Ahhh, television. When do you cut your losses and stop watching? How many seasons does it take, or sharks jumped? Or did the end come much, much sooner than that?

We maybe living in an era of great TV, but there are plenty of shows that start great and become uninspired as they go. So here are some of the shows we quit.

Shannon Eichorn photo.

Shannon Eichorn: I was so excited! Stargate was my love, my passion, my inspiration for choosing to study either astrophysics or aerospace engineering. Even though SG-1 had finished up after ten years of adventures, I piled all my college friends together and introduced them to the wonders of one of the best sci-fi shows to ever exist. 

Then a new series started. Our hopes were high.

Another adventure. A new start, this time with all our favorite classmates along for the ride. We must have piled twenty or thirty people around the TV in my boyfriend’s suite: English majors, history majors, computer scientists, and engineers of almost every type: mechanical, electrical, aerospace, biomedical, chemical. Maybe a stray physicist. (You know, they’re around.) All crammed together in a dorm to watch Stargate Universe make history.

I think, deep down inside, with the future stretching out ahead of us, we wanted to be the characters. We were smart enough, educated enough, even as undergrads. We could crack puzzles in games. We could represent humanity among the stars. This was supposed to be our future, if one could do something as arrogant as assume the role of a TV show character chosen by a top-secret government organization.

Our bright-eyed optimism didn’t last long.

Not only did Universe’s dour outlook and panicked atmosphere taint the adventure we sought but its desperate, political tone was totally un-relatable. Maybe we still believed that people don’t lie. Maybe we still believed they look out for each other. Maybe we could have put up with that.

What really killed it for us was the characters’ ignorance.

Maybe we were too educated. Maybe we were too scifi-savvy. Because when the characters noticed the automated ship they’d been trapped on was heading for the sun, it should have been obvious. It was to us.

Where else are you going to get fuel in space? Solar scoops rock. If you have the tech, they’re kind of obvious. (And as I know now, hydrogen is a freaking awesome fuel!) In order to acknowledge that, it took the characters… Okay, an episode. A full episode. After they got safely through the sun.

But as undergrads in the fields that should have been represented on Universe’s ship Destiny, we felt it struck us as unforgivably implausible. That was the last straw. Our group disbanded, and we grew our different ways, free of Stargate Universe (and its associated social media campaign).

Cassie Smith photo.Cassie Smith: The reason I gave up on The Affair is simple— I just don’t care about the people or their stories anymore. Season 1 of the Showtime series had a lot going for it: a unique format, a mystery, great actors, interesting characters and an enviable setting. Season 2 had much of the same, while expanding to include new points-of-views of the arguably more interesting and likable characters.

Unfortunately, by season 3 the mystery storyline had been revealed. And with the characters’ lives more distanced than ever before, a new character introduced with a new POV, the show was only a shadow of itself. More of the plot revolved around the insufferable Noah Holloway (Dominic West) and his new object of desire— a French professor. The fact that much of her storyline required subtitles did not help (I have nothing against subtitles, but for a show I frequently watched while multi-tasking, it’s not ideal).

Arguably, the best thing the show could have done would have been to reboot after season 2, in more of an anthology format with new characters dealing with “the affair.” Unfortunately, I think the ship has sailed on that option as I can’t help but think other viewers may have given up just as I have.

James Fadeley photo.James Fadeley: I really, really tried to like Orphan Black, Amazon’s show about a corporate clone conspiracy.

I was hooked following the first season, but the second failed because of how much it milled about. There was little sense of progress; mostly just main character Sarah (Tatiana Maslany) desperately hiding from her creators. The showrunners tried to tease some intrigue by introducing one of the founders of the cloning project. But revisiting the past just wasn’t advancing the story like it should. Spoiler warning from here on.

Likewise, the penultimate episode treaded very familiar ground. Sarah’s daughter was kidnapped (again). Helena (Tatiana Maslany), whose supposed death was last season’s finale, survived to pollute the show with more insanity. Worse, her irrationality reached a real zenith; promising vindictiveness against an abusive nanny, before burning down the children’s home.

And frustratingly, the show teased the more interesting ideas only it could have followed up on, but never did. For example, Sarah’s gay brother Felix (Jordan Gavaris) faced temptation from her transgender clone, Tony Sawicki. This could have been a bizarre and psychological subplot about Felix’s attraction to a female-to-male version of his sister. Instead, Tony exited prematurely, denying us the chance to learn anything more about Felix’s moral boundaries.

In the end, I gave up before even watching the finale. The season had already taken roughly 6.5 hours of my life and I just couldn’t see any further redeeming qualities. Especially as I’d heard that this wasn’t even the least critically panned season of the series.

A.R. Aston photo.Andrew R. Aston: “The devil comes to the City of Angels for a vacation from hell.” —Lucifer

As one-line synopses go, that’s a pretty killer one, and it is one which got me intrigued. Before I watched this series, I had heard it was going to be partially based upon Neil Gaiman’s Lucifer comic graphic novel series. The first episode of this series demonstrated that this would not be the case, beyond name recognition. However, that did not concern me; I knew this was going to take a more cable-friendly route than other such comic adaptations, such as the ferociously R-rated and quite demented Preacher.

Tom Ellis’ portrayal of Lucifer is a charming and magnetic performance which held me hooked for series one, and much of series two. However, this series is bound in the police procedural straightjacket. If you have seen Castle, or The Mentalist, Lie to Me, or basically any “brilliant weirdo partnered with feisty, no-nonsense female detective” show churned out by mass market TV, then you know the plots to most of the episodes. Everything feels too safe and tame, which feels especially egregious when doing a show about the ruler of hell. It is only in the peripheries that the show gets to dip its toe into supernatural mythology and metaphysical fantasy. These forays are all too brief alas, always secondary to the case of the week. For saying the fate of the world, heaven and hell is apparently on the lie, the show feels parochial and tiny.

It is formulaic, with clunky characters who are performed with very little verve. Only Tom Ellis seems to be enjoying himself. Even the introduction of Lucifer’s mother as an antagonist wasn’t enough to save this show for me. A brilliant premise, squandered.

About Andrew R. Aston

A novelist and a resident reviewer for Tbird, A.R Aston hails from deepest, darkest England. From his rain-drenched lair, he has had several short stories published in anthologies, such as Wicked Women from Fox Spirit Books and Outliers Saga. His debut novel, The Hobgoblin’s Herald, is due for release 2017.

Cassie Smith photo.
About Cassie Smith

Cassie is an occasional contributor to Thunderbird when she has something on her mind that doesn’t involve puppies, chocolate or cheese.

Shannon Eichorn photo.

About Shannon Eichorn

Science fiction writer by night, aerospace engineer by day, Shannon
Eichorn is obsessed with alien symbionts. Find her on Facebook and Twitter @SEEichorn

James Fadeley photo.

About James Fadeley

James is a short story author and novelist who spends way too much time playing video games. His first novel, The Gift of Hadrborg is based on The Banner Saga universe. If you think yourself insane, he can be followed on Twitter @JamesFadeley.