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Franchise Zombie
Bart: Hey, Dad. How come they're taking The Cosby Show off the air?
Homer: Because Mr. Cosby wanted to stop before the quality suffered.
Bart: Quality, schmality! If I had a TV show, I'd run that sucker into the ground!
Homer: Amen, boy. Amen.
The Simpsons, "Three Men and a Comic Book"note 

Franchises are often created with tender loving care by writers, directors, authors, game designers, etc. These individuals have something specific in mind, and put a lot of life into their creations, and it really shows, especially when the creation becomes very popular.

But sometimes, the creation does so well, that an executive, a publisher, or someone else with a lot of power, demands the franchise continue. The author is told to write more books (or discovers that nothing else draws in the money). The game designer is told to make more games. The director is told to make a movie sequel.

Sometimes this happens when the creator really doesn't want to keep going, and would rather try out different things. But the creator doesn't have much choice — it's either do the sequel yourself, or let someone else do it, perhaps less adequately (thereby tarnishing the image of the original) — and keeps going anyway. The result is sometimes a lifeless franchise, a franchise that has had all the originality and creativity — all the life — sucked out of it, but keeps stumbling forward anyway. This often has the tragic effect of souring the creator on their own work, sometimes preventing a more natural follow-up or continuation. If this happens, then the franchise can go on indefinitely, continued by the company long after the creator has tried to put a definitive end on the series and backed away from it permanently - or even after the creator has died. At this point, since it is effectively immortal, the phenomenon might be known as a Franchise Vampire.

Of course, this can only be taken so far (about 15 or 20 years, let's say) before Comic Book Time becomes necessary in the work's universe. If things get really out of hand, a Continuity Reboot is the only way out.

Increasingly common in the game industry. Modern games take such a large amount of time and money to develop compared to older games thus making Smash Hit 3 and a new intellectual property at the same time unfeasible. Some developers have remedied this by buying or hiring other development companies to work on cash-in sequels while they work on their next big thing.

A subtrope of Executive Meddling (and sometimes Cash Cow Franchise). See also Sequelitis, Fallen Creator, Postscript Season, Only The Creator Does It Right. Compare Capcom Sequel Stagnation, a different style of milking.

Can frequently lead to Creator Backlash. Outlived Its Creator is the pinnacle of this trope. Contrast with Franchise Killer and Torch the Franchise and Run. Often a source of Fanon Discontinuity, with fans pretending that the series did end when the creator wanted it to. See also Undead Horse Trope.

Examples

    open/close all folders 

    Anime and Manga 
  • Legend has it that this happened to Dragon Ball. According to the story, the creator of the manga, Akira Toriyama, wanted to stop at several points (the final arc of Dragon Ball, then the Frieza arc of Dragon Ball Z, then the end of the Cell saga and the advent of Gohan outleveling everyone), but meddling executives wanted to take advantage of its extraordinary success and told him to keep going. He couldn't end it at the Cell saga, and thus had to do the Buu saga. And because of Goku's massive popularity in Japan, Toriyama never once got to do what he had wanted to do when starting DBZ: pass the main hero mantle from Goku to Gohan.

    Eventually he did leave, and Dragon Ball GT happened without his input mostly. The GT-exclusive character Gill was actually from one of Toriyama's designs and he did character designs for all of the characters at the beginning of GT, even the mustached Vegeta (this is frequently given as further evidence that Toriyama was absolutely fed up with it — the designs have several obvious oddities that — like mustached Vegeta — all reek of Writer Revolt).

    A later MMORPG, Dragon Ball Online based around the Dragon Ball Z universe (but set at least a hundred years after the Buu saga), has Toriyama's direct input. However, and of interesting note, the game completely ignores Dragon Ball GT in its canon. This means everything that happened in GT, ranging from Majin Buu "dying" (he even procreates a completely new, selectable race), to Goku being kidified, will be rendered moot in the game. Although Toriyama is directly involved in this, being a MMORPG video game, its canon status is debatable.
  • While the entire Pokémon franchise can be argued to be this (see below), the Pokémon anime shows more signs of this than the rest of the franchise. The anime series was intended to end after one season, but has been going on and on for decades. While the games have currently seen an increase in innovation and creative effort, the anime continues to be Strictly Formula and is made for a constantly-cycling demographic of young children while only paying lip service to older fans, which spares the writers from having to live up to the high expectations of older audiences. There's also the movies, which currently number in the high teens. Not helping matters is that the movies don't even maintain continuity with each other, which was the cause of much controversy for the sixteenth movie.
  • Mazinger Z was supposed to wrap up at episode 57. However, the series was so wildly successful it continued for another thirty-five episodes. And then two movies were made. And two sequels. And more movies. And crossovers. And spin-offs. And reboots. And remakes. And Go Nagai stated that he got offers for a Mazinger-Z live-action movie...
  • Kazuki Takahashi of Yu-Gi-Oh! fame can't leave the series. He's been repeatedly been called in for material for the newer series, such as 5D's, and made a set of new artworks for the Anniversary Pack of the card game. Overall, he has only influence over it in name and some artwork.
  • Urusei Yatsura got to the point where one of the movies not-too-subtly encouraged the audience to let go of it so the creators could get on with their lives.
  • Sailor Moon manga was supposed to end after the Dark Kingdom arc, but the anime producers persuaded her author to make more of it.
  • Fist of the North Star was originally planned to wrap up with the conclusion of the Raoh saga. However, due to its popularity, the manga was renewed for a couple more years, forcing authors Buronson and Tetsuo Hara to continue the story beyond its intended conclusion. Even Buronson admitted that it was hard for him to continue writing the manga after killing off Raoh and doesn't remember much of what happened afterward.
  • Monkey Punch originally intended for Lupin III to be another one of his adult parody manga series that only lasted a few chapters like most of his past works. However, Weekly Manga Action, the magazine that serialized it, started selling like hotcakes because of this and led to him continuing the manga untill it lasted five years. Afterwards, TV series, movies and specials have kept the franchise going continuously. Even Monkey Punch himself expressed complete surprise over the series' sudden popularity. This hasn't stopped him from continuing to work on it with subsequent sequel manga, though.
  • Gundam is a very odd example. Creator Yoshiyuki Tomino didn't expect it to go beyond the original Mobile Suit Gundam, especially after it was nearly cancelled. However, its runaway success in reruns (and especially the recut movie trilogy) led to its becoming an overnight success, and for over a decade he continued to work on sequels. In 1994, fed up with Executive Meddling, Tomino sold the rights to the franchise to Sunrise and went off to work on other series. Not willing to kill the goose that laid the golden eggs, Sunrise started producing the Alternate Universe series (like Gundam Wing and Gundam SEED), while occasionally dipping back into the Universal Century timeline. As of its 34th anniversary in 2013, Gundam consisted of 12 TV series, 7 OVAs, and 13 movie adaptations note , and God only knows how many manga, video games and other media, and it shows absolutely no signs of slowing down.
    • It's become something of a popular fandom myth that Tomino hates Gundam and has actively tried to sink it for years, usually attributed to his reputation for Kill 'em All. In the novelization of the original series, Tomino actually kills off main character Amuro Ray; however, he explained that he was just thinking of the novels as a stand-alone story, and if he had given consideration the possibility of a sequel, he wouldn't have killed Amuro.
      • This myth was reportedly debunked by the man himself when he momentarily returned to direct ∀ Gundam and later the Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam movie trilogy. During either of these two points, Tomino all but outright admitted that Gundam was his greatest creation and that, while he has some regrets, he still takes certain pride in its development. Along that line, it should be noted that either of the two series are a dramatic switch from usual Tomino storytelling methods, with Turn A being a more lighthearted character drama and the Zeta trilogy omitting many of the darker elements of the original series, which included replacing the ending with a far happier one where Kamille wasn't mentally crippled by Scirocco, the AEUG remains intact and Axis never goes to war with the Earthsphere. The latter even closes with an optimistic dialogue spoken by Sayla Massnote .

    Comic Books 
  • X-Men. Although American comics are meant to be published for as long as they sell (except for mini series) X-Men has produced more spin-offs than any other Marvel comic since the '80s. Virtually every X-Men related hero (and even a couple of its villains) has had a series or miniseries of his or her own. And most recently, a new title, Uncanny Avengers, actually merges the group with Marvel's other leading franchise.
    • It's a remarkable accomplishment for a series that was cancelled in 1970 and relegated to bi-monthly reprints for nearly five years.
  • In-Universe example. In Captain Carrot and His Amazing Zoo Crew!, the Robert E. Howard knockoff plots to kill off his creation once and for all. Unfortunately for him, his creation comes to life and abducts him.
  • Suske en Wiske: The most succesful comic book series of the Dutch speaking world started off in 1945. Quality wise the first twenty years were the best stories. In 1972 the original creator, Willy Vandersteen, left the series in hands of his sucessors, who failed to duplicate the quality of the originals, but nevertheless the stories kept on selling. After Vandersteen's death in 1990 the creative control vanished and the series itself quickly went downhill. As of today new stories are still published, but apart from the main characters it has deviated enormously from the original concept. The main reason it still sells today is because of the sheer volume of work and the enthusiastic collectors who keep buying every issue. Virtually every Suske en Wiske fan agrees: it's not wat it used to be at all.

    Films — Animated 
  • The Land Before Time got as far as the thirteenth installment (and Don Bluth was only involved with the first). They've finally stopped making them, but only because Universal shut down their animation department. The first movie is widely regarded as a classic. The second movie, and every movie thereafter, was pretty obviously a cash-grab. So there were 12 movies worth of pure zombie...

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Jurassic Park can be considered this. While the novel Jurassic Park was intended to be a standalone work by author Michael Crichton, after the massive financial success of its 1993 film adaptation, the film's producers pressured him into writing a sequel novel so they could make a sequel film. He wrote a second novel, which was quickly adapted into the film The Lost World: Jurassic Park in 1997, which only recycled the basic plot premise from the book. While Crichton helped write the screenplay for the first Jurassic Park film, he had no involvement in The Lost World: Jurassic Park. Despite The Lost World receiving mixed reviews, a third film, Jurassic Park III was released in 2001, which wasn't based off any novel and again had no involvement from Crichton. It, too, was met with mixed reviews and is generally considered an unnecessary sequel. By this point, the film franchise has taken on a longer and much different continuity than Crichton originally created in the books. Despite Crichton's death in 2008, a fourth Jurassic Park film is in the works and set to be released in 2014. There hasn't even been a park since the first movie, hence the fourth being Jurassic World.
  • Highlander certainly fits the bill. Going from a cult classic film with a self-contained ending (the writers wriggled out this one by simply retconning everything), to a series of awesomely terrible sequels, TV spinoffs, cartoons and video games. One might argue that it was the least desired "franchise" of all time. A lot of mixed feelings toward Bill Panzer, the producer of Highlander who died in 2007. On the one hand, Highlander was definitely his baby: Panzer was very active in the Highlander fan circuit, and even appears in the DVD featurettes while revisiting old shooting locations from the TV show. The man clearly cared a lot about the Highlander 'verse and wanted it to succeed. On the other hand, his zeal in pushing for more, more, more Highlander was likely motivated by profit. By the time Highlander: The Source came around, all artistic merit had been drained from the series and nobody had a clue how to prolong the story.
    • Once the television show reached six seasons and it was clear that its star, Adrian Paul, would not be returning for another one, Panzer devoted the entire season to auditioning female leads for a potential spin-off. To be clear: Paul, the star of Highlander: The Series, does not appear in nearly half of Season Six's episodes; Paul's contract did not require him to be present for more than six episodes out of the remaining thirteen. The producers introduced a revolving door of potential Highlanderettes to don Paul's mantle, including Claudia Christian of later Babylon 5 fame, but none of them fit the bill. The role eventually went to a supporting character played by Elizabeth Gracen. After all that turmoil, Highlander The Raven bombed spectacularly since nobody involved (from the writers to the producers) had any clue where to take the new series; and to top it all off, Gracen's character wasn't even originally written as heroic.
  • Planet of the Apes. The second movie ends with an Earth-Shattering Kaboom that would prevent further sequels. The third uses time travel to continue in the present day instead of After the End, and had an ending that was originally only envisioned as a connection to the original movie instead of a Sequel Hook... but it then led to two more sequels (with the fifth being the absolute worst). And to make matters worse, the studio slashed the budget for every new movie!
  • Francis Ford Coppola had no intention of making any sequels to The Godfather. It's typically said that the only reason he made Part II was to get the funding to make Apocalypse Now, which led to further executive pressure and a Part III as well (hence the often-quoted line "Just when I thought I was out... they pull me back in.")
  • The sixth entry in The Pink Panther franchise, Revenge of..., was essentially commissioned by United Artists just to have a big film for summer 1978. By the time it was done, the long-strained working relationship between Peter Sellers (Inspector Clouseau) and Blake Edwards (writer-director) had snapped. Sellers planned a continuation he could put his heart into with Romance of the Pink Panther, which he was co-scripting and Edwards was paid not to participate in, but the project died along with Sellers in 1980. Edwards decided to continue the series himself with a Replacement Scrappy character in Curse of..., which flopped instantly and led to the original franchise's death...
  • ZAZ has made it quite clear that they had no part or interest in the Airplane! sequel (in the first one's DVD commentary, they admit they've never even seen it), thinking that all of the good ideas had been used. Indeed, half the jokes in the sequel were recycled from the first film...
  • When his father died suddenly in 1956, Leo Gorcey decided he could no longer continue with the Bowery Boys movie series. (His father Bernard Gorcey played sweet shop owner Louie Dumbrowski in those movies.) The fact that Gorcey had top billing in the movies didn't prevent Republic from continuing the series, replacing Gorcey with Stanley Clements. The series limped along with seven flat movies before ending two years later.
  • In a 1982 interview, John Carpenter stated that Michael Myers and Dr. Loomis both died at the end of Halloween II (1981) and that he intended to make the series into an anthology "like The Twilight Zone but on a larger scale." After the financial flop of Halloween III: Season of the Witch Carpenter opted out of doing any more and signed away the rights to producer Moustapha Akkad. Michael Myers went on to appear in five more films after his canon death, not counting the remakes.
    • Rob Zombie's has shown disappointment at the studio's intent to resurrect Michael for a third remake film, despite his insistance (and refusal to direct) that H2 was the end of the franchise.
  • Wes Craven wanted A Nightmare on Elm Street to be a single movie. Then when he returned to co-write the third film, he wanted that to be the last.
  • Jaws had three unremarkable sequels. The book's author and Steven Spielberg had nothing to do with them (the director in particular stated that "making a sequel to anything is just a cheap carny trick", though Spielberg later admitted that he could have done Jaws 2 if he didn't have a horrible time with the first).
  • Lethal Weapon 4 was made six years after the previous installment mainly because Warner Brothers was running into financial trouble and the series was just about the only Cash Cow Franchise it could count on to deliver a good box office return. For it's own credit, the film is a rare case of Love It or Hate It approach instead of typical Fanon Discontinuity.
  • An example regarding only the main actor: Roger Moore wanted to stop playing James Bond after For Your Eyes Only, because it was getting embarrassing at his age to be shown with such young women (In his final appearance as Bond, he was older than the mother of the actress who played the primary Bond Girl), but United Artists kept dragging him back for one more.
  • If you lump together both series as one, then Sony's Spider-Man films are this, as they are continuing well past what the original director Sam Raimi intended. After the release of Spider-Man 3note , Raimi decided to jump ship since he felt that, if he followed the deadline imposed by Sony, it wasn't enough time to make the movie he wanted.note  A reboot, The Amazing Spider-Man, was made instead - simply so that Sony could keep the rights to the franchise. Despite diminishing returns for the franchisenote , and a few reviews for The Amazing Spider-Man 2 essentially using this very trope to refer to the movienote , there are a ton more films to follow for the next few years. Many of these are obvious attempts to copy the Marvel Cinematic Universe's formula with the small selection of Spider-Man-related material that Sony has the rights to. You know things are getting bad when Sony has to make a movie about a not-very-marketable team of villains in order to emulate The Avengers.
  • In contrast to the comics, Fox's X-Men films are an inversion. While Bryan Singer left the franchise after two films (resulting in the poorly-reviewed sequels typically associated with this trope), he eventually came back to the series when it began competing with the Marvel Cinematic Universe, first as a producer and co-writer on X-Men: First Class, and then as the director of X-Men: Days of Future Past (and future installments).
  • 22 Jump Street parodies this in the end credits gag which have increasingly bizarre sequel ideas, from 23 Jump Street: Med School to 29 Jump Street: Sunday School (in which Jonah Hill leaves and is replaced by Seth Rogen) to 2121 Jump Street (Recycled IN SPACE!).
  • The French soft erotic film series Emmanuelle was such a global success in 1973 that it was followed by countless sequels, none of them as successful or notable as the first one. Even in the 2000s new films were still released, without any media attention at all.
  • James Wan and Leigh Whannell wanted to end the Saw series with the third film, closing the book on Jigsaw and Amanda by killing them both off. However, with the first two films having been massive hits, Lionsgate viewed Saw as their new big horror franchise, and instead of decisively ending the series, Saw III featured several small moments designed to leave the door open for further sequels. Indeed, there were four films after that, with new killers taking up the Jigsaw mantle and Wan and Whannell only staying on as executive producers with no creative input. While the later Saw films range in quality, most fans view them overall as a step down from the first three, with the series producing diminishing returns at the box office after its peak with the third film.
  • In-Universe example: while the Scream series isn't itself an example of this tropenote , the Stab series, the fictional film franchise that serves as an analogue to Scream within its universe, certainly is. The first Stab was a fictionalized version of the events of the first Scream, and it's implied that Stab 2 (which is never seen) was based on the events of Scream 2. However, after Scream 3, which saw Stab 3: Return to Woodsboro experience a violently Troubled Production, Sidney Prescott sued the producers of Stab to prevent any further use of the characters. Unfazed, they continued on anyway with a new cast, and by Scream 4 there have been seven Stab films of declining quality, the series having dropped all pretense of being Based on a True Story; by the fifth film, they were throwing in Time Travel.

    Literature 
  • Ian Fleming first intended to conclude the James Bond series with Bond's death in From Russia with Love. He backed out and made Dr. No (which declares the poisoning was non-fatal). Then there was Bond's amnesia at the end of You Only Live Twice, but the publishers' pressures led to the writing of one final novel before Fleming's death, The Man with the Golden Gun - which wound up published eight months after his death. According to certain rumors, Fleming didn't even write the whole book, and Kingsley Amis (who later wrote Colonel Sun) completed it.
  • The Rev. W. Awdry originally intended for book 12, The Eight Famous Engines, in his famous Railway Series books to be the final volume. The publishers insisted that he keep going. Considering how popular the books were and are, it's understandable.
  • Michael Crichton intended for his 1990 novel Jurassic Park to be a standalone work. After its film adaptation, which he helped write the screenplay for, became a huge financial success, its creators pressured him to write a follow-up book so they could make a sequel film. Crichton reluctantly agreed and published The Lost World in 1995, which retconned a lot of the plot points from the original novel Jurassic Park to match the ways in which the film's plot had departed from it. After The Lost World's publishing, Crichton had no involvement in the Jurassic Park film franchise, which has the potential to carry on despite his death in 2008. This is further elaborated on in the film section.
  • The success of Goosebumps led publisher Scholastic to bet everything they had on it and tell author R.L. Stine to keep going. He did, and the quality suffered. The books ended up Strictly Formula and became shorter. Their popularity dropped as a result. It's been rumored that Stine became so fed up with this that many of the later books were ghostwritten.
    • Possibly averted with Stine's ''Goosebumps Horrorland'' books and their spinoffs. If anything, these books are getting longer and more complex (if not necessarily better) as the series goes on.
  • In-universe examples:
    • In Sharyn McCrumb's Bimbos of the Death Sun, author Appin Dungannon is enslaved to writing sequels to a series of Conan-wannabe novels despite wanting recognition as a serious author because the first few were so popular. As a result, the author is cantankerous and rude to sci-fi fans in general, and violent towards fans of his own books. He comes to hate his barbarian hero so much that he writes several humiliating death scenes for the character. One reaction to this sets the plot rolling.
    • In Dan Simmons' Hyperion Cantos, Martin Silenus could have ended The Dying Earth more or less immediately after the first installment, a long poem. He keeps going for the money. Eventually, it leads to him "losing his muse", and spending the next several decades looking for it.
    • Stephen King's Misery. The main character of the novel is so fed up of the trashy Victorian-esque novels he writes, he conclusively kills off the main character of the books he writes. Then he crashes his car and gets taken in by a huge fan of his... who ties him to a bed and forces him to write another sequel, making him have to resurrect the extremely dead character. It actually turns out to be the best book in the series. He takes it with him and publishes it after he escapes.
    • Isaac Asimov wrote a short story, "Author! Author!", about a mystery writer forced by his publisher to write endless novels about his famous detective, Reginald de Meister, despite his desire to write a serious novel. Unfortunately for him, De Meister seems so real to fans that he actually becomes real and demands not only that more "Reginald de Meister" stories be written, but that the quality be improved.
  • Sherlock Holmes died because Sir Arthur Conan Doyle had grown tired of writing him and wanted to devote more time to his historical novels. Public and editorial pressure forced him to bring Holmes back. In stories written years later, Holmes reappeared, having survived (although the first story published after Conan Doyle's eight-year hiatus, "The Hound of the Baskervilles", was set before "The Final Problem"). This is thus also an example of a (metaphorical) character zombie. (Though Doyle's fatigue doesn't show in the writing quality until after, in 1917, Holmes was given a proper Grand Finale and it still wasn't enough to keep the fanbase from howling for more.)
  • Quite similarly, French author Maurice Leblanc tried to kill his hero Arsčne Lupin but had to resurrect him for several new books due to popularity.
  • Another French writer, Pierre Ponson du Terrail, pulled a "Doyle" when he killed off his pulp hero Rocambole, then eventually brought him back from the dead due to public pressure.
  • L. Frank Baum of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz fame never really intended for the original book to spawn a series, and by the third sequel he was growing tired of writing about the Land of Oz. Unfortunately, none of his other books sold. He even tried creating something of a Backdoor Pilot by writing an Oz novel in which Dorothy and company take a backseat to a new set of characters who later showed up in an unrelated book. But it didn't work, and financial troubles forced Baum to keep writing Oz books for the rest of his life. In the introduction to one book, the narrator actually tells the reader that he knows many stories not related to Oz, and wishes he had a chance to tell them.
    • Even Baum's death could not stop the series the author himself didn't want to continue. A sequence of different authors were hired by Baum's publisher to serve as his "heirs", and for the next six decades, many sequels (24 or so of these were considered 'canon') were churned out, of greatly varying quality.
  • Thomas Harris only wrote Hannibal Rising because Dino De Laurentiis threatened to make the movie without his involvement. Given the poor critical and box office reception the movie received, the franchise is probably really dead now.
  • R A Salvatore has been said to have wished that he had killed Drizzt Do'Urden off years ago. In fact, he had once withdrawn from the franchise only to have Wizards of the Coast go so far as to solicit a manuscript by another author for a new Drizzt novel Shores of Dusk. The novel even appeared in catalogs for an August 1997 release. Salvatore caved and the solicited novel disappeared. That was ten novels ago.
  • Even Author Existence Failure hasn't stopped V. C. Andrews, who's still publishing in 2010 despite having died in 1986. It's like the Stratemeyer Syndicate with an actual real name.
  • Winnie the Pooh. Supposedly, Milne wanted to kill Pooh off, but that failed. He hated the series because it made people ignore his adult works. It was even harder when it was picked up by Disney.
  • Regarding Clive Cussler's Dirk Pitt novels; Trojan Odyssey shows every sign of being the last book. Pitt, Gunn, and Giordino are promoted to desk jobs while Sandecker becomes VP. Long-running subplots are finally resolved with Dirk marrying Loren and finally recognizes the strange man named Clive Cussler he meets at the wedding as the stranger that helps him every adventure, and he is introduced to his adult children he never knew about. This was six books ago.
  • Dorothy L. Sayers is an interesting case in that she zombie'd her own franchise with no help from publishers whatsoever (though they were undoubtedly grateful that she did). She originally wrote Strong Poison, introducing the character of novelist Harriet Vane, because she was tired of Lord Peter Wimsey and wanted to get rid of him by marrying him off - at the time it was held that a detective-series hero could not be married without breaking the 'rules' of the genre. However, when Sayers finished drafting the novel she realized that in Harriet she had created a character with more integrity and interior reality than her series hero had, so she had to go back and write almost as many novels again featuring Lord Peter before he reached a point of psychological complexity and reality enough that she could feel comfortable letting Harriet marry him. She then wrote a novel about their honeymoon and had plans to continue the series further, but moved onto other projects and never completed the next manuscript.
  • David Morrell's novel First Blood featured a former Vietnam veteran John Rambo, who is shot in the back of his head with a shotgun at the end of the novel. Rambo dies, period. Then they changed the ending in the Stallone movie and Rambo survived. David Morrell then went on and wrote the second and third Rambo novels that were based on the movies. He even stated in the beginning of his second Rambo novel that in his original book Rambo died, but the new book is based on a movie and now Rambo lives. A sort of disappointing moment to the author to write novelizations based on a movies based on his own original book.
  • Something similar happened with the House of Cards novels. Both of the first two books end with Urquhart defeated (in the first he jumps to his death on being exposed, on the second he is left facing an election defeat), only for the TV adaptations to end with him triumphant (throwing the journalist who would have exposed him to his death and easily winning an election) and the books to carry on from the TV version instead of the earlier books.
  • It's easy to notice the numerous times John D. Fitzgerald tried to end The Great Brain books. The first and longest book ends with Tom suddenly reforming out of nowhere, but the second book reveals this was just a ruse to get a new bicycle for Christmas. That book ends with Tom being Put on a Bus to the Academy in Salt Lake City, and the third book focuses on John getting a new adopted brother and saving him from an outlaw, while the fourth focuses on Tom's adventures at the Academy, and the fifth focuses on Tom's adventures upon returning home after his first year. That book ends with Tom being put on "trial" and told all the kids in the town will give him the silent treatment if he swindles anyone again. But then came a sixth and seventh book, which placed an academy right there in Adenville (avoiding rehashing the fourth book) and having Tom get sneakier at his plots so as to avoid invoking his suspended sentence. The seventh book ends with Tom turning thirteen and... um... "discovering girls", losing interest in his old plots, and even that book seems to leave the door open for yet more sequels at the very end (though Fitzgerald died before he could finish them).
  • Anne McCaffrey said that Pern began as a short story and took on a life of its own. "One million words later, I'm not allowed to stop!"
  • Douglas Adams The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy trilogy lasted five books. Life, the Universe and Everything and So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish were actually meant to be the end of the trilogy. The latter had mixed reviews and was more noted for the absence of Zaphod and Trillian than it was for the introduction of a new character Fenchurch. The following book, Mostly Harmless, actually was the end, but more complained about the introduction of unlikeable character Random (Arthur and Trillian's daughter) than they complained about the Downer Ending. Many wonder if this was Adams' way of getting back at fans who couldn't let go of the series. Adams also noted that the hard part of creating Hitchhiker's sequels was contriving a way to bring all the characters back together due to their tendency to go separate ways after each story. Many hardcore fans feel that he either lost interest in the series or said all that there was to say in the first two or three books. Eoin Colfer (of Artemis Fowl fame) wrote a sixth book, And Another Thing... that undid the ending of the fifth. Many hardcore Adams' fans simply chose not to read this book.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Law & Order ran for twenty years and maintained a fairly consistent groove throughout, thanks to a revolving cast and keeping the focus off - for the most part - its characters. The wheels finally started to come off when several cast members all left at once, and Sam Waterston's ADA was finally promoted to DA. The new cast didn't gel like the old cops and lawyers, and the show petered out in 2010. Producer Dick Wolf has said in interviews that his intent was to make L&O run longer than Gunsmoke. (Nope.)
    • There were a whopping five spin-offs to the original Law & Order, rivaling even Happy Days. Special Victims Unit is closing in on fifteen years thanks to extensive retooling, including adding Gilbert Gottfried(!) to the cast. Criminal Intent lasted for about ten years — but trouble was brewing on the good ship Wolf, since cast members were jumping ship left and right (Annabella Sciorra lasted one year, Chris Noth dropped out in two years, Julianne Nicholson left in her first year to have a baby, Jeff Goldblum called it quits after a year... and so on). Eventually the show stopped bothering to explain why their characters had been replaced. Trial By Jury died a quick death. A reality show with the Law & Order name was another misfire. Law & Order: LA took an aggressively political stance toward the loose morals of that exotic city. When ratings nosedived, the ADA character played by Alfred Molina was retconned into a police detective, but even this desperate move failed. At least Dick Wolf still has "Law & Order UK"!... Which recycles story elements from old Law & Order Classic episodes.
  • Paramount Pictures was not about to let Star Trek cool down, even for a single season. Since The Next Generation, a sequel has been forced onto the air just as another Trek was about to end.

    • The next spinoff, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, debuted under a cloud of controversy: J. Michael Straczynski claimed — with some justification — that the studio had recycled his pitch for Babylon 5 (the series definitely took notes from B5 throughout its seven-year run). The actors and crew of TNG resented the fact that half of their already-dwindling budget and studio space was handed off to DS9. Series creator Gene Roddenberry, who by then was pushing 70 and in no condition to veto anything, was said to have hated the premise. Following a few years of aping its predecessor, the show managed to break away from TNG's episodic format and experiment with season-long arcs; while many Trekkies chafed at the lack of space exploration, for the most part it was critically acclaimed and well-received.

    • Not long into the run of DS9, another spinoff was conceived: the base-breaking Star Trek: Voyager. The moment TNG wrapped up, VOY went straight to air, even using the same production numbers as TNG: The first season of Voyager was not designated 1X01, but rather 8x01, indicating that we were embarking on the eighth season of The Next Generation. Storms broke out in the writer's room as Ronald D. Moore (who had previously helped steer DS9 in a non-episodic direction) took issue with the recycling of old scripts from TNG. In the ensuing power struggle, writer/producer Brannon Braga won out, and Moore was exiled from Trek forever. Executive producer Rick Berman confessed that the studio had felt unease about a non-exploration Trek show (Deep Space Nine was set, for the most part, on a frontier space station), and wanted another show to counterbalance it. This unfortunately ended up splitting the viewership in two, to the chagrin of both parties. It was not until the age of online streaming that fans finally got to catch up with what they had missed.

    • Last, and most infamously, came Star Trek: Enterprise...
      SFDebris: There are some people in Hollywood who insist on beating a dead horse. But then there are those with creativity and vision, who come along and say, "I bet there's some good fucking left in that horse." Those men of vision, who molested dead horses, went on to create Enterprise — because nobody had the courage to stop them. (I think we can all share a little bit in that blame.)

      • By this point, Berman was literally begging Paramount to give the franchise a rest, but they would have none of it; either Berman would agree to produce a fourth spinoff, or Paramount would find someone else to helm it. Cleverly, Berman and Braga (now co-executive producer) decided to set the new series in the past. The reasoning was, since it was getting harder and harder to make the future seem more futuristic (Voyager had "gel packs" embedded in the ship's bulkheads), they might as well flash back to a previously-unseen era in the Federation's history. As pointed out by critics (SFDebris, The Agony Booth, and others), Enterprise was suspiciously similar to previous Trek outings, despite supposedly taking place hundreds of years in the past. With no clear direction and a roomful of old hands acting as producers and directors (including a few out-of-work Trek actors), ENT mostly went through the motions, paying lip service to dusty end-of-episode Aesops from TNG and VOY. This lack of innovation proved deadly, and Paramount pulled the plug on Star Trek for several years.
  • Smallville became one of these after season seven, when the original writers left and the name becomes an Artifact Title.
  • The 90's sitcom Sabrina the Teenage Witch was arguably this. Lasting from 1996 to 2003, the series lasted beyond Sabrina's teenage years, and spun-off two animated shows. The first animated series generally gets some sympathy, but the second does not.
  • Power Rangers creator Haim Saban considers the Disney era of his franchise (Power Rangers Wild Force to Power Rangers RPM) to be a personal zombie period to him, saying in his own words that "Disney did not develop the property and exploit it in the way that it deserves."
    • Ironically Wild Force was the last series to be filmed in the USA.
    • Showrunner Jonathan Tzachor deems only Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers to Power Rangers Wild Force as "counting", but then again, Jonathan's concept of canonicity is strange. note .
    • Later semi-clarified by Paul Schrier at Comic-Con 2011 that, while the current Saban Brands production regime does not like the Disney seasons and wishes they did not exist, they are in-continuity and have not been disowned.
  • Reportedly, Chris Carter wanted to end The X-Files after the sixth or seventh season, but had to stick around with it because Fox threatened to keep making it, with or without him. This didn't stop him from making another movie years after the series had ended, though.
    • It was supposed to end with the movie. Which had ostensibly wrapped up the main plot and given the basic premise a closure. The idea at the end of said movie was to let fan fiction or possible books pick up the story if they desired. But FOX threw money at Carter and "threatened" him with running it without him so he tried to create a second mythology... it went down hill fast. To his (and the writers) credit, however, some of the individual episodes were very well written in season 6 and 7. As a whole though, down to the depths with thee!
  • Norman Lear planned to end All in the Family after Season 8, with Mike and Gloria moving to California (thereby eliminating the intrafamilial conflict that was the heart of the show). But CBS ended up dangling a huge salary increase and production deal to Carroll O'Connor, and the show not only limped along for another season (without Lear), but was retooled as Archie Bunker's Place, which itself lasted four seasons.
  • John Cleese was reportedly frustrated about the later seasons of Monty Python's Flying Circus, as he felt they had used up all of their original ideas, but the rest of the team carried on for a single season of the show, which was renamed Monty Python.
    • In one documentary about the Monty Python troupe the rest of the group conceded that the quality severely dropped and that the way Terry Jones and John Cleese butted heads over what and what should not be included was their main source of quality control.
  • The Office (US) is considered to have become this after the departure of Steve Carell, which led to Michael Scott, the boss of the office, being written out of the show. He was replaced by James Spader, reprising his role from Less Than Zero/Secretary/Boston Legal et al. Because that's what a show needed: a middle aged pervert!
  • Scrubs creator Bill Lawrence wanted to end the series several times, but was forced to keep going. In its 9th season, with most of the original cast leaving and the setting moved to a new location, he tried to change the name to separate it from the previous eight seasons but wasn't allowed to. It was finally canceled after said season.
  • The show Weeds is starting to become this as the creator always seems to announce that the current season will be the last only for Showtime to renew it midway through that season.
  • In-Universe in Castle. The main character is a writer who has got so tired of his creation that he has him shot in his last book. This causes angst with his publisher (an ex wife).
  • Anne of Green Gables falls into this category. As he describes in the DVD featurette "Kevin Sullivan's Classic", producer/writer/director Kevin Sullivan only intended to do one mini-series adapting the original novel in 1985. Afterwards, the network pressured him to make a sequel, though he chose to only loosely adapt some later Anne novels rather than pick one for a close adaptation. Afterwards, demand remained high so inspired by a short story collection by LM Montgomery he created the long-running series Road to Avonlea. In 2000, more than a decade after the second mini-series, he reassembled the original cast for a wholly original, Darker and Edgier sequel set during World War I (completely messing up the continuity of both the first two movies and books). Sullivan couldn't let Anne rest, however, and brought her back in a near-fantasy animated reimagining, Anne: Journey to Green Gables in 2005 (which added a Disney-like villain to the story), and in 2008 he produced a live-action movie A New Beginning, now set in World War II as a middle-aged Anne reflects on her life before the events of the first movie. Fortunately, except for the animated film which has fallen into obscurity, the frequent revisits to Avonlea to Sullivan's credit are generally critically lauded and popular with viewers (if criticized by Kindred Spirits—the Anne equivalent of Trekkies).
  • The Apprentice seems to combine this with Adored by the Network. The ratings for the past few seasons have been horrible (one season finishing below a 2 in ratings week after week), however it keeps getting renewed despite awful ratings and flagging interest. In fact, some even wonder if Donald Trump's short lived attempt to run for President was nothing more than an attempt to increase viewership and keep the show running for more seasons.
    • Of course, that nowadays seems to apply solely to the Celebrity version. That season that was stuck in the 1s (and even went below a 1 on Thanksgiving night)? It was an attempted REVIVAL of the non-Celebrity version after a THREE-YEAR HIATUS. Needless to say, that version of the show is now dead and buried.
  • Tony Garnett, producer of Between The Lines, publicly said that he felt the third and final series of the show fell into this trap when he was asked why he decided not to make a third season of his popular series This Life.
  • Supernatural could also qualify for this trope since Eric Kripke only intended the show to run for five seasons. The show is on its ninth season and is going on its tenth.
    • You can clearly tell it was intended to end with the 5th season ending, and though individual episodes are still very well written, it is clearly a zombie and there seems to be no cohesive tale to tell anymore.
  • Word of God has stated in various sources that Buffy the Vampire Slayer was meant to end with season 5, and much like the above mentioned, it had a very distinct ending that pretty much closed the story out. But then the UPN network picked it up for two additional seasons.
    • Ironically, sources say Joss wanted to continue Angel beyond season 5, but it was cancelled and they had to force the wrap up.
      • Even more irony is that FOX wanted a "Joss show" like Buffy or Angel to run on their network (since they were the studio behind Buffy and Angel... and currently reaping the rewards on DVD and BD sales). Then Executive Meddling and poor advertising and distribution, combined with no faith in Joss, lead to the show being canned before it had a chance to potentially be another cash infusion.
      • And then they tried again, and this time gave the show a chance... but Dollhouse was not what people wanted and it too was canned during season 2. At least this time Joss had a chance to do a wrap up on the plot and did not have a cliffhanger or open ending.
      • Poor Joss will have to cry all the way to the bank about his TV woes. Or not.
  • The Andy Griffith Show was supposed to have ended after five seasons. An additional three were produced, minus Don Knotts and with an arguably tired Andy Griffith.
  • Charmed was not expected to last as long as it did. The original creator left after season 2 and the lead actress was gone after season 3. Rose McGowan expected to only be around for two seasons when she was brought in as a replacement for Shannen Doherty (the length of her original contract). She and the show ended up staying around for five additional seasons. Rose has been quoted as saying "each year Charmed would get renewed and each year I would cry". The seventh season was expected to be the last, the finale of that even Book Ending the pilot episode. But an eighth season was ordered - also intending to set up spin-offs featuring Billie, Chris and Wyatt. Season 8 was the definite end, though a continuation in comic book form later resurfaced.

    Video Games 
  • Army Men. The series featured the absolute worst GameRankings scores, and still new titles were released once or twice a year.
  • The Mega Man X series was supposed to end with X5, and then progress to the Mega Man Zero series in the future. Unfortunately, the series continued without Inafune's knowledge into X6, and his only input afterwards was Maverick Hunter X and minor designer's advice regarding Axl.note  This was somewhat difficult plot-wise, as X5 ended with Zero dead. X6 then ended with him in the capsule not supposed to be opened until Mega Man Zero making his appearances in X7-X8 awkward. Players were then told to think of the scene in X6 as a bonus ending for the series, rather than something happening directly after the game.
  • Similarly, the Mega Man Battle Network and Zero series were each supposed to end after three games each, but Battle Network lasted for three more games, and Zero for one more. You can see that the endings of the third game of each series were meant as the end of each. Zero 4 upgrades the Non-Action Big Bad to plain Big Bad and pulls another 8 Mavericks out of nowhere for Zero to fight.
  • Subverted with the Final Fantasy series. Hironobu Sakaguchi created the game, intending it to be his last - hence the title 'Final'. It ended up a success and more games were produced. However each game was given its own universe and continuity, completely separate from its predecessors (save for a Shout-Out here and there). This did become amusing when Final Fantasy X got a direct sequel - numbered X-2.
  • Both Crash Bandicoot and Spyro the Dragon were the mascots of friend developers Naughty Dog and Insomniac Games. Both then split off from Universal Interactive Studios for different reasons (Naughty Dog's contract with Universal ran out, while Insomniac was unpleased with the limitations of Spyro's character designs and walked off on their own) and moved onto different styles of games (Jak and Daxter and Ratchet & Clank), leaving their old mascots to their owner who then ran both of them into the ground. Vivendi Universal Games (the company Universal Interactive Studios became) has since been absorbed into Activision. Crash saw several games for his series that was in the works cancelled, and was then featured him in a few (admittedly entertaining) smartphone games before being laid dormant; while Spyro was rebooted (yet again) as a bit player in the Skylanders series, although he was promoted and headlined in the first game Skylanders: Spyro's Adventure as a means to draw former Spyro fans to what was then a new series.
    • Regarding the new series of Crash games, the co-president of Naughty Dog once said "It's a little bit like watching your daughter do porn". The heads of Insomniac, on the other hand, feel every Spyro game between their own and Skylanders to be garbage but don't mind Skylanders itself one bit, praising Activision for managing to resurge Spyro among a new generation.
  • Speaking of Vivendi, Leisure Suit Larry has become this as a result of Magna Cum Laude, released in 2004 for the PC, PS2, and Xbox. It was created without any input from series creator Al Lowe and he criticizes the game on his website. The sequel, Box Office Bust (at which point the franchise isn't in the property of Activision anymore because it didn't print money), has received even further drubbing from critics.
    • The weirdest part is that Lowe seems to be fine with more LSL games, as long as he's involved with them, and wonders on his website why they don't consult him. But he's also glad that he's not involved when they crash and burn.
  • Resident Evil (Biohazard in Japan) maybe falls under this, and not only because it has zombies. The franchise had many spin-offs (including some attempts at online gaming for PS2, some light gun games, some mobile phone games, and a portable Gaiden game), but little outside the properly numbered sequels (including Zero, Code: Veronica and Revelations) or the Chronicles series is worth playing.
    Yahtzee Croshaw: Resident Evil 6. It really is "resident" now, isn't it? We just can't persuade the fucking thing to leave our house.
  • Katamari Damacy was never supposed to have a sequel, according to the creator of the original game. The sequel lampshades this by essentially making the plot about the King Of All Cosmos gaining tons of fans due to the success of the first game and deciding to solve their various problems to become even more popular.
  • Hideo Kojima originally didn't intend to direct any Metal Gear sequels beyond Metal Gear Solid, but due to the immense success of the game, he was pressured by his superiors to direct Metal Gear Solid 2, which featured a twist ending that he never intended to explain away. Afterward, he wrote the basic outline for Metal Gear Solid 3, with the intention of handing it out to another director, but no one was willing to take the job. The same thing happened with Metal Gear Solid 4: although he had already named a successor, fans demanded that he return to personally direct the game (which included death threats). And as the entry on Writer Revolt for that game shows, he didn't take it nicely. And the series is still going on.
    • He also didn't intend to make a sequel for the original Metal Gear but a coworker who developed Snake's Revenge somehow convinced him to make a real one.
      • The story behind this is pretty interesting. Kojima met the man who developed Snake's Revenge on the train to work. He didn't know the man, but the man recognized Kojima and talked with him about Snake's Revenge. Apparently he was proud of the game, but he felt it wasn't a true Metal Gear game and mentioned that Kojima could've done better. Kojima later claimed that by the time they reached their stop, he'd already had the entire plot of the canonical Metal Gear 2 mapped out in his head.
  • Twisted Metal was briefly this. Sony and Singletrac split up after Twisted Metal 2, resulting in Sony owning the Twisted Metal name but Singletrac owning the engine. As a result, Sony had No Plans, No Prototype, No Backup, and the third and fourth games received relatively poor reviews. Luckily, former Singletrac employees founded Incog Inc. (and later Eat Sleep Play) and Sony handed them back the series from Twisted Metal Black onwards.
  • Halo: Rumors suggest the franchise was only intended to consist of two games, but scheduling issues forced Bungie to release the original Halo 2 in a semi-complete state (only about 3/4 done). Then Halo 3 was billed as the big finale of the series, but was followed by the Gaiden Game ODST and the prequel Halo: Reach. Bungie jumped ship and left the series with Microsoft's hands, who independently churned out the RTS spinoff Halo Wars and started a whole trilogy of new games with Halo 4. Guess the fight wasn't quite finished yet, huh?
    • It is worth telling though that in the entry annex of Bungie's offices, they have a poster-print of this Penny Arcade strip, signed by the author and artist. Make of that what you will.
  • Star Control had a brief go at this. The original developers had long since moved on to other projects, and they actually retained rights to all the creative content apart from the name "Star Control". The publisher wanted another game out in the series, even if it lacked any familiar content that would tie it in with the previous games. In the end, the developers gave in, figuring that it was the lesser evil for the series. The game was actually made by completely different people, though. Oh, and there was a novel too, which most people prefer to forget about.
  • Gunpei Yokoi intended for Metroid to end with Super Metroid in order to have a neat, contained trilogy. After his death, the franchise was revived in 2002 with Metroid Prime and Metroid: Fusion, and new games have come out at a steady pace ever since. Of course, Tropes Are Not Bad, as (other than Metroid: Other M) these games were all fairly well-received. Metroid Prime specifically was hailed by most as a worthy successor to Super, with some going as far as naming it as one of the greatest games of all time.
  • Guitar Hero is an interesting example as it turned into a zombie but was able to remain competitive with its Spiritual Successor, Rock Band, as well. After Harmonix and Activision parted ways following Guitar Hero Encore: Rocks the 80s, the series reins were given to Tony Hawk developer Neversoft (whose first entry was Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock) and Harmonix moved on to MTV Games in order to begin producing the Rock Band series. Guitar Hero and Rock Band would remain Dueling Games for three years until 2010, when Warriors of Rock finally saw Activision shelve any future projects in the series.
  • Pokémon Company CEO Tsunekazu Ishihara stated that Pokémon Gold and Silver were intended to be the final games, as stated that "once we entered the twenty-first century, it would be time for me to do something else entirely." Oodles of cash must have changed his mind, as four more generations followed with more likely coming (though the series has had its ups and downs ever since).
  • Upon its release in 1995, Worms turned out as the biggest success for developer Team 17, which keeps riding on it to this day: little of their production since hasn't been related to the Worms franchise, which has currently nearly 20 titles between main episodes, expansions and spin-offs on various platforms. Unfortunately, most if not all the episodes after the earlier ones (especially the 3D ones) haven't been as good, not even the most recent Worms Revolution which was intended as a return to form. It is telling that Worms Armageddon is still considered the best episode, more than 13 years after its release.
  • Various interviews from developers at Core Design have shown that Tomb Raider 1-4 were genuine attempts to improve on each entry, whether they could be considered to have succeeded or not; however, the "Lara dies" twist at the end of the fourth game was a serious attempt to either finish the series or buy time for a next-gen debut. But then they were talked into developing Tomb Raider Chronicles, a game where Lara's closest friends reminisce about Lara's previously unseen adventures, as an easy moneygrab; and being distracted by that quite possibly had a small part in the failure of Angel of Darkness. Of course, it managed to recover after the franchise moved over to Crystal Dynamics' hands and rebooted.
    • Tomb Raider was made by a small team of people that had love for the games. Sequels were planned, but by the 3rd game, the games started to show signs of staleness in terms of ideas while Nintendo Hard reared its ugly head. The 4th game, The Last Revelation, was supposed to be the final game in the series due to Lara's apparent death at the end, but Executive Meddling forced the developers to rush out a 5th game to meet the holiday rush. The 5th game barely added anything new to the series overall and it caused many plot holes in the process.
    • The state of the franchise is now quite miserable. The Hero Dies ending of fourth instalment proved to be nothing when compared with further games. Chronicles was a blatant moneygrab, while Angel of Darkness provided a very good, if not one of the best plots in the series, but packed into bug-ridden game. It was the final instalment made by Core. After Crystal Dynamics took over, they administrated (controversial in it's times) reboot, but the series at least went back on track after seemingly deadly hiatus. The franchise then plummeted again. First by doing a money-grab in form of Anniversary, which was basically Tomb Raider in new graphics and minor plot changes. And later Crystal provided glitchy and poorly written Underworld, with camera from hell. And add-ons for it. And Gaiden Game. It became clear that execs are treating the franchise as a fast money grab, not really caring about quality, which agitated fandom. This was a seemingly dead-end for the series, but in the meantime Eidos with all it's property was bought by SquareEnix and thus another reboot was administrated. Long before the release the new game was hit hard by Internet Backdraft (let's not discuss that matter). Combining elements like: Hype Backlash, taking itself too serious, poor characterisation note , running under Artifact Title and unrealistic sales expectations, the game "failed" to profit, having the most copies sold in the franchise history. Going by execs statements, there will be no further game under this title, but that's what was said in times of Tomb Raider 4...

    Web Animation 
  • Neurotically Yours started in 2003 and for 8 years, the series was about Germaine struggling with her life and her own self while Foamy belittled her for being stupid and ranted on about the current idiotic problems in the world. The series was starting to show it was becoming stale after a while, but the creator was making money off of the show and needed the show to keep running since he had to make a living somehow. Rather than keep the show strictly formula, the creator decided to give the series a reboot to introduce new storylines and new characters in order to keep the series fresh.

    Webcomics 
  • Abnormality talks about "The Zombie Years" that TV shows that go on for too long enter into in "The Complete Series: The Lifespan of a TV Show":
    Beyond the 7th Season: The Zombie Years
    - Should it continue to air, the show will degenerate into a frightful, shambling corpse — a mocking funhouse mirror reflection of what it once was, existing only to ghoulishly maintain the careers/merchandising empire of its sinister creators.
    - The characters are almost unrecognizable from their original incarnations, now merely grotesque, unthinking husks — their personalities long since removed for easier manipulation.
    - Each season beyond the 7th cancels out one of the earlier good seasons in terms of the show's overall legacy — 14 or more seasons rendering a show essentially undead.
    - If a given show is not gracefully canceled or otherwise brought to rest when its lifespan has clearly expired, the best thing to do is get a group of friends together, arm yourselves to the teeth with shotguns and chainsaws, and corner the offending production staff in a parking garage where they can be messily dispatched for the good of civilization. Either that or stop watching the show.

    Web Original 
  • The Nostalgia Critic has become this. Doug Walker ended his long running web series in order to finally begin his next major project: Demo Reel. Hyped as his "dream project", Doug invested every dime he had into production only for it to fail in view counts. That Guy with the Glasses struggled with the loss of viewers who stopped visiting the website with Critic gone. Demo Reel was then recast as a purgatory type state of being that would bring the Nostalgia Critic back. In his "Review Must Go On" commentary, Doug talked about how making Donnie Critic was to piss off demanding fans, reboot Critic has been literally called a zombie twice, and welshy used his farewell to call out Doug for bowing down.
  • Invoked by SF Debris during his review of the infamous Star Trek: Enterprise episode "A Night In Sickbay": "And yet it's still coming! It won't stop! How do you kill a Star Trek show that's already dead?!"
  • Epic Meal Time has various spin offs run by the members of the crew just so it isn't stale (and to be fair, they always said they were in it for the money). Despite the departure of the beloved Muscles Glasses and fans complaining it isn't as fun as it used to be, the show still goes on.

    Western Animation 
  • Show Within a Show example: Ralph Bighead in Rocko's Modern Life was forced to create another show to get out of his contract, but he secretly detests it. Thus, he gets Rocko and his friends to create a terrible show, "Wacky Delly", to get kicked out of his contract. Unfortunately, it was a huge hit. The show goes on with his trying over and over to make it worse and worse, including having nothing but a jar of mayonnaise for 10 minutes on-screen, but it keeps getting more and more popular. It wasn't until he actually tried to make it better that it failed.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants was supposed to end after the third season and The Movie, but popular demand has kept it going since. Many complain over the supposed deterioration of the main cast's personality traits and the decline of writing quality/general aimlessness of the series these days; but, of course, if you asked any current young child (anybody born 2004+, when the Movie and the show were supposed to wrap it up), the series is absolutely fine enough to go on for many more years. And, of course, SpongeBob remains Nickelodeon's most popular cartoon, running about 14 years straight now with that distinction.
  • The Simpsons creator Matt Groening stated in an interview that it was getting harder to keep the series fresh, and that while it would be around for the next couple of seasons at least, he wanted it to leave on a high note. A few weeks later, he did a public recantation: The Simpsons was fine, and would be continuing for the foreseeable future. That was in 1999.
    • He sounded pretty chipper in this AV Club interview too, although that dates from... 2006...
    • It's worth noting that Matt Groening has said on many occasions that he has no control over when The Simpsons will end. It's entirely up to FOX and, despite what is perceived to be a decided downturn in quality, FOX has made no indication that it will end anytime soon.
  • Craig McCracken wanted to end The Powerpuff Girls. Former Cartoon Network executives said that no one would watch the reruns, so the show continued. Ironically, Tom and Jerry was one of the network's highest-rated series... and it's 100% reruns.
    • Speaking of which, Tom and Jerry was subject to this as well after Hanna and Barbara left MGM, changing hands many times throughout the decades. Warner Bros. is currently milking the franchise for all it's worth, having gained ownership of it in 1997.
  • Also on Cartoon Network, Dexter's Laboratory and Johnny Bravo were drastically retooled after the departure of their respective creators after Dexter's second season and Johnny Bravo's first.
  • Ben 10 was created by a four-man group called Man of Action. After the series ended, the creative team continued the franchise with Alien Force and Ultimate Alien, both spearheaded by Glen Murakami and Dwayne McDuffie. Man of Action were also involved in the production of the two series, but when the franchise was expected to end with Ultimate Alien, Man of Action left to focus on working Ultimate Spider-Man, Cartoon Network continued with the Lighter and Softer Omniverse, spearheaded by Derrick J. Wyatt, without the creators' involvement although the first two episodes were the last written by Mc Duffie before his death; fans seem to dislike it.
  • The Ren & Stimpy Show was this after the first season of the show, when creator John Kricfalusi was fired. The show was canceled after 4 seasons. It made a resurgence on Spike TV almost a decade later with Kricfalusi back at the helm briefly, but was canned again after the show tanked.
  • Seth MacFarlane was asked about this in an interview (the question was if he planned Family Guy to be as long as the The Simpsons). MacFarlane said that he didn't want Family Guy to be that long, and that he wanted to end the show in a high note, before it becomes stale.
    • In the third Star Wars parody, the opening crawl starts out and then suddenly cuts in with something to the effect of "You know what? Screw this. We didn't even want to do a third one. FOX is making us because the first two did so well."
  • Beavis And Butthead. Although Mike Judge doesn't like the last few seasons, claiming that they were forced on him by MTV, their supposed lack of quality is more of an Informed Flaw considering that the show remained hilariously funny right up to the Grand Finale.
  • Popeye the Sailor was originally a minor character in a comic book series called Thimble Theater. After Fleischer Studios lost control of the franchise, it continued directly under Paramount's banner for several years, before moving to other companies up until the beginning of the 1980s when they finally allowed the nearly 50 year old franchise to die... until a cyberpunk-set comic of Popeye, that crashed very fast.


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