People form opinions quickly. According to an article in The Guardian it only takes 1/10 of a second for people to make up their minds about whoever they meet. Studies also show that it take .05 seconds to form an opinion of a website. The same is likely true for television shows.
However, just like with people (and sometimes websites), television shows contain multitudes; there is usually a lot more to what a person or show can offer than what you see in the first % of a second.
Unfortunately, unlike a person who you can meet up with at a later date, shows do not have a lot of time to change your mind. If a show does badly in Season 1, it is unlikely to be renewed Season 2. We’ve all seen that happen, and it stinks if you are the one person who liked the show and saw what it could be.
Shows evolve. Where a show begins is unlikely to be where it ends.
In the beginning, the characters get introduced, and the plot gets spelled out for you in neon.
However, plots change, and characters change. Sometimes they even leave. I mean, is anyone from the first season of Grey’s Anatomy even still there?
Some really great shows miraculously got renewed even though they didn’t begin so strong and turned into some of the best stuff on television. And some shows started strong and then kind of sagged.
Let’s take, for example, Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Shocker, right? I mean, this show is a cult classic! And it did pretty well when it first premiered. It was campy and fun, focusing on a relatively new genre of feminist superhero television and drama meets comedy meets fantasy meets high school.
I loved Buffy when I first saw it some fourteen years ago. I didn’t watch it when it was new and live, but I became addicted rather quickly. Of course, I didn’t watch it in order. I started in the later seasons, right in the middle of the action.
I’ve often wondered if I would have liked it if I started from the beginning like everybody else and sadly, I think I would have dropped it.
Buffy did not begin where it ended. The Buffy character, while pretty and friendly and perky, was not a protagonist I would have found compelling in the early seasons. The show was a little too campy, the arc villain a little too laughable, the stakes a little too low.
Also, the premise of a chosen one who didn’t want to be chosen is a common cliche nowadays. All the things that made Buffy groundbreaking in the late 1990s are a little behind the times now.
I mean, if you want a feminist hero, why not just watch Wonder Woman?
The character Buffy became, the tragedy she faced, the things she overcame, and the things she couldn’t overcome were all a part of what made her a compelling hero. But you didn’t know that going in.
And while I’m sure Joss Whedon knew exactly where he was going with his protagonist, he couldn’t guarantee a renewal. Nor did he know there would be a spinoff or that Spike would live past Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 2.
I’ve tried to get friends who missed the boat back in the 90s into Buffy and between he old-style filming, the not yet developed characters and the cliche plotlines I couldn’t get them past Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 1.
(I have now decided to always start with Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 2; I mean, let’s face it, Buffy Season 2 Episode 14 changes everything.)
It’s hard to say anything is wrong with Buffy, but there were definitely fans of the early seasons who took issue with the direction the show took later, namely Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 6.
The show evolved. The characters evolved. To quote Oliver Queen, it became something else.
Speaking of Oliver Queen, let’s talk about the Arrowverse for a minute. When Arrow premiered people invested in what seemed like a superhero drama about one man’s mission to right his father’s wrongs. And that was what it was — for the first season.
After Arrow Season 1, Oliver’s mission changes multiple times. His dynamic with other characters changes. His endgame changes. Because we all know that the writers intended The Green Arrow and Black Canary to end up together as in the comics.
Felicity Smoak was a curveball they did not expect, and her presence changed the tone of the show entirely.
By the show’s end, nearly all the characters from the beginning had been written out. Sure, some came back for a little cameo on Arrow Season 8 Episode 10, but that was just a little post Oliver’s death wish-fulfillment.
Tommy, Roy, Thea, and Moira were not a part of the show anymore. A doppelganger had replaced Laurel. Nobody even remembers Walter, and while Quentin lasted a lot longer than the others, he got written out too.
Meanwhile, we had all these new team members: Renee/Wild Dog, Dinah Drake, Curtis.
Was the show better or worse in later seasons? The answer to that question differs depending on who you ask. However, there is no question that it was a different show.
And it had Spinoff Shows. So. Many. Spin-Offs.
I won’t go into all of them, but two of note come to mind. Supergirl, of course, which started on CBS, was canceled, and then picked up by The CW. This alone meant that the show was going to change. Anybody who tuned in for Cat Grant was sorely disappointed, and frankly, that was all of us.
Supergirl is such a different show now. A lot of people would say it is not as good as the early days. Again, personal preference, but I like it a lot better than I did at the beginning (post-Crisis shake-up notwithstanding).
Much like Buffy, I didn’t find the Kara character compelling in the beginning. She didn’t seem like her own person, just a female version of Superman.
She needed to come into her own. Now, through relationships, love, loss, hard choices, and multiple catastrophes, she finally has. The Kara Danvers of Supergirl Season 5 is not the Kara Danvers we met on Supergirl Season 1 Episode 1.
But the biggest evolution of the Arrowverse comes in the form of DC’s Legends of Tomorrow.
Honestly, watching DC’s Legends of Tomorrow Season 1 was rather painful. These misfits were misfits for a reason. But a lot of the dead weight has long since been written out, and those who stuck around have grown into characters to root for.
Our resident DC–CW Show reviewer Sarah Little expands on this in her recent post DC’s Legends of Tomorrow is the Best Superhero Show Currently on TV. Be sure to check it out!
Overall, when it comes to the Arrowverse, a lot of these shows didn’t seem to know what they were in the beginning. Sometimes they thought they knew, but they were proven wrong as they found their identities.
Greg Berlanti, who is behind-the-scenes on these DC shows on The CW, recently came out with the Riverdale Spin-Off Katy Keene, and it is doing terrible in the ratings. It is still new and doesn’t know what it is.
The first couple episodes were a little lukewarm for me, but the later episodes got me very invested in the plot and the characters.
Katy Keene will likely get a renewal because a lot of The CW shows are getting them regardless of ratings, but if it were down to the ratings this show would go the way of Lucy Hale’s last CW show Life Sentence.
While some shows like Life Sentence deserve more time or like DC’s Legends of Tomorrow were lucky to get more time, others really should have quit while they were ahead.
ABC’s Once Upon a Time, for example, was a really great show … for about three or four seasons.
Once Upon A Time Season 1 takes place while cursed in a Land Without Magic, but later seasons involve magic in Storybrooke, The Enchanted Forest, Neverland, Oz, Arandelle, Camelot, The Underworld, The Land of Untold Stories.
They kept changing the location and the rules, not to mention the characters. But all these changes were not necessary. If they had stuck with what they had in the beginning, the things that made the show good, and focused on those things, it might have faired better.
After extreme quality decline where the show had just become a muddled mess, the writers attempted to fix it with a reboot on Once Upon A Time Season 7. They brought it all-new characters and recycled plots and arcs.
I actually liked Once Upon A Time Season 7, but I know I’m in the minority, and I can admit it is with good reason. The show got lazy, ignoring continuity, character development, timelines, and common sense all to feed the newest shiny plot they wanted to do.
Once Upon A Time had a short-lived Spinoff Once Upon A Time in Wonderland. The Spin-Off only lasted 13 episodes and was arguably better than the original series. However, the reason it was better may have been it wasn’t around long enough for the writers in question to muck it up!
Part of what decides if a show lives or dies are the ships and those change like the wind too. On The O.C., the main couple was supposed to be Ryan and Marissa, yet Seth and Summer took the spotlight, and Marissa exited the show early, leaving Ryan to end up with someone else. The same thing happened with Scott and Alison on Teen Wolf.
When faced with a similar situation on Gossip Girl, the creators of the show chose to go with the originally intended endgame even though many fans felt it didn’t make sense anymore.
Speaking of which, Gossip Girl centered on private school life if it’s early seasons but the characters are well out of school by the end.
Many shows start in high school and have to revamp everything when their characters graduate. One Tree Hill did a time jump that changed things up, not to mention they wrote out the original protagonist in the later seasons.
Smallville also began with a teenager in high school but the second half of the series involved people in their early twenties trying to navigate adult life including jobs at a major metropolitan newspaper.
Characters grow up, and shows evolve so much, you can’t know what you are investing in from a Pilot episode or even a first season. You could wait for the show to end, read a spoiler-free summary, and then decide if it’s what you want. I’ve done that actually and it works.
Maybe you saw a show’s pilot and decided it wasn’t for you. Fair enough.
But now it’s in season three or four, and it might be entirely different. Why not give it a try. It might be the best experience of your life.
Any shows you think changed for the better or worse?
Did they change too much or too little?
Do you feel any show was the same show when it started as when it ended?
Let us know in the comments.
Leora W is a staff writer for TV Fanatic..