Most TV shows that last more than three or four seasons begin the inexorable slide downhill. It's to be expected after so many episodes (especially those long US runs of 22+ shows per year). But there are some series that, for whatever reason, completely lose it.
Whether it's bending their own rules, implementing weird sci-fi tropes or resurrecting one too many characters, these are the TV shows that perhaps should have slowed down and concentrated on what made them great in the first place.
Reason: Too many characters, too confusing
Heroes was the show that everybody and their mom loved in its first season. It was fresh, exciting, funny, full of awesome characters and nothing like anything we'd seen before. But as soon as season two arrived, it had already lost whatever plot it had originally.
Far too many dull characters were introduced, far too many characters overstayed their welcome, and we simply forgot who we were meant to care about and why. Let's take Nathan Petrelli, for example. The airborne politician was shot by his brother from the future, but let's leave that aside, because when he was later killed by Sylar the power-sucking villain, Sylar got tricked by telepathic cop Matt into believing he was Nathan and he continued in that form for most of the next series.
For a show to become such a jumbled mess was heartbreaking. This was the reason no-one cared when the always-going-to-be-disappointing Heroes Reborn arrived.
Reason: Network interference, sci-fi nonsense
The first couple of seasons of this Jerry O'Connell gem was pure sci-fi awesomeness. Quantum Leap for the 1990s. A small group go from world to world in the hopes of finding home.
Jump forward two more seasons and they're nearly all dead, they're fighting a weird alien race called the Kromaggs and O'Connell's Quinn Mallory (Quinn for short) has morphed into a totally new guy also named Quinn Mallory (Mallory for short, in case anyone got confused). Utterly bonkers and nothing like the brilliant show we loved at the start.
It's all Fox's (and later Syfy's) fault. The show's creator was pushed out, other suits came in and wrecked it, even airing episodes out of order for no reason. Maybe Sliderswas the sacrificial show that had to put up with the crap so that sort of stupidity doesn't happen (as much) today.
3| Baywatch Nights
Reason: Hasselhoff taking on aliens
At first, this spinoff from Baywatch didn't sound like a crazy idea. Hasselhoff's character quits his job and starts a detective agency. Fair dos. But then…
Very quickly, The Hoff was battling everything from surfing aliens to serial-killer mermaids to unfrozen Vikings. He even got cloned at one point. Suffice to say, we don't think the whole sci-fi element was ever going to feature in Dwayne Johnson's movie reboot. But .
Reason: Made it up as they went along
While all die-hard Lost fans will insist that Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse always had an endgame, it's probably fair to say they hadn't a clue what they were doing from the moment they brought in the smoke monster, a never-ageing Jacob and the Dharma Initiative. It just went totally bonkers.
By the end, fans just accepted any explanations they received about the mythology of the show (what's a Frozen Donkey Wheel? Ah, don't worry about it. Oh, alright), and when most questions weren't properly answered at all in the show's confusing (yet brilliant) finale, it's hard not to get frustrated about the direction it eventually went.
5| Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman
Reason: They got together and ran out of (sensible) ideas
The beauty of this underrated take on the Superman legend was the Moonlighting-style will-they-won't-they nature of the show (and Dean Cain being generally brilliant).
But as soon as they got together, interest quickly dropped, along with its general quality. They got married by their guardian angel (played by Bosley from Charlie's Angels), and actually time travelled with HG Wells. It went full and no-one got the memo.
6| Prison Break
Reason: They broke out of prison
The first season of Prison Break is up there as one of the all-time greatest seasons on TV, ever. But it was also one of those shows which had a concept that had nowhere to go as soon as they broke free.
Somehow, they managed to get four seasons out of it, until the point where it became a weird Ocean's Eleven/ hybrid in which Michael, Lincoln and co were working for the FBI while trying to uncover a government conspiracy involving their own mum. At least they did actually go back to basics with a prison to break out of in .
This story originally appeared on Esquire.co.uk.
* Minor edits have been made by the Esquiremag.ph editors.