When Should You Bail on a TV Show?
Nothing feels better than giving up on a TV show: the sweet release of deleting a season's worth of unwatched episodes from your DVR, the dopamine rush of dropping a show from your Netflix queue, or the transcendental bliss of simply forgetting Vinyl exists. As the demands of peak TV put a choke hold on your leisure time, kicking a show to the curb can make you feel powerful, like the hero of Daredevil -- a show I stopped watching after six episodes.
But how can you determine when it's time to abandon that prestige show that isn't quite as slick as it looks? We've got you covered with these 10 signs that you should give up on the shows you love.
When the original creative team gets pushed out
If every show's fanbase comprises an internet fiefdom, the showrunner is their king. Your parents likely have opinions about what Matthew Weiner should do post-Mad Men, and you probably have an uncle who won't stop e-mailing you David Simon op-eds with the subject line, "This guy gets it!" Maybe you have an aunt who has taken up permanent residence in Shondaland.
Showrunners are important, and when they're doing their jobs right, they bring a consistent authorial voice to the shows you watch. Therefore, when the driving creative force behind your favorite series gets pushed out after butting heads with a network, like Dan Harmon after season three of Community, Aaron Sorkin after season four of TheWest Wing, or Amy Sherman-Palladino after season six of Gilmore Girls, it's time to jump ship. Follow your captain as they walk the plank.
Occasionally, a show will buck this trend -- Seinfeld still had classic episodes in its post-Larry David years, and many Walking Dead fans didn't even tune in to the show till after Frank Darabont's first season -- but more often than not, their departure is a sign of creative demise.
When your favorite character gets killed off
Where were you when Marissa Cooper got pushed off the road by Volchok and died in Ryan's meaty arms? Maybe you were drinking yourself into a stupor and screaming, "Mischa Barton, why have you forsaken me?" Her death is the perfect time to leave the coarse sands of Newport Beach behind. Get out while the tears are still drying and "Hallelujah" is ringing in your ears.
Many shows can survive a random death -- great shows, like The Sopranos or Breaking Bad, have high-stakes violence in their bloodthirsty DNA -- but when your favorite character gets the ax, it's a good time to reassess your potentially toxic relationship with the show. Is it still fun? Do you even like these fictional people you devote an hour of your life to every week? Or is Ryan Murphy playing with your emotions?
When someone gets resurrected from the dead
This is a tricky one. On science-fiction and fantasy shows, resurrection is a common trope that can be used to great effect. Buffy the Vampire Slayer is one of the best shows ever made, and Buffy died twice. But in Buffy's case, each death wasn't just a cheap storytelling decision -- it served a greater narrative purpose, and the consequences of her coming back were explored in depth. I hope Jon Snow's inevitable return on Game of Thrones will be treated with similar gravitas.
Pregnancies, weddings, interventions, infidelity, or having a popular character clone himself are all reliable ways to goose the ratings, but death is the ultimate watercooler moment. So when creators bring a character back from the dead, like when Locke died and then got resurrected on Lost, it can start to feel like there are no real stakes to the drama. Of course, Locke's body was actually being controlled by the Smoke Monster during the time I'm thinking about, but, uh, that's another problem altogether.
When the primary couple gets boring
The conventional wisdom is that many shows -- Cheers and Moonlighting in particular -- self-destruct after the sexual tension between the central "will they or won't they" couple becomes a definite "they did and are still doing it" couple. But this is one TV cliché that isn't really true. Sex between two attractive leads rarely ruins a comedy or a drama. It can even be fun!
You know what should make you dump a show? When the main couple, or at least the plotlines surrounding them, get boring. That's what happened in the later seasons of The Office, when the show tried to create tension by making you think Jim and Pam were going to cheat on each other. The show didn't unravel when they got together, it sucked when they stopped being interesting.
When random characters start dating
Sure, in your head it's fun to see the lunkheaded but sweet-hearted Joey end up with the neurotic and perpetually heartbroken Rachel on Friends, but save it for your fan fiction. Seriously, there are whole communities waiting for you.
Long-running shows only have so many options as they soldier on toward their finales, so it's natural for Jackie to start dating Hyde on That '70s Show or Jessa to hook up with Adam on Girls. But the characters on those shows are played by actors who are being paid to be there. You are not. Free yourself.
When teen characters go to college
In real life, college is a great experience to make new friends, discover interests you never knew you had, and learn how to construct bongs out of various household items. On TV, it's where drama goes to die. Mr. Feeny shouldn't also be a college professor if he was also a high school principal.
What's the exception to this rule? When a show starts at college, like Judd Apatow's canceled-too-soon Undeclared, the Cosby Show spinoff A Different World, or ABC Family's charming Greek, it can fight this cliché. But for shows about high school? Graduation day is a great day to say goodbye to your favorite teen shows. Give 'em a big bear hug, hand them a few condoms, and never look back. They are dead to you.
When old cute kids get replaced with new cute kids
Cute children are an essential part of most TV shows, and nothing makes a finale really cook like a surprise pregnancy. But when a show starts using pregnancy as a way to just create newer, cuter kids to replace the cute kids who are getting older, à la Nicky and Alex on Full House? That's evil and manipulative, even for Uncle Jesse.
Get out of here with that trash. Stick with the cute kids you came in the game with. I'm looking at you, Cousin Oliver.
When they try to New Class you
After the core Saved by the Bell cast moved on to greener pastures, NBC attempted to rebrand the show as Saved by the Bell: The New Class and introduced a whole cast of corny teens to mimic human behavior while a laugh track groaned over their belabored zingers. Anytime this happens, you should probably cut ties with the show faster than Zack dumped Kelly when he found out she was cheating on him with Jeff.
As always, there are exceptions: Friday Night Lights introduced a whole crop of new young characters in its third and fourth seasons, and they were great. Except for Buddy Garrity Jr. I never figured out what the deal was with him.
When the show is called Dexter
Everyone I know who watched this show says it has a horrible, irredeemable ending. People retch when I mention it. But then they go on to explain that the first few seasons are actually good, and you've gotta watch the one with the Trinity Killer.
Actually, I don't. Because I'll never watch a show called Dexter. That's a name for a cartoon scientist, not a serial killer. Sorry, Michael C. Hall. Six Feet Under was pretty dope, but I pre-bailed on this show before even watching it and haven't looked back. It feels great.
When you don't want to watch it anymore
Whoa! I'm blowing your mind, right? You are an adult. Watch the stuff you like, and when you don't like something, turn it off.
"We’re dragging ourselves through shows that we don’t like or that aren’t actually any good at all, because we’ve become convinced that we owe it to them," wrote the Washington Post's Alyssa Rosenberg in a recent review of House of Cards. This is prestige TV Stockholm syndrome. House of Cards is garbage -- I bailed after the first season -- and if you stop watching, Kevin Spacey will not show up at your house to strangle your dog.
The amount of hand-wringing and chin-stroking about whether or not people should or should not be consuming mediocre television shows has become absurd. Do you find the main characters of Love grating, and you don't see where it's going after three episodes? Go read a book. Are you exhausted by the increasingly improbable twists on Homeland? Try knitting. Do you still watch Grey's Anatomy? Get help.
Again: you are an adult. You don't have to finish doing most things. For example, I don't feel like writing about this anymore. Boom. Done. See how easy that was?
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