Four TV Shows with Bad Fourth Seasons Part One

There appears to be a pattern in television entertainment that some series peak in their third season and then plummet in quality in the fourth. I am unsure of when I first noticed this pattern, but once I had recognized it in four of my favorite shows, I decided it was high time to think about it and possible causes and effects. So this is that. Beware, however, that I will talk about these shows in great detail, and not just their third and fourth seasons, but all of them. These “bad” seasons may not be that bad in isolation, so in order to explain what I mean when I call them bad, I have to compare them to the rest of their respective shows. So if you have not watched these shows, or have only watched up until the third season, there will be hard spoilers and you may not want to read. Let’s begin.

4. Teen Wolf

Oh, the beautiful mess that is Teen Wolf. Like two of the other shows on this list, Teen Wolf’s seasons vary in quality. The first season was nice, but still had a rather trashy look, and Tyler Posey as the lead was an undeniably mediocre actor—it didn’t help that his sidekick was Dylan O’Brien, who from his very first moment on screen outdid everybody so clearly it was almost embarrassing. Still, the show had a unique charm and so many beautiful people, I couldn’t stop watching. The second season was already a lot less trashy, but still featured some questionable ideas, such as letting the werewolves run on all fours while still in human form (an idea that looked so stupid it was thankfully abandoned after season 2). It did make some very good decisions, however, such as bringing back Peter, one of the funniest characters (and one who could provide a lot of friction). And then came the third season, which was the best season so far, the second-best season overall and definitely the scariest season. Stiles’s dream sequences in the second half were seriously uncanny, and the whole Nogitsune situation was body horror at its finest. It was exhilarating, complex, devoid of any trashiness, and the writers really went all out on emotional impact, as the death count in this season was higher than in any other. It would have been difficult to continue the series with something even better. But the fourth season made some serious mistakes, and in order to explore what went wrong, I’d like to say a few words on story arcs.

The story arcs of a TV show can span over one season and then be done, or they can be continued over the entire run of the series and be resolved (or not) after several seasons or even at the very end. The advantage of closing a story arc after one season is that it makes writing a season simpler: you present a problem/mystery at the end of the season premiere, and the problem/mystery is solved/revealed in the season finale. That structure gives the story arc a clear direction while still leaving room for interesting action. And if the stakes are high enough that the audience really cares for the problem to be solved and the mystery revealed, then this structure works. And it worked in season 4 of Teen Wolf. The stakes of finding the benefactor were very high, indeed, so lack of caring on the part of the audience was not the problem. The problem was the revelation of who the benefactor was. Seriously? Peter orchestrated the whole thing, but he did it while he was in a coma, so he didn’t remember, and then he stole his own money from himself, and Meredith, the traumatized reclusive, made it all happen? I mean, come on. It seems like the writers had a lot of fun constructing the plot for the season, lost sight of the time, and then had only five minutes left to come up with a resolution and realized they didn’t have one. The only possible resolution that could have been worse was that in the end it was all a dream. Gerard being the benefactor would have made more sense. Kate would have made more sense. Even Meredith on her own would have made more sense. Throw in the stupid idea of de-aged Derek and the convoluted side-plot in which Kate and Peter, the characters who arguably hate each other the most out of all the characters on the show, suddenly start working together, and the season was an overall failure.

It wasn’t all terrible, of course. There was the crucial introduction of some new characters after the numerous departures in the last season, there were some amazing fight scenes, Tyler Posey’s acting had considerably improved. But the main reason why Teen Wolf in only in fourth place, apart from the fact that its fourth season isn’t the worst fourth season on this list, is that the fifth season was much better, and almost as scary as season 3 (even if the writers seemed to have completely forgotten about Peter for an entire season, which admittedly was pretty weak). And the last season was the very best one, even if Dylan O’Brien was absent for a lot of it because of The Maze Runner. The drama of Stiles ceasing to exist, and the panic I felt when that happened, were gripping, and the series ended in the best possible way. After all the supernatural threats the McCall pack had to face, in the end the worst monster of all turned out to be the human being. It was just really good writing. So Teen Wolf’s fourth season was a dip in quality in the middle that it completely recovered from, ending the show on a high.

3. Community

Community is an outlier on this list for several reasons. First, it is a sitcom, not a drama series (and as hilarious as Teen Wolf is, it’s still a forty-minute-drama). Second, because of its difference in genre, it has a completely different structure in terms of story arc. While dramatic shows tend to tell stories that span over several episodes or even seasons, classic sitcom episodes function in a more self-contained way and rarely continue the main plot from one episode into the next one. Even though Community does exactly this at the end of season 2, the plot is only stretched over two episodes (A Fistful of Paintballs, and For a Few Paintballs More), and even between those two episodes, there is a significant tonal difference, as the first one is a homage to classic old Western films, while the second one makes clear and obvious references to Star Wars, complete with Storm Troopers and Abed’s Han Solo outfit. And third, it is the only series on this list with a constantly high quality that experienced only one decline: season 4. Now, first off, not all the episodes were terrible; I liked the Halloween episode, the Thanksgiving episode and the Inspecticon episode, and I thought the attempt at an origin story in the finale was nice. I didn’t hate the puppet episode as much as most do, either. But still, most of this season was dreadful, cringeworthy, and unfunny, most of all the abysmal body-switch episode. There is a clear tonal difference in this season compared to the others that I can’t quite pinpoint, but it is obvious that safe for Jeff, none of the characters develop or change in any way at all, and even Jeff’s change seems rather superficial considering the fact that the half-brother he meets and connects with in the Thanksgiving episode never appears again. The paintball episode was a nice try, but really what the writers did there was an attempt to recapture the brilliance of Remedial Chaos Theory (without question the best episode of the entire show and maybe the best episode of any sitcom ever) that was doomed to fail because they didn’t get it at all. The season 3 episode Remedial Chaos Theory explores seven different possibilities of what could happen, and it uses the roll of a die to lead us through the different timelines. The brilliance of Remedial Chaos Theory is that all of the different timelines actually happened, and all of them gave us as the audience valuable information about every single character. And in the season 4 paintball episode, despite the nice reference to Terminator, nothing actually happens, it is all in Jeff’s head, and the re-introduction of the die made no sense and had no effect, not to mention we didn’t learn anything about anyone.

The reason why this season was so bad is well-known and seated behind the scenes. For some stupid reason, Dan Harmon, the creator and mad genius behind Community (and nowadays, Rick and Morty), was fired after season 3, and then apparently NBC thought anyone could do what Harmon can and hired some replacements for him who wanted to capture the humor and tone of the show and epically failed. In addition, Chevy Chase wanted to leave the show, and that resulted in a lot of scenes where Pierce just wasn’t there and the remaining characters had to laboriously explain his absences. That alone disturbed the comedic rhythm enough that the audience had to notice something was off. And because it must have been so obvious that the show’s quality was rapidly declining, and because the cast complained about Harmon’s departure, Harmon was rehired for season 5, in which Community finally felt like Community again. That season had the most insane episodes—the one where the floor is lava, the MeowMeowBeenz episode (the idea of which allegedly Black Mirror stole for one of its own episodes), and G.I. Jeff. Of course, this season suffered from the departure of Donald Glover, but Harmon turned this massive change into an important character development for Abed. And despite NBC cancelling the show after season 5 and Yahoo!Screen picking it up for a sixth season (and plunging into financial ruin because of it), the last season is beautiful and hilarious and the finale was a real heartbreaker. And as Community has always been extremely self-aware, the finale even contains a reference to the low quality of the fourth season: when Abed mentions the fourth year (the fourth season), Chang farts and then explains that “it’s an inside joke.” May season 4 of Community function as a warning for anyone who thinks humor is easy to replicate.

Part Two coming this Thursday…

Author: Miriam (@miri_mh8)

Movie Monday – Miri aka @OriginalSGreenD

7. Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens

We have been waiting for it a long, long time, and here it is now. The release of Episode VII is scheduled for December, so there is still an almost year-long wait ahead of us, but it is getting closer and closer.

I have to admit that I never was a big Star Wars fan. Born in 1990, the first one I saw was (unfortunately) Episode I, and even though I had no eye for cinematic quality as a kid, I do remember being bored out of my mind in the theater back then. That experience kind of spoiled the franchise for me a little, but I do recognize and understand the deep appreciation fans have for the original trilogy, and what little footage we were allowed to see so far looks great. I might be convinced to watch it in theaters.

Anyways, re-christening JJ Abrams “Jar Jar Abrams”, as some skeptical fans have, is unnecessary. Why anticipate the worst possible outcome?

6. Pound of Flesh

Now you might think I’ve lost my mind. What is Jean-Claude Van Damme doing on this list? Well, if you saw “The Expendables 2” and “Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning” (both 2012), you know JCVD can make for some really great end-boss action. The premise of this indie action flick sounds promising as well, with a missing kidney and an angry JCVD looking for revenge. This might be another candidate for direct-to-DVD, and I could not find a release date nor a trailer, but according to ssninsider.com filming had wrapped up in May 2014, so the chances are high we will be graced with it this year.

5. The Fall season 2

One British production has made it onto my list of things to look out for in 2015: the amazing series about a sexy serial killer in Belfast consisted of only five one-hour episodes for its first season, but the story was knitted so tightly it could not have been realized any other way. Also the shortness makes it possible to watch the entire thing in one go, which I strongly recommend you do. The tension and thrill of it are breath-taking, not to mention the actors are fantastic, the scripts are intricate and pay an amount of attention to detail I have only seen on HBO so far. Altogether this five-hour thriller was not something I would have expected the BBC to produce.

I am aware that technically, season 2 was released in November 2014 and that should disqualify “The Fall” from this list, but I have not been able to see it yet. If I can, I will watch the six episodes in one go again and then probably sleep with the lights on. Also, I did pick a trailer for you to watch, but to be honest, I did not watch it, because for this show, spoilers are deadly.

4. Justified season 6

FX’s “Justified” is one of the most underrated TV shows I know. The story of Deputy US Marshal Raylan Givens returning to his hometown Harlan, Kentucky, and his life-long friend/nemesis Boyd Crowder was based on a short story by Elmore Leonard, and some of the intrigues and schemes hatched in that show really remind you of “Jackie Brown” and make Leonard’s best qualities shine through.

Even though “Justified” was graced with several Emmy nominations and a few wins and has made it to its sixth and final season, the show never reached the popularity I feel it deserves; in my list of all-time favorites it would easily crack the top five. I am sad to see it end now, but at the same time I am anxious to see how the story about crime, friendship and betrayal comes to a head. If you haven’t seen this show, but you like drama series quality with brilliant, quick-witted dialogues, a gloomy atmosphere and bloody shoot-outs, there is only one thing I can tell you.

Watch it.

3. Community season 6

When I watched the pilot episode of “Community” I knew this was going to be a big thing. This TV show was possibly the funniest comedy ever. Oh, the quotes, the hints, the constant insertions of meta-elements and jokes you could only understand if you knew your way around movie history – I was in fan-heaven, even more so when Abed’s promise of “Six seasons and a movie!” for the low scale NBC show “The Cape” was taken out of its in-show context and referred to “Community” itself.

Countless hearts were broken – mine included – when the show was canceled after only five seasons. (I still wish for all NBC officials to get nothing but socks and Chris de Burgh CDs for Christmas for the rest of their lives.) All hope seemed lost when suddenly Yahoo! Screen turned out to be the unexpected knight in streaming armor. I guess most fans were thinking the same thing: TV series, web series – who cares, as long as there’s another season! A few members of the original cast have already left, and new characters will be added, but as long as Danny Pudi’s Abed and Dan Harmon are still on board, what can possibly go wrong?

Now the only thing we need is a movie and Abed’s prediction will be fulfilled.

2. Better Call Saul

If you cook meth for a living and you get into a tight spot with the law, who you gonna call?

No, not the Ghostbusters. You know who I’m talking about.

In “Breaking Bad” Saul Goodman aka Jimmy McGill was one of the most popular characters, even though he only entered the series at the end of season 2. Why? Well, the answer is obvious: he was comic relief, he was slightly ridiculous in everything he did, he was the epitome of a slimy lawyer, but at the same time he was sympathetic and honest and had the greatest catch phrase. Not to mention, “Mr. Show” Bob Odenkirk did a fantastic job portraying him. I have to admit, the moment I first saw him on the show, he immediately became my favorite character.

Hence, when I heard there would be a spin-off called “Better Call Saul”, I was over the moon. I still am. This will probably be the TV event of 2015 for me.

1. Skin Trade

If you are a true lover of the medium of film, you cannot get around watching the old action classics, and in that genre there is no way around good old Dolph Lundgren. He is “The Punisher” (1989) and the “Red Scorpion” (1988), after all. And now, after a successful and joyous return to the big screen thanks to Stallone and the Expendables franchise, he has written, produced and starred in a new movie that’s supposed to be released this year: “Skin Trade”.

With human trafficking the movie touches on an important subject, and the action in the trailer looks nice; still, there is a chance this production could end up as direct-to-DVD, considering “The Expendables” (2010) was Lundgren’s first cinematic release in over a decade. However, the involvement of Tony Jaa and Ron Perlman (!) might lead to a theatrical release in more countries than just the US.

I have a deep appreciation for Dolph Lundgren because, while he is not a great actor, he is almost always fun to watch. That’s why I had to put “Skin Trade” to the top of my list. I am really looking forward to some good action reminiscent of the old days.

Agree with my list? Do you have anything to add that has not received the attention it deserves? Feel free to let us know.

Miri

Twitter: OriginalSGreenD

Skin Trade trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tsGH6_qbBxU

Better Call Saul trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lK_70f7PamE

Community season 6 trailer:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rQ3qzm0c7FA

Justified season 6 trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DH6J4UFMI_w

The Fall season 2 trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yXuJONpEpXg

Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OMOVFvcNfvE