Zeitgeist TV Shows That Lost The Plot

by thethreepennyguignol

So, I’ve done a few entries into this here aged-badly series before – shows that have died a grand death since the first time they came out, from 24 to Sherlock. But this time, I want to focus on a specific brand of show – and that is the zeitgeist hit.

Now, it’s not often that a show comes along that dominates the proverbial water-cooler conversation for as long as it takes to tell its story. Sometimes it’s something that’s just so good that you know you can’t miss it, or something that is so out of left-field that you could never have predicted it coming. But often, these shows can’t sustain what made them good in the first place, what made them so compellingly umissable, what defined them as a chunk of pop culture ephemera, and soon, they’re thought of with a wince and a distinct protestation at the notion of a rewatch. And those are the shows I want to talk about this week; the shows that had it in a way most TV programs can only dream of, only to find some way to hurl it away by the time they were done. To the list!

  1. Glee

Is it a requisite for me to include this on each and every one of my pop culture lists? Legally, yes! But anyway: when Glee hit screens, it was a topsy-turvy mess of reactions, from people who loathed its very existence and especially its classic rock covers, to the people who admired its bravery and boldness in bringing musical theatre to the small screen, to the people who just liked the toe-tappin’ tunes and Jane Lynch one-liners. Such a strange and specific mix, for better or for worse, made it a talking point for months.

And yet, bring it up now, and you’re going to be met with a round of groans. And that’s just from the fans. Glee is the sort of show that seemed to miss the very point of why it was liked by the people who liked it in the first place; skipping out on the sadness and melancholy at the heart of the first (excellent) season, it replaced that with bigger numbers, endless guest-stars, and after-school-special vibes that didn’t allow for any of the sly fun that undercut any particularly cheesy silliness present in the group numbers and balladry. Dragged down by off-screen tragedy and a changing attitude to its questionable LGBTQ content, Glee hollowed out the centre of what made it worthwhile. It proved those initial critics right, and even now, you’ll be hard-pressed to find defenders who have actually seen that godawful school shooting episode.

2. Game of Thrones

It’s strange to think of this as a show that aged badly, really, given that it hasn’t even been a year since it was actually over. And I guarantee you that a lot of people saw this on the list, rolled their eyes, and scrolled on down. Which is how I felt for years about Game of Thrones, but I digress.

Because nobody wants to talk about this show anymore. Which is sort of insane, when you think about it. I mean, this was probably the biggest show on Earth at a certain point, and for sure one of the most significant ever made; lavished critically and from passionate audiences alike, you couldn’t turn around without tripping over a three-eyed raven by the time the final season came around. I even recapped the bloody thing, for goodness sake, even if it was mainly out of spite.

But since then, it has gone crashing out of relevance so quickly and so completely that it is almost as though it never existed in the first place. How can something go from being one of the biggest pieces of pop culture on the planet to blinking out of existence in the public eye so quickly? It would be like The Rise of Skywalker coming outand everyone forgetting about it by New Year. It doesn’t seem possible – and yet, Game of Thrones managed to pull it off.

A mismanaged final season, a messy and frequently unsatisfying plot, and a major battle that you could hardly even bloody see – this wasn’t a show that forgot what made it good, but a show what actually made TV good in the first place. And, as a result, a once-fanatic fandom has vanished into the void, and Game of Thrones has entered in record time into the pantheon of shows that have aged fucking terribly.

3. The Big Bang Theory

Speaking of shows that have pulled off this turnaround in record time. The Big Bang Theory might even still be on – I refuse to check – but it’s already turned into one of the great sticks with which we use to beat the very notion of the sitcom. And how!

The Big Bang Theory, for one shining moment, seemed like it would actually cater to a new comedic audience: the total nerd. And look, I’m a total nerd! I want to be pandered to! Throw those Star Wars references and comic-con episodes down my throat, I’ll eat that shit up! But where the show went wrong, and what unveiled itself as it continued, was that it seemed to be made by people who didn’t actually like nerd-dom very much: so much of the geeky world was approached with an abject cynicism. Instead of celebrating the community and the passion that can come from being a big-ass nerd, it’s all approached with a sneering attitude that renders it pointless for geeky would-be fans. Oh, and that woman stuff? Unrelenting bullshit.

So, what shows do you think have lost the plot? Have any big zeitgeist hits managed to keep up the momentum? Let me know in the comments below! And, as ever, if you liked this article, please consider supporting me on Patreon.

(header image via Metro)