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In television, with a successful creation usually comes the chance to create something else. As a successful series runs on longer and longer, the network that carries it will sometimes give the creator of the hit an opportunity to create a new show. And then, because the studio doesn't quite
trust the creator, they'll proceed to engage in Executive Meddling
until the new show dies a horrible death.
This can be done by moving the show around in the schedule so often that no one can find it; issuing demands on the direction and content of the show to the creator that introduce things the fans hate; demanding that the new show be more and more like the old show; or even pre-emptively cancelling a show before it has a chance to actually generate an audience. In some cases, the show actually ends up being better than the original and the network buries it to avoid killing the existing cash cow.
Of course, sometimes the failure of the new show isn't the studio's fault. Sometimes the studio gives the creator carte blanche
when it came to production, and as a result the show is either too bad or just too self-indulgent
. Perhaps the show ends up built around the creator's own likes and dislikes
, or turns into a series of rants about the creator's pet causes
. In any case, it fails to connect with the audience because it lacks the broader appeal of the old series.
This can also lead to The Firefly Effect
, as fans are afraid to commit to a new show that is perceived as being ultimately doomed to failure, no matter how successful the original show is. Compare Sophomore Slump
- Roberto Benigni directed the film Life Is Beautiful, which netted him several Oscars. His next film, a big budget adaptation of Pinocchio, was a massive flop with a terrible English dub and a truly ludicrous case of Dawson Casting.
- After Easy Rider the studio gave Dennis Hopper carte blanche. The result: The Last Movie, which was once considered to be one of the 50 worst movies of all time.
- One for Adventureland that noted that many directors follow up a mainstream success with a more ambitious, personal movie that fails to find an audience, which sadly did end up happening to Adventureland. It was directed by Greg Mottola, who also directed Superbad. Mottola himself expected this to happen.
- Director Michael Cimino had an unbroken string of hits starting with Silent Running, and continuing through Magnum Force, Thunderbolt and Lightfoot, and The Deer Hunter (for which he won two Oscars). As a result, United Artists gave him free rein on his next picture. The result was the Western Heaven's Gate, a film that lost so much money it effectively bankrupted United Artists and killed Cimino's career as a big studio movie director. It also killed off the entire notion of a director's creative control in Hollywood.
- Judd Apatow's Funny People came on the heels of Knocked Up; one of the highest grossing R-rated movies of all time, and one of the most critically acclaimed of 2007. Funny People got mixed reviews, and nearly completely fell out of the top ten within a few weeks of its opening.
- Mel Brooks followed up his musical version of The Producers, which ran for six years on Broadway and set a record for Tony Award wins, with a Young Frankenstein musical that brought back Susan Stroman as director-choreographer and Thomas Meehan as co-writer on the book. Despite huge anticipation and ticket prices that topped out at $450 for the very best seats, it was dismissed as unable to live up to its source material and its stage predecessor by critics, was mostly ignored when it came to Tony nominations and won none of the three it received, and only ran for 15 months (counting previews).
- Richard Kelly started his career with the cult-favorite Donnie Darko. His next big move: Southland Tales, which did so terribly with both critics and the public that Hollywood ran his Auteur License through a shredder. (Domino came before Southland, but it doesn't really matter for this purpose.)
- In 2002, Rob Marshall directed Chicago which was a smash-hit and the first musical in over thirty years to win the Best Picture Academy Award. His next musical, 9, was a critical and financial disaster which failed to win any of the four Oscars it was up for.
- After the incredible success of Deliverance, John Boorman was given free rein to make the movie he always dreamed of making. The result? Zardoz.
- Canadian filmmaker Michael McGowan built credit on the performance of his films Saint Ralph and One Week. Soon after, he was given the freedom to pursue a passion project - a comedy-musical about a homegrown hockey player who makes it to the big leagues. The resulting film, Score: A Hockey Musical, featured a who's who of Canadian singers and character actors, backing from Canadian production houses/government funding and a selection of up-and-coming Canadian talent. Unfortunately, the film flopped (making just $200,000 on a $5.3 million budget), was thoroughly trashed by Canadian critics and audiences (even those who liked the concept of a hockey-themed musical), and put a damper on McGowan's career just as it started.
- Olivier Dahan decided to follow-up La Vie en Rose (which won Marion Cotillard an Oscar) with My Own Love Song. The resulting film was a complete mess that badly tries to combine country music with the supernatural and was destroyed by critics at its festival screenings. The final movie got dropped by two different distributors (Fox and Lionsgate) and was quietly sent straight-to-DVD (even with Renee Zellweger, Forest Whitaker and Nick Nolte starring).
- Many fans think that each Star Trek series following Star Trek: The Next Generation in turn suffered from this trope in an ever-increasing fashion. The thought goes that Deep Space Nine wasn't quite as good as Next Generation, Voyager wasn't quite as good as Deep Space Nine, and Star Trek: Enterprise wasn't quite as good as Voyager. However, some people prefer Enterprise to Voyager, some people think Deep Space Nine was the best one, others think Deep Space Nine was the worst one, some prefer Voyager above all others... you're not going to find consensus when it comes to Star Trek.
- After two successful made-for-TV movies, Kolchak: The Night Stalker was underpromoted and only made it a season. Stephen King, in his nonfiction book Danse Macabre, argues that that's the least of the series' problems.
- According to Aaron Sorkin, the failure of Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip was because of his own Creator Breakdown.
- Crusade was torpedoed by the cable network TNT: after they'd picked up the final season of Babylon 5 when its original network PTEN disintegrated, they discovered that none of the viewers of Babylon 5 were crossing over to watch the rest of their programming and vice versa. So they deliberately screwed around with Crusade, flagrantly engaging in Executive Meddling and being deliberately difficult with the show's creator J. Michael Straczynski, so that they'd have an excuse to cancel it.
- Every spinoff to M*A*S*H except Trapper John MD died from Executive Meddling.
- There was only one other spinoff, After M*A*S*H - unless you're counting the unsold pilot W*A*L*T*E*R.
- Millennium and Harsh Realm, both by The X-Files creator Chris Carter, were both victims of studio frustration with The Chris Carter Effect.
- Firefly is almost the poster-child of this effect. He Who Must Not Be Named was riding high with both Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel, so you'd think they'd have trusted him not to mess up with a third series. Likewise, though it lasted longer, Dollhouse hasn't really inspired the sort of feverish fanboyism the other shows are known for.
- Hill Street Blues creator Steven Bochco had so much pull at the time following the success of his cop drama that ABC gave him an unprecedented deal to create ten shows for the network. Among them were the notorious misfires Cop Rock and Capitol Critters, the first a musical police drama that mixed gritty police realism with song and dance numbers and the second a prime time animated series about mice living in the White House. The first is considered a legendarily bad series, while the second has achieved a cult following. In fairness, Doogie Howser, M.D. and NYPD Blue also came out of this deal, and these were successful shows.
- Syfy's series Stargate Universe and Caprica both fell to this; their timeslots were constantly tampered with instead of airing them at the time when their predecessors had succeeded. Caprica was cancelled right before November sweeps, which would naturally have contained some of the most exciting and dramatic episodes of the season. The shows suffered from massive, unnecessary hiatuses in airing, frequently returning with little to no warning. They were put up against the big networks' prime time dramas on highly competitive nights (If you had a quarter for every comment online complaining about scheduling conflicts...) and just generally making irrational decisions. Eventually, Syfy decided they wanted a different kind of Battlestar Galactica spinoff and decided to replace it wholesale with 'Blood and Chrome. SGU, on the other hand, seems to have had a certain level of network demands that pissed off existing franchise fans. Syfy tried to say that the show wasn't drawing in the "wider" audience they wanted, when the reasons cited for Atlantis's cancellation were that it didn't get enough of the 18-49 males (that show having a large female audience). Is it a coincidence these things occurred at the same time Syfy rebranded and subsequently expressed disdain for their target audience? Subsequently, Battlestar Galactica: Blood & Chrome was initially announced as a two-hour Pilot Movie. It was later reduced to a web-exclusive, ten-part miniseries, with each episode being only 12-minutes long (and then the episodes were compiled and aired as two-hour movie anyway). It's unclear if Syfy has any plans to continue Blood and Chrome, in either medium.
- Jenji Kohan followed up her show Weeds with Ronna and Beverly, a show that not only failed to get picked up but was only aired once on Showtime in the middle of the night. Her second attempt at a follow-up, Tough Trade, failed to get picked up as well. Ronna and Beverly actually got revived as a podcast.
- Many musical acts fall victim to the "Sophomore Slump" with their second album. Some recover, others don't.
- Nelly followed up the acclaimed Sweat/Suit double album (which sold six million copies together) with Brass Knuckles, which was critically panned and sold less than 250,000 copies. He attempted to make up for it with 5.0 but it didn't fare any better.
- In software development, this trope is called "the second-system effect". It tends to imply a Troubled Production as well, as the term was coined during one: IBM's System/360 project in the 1960s, which was fraught with delays, feature creep and general loss of morale (one key lesson learned was "adding workers to a late project just makes it later"). The book The Mythical Man-Month by Fred Brooks (who was project manager on the System/360) describes the struggles to get the project out on time, and is considered a classic in tech and business circles.