Shows with a great premise but terrible execution

Don’t ask me how, but I’d had the impression that Empire was going to be a drama. I thought it sounded fantastic, and very promising. I was so, so disappointed when it finally premiered and was just another soap opera.

Don’t get me wrong, I love some nighttime soaps (Nashville, etc.). That’s just not at all what I wanted Empire to be.

The superhero cop T.V. show Powers probably would have been 10 times better if it were made for HBO instead of for The PlayStation Network. It still had its interesting moments, though.

“No Ordinary Family” was a show about a Mom, Dad, and their two teenaged kids suddenly acquiring super powers. It had a fine cast headed by Michael Chiklis and Julie Benz.

It could have been light and fun, with a new exciting adventure each week. Or it could have been dark and dramatic, a realistic take on how regular people might deal with such a situation. Either tone could have worked.

Problem was, they tried to strike a balance exactly in the middle of these two, and the result was, more than anything else, dull. It lasted one season.

I think it’s much harder than generally believed, to tell whether an unmade show’s premise is a good one. Therefore I tend to think that if a show was bad then maybe the premise isn’t as great as it’s made out to be.

The premise of this thread is merely whether a show’s premise sounded good to you as a potential watcher, and made you want to watch the actual episodes. That kind of personal subjectivity can’t be negated. And whether the premise failed or not is also subjective. There are millions of people who watch shows that are canceled because of low ratings and would have loved to see them continued no matter that they’re being cited in this thread as examples of bad execution.

For me, the best example of premise and expectations diverging was the simultaneous debuts of Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip and 30 Rock. The former had the greatest premise of all time and the latter’s premise was incoherent babbling. Guess which show worked?

I love Aaron Sorkin but there is no way Studio 60 could have ever succeeded. The whole structure relies on a troupe of comedy writers - whose sole job is to take the piss to everything - standing up and giving impromptu Sorkinesque speeches about American farmers. It was inherently ridiculous and unworkable. 30 Rock OTOH became one of the finest TV shows ever made.

Well, yeah, 30 Rock was wonderful. But nobody could have known that ahead of time. Nobody understood what the show would be like, and that included Tiny Fey because the show’s first year wasn’t all that great and had to be honed and modified in later years.

Sorkin was known for Sports Night as much as The West Wing. If he wrote another *Sports Night *type show Studio 60 would have worked. Again, going in, nobody knew he wouldn’t do that.

*Powerless *could have been better executed. It had a great premise: what’s going on with all the regular people in a world filled with superheroes? But focusing on a group of people who help develop super-hero related products limited the scope of the show. It was funny and all, but it could have been more.

Both Almost Human and Terra Nova were high-concept sci-fi shows that were hamstrung by limited TV budgets. After the pilots and first couple episodes, both devolved into filler stories with limited locations and effects.

If done today, Almost Human could be a normal buddy-cop procedural in a future world just because 3D compositing costs have come down so much. Terra Nova could only work as a limited episode series like Stranger Things to stretch the money and tighten up overarching storylines.

YES. I thought the original premise – regular people working for an insurance company, who deal with superhero-related claims (IIRC) – was very promising. The resulting show wasn’t great.

For me, the best example of this would be Sliders. I *so *wanted it to be good.

It showed so much promise in the first few episodes, then it devolved into highly improbable alternate universes, cross-dimensional bad-guys that called themselves “Cro-Mags”, and a mess(in the original sense of the word) of cast changes. Anyone who had seen the first season would never have recognized the final episodes as belonging to the same premise, let alone the same show.

Even worse was that the same concept had been pitched to ABC – by George R. R. Martin.

ABC turned it down at the last minute.

At Home with Amy Sedaris

This show could have been so good, but it sucked on ice.

Great example. Man, that thing went off the rails fast.

It was HORRIBLE. We couldn’t get through the first episode. I had high hopes…

I have a feeling the “insurance company in a superhero world” smacked a little too much of The Incredibles.

No Ordinary Family and Terra Nova both had the same problem - instead of being about the premise with the family being secondary, they were both family dramas with the premise pretty much being secondary.

No Ordinary Family also suffered from too many cases of “that’s just not possible”; for example, just because the son can calculate in his head where to throw the football, doesn’t mean that (a) he’s capable of throwing it there, much less (b) capable of throwing it there before a linebacker or two sacks him and, given his size, probably gives him a season-ending injury.

My favorite example is Nowhere Man, the UPN series that ran for one season (1995-1996). The premise was terrific: an ordinary guy, Thomas Veil, abruptly has his identity erased by some shadowy conspiracy. His wife vanishes, his friends don’t know him anymore, etc. It was essentially a blending of The Prisoner and The Fugitive.

It soon became apparent that the creators of the show hadn’t really thought this through, and were making it up as they went along. The mysterious conspiracy got bigger and bigger, and everyone Veil met seemed to be in on it. The “jump the shark” moment came when Veil discovered a town populated entirely by people who had also had their identities erased.

The Following (already mentioned in this thread) had exactly the same problem; the writers fell into the trap of making the serial killer cult progressively larger and larger.

I loved Nowhere Man! But yeah, they didn’t have a plan and it showed.

There was a similar paranoid conspiracy show around the same time called John Doe. Dude wakes up on a fishing boat with no memory of who he is, but he knows everything else, so sets himself up as a private investigator while trying to figure out who he is. Ran for two seasons with no resolution. :frowning:

From the creators of the show:

From here.