10 bad TV shows that were saved with one quick fix

Morgan Jeffery
Photo credit: BBC/Mutant Enemy/ Showtime / Disney

From Digital Spy

Plenty of TV shows improve after a shaky start. Most just grow into themselves after a wobbly pilot episode, or an uneven first season – think The Big Bang Theory or Buffy or Star Trek: The Next Generation.

But on occasion, a bad or mediocre series can do it in an instant and switch things up with just one quick fix. Like flicking a switch, this small change transforms a show's fortunes, practically overnight.

Here are 10 times a network or creative team set their show on a path to success with but a single wave of their magic wand...

1. Marvel's Agents of SHIELD

Photo credit: Kelsey McNeal / ABC

The quick fix: Tear down SHIELD

A middling spy-fi series with only a tangential link to the films that inspired it, Marvel's Agents of SHIELD floundered until the events of Captain America: The Winter Soldier made a big impact and forced it to get creative.

Now the underdogs, on the run, betrayed by one of their own (Brett Dalton's secret HYDRA operative Grant Ward), our heroes were set on a much more compelling path.

2. Blackadder

Photo credit: BBC

The quick fix: Make Blackadder smart

Having Rowan Atkinson play dumb for The Black Adder with Tony Robinson as his sage sidekick just didn't work. When the show returned after a 3-year break, the more familiar set-up was in place: Blackadder was whip-smart and sharp-tongued, while Baldrick was an utter dunce whose plans weren't even remotely cunning. Much better.

3. Homeland

Photo credit: Showtime

The quick fix: Kill Brody

Homeland's first year was hugely addictive television, but there's a strong argument to be made that Damian Lewis's tortured Nicholas Brody should've blown himself up at season's end.

The writers struggled to know what to do with either him or lovestruck Carrie (Claire Danes) after the opening episodes of season two. Once they found the courage to finally write him out, the show got its groove back.

4. Red Dwarf

The quick fix: Make it an ensemble show

BBC Two's sci-fi sitcom wasn't flat-out bad in its first two series – there's a certain charm to the "Porridge in space" quality of the episodes fronted mostly by just Craig Charles and Chris Barrie.

But it was when the Cat (Danny John-Jules) became a major character and Robert Llewellyn's officious android Kryten joined the crew that Red Dwarf truly soared.

5. Angel

Photo credit: Mutant Enemy

The quick fix: Make it an ensemble show (again)

The first season of Buffy's spinoff was fairly divisive – the "vampire detective in LA" gimmick was charming but a small cast of just three regular characters felt limiting.

Angel improved immeasurably once its embraced that Joss Whedon staple – a large and colourful cast, each with distinct personalities. Wesley, Fred, Gunn, Lorne... these were the characters that made the show.

5. New Girl

Photo credit: Alexei Hay / Fox

The quick fix: Make it an ensemble show (yes, again!)

Jess does something kooky and unexpected. The rest of the cast rail at her kookiness, and just how darn surprising her behaviour is.

It was a set-up with a short shelf life. New Girl wouldn't be heading for a fifth season right now if it hadn't allowed the idiosyncracies of its supporting cast – Nick's slobbish rage, Schmidt's douchiness, Winston's outright oddness – to flourish.

6. Fringe

Photo credit: Fox

The quick fix: Stop trying to be The X-Files

A pretty workmanlike procedural that felt far too much like a lazy rehash of another supernatural series on Fox, Fringe didn't thrive till it shook off those The X-Files comparisons.

How did it manage it? By ditching the monster-of-the-week format and going utterly batshit crazy, of course: delving into parallel universes, doppelgängers and time travel. Magnificent madness.

8. The Office US

Photo credit: NBC Universal

The quick fix: Stop trying to be the UK series

The original version of The Office is one of the great British sitcoms of modern times. It's practically perfect. To attempt to mimic it outright would be foolhardy.

NBC gave it a go with the first six episodes of its US remake, though. Only once The Office US was allowed to find its own, more surreal sense of humour, with Michael Scott drifting further and further from David Brent, did it hit that sweet spot.

9. Parks and Recreation

Photo credit: Colleen Hayes / NBC Universal

The quick fix: Make Leslie a sweetheart

The success of The Office led NBC to launch this quasi-spin-off, with the first season casting Amy Poehler's bureaucrat Leslie Knope as an overly enthusiastic irritant.

A subtle but important overhaul of the character – still ambitious and driven, but charming rather than maddening – helped hugely, while swapping Paul Schneider's dull love interest Mark Brendanawicz for Adam Scott's endearing Ben Wyatt certainly didn't hurt.

10. The Simpsons

Photo credit: Fox

The quick fix: Make it about Homer

It's easy to see why Bart – a Dennis the Menace-style young troublemaker – was envisioned as the star of The Simpsons, but thank goodness Matt Groening and his team cottoned on to a good thing and shifted the focus to doltish dad Homer.

Bart's fun and all, but would The Simpsons have survived for almost 30 years with a very '90s character – all totally radical catchphrases, spiky hair and skateboards – at its heart? Homer's stupidity (and his access to a far broader range of characters about Springfield), on the other hand, is timeless...

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