Five Shows That Started Off Slow (and Have Since Hit Their Stride)

An Unreality guest post by Laura VanMetre.

Why I picked it: Laura picks five shows currently still on the air that you may have overlooked the first time around. They may have started off a bit slow, but if you stick with them, they actually pan out. I had a similar experience with a few of these shows, and I thought she accurately covered how they transformed into something better.

Not all shows are created equal. Some are overly-hyped, then come crashing down, only leaving you with one good season (I’m looking at you, Heroes). However, there are those shows out there that are a slow-burn. They don’t have the greatest start, but find their footing over time, and become critically (or commercially) successful. These are the shows that you stick with because you know they’re destined for greatness and they just needed some time. Here are five shows that fit that category. Agree to disagree if you like, but this has been my experience with each of these series.

Parks and Recreation

Did anyone actually LIKE the first season of Parks and Rec? I distinctly remember watching the first few episodes in college and immediately was not convinced, which was a shame since I love Amy Poehler. However, the second season improved by leaps and bounds, with the development of each character and toning down of Leslie Knope. I was worried that she would become a female version of Michael Scott, and have been relieved they went in a different direction.

I loved Louis CK’s arc on the show (he’s coming back for an episode next year!), and with the introduction of Adam Scott (who was excellent in Party Down) and Rob Lowe, the show has really become one of my favorites on television right now. Each character brings something different, and we can all agree that Ron Swanson can do no wrong.

What’s really refreshing about Parks and Rec is that it’s so positive—Leslie Knope exudes an upbeat outlook on life, and Andy (Chris Pratt) can be oblivious to most things around him yet still be adorably charming. And being from Indiana myself, I can definitely sympathize with small town life (and I actually worked in the Parks Dept, believe it or not—as a lifeguard, though).


If you aren’t watching this show, then you really need to get your act together and head over to FX. The first season was way too short,and I wasn’t all that impressed with the first handful of episodes. This is such a different show, though, so I gave it a chance, and I am so glad I did. The second season is where the show really found its rhythm, with the secondary characters getting more screen time (how twisted/awesome is Pam?), and Archer being a complete douchebag, although he softened a little when he found out he has breast cancer (just watch it).

This show could only be on cable, and I’m so glad that it is so it can get away with things that would made other networks’ heads explode. It is somewhat of a mini Arrested Development reunion on the show, with three characters voiced by AD alum (Jeffrey Tambor, Jessica Walter, and Judy Greer). The first season is on instant Netflix, so check it out if you can.

Fun fact, H. Jon Benjamin, who voices Archer, was actually on an episode of Parks and Rec in the second season. He’s got a great voice. The third season premieres in January.

Happy Endings

Talk about a show that completely changed where it was going after its first season. Happy Endings debuted this spring as a mid-season replacement, and was originally centered around a couple that was about to get married, but the bride Alex (Elisha Cuthbert) got cold feet and left her fiancé, Dave (Zachary Knighton) at the altar, and the difficulties of their group of friends to stay together after this incident.

However, the focus has moved away from this couple, and has since morphed in to one of the funniest comedies on television right now. Penny (the amazing Casey Wilson) and Max (Adam Pally) stand out in this ensemble, although everyone has their strong suits. Max isn’t your “stereotypical” gay man (which is extremely welcome, since he is brilliant), and Penny is hell-bent on finding the perfect guy (and hilarity ensues each time). The weak links are actually Dave and Alex, who were the main couple in the pilot. Damon Wayans Jr. is also hilarious as Brad, who is married to Alex’s sister, Jane (Eliza Coupe).

Wayans actually was in the pilot episode of New Girl, and had to get re-cast when Happy Endings was renewed for a second season. I was torn watching this because it replaced Cougartown (next up) in the Wednesday lineup, but it’s extremely funny.


Okay, hold on before you judge me. This show is very similar to Happy Endings, in the sense that they had a set idea of what the show was going to be about, and then did an about-face as the season progressed. Yes, the original concept was for Jules (Courtney Cox) to date younger men, hence the title of the show. However, after about half-way through the first season, creator Bill Lawrence starting using his excellent comedic cast and shied away from the whole “cougar” concept.

Hell, if you follow his twitter feed (@VDOOZER), you’ll know how much he hates the title of the show, and the fact that he wants to change it for the next season (he’s also very vocal about his struggles with the network to get the show back on the air). He has also been taking suggestions for a new show title. Scrubs fans will like the show, since multiple actors from the show have made guest appearances, and Christa Miller (Lawrence’s wife), plays Jules’ best friend, Ellie. Just ignore the title, please.

True Blood

See, I watch shows other than comedies. The first season of True Blood was not the greatest. It’s harder to judge one hour dramas vs. 30 minute comedies, and True Blood is one of the busiest shows on television, in terms of subplots and the sheer number of characters. Things obviously advance quicker because I’m pretty sure Bill (Stephen Moyer) and Sookie (Anna Paquin) got together halfway through the first season.

The over-arching theme the first season was interesting, as it had you guessing who could be the serial killer, but other than that, the other storylines weren’t very captivating. I found Jason’s (Ryan Kwanten) addiction to V somewhat boring, and Tara (Rutina Wesley) is my least-favorite character on the show, so anything that involves her just brings my mood down.

Alexander Skarsgard’s Eric was a welcome addition, and with a string of amazing characters (Dennis O’Hare obviously springs to mind), the show started to pick up steam in the second season, and has since captivated its loyal audience. This past season was somewhat un-even, but there’s always next year.



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  1. Parks and Rec – agreed.

    Archer – I’ve been watching to watch this.

    Happy Endings – Never even heard of it? Nor do I care.

    Cougartown – No thank you.

    True Blood – Do you even watch this show? It’s about to be season 5 and you’ve only mentioned things from season 1 & 2. “Alexander Skarsgard’s Eric was a welcome addition”… like 3 years ago?

    True blood, yes, did have a shaky start in season 1, but 2 and 3 were pretty good… This last season though… kind of crappy. For one, they totally just up and ended the whole were-panther bit. (WTF HAPPENED?! Jason got away, sure, but it’s not like they didn’t know where he lived??) Then the fairy battle, that ultimately went no where. Plus 20 minute long sex scenes are just getting completely old. Not to mention all of the not-so-subtle product placements — Has Micheal Bay secretly joined on!?!?! Very disappointed in recent TrueBlood. Will I watch this season? Yeah, sure. I’m a sucker for gory violence.

  2. Well put Paul. I can’t say I’m a fan or True Blood, but the rest are fabulous. I particularly agree about Happy Endings and Cougar Town. Particularly when you count the Cougar Town/Community crossover. That’s what got me watching, and I was surprised at how much I didn’t hate it.

  3. @ Mandy

    Re: Happy Endings – I say give it a shot. Especially if you like(d) Modern Family

    Re: Archer – Do it. You won’t regret it.

    Re: True Blood – I totally agree with your comments about this season. I almost abandoned the show this season (Fairies? Really?) but I stuck with it and I’m glad I did. I’m not saying next season will redefine television, but they’ve killed my least favorite character (I really, really hope that a bullet to the face can kill Tara) and they’re bringing back my favorite character, the Vampire King of Mississippi. I’ll give season 5 a shot, just for those two reasons.

  4. @ Mandy

    Archer is laugh out loud funny–something that is very welcome compared to other comedies out there currently.

    Happy Endings is very funny, and very witty. It’s on ABC. Check it out.

    As for True Blood, I was saying that since Eric has a more prominent role now (since season 2–he was barely in the 1st season), the show has definitely gotten better in my opinion. Same with Dennis O’Hare as King Russell. I also found it strange that nothing ever materialized with the whole were-panther story line with Jason. Maybe they realized that even they come up with some weird story lines and just abandoned it.

  5. Happy Endings is about as funny as being diagnosed with terminal testicular cancer after just finding out that your pet dog has been run over.

    True Blood has gotten consistently worse.

    Archer was glorious from start to finish, I wouldn’t say it started slow.

    I agree with Parks & Rec and Cougartown.

  6. I have a strange draw to Happy Endings. It’s not a show that really causes me physical laughter, nor one that my DVR is set up for. But when I do catch it, I always find it very entertaining. Also I agree that Max has got to be the best gay character on TV (although True Blood’s Lafayette gives him a strong run for his money).

  7. Parks and Recreation is the only one I’ve seen, and I totally agree. The only other one I think I might watch is Archer, though. My sister tried to get me to watch True Blood, but I’m not into that softcore porn everyone’s pretending is legitimate TV nowadays.

  8. @Bert

    Paul didn’t write this. Reread the part in italics.

    Can’t say I agree with Archer. It’s been laugh out loud funny from the beginning.

  9. I’ve thought Archer was brilliant from episode one, just like a lot of the commenters before me!

    Parks and Rec, yes, absolutely starts out slowly. I tried watching season one three separate times, wanting to know why all my friends were fans. One of these friends told me to start watching from season two (you really don’t miss much back story since season one is so short) and then go back and watch season one after you like the show. That trick worked for me.

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