4 Shows That Returned to Awesomeness After Sucking for Years

We all know lots of shows turn crappy after a while, but that's not what I'm writing about today. Or, to put it another way, we all know lots of shows turn crappy after a while, but that's not what I'm writing about today. Oh, did I put it exactly the same way? Yes, I did. And do you know what's amazing? I bet everything I own that you will see plenty of comments about shows that started out good but turned crappy. But here's the thing: although lots of shows turn crappy after a while, that's not what I'm writing about today.

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OK, you got my attention, but what are you writing about?

Today's topic is shows that lost their way ... for a bit, before fixing things. Shows that started off fine before forgetting what made the show work and going down a wrong path for a while. Got it? Not just a gradual decline into garbage.

#4. Doctor Who

I believe I was the first Cracked columnist to write about Doctor Who, when I did my column three years ago explaining how Doctor Who became my religion. Quite simply, the show did nothing short of alter my conception of God. It's not a religious show by any means, but it is about an incredibly old and powerful alien who loves humanity more than all the creatures in the universe. He often fights for us. Most never know him. Most are never aware of everything he has done to perpetuate the world and keep us safe. And, sometimes, despite all his power and love, he loses himself, makes mistakes, and fails.

And he often can't dress for shit.

These days, Doctor Who has become a bit of a whipping boy, with Cracked's own Soren Bowie and Adam Tod Brown taking shots at the show, and I understand their criticisms, but I tend to disagree. I'd tell them myself if they would return my calls, but I'll tell you instead. And I will tell you as a fan who loves The Doctor. I'll also tell you as a writer who thinks that the last two showrunners, Russell T. Davies and Steven Moffat, although not infallible, are full-blown geniuses.

Doctor Who is at its best when The Doctor is saving humanity or other worthy victims from evil, not with violence but intelligence and faith in others. Even though he is capable of great destruction, he tries to live by impossible ideals in a universe filled with unspeakable evil. His ability to regenerate means that even though he is now about a thousand years old, his persona has been portrayed by actors who look like old men and youthful dreamboats.

What Went Wrong? Season 7 of the Reboot

Season 7. Season 7 went horribly wrong. Y'see, after 16 years of it being off the air, the BBC brought the show back in 2005 with a hip young Doctor portrayed by Christopher Eccleston. After a season, he was replaced by David Tennant. Tennant's Doctor was notable for his good looks, romanticism, and, perhaps most importantly, his ability to make me doubt my heterosexuality.


Tennant made The Doctor sexy, and the show exploded in popularity in America. When Tennant left, they replaced him with an even younger actor, Matt Smith, who continued the explosion of fangirlism. And that was fine. Smith was a great Doctor. But in Season 7 we said goodbye to The Doctor's human companions Rory and Amy and found a new woman to take their place: Clara.

Hi, I'm Clara. I'm super hot and the important thing to remember about my character is ... uh, um, hmm, well, I'm sure I must have a character or ... something? No? I'm just a super hot plucky shell of a nothing character? That doesn't seem like a good idea ...

No offense to the super dreamy and talented actress, Jenna Coleman, but the Clara character is the most underdeveloped companion of the series reboot, and it's created a lot of weird, unnecessary sexual tension with The Doctor. Season 7 gets cutesy in a way that made it seem like Moffat is pandering to hordes of new American fangirls. And it's not all about Clara. In Smith's final episode as The Doctor, he is moments away from regenerating -- the "death" of his character in its current form before taking a new, related but different identity. Logically, he should want to see his wife. (Yes, turns out The Doctor was married at some point in his 1,000-year life.) But instead he dreams of Amy -- his sexy companion from the previous seasons. Why? I dunno, because awwwwwwwww.

How'd They Fix It?

Well, they haven't fully, but they're on the right path. The Doctor is now played by the much older and less romantic Peter Capaldi, who is bringing a touch more angry indifference to the role (at least on the outside). There is no longer any weird flirtation with Clara, as they have given her a boyfriend. And, best of all, it really seems Clara is on the way out -- hopefully replaced by a character who has, y'know, some character. If the show can do that and up the stakes on The Doctor being the savior he was meant to be, we might continue to see the improvements of Season 8 into a glorious Season 9. (At the time of writing, the season finale has not yet aired, but it seems like maybe we're on to something ...)

#3. Friday Night Lights

I'm sure I don't have to tell you about Friday Night Lights. I mean who doesn't love Friday Night Lights? Well, me actually. I'd never watched the show at all, but my buddy hipped me to it, and wouldn't you know it? It's actually the best entry on this list, because something super weird happened to the show. It's an adaptation from the film of the same name, and both are based on a nonfiction book about life in a small Texas town centered around a high school football team. Unlike most TV adaptations, where a successful movie is boiled down to the least common denominator, the film's director, Peter Berg, brought the project to television so he'd have more time to tell smaller and more intimate stories. Essentially, the show centers around high school football coach Eric Taylor, his family, his football team, and his community. The show also examines the interpersonal issues of an ensemble cast.

Who can forget the episode that centers on coach deciding between two brands of anti-dandruff shampoo?

What Went Wrong? Season 2

Turns out that a quiet show about life in a small, football-minded Texas town was not the ratings bonanza you might expect. And some have speculated that the network began interfering in Season 2. Because, suddenly, a large part of the season deals with ... MURDER! Yep, in Season 2, viewers are treated to a storyline that features attempted rape and murder. Somewhere between storylines about accidental pregnancies and college recruiters, it was decided to liven things up with one of the students killing a man who tries to rape the coach's wife.

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"Oh, cool, the team won its season opener and ... wait, who got murdered?"

How'd They Fix It?

They resolved that storyline by having a heartfelt confession, and then never spoke of it again. Even better, NBC made a deal with DirecTV to co-produce the subsequent three seasons of the show on DirecTV's 101 Network. With that reduced production cost, it seems there might have been less pressure to deliver big drama storylines to this small show.

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