As companion to my essay about how much harder it is to be patient with shows that people insist only get good after X number of episodes, I picked out 10 completed classics and 5 current shows that required varying degrees of patience to get to the best parts:
10 Past Shows That Got Better
Parks and Recreation (NBC)
What was wrong at first: Leslie Knope seemed delusional and sad, the supporting characters seemed too mean, and the show as a whole felt like a watered-down copy of The Office.
It got better at: The first season finale, “Rock Show,” when Leslie and the others started to feel more human, and the other characters started to act intimidated by her, rather than disdainful. She didn’t change much, but their response to her changed everything, and Parks became one of TV’s greatest comedies as a result.
Should you watch the earlier stuff?: It’s useful to get to know the characters, and it’s only 5 half-hour episodes, so go for it.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer (WB/UPN)
What was wrong at first: Lots of early stumbles in Joss Whedon’s first stint as showrunner, as he tried to figure out how to make his “monsters as metaphors” formula work every week without seeming silly, how to coax big league performances out of several inexperienced actors (David Boreanaz in particular is terrible at the beginning; it’s amazing he developed enough to carry two different series and counting), work within the microscopic budget he was given, etc.
It got better at: The first season finale, “Prophecy Girl,” was as self-assured and smart as much of what Whedon has done later on huger stages, with vastly more dollars at his fingertips. And that led into seasons two and three, which are pretty much perfect.