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Game of Thrones and Other Great TV Shows That Ended Horribly
Great television is a lot harder to come by than most people seem to think.
Perhaps it’s because there are so many different networks pushing out new TV shows that we get a bit jaded, but the reality is that truly special visual content is difficult to find.
It’s next to impossible to stretch out a successful show long enough to actually keep you feeling good about it by the time you’re ready to say goodbye, too.
Game of Thrones is near the top of that list.
This is the type of show that gave way to a litany of prop bets from the top entertainment betting websites. It delivered amazing season after amazing season, all the way up until its eighth and final campaign.
And then it took a horrendous nosedive.
That’s subjective, but to say Game of Thrones was great from start to finish would be a lie. After all, you can’t meet that much hype with such an incredible letdown.
Then again, completing a masterpiece to the point where virtually nobody can question it is quite the tall order.
I actually explored the few TV shows that had amazing endings not too long ago, and while it’s just one man’s opinion, the list is understandably not very long.
Also not shockingly, the list of great TV shows with terrible endings could be almost infinite. I looked back to find the best shows ever that simply ran out of gas, though.
Star power and a good start can only do so much. If you struggle to make it to the finish line, your audience is going to notice, and despite a great initial product, sometimes a horrible ending is all you’ll be remembered for.
I’ll still treasure some of these series and even go back and watch the best parts. But the final season/series finales are beyond regrettable.
Here are my picks that could serve as a good barometer for when you can probably just stop watching some of the best TV shows of all time.
Note: There are plenty of spoilers here, so if you see a show you haven’t watched and want to see, you may want to turn away.
That ‘70s Show
You’ll never forget the classic battles between Red and Eric Forman. There’s also the awkwardness of Eric’s love life with Donna, Kelso’s ineptitude in just about every situation, and Fez just being Fez.
Oh, and Hyde just tearing everyone down with zero effort while caught up in his angsty “I don’t care about anything” worldview.
It was the perfect blend of characters to deliver upbeat comedy with nicely timed family themes and coming-of-age lessons. Until it wasn’t.
Forman was the catalyst for this group’s tomfoolery. His innate ability to transcend awkwardness and hilarity constantly ran into (and connected us to) Red’s undying promise to deliver a swift kick in the you know what.
Eric Forman was the main character for a reason. For one, he was the funniest. He also had direct ties to each character and served as the putty-esque nucleus that could be stretched and molded but never replaced.
But then Topher Grace, the actor who played him, left.
Grace opted to seek out bigger projects in Hollywood, foregoing the eighth and final season of the series. That should have probably been a good indication to the producers that it was time to end the show.
Instead of doing that, That ‘70s Show brought Josh Meyers in as a bad replacement option, and his character never took off. What would have been better would be to just follow the remaining characters, but again, Forman was the glue to this series, and removing him killed the show’s heart.
From there, bad writing met less-than-inspired performances and a final season that didn’t at all align with what we’d seen through the first seven seasons. More importantly, it just wasn’t funny.
That ‘70s Show’s terrible ending wasn’t just about one bad final episode. It was about an entire final season that should have never been made. As much as it pains me to say it, the same is very much true about the last two seasons of Scrubs.
A once-proud sitcom tracking the daily grind of doctors and their love lives, Scrubs completely got off track and ultimately got too cute with the move from NBC to ABC.
Zach Braff led the way in as J.D., a self-destructive narcissist who tried to be as human as possible and often did it in horrible fashion. But J.D.’s shortcomings as an actual human being were easy to overlook because Braff was hilarious and worked beautifully off of the effervescent Donald Faison.
If the two pals strolling through Sacred Heart Hospital wasn’t funny enough, we also followed J.D. during his series-long on/off again relationship with scorned lover and fellow doctor Elliott Reid. On top of that, J.D. is constantly seeking the approval of overseeing attending physician Dr. Cox, who, as it turns out, is a professional scene stealer.
Then there is the constant banter and prank war dynamic with the janitor-turned-nemesis, dubbed simply as Janitor.
This is really just scratching the surface of an iconic comedy that is placed in a highly versatile setting, giving way to a variety of plots and intense character development.
But then it changed dramatically.
Instead of giving us any real closure in the environment we got to know our favorite characters in for seven whole seasons, the show changed studios and then moved us to a medical school.
The entire style, direction, production, character portrayals, and writing changed, and even worse, most of the characters made famous by the show were either limited or removed from the series altogether.
It was a cheap, watered-down version of what Scrubs promised it would be for seven seasons. I could have stomached season eight if “My Finale” truly did end it, but this story went on far too long.
The final season was unwatchable, and it’s worth arguing it should have been brought to an end once NBC called it.
There has been a lot of chatter about rebooting The Office. Steve Carell has said he’d never do it, but he and a bunch of his former castmates teased it when he hosted SNL.
John Krasinski and several others admitted their schedules were dicey, but they’d be into it.
Everyone should probably just leave it alone.
I’ll be the first to admit that the first and last thing I do when I put Netflix on is find The Office. It’s excellent background television, there is a ridiculous number of iconic episodes that are fun to rewatch, and it’s the perfect show to fall asleep to.
It just didn’t end perfectly.
Don’t get me wrong, if the top entertainment betting sites offer me the opportunity to bet on who will be the boss in The Office reboot or if there’s a return of the show at all, I’m there. There’s money to be made in that, and hey, if Will & Grace and Murphy Brown can return to the small screen, why can’t this gem?
But while The Office is and forever will be an undying gem, it should have quit while it was ahead. The second news broke that Steve Carell was leaving the show, that should have been it.
That was our cue.
Instead, NBC studios were stubborn and felt the drama surrounding the search for a new boss and diving deeper into the “show behind the show” was enough material to roll with.
That, and we got to dive deeper into the depths of sappiness when it came to Jim and Pam’s relationship.
Don’t get me wrong. There were still good things to take away from the final two seasons sans Carrell. However, the misses ended up far outweighing the hits.
Ed Helms’ Andy Bernard was a fantastic side character. But he wasn’t boss material, and upon becoming the face of the show, his character completely changed.
Andy Bernard was quirky and odd, but he wasn’t Michael Scott. He wasn’t an imbecile that lucked into a manager position and somehow never got fired. Yet, that’s what we find ourselves watching, even as we pull back his layers.
I was a fan of Robert California, and there’s still some fun Jim vs. Dwight plots to tap into, but even that relationship goes away from frayed and hilarious and turns sappy and simply unrealistic.
More than anything, Andy Bernard didn’t make sense as the boss.
Suddenly pulling back the cameras and spending time on the reality that this was all a documentary after eight seasons was both a reach and irrelevant. And why do we need to see Jim and Pam almost break up like the other 50% of marriages that end in divorce?
The Office was forever predicated on ridiculous situational comedy and a boss who constantly put himself and his co-workers in crazy situations. It morphed into a freak show filled with bad one-liners and stories nobody should care about.
And that was before the one-year time jump and the show opting to force-feed us resolutions we didn’t even think we needed.
After everything we saw, Kevin gets fired for his incompetence now? Dwight and Angela are completely wrong for each other, yet turn around and realize it’s meant to be?
Jim and Pam are the feel-good story and symbol of true love for half of the series. Then we need to be beaten over the head with a vapid “this is what real life is actually like” storyline?
Nah, I was good after season eight and would have been fine calling it a show once Carrell realized the same.
How I Met Your Mother
Few shows did such a great job of telling an interesting story while making you care about characters while also being hilarious.
HIMYM did that, as it took us on a journey with hopeless romantic Ted Mosby (Josh Radnor) as he tested the waters of adulthood and relationships in the heartless battleland of love that is New York.
Mosby was the ultimate protagonist that was both affable and redeemable while possessing the right amount of confidence to come off as believable.
Aided by a wacky group of friends led by the eccentric and iconic Barney Stinson (Neil Patrick Harris), the cuddly best friend Marshall (Jason Segel) and his wife Lily (Alyson Hannigan), Mosby surveyed the land of lovers scorned in his endless pursuit of the series title coming to fruition.
Along the way, we’re teased by the woman carrying the yellow umbrella, all the while wondering why Ted and Robin (Cobie Smulders) aren’t ending up together.
Some of the show can be annoying, but as far as comedy goes, it’s relentlessly unique, trendsetting, and — wait for it — legendary.
When you turn into one of the most quotable shows in television history, you know you’re doing something right. Unfortunately, How I Met Your Mother gets a little full of itself, turning the ninth and final season into one stretched out, unfunny, and borderline boring run-on sentence of a finale.
We meet the mother, and she’s actually awesome, but it takes us nine years to find out Ted’s wife (Cristin Milioti) will last 25 episodes and be killed off.
Disappointing, I know.
Not only was Milioti actually a brilliant casting choice, but she pulled at the heartstrings (and perhaps won Ted over) when she played the ukulele.
More of that, please and thank you.
Sadly, this was not a microcosm of what the final season of HIMYM would be. The sad, sappy angle? Sure, but there wasn’t enough laughter, and the show played the serious stuff too strong and too dark.
The first eight seasons were gold. Season nine just didn’t feel organic, befitting of the show that led up to it or, well, any good.
Who knew a bunch of bored housewives could make for such captivating television? Well, clearly not anyone who hasn’t watched Bravo.
In all seriousness, Desperate Housewives for some reason gave off the vibe of a show for women, but it actually checks all the boxes for a fantastic drama.
Truly underrated talents in Teri Hatcher, Felicity Huffman, Marcia Cross, and Eva Longoria starred in a layered, approachable tale about a group of neighbors who aren’t quite what they appear to be.
I’m not necessarily sure how so much madness could fall upon Wisteria Lane, but it all started when normal wife and mother Mary Alice Young (Brenda Strong) decides to take her own life.
Desperate Housewives gets started with a bang, showing immediately how the darkness can swallow someone up — even the ones everyone thinks have it all — and even those closest to them never see it coming.
Toss in numerous plots touching on cheating, stealing, revenge, and even murder, and you’ve got yourself a hit TV show. Mix in an eclectic cast full of versatile actresses that stand up in the face of scrutiny — not to mention varying levels of danger — and you have a powerhouse series that hits home runs on a weekly basis.
Unfortunately, like many high-level television shows do, Desperate Housewives was eventually at risk of running on fumes, clearly spent in regards to producing fresh material despite building up complex and compelling characters.
Instead of tapping into the lifeblood of the show — ya know, the amazing talent — the writers got lazy and did a classic leap forward into the future. There’s no context for the time lost and too much ground to cover in a short amount of time.
On top of that, characters get killed off or written into corners, and the show ends with everyone winning at life to an absurd degree.
The show actually does tie things up nicely in the last episode, but it was all too neat. I’d have preferred a little more drama to close things out, especially considering the way this show yanked us back and forth over the years.
In the end, Desperate Housewives committed the grand faux pas that most shows do at the end: they went away from what made it great.
If Desperate Housewives went off the rails with the dreaded time jump, then Weeds probably has it beat.
The Showtime product was an instant hit early on, as “Little Boxes” opened each episode as a nice reminder that all the people with perfect lives aren’t always what they’re cracked up to be.
That was certainly the case for Nancy Botwin (Mary-Louise Parker), who loses her husband to a heart attack and works feverishly to maintain her high-end way of living by dealing pot to the locals.
This new life of crime goes about as horribly as one can imagine, slowly but surely pulling Nancy and her family down a rabbit hole of self-destruction.
You’d think Botwin would learn something about herself along the way, but she really doesn’t, while her parenting can be called into question (and eventually is by her own children) at nearly every turn.
While a case can be made that Botwin isn’t redeemable or likable at all, she’s a perfect anti-hero for this engine, one that takes us inside the lives of the well-to-do and tears back the mask a bit.
The problem is when Botwin’s marijuana enterprise gets a little too big for its britches, burns down Agrestic (the town they lived in), and sends this group of sad sacks on the road.
It truly starts to go downhill from there, making the first three seasons of Weeds fantastic television and as “must-watch” as anything. But anything after is at best questionable.
You can start ripping the show apart from season four on, but there are still bits and pieces that remind you of its prior greatness.
It’s the eighth and final season, however, that brings us yet another ill-fated time jump that really sends this show crashing into a wall. A slew of terrible character arcs come full circle in unforgivable fashion, and everyone admits far too late in life that Nancy should have never been driving this hazy joyride.
Weeds isn’t something to bypass entirely, but don’t be shocked when the ending leaves you asking “why?” in more ways than you could have ever imagined.
There is no getting around the fact that Lost is one of the best, most engrossing TV series ever. In fact, had it not (arguably) ended horribly, it might have gone down as the best television show ever.
This series got started off with instant action, as you followed a group of people who would eventually be your favorite characters as their flight headed for the States out of Australia crashes onto an island.
Except this was no ordinary island.
The crash landing and being lost and forced to survive is a complex series all by itself. But Lost dabbled with all sorts of darkness, sci-fi, and of course the general mysteries and plots of an uninhabited island that, well, may not be so abandoned.
On top of that, you have deeply articulated characters with intense backstories that intertwine with each other, and it all combines to give you one of the deepest, most engaging shows in recent memory.
Throw in some time travel and more than one island-based villain to combat, and you’ve got yourself a gem.
The problem lies in the ending. Lost actually set itself up beautifully for an amazing final season and an epic finale, but it simply missed the mark.
Fans ended up being half-right in their predictions all along, while the show failed to close up lingering storylines and/or forgot about characters or questions that seemed to be crucial to the flow of the show.
I’d hate to give too much away here, but the show ultimately ends rather predictably and makes the island-sized marathon trek to get us to the end feel like a big waste of time.
Lost is still an amazing show that runs deeper than most TV series, but it limped across the finish line. A better ending could have cemented it as one of the best shows in television history.
Next is Dexter, which followed the life of a homicidal addict that covered his tracks thanks to his role as a blood spatter expert in a police department.
Dexter Morgan, the naturally assumed title character, is originally introduced to us as a guy doing the dirty work for the greater good. He’s taking out all the bad guys and exhibiting a code of honor in the process.
Unfortunately, we learn over time that Dexter takes great joy in his killings and that anything moral attached to him was forced on him by his late father. This is still believable, and Dexter’s adherence to this code and desire to be normal makes him fairly redeemable.
For me, the problem is actually two-fold.
The show had two excellent storylines and side characters to work with during the first three seasons. To spice things up and/or to expedite the story and Dexter’s story arc, however, they close out these plots before we’re ever allowed to fully engage them.
This still gives way to a genius fourth season and really dives into Dexter’s psyche, offering the audience the odd opportunity to ponder what it must be like to be a serial killer.
The show slowly loses its momentum after that, as we inherit weak antagonists that do manage to challenge Dexter’s narrative on various levels but fail to truly reel us in.
You’re always stuck between rooting for Dexter and wanting him to get caught. Eventually, when you get the answers you’re looking for, the character begins to come off as more one-dimensional, and the story runs thin.
Killing off the wrong characters at the worst time and incorporating horrific writing made this show tough to watch down the stretch. Michael C. Hall’s captivating performance throughout the series kept this thing on its legs going into the eighth and final season, but the story runs sour and sputters out into a complete disaster of a finale.
What’s worse than a show lazily killing off brilliant characters and writing its way into a corner? How about completely sacrificing the integrity of its lead by turning him into something he never was or could be?
Dexter is equal parts stunning, revolting, and hilarious. It just doesn’t end well is all.
Game of Thrones
I didn’t live and breathe Game of Thrones, but I was a pretty big fan. I still am, but I wasn’t pleased with the final season as a whole and wasn’t moved by the finale.
This is the main show/finale I really would prefer not to spoil too much, although the internet is dark and full of Game of Thrones spoilers.
It was also littered with interesting Game of Thrones theories, few of which ever saw the light of day.
The show bred plenty of gossip and intrigue, but for the most part, the final season ignored the outside chatter. I respect that as far as creating art goes, but this was a world of fantasy with complex characters, fire-breathing dragons, and the undead.
It was a wild ride, to be sure.
The likes of Jon Snow, the Starks, Lannisters, Targaryens, and all things Night King combined to give us an incredibly broad world to play in.
The show begins as your run-of-the-mill battle of medieval wits, with everyone running the politics game and trying to get the timing right for a musical chairs situation. This was the great game, with anyone who mattered surely eyeing the Iron Throne.
Once we were introduced to the White Walkers and dragons, however, all bets were off.
The race for the right to rule Westeros was on, with every character having a very specific role in the series. Yet they were slowly pulled away from what could have been a much bigger story, and at the very end, our expectations didn’t come close to being met.
I couldn’t help but feel remarkably deflated.
The entire final season wasn’t a farce, though. The eighth season of GoT starts off fine enough and builds momentum to an amazing — and I do mean amazing — third episode.
It tails off considerably from there, boring us with stretched-out conversations and hallow storylines being cut down or closed off.
Do yourself a favor. Watch Game of Thrones and use episode three as your true finale. For the story left for what would be the remaining three episodes, just make something up. You can’t possibly get it worse than the writers did.
There really is something off-putting about a TV show that doesn’t know how to end things right. It’s even worse when the show is consistently good (or even great) for most of its existence, only to flop right near the climax.
It shouldn’t be that hard to just continue producing the same look and feel that brought these shows so much success while dreaming up some type of twist or emphatic ending that ties everything together.
Failing to do that is actually somewhat forgivable, though. The aforementioned shows ended so horribly that the finale or even the entire final seasons probably should have just never been done.
Perhaps this will have you rethinking those classic TV show reunions or a favorite show going from cancelled to renewed. Sometimes it’s better to just let a good show die, and this list proves that.
Love or hate this list or have some suggestions of your own? Feel free to jump into the conversation in the comments below! Either way, be sure to also check out my take from the opposite angle where I break down the best TV shows with perfect endings.