Follow TV Tropes

Please don't list this on a work's page as a trope.
Examples can go on the work's YMMV tab.

Following

Tough Act to Follow

Go To

"If there's one thing history has taught us (besides not to piss off people called Genghis Khan or put lead in your water pipes) it's that if you're going to make something incredibly good that becomes frighteningly popular, make sure it's the last thing you ever make in your entire life because otherwise you get to spend the rest of your creative career struggling under the weight of high expectations and bricks."
Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw, Spore Review

A work which attains such overwhelming success that it dooms its creator's later efforts to languish in its shadow. The follow-up may have its own merits, but fans will dismiss it because it doesn't stand up to the original.

Essentially the creative version of typecasting.

Contrast Protection from Editors, for when the new creations do suck but get published anyway, or need more work if they're not going to suck but no one dares tell you this. Compare with Glory Days. See also First Installment Wins, Sophomore Slump, Post-Script Season, and One-Hit Wonder. If fans become split over this, it will lead to a Broken Base. This will often lead to sequelitis and/or contested sequels. Frustration over this trope may cause Creator Backlash. If the creator views any subsequent work(s) as superior to the overshadowing "masterpiece", then it may also be a case of Magnum Opus Dissonance.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 
  • None of Ryosuke Takahashi's works after Armored Trooper VOTOMS managed to achieve the same level of acclaim and longevity as that aforementioned series, with Yoroiden Samurai Troopers coming the closest (but even that didn't last past the early nineties). As a result, he's ended up handling most of VOTOMS' prequel and sequel OVAs.
  • Bartender: According to Hanegashima, every cocktail is a Tough Act to Follow. Either you underperform, and the customer will never return, or you do your best, and your customer will come back, and expect you to do even better.
  • Following the cult success of Blood: The Last Vampire and Blood+, CLAMP is entrusted to work with Production I.G on their own version, Blood-C. However, the overall reception of the franchise is mixed, coupled with the low BD/DVD sales of the TV series and the movie being bombed in the Japanese box office despite the latter being funded by the Japanese government. This also affected CLAMP's later works.
  • Akira Toriyama has created quite a few short manga since Dragon Ball, but they've barely registered on most people's radars. It might be because they're almost all single-volume series, though. He's never even attempted a long series since Dragon Ball ended, partially for fear of this trope. He does avert this trope in the video game realm, where he remains quite popular as the head artist for the cult classic games Chrono Trigger, Blue Dragon, and the Dragon Quest series. His earlier series, Dr. Slump, was a huge success in its native Japan, and was considered the tough act there.
  • Tetsuo Hara first hit it big with Fist of the North Star, which became one of Weekly Shonen Jump's landmark titles during its Golden Age, setting the template for fighting manga for years to come. Cyber Blue, the immediate follow-up, only lasted a year in serialization despite some initial hype. His fourth serial, Hana No Keiji (a samurai manga based on Keiichiro Ryu's period novel), fared a lot better, becoming his second most successful manga. After his next serial, Takeki Ryusei, also got cut short, Hara would adapt yet another Keiichiro Ryu novel for Jump (Kagemusha Tokugama Ieyasu, which ended up being retooled into Sakon mid-run and moved to Monthly Shōnen Jump) and a few other short serials for other magazines before leaving Shueisha altogether in 2000. He eventually formed the production company Coamix with his former editor-in-chief Nobuhiko Horie in 2001, where he was given the creative freedom to work on the Hokuto no Ken prequel Fist of the Blue Sky, which enjoyed moderate success during its ten year run. This also applies within Fist of the North Star itself, as the conflict between the four Hokuto brothers is considered to be the high point of the manga and everything after Raoh's death (generally regarded to be Kenshiro's ultimate rival) is all downhill. In fact, the final chapters after the Land of Shura arc (which is the last big conflict in the manga) were not adapted for the anime series.
  • Gunnm Last Order is an example. The original Gunnm was a huge success; it was translated into English under the name Battle Angel Alita and became a must read manga classic for people getting into the genre. The sequel is no where near as successful and only survived mainly because of dedicated fans of the original giving it a cult following.
  • Gunsmith Cats was a very popular Girls with Guns manga and did good enough to get a well made 3 episode OVA that also became very popular. The follow up Gunsmith Cats Crash, was rejected by most fans for it being just silly action with no focus on plot and character development like the original.
  • Jewelpet
  • Yudetamago ran into this after concluding Kinnikuman.
  • Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha A's was a major improvement from the first series for many fans. StrikerS, however, wasn't that popular with fans because it didn't live up to the complexity and awesomeness that was A's. The manga sequels and movies have suffered from this as well.
  • Yoshiyuki Tomino had this problem with Mobile Suit Gundam. He became very bitter over this, but has lightened up considerably since working on ∀ Gundam.
  • Gundam tends to suffer from this as a whole, depending on how well or poorly received the previous series was. It's not unknown for a series to suffer poor ratings during airing and then be Vindicated by History later, after everyone's gotten over the "not as good as Gundam Whichever" reactions. Sometimes the creators deal with this by making their series such a departure that there's no way to compare it—such as the Darker and Edgier Mobile Suit Victory Gundam being followed by the unabashedly Super Robot World of Ham that is Mobile Fighter G Gundam.
  • After Neon Genesis Evangelion, Hideaki Anno tried to make "serious" films, and publicly bashed both Evangelion fans and otakus in general. He never managed to make anything as widely successful or influential as Eva, and eventually gave in and created the Rebuild of Evangelion series over a decade later.
  • This is probably the reason why Eiichiro Oda has said he won't do anything else after One Piece is finished.
  • When it comes to the Pokémon movies, only the first (in its original Japanese version), third, are regarded as the best (though the eighth and fifteenth movies are just as well-regarded). All the others have been seen as So Okay, It's Average at best, and have grossed less in Japanese theaters.
  • Pretty Cure
    • The Heartcatch Pretty Cure series, considered to be one of the best seasons in the entire franchise, due to its Darker and Edgier plot and having even more over-the-top fight scenes compared to its predecessors has left the few seasons after it as part of this trope.
    • Pretty Cure All Stars movies get hit with this as well, as DX3 (which was released shortly after HeartCatch finished) and its fans argue that its over-the-top moments make the succeeding New Stage series seem lacking by comparison.
    • Not only is Go! Princess Pretty Cure considered the best thing since HeartCatch, but its successor Maho Girls Precure also averted this trope (at least in Japan).
  • This is believed to be the reason why Rurouni Kenshin author Nobuhiro Watsuki was not (and likely will never be) able to have another series which runs longer than 10 volumes, the magic number where Busou Renkin ended publication. Gun Blaze West was cancelled after only three.
  • Naoko Takeuchi was less than well received after having completed Sailor Moon, and never managed to finish anything else afterwards, leaving several Orphaned Series behind.
  • Saint Seiya fell victim to this. Kurumada's first runaway hit was Ring Ni Kakero, a boxing drama although with its share of Shonen elements. Saint Seiya was the closest he got, but it lost popularity and was forced to conclude with a Bittersweet Ending. A few of his works have tanked and the only series post-Kakero he was able to end on his terms was B't X.
  • After Sazae-san had become a huge success and the most viewed anime ever (a record which remains unbeaten to this day), Machiko Hasegawa created a new comic strip called Granny Mischief about an old woman who always spent her time creating trouble for her fellow man with all kinds of pranks. It's just as funny as Sazae-san, but never became quite as popular.
  • Director Kazuki Akane started strong with The Vision of Escaflowne, which became wildly popular (even broadcast on Fox Kids in the United States), and remains to this day one of the most iconic anime from the 1990s. His next project was Geneshaft, which was seen by few and hated by most who did. His next creation was Heat Guy J; most who know of it know only about how much Geneon paid for it (as much as FUNimation paid for Fullmetal Alchemist) and how poorly it sold. Next came Noein, which fared better in popularity and reception, but only modestly. His latest work was Birdy the Mighty: Decode, which sold very poorly in Japan.
  • Office Academy, the company behind Space Battleship Yamato, made several forgettable series such as Space Carrier Blue Noah that failed to gain recognition inside or outside of Japan, unlike Yamato.
  • Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann and Code Geass did this for the Super Robot Genre and Real Robot Genre respectively, resulting in the two shows combined being a tough act to follow for the mecha genre as a whole - in the decade since, no mecha show has managed to approach the popularity of either series.
  • Quite possibly the reasoning for nothing but more Yu-Gi-Oh! from Kazuki Takahashi. And even then, his input has fallen from writing the manga (Yu-Gi-Oh!), to having major input and plot work on the anime (GX), to just doing character designs (5Ds and Zexal).
  • The Unicron Trilogy zig-zags this a bit. Transformers Armada isn't exactly a masterpiece and has a very slow beginning, but partway in it found its footing and dramatically increased in quality. This created decently high hopes for its sequel Transformers Energon; hopes that Energon, having a very rushed Troubled Production, could never meet. The final installment, Transformers Cybertron, ended up inverting this trend; Energon's disastrous launch left a very low bar that Cybertron, with its strong Character Development and plotting, was easily able to jump over.
  • The first season of Aikatsu! is widely regarded as the best season of the series (if not the entire franchise) in terms of writing, character development and world building in spite of the less-than-stellar animation. Some of the franchise's most iconic songs, namely "Diamond Happy!" and "Calendar Girl", also come from this season. The following three seasons and reboot series Aikatsu Stars! are generally considered to be significantly weaker in the aforementioned categories despite the improved animation. Stars! got hit even harder with this as it completely tanked to the point Bandai Namco lost money on it and is running the risk of becoming a Franchise Killer. Aikatsu Friends! is a second attempt at reviving the franchise, but it's optics are not looking too good.
  • The Chaos;Head anime was the first to be adapted in the Science Adventure Series (to mixed reviews). After that, the Steins;Gate anime was released, to mass critical acclaim and being listed as one of the top anime of all time on various anime database sites. None of the adaptations after Steins;Gate (Robotics;Notes, Occultic Nine, and Chaos;Child) have managed to capture the same level of success.

    Comic Books 
  • Art Spiegelman when it comes to his "comix" duology Maus. He has been quite vocal about how he never expected the "monument to my father" to become so popular, nor did he expect that his later works would be greeted by wishes for Maus III.
    Spiegelman: I'm proud that I did Maus; I'm glad that I did it. I don't really regret it. But the aftershock is that no matter what else I do or even most other cartoonists might do, it's like, well, there’s this other thing that stands in a separate category and it has some kind of canonical status.
  • Jim Starlin, who thanks to his masterful work crafting The Infinity Gauntlet, has every comic book given to him compared to it and rarely in a favorable light.
  • After Kurt Busiek's historic Avengers run, Geoff Johns took over the title, only to quickly quit and jump ship back to DC due to Executive Meddling. Chuck Austen followed Johns' run, and was widely considered to be one of the worst writers in the franchise's history. Sales fell so sharply that Marvel cancelled the book with Avengers Disassembled and allowed Brian Bendis to reboot it as New Avengers, which was a much stronger seller.
  • Chris Claremont on the X-Men; only a bare handful of writers have managed to carve an identity out on the X-Books that did not have Claremont's shadow hanging over them. Similarly, everything Chris Claremont himself has done since then has been inevitably been declared not as good as his original X-Men run.
  • Green Lantern has Ron Marz, who made the book a hit with the introduction of Kyle Rayner as Green Lantern. When he left the book, he was replaced with Judd Winick, whose run started to bleed readership. Following him was Ben Raab, whose run was so reviled that many Rayner fans blame him (in addition to Winick) for sinking the sales of the title and basically forcing DC to bring Hal Jordan back as Green Lantern to stop the bleeding.
    • Green Lantern also has Geoff Johns, who brought back Hal Jordan (without displacing any other human Lantern) and the Space Cop stuff, while also expanding the mythos to include multiple Lantern Corps, and turning the franchise into a gigantic space opera that became central to the DCU. The stuff that followed by Robert Venditti is not looked highly upon, nor are any of the Green Lantern series that take the space opera approach. Green Lanterns gets a pass for having the characters focus on Earth and being more about everyday superheroics, but that's about it.
  • Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis inevitably have every series they launch compared to their classic Justice League International run, no matter how different their new projects are. They finally gave in and accepted this, as they started writing a new Justice League spin-off as part of the New 52.
  • Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster never created anything that people remembered to nearly the extent of Superman. Same with Batman's creators Bob Kane and Bill Finger (who created most of Batman's traits and key characters though Kane got sole credit due to a contract stipulation until 2015 when Finger was finally given co-creator credit on Batman associated media).
  • Cullen Bunn had the unfortunate luck of writing for Agent Venom right after Rick Remender's run, which was praised by fans and critics alike. While plenty of people liked his work on the title, it was almost universally viewed as a step down in quality and the book ended up being cancelled right in the middle of resolving its Myth Arc.
  • Christopher Priest basically redefined Black Panther in every way and to this day his run is considered by many to be the greatest book Panther has ever had. He was followed by Reginald Hudlin, whose work was immediately hit by the this trope in full force. His run initially outsold Priest's by quite a bit, but as time went on, sales fell sharply. A relaunch stunt involving T'Challa's sister Shuri taking over as the lead didn't do much better, and the title was eventually cancelled under new writer Jonathan Maberry.
  • Averted with Seconds. While Bryan Lee O'Malley one-upping himself over Scott Pilgrim was going to be very difficult, the general consensus seems to be that he succeeded.
  • Sombra's issue of My Little Pony: FIENDship Is Magic was very well received, being well written and giving what fans wanted from his backstory, and set the high bar against which the subsequent issues would be measured.
  • Any Daredevil run following the hugely successful Bendis and Brubaker eras. Both were massively successful mega hits and award winners, and the follow-up, Andy Diggle's run, is as a result not looked highly upon. Waid's run gets a pass for being very tonally different than the Bendis and Brubaker runs, but the Soule run that followed got this treatment for not living up to all three runs, as well as the hit Netflix series.
    • And as awesome as Bendis and Brubaker were, their era still lives uncomfortably under the shadow of the Frank Miller era...
  • Anything X-Force related following Rick Remender's Uncanny X-Force. While the previous run had its fans, it has a very big Broken Base for being almost a parody of what X-Force is (mutants who kill to protect other mutants). Remender portrayed this and didn’t glorify it, and in fact deconstructed the entire idea of a mutant kill squad, while still allowing for character development. The runs that followed... well, they’re more traditional X-Force runs (meaning style over substance and grimdark galore), and just aren’t considered as good. To put it lightly: Uncanny X-Force is considered not only the best X-Force run, but also one of the best X-Men comics of all time, while everything that followed is barely remembered.
  • Ed Brubaker's Captain America was lauded as a great reinvention of the character and his mythos, combining political commentary with a sleek spy-fi angle while having lots of twists and turns. It's also noticeable for having Bucky Barnes not only Rescued from the Scrappy Heap in retconning him into a much darker character, but turning him into a Breakout Character by making him the new Captain America. The series was an audience and critical darling and brought the character into a new century. Every run that's followed has been negatively compared to it. Rick Remender's run was considered So Okay, It's Average pulp sci-fi when it wasn't loaded with Unfortunate Implications and Nick Spencer's run became controversial for the sheer volume and unsubtlety of its political commentary before it pulled a Cosmic Retcon to turn the titular character into a nazi (and made an event out of it).
  • Grayson was a Better Than It Sounds spy series about Dick Grayson operating within an organisation determined to find out the secrets of superheroes. While originally loathed for several reasons, come release, it gained popularity very quickly, and helped launch the career of the above mentioned Tom King and provide some mainstream work for Tim Seeley. The series was liked for its fundamental understanding of the character despite its strange situations, playful yet very strong dialogue, as well as actually doing something new and refreshing with a Batman character. The series ended and was followed by Nightwing (Rebirth), written solely by Seeley. While not considered bad, it's considered a fairly standard Bat-family superhero comic, and the absence of King is very noticeable, as Seeley had Dick narrate every issue. To say Grayson fans aren't wow'd is putting it lightly.
  • Similarly, Tom King faced this. Not only did he have to follow-up the beloved Grayson, but he also had to follow-up the Hugo-nominated, Harvey and Eisner Award winning The Vision (2015), his acclaimed reinvention of Omega Men and sleeper hit Sheriff of Babylon. These were all comics that were hits in a single year. Eventually, his sole project would be as the main writer for the Batman (Rebirth) ongoing. The series is known for its Broken Base, and a lot of it is the Hype Backlash from readers who had heard about King but hadn't read him. The dialogue is considered not as skillful as in Grayson, Omega Men or Sheriff, it's not considered as original as any of the mentioned works and hardly does anything revolutionary with the character, which kind of became King's whole thing thanks to all his popular superhero works doing those things. King himself jokingly acknowledged the possibility of this trope taking effect.
    Tom King: Realize I'll never be on this many year list things again. You're only the new guy with new ideas once. Grateful to be on this ride now.
  • The Flash:
    • Mark Waid's run developed Wally so that he became more than just Barry Allen's successor as the Flash, having him grow and mature across the entire run. It also featured what is considered one of the most realistic relationships in superhero comics in Wally's relationship with Linda Park. Not only that, but it introduced the concepts of the Flash Family, unifying DC's speedsters into one family dynamic, while also introducing beloved speedster Bart Allen (Impulse). Waid introduced the concept of the Speed Force, which has become central to the Flash mythos and gave the franchise a more mythical element. Waid's run told larger than life stories that could span across time and space, or just focus on one city, but all were steeped in strong character work. His run is considered the definitive run on the franchise, and nothing that follows is looked as highly upon.
    • Geoff Johns' run is considered this too, though is also considered not as good as Waid's. Johns brought in a smaller scope, focusing on world-building with Keystone City and Central City. Johns' run is also known for its strong villains, bringing back the Rogues, setting up some new characters, and bringing in fan-favourite villain Hunter Zolomon, a character that is considered incredibly sympathetic yet monstrous, and incredibly powerful without being overpowered, along with having an interesting motivation and personal relationship with Wally, to the point that every evil Speedster has been negatively compared to him. Johns' run is also known for how it gradually built up over time, with almost every arc leading to an epic conclusion. Like Waid, subsequent Flash works are often negatively compared to Johns' run, including Johns' own subsequent Flash work with Barry Allen (Wally's predecessor as the Flash).

    Comic Strips 
  • Calvin and Hobbes managed to be this for its entire medium. Ever since it ended in 1995, there have been dozens of comic strips released with varying degrees of reception, but not a single newspaper comic (or even web comic) has been as beloved or made as much of a mark as Calvin and Hobbes.
  • Prior to this, the comic-strip tough act was Long Runner Peanuts, which went from a small daily strip to a franchise including animated specials, feature films, comic books, and even amusement parks and which altered the format and expectations of the comics page from gags or adventure serials, running almost fifty years with one artist. It even both predated and outlasted Calvin and Hobbes, the only paradigm-shifting daily comic that had anywhere near the impact.

    Fan Works 
  • Rhyme and Reason was the first Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers Fan Fic ever written that was meant to be a Fan Fic, but it was also on the verge of staying the only one of its kind. Since there were no other CDRR fics around, it was seen as the reference for everything to follow. However, it used to be the longest of all CDRR fics, it's very well written, and it's also very intense. After all, it tied for Best All-Time Fanfic with Of Mice and Mayhem at the Golden Acorn Awards for several years in a row until both were declared uneligible to give other fics a chance. When it was released in spring 1996 after some two years of writing and several months of proofreading and editing, the Rangerphiles believed that all CDRR fics to come had to live up to these high standards. As they felt they couldn't write anything even close to it, they decided not to write anything at all.
    It wasn't until 1997 that another CDRR fic was published. The Robo|\|erd's series The Adventures of Gadget Hackwrench is vastly different from Rhyme and Reason, and it demonstrated that CDRR fanfic doesn't have to try its hardest to mimic this masterpiece in any way to be worth reading. The number of CDRR fanfics grew quickly from then on.

    Films — Animation 
  • The Disney Animated Canon:
    • One of Walt Disney's early successes was the cartoon short The Three Little Pigs (which featured the song "Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?") Other follow-up cartoons with the same characters were less successful, which prompted Walt to comment, "You can't top pigs with pigs."note 
    • Disney suffered this after his attempts at surpassing Snow White's success with several experimental films ended in disaster in the 40'snote , not having another big hit until 1950's Cinderella gave the company the boost it needed.
    • The Sword in the Stone would probably be more known today if it hadn't been released between two of Walt Disney's biggest animated hits, 101 Dalmatians and The Jungle Book.
    • The Rescuers Down Under had a very tough act to follow in The Little Mermaid and boy, did that turn out ugly (receiving mixed-to-negative reviews and flopping at the box office). Down Under is today one of Disney's obscurities, barely known by the general public (also being followed by Beauty and the Beast), although it has become a Cult Classic in its own right. Heck, it is even generally considered to be even better than its predecessor, The Rescuers in practically every way.
    • In The '90s, Pocahontas, The Hunchback of Notre Dame and Hercules were the three films immediately following The Lion King. These are also the three most controversial 1990s Disney Animated Canon entries, although Hercules was received much better than Hunchback, and both were received better than the decidedly So Okay, It's Average Pocahontas. Mulan and Tarzan in turn were received better than Hercules and Hunchback. All five, however, are usually as fondly remembered by children of The '90s as the earlier canon installments.
    • Fantasia 2000 came a whopping sixty years after Fantasia. To say this trope was fully into effect at the time of the release is putting it mildly. Even Roy Disney asked that viewers not take it as the same art piece the original was intended to be.
    • Bambi II tops that with a world record sixty four years after the original film. Compared to most other Disney sequels, it is actually something of a Cult Classic, though naturally pales against one of Disney's first and most iconic animated films. It should be noted that Disney also considered and turned down sequels for Dumbo, Pinocchio and even Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. What a bad time to be Vindicated by History.
    • Ironically reversed in between the releases of Home on the Range and The Princess and the Frog. Range wasn't well received by the entire Disney community and audiences alike (despite getting at least mixed to average reviews from critics, according to a 54% on Rotten Tomatoes... no joke!), Princess could be nothing but spectacular compared to it.
    • Big Hero 6 got hit with this for similar reasons to The Sword in the Stone. While the movie itself was far from a failure, it does tend to get overlooked because it was released in between the cultural juggernaut Frozen and the enormously popular Zootopia, both of which made over a billion dollars at the box office. It also leads into the problem of optics: Frozen and Zootopia were sleeper hits that weren't expected to make anywhere near as much money as they did, while Big Hero 6 was a superhero movie made during a golden age of superhero movie profitability, so while its $657 million gross does make it one of the biggest movies ever for Disney Animation, it also made it the lowest-grossing major superhero film of 2014. Its opening weekend was in fact considered so unremarkable that the Hollywood trades didn't even focus on Big Hero 6 taking the #1 spot in the U.S., but rather on Christopher Nolan's hugely-anticipated Interstellar "embarrasingly" taking the #2 spot behind a Disney cartoon. It doesn't help that people in countries like the UK had to wait months before it came to cinemas there, by which point most people had either watched it illegally or just lost interest.
  • Pixar:
    • Lee Unkrich admitted to waking up physically ill from worry while directing Toy Story 3, afraid he would screw up the series. He turned out to be wrong, as the third film was warmly accepted by the fans and critics alike.
    • Unfortunately, that warm response has made Toy Story 3 this for Pixar; their next film, Cars 2, was the company's first outright failure with critics, while Brave didn't exactly help matters (in spite of it still garnering positive reviews and winning the Best Animated Feature Oscar for 2012, it was a surprise win over Disney's better-recieved Wreck-It Ralph), with Monsters University being the studio's lone standout of the period (the critically better-received of the trio). It didn't seem to shake off the cobwebs until the release of Inside Out.
    • The Good Dinosaur then fell into this rut as well. The film's delayed release resulted in it debuting just five months after Inside Out, the film that was heralded as Pixar's return to form and one of the greatest family films of the decade, if not of all time. As a result, the movie was generally well-received, more so than Pixar's Cars 2 beforehand, but not nearly as much as its predecessor and only around the same lines as Brave and Monsters University. More concerning, it's also the first Pixar film to actually be a domestic Box Office Bomb after 20 years of the studio's filmography (Pixar's rivals at Disney Animation and DreamWorks Animation had bombs handed to them rather early in their existence, with Pinocchio and Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas, respectively.)
    • Expectations for Finding Dory were extremely high, both due to coming 13 years after its predecessor Finding Nemo and the fact that it would center on Fan Favorite Dory.. Consensus-wise, Finding Dory isn't seen as epic-scale as the hype led expectations for it to be, but is still regarded by many to be a worthy follow-up to Finding Nemo nonetheless (especially with its record-breaking box-office results, such as the highest-grossing animated film in North America since Shrek 2).
  • Pixar's rivals at Dreamworks Animation are also liable to suffer this as well:
    • Shark Tale came out just after Shrek 2 became a smash. The film's attempt into a more mature story (the death of an instrumental character) didn't tune in with either audiences nor critics, and was received much less favorably. This film also followed Finding Nemo, and got two negative labels: being called a mess all of the negative cliches DWA has been derided for, and having the lowest Rotten Tomatoes score out of all of their movies. It didn't help that the studio's following film, Madagascar would become wildly popular.
    • Monsters vs. Aliens was a milder version, as it was sandwiched between Kung Fu Panda and How to Train Your Dragon, with both becoming notable for marking Dreamworks' turn into more story-based films.
    • The studio entered a devastating rout after Madagascar: Europe's Most Wanted: A few films like The Croods, Mr. Peabody & Sherman and How To Train Your Dragon 2 became modest successes although neither got much notice. On the other side, Rise of the Guardians, Turbo and Penguins of Madagascar became notorious bombs that almost bankrupted the studio. After Penguins was released, DreamWorks's PDI branch was closed while COO Mark Zoradi (a 30-year Disney vet who had only joined the studio months earlier), and CCO Bill Damaschke were fired. By 2015 however, Home gave studio a badly-needed boost and Kung Fu Panda 3 became as successful as the series' previous entries.
    • Shrek the Third and Shrek Forever After also struggled to live up to the well received first two movies in the series.
  • My Little Pony: Equestria Girls – Rainbow Rocks is considered a Surprisingly Improved Sequel and Growing the Beard to the Equestria Girls Spin-Off. Its sequel, My Little Pony: Equestria Girls – Friendship Games, had a lot to live up to. Opinions are divided regarding how well it compares.
    • My Little Pony: The Movie (2017) has a character example in the form of the Storm King: Compared to other villains and ex-villains of the series like Tirek or Discord, or even Tempest Shadow within this movie, he comes off underwhelming. He doesn't show up until halfway in the movie and once he finally does show up, his performance is pretty lackluster. He falls into the typical villain traps, and despite having the combined magical power of the Princesses in his staff, he's easily thwarted by the good guys.
  • Warner Animation Group
    • The Lego Batman Movie had the bad luck to follow the critically acclaimed The LEGO Movie. While Batman is seen as a good movie, which turned a profit at the box office, it's generally considered somewhat of a step down, with much lower tallies than TLM.
    • Storks was an even bigger example, being Warner Animation Group's second movie, and its first entirely original property. This movie had a different crew behind it, and was met with far less praise from critics, as well as having to contend with The Magnificent Seven on opening weekend. While it was ultimately the more profitable film thanks to a lower budget and far better overseas numbers ($109.7 million compared to The Magnificent Seven's $68.9), it was still considered a disappointment by Warner Bros.
    • The LEGO Ninjago Movie failed to win over critics who enjoyed both of the two previous theatrical Lego movies, with reviews calling it too generic, with less effort to appeal to older audience members. These turned it into WAG’s first movie with a Rotten RT score.

    Pinballs 
  • Most of Pat Lawlor's pins after The Addams Family and The Twilight Zone are unfairly dismissed by players just because they fail (or are perceived to fail) to live up to the lofty standards set by those two blockbusters.
  • Popeye Saves the Earth just happened to come after big successes in pinball like the aforementioned The Twilight Zone and Star Trek: The Next Generation. Though far from the best game ever made, it was critically ravaged like it was the worst. This affected the manufacturer quite heavily, as this string of successes prompted arcade operators to pre-order pinball machines in large quantities sight unseen, confident that whatever was released next would be just as good. However, the weak early response to Popeye Saves the Earth by players terrified these operators, knowing they had paid a lot of money for Popeye Saves the Earth without the ability to return them. Some arcade game historians say that Popeye Saves the Earth falling below expectations scared enough operators from buying pinball that it was a direct cause of the industry's near total collapse a few years later.

    Pro Wrestling 
  • Starrcade 86 was the last hurrah of Jim Crockett Promotions, and perhaps, the National Wrestling Alliance, as the NWA would survive but never again reach such heights. JCP, though, was dead within two years. Of course, this was somewhat deliberate, as Vince McMahon was hard at work to ensure Starrcade '87 would flop, going so far as to create another pay per view (Survivor Series) for the sole purpose of running against it and telling all the cable companies that picking Starrcade meant they wouldn't get WrestleMania IV the next year.
  • This typically happens on a PPV when the best match of the night isn't the main event. Shawn Michaels was particularly guilty of this throughout his career, hence his nickname "The Show Stealer".
    • King of the Ring 1998: The infamous Hell in a Cell match between The Undertaker and Mankind. This match is so damn iconic that most people don't even remember that this wasn't the main event of that PPV, which was "Stone Cold" Steve Austin vs Kane in a First Blood match, nor the titular tournament that took place that night, which was won by Ken Shamrock.
    • WrestleMania X8: The Rock vs Hulk Hogan. This is a weird case in that though it headlined the PPV, it wasn't the main event because it didn't go last like it was supposed to. Instead, management lobbied for the title match between Triple H and Chris Jericho to go last instead (something both men protested heavily).
    • WrestleMania XXV: Shawn Michaels vs The Undertaker. They showed up everybody, and the crowd was effectively dead for the rest of the night. Understandably, their rematch next year was made the main event (aided by the fact that it was HBK's retirement match).
    • Money in the Bank 2011: CM Punk vs John Cena. This match got a five star rating from Dave Meltzer — the last time the WWE managed that was the first Hell in a Cell match between HBK and the Undertaker (which was also Kane's debut). While every match Punk and Cena had together afterwards easily clocked at four stars and above, it's kinda hard to match this one for a variety of reasons, mainly being the atmosphere just isn't as charged as it was as Chicago, and the stakes just weren't as high, lowering the drama factor. It's not helped that this is considered to be one of the best matches WWE has put on in years (with some even going on to say that it's the best match in WWE history).
    • WrestleMania XXVIII: Triple H vs The Undertaker in Hell in a Cell with Shawn Michaels as the special guest referee. In a 'Mania headlined by The Rock vs John Cena, this is the match that everyone thinks about.
    • WWE NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn: Bayley vs Sasha Banks. The fact that it was a Divas match of all things made it more surprising, but afterwards many consider it to be the greatest women's match in WWE history (despite the fact that it was on a developmental brand), and one of the matches of the year. In fact, the biggest, glaring flaw that everyone saw in the Finn Bálor vs Kevin Owens ladder match, a sure show stealer on any other card, was the fact that it had to follow this one, and that match was relegated to a footnote. It was so good that their rematch got to headline the next special, making history in the process.
    • WrestleMania 29: CM Punk vs The Undertaker. Granted, this one is debatable seeing as not only was it the best match, many believe it was the only good match on the card (besides the always decent Daniel Bryan match).
    • WWE NXT TakeOver: Dallas: Sami Zayn vs Shinsuke Nakamura. Expectations were already high enough considering the resumes both had, and this was Nakamura's debut match and Zayn's last NXT match, but then both men proceeded to blow those expectations out of the water. An instant classic, this match is nigh-universally considered the best match in all of 2016's WrestleMania weekend and one of the forerunners for match of the year. Even the highly anticipated Asuka vs Bayley match for the NXT Women's Championship wasn't able to live up to it, nor was the rematch for the NXT Championship between Samoa Joe and Finn Bálor, and both, under normal circumstances, would've been sure fire contenders for match of the night.
    • Battleground 2016: Sami Zayn vs Kevin Owens. Great spots, perfect storytelling, and an emotional ending, it was the perfect match to cap off their rivalry (for now). What makes this even better is that this show had The Shield Triple Threat for the WWE Championship on it, and that was an amazing match as well. The fact that Zayn and KO managed to steal the show from one of the most anticipated matches in WWE history is nothing short of astounding.
    • WWE Roadblock: Dean Ambrose vs Triple H. Though it was mainly this in regards to Roman Reigns vs Triple H at WrestleMania 32. It was absolutely no secret that most fans wanted Ambrose in the main event that year. While the company wasn't willing to relent on Reigns, they gave a title match to Ambrose at a WWE Network special as compensation, while Reigns was out for his deviated septum. The match Ambrose had with Hunter ended up being the main forerunner for Match of the Year until Nakamura/Zayn happened at Dallas. Ultimately, the match Reigns and Hunter had wasn't able to live up to it.
    • WWE NXT TakeOver: New Orleans: The entire event was this for the upcoming WrestleMania 34, and arguably for every NXT TakeOver special from here on out. Already having its own Tough Act to Follow in WWE NXT TakeOver: Philadelphia, which ended in a five star classic between then-NXT Champion Andrade 'Cien' Almas and Johnny Gargano (the first WWE match to get this rating since the above-mentioned Cena/Punk match seven years ago), New Orleans completely outdid Philadelphia, with only one match clocking below four stars, and being bookended by two five star matches; the opening match, which was an epic six man-ladder match to crown the first ever North American Champion, and the main event, which was the long-anticipated unsanctioned grudge match between former tag team partners turned bitter Arch-Enemies Johnny Gargano and Tommaso Ciampa.
    • WrestleMania 34: Ronda Rousey and Kurt Angle vs Stephanie McMahon and Triple H. Yes, really. Blowing even the best expectations out of the water, this match completely undid the entire crowd, and Ronda went from being derided by the IWC to their newest darling almost as soon as the match was over. It was so good that even Dave Meltzer felt that WrestleMania should've been over after that. Not even the highly-anticipated AJ Styles vs. Shinsuke Nakamura match (which had the added handicaps of a dead crowd and Hype Backlash) could live up to it.
  • WCW in regards to TNA. TNA was originally created to fill the void that WCW left — the problem was that the times had changed and a lot of the stuff that made WCW so big were either regarded as passé or had their flaws magnified by TNA's attempts to rehash it. Then they started emulating the stuff that killed WCW during its disastrous final years (not-so-coincidentally, this was when Vince Russo returned to the booking team), and somehow made WCW look better in comparison.
  • The NXT women's division as a whole pulled this on the main roster women from the 2014-2015 period. NXT started giving the women time to wrestle, feuds that had meaning, fans were into them and the matches were usually hits. The match that really put NXT's women on the map - Charlotte vs Natalya at Takeover - was followed by a series of lackluster matches in the feud between AJ Lee and Paige. General consensus was that the main roster women's matches were okay, but had no chance of overshadowing NXT. The 2014 TLC PPV was the worst offender, taking place only five days after an NXT special.
  • The annual Royal Rumble PPV always has the titular match as the main event. By nature of the match's design, the Royal Rumble keeps the crowd constantly active, wearing them out by the end when they finally reach the winner. As a result, the rare occurrence where the match isn't in the main event has the following matches having to endure dead crowds. This problem only got worse during the 2018 Royal Rumble PPV, where there were two Rumble matches thanks to the historic, first ever women's Royal Rumble. Because of the novelty of the match, the women's match was the main event that year and the men's match was placed in the middle of the show, exhausting the Philadelphia crowd for the following two matches. The women's match managed to wake them up, but needed the aid of a proportionally larger amount of nostalgia/surprise entrants than the usual Rumble match (going by the formula of the men's match) to do so.

    Sports 
  • Any team that was led to success by a standout athlete has trouble after he goes away - best example being the Michael Jordan-less Chicago Bulls.
    • Or the Denver Broncos without John Elway. It's actually eerie how similar those two turned out: Jordan was universally regarded as basketball's greatest player, while Elway was a top class quarterback. Both retired in 1999 after winning championships, and neither team has truly recovered. (Of course, Jordan came back with another team, but we prefer to not think about that)
    • Another would be the 49ers without Jerry Rice or Joe Montana, as well as the Dolphins without Dan Marino, and the Bills without Jim Kelly.
    • In Formula One, Ferrari after Michael Schumacher. Or any other team.
      • Schumacher's career after he returned to the sport after retirement. The most race wins in Formula One history, most driver championships and all around legendary. Naturally it would be impossible for him to live up to his own record since he hadn't raced in F1 for a number of years and he wasn't in a team as good as Ferrari. Initially he got some flack (which everybody noted for being unreasonable) for not being his "old self" but his post-retirement career has been respectable. Fortunately, this made Kimi Raikkonen's return to the sport easier as people accepted that they couldn't expect too much - his post-retirement career has been equally respectable.
      • In Brazil, anyone after Senna - Rubens Barrichello in particular got some flack from being the new Brazilian driver but unlike Senna not having his prowess, powerful car or luck, until, that is, he pulled the proverbial rabbit out of his hat by beating The Stig!
      • In the UK this has an odd occurrence, having produced so many successful drivers means that not one of them is overwhelmingly considered to be the greatest (Moss, Clark, Stewart, Hill and Mansell all being equally well regarded for example) but the commentary partnership of Murray Walker and James Hunt (or Martin Brundle) and the BBC's use of "The Chain" as the theme song for the coverage are so etched into the public mind that any other suggestions will always be compared to that.
    • Every Brazilian National Football (Soccer) Team after the Pelé-led team of Mexico 1970. The winning teams of 1994 and 2002 have come close, but since Korea-Japan the team has been increasingly beaten in any World Cup they are in, leading to the "Verde-amarela"'s infamous 7x1 loss against Germany in the 2014 World Cup.
    • Argentina and the "Maradona Curse": Diego Maradona's infamous doping-related retirement in the 1994 World Cup led to the downfall of the same team which had won two World Cups in 1978 and 1986, and the last two (South) America Cups, their 1993 championship being the most recent trophy for the "Albiceleste". And while they got the upper hand in Brazil '14, they werer crushed by Germany in the finals, while beaten one year later by Chile in the 2015 Copa América (and one year later as well in the "Centennial Cup"). This has gotten to the point Messi has been mocked for his subpar performance for his national team while being Barcelona's superstar.
    • Also in soccer: the USA women's national team after the groundbreaking World Cup champions of 1999. Despite four Olympic golds since then, the current women still haven't gotten out from under the shadow of the 1999 team. The 2011 World Cup team came close, but lost to Japan in the final. In 2015 however, the US beat Germany, being their first Cup in 16 years.
    • English examples. England's 1966 World Cup winning squad (The Brit team of later years has been more notorious for its failures). Liverpool in the 1980's (They have not won a league title since 1990!) Manchester United's 1999 Treble winning side, Arsenal's Invincibles from 2004.
    • The New York Yankees will never be as loved as when they had Babe Ruth. They probably will never even be as loved as when they had Mickey Mantle. Respected, maybe. Feared, yes...
    • Bill Mazeroski, the Hall of Fame second baseman for the Pittsburgh Pirates, called his walk-off home run to win the 1960 World Series to complete an upset of the Yankees "a curse in disguise." He was never a prolific hitter, and outside of Pirates fans, people saw only that home run, not realizing he is the best defensive second baseman to have ever played the game.
    • Roger Maris, after breaking Babe Ruth's single season record for home runs claimed the rest of his career would have been "a helluva lot more fun" had he never done that.
    • Any league with a salary cap essentially forces this as any team with a surprisingly good year is forced to get rid of half their players since they're now demanding pay raises, especially if they win the championship. Aversions happen in teams that are centered around a few key players or have excellent general managers.
    • When legendary goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel left Manchester United in 2000, the Red Devils had a tough time finding a 'keeper good enough to replace him; Mark Bosnich and Massimo Taibi were busts, Fabian Barthez was good but inconsistent, Roy Carroll wasn't good enough, and Tim Howard only became a star after he was transferred to Everton. In 2006, United finally got a star GK in Edwin Van Der Sar; some even consider him better than Schmeichel left. This was averted when Van Der Sar retired in 2011; while replacement goalkeeper David De Gea initially had some struggles, he eventually adapted to the Premier League and became one of the best, if not THE best, 'keepers in the world (while becoming Spain's own replacement for Iker Casillas).
  • Manchester United manager cases:
    • No manager has been successful at replacing Sir Alex Ferguson. Fergie's replacement David Moyes was an abject failure, turning a title-winner into a mid-table side, while Moyes's own successor Louis Van Gaal was widely derided for boring tactics, underachievement versus smaller teams, and a host of disappointing signings.note 
    • The managers who came after Matt Busby's retirement in 1969 suffered from this: Wilf McGuinness was out of his depth, Frank O'Farrell didn't get along with the players and made some terrible signings, Tommy Docherty relegated the Red Devils (he did bring then back to the top flight, though, made a couple of title challenges and won the FA Cup) Dave Sexton's style of play was sleep-inducing, and Ron Atkinson, despite never finishing lower than fourth and winning two FA Cups couldn't knock Liverpool off their 80's dominance. Ferguson himself was close to being another failed successor to Busby, but an FA cup win in 1990, followed by great signings (Peter Schmeichel, Andrei Kanchelskis, Denis Irwin, and Eric Cantona) and a legendary batch of Academy graduates, ensured that he would successfully live up to Busby's legacy and outshine Busby himself.
  • This trope is partly the reason why Oakland A's fans hate current owner Lew Wolff. The A's former owners Charlie Finley and Walt Haas were nothing short of legendary; Finley was an eccentric yet successful owner who headed the small-market A's during their early 70's "Swinging A's" dominance (thanks in no small part to guys like Catfish Hunter and Reggie Jackson), while Haas became well loved due to his excellence as an owner (the late 80's-early 90's A's successes were under his ownership) and his constant presence in the East Bay community. Wolff, on the other hand, is a cheapskate who doesn't really care about the A's; his refusal to spend money was what caused the A's to constantly lose stars like Jason Giambi, Johnny Damon, Barry Zito, Yoenis Cespedes, and Josh Donaldson. If it weren't for Billy Beane's Moneyball-based genius, the A's in the 2000's would've become a bigger joke than their equally unsuccessful Oakland neighbors (the pre-Curry Warriors and the post-Gruden Raiders).
  • The Olympic Games are prone to this. Heaven forbid any athlete returning for their second, third, etc Games doesn't match or improve on their previous performance—1992 Albertville gold medalist Kristi Yamaguchi saw this coming a mile away and decided not to return for the 1994 Lillehammer Games.
    • Any sensational record in any sports. At the 1968 Summer Olympics, Bob Beamon set a world record for the long jump with a jump of 8.90 m. Prior to this, the world record had been broken thirteen times since 1901, with an average increase of 6 cm; Beamon's jump bettered the existing record by 55 cm. The defending Olympic champion, Lynn Davies told Beamon, "You have destroyed this event." The record stood until 1991. Beamon himself never won another Olympic medal.
    • The absolutely daunting task that any future Olympic Games swimmer will have to face if they try to defeat Michael Phelps' record in Beijing 2008 of winning 8 gold medals in a single Olympics. As of Rio 2016, with 28 medals (23 gold, 3 silver, and 2 bronze) to his name, Phelps is the most decorated Olympian EVER in any event. And to top it off, by surpassing the 12 individual titles won by Leonidas of Rhodes in 152 BC, he also broke a 2168-year-old record set during the Ancient Olympic Games themselves.
    • Jamaica has been desperately searching for its next Usain Bolt since before the Rio Games, with him making it clear that they would be his last and not wanting to lose their well-established sprint dominance. Even so, regardless of nationality, it's unlikely his legendary record of three-peat victories in the 100m, 200m, and 4*100m will ever be matched or broken.
    • The 2000 US Women's gymnastics team faced this going into the Sydney Games, knowing that they would be unlikely to measure up to the Magnificent 7 of 1996. Indeed, the team failed to medal—the bronze medal that they were eventually awarded was given ten years later and by default. While the 2016 team averted this, winning gold just like its predecessor (and performing even better), it's safe to say the 2020 team might suffer from this too.
  • As for personal tough acts to follow, quintuple Olympic ski jumping champion Matti Nykänen is a particularly sad case — not only did his sports career plummet with his failure in adopting the modern V style, so did his life. From The Other Wiki: since the 1990s, his status as a celebrity has mainly been fuelled (...) by his colourful personal relationships, his "career" as a "singer," and various incidents often related to heavy use of alcohol and violent behaviour.
  • Brett Favre, after signing with the Minnesota Vikings, had the best season of his career, almost taking the team to the Super Bowl. The second season with them... well...
  • When Andy Roddick won his first Grand Slam and became the World No. 1 in 2003, he was expected to continue the dominant American Tennis tradition on the heels of Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi. Unfortunately, Roger Federer shot to the top of the tennis world soon after and Roddick would never again win a Slam or hold the No. 1 position, but it's a sure bet that even if Federer hadn't been around to beat Roddick in four Slam finals, he would still have been doomed to fall short of Sampras's 14 Slams and Agassi's 8 in spite of being good enough to be included in the Tennis Channel's list of top 100 players.
  • In 2012, Novak Djokovic won one Grand Slam, the year-end championships, a total of six titles, and finished the year as No. 1, which would qualify as an incredible season by any reasonable standard — but since this came right after his otherworldly 2011 season in which he won three Grand Slams and went undefeated for over 40 matches, the general consensus of his 2012 season was that it was "good, but not as good as his 2011 season."
  • The 70s dynasty of the "Steel Curtain" Pittsburgh Steelers is not only hard to follow for the franchise itself, but also for most teams in the NFL, even the ones that succeeded in creating Super Bowl winning dynasties themselves. In the case of the Super Bowl, it's called the "Super Bowl Hangover"; the New England Patriots were the last back-to-back Super Bowl Champions, and, until the 2014 season, were the last team to win a playoff game after winning the Super Bowl the previous season. The latter part was broken by the 2014 Seahawks, who made Super Bowl XLIX, but lost to the Patriots.
  • It's common in season previews to treat the last champion that retained its core players with "anything less than a repeat will be a disappointment for fans".
  • Any athlete who is the son or daughter of a sporting legend will be compared to their parent. This is subverted (or even inverted) by kids of athletes who outshine their parents in their sport. Examples include Kobe Bryant (son of Jellybean Bryant), Peyton Manning (son of Archie Manning), Stephen Curry (son of Dell Curry), Klay Thompson (son of Mychal Thompson), and Frank Lampard (son of Frank Lampard Sr.)
  • With the conclusion of Rugby World Cup 2015, with the New Zealand Team - The All Blacks - standing victorious once again, the retirement of rugby legends Richie McCaw, Keven Mealamu, Dan Carter, Conrad Smith, Ma'a Nonu and Tony Woodcock has rugby fans feeling this trope deeply.
  • The Edmonton Oilers have had an extremely tough time following the sudden departure of Wayne Gretzky in 1988. Everyone swore he couldn't be traded, but indeed he was, and the Oilers were left struggling to find their identity without him. Decades came and went with the Oilers struggling to even maintain a decent seasonal record, let alone find their next Gretzky (though they did win one Cup without him), before they finally seem to have struck gold with Connor McDavid, who to boot wears 97 on his jersey - just two away from the league-forbidden 99 (though the Oilers retired it on their own before the League at large did). Gretzky's 99 banner might not be all that big, but it certainly casts a huge shadow for McDavid and his teammates to skate under. He seems largely up for the task, though, guiding the Oilers farther than they had been in years in just his second season of playing for them in 2017. That's not to say there's no pressure on him to turn things around for this franchise, though...

    Theater 
  • Gilbert and Sullivan struggled with this after the mega-hit, The Mikado. Gilbert darkly suggested renaming their next operetta, Ruddigore, to Kensington Gore: Or, Not Quite So Good as The Mikado. Ruddigore was erroneously considered a flop in Gilbert's lifetime (the original run of Ruddigore was 288 performances, good by any standard except comparison to the 672 performances in the original run of The Mikado); Special Effect Failure on its opening night may have contributed to its underwhelming reception. 20th century revivals restored the work's reputation.
  • Meredith Willson's first Broadway musical, The Music Man, achieved great popular and critical success. Of his three subsequent musicals, each was less successful and less distinguished than the previous one, with his final show (1491) closing before reaching Broadway.
  • Mitch Leigh had an even worse record: all the musicals he wrote after Man of La Mancha were atrocious flops.
  • The Phantom of the Opera is this for Andrew Lloyd Webber — while several of his subsequent shows did decent/fine business in his native England (Sunset Boulevard also did well in the U.S.), he's never had another international sensation along the lines of Evita, Cats, Starlight Express, or Phantom. In 2010 he brought out a sequel to Phantom, Love Never Dies, but its reception has been extremely mixed.
  • For Lerner and Loewe, one reason Camelot disappointed so many people was that it was their follow-up to the sensation that was My Fair Lady.
  • Boublil and Schonberg followed up Les Misérables with Miss Saigon, a critical and popular smash that introduced the world to a seventeen-year-old Filipina phenom named Lea Salonga. But not even Miss Saigon can top the longest-running, best-written, best-loved, best-known, and quite possibly best musical ever produced. Interestingly, Les Mis is so good that no one really cares what Boublil and Schonberg have gotten up to since - they wrote Les Mis and are therefore entitled to write whatever else they damn please.
  • Even though Stephen Schwartz was well known at the time, this could almost be said to apply to Wicked. Nothing he did before it even comes close to Wicked 's level of popularity and revivals of some of his older work (notably Godspell which is returning to Broadway) now carry the advertisement: "From the creator of Wicked" (with occasionally Pippin being mentioned as an afterthought).
  • 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).

    Toys 
  • BIONICLE:
    • The story was so, well, huge, that its successor line Hero Factory gets a considerable amount of hate for its bare-bones, simple-to-follow plot and minimalistic characterization. Complainers tend to overlook the fact that even so, HF's story is still a tad more complex than that of an average, non-licensed LEGO line, and its characters are among the most developed of any original-LEGO characters (if still far from Bionicle's). LEGO themselves consider HF a wholly separate entity — a line that occupies the same niche as Bionicle, but it's not a follow-up. Further, they deliberately set out to avoid creating another complicated universe such as that of Bionicle, partly because of this trope, but mostly because a simpler story is easier to promote to younger kids, which the Periphery Demographic has a hard time realizing.
    • BIONICLE 2015 was marketed towards fans of the old line in particular to help strengthen the brand. But the old fans felt the story was watered down and too kiddie, unlike the original which had actual planning put into it. The line was cancelled even before LEGO's three year house minimum due to historically poor sales.

    Web Animation 
  • Death Battle: Being by far the most requested, longest, most extensively researched and most viewed of the Death Battle series to date, "Goku vs. Superman" casts a massive shadow over the rest of the series in terms of production, scale and fan excitement. Not that the other episodes aren't enjoyable, but they're more Overshadowed by Awesome. In a more Meta sense, Death Battle is this to every other series ScrewAttack has tried to release — after it was announced that the matchup after "Yang Xiao Long vs. Tifa Lockhart" would be revealed in the season finale for The Industry, many fans deliberately spoiled the ending of the episode by writing the matchup in the comments along with a message along the lines of "There, now you don't have to watch all this just to find out the next Death Battle. You're welcome!"
  • In Mexico, the creator and animator Rulo Barrera has made several web shows and shorts in the past years, but none else compared when he made "El Consultorio del Dr. Goku" an flash animated show were Goku and Vegeta answered questions of real people e-mailed to him in many hilarious ways. With the 9th episode the series were definitively over but any subsequent series or short got the boot from fans and were not as half as popular like Dr. Goku was forcing a short sequel named Dr. Goku 2012 were he ran as president of mexico, then he got other special in the holidays, then another shorter special after, after that due to high demand and poor reception, Rulo made a new Youtube channel and boot up Dr. Goku with a new format, a live talk show (like Space Ghost: Coast to Coast) but flopped badly and then come with a newer format, an slice of life like adventures of him much shorter than the original episodes.
  • Dr. Havoc's Diary is unfortunately overshadowed by the more popular and well-known The Most Popular Girls in School. Though to be fair, the former was only watchable on an American subscription site (Fullscreen) while the latter is everywhere on Youtube.

    Web Comics 
  • Sean Howard has provided this as the reason why he's not writing any more webcomics. A Modest Destiny got very popular for getting very dark, and when he entered emotional recovery he didn't feel he could write like that any more. However, when he tries to write anything more lighthearted, he gets hate letter after hate letter from people demanding that he finish AMD rather than "waste time" on his new project.

    Web Original 
  • When Doug Walker retired The Nostalgia Critic after four years of internet fame in order to pursue a show that he'd been dreaming of doing for ages, the fan-base was split to say the least, with some enjoying it some thinking it wasn't as good as the Nostalgia Critic and others disliking it entirely. This divide ended up cutting into the show's profits and resulted in the return of the Critic, much to the dismay of Doug Walker himself, who loved Demo Reel, and wanted to focus on that project of his dreams; instead having to torch the thing and bring back the character everybody else wanted.
  • Honest Trailers by Screen Junkies consistently generates 1 million+ views for the channel. Other videos they produce, including Movie Fights can rarely exceed the 500k mark.
  • The monumental success of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge in August 2014 has yet to be replicated. The challenge returned in August 2015 but wasn't even 1/100th as popular as it was in 2014. Many other social media fads have been started; the only one that truly took off was "The Dress", and even then it wasn't nearly as big as the Ice Bucket Challenge. It's agreed that a phenomenon like the Ice Bucket Challenge can't be forced, but rather will have to take off organically through word of mouth.

    Western Animation 
  • Beast Wars had such a devoted and passionate fanbase that when Beast Machines premiered, it was held to an impressively high standard and unfortunately, in the eyes of many fans, did not meet expectations. And since then, Beast Wars has become almost like a measuring stick for newer Transformers shows to be compared to.
    • The Transformers franchise suffers from this as a whole. Despite numerous reboots the 1984 series is considered the definitive version. Any new version is compared to it and rarely passes. Even Beast Wars, the most successful reboot had hatedom for a while ("Trukk not munky", et al).
    • One of the reasons why this situation results in numerous arguments among fans is because the Generation 1 show and Beast Wars are seen as "the standard" for different reasons by different people. G1 for many fans is the definition of Transformers — its concepts, the characters, the designs, the overall "feeling" of the show is what hard-core fans want to re-experience in every new cartoon. Beast Wars, on the other hand (and nowadays Transformers Animated and Transformers Prime as well), is used as a comparison point because it is a generally good, solid, quality production. In short, part of the fandom strives for the preservation of details between the different TF iterations, while the other isn't so concerned about these, just want a show that's good in its own right.
    • Another Transformers show that gets this is Transformers: Robots in Disguise, which directly follows the generally well-regarded Transformers Prime. The general consensus is that trying to be a sequel to Prime is Ri D's entire problem; if taken as its own story that just happens to be set in the same continuity, it's pretty enjoyable and fun. However if taken as an epic continuation of Prime, as the creators described it, than it stumbles badly, as Ri D largely leaves Prime alone, merely using that show as a source of backstory.
  • Many of the revivals of Looney Tunes have suffered from trying to live up to the quality of the original Golden Age theatrical cartoons. That said, Space Jam and The Looney Tunes Show tried to avert this by intentionally going in a different direction from the original shorts (sans the new Wile E Coyote CG shorts)—the latter show's producers even admitted that they did this because they realized by that point that trying to imitate the original cartoons would only lead to more failures. Some were happy, but most were not.
  • The Flintstones: The first succesful animated sitcom on TV proved particularly difficult to top, even for Hanna & Barbera themselves. They tried with The Jetsons, but it never caught on quite the same way. Virtually every Hanna-Barbera animated TV series after that failed to duplicate the enormous success The Flintstones had with both adults and children. Scooby-Doo was the closest they got in duplicating the commercial success, but it was definitely more of a children's show and also received that way by adults. Eventually the first animated TV sitcom hit to surpass the success of The Flintstones with children and adults would be The Simpsons.
  • The Simpsons is another example of this trope. Many animated series have tried to duplicate its succesful format, but none have become quite the commercial and critical success with both children and adults. Yes, South Park, Family Guy, and Rick and Morty have all become commercial hits, but strictly with adults, and all of them are too crass and lowbrow vulgar for mainstream audiences; The Simpsons has somewhat of a more dignified stature, especially among adults. Even Matt Groening's own followup, Futurama, failed to attract the same colossal audience and is still nothing more than a Cult Classic, cancelled and revived several times in a row.
    • Anything past the acclaimed sixth season of The Simpsons gave the seasons fallowing that a high standard to live up to.
  • South Park has broken so much taboos and shocked so many audiences that no other TV series, animated or live-action, has been able to create a similar Refuge in Audacity show and stay on the air as long as they did. And even their imitators and successors don't dare to go as far as Trey Parker and Matt Stone often go in their subject matter.
  • The Un-Canceled Family Guy has had similar problems living up to its first few seasons.
  • Batman:
  • Just like its predecessor (Batman: The Animated Series), Superman: The Animated Series is very popular with fans and considered to be the definitive Superman adaptation to the point of which that the subsequent different adaptations focusing on the character (particularly the live-action ones) tend to be negatively compared to this series and considered inferior to it. It does help that Superman: TAS is more grounded (by Superman standards) than most adaptations while still managing to be lighthearted, entertaining, idealistic, adventurous, relatable, and extremely faithful to the source material and mythology of the original Superman comics with only some minor deviations (some of them have made it into the comics no less), which is one of the many things that the live action adaptations have failed to accomplish (as they tend to be either too campy, dramatic, or, as of recently, depressingly Wangsty and too different from the source material).
  • The Spectacular Spider-Man is based on the original Spider-Man stories with a similar balance of action, drama and humor, it also tends to use material from all eras of the comic's run and other sources such as the film series and the Ultimate Spider-Man comics. The series updated characters and stories for the 21st century while still being very faithful to its characters in the comics, and managed to fit a relatively high amount of depth. Unfortunately, Sony Pictures Television's rights to Spidey expired, which resulted in a premature cancellation, and the rise of a new cartoon: Ultimate Spider-Man. Several Marvel fans find that it doesn't take itself very seriously, and the characters don't seem as endearing. The high level of Cutaway Gags and running gags in Ultimate Spider-Man can make it unbearable to sit through for viewers wanting more drama and/or characterization.
  • The first animated Peanuts special, A Charlie Brown Christmas, attracted half of the nation's TV viewers of its time, won a Pulitzer Prize, and continues to air every winter to this day. The second, Charlie Brown's All-Stars, didn't win any awards, and only airs sporadically these days. The fact Charlie Brown's second most popular TV special came a few months afterward probably pushed it even deeper into obscurity.
  • Avengers, Assemble! has the misfortune of following The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes! among cartoons based on The Avengers. After the series' announcement, fans already felt like cursing Marvel Animation for not going beyond 52 episodes of Earth's Mightiest Heroes, despite the fact the announcement said nothing more than, "A new Avengers cartoon will come next year."
  • When Recess premiered in 1997 as one of the premiere shows of One Saturday Morning, it attracted a huge fanbase (most being a part of the Periphery Demographic) and critical acclaim, as well as being nominated for many awards (and winning one), getting a very successful movie (and two direct-to-video films), and gaining various types of merchandise, while the rest of the shows on the block eventually faded into obscurity. In 2001, the creators made another show for the block, Lloyd in Space, which despite getting very good ratings and reception, it never matched the popularity Recess had (and eventually got Screwed by the Network). The later Pound Puppies series from the same creators is also not looked on upon as fondly as Recess.
  • John Kricfalusi hit the proverbial jackpot with the amazing success of Ren and Stimpy in the 1990s. Most, if not all, of his subsequent cartoons have been widely panned, or at best receive a So Okay, It's Average response.
  • While Avatar: The Last Airbender is widely beloved, both the comic book continuations The Promise, The Search, and The Rift, and the sequel series The Legend of Korra had a more mixed reception, and while generally considered to be good, are rarely considered to be equal to the original series.
  • The original Fox seasons of Futurama have built a reputation as a Sacred Cow, with a rabid fanbase hailing them as dripping with perfection. Both the Direct-to-Video miniseries' and especially the Comedy Central seasons have been doomed to the highest levels of scrutiny in comparison.
  • Many fans feel that T.U.F.F. Puppy, Bunsen Is a Beast, and the Post Script Seasons of Fairly OddParents do not measure up to past creations of Butch Hartman, especially since he set the bar so high with Danny Phantom.
  • Ben 10: Omniverse had this problem with its villains. For Big Bad, the first season had Malware, a terrifying and intelligent Knight of Cerebus who was beloved by fans and had the unique gimmick of being an evil mechamorph trying to make his own Omnitrix. After him, none of the other villains were able to capture the same level of interest; the Incurseans, Albedo, the Rooters, Maltruant, and even classic baddies like Vilgax and Zs'Skayr just couldn't compare to him. His departure from the series is cited as one big reason the show went through Seasonal Rot.
  • Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated has cast a noticeable shadow on further TV shows based on Scooby-Doo, thanks to its Darker and Edgier, character and plot-driven, generally more serious take on Scooby-Doo to ever show up on a screen, and was one of the best-received Scooby shows ever. Subsequently, further adaptations such as Be Cool, Scooby-Doo! and Scooby-Doo and Guess Who? have been met with a general reaction of "cool, but it won't hold a candle to Mystery Incorporated" from the fanbase. Especially the former show (to the point of Internet Backdraft), as it showed a shift into a much Denser and Wackier tone and art-style compared to Mystery Incorporated.
  • For a while many felt that Kim Possible was Disney Channel's last great show and that the channel fell into a rut since, with Phineas and Ferb being the only good show that was keeping it afloat for years. Fortunately, Gravity Falls was able to live up to the channel's original standards. However, with both Phineas and Ferb and Gravity Falls having ended within months of each other, the void has returned, barring maybe Star vs. the Forces of Evil.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic:
    • The Season Five finale "The Cutie Re-Mark Parts 1 and 2", while by no means horrible, is this towards the Season Four finale "Twilight's Kingdom Parts 1 and 2" since the Season Four finale had so much high-octane action, characters, twists, adventure, and stakes that kept building up over Season 4 and before it. "The Cutie Re-Mark" seems much more subdued and anti-climactic in comparison as it lacks most if not all of these traits, with the Mane Five and other important characters being demoted to background characters and Twilight Sparkle being thrust into the spotlight once again being a particular sore spot among viewers. Other aspects like Starlight Glimmer, her backstory, and the resolution only made things tougher for it.

      "Twilight's Kingdom" also made spectacularly radical changes to the show's formula and Status Quo to really send the season off with a bang. "The Cutie Re-Mark" on the other hand, didn't really make overly big changes. Starlight Glimmer's backstory was also a case of this: her motive of "I lost a friend and it ruined everything" was practically identical to Moondancer's from "Amending Fences", which is almost universally considered to be the highest point and most emotional moment of the entire season: good luck following that. "Twilight's Kingdom" also offered the Heel–Face Turn of another villain (Discord) that was viewed as very well done, making Starlight Glimmer's, despite it being a bigger focus, come off as lacking.
    • Season 5 in general is seen as a tough act to follow to Season 4, which was seen as a return to form for the show. From the aforementioned characters, Starlight Glimmer, and the Season finale, Season 5 is a hot point of contention because of the lack of any forward planning and interesting arcs and stories Season 4 hadnote  The mid-season hiatus has not helped matters either.
    • Season 6's finale "To Where and Back Again Parts 1 and 2" also came off as underwhelming compared to the previous two seasons. This one has even less action and cinematic feel, the Mane Six are total non-characters, and there isn't even a song at the end. For perspective: unlike Twilight in the last two season finales, Starlight and her group have no means of fighting back against the Big Bad until the very end, where Only the Author Can Save Them Now.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants: Most people agree that the newer episodes have greatly suffered in comparison to the gold standard set by the first three seasons before the first movie and Un-Cancellation. The second movie was a return to form, but nevertheless isn't quite as beloved as the show itself. Second-half episodes that had to follow a beloved classic, such as "Home Sweet Pineapple" or "Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy V", are also seen as this to some people (with first-half episodes like "The Secret Box" and "Krabby Land" seen as the inverse of this).
  • Every DC cartoon has had to deal with this since the end of the beloved and influential DC Animated Universe, which was critically acclaimed for its faithful and mature treatment of the source material. Other DC cartoons have had to escape its shadow, which some fans believe they have yet to do.
  • Samurai Jack had a small problem after being Uncancelled; Mako, the voice for the deliciously evil Aku, had died in 2006, nine years before Season 5 was greenlit and eleven years before it premiered. He was replaced by Greg Baldwin, who had done the same for General Iroh in the last season of Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra following Mako's death, though early consensus is that while Baldwin is doing a good job, he has a long way to go to reach Mako's Aku.
  • Season 3 of Archer received acclaim from both critics and the fans, being considered one of the best seasons of television that year. Season 4, although still considered a good season, received criticism for less interesting, creative plots, and humour that didn't land quite as often.
  • After the first season villain Nox who was both terrifying and very sympathetic, the second season villains of Wakfu, Rushu and Quilby felt rather lackluster, though the latter character has his defenders.
  • Noddy's Toyland Adventures, despite making some changes from the original books, was one of the most popular and faithful adaptations of the original Noddy books, and none of the revivals have been able to match its' success in the UK. The same can be said for the American repackage The Noddy Shop, as Noddy series imported to the country since then have either been Screwed by the Network or have recieved low ratings.
  • Similar to many Disney film series listed above, Winnie-the-Pooh also went through a number of TV series adaptations. The first Welcome to Pooh Corner is a live action variety show that has become largely obscure, though the second show The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh was not only an animated series incredibly loyal to the style of The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, but ran on a good animation budget, had creative and sometimes emotionally powerful story lines, a valid number of the original voice actors, and an Ear Worm of a theme song, averting Disney's usual run with Recycled: The Series by being considered a terrific companion piece to it's respective film. While later shows, The Book of Pooh and My Friends Tigger and Pooh garnered a fan base, they were considered a significant step down from New Adventures, especially due to primarily targeting a pre school audience. Some even go far as to say the later feature length instalments pale compared to New Adventures.

Alternative Title(s): Big Shoes To Fill

Top