"This isnít a show that knows why it exists anymore, save perhaps to be a big American co-production. It exists to try the formula that worked in the UK in the US, in the hopes that itíll make more money. And even thatís been quietly usurped by
Doctor Who, which has finally hit it big in America and had major episodes done with co-production money from an American network."
—Phil Sandifer on Torchwood: Miracle Day
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
- Star Trek
- Many fans think that each ' 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.
- Subjective quality levels aside, what is true is this. DS9 experimented with serialized storylines; while it was the early part of a general trend and one of the reasons "Niners" are so dedicated, this contributed to lower ratings during the series run. Because of this, the execs decided that VOY had to be more like TNG, even though the series premise and cast was not necessarily conducive to (occasionally recycled) "X of the Week" plots. When ENT rolled around, a Trek show had been on the air for twenty years, and ENT's attempt to change things with a Prequel setting still relied on samey episodic plots while competing shows were getting way into serialization, not to mention that Berman and Braga had been running the show for long enough that their fatigue was noticeable. An attempt to change this was made by giving season three one big plotline, and season four brought in a new showrunner who had multiple two- and three-parters, but network changes to the timeslot and fans who'd already been turned off by the first two seasons meant that season four was the last one.
- 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, M.D. 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. Fortunately, she scored with Orange Is The New Black.
- 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.
- Two Country Music artists have had the biggest country song of the year per the Billboard Year-End charts, only to follow up with a flop. Specifically:
- James Otto's "Just Got Started Lovin' You", a two-week #1 and the biggest country hit of 2008, was followed by the #39 dud "For You", and his career never recovered.
- In 2012, after a discography that had long run hot and cold, Josh Turner had the biggest hit of the year with "Time Is Love". The follow-up, "Find Me a Baby", stalled out at #42.
- Heartland was only the second country music band ever to hit #1 with their debut single: specifically, "I Loved Her First". However, the label (Lofton Creek) was inexperienced with Top 40 radio, as it usually only worked singles to smaller-market stations. Between that and the label's indecision over what the next single would be, Heartland wound up being one of the more literal examples of a One-Hit Wonder in country music. They tried to follow up on a few more labels, lost four of the six members in favor of one new one, and had yet more followups that went nowhere.
- 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.
- Short-lived 1990s Apple Macintosh shareware company Storm Impact had two hit programs right out of the gate, both video games: the RPG TaskMaker and the skiing sim MacSki. Both were fairly successful games met with positive reviews. Their next two products were a Shoot 'em Up called Asterbamm and a technical support utility called Technical Snapshot, both of which bombed.
And just when they looked to be getting back on track with a sequel to TaskMaker called The Tomb of the TaskMaker, the company went under due to a combination of undercapitalization (they were mostly just one programmer and one graphic artist, and their resources were further drained during a lawsuit against a software-of-the-month club which Storm Impact won), issues with a publisher who kept botching orders, a declining Macintosh market at the time, and advances in video game development since the first version of MacSki came out. Storm Impact closed up shop right after Tomb was rushed out in Obvious Beta form.