Wasted Potential: Series That Went South After the First Entries

So as I was commenting on this comment in Books/movies/comics that can’t possibly live up to their titles or covers I realized that there might be potential to name other series that botched things up for their stories following an impressive first outing. I focused on The Matrix and Metal Gear Solid and gave lip service to Kingdom Hearts and Pirates of the Caribbean but what are some other series you think failed, and feel free to expound upon the ones I’ve given, including Star Wars if you think it hasn’t lived up to any potential, including its very first sequel (you are brave for believing so). And though I said the entries that immediately blew following the first entry, feel free to include any series that failed at any time.

Thanks to Absynthe42 for inspiring this topic.

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I would only qualify something if it were deliberately designed to be a series. A lot of properties are victims of their own success and had additional installments created because the first was such a hit. Often there was no intention to create follow-ups, and thus no narrative flow making it logical. I would argue horror films suffer especially from this, with many of the greats (Candyman, Phantasm, Halloween) self-contained and in no need of expansion. That some of their sequels were good is felicitous happenstance. Likewise, while the Blade Runner sequel was compentently made, we certainly didn’t need it by any stretch of the imagination.

For a genuinely failed series I’d offer Narnia, both the books and the movies. The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe is such a good story and nothing that follows it holds up nearly as well. Multiple attempts to adapt the full series of books, either as films or TV episodes, have ended before completion, which speaks to how much the story falls apart as it goes along.

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The first Matrix film was pretty good. The sequels were quite disappointing. I’m not even interested in the new one.

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Oh man, the Narnia series! I’ve never read any of the other books but I am aware of them (I only ever finished TLTW&TW because we read it in school) but it is definitely a shame they can never manage to take it much further than a sequel or two. You’d think after the one-two punch of the highly successful LOTR and Harry Potter film adaptations that Narnia would have been able to go the distance. It’s almost like there’s a curse on the series or something.

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Even if you can justify that the intent of the creators for the sequels was there from the very beginning (if Neo wasn’t a program himself designed for the humans by the Oracle and part of a design to finally bring forth change in the Matrix, then why, when he was first awakened, did the Sentinel not merely kill him instantly so he could be processed?), the way it’s told and the structure of the back-to-back sequels really wasn’t good at all.

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True, although sometimes the “deliberately designed” aspect is arguable. Both John Carpenter and Wes Craven created Halloween & A Nightmare on Elm Street respectively as stand-alones never meant to be followed up, but it was the producers Moustapha Akkad & Robert Shaye respectively who wanted to turn them into franchise. Akkad & co-producer Yablans forced Carpenter to come up with the sequel, and Shaye forced Craven to change the ending to leave Freddy still alive active. Yablans and Akkad are responsible for the initial idea for Halloween while Craven is responsible for coming up with Elm Street, so it’s definitely a case-by-case “certain point of view” scenario.

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Certainly films are left more ambiguous these days, when there is the chance or hope of a sequel being made. And there are properties, like The Matrix or The Conjuring, where there is a clear intent to make more if the first one succeeds.

By and large I’m a fan of a self-contained story told well, and am almost always disappointed by sequels, unless they are part of the original story arc as a whole (such as The Lord of the Rings or, hopefully, Dune). Occasionally one is pleasantly surprised. But usually the sequel has to be markedly different to succeed. I expect the next Squid Game installment to follow that route.

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Any Atari game doesn’t live up to its cover art but I don’t think any of them were meant to be serieses.

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Kung Fu - the first two seasons were superb, the third and final season was considerably less so. Which stunk because that’s where they wrapped it all up, the quest came to an end and he finally found his brother.

I was in my early teens when it aired and I remember barely being able to get through that third season, and when they came out on disc decades later, the same thing happened. I had to force myself to finish that final set.

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Before I started up the 2004 Battlestar Galactica, I wanted to watch the 1978 original so I could pick up on any parallels or references; I’d watched the telemovies of the pilot episodes several times but never the series proper. That said, I didn’t even bother with Galactica 1980 knowing it was a cheap and slipshod attempt to lower costs and bring it to more contemporary settings.

Did you ever watch Kung Fu: The Legend Continues? Never did myself but I knew of it from the commercials.

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Yup and I enjoyed them. It helped that Carradine was involved. I have no interest in the CW take on the series and haven’t bothered with it. I know, it could be fine, but getting the CW treatment, and no Carradine - that just doesn’t appeal to me.

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More Battlestar Galactica lamentations: the offshoot of the more recent Battlestar Galactica, Caprica, seemed like a good concept but didn’t survive. I thought the show was decent, but apparently most other people didn’t.

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This one fell apart for me as well. The reveal of the identity of the last Cylons was so anti-climactic and clearly not planned out in advance. It had the same slipshod feeling as the last season of Lost, where the writers had to make good on all their signs and portents, and clearly couldn’t.

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Any part of the LotR franchise beyond the original 3 films.

Any of the Bourne films beyond the original trilogy.

Highlander.

The Blues Brothers sequel. (Dear God.)

The Caddyshack sequel (Dear, dear God.)

Men in Black.

The Pink Panther movies remained strong for a while, but the last couple were dire and obvious money-grabs.

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All movies are money grabs.

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I got into BSG after everything was over, so I gave Caprica a chance but I saw from the very first episode how badly it was botched. I can only imagine how fans of the series at the time were ticked.

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Yeah. It is show business, after all. Only occasionally do they get people who can make it art.

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Heroes should have ended after the first season…

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Would anyone be terribly upset if Ghostbusters II had never been made? I suppose I should be grateful there was never a Monty Python & The Holy Grail II.

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Some of them, hopefully, have other reasons for existing too.

“Hmm. Peter Sellers is dead. We could ransack his house for valuables. We could hold his corpse upside down and shake it so any loose change falls out of the pockets. Or we could make these last couple of Pink Panther movies using stuff that was very justifiably cut from other movies, and slap it all together incoherently over the course of a weekend.”

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