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Jumping the shark – when did your favourite TV show go bad?

Sluggish starts, mid-season dips and terrible finales – they're all to blame for ruining telly

It’s a huge point of contention – when did your favourite TV show start to go downhill? Fans have started petitions to remake series, while message boards for long-finished shows continue to rage with questions of why, when and how a particular series started to lose its mojo.

Much of this debate is, of course, subjective, but statistics can go some way to settling the argument. Luckily, Broadband Choices has dived deep into the IMDb (International Movies Database) ratings for every episode of your favourite TV show to pinpoint just when things started to go awry.

Game of Thrones – Season 8, Episode 3

Perhaps the most dramatic tail-off of any TV show ever, Game of Thrones‘ eighth season has been criticised by disappointed fans ever since it first aired back in May (the show’s producer even admitted it was “really rushed”).

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The data backs this up. Despite a small dip in season five – maybe not-so-coincidentally, the narrative altered from George R.R. Martin’s books for the first time – it was season eight when ratings took a tumble, specifically after episode three.

With ratings hovering around the 8-9/10 mark for the show’s entire run, season 8 dropped off precipitously with and average of 6.45. Even worse, the much-maligned finale scored a pitiful 4.2.

The Simpsons – Season 9

It’s generally agreed that the first 10 seasons of The Simpsons are the show’s best, and these stats back this up.

It was in season nine, which began airing in September of 1997, that the show’s IMDb ratings dipped below 8.0 for the first time, and, across 21 more seasons, they never reached the magic figure again. Many fans think this dip in quality came out as a result of Mike Scully’s ascension to showrunner, which the below graphic appears to back up.

The Walking Dead – Season 6, Episode 16

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The stats for everyone’s favourite long-running zombie drama are pretty conclusive. The introduction of Negan in the show’s season 6 finale brought the third lowest rating of any Walking Dead episode, and this slump continued into season 7.

In fact, it’s only in the recent season 9 that things started to pick up again, with Negan’s introduction and a laboured seventh season taking its toll on the show for a good two seasons.

Arrested Development – Season 4

For seven long years after its cancellation by Fox in 2006, fans of Arrested Development were crying out for a revival. When the show was finally brought back to life in 2013 by Netflix, those fans learnt an important lesson: be careful what you wish for.

With ratings regularly hitting the 9.0 mark during the show’s first three seasons, the revival failed to hit an 8.0, with most fans agreeing that the reboot couldn’t hold a candle to the series’ original outing. Maybe Fox made the right decision after all…

Breaking BadEl Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie sequel

Unlike many shows in this list, Breaking Bad was almost unanimously praised for its finale, and there’s a general feeling that the show gathered pace and quality across its five seasons.

It was only with 2019’s Netflix sequel El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie that things started to go wrong. NME called the show a “pointless sequel” that “adds nothing to one of the greatest TV shows of all time,” and the ratings seem to agree.

When the series ended in 2013 with an impressive average rating of 9.29, it might have been time to leave it there – El Camino registers at a modest 7.7, and the suggestion from some fans that the sequel should probably never have happened seems like a reasonable one.

Dexter – Season 8, Episode 12

Yes – you read that correctly. While it looked like Dexter would a clear run of excellent ratings right up until its bloody climax, it was in the final ever episode of the show – episode twelve of season eight – that things went wrong.

It’s not unusual for a finale of a much-loved show to split opinion amongst fans, but in its eight seasons, Dexter averaged nearly 9.0 on IMDb, with the first 11 episodes of season eight also hovering in the eights and high sevens.

The finale, though, notched up a miserable 4.8, and a black mark was stamped on the series’ name forever.

Scrubs – Season 9

Scrubs‘ unusual decision to reboot the show for a ninth season with a new cast in a new hospital, but with the beloved original cast including JD, Turk and more playing cameo roles, never really made much sense.

The show is still looked back upon as a classic, with its first eight seasons all scoring above 8.0 on average on IMDb, but the terrible ninth season (scoring 6.4) went someway to tarnishing its legacy.

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