Top 20 Exact Moments That Killed TV Shows

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Top 20 Exact Moments That Killed TV Shows

VOICE OVER: Rebecca Brayton WRITTEN BY: Garrett Alden
These are the moments that absolutely destroyed brilliant TV shows. For this list, we'll be taking a look at TV shows events that either ruined programs or marked a point where the series declined in quality. Naturally, there will be spoilers ahead.Our countdown includes Cousin Oliver from "The Brady Brunch" (1969-74), Eric's Departure in "That '70s Show" (1998-2006), the Literal Cork from "Lost" (2004-10), Winning the Lottery from "Roseanne" (1988-97, 2018), and more!
Transcript
Script written by Garrett Alden

These are the moments that absolutely destroyed brilliant TV shows. For this list, we’ll be taking a look at TV shows events that either ruined programs or marked a point where the series declined in quality. Naturally, there will be spoilers ahead.Our countdown includes Cousin Oliver from "The Brady Brunch" (1969-74), Eric's Departure in "That '70s Show" (1998-2006), the Literal Cork from "Lost" (2004-10), Winning the Lottery from "Roseanne" (1988-97, 2018), and more! If you think our list was spoiled by not including some moments, be sure to tell us which ones in the comments!

#20: Season 9

“Scrubs” (2001-10)

The final season of “Scrubs” felt entirely unnecessary. By the time the show’s eighth season wrapped up, it felt like everything had come to a close. But then season 9 came along with a mostly new cast of characters in a new location. Only a few fan favorites were delegated to supporting or cameo roles. Although it was supposed to feel like a continuation, it essentially felt like a different show. And, to be fair, that’s what show creator Bill Lawrence intended as. But network executives meddled to keep the show under the same name. While it might’ve found more success as a spin-off, it definitely didn’t succeed as the technically final season of “Scrubs”.

#19: Dan Is Gossip Girl

“Gossip Girl” (2007-12)

Throughout this drama series, the titular mysterious character of “Gossip Girl” narrates the show while revealing embarrassing and juicy details about people. In the final episode, it’s revealed Dan Humphrey, aspiring writer and love interest of Serena, was the mystery person. But this wasn’t exactly a clever reveal. Dan being Gossip Girl creates a whole host of plot holes within the show. These include occasions where Dan couldn’t have posted as Gossip Girl, when he leaked compromising info about himself or went after those close to him. Most bafflingly, there were times when he reacted to posts he allegedly made with shock when he was alone. This one reveal made the show make less sense and left it worse off than before.

#18: Sharing Timmy’s Godparents

“The Fairly OddParents” (2001-17)

In any long-running animated show, it can be hard to keep things fresh. Fans noteed that “The Fairly OddParents,” tried to change up its formula with major missteps. The introduction of side characters like Cosmo and Wanda’s child Poof was the first bad sign. Later on, they had to welcome Timmy’s fairy dog. By the time the oddparents got a second godchild named Chloe, it was clear the show had lost its magical touch. No matter what character you think is the worst, most fans can agree that disrupting the show’s central dynamic was an awful idea. By desperately adding extraneous characters, “The Fairly OddParents” had fans wishing for the good old days.

#17: All a Dream

“Dallas” (1978-91)

The season 8 finale of “Dallas” saw the death of Bobby Ewing. Throughout season 9, his loved ones and viewers mourned his passing. But everyone was more shocked when they got a shocking finale cliffhanger where Bobby’s ex-wife Pam discovers him in the shower! The season 10 premiere wildy reveals that the entirety of season 9 was all just a dream Pam had. While “Dallas” continued afterwards, audience trust was understandably shaken when they learned an entire season of the show they were devoted to week after week didn’t really happen!

#16: Winning the Lottery

“Roseanne” (1988-97, 2018)

“Roseanne” was once the number one show on television. However, during its final season…well, the first final season, the show took a drastic turn. The average Conner family won the lottery. Instead of being a down-to-earth family in relatable situations, the characters suddenly were thrust into many outlandish plotlines due to their fortune. There were dream sequences galore, celebrity guest stars, and lots of nonsense that took the show further away from its roots. Even before the finale’s last second rug-pull, fans agreed that “Roseanne” had lost its spark. The only solace was that the poorly received season officially became non-canon after the show’s revival.

#15: The Carver Reveal

“Nip/Tuck” (2003-10)

“Nip/Tuck” is a great guilty pleasure show because it's not afraid to dive into absolutely ridiculous territory. Throughout some of the show’s early seasons, an ongoing storyline involved the Carver. This masked criminal’s assaults left his victims disfigured and often in the care of the plastic surgeons the show focused on. Although the Carver’s identity was much-speculated about, it ultimately was a rival plastic surgeon to protagonists Christian and Shawn named Quentin Costa. It was an incredibly obvious and groan worthy turn. And after this storyline, the show only delved into increasingly absurd storylines to one-up it.

#14: Cousin Oliver

“The Brady Bunch” (1969-74)

Everybody knows the cast of “The Brady Bunch!” It’s two parents who have three children each, their housekeeper and…a random cousin? It can be easy to forget that another cast member was added in the show’s last season. The young Cousin Oliver was likely added to try to hook younger audiences into caring about the series. While the show was already on the decline in ratings, many point to Oliver’s awkward insertion as the final nail in the coffin for “The Brady Bunch.” In fact, the character was so infamous that the addition of a kid character to a show struggling with ratings is sometimes called “Cousin Oliver syndrome.”

#13: Charlie’s Death

“Two and a Half Men” (2003-15)

Charlie Sheen’s exit from “Two and a Half Men” is the stuff of TV infamy. Following a very public rant in which he disparaged the show’s creators, the actor was fired. Within the show, Sheen’s character Charlie Harper was abruptly killed offscreen. Ashton Kutcher was swiftly brought in to replace him. Even those who weren’t Sheen’s biggest fans had a hard time getting onboard with the change. Kutcher’s character completely changed the dynamic of a show that had already strayed far from its titular premise. Whether you thought Sheen was “winning” or not, most felt that “Two and a Half Men” definitely lost out.

#12: Marissa Shoots Trey

“The O.C.” (2003-07)

Imogen Heap’s classic “Mmm, what you say…” refrain became the stuff of parody because of this moment. After finding out that his older brother Trey assaulted Marissa, Ryan gets into a fight with him. To protect Ryan, Marissa shoots Trey, leading to a dramatic cliffhanger. This twist was accompanied by an infamous musical cue. Although this moment spawned many memes, it didn’t do much to keep the show fresh or deliver a boost in ratings. Many point to this scene as the moment “The O.C.” jumped the shark. What do you say?

#11: Michael Leaves

“The Office” (2005-13)

“The Office” is one of the most influential and funniest sitcoms of the 21st century so far. A big part of its success is owed to its leading man, Steve Carell. As Michael Scott, Carell delivered not only peak cringe humor, but also real heart and pathos to the goofy boss. But he departed the show in season 7. While Michael’s emotional goodbye was touching, the show struggled with its direction going forward. Several characters were added or promoted to try and balance things out. But without Michael leading the show, “The Office” just didn’t leave us satisfied and smiling.

#10: Deb Catches Dexter

“Dexter” (2006-13)

There are plenty of points where this show about a serial killer-killer has been said to have gone off the rails. While its infamous finale was criticized, the proverbial nail in “Dexter”’s coffin came earlier. The season 6 finale sees Dexter’s adopted sister Debra catch him in the act of slaying the season’s villain in a church…while on her way there to confess her very non-sisterly feelings for him. Deb learning the truth was a plot point that could’ve had tons a lot of potential. However, it just put a character who’d already gone through the ringer in earlier seasons through even more trauma. This turn also damaged the one consistent relationship Dexter still had left on the show.

#9: Lois & Clark’s First Wedding

“Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman” (1993-97)

Will-they/won’t-they romances are tough to pull off on their own. But mixing them with superheroes is doubly difficult. “Lois & Clark” managed to pull this dynamic off... at least for its first few seasons. The show found increasingly more ridiculous ways to stop their two leads from getting together at last. But nothing beats their first attempt at getting married. During this plot point, Lois is replaced with a frog-eating clone before we get into further story arc that involves amnesia. Even the campiest Silver Age comics had less silly plot threads than this.

#8: Connor & Cordy

“Angel” (1999-2004)

While Angel’s son Connor remains a polarizing figure among fans of the show, it isn’t until season 4 that he actually helps ruin it. One episode sees Connor and Cordelia, his father’s on-off love interest, have sex. This starts a literal apocalyptic event. Not only does the event herald doomsday within the show, it also marks the downturn in quality from then on. Andthe whole thing is just really disgusting! Their weird relationship and the fallout from their affair deserved harsh judgment. While the next season does shake things up, the shine was off the apple by then.

#7: Season 2 & Beyond

“Heroes” (2006-10)

This superpowered drama had one of the most pronounced sophomore slumps in all of TV. Initially, it told a mostly self-contained story of ordinary people with superpowers coming together to save the world in season 1. But season 2 meandered through several new and often unresolved plot points before ending abruptly due to the writers’ strike. The show never really recovered from the blunders made during season 2 and seemed to flounder for a direction. As much as we loved villains like Sylar, characters definitely overstayed their welcomes past season 1. When combined with elements like time travel and uneven CG, it became clear that “Heroes” really lost its way.

#6: Eric Leaving

“That ‘70s Show” (1998-2006)

While this ‘70s themed sitcom may have been about “hangin’ out” with a group of quirky teens and their parents, Eric Foreman was seen as the main protagonist. So when actor Topher Grace departed the show at the end of season 7, “That ‘70s Show” was left without its central character. The rest of the cast did try to forge on without him. However, the subsequent season 8 was just a mess. A ton of plotlines like Hyde’s wife with an adult profession or Jackie and Fez getting together just didn’t work. By the time Eric returned for the finale, the ‘70s were over.

#5: Sherlock’s Over & Under-Explained Return

“Sherlock” (2010-17)

This modern update of Sherlock Holmes started strong with engaging spins on old mysteries and great chemistry between its two leads. The series stalled for the first time due to the season 2 finale. In that episode, Sherlock somehow faked his death after jumping off a building. After years of fans obsessing over how he did it, the show returned with half a dozen possible versions of how it happened. But none of them were definitive. Many viewers saw this as the creators thumbing their noses at the fanbase. Unfortunately, this kicked off a a trend of increasingly incredulous twists that had fans longing for the early days of the show.

#4: Cliffhanger Bait

“The Walking Dead” (2010-)

Depending on who you ask, there were a few points where you could say “The Walking Dead” started shambling downhill. But most will agree that the finale of season 6 was a big mistake. The finale builds towards the confrontation with the vicious Negan. After he makes a show of randomly choosing who he’ll take out, he slays one of the group before it cuts to black. But the first person point-of-view made it impossible to tell who got the bat. Fans felt incredibly put off by being forced to wait for months to see who fell. To add insult to injury, Glenn had already received a fake-out death earlier in season 6. Making death into a big stunt felt cheap.

#3: The Mother Dies

“How I Met Your Mother” (2005-14)

Although the entirety of this sitcom’s final season raised a few eyebrows because it’s mostly set over a few days, the show’s last episode got them really upset. After getting to know and come to love the titular mother Tracy at last, fans got their hearts broken. We see Ted finally meet her before his ever-present narration reveals that she later died of an unspecified illness. This bad turn was then followed by a “reveal” that Ted still has feelings for Robin. Since the show sank a season into tracking her wedding with Barney, it also feels like her time was wasted. Ruining the entire premise of your show and character development is impressively bad.

#2: Literal Cork

“Lost” (2004-10)

This complex and mystical mystery-focused show was divisive and much discussed throughout its run. But the undebatable final straw for many occurred in its finale. An earlier episode in the final season had the mysterious island’s immortal protector Jacob introduce a clever metaphor. He describes the location as being like a cork preventing evil from spreading to the rest of the world. Unfortunately, it wasn’t just a turn of phrase. Fans couldn’t help but facepalm when the glowing source of the island’s magical powers revealed in the final episode had a literal cork in it! Although we’re all for striking imagery, even the show’s diehard fans had to admit that this turn was a little too on the nose.

#1: King Bran

“Game of Thrones” (2011-19)

Season 8 of “Game of Thrones” is largely agreed by most fans as being a step down from the rest of the show. It included Dany’s rash decision to become a Mad Queen and torch King’s Landing. (xref) But her crimes were nearly forgotten when Bran Stark was named as the next king of Westeros. He had spent a bulk of the last few seasons as mostly a passive character that delivered exposition to us and learned about the past because people told him to. And Bran’s powers of foresight turned him into a mostly flat character who spouted assorted facts with tinges of emotion. Having him on the throne was a boring choice. Fans felt like they and Westeros deserved a better story than this.
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