Dork Age: Live-Action TV

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  • In Smallville, most of season four, due to the main Story Arc being "Lana's ancestor is a French witch with Kung Fu powers who is now back for revenge", and heavy involvement of magic stones and artifacts. Season nine is another flavor of Dork Age, being the Dark Age of Smallville, Chloe becoming a Manipulative Bitch and hooking up with Oliver. And Clark's new costume is widely panned.
  • The 2007 Flash Gordon TV series has been viewed as a Dork Age by many fans, particularly for the extent to which it toys with the characters' mythos and familiar aspects. To cite one example, Ming the Merciless is white, has a full head of hair, is clean-shaven, wears a western-style military uniform, is only rarely called "the Merciless", and derives his authority over Mongo from owning the water company. Some things benefit from a clearer, less Values Dissonant and more realistic interpretation, but Flash Gordon is not one of them.
  • Mention a Dork Age to a Doctor Who fan at your own peril. No matter which Doctor, no matter which writer, no matter which era, someone is going to consider it a Dork Age, and probably expostulate (at great length) why.
    • However, seasons 22-24 are probably the era with most consensus: The then-producer, Nathan-Turner, would often insist on choosing new, rookie writers over seasoned writers who had worked on the series before, Executive Meddling caused the series to become first Darker and Edgier before swerving suddenly into Lighter and Softer territory, the budget was nearly nonexistent, and the entirety of season 23 was dedicated to a tedious and intrusive storyline/framing device. The show recovered with some standout writing and characterization in seasons 25 and 26, but the ratings and budget was still rock-bottom and led to the show finally getting axed.
    • And then you have some elitist snobs that hate everything since the 2005 revival. Compare Doctor Who to Transformers one more time, and it'll be the last thing you do!
    • Much of the 1960s-era Expanded Universe, due to it being written by people who did not care about either the show or science fiction in general with the sole aim of marketing Dalek toys to seven-year-olds. Unlike the other examples, this tends to result in affectionate embarrassment rather than outright contempt.
    • The second half of the Doctor Who New Adventures when everything got so much Darker and Edgier it was difficult to recognize it as Who, Ace was converted into a Nineties Anti-Hero, the Doctor was increasingly flipping between being a Demoted to Extra Pinball Protagonist or a batshit insane Machiavellian Knight Templar it was difficult to root for, and many of the best writers of the Frocks crowd, like Paul Cornell or Gareth Roberts, had stopped writing books for the line. TV companions from earlier eras like Liz Shaw and Dodo were getting Stuffed into the Fridge in Narmfully mean-spirited ways while others were getting Revisioned as child rape survivors or catching space-ST Ds, and production problems led to So Vile a Sin, the book that killed off a companion, coming out after the books in which she was dead.
  • Happened twice in Charmed.
    • After a great first season, the creators decided to focus on the melodrama of the sisters' lives, and whole episodes were devoted purely to their personal lives with supernatural subplots thrown in as afterthoughts (in, you know... a show about witches). The show was saved by its awesome third season, however.

      It should be noted, though, that the lives of the Charmed Ones was always supposed to be the focus of the show. There was a quote that said that "The show isn't about three witches who happen to be sisters, it's about three sisters who happen to be witches." It was intended to be more of a drama with elements of fantasy (it was produced by Aaron Spelling, after all).
    • The show's fifth season, while still quite good in quality, changed the tone slightly to make things Lighter and Softer, and the structure shifted to have more stand alone episodes instead of an actual story arc. They introduced magical creatures such as mermaids, leprechauns, woodnymphs, etc which had never been heard of in the show's mythology. The sixth season took it Up to Eleven with girlish and childish storylines such as King Arthur's sword, the sisters creating a Mr. Right for Piper, and a demonic reality show. The seventh and eighth seasons became darker in tone and developed interesting story arcs to rectify the problem.
  • The infamous sixth season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer is frequently regarded as a Dork Age for the titular heroine, in which her traumatic resurrection from heaven is explored so realistically that she loses all her (previously characteristic) warmth, passion, sense of humor and interest in the world around her, becoming a pale and often unwatchable imitation of her former self. The supporting cast doesn't get it much better, either: Willow's magic addiction metaphor is simultaneously anvilicious and a lore trainwreck given that it was never portrayed as such in prior episodes, Dawn's constant complaining got really annoying, the dissolution of Xander and Anya's marriage was forced, and Spike reached the depths of his Badass Decay, and the Trio's actions were just... stupid. At least Buffy had an excuse. Even the beloved "Once More with Feeling" couldn't save it.
    • Some fans would argue that full-on Seasonal Rot continued into Season 7, considering the change of Buffy into a full-fledged Knight Templar, Willow's inability to use magic for the better part of the season, Xander, Dawn, Anya and Giles getting virtually no character direction, having a textbook Generic Doomsday Villain as the Big Bad, the arrival of the insufferable Potentials, and Spike's total eclipse of the whole show. Joss Whedon has admitted that everyone working on the show was exhausted by that point, and it shows.
    • Season 4 is sometime mentioned as a Dork Age as well, given the awkward Initiative storyline, the introduction of the widely unpopular Riley as Buffy's rebound love-interest, and above all the episode about a beer that turns people into primitive savages, although at least that episode has the excuse of being a failed grab at government money. On the other hand, this season also produced the Emmy-nominated "Hush" episode. Which can arguably rival Doctor Who's "Blink" in awesomeness.
    • Some also see the Season 8 and Season 9 comics as a continuation of the Season 7 Dork Age, as Buffy, while a bit more sane than in Six or Seven, is also more alienated from everyone, and in addition to this, the Slayer army is just irritating. On the other hand, these have given some great things, such as gay Dracula and Nick Fury Xander.
  • Power Rangers
    • Power Rangers Turbo tried to shoehorn extremely goofy source material into a not-so-silly story (and to add insult to injury, Power Rangers RPM later showed how to do such a thing right, by running with the ridiculous aspects and mocking them in the process). Turbo also had some horrible Scrappies in the form of Justin, Dimitria, and Alpha 6.
    • The Neo-Saban Johnathan Tzachor seasons are widely considered a new Dork Age. Consisting of Power Rangers Samurai (and Super Samurai) and Power Rangers Megaforce (and Super Megaforce), these seasons were loaded with non-existent characters, direct copying of the Sentai without any context or sense, dialogue that was childish even by Power Rangers standards, and a slew of other problems that all came to a head in a massively disappointing Anniversary Season. So far the new season, Power Rangers Dino Charge, headed by former PR writer Judd Lynn, seems to be fixing many of the issues fans had with the last four years.
  • For a brief time on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Odo had his powers taken away by the founders, as one of those vehicles-for-exploring-the-Human-condition that Star Trek is so fond of. In this case, it didn't turn out well; Odo got his powers back in a very contrived way and the whole incident was referenced precisely once (in the very next episode) and then never again. This came about during an effort late in season 4 to make major changes to the characters, with Sisko's girlfriend being imprisoned, Dukat becoming a terrorist, Worf being dishonored again, Quark also getting cut off from his people, and Kira first getting into a relationship with the First Minister of Bajor, then becoming a surrogate mother for the O'Brien's baby. As it turned out, every single one of these changes misfired badly with the fans, and Kira's becoming a surrogate mother was the only one that wasn't undone by halfway through season 5 — and that was because her actress, Nana Visitor, was actually pregnant during production, which is why the arc was included in the first place. She delivered during production of a season 5 episode, and the plot was fairly quickly wound up thereafter.
  • Hercules The Legendary Journeys (and, to a lesser extent, Xena: Warrior Princess) started to drift into dorky territory sometime after its first two seasons. People tend to forget that the series was a spinoff from a string of successful made-for-TV action-adventure movies that were more or less played straight, sometimes brutally so. And while the TV show itself always had undertones of campiness (particularly in its attempt to shoehorn Hercules into every ancient legend that had not featured him in the first place), at least that was a level of camp that made sense within the series's universe.

    Where they really dropped the ball is adding way too many self-indulgences: grossly stereotyped characters, gratuitous slapstick, and especially Anachronism Stew (relying on the Rule of Funny, of course). It became really hard after a while to enjoy Hercules as a serious action show. Arguably even more damaging was the decision to introduce the concept of monotheism in both Hercules and Xena; while this allowed the writers to cook up intriguing Ninja Pirate Zombie Robot scenarios (such as bringing in the story of David and Goliath), it violated the original polytheistic mythology that Christian, Jewish, and Muslim viewers could take as pure fantasy.
  • Apart from the Ending Fatigue that plagued seasons 5, 6, and 7 of The West Wing after the departures of principal character Sam Seaborn, writer-of-almost-every-episode Aaron Sorkin and stylistically-influential director Thomas Schlamme, season 5 was especially derided for being just plain bad and having terrible storylines. One of the worst of these was a contrived character arc for Josh Lyman that relied on simultaneously making him into a complete moron and having all his friends inexplicably distrust him in order to set up a "hero rises from the ashes" story that failed miserably since it was never wanted or needed in the first place.
  • The sixth season of 24 tried to shake up the previously-established formula with a number of surprising changes while still keeping the status quo. On paper, the season's plot probably seemed like a good idea — Jack Bauer, who has been released from Chinese custody, spends the season trying to atone for his past sins while embroiled in a battle against Middle Eastern terrorists and duplicitous family members. In practice, the season turned out to be a mess — Jack was working with CTU again (for a reason that stretched believability after five seasons of the same thing), characters dropped in and out of the plot, potential season-long storylines (the effects of a nuclear bomb detonation in California) were never capitalized on, several returning characters got a "X goes through Hell" storyline, and the entire affair was bogged down in ridiculous family drama involving Jack's brother's wife and her child, as well as Jack's father (who was a corrupt executive). Following this season (and the lowest ratings in the show's history), FOX "rebooted" the show, moved it to the other side of the continent and jettisoned most of the previous cast and locations.
    • And, while recovering in the ratings, critically the following season still overall did pretty poorly. The season was packed to the brim with tons of poorly received replacements and brand-new characters that were not liked by most and only a few actually getting any genuine acclaim and one major character in the series returning only to go through a very controversial twist and revelation that left a massive Broken Base at best, and all this was coupled with an infamous storyarc that left Jack sidelined for nearly half the season and oftentimes completely Out of Focus and then ultimately saved by a blatant Deus ex Machina. All this led to the show being completely revamped again with yet another almost entirely brand new cast and setting brought in for the season after that (which unsurprisingly turned out to be the final). That one had its detractors as well and continued the rot for a bit, though ultimately the majority of the fans of the show did feel it (finally) managed to improve itself by the time it was over.
  • Oz, the terse, taut HBO drama about shanking, Prison Rape and the impossibility of redemption, started off mightily strong for its first few seasons, kickstarted a few careers and got a lot of attention... and then, following the murder of Simon Adebisi, completely ran out of ideas. New characters were introduced only to be unceremoniously murdered and forgotten, relationships sparked up and died out abruptly, characters were wildly derailed, and carefully crafted storylines were trashed and hurled away until the show's fans were almost begging for the poor show to be put down. And then the formerly gritty and realistic show started to introduce elements like pills that caused Rapid Aging...
  • The middle part of the second and final season of Twin Peaks: the episodes following the resolution of the Palmer case and predating the introduction of Windom Earle.
  • The ninth season of Two and a Half Men is largely considered this due to much worse writing and extreme Flanderization: Alan becoming more immature and an even bigger mooch, Jake smoking pot and becoming even more stupid, Rose becoming more a bitch, Lindsay becoming crazier, and Berta being the only character who's stayed consistent so far. The tone is completely different, there's a much greater emphasis on Toilet Humour that's more gross than funny, and the biggest problem of all, Charlie's replacement Walden — a character that's too thin to cut it as a supporting character, let alone a replacement for Charlie Harper. He's little more than a rich and more immature version of Alan and his interactions with the other characters feel very forced and unnatural, which isn't so much Ashton Kutcher's fault, he looks like he's really trying, but the lousy material gives him almost nothing to work with. Any way you slice it, this season is Two and a Half Men In Name Only.
  • CSI in its 10th and 11th seasons. They wrote Laurence Fishburne's character as a CSI 1 and tried to show things from that perspective, but being a big actor, Fishburne's character kept getting quickly promoted and allowed to do new things far too quickly for the fans. Season 12 reverted to the star being the team leader.
  • Sesame Street faced a problem in the '90s - the surging popularity of Barney & Friends. Their attempt to restore their own market share was the "Around the Corner" project, which added a gentrified cul-de-sac to the street, populated by characters born in marketing meetings. Nobody working on the show liked it, particularly since the show's tradition of untrained children was jettisoned in favor of professional child actors (because that's how it worked on Barney). This period of the show's history (which resulted in one lasting change - Zoe - and even she took a long time to catch on) is generally skipped over in discussions.
  • Saturday Night Live has had plenty of ups and downs in its decades-long history. However, there are three seasons that are generally singled out as being particularly embarrassing:
    • Season 6 (1980-1): The first season after Lorne Michaels left the show and the entire cast was replaced (including the last of the original cast). Lorne wanted Al Franken to take over as producer, but NBC president Fred Silverman refused because of a segment Franken did on SNL mocking Silverman. Silverman instead chose Jean Doumanian to produce SNL, and she proved extremely inept at the task. Many of the sketches were extremely crass, and critics wrote scathingly of the show's decline in quality. Dick Ebersol took over as producer late in the season (only one episode was made that season after he was hired before a writer's strike ended it) and stayed on for another four years. Eddie Murphy and Joe Piscopo were the only Doumanian cast members to make it into the following season.
    • Season 11 (1985-6): The first season after Lorne's return, the entire cast was replaced again, this time with a new cast that included such famous or soon-to-be-famous names as Robert Downey, Jr., Anthony Michael Hall, Randy Quaid, Joan Cusack, and Damon Wayans. However, such an eclectic group didn't work well together, and the show once again faced critical bashing and danger of cancellation. Jon Lovitz, Dennis Miller, Nora Dunn, and A. Whitney Brown were the only cast members kept for next season, where a group of new cast members led by Dana Carvey and Phil Hartman saved the show.
    • Season 20 (1994-95) The first year after Hartman left (and two years after Carvey left), the cast was now led by the likes of Adam Sandler, Chris Farley, and David Spade, who weren't versatile enough to lead the show. Sketches often had very thin premises, many centering around the O.J. Simpson trial, and levels of sophomoric humor reached critical mass, resulting in lambasting by critics. Also, reports of behind-the-scenes turmoil, much of it involving Janeane Garofalo (who joined the cast that year but left in disgust midway through), led to the perception of a general decay of the show. More than half the cast was replaced after the season, and a new group led by Will Ferrell helped create another resurgence.
  • Supernatural's ninth season had a subplot where Castiel lost his angel grace and was turned into a normal human. Not only was this a retread of a story they'd already done in season 5, the writers didn't seem to have any idea how to keep the De Powered Cas involved in the main plot, so human Cas episodes largely featured him bumbling around making a fool of himself and trying to get laid until the Monster of the Week showed up to torture him. Thankfully, the arc only lasted nine episodes.
  • Executive producer Steven Bochco and consultant David E. Kelley left L.A. Law after its sixth season was over; Bochco was replaced by John Masius and John Tinker. Consequently, the seventh season suffered a noticeable decline in quality (and ratings); silly, soapy plots dominated the season's first half, culminating in what many fans feel was the worst hour ever of L.A. Law, "Odor in the Court." Midseason, Masius and Tinker were let go and William Finkelstein was brought in to attempt to repair the damage. He mostly succeeded; the series was beginning to grow its beard back by the eighth season, but it was too late to save the series from cancellation.
  • Because of its very long tenure (late 1980s until late 1990s), it was inevitable that the ABC network's two-hour (8:00-10:00 p.m.) "TGIF" (short for "Thank Goodness It's Friday") sitcom lineup would hit a few speed bumps. The decline began in the 1991-1992 season, when two mainstays of the lineup since the beginning changed timeslots. Full House moved to Tuesdays and stayed there for the remainder of its run, while Perfect Strangers moved to Saturdays in midseason to anchor a failed comedy block intended to capitalize off of TGIF's success. The latter show returned to Fridays for its abbreviated (six-episode) final season the following year. Said circumstances left Family Matters as the block's flagship program. Numerous new shows were test-run, a few of which (Step by Step and Boy Meets World most notably) became huge favorites but most of which were gone within a year or so. Even Family Matters itself began to suffer, as Steve Urkel went from being the sitcom's Breakout Character to being practically the sole reason for the show's existence, with plots tailored around his various "wacky" inventions. And then Toilet Humour started creeping in, and then ethnic humor... and it was all downhill from there. By the mid-'90s, TGIF was little more than a random generator of broad farces, often with ridiculous fantasy themes (Sabrina the Teenage Witch, Teen Angel...), that would have been more appropriate for the '60s than the '90s. A "crossover" arc late in the lineup's run only served to demonstrate how blandly interchangeable the shows had become.
  • Season 4 of Community (aka the one Dan Harmon wasn't the showrunner for) is generally regarded as this. Many characters underwent Flanderization, with some being defined solely by a single joke (Abed has Ambiguous Disorder! The Dean is a Wholesome Crossdresser!), or worse, no joke at all, with Troy hitting near-Satellite Character levels and Pierce being increasingly Demoted to Extra (and let's not even talk about the actual extras). "Concept" episodes became both more common and considerably less interesting, and the references slid from Viewers Are Geniuses to Lowest Common Denominator. More than that, though, a lot of the plotlines felt slack and uninteresting, with Troy and Britta suffering a major Shipping Bed Death as the writers fumbled with giving them actual chemistry, and Chang's Faking Amnesia plot being about as obvious and hackneyed as they came. Finally, many prior jokes and storylines were brought back as Fanservice... and they certainly felt like it, with the Inspector Spacetime joke being completely run into the ground. The finale, which brought back a concept that'd been lampshaded as old and forced an entire season prior, was roundly critically thrashed, with many saying its All Just a Dream ending was the only redeeming factor. A few shots were taken at it in-universe with reference to the "gas-leak year".

    Non-scripted series 
  • The G4 Network seems to be pretending that the first month or so of Los Angeles-based X-Play episodes don't exist. The recent G4 Replay block of reruns skipped from the last San Francisco eps to the L.A. eps with the dark green set, completely skipping the early L.A. eps with the hideously bright-green set.
  • Survivor has had several:
    • The first one was encountered around seasons 3-5. Season 3 didn't do as well in the ratings compared to its predecessors, partly because the scorching heat of the Kenyan scrubland made it too hot for the contestants to do anything interesting besides sitting around all day. Season 4 had a bunch of boring people and a Diabolus ex Machina that screwed someone doing very well in the game, and Season 5 was full of people who were outright irritating. They all had their moments, granted, but the show got better around season 6 and then gradually got better.
    • Then we had season 14 (Survivor: Fiji), with a cast full of dull people, a twist that was more or less an Epic Fail and resulted in a Can't Catch Up scenario pre-merge, only a couple of real moments, and even the host says isn't very memorable. In all fairness to the producers, Jeff Probst mentioned that Fiji season was supposed to be Cook Islands part two with a similarly racially segregated theme. Unfortunately, one of the twenty contestants leaving at the very last minute forced the producers to throw a new twist to the game they didn't plan to do. It's debatable on whether Fiji would've been better or worse if the season went according more to the initial plan, but that was definitely a factor.
    • Then from Season 18 (Survivor: Tocantins) to the present, it became highly obvious that the editors were having way too much fun accentuating certain players they like, turning them into Creator's Pets and everyone else into living props. These favorites were usually crazy and delusional or just arrogant jerkasses. In a couple of these seasons, the other tribe members were Too Dumb to Live, giving the Creator's Pet an easy ride to the finals. It's gotten so bad that fans sometimes wonder if there were backstage shenanigans, either purposely casting bad players to make things easy for the ones the editors liked best, or setting up challenges that play to their strengths. On top of that, some of these seasons had twists that did nothing to add drama and suspense, and in the case of season 22 (Survivor: Redemption Island) may have even undermined it by causing conflict between the players that were already out instead of the ones still subject to the vote.
  • The Price Is Right started to get a little tired in Bob Barker's last few seasons: increasing senior moments from Bob, sudden insurgence of idiotic contestants, a butt-ugly set, declining health of announcer Rod Roddy, backstage drama that led to many models being fired and Rod no longer appearing on-camera, followed by Rod's death in 2003. Bob's successor Drew Carey brought on a few first-time jitters that some consider an extension of the Dork Age. A notable example is the notorious "Drewcases" in 2008 and 2009, most of which were seen as unfunny, not to mention humiliating to announcer Rich Fields to Drew's credit, he later admitted they were a bad idea.
  • Late Night With Conan O'Brien got into this after Andy Richter left in 2000.
  • Family Feud had one that lasted nearly two decades.
    • It began in 1992 with the addition of the Bullseye round which dragged down gameplay and had families playing for points in the main game instead of cash. Soon after, the daytime version was cancelled, airing in repeats until the following fall. This was also the time where the syndicated version saw an uprising of celebrity specials. Ray Combs was let go before the 1994 season, replaced with an older, heavier, slower Richard Dawson along with the Bankroll round which offered less payouts. With the O.J. Simpson murder trial pre-empting the series in most markets, this Re Tool lasted only one season.
    • The show returned in 1999, at which point the Dork Age reached its peak. The new host was Louie Anderson, a gravel-voiced, overweight comedian who never looked like he wanted to be there. Plus, the game removed the round with double point values, opting for the Single-Single-Single-Triple format with the top scorer playing Fast Money. To make matters worse, teams were allowed one strike in the Triple Round. The only good thing that came out of this was the doubling of the Fast Money prize to $20,000 in 2001. Louie was ousted a year later but his replacement, Richard Karn wasn't that much better. Though a more conventional "play to 300 points" main game was introduced in 2003, Karn's No Indoor Voice made the show painful to watch.
    • The Dork Age finally stated signs of slowing after John O'Hurley replaced Karn. Depending on who you ask, it ended completely either when O'Hurley got more comfortable hosting or when Steve Harvey replaced him, bringing its ratings up to a level comparable to that of Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune .
  • Americas Funniest Home Videos, in the short-lived era after Bob Saget's departure (1998-99) when it was hosted by John Fugelsang and Daisy Fuentes, then the era after that (1999-2001) when it was relegated to a series of one-offs with various Guest Hosts before Tom Bergeron took over in 2001. Fugelsang is just plain not remembered as a host, to the point that not even the show itself has ever mentioned him in retrospectives.