10 Television Shows that Outgrew Their Premise

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by Willam West & Howie Decker on May 16, 2013

in Lists

With “upfronts week” upon us, the major television networks are trimming the fat (rightly so or otherwise) and foisting new (and revived) shows upon us for next season. If you’re interested in TV cancellations and new show announcements, read more about it here.

As interesting as it is to speculate as to which shows will be cancelled, picked up or extended, every year there are some shockers mixed in with the predictable cuts. Here are some shows that may not have necessarily outlived their expiration date, but they certainly outgrew their original premise.

 

New Girl

For how long can Jessica Day be “the new girl”? The show’s title fit the original premise of a previously unknown-to-them girl moving into an apartment with three existing roommates, each fulfilling their own specific roles and archetypes. After two years of living together and accompanying each other to various out-of-town family functions, Jess is in no way “the new girl” anymore.

fox new girl

The show was originally promoted as “the Zooey Deschanel show” but quickly showed that it could not only survive, but thrive on the strength of the “supporting” characters. The show may have lost viewers between seasons 1 & 2, but the writing and acting have remained sharp enough to gain the show such praise as “The Best Sitcom on Television” from numerous places.

new girl nick jess

There’s no double meaning in the title either. Shows with titles like this have been creative before- like if Jess had become part of the “apartment family” but she was still adjusting to L.A. life, being from the midwest or something. That way she could always be considered the “new girl” regardless of her tenure in the apartment. Speaking of moving from the midwest to L.A….

 

Beverly Hills, 90210

It always bothered me that the essential pitch was a “fish out of water” premise, yet the Walsh kids took to Beverly Hills IMMEDIATELY. There was no culture shock whatsoever. The show outgrew its premise within 3 episodes.

90210 cast

 

Smallville

The CW’s show about a coming-of-age Clark Kent/Superman originally took place in Smallville, particularly Smallville High (go Crows!). The writers creatively kept most of the action centered in the titular town for many years, but by season 8 the action was taking place in Metropolis, the Fortress of Solitude, even off-planet – everywhere but Smallville.

smallville

The show should have renamed itself Metropolis or just Superman, but they wanted to hold on to the whole “he hasn’t realized who he is to become yet” theme.

 

Cougar Town

Cougar Town knows it outgrew its premise (and is frequently self-referential about it), and co-creator Bill Lawrence was going to change the title after season 1, but couldn’t decide on one, and by then the brand had stuck. They decided they’d insert weekly references to the show’s wildly misleading and inappropriate title.

cougar-town

 

Who’s the Boss?

Tony Micelli became a housekeeper so that his daughter Samantha would have a good life. Around season 5, though, he’s going to college and only cleaning half the time. Then, she goes off to college. Mission accomplished. Wait – he starts dating Angela. But is she still paying him at this point? I always wondered that…

Whos-the-Boss

 

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  • Sammy

    Kinda disagree on BBT but the rest are spot on

  • Lamar the Revenger

    Edith DIED?? Seriously I didn’t remember that about Archie’s Place. Great post Will!

  • http://Geekshizzle.com TheFran

    Who cares if it outgrew its title or original story? Your spot on with this, but which series going past 3 seasons has NOT done the same. Shows need to evolve. All I’m saying is as long as it is still fun, and good, evolve away…

    • tom

      The Office

      • Howard Decker

        I can agree with that

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  • Birdy

    With Smallville, Lois nicknamed Clark Smallville in the later seasons. That way, the title still stuck.

  • caliornia cheeseburger

    agreed on the stupid big bang theory, like these guys are teachers at a

    unversity and they spend their time buying action figures and comic books?

    oh okay, how old are they?

    in their 20′s or something?

    screw that show, cancel it and make room for something else, something with
    a story and a plot, and characters that are actually good looking and
    likeable!

    • Howard Decker

      Absolutely. They’ll keep making eps as long as it stays highly rated though. The blue hairs love it.

    • Lawrence Belmont

      How about we cancel you and make room for you to go f*** yourself? :3

  • arrjay666

    you’re wrong about the big bang theory. The “Big Bang Theory” as a scientific term describes the beginning and evolution of the universe. Just as the TV series follows the beginning and evolution of the smaller yet equally complex mini universe of the relationships of it’s characters.
    You cannot have it both ways. To criticise New Girl for staying the same and in the same article, criticise Big Bang for evolving and moving on

    • Howard Decker

      Fair enough! Good point. Thank you for taking the time to comment!

    • john beris

      I’m with arrjay on this- I think had the Big Bang Theory not evolved it would have sunk–It was a show I avoided when it came on as I thought the premise was absurd-Then I stumbled over it an realized how smart it was and what a heart it had and I was hooked. Nerds evolve too you know, and who on the show is married to a hot girl? only one of them is married and while cute as a bug I don’t think she comes off as hot– Perhaps your confusing their off camera looks to their on camera. As to the earlier post of I’ve run across many a ‘nerd’ who has both jobs and relationships.

  • Marcy

    Do you know that the Smallville photo you’ve attached is not a real photo, but a photo manipulation – just look at the actors – you have cast from both Smallville and The Legend od the Seeker tv show… ;-)

  • Robert W.

    I think “Family Matters” would be great for the list. After a couple seasons the star of the show was Steve Urkel, who isn’t a member of the main family.

  • Shaun

    I think that you’re really off about “Community.” From the very first episode (see Jeff’s monologue in that episode) the series has been about building a community of people who are friends. As such, it has always transcended the Community College setting. In principle, the show could continue on well after they leave Greendale so long as the study group continues to be a “community.”

  • Lily

    Another show that’s outlived it’s original premise is Supernatural. The first five seasons are obviously connected, but in sason six it just turns into something else, during the season you see so many storylines it’s hard to know what it even is about anymore. Not saying it’s a bad show, I personally love it and I think it’s great but while it still fits the title it’s taken a turn that nobody would have ever expected, and that comes across as completely different from it’s original premise.

    • Howard Decker

      couldn’t agree more, Lily. Thanks for the comment!

    • Erick the Redd

      I’m sorry but that doesn’t make sense. If we are basing this list off the premise of a tv show that changes over time, then you would be correct. But thats not what this list is. For example, the premise of Friends didn’t change, it was 6 close people living in NY together (eventually a 7th, but not really). But they weren’t “friends” as much as family, or hook-ups. But with Supernatural, I turn the show on, and I see Supernatural stuff going on. Its dead on. It would be on this list if say, after season 5, and the devil was defeated, and all supernatural beings are gone, and the brothers are now just fighting regular crime. But its not that, it’s still very “supernatural”

      • David Schmitt

        Yup. The Boys are still neck deep in the Supernatural. It’s still two brothers. Even if they are dealing more with biblical beings it’s still supernatural in it’s premise.

        • David Schmitt

          *its

  • John F. C. Taylor

    Liked Who’s The Boss, but quit watching the last season. Really blame Danza for that. He’s the one who decided that Tony and Angela shouldn’t get married. As for Big Bang Theory, I’d like to have them end it with the discovery that Penny is a greater ghenius than any of them. The persona we see on screne should turn out to be a total fake.

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