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(The Atlantic)   Why do most TV shows peak in the third season?   (theatlantic.com) divider line 102
    More: Obvious, television shows, Michael Schur, Steve Levitan, Sons Of Anarchy  
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2961 clicks; posted to Entertainment » on 22 Jul 2014 at 10:13 AM (40 weeks ago)   |  Favorite    |   share:  Share on Twitter share via Email Share on Facebook   more»



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2014-07-22 09:24:24 AM  
Because after three years they've established the right formula and characters for a good show after working the kinks out in the first two seasons.

See: Star Trek: TNG
 
2014-07-22 09:29:53 AM  
So Firefly would've had to survive another season before finally getting good? It never had a chance...
 
2014-07-22 09:38:18 AM  
Sitcoms especially often begin running out of good ideas of what to do with their characters and start going increasingly far afield with plot lines. Also, a lot of characters end up as Flanderized versions of where they started out. It's not universal though. Seinfeld probably had its best seasons in 4 and 7 (although 1 was so short you could argue that 4 was really 3). Cheers' best season was probably 5, Newhart's best season was 4, Frasier probably peaked around 4 or 5, etc.
 
2014-07-22 09:43:37 AM  
This just proves that The Simpsons is one of the most exceptional TV shows of all time. They didn't really hit their stride until Season 9. The Principal and the Pauper was the beginning of that show's golden era.
 
2014-07-22 10:15:20 AM  
Because that's when Riker grows his beard.
 
2014-07-22 10:16:45 AM  
We are talking about American shows only, right?
 
2014-07-22 10:19:32 AM  

hamdingers: Because that's when Riker grows his beard.


Nope, Riker grew his beard between seasons 1 and 2, and 2 was half crap.
 
2014-07-22 10:19:48 AM  
Writers in final year of contract before producers go with a cheaper option?
 
2014-07-22 10:20:42 AM  
The real reason is probably that by the third season, offscreen talent is being poached by other producers to do their own thing. The cohesive team that worked through all the kinks to give you that perfect third season all become free agents.
 
2014-07-22 10:23:06 AM  
So Homeland may get better next season?
 
2014-07-22 10:40:10 AM  
I feel as though, even though the season as a whole, wasn't great, The Walking Dead's season 4 definitely peaked during The Grove episode.

/Just keep looking at the flowers
 
2014-07-22 10:40:50 AM  

Serious Black: This just proves that The Simpsons is one of the most exceptional TV shows of all time. They didn't really hit their stride until Season 9. The Principal and the Pauper was the beginning of that show's golden era.


I always thought it was a bit after, when they moved away from traditional animation.  That's when it got really good.
 
2014-07-22 10:43:33 AM  

Serious Black: This just proves that The Simpsons is one of the most exceptional TV shows of all time. They didn't really hit their stride until Season 9. The Principal and the Pauper was the beginning of that show's golden era.


3/10.  You'll get some bites.
 
2014-07-22 10:45:18 AM  

LarryDan43: Writers in final year of contract before producers go with a cheaper option?


This is a large factor in the correct answer.  Also, season four is when the famous actors on the show all want to be writers, directors and producers of episodes as an incentive for them to stay on a few more seasons and not flee to movies.
 
2014-07-22 10:46:11 AM  

TonnageVT: I feel as though, even though the season as a whole, wasn't great, The Walking Dead's season 4 definitely peaked during The Grove episode.

/Just keep looking at the flowers


Oh man....that episode still creeps me out.
 
2014-07-22 10:51:34 AM  
I am still peeved at FOX for canceling Almost Human after the first season. Thought it was a pretty decent show.
 
2014-07-22 10:51:39 AM  
Case in point, Boardwalk Empire.

/season 4 was crap!
//season 5 is not looking too good either, why the jump to 1931?!
 
2014-07-22 10:51:50 AM  
img1.wikia.nocookie.net
 
2014-07-22 10:54:30 AM  

MattStafford: Serious Black: This just proves that The Simpsons is one of the most exceptional TV shows of all time. They didn't really hit their stride until Season 9. The Principal and the Pauper was the beginning of that show's golden era.

I always thought it was a bit after, when they moved away from traditional animation.  That's when it got really good.


You're both wrong. It's when they killed off Maude. She dragged the whole show down. Once she was gone we were free to have the classic "Flanders falls in love with..." episodes that are consistently the best the show has to offer.
 
2014-07-22 10:56:16 AM  
Miami Vice:

Peaked in the second season, and "jumped the shark" at the beginning of the third season....when the Daytona was killed.
 
2014-07-22 10:56:21 AM  

Sybarite: Sitcoms especially often begin running out of good ideas of what to do with their characters and start going increasingly far afield with plot lines. Also, a lot of characters end up as Flanderized versions of where they started out. It's not universal though. Seinfeld probably had its best seasons in 4 and 7 (although 1 was so short you could argue that 4 was really 3). Cheers' best season was probably 5, Newhart's best season was 4, Frasier probably peaked around 4 or 5, etc.


On the other side of the coin, Community peaked in season 2.
 
2014-07-22 10:56:28 AM  
The picture in the article just reminded me of how quickly I, and some of my friends, turned on Jim and Pam in The Office. They went from people you identified with and rooted for, to being a really annoying, better-than-thou couple. The secondary characters were the only parts worth watching for a while. IMO.
 
2014-07-22 10:56:54 AM  
Oh.....and The Sopranos definitely peaked in the third season.
 
2014-07-22 10:58:11 AM  

LarryDan43: Writers in final year of contract before producers go with a cheaper option?


And the actors still haven't had their contract renewed with riders requiring they get a minimum amount of dialog and certain number of plot lines.
 
2014-07-22 11:00:54 AM  

hollowmoon: Case in point, Boardwalk Empire.

/season 4 was crap!
//season 5 is not looking too good either, why the jump to 1931?!


I love the music!!!!
 
2014-07-22 11:01:45 AM  
So that means season 3 of Arrow is going to blow my farking mind. I look forward to it.

/moar Smoak-skirts, please
 
2014-07-22 11:01:52 AM  

Car_Ramrod: The picture in the article just reminded me of how quickly I, and some of my friends, turned on Jim and Pam in The Office. They went from people you identified with and rooted for, to being a really annoying, better-than-thou couple. The secondary characters were the only parts worth watching for a while. IMO.


Also, Michael Scott went from "idiot-savant manager" to "petulant man-child".  Luckily, the secondary characters were able to keep the show watchable.
 
2014-07-22 11:04:08 AM  
Sons of Anarchy did NOT peak in the third season.

What about Community, Dexter, Breaking Bad, The Wire?
 
2014-07-22 11:05:17 AM  
Not true for The West Wing. That show was at its best in its first season, right out of the gate.

But I will agree that season 3 of Babylon 5, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and Star Trek:TNG were probably the best seasons of those respective series.
 
2014-07-22 11:07:11 AM  

mooseyfate: So that means season 3 of Arrow is going to blow my farking mind. I look forward to it.


Same here. That show is freaking awesome. As good as Agents of Shield got towards the end of the first season, Arrow always had it beat.
 
2014-07-22 11:08:35 AM  
Good ideas take time.
 
2014-07-22 11:11:07 AM  
I have this theory that once your average person comes to know and understand the characters on a show they begin to lose interest.
 
2014-07-22 11:11:34 AM  
www.startrek.com

Season 3 episode 1.
 
2014-07-22 11:14:26 AM  
Heroes peaked in Season 1. Babylon 5 peaked in Season 4 (and without the "we're gonna get cancelled" cram, Season 5.

That logic surmised that Deadwood was cancelled just in time.
 
2014-07-22 11:18:34 AM  

FirstNationalBastard: hamdingers: Because that's when Riker grows his beard.

Nope, Riker grew his beard between seasons 1 and 2, and 2 was half crap.


In fairness, though, the writers were on strike for half of season 2.
 
2014-07-22 11:18:59 AM  
Simpsons was good when Conan was on the writing staff.

BSG jumped the shark third season.
 
2014-07-22 11:20:19 AM  

RickyCoogan: LarryDan43: Writers in final year of contract before producers go with a cheaper option?

This is a large factor in the correct answer.  Also, season four is when the famous actors on the show all want to be writers, directors and producers of episodes as an incentive for them to stay on a few more seasons and not flee to movies.


The Alan Alda effect.
 
2014-07-22 11:22:56 AM  
In my humble opinion, The Wire peaked in Season 4, but was consistently great throughout......but that show is a bit of an outlier, methinks.
 
2014-07-22 11:25:08 AM  

Raider_dad: Season 3 episode 1.


TOS had a bizarro trajectory.

Season 1 was magnificent, with only a few bad episodes. Season 2 was half and half. Season 3 was mostly crap, with a few great episodes.
 
2014-07-22 11:25:23 AM  
Season 3 of Its Always Sunny In Philadelphia was definitely the high point. It's been down hill ever since.
 
2014-07-22 11:26:30 AM  

NeoCortex42: Car_Ramrod: The picture in the article just reminded me of how quickly I, and some of my friends, turned on Jim and Pam in The Office. They went from people you identified with and rooted for, to being a really annoying, better-than-thou couple. The secondary characters were the only parts worth watching for a while. IMO.

Also, Michael Scott went from "idiot-savant manager" to "petulant man-child".  Luckily, the secondary characters were able to keep the show watchable.


I always thought the employment prospects in Scranton must've been just awful for people to keep working there, especially when Michael kept pushing himself into everyone's personal lives. Of course, it didn't really seem like anyone had any friends outside of work, so maybe they enjoyed any human interactions they could get.
 
2014-07-22 11:29:27 AM  

Fonaibung: Sons of Anarchy did NOT peak in the third season.

What about Community, Dexter, Breaking Bad, The Wire?


Dexter peaked in Season 4 with the Trinity Killer. All downhill from there.
 
2014-07-22 11:29:38 AM  
They don't.  They peak in season two.  Just from TFA's author's list.

Sons of Anarchy, Grey's Anatomy, The Office, Justified all peaked in season two.  Parks and Rec peaked somewhere between seasons two and three.

I would even argue that Lost and Glee were at their best in season one.

For the most part, shows peak in season two because by that time the writers have a good feel for the characters and they're still using up their best storylines.  Early on, the characters are usually a little more consistent and later the stories tend to get repetitive or come from out of nowhere.
 
2014-07-22 11:31:26 AM  

firegoat: Season 3 of Its Always Sunny In Philadelphia was definitely the high point. It's been down hill ever since.


"It's Always Sunny" is a show that I liked quite a bit for about a year. I watched all of them that were available.

And then I simply couldn't stand it anymore. Even the episodes that I used to like now seemed ridiculously stupid and un-funny. I can't think of any other show that I've loved and then hated like I have with "It's Always Sunny".
 
2014-07-22 11:32:21 AM  
TFA just blames the viewers:

"Everyone's favorite seasons of shows are seasons two and three, because you've had a year to get to know them, and then you're still in the honeymoon period where you go, 'This is great!'" Mike Schur, the creator and executive producer of the Fox comedy Brooklyn Nine-Nine, explains to Quartz. "And then after season three, everyone starts to go, 'Eh, that show's not as interesting as it was anymore.' And it's like, 'Well you've been watching it for three years.'"

When the real reason is that it takes a season or two for the show to warm up - the writers have watched the actors deliver their lines enough to know how to write for them, the actors understand their characters better, everyone involved in making the show is finally on the same page as far as tone and theme, etc. Then it takes a season or two after that for most premises to start to run dry. You could have the most talented people in showbiz working on The Walking Dead, eventually you'll exhaust the dramatic potential of "A bunch of people in a zombie apocalypse alternate between shooting zombies and crying messily" and people will start to get bored with your show.

Some shows have a broad enough premise and a wide enough cast of characters (the Simpsons being an obvious example) that the show has more possible plots to be mined, but there's only so far you can take most premises. Under The Dome had exhausted its premise halfway through the first season.
 
2014-07-22 11:35:25 AM  

realmolo: firegoat: Season 3 of Its Always Sunny In Philadelphia was definitely the high point. It's been down hill ever since.

"It's Always Sunny" is a show that I liked quite a bit for about a year. I watched all of them that were available.

And then I simply couldn't stand it anymore. Even the episodes that I used to like now seemed ridiculously stupid and un-funny. I can't think of any other show that I've loved and then hated like I have with "It's Always Sunny".


It became unbelievably formulaic. They all bicker and scream at each other about (insert plot for episode here), scheme is hatched, scheme almost seems successful, then scheme backfires in their face, usually with collateral damage.

/The League surpassed them by a mile
 
2014-07-22 11:36:05 AM  

Fonaibung: Sons of Anarchy did NOT peak in the third season.

What about Community, Dexter, Breaking Bad, The Wire?


Community definitely peaked in season 2, though S3 had some decent moments.  Dexter: S1 good, S2 half good (english tittay vamp ruined half), S3 was awful, S4 phenomenal, and everything after was awful.  Breaking Bad...love all 5 seasons, but S4 was some of the best damn TV I have ever seen.  The Wire?  S4 makes me bawl like a baby every time.  S5, less than great.  S3?  Well, Stringer Bell...sob.
SOA is only good when Charlie Hunnam is unclothed.
 
2014-07-22 11:37:47 AM  

russlar: FirstNationalBastard: hamdingers: Because that's when Riker grows his beard.

Nope, Riker grew his beard between seasons 1 and 2, and 2 was half crap.

In fairness, though, the writers were on strike for half of season 2.


Season 2 had Pulaski, who was drummed out by the Beverly fans and the "She's McCoy With Tits!" fans. Sad, since was Diana Fricking Muldaur, with two roles in TOS.

Season 2 also had Niles the Butler as Sherlock Data's nemesis.

/Season 3 should have made Dr. Selar as the CMO
 
2014-07-22 11:38:42 AM  
I wish they had let Terriers peak in the third season.
 
2014-07-22 11:40:46 AM  

Fonaibung: Sons of Anarchy did NOT peak in the third season.

What about Community, Dexter, Breaking Bad, The Wire?


Dexter peaked in the 4th.  Breaking Bad was a perfect arc as was The Wire.
 
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