9 Shows that Survived an Awful First Season and Became Hits

9 Shows that Survived an Awful First Season and Became Hits
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These shows managed to turn lemons into some seriously awesome lemonade.

1. "Parks and Recreation " (2009-2015)

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We're kicking off with a show that has become an embodiment of the "bad first season, great everything else" syndrome. Leslie Knope and her team of government officials didn't quite capture hearts during their first season. It was awkward, a bit too 'The Office ' inspired, and the characters weren't fleshed out or likable enough. Critics used words like 'dismal,' 'dull,' and 'unpromising.' The tone was off, the humor didn't land, and Leslie was just a female version of Michael Scott, not the lovable, waffle-obsessed government servant we'd come to adore.

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But then, something miraculous happened. In season 2, the creators managed to pull the comedic equivalent of a phoenix rising from the ashes. The characters were given depth, the humor was refined, and Leslie evolved into a powerhouse of a woman with an unyielding love for her town and friends. 'Parks and Recreation' transformed from a lackluster sitcom into a critical darling that fans still re-watch and quote.

2. "The Office" (U.S.) (2005-2013)

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Speaking of 'The Office,' it's our next contender. Who can forget Michael Scott's 'World's Best Boss' mug and the awkward silences that seemed to be a character of their own? But, if we're being honest, season 1 was more cringe than comedy. It was essentially a line-for-line rehash of the original UK series, which didn't translate well for the American audience. Viewers weren't ready for the second-hand embarrassment and face-palm moments that were more agonizing than funny.

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However, the showrunners clearly had a 'that's what she said' moment and decided to tweak the format. From season 2 onwards, 'The Office' found its voice, leaning into its unique characters and finding humor in their relatable, everyday situations. It went from a show people endured to a show they adored, with quotable lines and characters that have become cultural mainstays.

3. "Blackadder" (1982-1989)

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In a surprising twist, we're moving across the pond to a British show that became a comedy classic – 'Blackadder.' But before it achieved its legendary status, it went through a disastrous first season. It was originally a big-budget historical comedy that suffered from lackluster scripts and a problematic character dynamic. Rowan Atkinson 's Blackadder was more of a sniveling idiot than the sharp-witted anti-hero we'd grow to love.

However, in its second season, 'Blackadder' underwent a radical transformation. The show ditched its high-budget sets for more intimate locations, and Atkinson's character was rewritten as the intelligent but cynical character that viewers came to adore. The rest, as they say, is history (quite literally in this case), and 'Blackadder' became one of the most beloved comedies on British television.

4. "BoJack Horseman " (2014-2020)

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Enter "BoJack Horseman," an animated series about a washed-up sitcom star who is...well, a horse. To say that the show had an unusual premise is a colossal understatement. Season one initially left viewers and critics somewhat nonplussed, with many unsure what to make of this odd cocktail of anthropomorphic animals, dark humor, and bleak themes of depression and addiction.

But hold your horses! After a shaky start, "BoJack Horseman" found its stride in the latter half of the first season and absolutely galloped into greatness in the subsequent seasons. It's since been lauded for its masterful blend of absurd comedy, heartbreaking drama, and razor-sharp social commentary, proving that you can, indeed, teach an old horse new tricks.

5. "Star Trek: The Next Generation" (1987-1994)

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"Star Trek: The Next Generation" was destined for a rough start. It was, after all, a reboot of a beloved classic, and the series' first season was marred by hammy dialogue, cheesy effects, and plots that felt like they were written on a cocktail napkin. Fans dubbed it 'TNG: The Nausea Generation.'

But despite boldly going where no one wanted to go, the series managed to make an about-face. The writing improved, the characters became more than just Spock and Kirk stand-ins, and the show started tackling thought-provoking moral and social issues. It managed to not only match the original Star Trek in quality but even surpass it in some fans' eyes.

6. "30 Rock" (2006-2013)

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Liz Lemon and her eccentric team of writers took a little time to hit their comedic stride in "30 Rock." In the first season, the jokes were inconsistent, and the show seemed unsure of its identity, teetering between workplace comedy and satire. Critics enjoyed it but found it lacking in comparison to other comedies airing at the same time.

However, Tina Fey, like a phoenix rising from a dumpster fire, managed to transform "30 Rock" from a mediocre comedy into one of the greatest sitcoms of all time. The humor became sharper, the characters more lovable (and hilariously flawed), and the show went on to bag several Emmys. It was less of a turnaround and more of a comedic revolution.

7. "Breaking Bad " (2008-2013)

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Believe it or not, the journey of Walter White from meek chemistry teacher to feared meth kingpin didn't start on a high. The first season of "Breaking Bad" was received with a lukewarm response. Critics were unsure what to make of this dark, depressing drama about a terminally ill teacher turning to a life of crime. The season was shortened due to the writers' strike, and the show didn't get the chance to fully flesh out its characters and storyline.

However, like Walter's own transformation, "Breaking Bad" came into its own in the subsequent seasons. The writing improved, the character arcs deepened, and the series morphed into a heart-stopping, adrenaline-fueled ride that is now considered one of the greatest TV dramas of all time. It's safe to say that "Breaking Bad" cooked up a winning formula after its first season.

8. "Seinfeld" (1989-1998)

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A show about nothing had a whole lot of nothing going for it during its initial run. "Seinfeld" started as a low-rated sitcom that NBC was close to canceling. The characters were deemed unlikable, the premise was too bizarre, and audiences weren't accustomed to a sitcom without a traditional story structure. The humor didn't resonate, and the episodes felt disjointed.

But hold onto your puffy shirts! Seinfeld didn't stay down for long. The creators, Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David, stuck to their vision, and as audiences began to understand their unique brand of humor, the show's popularity skyrocketed. "Seinfeld" is now considered one of the greatest and most influential sitcoms ever. It turned the mundane aspects of everyday life into comedy gold.

9. "Doctor Who " (2005-present)

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Not many shows get the chance to redeem themselves, but "Doctor Who" is not just any show. It's a British institution. However, when it returned in 2005 after a 16-year hiatus, the initial reception was less 'timey-wimey' and more 'cringey-wingey.' The special effects were laughable, the plots were seen as silly, and the ninth doctor, Christopher Eccleston, didn't resonate with many viewers.

But the show pulled off a regeneration of its own. The production value increased, the writing got better, and with the introduction of David Tennant as the Tenth Doctor, the show found its footing. It's since become a beloved sci-fi series worldwide with a dedicated fan base. The Doctor may have multiple lives, but "Doctor Who" proved it only needed a second chance to make a lasting impression.