The best TV shows aren’t just about having a stellar cast and amazing cinematography. The best television shows also need to feature good ideas. Some TV shows start out with amazing idea, but it’s essential that the writers continue to deliver fresh content. If they don’t, the show gets stale really fast.

Unfortunately, not all TV shows are able to keep up their momentum. After having a few good seasons with some fresh ideas, they seem to lose their creativity. And that usually results in them trying almost anything to bring the show back to its former glory… however with these tactics, it’s never going to work. Check out these 17 warning signs a TV show is running out of good ideas:

1. The show becomes nothing but dialogue.

Sometimes it’s the witty dialogue that makes a show a sensation. That’s why stale TV shows can try and boost ratings by focusing on the dialogue. The trouble is when the show puts such a focus on the dialogue, it becomes nothing but one funny line after another — and there is nothing else happening. As quotable as those lines are, they’re not enough to keep us interested if the cast is just standing around bantering for 30 minutes.

2. They randomly add a supernatural theme.

We have nothing against shows that have supernatural themes… as long as it’s their thing and it has always been that way. The difference is when a TV show suddenly decides that the best way to shake things up is to deviate from its original theme by adding a supernatural twist. Rather than being surprising, it often makes people very, very confused. Ghosts and witches are cool, but they cannot be the cause of all the dramz going on in the high school between the hot jock, the lovable nerd, and the indecisive cheerleader. We’ve seen it happen in Grey’s Anatomy and One Tree Hill and it’s, frankly, never good.

3. They constantly reference past seasons.

We have nothing against shows that have supernatural themes… as long as it’s their thing and it has always been that way. The difference is when a TV show suddenly decides that the best way to shake things up is to deviate from its original theme by adding a supernatural twist. Rather than being surprising, it often makes people very, very confused. Ghosts and witches are cool, but they cannot be the cause of all the dramz going on in the high school between the hot jock, the lovable nerd, and the indecisive cheerleader. We’ve seen it happen in Grey’s Anatomy and One Tree Hill and it’s, frankly, never good.

4. They constantly reference past seasons.

If you cannot think of a new idea, why not take a good idea from the past and make it an issue again? Eh. It’s a tricky card to play. Sometimes it can actually be brilliant, but it usually comes off as a sad attempt to try and stay relevant. We know that things from the past have a tendency to come back to haunt people, but they normally do it at an unexpected time. They don’t do it when a person is desperate and looking for any sort of excitement, good or bad. And that is the philosophy why this one doesn’t work in TV land.

5. It literally starts to make no sense.

No matter the genre or the format of the show, it has to make sense. There might be things that we don’t understand 100 percent, but we can still explain what the show is about. When a show has run out of ideas, the writers can sometimes forget all logic. Changing a character’s personality for no reason? Why not? Ignoring all of the rules that make a great plot? Why not give it a try?

6. They take ideas from other shows.

If there is one good idea, you know that there will be ten not-so-great copycats. It’s the way life works, including TV. Just think about the number of vampire shows and Game of Thrones-like historical shows that have been spat out. If people see success in something, they figure there’s no harm in taking some (or a lot) of the elements to bring theirs up. It sounds like a decent plan, but the copied ideas are never as good as the OG. Plus, it changes what we originally loved about the show in the first place.

7. You become convinced that you’ve seen the episode before.

Do you ever watch a TV show and feel like you’ve seen the same episode despite it being a new one? That’s a sign that the TV show is running out of ideas. It might be directly borrowing from an old episode that the writers hoped viewers had forgotten about. Or maybe the entire series has the same format that has been recycled over and over and over i.e. House.

8. They keep bringing back older characters.

Bringing back old characters can be as effective as rehashing old story lines. In other words, it comes across as tired and a little desperate. It can only work if the old characters were main characters. If they were some random character who had one line back in season two, we will probably never remember them being on the show. And spending an episode trying to remember what was so great about the older character is not a win for anyone. One exception: Jonathan on Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

9. They start doing random one-off episodes.

If a show has had a story that has continued for three seasons, having a random episode that relates to absolutely nothing isn’t going to work. That’s because we’re going to spend the entire time trying to connect the episode to the rest of the story. And we’ll be too busy thinking of that to really follow along. At the end, we’ll wonder why they bothered with the episode. And we’ll wish that they progressed with the story that we actually cared about. Major offender: Girls.

10. They attempt to do episodes that focus on one character.

Remember what we just said about the one-off episodes? The same principles can be applied to those episodes that just focus on one character. Unless there is something big about to go down, we’re going to spend the majority of the episode wondering where everyone else is. It happens all the time on Degrassi. At the end, we’re going to be annoyed that no one else showed up. Did they have a cast fight or something? Was everyone sick that day of filming? What gives?!

11. They do a musical episode.

Another offshoot of the one-off episode, why is it that when a non-musical show is having a hard time coming up with ideas that they suddenly decide to try a musical episode? Grey’s Anatomy, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, 7th Heaven… we’ve seen it a ton and we do not like it! Musicals are already divisive to begin with. Not to mention that a lot of shows aren’t suited to a musical theme. It’s also very weird to see a cast that we’ve gotten to know over a few seasons suddenly break character to belt out a song about their problems while attempting jazz hands and pirouettes.

12. The majority of the episode is a dream sequence.

Nothing says “We’re running out of good ideas” than an episode that is one big fat dream sequence. A dream sequence that is a couple of minutes can help progress the plot or give us insight into something else. When the dream sequence extends to half the episode or the entire thing, it feels really excessive. And if we’re watching a recorded version of the show, we’re probably going to fast forward after five minutes so we can get to the real action.

13. They bring in a bunch of new directors.

Most of us probably don’t pay too much attention to the directors of the show. If there are funny jokes, a great cast, entertaining visual and catchy songs, we’re happy. When a TV show is struggling and it seems like every episode is its own thing, we will realize something is going on. And a quick credit scan and/or internet search will probably tell us that they’ve been switching up directors in an attempt to reinvigorate the show.

14. They start relying too heavily on guest stars.

Guest stars can make a great TV show even better. It’s always thrilling to watch because you never know who is going to ring the doorbell or come racing in on horseback. That being said, even the most unexpected A-list guest star cannot single-handedly save a dying show. We wish they could, but they can’t. That’s because after the surprise has worn off, we still have about 28 minutes of the show left.

15. The actors can’t even pretend to be excited.

How sad is it when you’re watching a show, and you can feel the actor/actress’s boredom basically radiating through your TV? You would think that they would be able to muster up their acting skills and sell the storyline, but sometimes they can’t. And you know the show has gotten to a really bad point when they’ve reached this stage. If the actors aren’t into the story, how can anyone else possibly be into it?

16. Half the cast seems to have disappeared.

The cast is a major part of a good show. If you don’t have good acting and chemistry, you basically have nothing. That’s why it’s always controversial when actors or actresses start disappearing. There are rare exceptions, but 9 times out of 10, if the original cast is messed with, the show suffers for each missing cast member i.e. Teen Wolf. Adding in other characters doesn’t fill the void we feel.

17. You forget what the show was originally about.

In an effort to stay relevant and compete with the cool new shows on the block, many TV shows often make the critical error of forgetting what they were originally about. Instead, they try all of these new and different things and end up diluting what made them special. It’s a shame because it’s the originality of the show that made us interested in the first place. Now, it has changed so much, we don’t even recognize the show it has become.

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