Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. started off with many one-off and very hit or miss episodes before finding its footing in the final third of the first season, starting (appropriately enough) with the episode "End of the Beginning." Much of this is because the initial part of the show is effectively an Prolonged Prologue for Captain America: The Winter Soldier. When the release of the film became imminent, allowing them to bring in more serious and arc-based episodes, the show improved drastically.
Angel. Although it's arguable whether or not the first season is necessarily better or worse than the ones that follow, there show certainly experienced a shift following the initial season. The first season finale was the first to demonstrate a sense of the long Myth Arc storyline as opposed to the story arcs that usually lasted one or two episodes. Buffy was known for but was not restrained by the Half-Arc Season long Big Bad story.
When it started out, the show was really just Buffy, but in the grown up world. It stayed this course for a while until towards the end of season one, when Angel must perform a demon exorcism. This episode seemed to tell everyone that this show was gonna be dark, stay dark, and still be entertaining. And for those who still had doubts, the two-part Faith arc that followed cemented it for everyone.
When Wesley stopped being so clean shaven, the show noticeably changed pace as it became heavily arc driven, a trait the show would have until the series finale.
The first season of Ashes to Ashes had a lighter feel to it, with Alex (in over-the-top 80s outfits) often treating her situation with a kind of detached amusement and e.g. Ray and Chris often used just for comic relief. Things improved a lot when the show adopted a more gritty serious-police feel in season 2. It grows it again in season 3. The previous three A 2 A villains ( Tim Price, Supermack, and Martin Summers) are revealed to all be Disc One Final Bosses. The realBig Bad, JimKeats shows up, unanswered questions from Life On Mars begin driving the plot, and Gene himself comes under scrutiny by Alex.
The Avengers grew some stubble when John Steed was promoted to main character after a season of being the sidekick to Dr. David Keel and the amazonian Cathy Gale became Steed's partner, and a full beard when Emma Peel became his new sidekick. People tend to assume Steed and Peel were the only lineup the show ever had even though they weren't brought together until the fourth season and were dissolved after the fifth. Peel's arrival also coincided with the series moving to film production (allowing location shooting and higher budgets). Opinion varies widely among fans, but the arrival of Tara King after Peel's departure is often seen as the shaving of the beard.
Babylon 5: The beard-growing started in the middle of season 1, when Morden first arrived and the arc started to kick in. Captain Sheridan's arrival kicks it up another notch. And the beard if indisputably fully grown by the end of The Coming of Shadows.
The original Battlestar Galactica didn't really find its stride until the last two episodes of the season, after the show had been officially cancelled.
The Big Bang Theory started off with a healthy amount of comedic charm but its stories relied a little too much on Cringe Comedy and was trying to be more risque than what felt natural for the show (which is something the writers even commented on). By the end of the first season the show managed to find its voice, but the episode that started to cement the characters was episode 6 "Middle-Earth Paradigm" where Penny throws a Halloween party and invites the guys over. That episode really highlighted the personality clash between the main characters and "normal" people. It also showed the first hints that Leonard's crush on Penny may not be a lost cause.
Another literal Beard-Growing moment is Blackadder, where the titular character (or rather, the descendant played by the same actor) gains one between season one and two, along with a ton of Magnificent Bastard qualities. Of course, his once Hyper Competent Sidekick Baldrick becomes a Bumbling Sidekick, but that was seen as a necessary part of the overall improvement.
The first season of Boy Meets World was a standard teen dramedy with shallow humor. It hit off in season 2 as the characters started developing more and the themes got more and more mature with each season. Many argue that the final few seasons where the gang is in college are the best seasons.
Season 2 of Breaking Bad was the point where the show really came into its own. The first season was undeniably good with a shockingly strongperformance by Bryan Cranston and a unique premise. However, it was short and a bit slow, partly due to the Writers' Strike going on at the time. The second season increased the pace to a fever-pitch with half of the episodes feeling like Cliffhangers at the end of a season and the writing and acting as a whole got much sharper. Characters other than Walt got much more development, particularly Jesse and Hank and even Walter, who started out as a mildly complex character in the first season, received far more depth and layers turning him into one of the most complex characters in the medium's history, eventually leading to him being commonly compared to many Shakespearevillains, such as Macbeth, by many literary and television critics by the show's final season. Finally, it added the Breakout CharactersSaul Goodman, Mike Ehrmantraut, and Gustavo "Gus" Fring who is now regarded as one of the best villains ever put on television. After that, it never looked back, eventually ending with one of the most critically acclaimed final seasons ever.
Spike's arrival in Sunnydale proved a noticeable upswing, but the true beard-growing moment was probably the resurgence of Angelus, cementing the shift from Monster of the Week episodes to a darkly comedic, character-driven series. True Art Is Angsty, after all, right?
One of the first near perfect episodes was "Passion," which proved that Angel wasn't coming back any time soon because Angelus was responsible for the first major character death of the series. The series later became famous for them.
Others would argue the show at least grew some stubble in "Prophecy Girl", the first episode to really deal with bravery and explore the impact such a great destiny had on what was essentially a scared teenage girl.
Charlie's Angels: A case has been made that the show grew its beard when Farrah Fawcett-Majors was replaced by Cheryl Ladd. The viewers thought so too when the ratings improved from number 5 to number 4 in the second season.
The beard-growing second season of Charmed switched away from dealing with the Christian Church in season one and into dealing with Wicca, started to grow the characters as both people and sisters and added the plotlines of Piper and Leo, Phoebe and college, and Prue's new power.
Some believe the show didn't fully hit its stride until the third season when it introduced Pheobe's first long term love intrest in the half demon/half human Cole a.k.a. Belthazor, and The Source became the new primary new villian, making the show much more heavily arc driven.
In its first season, Chuck was a fun show, if occasionally uneven. The second season tightened up the spy plots, improved the action scenes, better-integrated the spy and non-spy elements of the show, and introduced mytharc elements, making it into a show capable of delivering 42 minutes of continual awesome.
In the first episode of season 3, Dean Pelton showed up for the new school year sporting a manly new beard and vowing that things were going to be different this year. By the end of the episode, his beard had been forcibly shaved off, and he was forced to sadly admit that this year was going to be the same as last year, but without money. Given the show's constant trope-awareness, this is assuredly a lampshading of this particular trope.
Conan, an example of actual beard-growing. After being dumped from a short and frustrating stint on NBC's Tonight Show, Conan O'Brien returned with a late-night talk show on TBS — far more relaxed, confident, creative, and funny than what he'd done before. And with a beard.
That wasn't his first beard-growing (figuratively). After becoming the host of Late Night in 1993 as a self-proclaimed "complete unknown," Conan struggled for his first few years as host before he found his voice and became a late night TV star.
Curb Your Enthusiasm hit its stride mid-Season 2, and then again in Season 6 with the introduction of Leon as a main character. The divorce of Larry and Cheryl in series 8 may have done this again.
The Daily Show, when it started out in 1996 with Craig Kilborn, made fun of the news media but it didn't have any particular focus; it seemed like a generic news-parody show, or basically Comedy Central's answer toTalk Soup. Jon Stewart's arrival in January 1999 changed everything, as Stewart's vision of the show was less about mocking celebrities and their scandals and more about hard-hitting political satire with a left-wing slant, which led to the show becoming more serious-minded with its humor and interviews. This last bit began to attract major political figures, elected and retired, to the show to be interviewed by Stewart, who evolved into quite the capable interviewer; notably, three sitting heads of state (Presidents Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan in September 2006, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf of Liberia in April 2009, and freakin' Barack Obama in October 2010) have sat down with him.
The show didn't change overnight with Stewart's arrival; his first year or two they did basically they same kind of material as under Kilborn. Stewart himself said that the 2000 recount was when the show found its voice.
On a related note, the show could be considered a growing-the-beard moment for him, especially after Death to Smoochy.
Writers and correspondents have noted that part of the improvement involved the role of the correspondents. During the Kilborn era, correspondents only appeared via field reports, in which they mercilessly mocked the subjects they interviewed for whatever oddity attracted the show's attention. Stephen Colbert, who served under both Kilborn and Stewart, later joked he wished he could leave his soul behind when he went on these assignments. When the Stewart-led show tried to hire Colbert's friend, Steve Carell, Carell explained he'd rather the correspondent always be a bigger joke than the subject. The resulting shift towards the dumb correspondent character archetype allowed the correspondents to appear in-studio (usually claiming to be reporting live on location via Chroma Key background), with Stewart playing Straight Man / Only Sane Man to their nonsense. It also, by extension, led directly to The Colbert Report.
And Stewart came back from a short sabbatical with a beard. Though the beard itself didn't last long, many fans consider the bearded and post-bearded episodes some of Stewart's best.
Being filmed in New York, 9/11 marked a big shift in the show's tone, and one could argue it was when the show really began to get serious about being a hard-hitting news show in comedic clothing.
In the form that it premiered, Dark Shadows wouldn't be recognized by most. It later emphasized the supernatural elements, acquired a new main character in the form of Barnabas, and took on a darker tone.
While supposedly this is not unanimous, there is a general opinion that A Different World became a distinctive show of its own with the second season, when Lisa Bonet left, severing the connection between the show and its (ahem) parent, The Cosby Show. Debbie Allen took over and decided to Retool the show to make it better reflect the black-college experience as she had known it. The ratings went down, but that was more due to the change in timeslot, and the show had several good seasons.
It takes all kinds to make the Doctor Who fandom, and pretty much any season was Growing the Beard for some viewers and Jumping the Shark for others (followed by regular shaving of beards and unjumping of sharks), due in part to the show's unique format of changing its lead actor periodically, and the fact it has been on the air for so long that it has gone through many different showrunners and production regimes, whose appeal varies widely depending upon the individual fan. What follows are some fairly widespread opinions.
The Uncancellation of Doctor Who after either a nine- or sixteen-year hiatus, depending on how you count the TV movie, was the point where the show started gaining viewers and accolades for the first time since the seventies, including two BAFTAs for the first new series, and to date it has only lost the Hugo Award for its category once since the show came back on the air.
Although not quite on the same level, many fans cite Season 25, and the 1988 serial Remembrance of the Daleks, as the point where 1980s Doctor Who began demonstrating a fresher, more confident and mature approach after several years of muddling along in a rather wobbly (at best) fashion, particularly after the brief mid-eighties 'hiatus' and the less-than-well-received Seasons 23 and 24. Unfortunately, by this point the damage had been done, and it wasn't long after that it was cancelled.
For classic series fans, the first appearance of the Daleks in the second story was a massive step up after a mostly dull introduction story featuring cavemen. At least, that's how it's viewed now - the caveman story was considered good when it was first shown, but it is overshadowed by what followed it.
Some would argue that the introduction of the Second Doctor, who was somewhat younger and could do more than the First, and improvements in television production allowed for more dramatic stories with broader scope (since they could film outside). The Second Doctor also brought with him new writers and directors, who gave him snappier dialogue and pacing, and permanently codified the Doctor as being a character who is iconically comical and ignorant of social conventions.
And then the introduction of the Third Doctor coincided with the show's change to both color production and a noticeable upward shift in its production value, as well as the introduction of more adult storylines.
And the Fourth Doctor's era had further improvements in production design, special effects, and the Philip Hinchcliffe and Robert Holmes pairing brought the series to what most consider to be the creative and qualitative peak of its original run.
Which still boggles the mind, how many shows reach their qualitative and creative peak starting in their 12th season?
The 2005 season began with several "testing the waters" episodes, but the sixth episode, "Dalek" is often cited as the revival's "growing the beard" moment, in part because it reintroduced the franchise's signature enemy, and up to this point some argued that Doctor Who didn't feel like Doctor Who without the Daleks. It should also be observed that the episodes prior to "Dalek", while generally agreed to be extremely well-made and entertaining, had one of the Darkest and Edgiest Doctors ever fighting a bunch of incredibly Campy and goofy monsters (homicidal recycling bins and dummies, farting Replicant Snatcherfat-people aliens, a zombie granny and a Rich Bitch plastic surgery disaster, all fairly threatening but all Played for Laughs) which did not really reflect his character as the Doctor or allow it to live up to its full potential, or even properly imitate the mood of the original series (in which comedy monsters were mostly unintentionally achieved). "Dalek" gave the new Doctor his first entirely serious enemy, allowed him to delve into the depths of his character's inner ruthlessness and alienness in order to stop it, and gave him a fantastic scenery-chewing spiteful rant at the Dalek done so well that it came to dominate the Ninth Doctor's character. After this moment the Ninth Doctor's tenure continued with similarly dark monsters (such as the Empty Child) and more dramatic episodes (the Deconstruction episode about the previously goofy Slitheen, a story about Rose using time travel to save her dead father, and explorations of the Doctor's previously unknown sexuality).
This has even been lampshaded many times by the people behind the show.
The Drew Carey Show became much better after the first season, when Lisa, Jay and Mr. Bell left the show and Mr. Wick became the new boss.
It took a while for Emergency! to hit its stride. About the length of time it took for Chet and Marco to grow their Porn Stache's and Gage to grow his mullet.
Like the situation in Star Trek: The Next Generation, the sitcom Family Ties improved in the second season which is the time Michael Gross, the actor playing patriarch Steven Keaton grew a beard. It started out mainly about the divide between ex-hippie parents and their children, mainly their eldest son, a conservative, Alex. It still remained that way after the first year but it also became clear that Michael J. Fox became the breakout star of the show, showing natural comic gifts and more episodes were written bringing depth to his young Republican character.
This basically killedFarscape in Australia. The Nine Network hyped Farscape to the point of stupidity, then put it on in prime time. Unfortunately, the series was slow to build, with Crichton in particular starting off as an annoying putz. The ratings slumped dramatically and Nine began to bounce it about from timeslot to timeslot and play episodes out of order.
Most fans consider the introduction of Scorpius as the big bad and the kicking off of the big myth-arc about wormhole weapons and the Scarran/Peacekeeper conflict at the end of season 1 to be the moment the show grew its beard. Until then most of the episodes had been standalone 'John learns about the crazy universe' episodes, but Scorpius changed all that.
The beard growing could have started slightly sooner, with the episode "Through the Looking Glass"; as this episode cemented the crew as an ensemble with Crichton as the "glue" holding them together; and set the tone of mixed humour/drama. Not to mention providing something of a relief after the previous "monster of the week" style, and the thoroughly Anvilicious episode just prior to it ("A Human Reaction"). The beard is fully grown by "Taking the Stone", which develops Chiana's character considerably, making her less of a gimmick, and more of a real person.
It also helps that the beginning of the second season saw D'Argo's character (he Took A Level In Smart) and makeup get significantly retooled.
It got good when they stopped resisting the madness - the crew stopped calling John nuts and started one-upping him with whacked ideas of their own.
Where it stopped becoming a 'human in alien environment' gig and started becoming Darker and Edgier was around the episode "A human reaction" where John encounters the ancients (which is also about the time the Mind Screw kicked in). This set the point where the show started Growing the Beard at lightspeed.
There's even a handy visual cue: At first, Crichton wore the old jumpsuit he came in, announcing to all that he was a clueless earthling trapped in the wrong end of the galaxy. Then he switched to a Badass Longcoat, announcing to all that he'd found his feet, given up on "normal," and was ready to start being a Big Damn Hero.
For Firefly, it's "Our Mrs. Reynolds." As with Dollhouse, this is not to say that the preceding episodes are bad. It's just that this is the moment when the show's budding sci-fi, Western, action, comedy, drama and True Companions elements fuse together into the wonderful insanity we Browncoats love so well. The addition of YoSaffBridge is just icing on the cake.
Flash Gordon starting getting better half way through the first season.
In the introduction to her first solo cookbook, The French Chef Cookbook, Julia Child publicly disavowed the first 13 episodes of her show The French Chef, claiming (not implausibly) that WGBH had erased them and they were unwatchably terrible; the book thus begins with episode 14, and most of the first 13 were eventually reshot.
While the first season of Friends was not considered bad, it had a lot of 80s-ish styles and fashions(particularly in hairstyles), and was quite a bit more episodic than the other seasons, with some critics regarding it as an inferior clone of Seinfeld. It started to grow some stubble with "The One With All The Poker", the first episode to really show what it can do with its Gender-Equal Ensemble by pitting Rachel, Monica, and Phoebe against Joey, Chandler, and Ross in a friendly game of poker. However, it dosen't really find its stride until the second season, after that the styles and fashions match the proper decade much more, the writing improves, it finds its own consistent humor and voice, the character's personalities begin to gel more, and there are more ongoing story arcs. It had also set itself apart from many other sitcoms of the time by ending most of their seasons in soap opera style cliffhangers, a trend that 3rd Rock from the Sun soon followed. By the end of season two, it was already competing with Seinfeld as the ultimate sitcom of the 90's.
Fringe grew its beard in the last third of season 2, starting with the episodes "Jacksonville" and "Peter".
Others would argue it started as far back as "The Arrival" (season 1, episode 4), which introduced the Observers and put Fringe on the road to being something other than an X-Files clone.
Gossip Girl didn't really get into the swing of things until the seventh episode. Before that, the characters were interesting but all the relationships were essentially static (Blair fights with Nate, Serena and Dan get closer, Chuck enjoys hookers, Vanessa and Jenny sit at home alone). In that episode, Nate and Blair finally break up and the viewers love what ( read: who) Blair does after.
Happy Endings started as a very bland and generic sitcom but grew something of a personality in season 2, rescuing one of the main characters from the Scrappy Heap in the process.
"Homecoming" marked the moment Heroes went from being an X-Men wannabe to the show that made NBC relevant again.
It is a common opinion among viewers that as of Volume 5, the show got over its Seasonal Rot and is growing the beard again. Or was. Sadly it wasn't enough to prevent the cancellation, or possibly bring back the many viewers it had lost.
Even towards the halfway point and end of Season 1, the show started growing a more mature stubble with more drama/comedy episodes such as iHeartArt, iHateSam'sBoyfriend, iDon'tWanttoFight, and iMightSwitchSchools all airing immediately in that time frame.
Yet another literal beard-growing moment: Masaharu Morimoto, Iron Chef Japanese on Iron Chef, originally came off as very stern and kind of arrogant; when he appeared on Iron Chef America, he'd grown a beard, gained 10 or 15 pounds, wore glasses, and was suddenly very soft-spoken and personable.
Whilst the first season of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia struggled with a few aspects of the show's unusual tone to start with, the second season really hits its stride with the introduction of Frank as a regular, as well as changing Dee from the voice of reason to a neurotic, amoral mess like the rest of the gang and emphasising various aspects of the others (Charlie's immaturity, Dennis' sociopathy). Dennis and Dee Go On Welfare is generally seen as the definitive beard-growing moment.
Justified started off very "villain of the week", with a couple main cast members regularly absent, but it really grew the beard in season 2, which focused mostly on a single, pwerful villain (or in this case a family of them), though the last few episodes of the first season saw some proverbial stubble popping up.
Kamen Rider started as a weekly horror superhero show about a lonely hero that fights an organization that creates evil monsters and is made from old nazis. The emphasis was around the many evil plots of Shocker and the angst the tormented hero goes through, with little support from his comrades. After the accident Hiroshi Fujioka had, the lead man is changed, add that the changes producer Toru Hirayama did: Introducing a completely new supporting cast that was a bit more comedic and casual, having Tobei Tachibana manage the Tachibana Racing Club and adding more emphasis on the action. Slowly, it turned into an amazing story where a guy fights evil monsters that blow up when defeated with heavy support from his comrades, and even though the tormented hero aspect was still there, the support of his comrades and positive attitude of saving the day proved how much the show evolved. It went off to spawn many sequels and eventually an entire franchise.
Law & Order grew the beard when Jerry Orbach joined the cast as Lennie Briscoe. Fan opinion is divided as to whether it stayed good or kind of lost it after Dick Wolf was forced to create some female characters and Michael Moriarty left/Sam Waterston joined.
Law & Order: Special Victims Unit was given a very different look at the start of the second season that greatly improved the atmosphere of the show: Olivia got a haircut, Stephanie March joined the cast as permanent ADA Alexandra Cabot, the writers noticed that the UST between Benson and Stabler (allegedly due to actual chemistry between Hargitay and Meloni) was too much and toned it down, detectives Jeffries and Cassidy were replaced by Tutuola, and the show began to distinguish itself as its own series.
Legend of the Seeker really comes into its own with "Denna" (1x08), where the series becomes darker, more dramatic and a bit, erm, kinkier. Season 1 as a whole, however, follows your bog-standard "Find the MacGuffin and defeat the Dark Lord" fantasy plot. The second season takes things more literally as Richard grows a beard, as a reference to the second book. Then Cara, a bi-sexual warrior who used to fight for the Dark Lord, joined the band of heroes and provided Deadpan Snarker sarcasm, and the plot took a turn for the very interesting. Bog-standard fantasy no more!
No Beard, but Lincoln Heights becomes more watchable as the kids grow older.
Though LOST was extremely intriguing for the first couple of episodes, the end of "Walkabout" absolutely sold the series.
It could be argued that Lost grew its beard in "Walkabout", and after a slump in season 2-3, hit back immediately after the widely panned "Stranger in a Strange Land" in "Tricia Tanaka is Dead".
"One Of Them" was a Chekhov's Gun version of this trope. While the interpersonal drama and general weirdness had already been introduced so wonderfully in "Walkabout" and stretched out in the episodes since, the second season's introduction of Henry GaleBenjamin Linus, the show's first true villain, cemented the fact that a battle between good guys and bad guys would be a major component of the series — even if the characters and the audience didn't realize this at the time.
Madan Senki Ryukendo, around the 30th episode, took an upward climb in quality. The show expanded focus to characters other than the heroes and embraced its silliness, while moving away from the bad parts that were present in the beginning. Because of this, the last half of the series became one of the best toku shows yet.
The first Season of Mad Men is quality television but it is in season two that characters become more developed, stories become more focused, the changes of the era come into play more and the actors are given more to work with. Kinsey also grows an Orson Welles beard.
Critics would argue that Nixon vs. Kennedy at the end of the first season was the real turning point for the show. Mr. Campbell, who cares.. indeed.
Mama's Family grew the beard after it was canceled by NBC and then brought back in first-run syndication. The vast majority of fans seem to prefer the syndicated episodes over the NBC ones, and find Iola and Bubba (who were added in syndication) funnier than Fran, Buzz, and Sonia (who were written out after NBC).
The Man Show saw a major upswing in quality once it reached its third season and fourth seasons. Almost all of the rehearsed sketches were phased out and replaced with Adam and Jimmy going out and messing with people on location, the misogynistic rants and tedious macho behavior diminshed and gave way to a lot more Self-Deprecation, Adam and Jimmy got better with their timing, and the cringe-inducing homophobia disappeared and increasingly blatant and funnier Ho Yay increased.
Married... with Children is a rather bizarre example in the sense that it started out more subtle and down-to-earth, but actually dramatically improved when the show became more wacky, to the point where it basically became a live-action cartoon, while it still retained most of its core themes and jokes. A rare case of Flanderization actually improving the show's overall quality.
M*A*S*H started doing this did this with the episode "Sometimes You Hear the Bullet", where Hawkeye is reduced to tears when an old friend of his dies on the operating table. Once "Abyssinia, Henry", aired, it became clear the show had moved from a straight-up Army comedy to a comedy with dramatic storylines.
The general consensus is that Merlin grew the beard around episode eight, which, along with the five episodes which followed it, was noticeably darker in tone than the first part of the series. A lot of fans identify it as the point at which the show stopped being a Guilty Pleasure.
Essentially, the show got interesting the second that Mordred showed up.
Morecambe and Wise's first TV show Running Wild was widely considered to be a disaster, with one critic saying "Definition of the week. Television - the box in which they buried Morecambe and Wise". Their next series Two of a Kind written by Sid Green and Dick Hills was better received, however their classic years are considered to be when they moved to the BBC and Eddie Braben became their scriptwriter. This is the era when the relationship between them was finally established with Wise as the egotistical idiot and Morecambe as the down-to-earth clown, as well as introducing the elaborately staged guest appearances.
The Muppet Show was funny from day one, but it wasn't until the second season that a lot of the main characters' personalities and appearances really jelled; season one Fozzie was a borderline Jerk Ass, Gonzo was a pathetic little nebbish, and Miss Piggy was, literally, more two-dimensional. There was also an upswing in guest stars after the show got popular; initially, the guest stars mostly came from Hollywood, but the appearance of ballet legend Rudolf Nureyev (at his request) gave the show an extraordinary amount of credibility, leading great performers in many fields to appear on the show.
Mystery Science Theater 3000 grew a beard right after its first two aired seasons (one on KTMA and the other on the Comedy Channel). The second season bearding is pretty much Word of God: the KTMA and first season episodes were mostly ad-libbed. When they started scripting the riffs in season two, the jump in the number of really good lines was clear (the addition of TV's Frank didn't hurt). A significant number of MSTies, however, point to the third season as the point where the show really hit its stride - "Cave Dwellers" and "Pod People" are often seen as the first truly great episodes in the show's run.
The first season of Newhart was frighteningly bad. None of the wacky townspeople existed yet, nor did Michael and Stephanie. The show was more a bland sitcom with standard recycled plots. Worst, it was taped, rather than filmed, so the entire look and feel was different. When the show switched to film, it grew the beard.
Newhart's biggest problem was that the show's regular Jerkass was a painfully unfunny character named Kirk Devane. The show gained an attractive stubble in the second season when it switched to film and more importantly Stephanie joined the cast, but it was still saddled with Kirk. The show grew a full, beautiful beard at the start of the third season when Kirk was Put on a Bus and replaced by Michael who was actually a bigger Jerkass than Kirk, but was hilarious.
TheNewsroom, thus far. It premiered with a bang (Will's speech) and then a frenetic episode before basically spending a season Arc Welding. Its second season has more than one overarching story arc and smaller storylines not exclusively revolving around romantic pairings.
Though there were a few decent episodes in its first season, The Odd Couple took a giant leap in quality when, starting with Season Two, it was filmed with three cameras and a live audience. Right from the second season's first episode, the show suddenly demonstrated more energy (and fun) as the cast fed on the live reactions of the audience.
The first season of the US version of The Office (US) went through some serious growing pains. While only the pilot was a direct lift from the original British show, it was still an uneasy mix of the British version's "humor of discomfort" and more American-style jokes. The season was only six episodes long, however, and contained enough genuinely hilarious moments to give it promise. With season two, the writers gained more confidence in allowing the characters to have their own personalities apart from the ones that inspired them, which also allowed for an increased focus on the other people working at the office.
Parks and Recreation started out as an underwhelming clone of The Office (it's from the same creators) set in a government office instead of a corporate one. Luckily, it quickly developed past this, thanks in large part to Amy Poehler's portrayal of hopelessly naive and idealistic main character Leslie, and the emergence of Chris Pratt and Nick Offerman as Breakout Characters. The show's all-inclusive political humor (poking fun at the workings of government without making any stances) helped set it apart too.
While the show was certainly very good throughout the second season, it takes an even sharper upswing at the end of the season when Mark (Rob Schneider) leaves and Ben (Adam Scott) and Chris (Rob Lowe) join the cast. The third season episode "Harvest Festival" is considered by many fans and critics to be the definitive beard-growing moment of the series.
Even before this, the initial series would probably have collapsed into obscurity without the Green Ranger and the Dragonzord. They modified the dynamic of the team (and the show) and, perhaps more importantly to Haim Saban and Bandai, sold more toys.
Season 2 was where the show proved it had legs. Prior to that the episodes were very formulaic (with the exception of the Green Ranger saga) and the overall mood was almost pure cheese. When the genuinely scary Lord Zedd entered shit got real, starting with the destruction of the old Zords and kicking out the comical Rita Repulsa. This coincided with a noticeable boost in production quality (the actors appeared in costume with the helmets off, in addition to staging American-made fights scenes to better match the story) and the special effects jumped up in quality. Longer storylines became the norm and this got even more noticeable in season 3.
Power Rangers Turbo The additions of T.J., Cassie, Ashley and Carlos on-screen, with Judd Lynn taking over writing duties more-or-less concurrently. The new characters and more consistent writing gave new life to an otherwise moribund series. (After these changes, the ratings saw noteworthy improvement.) Looking back, the second half of Turbo gets a far more favorable reception than the first half.
Power Rangers in Space For this particular series, the major storylines and dynamics of the season, such as the characterization that makes Ecliptor a fan-favourite, really all hit their stride once Darkonda shows up. There's a lot less filler from that point on.
Lost Galaxy started off kind of slow and was too clearly riding the popularity of In Space. About the time the Magna Defender shows up it starts to make its own identity, especially with his Heroic Sacrifice and Mike returning to the group.
Power Rangers Samurai had a good deal of growing pains with Saban returning to produce the franchise and keep people excited about the new series. Much like the original MMPR the arrival of the Sixth Ranger, Antonio, proved to kick the series up a notch. There's also when Deker's human appearance (A bearded Rick Medina), which is also considered when the show grew into itself.
Prison Break led off with some good episodes, but really grew the beard in the two-parter "Riots, Drills and the Devil" (episodes 6 and 7 of season one), which set the benchmark for all subsequent episodes in pace and tone. Robert Knepper's character T-Bag blackmailed his way into the escape plan, the Michael/Sara relationship really kicked off, most of the main characters got to show off the traits that would define them and drive the show for the rest of its run (Michael being the hero, Lincoln being brawny, etc), and the Evil Government Conspirators started taking a more active role in the fate of the protagonists.
The first series of British SF-SitCom classic Red Dwarf was something of a mixed bag, with the inexperienced actors (loosely: a poet, an impressionist, a dancer and a standup comedian) taking a while to find their feet and the writers not sure what tone they wanted to hit. The second series saw a notable improvement with the introduction of the android Kryten (although not as a regular at first) and an upping of the SF elements. However, it wasn't until the third series with the introduction of the Starbug spacecraft and more shows about getting off the eponymous ship that the show really hit its stride.
The series one finale of Red Dwarf ("Me^2") definitely stands out as a 'growing the beard' moment; it was the first real 'spotlight' episode for Arnold Rimmer and was the first time we got to crawl inside his head (via the subplot regarding Rimmer's final words before dying) towards Rimmer's inferiority complex and his deep-seeded self-loathing, leading to Rimmer becoming more of a sympathetic and fleshed out character.
The second season of Robin Hood is generally considered of a much higher standard than the first, with a more consistent tone between episodes and better character development.
Saturday Night Live: The season one episode hosted by Richard Pryor took the show from being a grungy, New York-style variety show into the edgy, late-night sketch comedy show where anything can happen (scripted or otherwise).
Ben Sullivan's death on Scrubs. While the second season was considered among the funniest, that third season episode featured an amazing ability to show drama without betraying the personality of the characters.
In a more literal vein, J.D. sports a grotty-looking beard as of Season 8. It seems to be partially on purpose as J.D. makes mention that everyone is expecting them to aim higher and perform better. Subsequently, the show was praised by fans and critics alike for being funnier and more sincere than the previous few seasons of the series.
The Season 8 episode "My Happy Place" features an extensive discussion between J.D. and Elliot which suggests that decision to have J.D. grow a beard may have been an explicit homage to the internet phrase. J.D. and Elliot discuss their decision to once again pursue a romantic relationship. After Elliot reiterates the past times they have hurt each other in romance, J.D. notes that since their last attempt they've both grown up significantly (J.D. became a Dad from an accidental pregnancy and Elliot persued a new career in private practice). He then notes that "I've changed too. I have a beard now."
Seinfeld began as a fairly innocuous observational sitcom, but took a sharp upswing in the last two episodes of its second season: "The Chinese Restaurant", a real-time episode with a single set, garnered impressive critical acclaim, while "The Busboy" started the show's practice of weaving together the various subplots at the end of each episode. Seinfeld got more stubble with "The Parking Garage" but didn't really grow its beard until "The Boyfriend" and "The Limo", late in season three, which saw the show introducing more off-the-wall elements into the mix.
Michael Richards also cites "The Statue" as the episode where Kramer started growing a beard.
In Sesame Street, the characters' reaction to Mr. Hooper's death is the first of many attempts to teach young children about topics that are hard to talk about.
On the topic of BBC programs, Sherlock's beard grew enormously at the end of its first series. Where the first two episodes were comedic and lighthearted, with a single serious climax per episode, the finale, "The Great Game", was thrilling and tantalizing. It ended with the introduction of Holmes's most well known adversary, James Moriarty, and a cliffhanger that had viewers on the edge of their seats for the next year. From that point on, each episode was entertaining and enticing, and each better than the last.
Southland started off as a typical Police Procedural without much new to the formula but over time, the plots become more original, the tone got grittier, and unnecessary characters were dropped to focus on the interesting ones.
SportsCenter has been a daily staple of ESPN since the network debuted in 1979, but the show really became big in the mid-'90s, with a batch of humorous, Catch Phrase-spouting anchors led by the duo of Keith Olbermann and Dan Patrick, also including Craig Kilborn, Kenny Mayne, Rich Eisen, and Stuart Scott.
Stargate SG-1 starts off very slowly, and takes more than a season to coalesce around a unified, sensible mythos and begin its story arcs.
The first truly great SG-1 episode was There But For The Grace Of God, near the end of season one. Nearly the entire rest of the series took its cues from it in tone, it stepped out of Star Trek's shadow and stopped trying to copy it and it became much better for it.
Stargate Atlantis was more or less the Stargate setting as a whole Growing the Beard, as Atlantis has always maintained a higher quality of character development, plot, and visual design.
Until the beginning of Season 4 when they'd already killed off two beloved characters and thrown all logical plot lines out of the window.
Stargate Universe has its beard in full by mid-Season 2. Destiny's mission is finally made clear, the crew has gained control of the ship and are working together toward a collective goal (for the most part). By mid-season, they've unwittingly been pulled into a war with a new alien race, hinted by Word of God to become the new Big Bad of SGU.
Season 2 of Star Trek: The Next Generation. At that moment, we see Commander Will Riker sport his distinctive beard, marking his growth into something other than a Kirk clone. (Apparently the beard was a Throw It In by Gene Roddenberry, Jonathan Frakes returned after the season break for script readings with that beard and Roddenberry felt it gave him a far more dignified appearance. It's hard to argue.) Meanwhile, other characters begin to find their niches, such as Geordi La Forge being assigned as Chief Engineer, where he could do something other than use his VISOR as a plot device.
In the episode Déjà Q, Riker (who had previously fallen in love with a holographic woman) rejects a pair of women that Q created to celebrate his return to the Continuum; prompting Q to very astutely lampshade Riker's character growth by invoking this trope by name:
Riker: I don't need your fantasy women.
Q: Oh, you're so stolid. You weren't like that before the beard.
The death of Tasha Yar is also credited with giving the show a pathos in subsequent episodes that it didn't have before, especially since the death was senseless and abrupt. Which ultimately is extremely ironic because the actress left for exactly the reason she wasn't feeling challenged enough.
Though it was season 3 that showed the most improvement. This trope could well have been named for the season finale "The Best of Both Worlds", in which Next Generation not only became a great show, but also emerged from its predecessor's shadow. (It also marked Next Generation starting a season 4, something its predecessor never did.)
Season 1, and part of season 2, was affected by a writers strike that hampered the script quality. Many point to the end of the strike as when the show really started to find itself.
It's probably more attributable to management change between seasons two and three. Maurice Hurley, the head writer, was replaced by Michael Piller, and Gene Roddenberry also took less of an active role due to declining health.
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine did the same, with Captain Sisko growing the beard this time. (This one isn't generally considered an improvement so much as a change in tone.)
Sisko's shaved head starting with season 4 could also count to a degree, though this was really just taking the changed tone from his growing the beard to the next level, which would lead to the epic 3-season long Dominion War storyline.
The change of uniform started the "Growing the Beard" effect; starting with "Rapture", Captain Sisko began to embrace his role as the Emissary to the Prophets, and the even darker tone of the show started here.
Bringing in the Defiant was also a big plus, some people were having a hard time getting into a Star Trek series that had very minimal traveling and no command chair for the captain to sit in.
But the place where it all kicked off would have to be the first season's penultimate episode, "Duet". Most of the first season had been rather lacklustre but the last two episodes were extremely well-written and showed just how powerful the local politics were going to be. From the second season onwards, the writing was of a consistently much higher standard.
The season 2 finale "The Jem'Hadar" also did something similar to what TNG did with the Borg by introducing a potent new enemy in the form of the Dominion. Led by mysterious "founders" and employing the titular Jem'Hadars as soldiers. The episode climaxed with the Jem'Hadar destroying a Galaxy-Class ship, the same type as the Enterprise of TNG, to show what a threat they could represent. The looming threat of the Dominion would drive much of the show before it escalated into the 3 season-long Dominion War, and would be the impetus behind many of the other changes mentioned above (the Defiant, Sisko's growing role as Emissary, etc...).
Many Star Trek: Voyager fans felt the show grew its beard when it left the lackluster Kazon behind in favour of a much more serious threat: the Borg. Although the Borg did suffer from Villain Decay, the episode "Scorpion" was a gripping and downright terrifying episode showing an alien race more dangerous than the Borg, Species 8472. It also introduced Seven-Of-Nine, whose questionable allegiance gave the show a much-needed sense of contention and uncertainty (plus the eye candy factor is credited with the series gaining enough viewers to escape cancellation, allowing these plot lines time to develop). The fact that Jeri Ryan could really act sealed the deal later on, as she became a primary character with many well-written and well-performed story arcs.
Most viewers agree that Enterprise was just finding its voice in either the third season (which was a tight, serialized full-season arc in the style of Deep Space Nine) or the fourth (where Manny Coto became showrunner, made a bunch of Authors Saving Throwsnote with the Temporal Cold War, the Vulcans, and so on and started organizing the show to tie it in better with the original seriesnote with the ongoing arc of increased inter-species cooperation, increased hostility with Romulans (to lead up to the Romulan War), and establishment of the Coalition of Planets (as the League-of-Nations-esque predecessor to the Federation)). Unfortunately, the show was cancelled at this point, so we'll never know if the beard would've stayed on.
Basically, Star Trek series tend to take two seasons or so to find their footing and figure out their tone, before really Growing the Beard usually somewhere around their third season.
The syndicated The Adventures of Superboy TV series was about Clark Kent/Superboy as a college student facing kind of lame problems and adversaries. The special effects were also very crude. In the second season they changed lead actors and had more deadlier villains including a new actor played Lex Luthor who became Ax-Crazy. The effects got better and as the series continued it became Darker and Edgier.
The sixth episode of Supernatural — "Skin" — was when it was starting to get really, really good. It was the start of squicky gore, uneasy subtext (the misogyny of the shapeshifter and Shifter!Dean's near-rape of Becky), festering issues, awesome acting and more insight to their brotherly relationship. All the things that Supernatural is loved for.
The show didn't truly start to get good until about midway through its first season (about the time when Derek Reese shows up).
Not to mention that around the beginning of the 2nd season, John Connor grew a freakin' ZZ Top size beard.
The Boris Karloff hosted 60s anthology series Thriller had one, thanks in part to Executive Meddling. Early episodes dealt with standard crime based thrillers, similiar to Alfred Hitchcock Presents. Network executives asked the producers for more traditional horror stories, in line with Karloff's presence and the Universal lot available to them. Fans considered the gothic horror stories that followed when the series truly hit its stride, Stephen King even called this the best series of its type thanks to these episodes.
Tonight Show: The Jay Leno version was tanking after he took over from Johnny Carson, until some retooling of the set and format and a widely publicize interview with Hugh Grant led to Leno growing some facial hair.
In 2002, Top Gear was Uncancelled and subsequently the show was given a huge revamp to an entertainment show about cars with a studio format along with the return of one of the old show's presenters (Clarkson), while still including the car reviews of yore, albeit with much, much higher production values. To say it's displaced the older Top Gear (1977-2001), is a massive understatement. In the second series, James May replaced the second-hand car salesman Jason Dawe, giving the current dynamic of Clarkson, Hammond and May.
Even then, the show still had some beard-growing to do: the segments are somewhat poorly paced, and the reviews, while excellent, quickly become routine. Then they introduced the Cheap Car Challenges. And wacky, absolutely over-the-top segments like Car Darts and Caravan Conkers. The show really hit its stride then.
Many people say this of the second series of Torchwood, compared to Series 1. Whether or not this made it great, good, or simply less painful to watch depends on who you ask.
The tone certainly became much more consistent and less Wangsty, and the main characters more competent... and then half the cast was killed off one by one.
The general feeling by anyone not already a long-term fan is that season 3 is where is not only grew the beard but then proceeded to beat up the shark until it begged for mercy. A few long-term fans are in uproar over the killing of one of the favoured if not favourite characters in the series. Others think this just makes the beard longer by living up to the Anyone Can Die reputation.
Tru Calling is generally accepted to have improved with the addition of Jason Priestly's antagonist time traveller. Whether the improvement was from "terrible" to "mediocre", or from "good" to "excellent" is still contested.
24 was a fairly unremarkable police/office drama until about 5:40 AM. The show suddenly kicked into full gear at that point, with the death of Poor Man's Mena Suvari, the unveiling of Ira Gaines' "I Have Your Wife" plot, and the wonderful last-second plot twist, where Teri finds out her new friend is actually The Mole, all dropped on us in rapid succession. This episode set the tone for the rest of the series.
Upstairs Downstairs was a popular but lightweight period drama through Series 1 and 2. The decision to take the show into the post-Edwardian era and World War One gave the show a more serious tone that pleased both viewers and critics. American critics also applauded the departure of the characters Sarah and Thomas, who proved to be deeply unpopular in the States.
The Vampire Diaries was, at first, rather generic with often cheesy diary sequences. It's around episode 6 of the first season that the show fleshed out the vampire mythology and showed that Anyone Can Die by killing off Vicki, who was one of the main characters up until then.
The Walking Dead grew the beard around season 3. Although prior seasons were good fans complained about the glacially slow pacing. After season three people commented that "Every episode feels like a season finale", something they definitely wouldn't have said about season 1. It should be noted that Rick's facial hair was growing throughout the prior seasons but it does seem most prominent in season 3.
Hershel starts out as being a mild antagonist who sympathises with the walkers and wants Rick's group off his farm. He grows a literal beard at the same time that he becomes a valuable member of the group and an awesome character.
Weeds started out as a very dark dramedy with some interesting characters but didn't really get great until Season 4. The characters moved to a new town and the comedy got seriously amped up. It wasn't even until Season 5 that it got its first Emmy nomination for Best Comedy Series.
Whose Line Is It Anyway? started off as a rather basic improvisation show, featuring a lot of games that are great practice for real improv actors but which aren't particularly funny for anyone watching them. Over the years it started playing to its strengths, and fans almost universally agree that since then it has become remarkably better. None of them can agree, however, on when it went from "boring" to "funny." Most often you will hear one or more of the following reasons:
John stopped appearing on the show
(Tony/Mike/Greg/Ryan/Colin/any combination of the five) started appearing on the show
Most Game Show fans think that Wheel of Fortune grew the beard when it eliminated the shopping rounds and had contestants play for cash. As a result, the game became much faster-paced, allowing for much longer puzzles that could lead to much bigger payouts.
The first nine episodes of The Wire are perfectly serviceable police drama. You start to get invested in the story and wondering how the detail is gonna put the Barksdale crew behind bars... and then The Cost happens. In a single scene, the show's HSQ shoots into the stratosphere and you realize that while you weren't looking, the characters slowly snuck up on you and made you care for them. It's impossible not to be addicted after that point.
Season 1 and 2 are certainly good Television but Season 3 is when it really lives up to its promise. We're back on the street, new characters such as Bunny Colvin and Tommy Carcetti are introduced, we get a better balance between worlds and we see the social side of Police Drama. This coincides with Omar growing his goatee into a thick beard and Cutty, also bearded, arriving onto the scene. And then Season 4 also improved on that, continuing to look on the politics but also the education system.
Wizards of Waverly Place: The show started off as a typical whacky "Teen with a secret" Kid Com , but by the second season, the show picked up intriguing plot threads and had incredible continuity for a show of this type, as well as an improvement of the writing in general.