14 popular TV shows with first seasons that you can — and should — skip

Zac Ntim
·6 min read
Game of thrones and The Office
Both "The Office" and "Game of Thrones" get off to a weak start. NBC/HBO
  • Not every popular TV show starts off as a success. 

  • Pilot TV is a hard formula to crack with all the pressure to be both critically and commercially successful while guiding audiences through a new world of characters. 

  • As a result, some of the most popular TV shows in history had some pretty shacky openings. 

  • Here are 14 popular TV shows where you can afford to skip the first season.

  • Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.

Not every popular TV show starts off a success. 

The inaugural season is always tough with all the pressure to be a critical and rating success while trying to find a clever way to introduce audiences to a new set of characters that doesn't feel too forced or reliant on boring exposition. 

Pilot TV is a hard thing to crack and as a result, many of the most successful TV shows in history started off with some shacky first seasons. 

Insider has put together a list — backed up by Rotten Tomatoes scores — of shows that found their rhythm after their first season.

Here are 14 popular TV shows that have bad first seasons you can and should skip. 

HBO's "Succession" is much sharper in its multi-award-winning second season.

logan connor succession
HBO's popular dramedy picked up seven Emmys for its acclaimed second run. HBO

The popular comedy-drama is almost unrecognizable during its second season as the four back-stabbing children of Logan Roy (Brian Cox), the ageing CEO of a powerful media and entertainment empire, become more funny and clever. 

Rotten Tomatoes score - season one: 88% 

Rotten Tomatoes score - season two: 97%

"The Office (US)" begins to build a narrative of its own after a cautious first season.

the office cast
Mindy Kaling and the cast of "The Office" in 2007. Gus Ruelas/AP Images

After a short and tepid opener that largely followed the blueprint of the original British series, Steve Carrell leads a cast who all kick into gear to create a comedy legacy of their own. 

Rotten Tomatoes score - season one: 69%

Rotten Tomatoes score - season two: 100%

 

While "Breaking Bad" is now considered a TV classic, it originally took a while for the show to find an audience.

breaking bad
Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul as a drug-dealing duo in the classic "Breaking Bad." AMC

"Breaking Bad's" first few seasons received generally positive reviews but it failed to draw in big viewing numbers until its third season when the show hit Netflix and was able to find a global audience.  

Rotten Tomatoes score — season one: 86%

Rotten Tomatoes score — season two: 97%

 

"Parks and Recreation" struggled to strike the right tone on its first run.

parks and recreation leslie ron
Amy Poehler and Nick Offerman in NBC's "Parks and Recreations." NBC Universal Television

"Parks and Recreation" first aired on NBC in 2009 and it showed potential from the start with a strong cast and clever writing, but Amy Poehler's Leslie Knope doesn't hit the satirical sweet spot until half-way through season two and she never looks back.   

Rotten Tomatoes score - season one: 68%

Rotten Tomatoes score - season two: 96%

It's hard to deny that "Game of Thrones" season one is a little boring.

sansa and lady
Sophie Turner and her direwolf in "Game of Thrones." HBO

HBO's adaptation of George R.R. Martin's fantasy epic started and ended poorly. Season one is a real drag and largely because the striking Stark children (Sansa, Arya, Jon, Bran, and Rob) who go on to lead the show are either still too young or underdeveloped to pull at the heartstrings. 

Rotten Tomatoes score - season one: 90%

Rotten Tomatoes score - season two: 96%

 

 

Classic crime drama "The Wire" starts small but blooms into an epic saga.

"The Wire"
A young Michael B Jordan alongside Tray Chaney, Larry Gilliard Jr, and JD Williams in season one of "The Wire." HBO

HBO's "The Wire" started as a small crime drama set to the backdrop of Baltimore's inner city, but after season one it begins to blossom into a profound critique of contemporary American society. 

Rotten Tomatoes score - season one: 85%

Rotten Tomatoes score - season two: 95%

Marsai Martin is the best thing about "Black-ish," but we don't get to indulge until season two.

Black-ish
Marsai Martin and Marcus Scribner in "Black-ish." Eric McCandless/ABC via Getty Images

It took the writers of ABC's "Black-ish" a while to realize that Marsai Martin is the star of the show, so when more time is finally given to her comedic genius the overall quality takes a huge jump in the right direction.

Rotten Tomatoes score - season one: 87%

Rotten Tomatoes score - season two: 90%

 

After a cool first season, Julia Louis-Dreyfus takes command of "Veep."

Veep
Julia Louis-Dreyfus's classic role as America's VP. HBO

The first season of HBO political satire "Veep" is tame and formulaic, but all the gloves come off at the start of season two and Julia Louis-Dreyfus leads a razor-sharp cast winning a record nine consecutive Primetime Emmys.  

Rotten Tomatoes score - season one: 78%

Rotten Tomatoes score - season two: 92%

Almost all the best "Key & Peele" sketches come after season one.

Key and Peele
Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele in their comedy central sketch show. Comedy Central YouTube Channel

Season one of  "Key & Peele" is funny and innovative but as America's political climate became more precarious the comedy duo became more potent and the latter seasons of the sketch show are comedy gold. 

Rotten Tomatoes score - season one: 94%

Rotten Tomatoes score - season one: 100%

From season two onward, "The Americans" provided some of the best television of the decade.

The Americans
Kerri Russell and Matthew Rhys play undercover Russian spies in FX's "The Americans." FX

FX's cold war set spy thriller "The Americans" remained a low-key cult favorite throughout its 6 season run. However, after walking through its inaugural run the show exploded thanks to impassioned performances by Kerri Russell and Matthew Rhys.

"The Americans" is perhaps the most underrated TV show of the decade. 

Rotten Tomatoes score - season one: 87%

Rotten Tomatoes score - season two: 97% 

In NBC's "Community" the more Donald Glover the better.

Community
"Community" stars Joel McHale, Alison Brie, Donald Glover, and Ken Jeong. Sony Pictures Television

"Community" ran for five strong seasons on NBC, but the show only reaches its blinding best when more screen time is thrown to Donald Glover from season two onward. 

Rotten Tomatoes score - season one: 90%

Rotten Tomatoes score - season two: 100%

"Chappelle's Show" season two is perhaps the best ever set of TV comedy sketches.

The Chappelle Show
"Chappelle's Show" only ran for two seasons on Comedy Central. Comedy Central

After somehow managing to get away with spoofing everything from the President of the United States to R-Kelly's first sexual assault case, Dave Chappelle and Neil Brennan shredded the rule books and concocted the most obscene but hilarious season of TV sketch comedy ever made. 

Rotten Tomatoes score - season one: 100%

Rotten Tomatoes score - season two: 100%

Joel and Ethan Coen's masterpiece lingers all over "Fargo" season one.

Fargo
"Fargo" season one stars Martin Freeman, Ewan McGregor, and Kirsten Dunst. MGM Domestic Television Distribution

Although the first season of the quirky anthology series boasts fine performances, it pulls the most from its original source material Joel and Ethan Coen's black comedy of the same name, so there isn't much new to experience. 

FX's "Fargo" works best when the stories are new and fresh. 

Rotten Tomatoes score - season one: 97%

Rotten Tomatoes score - season two: 100%

 

"Sex and the City" season one is depressing.

Sex and the City_Home Box Office (HBO)
Carrie, Samantha, Charlotte, and Miranda from "Sex and the City." HBO

The first few episodes of "Sex and the City" feel very different from the seasons that follow. They're a little darker and the lives of the famous girl group are more depressing than enviable. 

But as the training wheels fall off at the start of season two Carrie and the gang breeze through New York and bring the audience for the ride. 

Rotten Tomatoes score - season one: 55%

Rotten Tomatoes score - season two: 60%

 

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