become known for being risque instead of her older Girl Next Door appearance, you'll be hard pressed to find parents who'll allow their young kids to watch the series; the looping reruns on ABC's Saturday morning certainly didn't help either.

First-run syndication

  • Hercules The Legendary Journeys at its peak, surpassed Baywatch and Star Trek in the ratings. And then Xena: Warrior Princess came out and stole all the attention from fans and directors of other popular works (such as Buffy) that were influenced by Xena. What perhaps didn't help Hercules (and Xena for that matter) was the digital effects from that era not aging well.

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. Everybody, love it or hate it, used to think it was a cultural milestone. Time Magazine did a cover story on it that called it a low point in the history of American feminism, New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd went through a period where she mentioned it in virtually every single column that she wrote (to the point where series regular Greg Germann sent her a letter joking about it), and it was heavy analyzed by scholars because Lucy Liu's character, Ling Woo, was pretty much the only Asian character of any real substance on television at the time. Nowadays, however, it's a footnote of the late '90s that's best remembered for pop culture ephemera — it featured the first internet meme to become popular outside the internet, the Dancing Baby, it was the series that Robert Downey, Jr. was on as he spiraled out of control, and it was the "single female lawyer" show that Futurama made fun of. 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 in just about every measure, including popularity. According to Rowdy C, Ally McBeal was one of the rare shows where the lead character herself was The Scrappy.
  • There's a reason why The X-Files is the Trope Namer for The Chris Carter Effect. The memory of its excellent early years was badly sullied not long after the movie came out, its ill-received final three seasons 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.
  • 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, however, 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 point where the show jumped the shark 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 fell victim to its own attempts to recapture lightning in a bottle. The first two seasons were critical and commercial darlings, garnering high praise, earning high ratings, and actually dethroning American Idol as the Fox network's crown jewel. With its growing exposure, the writers attempted to 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, heavy-handed LGBT aesops, and tribute episodes to popular musicians. Problems that were noticeable, but bearable, in the second season grew like a cancer — characters frequently changed motivations, personalities, and relationships, plots came out of nowhere and began to pile up too high for the show to handle, fan-favorite characters left the show and were replaced with Flanderized versions of the original cast, any pretense of realism had disappeared, and the show became the preachy After School Special it used to mock. All of this alienated the show's audience and sent its ratings into freefall from the third season onwards; by the end of the fourth season, ratings were actually lower than they were in the first. Despite declining ratings, Fox ordered two more seasons in the spring of 2013, but after the death of cast member Cory Monteith that summer, it was decided that the show would end after the contractually-obligated sixth season in 2015.
    • The syndicated run of Glee can kindly be described as a disaster. It was supposed to begin airing on Oxygen in the 2013-14 season as part of the contract that came with The Glee Project, but by the time it did, the show's fading popularity left it stuck in a contractually obligated run of early Monday mornings to burn off the contract. Meanwhile, on broadcast stations, it began in good timeslots on the weekend, before the non-existent ratings had stations pushing it to late night infomercial territory within mere months.
  • Prison Break debuted to much fanfare and a fair bit of success. However, much like Twin Peaks, it fell victim to giving away too much too fast. The Break in the title happened at the end of the first season, and the show continued on for three more years afterward. The characters, who worked well when contained together in a prison setting, understandably scattered as prison escapees tend to do, and Kudzu Plot took over. The show limped along, endured a massive retool each season, and the final shot in the chops: its finale went Straight to DVD.
  • Party of Five won the Golden Globe for Best Drama series in its second season (despite its underwhelming ratings at the time), it launched the careers of Neve Campbell (Scream), Matthew Fox (Lost), Lacey Chabert (Mean Girls), Scott Wolf (Go and the remake of V), and Jennifer Love Hewitt (I Know What You Did Last Summer, Can't Hardly Wait, and Ghost Whisperer), and during its peak, was one of the most popular family dramas on television. In fact, in 1995, TV Guide named the series "The Best Show You're Not Watching." Now, some 20 years after its premiere, the show for the most part, never comes up when the great dramas of the era are discussed. Part of the problem arguably, is that Party of Five was part of an era of hyper-earnest dramas (perhaps first popularized by thirtysomething) dominated more by emotional reactions (and filled with basically good people trying to do what’s basically the right thing) than high-stakes drama. Its seasonal rot during its last two seasons (which was arguably overcome with the kind of melodrama the show kept tastefully tamped down in its first four years) more than likely didn't help.
  • Mad TV was once a serious competitor to Saturday Night Live, but near the end it had basically gone to "is that show still on?" status.

HBO

  • True Blood. In its first couple of seasons, it was met with wild popularity and rave reviews. Then, it went through some of the most notorious Seasonal Rot in history, with it only regaining prominence through the announcement of its final season.

ITV

  • The Benny Hill Show has slowly faded away from British popular consciousness 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.

MTV

  • Jersey Shore was a monster hit in the early '10s. Everyone, Love It or Hate It, talked about it when it was around, and a number of terms it popularized (such as "grenade", "fist pumping", and "GTL") entered the lexicon. Enough controversy and criticism (particularly from New Jerseyans and Italian Americans) swirled around it to get a whole page on Wikipedia almost as long as the page for the show itself. A host of ripoffs emerged, such as Buckwild (Jersey Shore with rednecks!) and The Only Way Is Essex (Jersey Shore with British kids!). But not even a few years after it was canceled, it was all but forgotten. Now, when people make Jersey Shore jokes, everyone laughs at them for being so out-of-date.
  • In the mid-late '00s, Laguna Beach ushered in a reality-themed wave of programming for MTV. The teen reality show about a group of teenagers living in an affluent neighbourhood spawned catch-phrases like "so much drama", and was parodied by shows like Mad TV, even at its peak. It also evolved into a franchise that spawned several spinoffs, including one set several kilometers down the beach (Newport Harbor), one following former lead character Lauren Conrad's adventures in downtown L.A. (The Hills) and a spinoff focusing on Lauren's co-worker, Whitney, who moves to New York (The City). Despite the fact that it was initially a huge success, various problems began to work their way into the franchise.

    At its zenith, the show was even treated like a Guilty Pleasure by MTV Canada, which ran a series of "aftershows" that mocked stupid comments from the cast and generally treated it as a joke. Cast members getting older and graduating from high school, a perceived sense of vapidness within the core cast, exaggerated/staged dramatic situations, loathsome characters and spinoffs that bombed (The City was cancelled in its second season, while a spinoff focusing on Lauren's other co-worker, Audrina, never made it past an initial season) all contributed to the franchise dying off completely in 2010-2011. Nowadays, the franchise is viewed as a symbol of the vapidness of '00s youth culture and the point of no return in MTV's Network Decay, not helped by the fact that it was pretty much obvious to everybody, even at the time, that the shows were all heavily staged (The Hills' bizarre Gainax Ending all but confirming it).
  • My Super Sweet Sixteen. Even at its height, its main audience was watching it as a Point-and-Laugh Show more than anything else, which MTV eventually capitalized on with a trilogy of slasher flicks based on the show. Nowadays, much like Laguna Beach and The Hills, it's best remembered a) as a symbol of everything that was wrong with MTV and pop culture in general in the '00s, or b) because some of the ads for the show starred a young Jennifer Lawrence.
  • 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.
  • 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.

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).
  • 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.
  • Will and Grace arguably, isn't that much remembered anymore in part because much of its humor derived from making swipes at contemporary pop culture (e.g. "It's not just bad, it's Mariah Carey in Glitter bad!") and a parade of guest star actors who were already past their respective primes in by late 1990s/early 2000s. Also not helping is a heaping helping of Fair for Its Day. At the time, it was groundbreaking to have a show with two gay leads airing on primetime network television. Looking back, with more and more acceptance of gay issues and more and better written gay characters on other shows, the show comes across a little offensive.
  • Mad About You won a Golden Globe Award, a Peabody Award, a Genesis Award, received five Emmy Award nominations for Outstanding Comedy Series, and was chosen Best Quality Comedy by the Viewers for Quality Television. Helen Hunt won the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress – Comedy Series four years in a row (1996–1999). And yet, out of its seven seasons, only five have to date been released to DVD due to music licensing issues. The show in itself has pretty much been largely forgotten in comparison to it's NBC contemporaries of the time like Seinfeld, Friends, and Frasier. Arguably one major factor working against Mad About You is that seemingly captured a very specific time in the '90s. But with the real world New Yorkers no longer being against that backdrop, the characters on Mad About You (Paul and Jamie Buchman could in essence, be regarded as the ultimate ’90s yuppie couple) just seem irrelevant and self absorbed. Complex.com suggested that Mad About You defined "dry, white sitcom" and came off as very poor man's Seinfeld (albeit nowhere near as engaging).
  • Although the Chico And The Man was a consistent hit for NBC in the mid-1970s (sitting in the top three of the Nielsen ratings from fall 1975 to spring ’76), the show failed in syndication when the series was stripped in the fall of 1978. Some have said this was likely in part due to the death of Freddie Prinze a year and a half earlier. (The show has aired occasionally on rerun-type networks, including TVLand).
  • Despite being relatively formulaic, the Alf was original in many regards, and had a loyal following. Alf scored its highest ratings during Season 2 (reaching #5 in the Nielsen ratings). At the peak of its popularity, a spin-off prequel, animated series was produced, airing Saturday mornings on NBC called Alf: The Animated Series. Another animated spin-off, called Alf Tales followed shortly thereafter. There was even a comic book adaptation which tended to play down the sitcom aspects in favor of a lot of parody and a bigger sci-fi slant, giving Alf strange technological toys which would occasionally be useful but most often wreak havoc in unforeseen ways. By the time Season 3 and especially Season 4 came along, the live-action show's novelty wore off to the point that the ratings lagged severely. It's poor ratings in Season 4 also dragged the ratings of its Monday night stablemate The Hogan Family down with it. Ultimately, NBC canned both shows, although the The Hogan Family went to CBS and performed no better in the ratings along with the constant timeslot changes and pre-emptions in its sixth season. ALF is perhaps unfortunately, more known today for its troubled production (which was due to being shot in a very halting, piecemeal fashioner became very grueling for the cast and served as a hotbed of tension and discomfort when the cameras were off) and soul crushing cliffhanger series finale (NBC gave Alien Productions a verbal commitment for a fifth season, but ultimately withdrew its support), with Alf being taken off to an undisclosed location by government agents. While the Alf character has since been resurrected in various capacities; in 1996 a made for TV movie called Project: Alf was aired on ABC to tie-up the loose ends steaming from the cliffhanger ending of the series, in 2004, a late-night talk show format (called Alf's Hit Talk Show it only lasted seven episodes) and in commercials during the late-1990s, most notably one for the long-distance service "10-10-220". Despite all of these attempts, the Alf character is more or less, still seen as merely a relic of late '80s pop culture. Perhaps adding insult to injury, in an interview on Late Night with Conan O'Brien, Tina Fey said that her biggest frustration as producer of NBC's 75th anniversary special was dealing with Alf's "people." Fey said Paul Fusco (Alf's creator and voice actor) would only allow Alf to appear on the show if the puppeteers were completely hidden from everyone else, even the studio audience.
  • Despite airing for five seasons and being a relatively unique (with idea of a single father raising three teenagers while the mom was off doing her own thing) and quirky (with its frequent dream sequences) show for its time, Blossom hasn't seemed to endured as much as other '90s era "teencoms" like Saved by the Bell and Boy Meets World or even maintained a loyal cult following like similar girl-centric '90s comedies Daria or Clarissa Explains It All. Reruns of Blossom were syndicated for several years in the 1990s, including on Superstation WGN. After its syndication run ended, the series would not return to U.S. television until 2014, when the Hub Network acquired broadcast rights to the show. The Hub Network stopped carrying the show in October 2014, when Discovery Channel took over the channel and renamed it Discovery Family. To date, only the first two seasons have been released to DVD. Blossom itself is perhaps infamous for its frequent use of very special episodes. This is despite the notion that unlike for example, Full House, the lessons presented on Blossom skirted a more cheesy fate because they aren’t overly simplistic. What arguably made these particular episodes more problematic is that Blossom seemed to more than often deftly tip-toeing around dealing with the characters' problems. To put things into proper perspective, while the series dealt with serious issues, it did over miss the opportunity to really go above the teenage courtship hazards it relied too heavily on. For an example it's very underlined that Blossom's older brother Tony is a former addict, but this was very rarely used in the series to actually handle the issue of drinking or doing drugs. There was also too much flavor of the week type stuff as well, which led into poor character development. This was mainly because the cast size was so small. So in order the get the biggest impact, the writers (among them, future Seventh Heaven creator, Brenda Hampton) shoved an issue on the shoulders of one character without any previous hints of the issue in question (and expected the audience to just fly with it). This in turn made the writing itself a bit sloppy. Ultimately, the dark subject matter presented this lightly creates a show that is tonally jarring and rarely funny. Even the show's trademark fantasy sequences may have further detached most people from the emotions of the characters. In effect, they wound up helping creating a show so light that it never touches us at all. Blossom for better or for worse, was in hindsight, clearly a time capsule of sorts of early '90s pop culture.
  • Even though Wings managed to last for eight seasons on NBC, it was never truly considered a mega-hit or bonafide success. Wings never cracked higher than #18 in the Nielsens, ever won any major awards, and was easily overshadowed by other NBC sitcoms of that era like Seinfeld, Friends, and Frasier (which was created by the same producers of Wings). A large factor in why Wings has perhaps become so forgotten (even when it was still on the air) is because at the end of the day, it was a fairly simplistic (but ultimately not heavy) show. Whereas Cheers (Wings was essentially Cheers if it took place in an airport) was about jerks and losers and Frasier was about sophistication and what it takes to be happy, there was a weight to them when compared to Wings. The deepest Wings ever got was in regards to the dreams and stress Hacketts went through. Wings was more or less, the everyman show among the three but was still possibly, the toughest show to explain. And while the small town setting gave it a nice, small, welcome feeling if you blink, you'll more than likely forget all about it.
  • For great justice, The Hogan Family makes the cut. The show enjoyed a six season run from 1986 to 1991, was one of the first American sitcoms to address "safe sex" (it was the first prime-time show to use the word "condom"), had a memorable episode where a recurring character dies of AIDS (in the last season when it moved to CBS), and gave us Edie McClurg in her most well-known role outside of Ferris Bueller's Day Off, but it's rarely - if ever - seen today, with neither reruns nor DVD to mark its existence, in a particularly egregious case of Keep Circulating the Tapesnote . To add insult to injury, the show is further incredibly hard to find these days since a YouTube account holding all the episodes had them all removed due to a copyright claim from Warner Bros. , and only a few scattered clips/promos can be found there today. It's not on any video-streaming sites or iTunes, and the last channels to air the show in North America were ABC Family and the Canadian channel CTS (now YesTV) between 2006 and 2011. The show is most notable for starting off as a vehicle for Valerie Harper (the original name of the show was Valerie) only to be fired after season 2, after being embroiled in a bitter dispute with Miller/Boyett Productions over a decision to shift the focus of the show's stories to a comedic focus as well as wanting a larger cut of future syndication revenues, and being replaced by Sandy Duncan as her sister-in-law. Nowadays, the show is best remembered as a footnote for launching a young Jason Bateman's career.
  • Even though Newsradio was a critically acclaimed show, did decent enough ratings during its first few seasons before NBC decided to move it around their schedule, and is not necessarily too dated (although a couple Bill Clinton jokes were made but that was more so Phil Hartman could do his presidential imitation), the show has never been much of a hit in reruns. One major factor for why this is likely the case is because Newsradio was simply too smart and too fast for the average TV fan to enjoy in syndication at the time. Ironically, all five seasons have been released on DVD. Also, out of the 97 episodes that were produced, only 75 featured Phil Hartman. Many viewers consider Hartman's murder in-between the fourth and fifth (and ultimately final) seasons to be the jump the shark moment. Perhaps, the knowledge of Hartman's violent death cast too much a pall over the show to truly enjoy.

The WB

  • Seventh Heaven was the longest-running and highest-rated show on The WB by far (as well as Aaron Spelling's longest-running show), loved by many viewers and providing Snark Bait for many others (it was likely one of the few shows on the network to attract audiences outside the valued 18-49 demographic). Now, the show's reputation and image, along with the cast's dependable residual checks, will be forever tarnished (and possibly, permanently banished from syndicated reruns) by child molestation allegations against lead actor Stephen Collins.
  • Unhappily Ever After was one of the inaugural series for the WB Network when it launched in 1995 and had a respectable five season run, ending on its 100th episode. The series however bombed in the two seasons that it was in syndication (due to lackluster clearance rates and low ratings) and has never officially been released on DVD. Part of the problem perhaps, was that it was always going to be looked down upon (even by fans of the show) as a cheaply made, unevenly cast, "poor man's" Married... with Children (in 2002 TV Guide listed Unhappily... as one of the "Worst TV Shows Ever" and The Rowdy Reviewer profiled Unhappily... on an episode of TV Trash). Another problem is that a lot jokes revolved around the writers’ apparent hatred of late ‘90s culture (thus, obviously, dating the show pretty badly in hindsight).

    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.
  • In the Parks and Recreation episode "Prom," Ben insists on DJ'ing the titular event, citing his experience as "the King of Swing" on an early Tuesday morning radio show he hosted when he was in college. Tom delivers the trope with the reply, "I thought we as a culture agreed to forget the year that everyone was into swing."