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The Eight Biggest Television Series Flameouts of the Decade

By Dustin Rowles | Lists | October 15, 2009 |

By Dustin Rowles | Lists | October 15, 2009 |

If you write as many Seriously Random Lists as I do (we’re approaching 200 over the course of the last year), you need a certain fondness for random minutia and a lot of time to brainstorm (not to mention, an ability to allow yourself to get really random). Around 50 percent of my SRL ideas start as one thing, and end up something else completely. Today, I was piecing together a list of the worst movies to watch on an airplane (a list that will likely be produced soon), and somehow, I ended up here: The Biggest Television Flameouts of the Decade, measured by ratings erosion — in other words, the biggest ratings gap between its peak of popularity and the final season. And given the smaller number of options and the viewer loyalty of previous decades, these may just qualify for the biggest flameouts of all time (ratings numbers, unfortunately, were more difficult to gather for previous decades).

To qualify for the list, the show needn’t begin its run during this decade, but it did need to end its run during the aughts. Also, for purposes of peak ratings, I tossed out post Super Bowl spots (which were ratings anomalies), otherwise “Alias” would’ve broken into the top eight.

So, here you go. Mundane to some, but for those into pop-culture statistics, you might find the results as fascinating as I.

8. 3rd Rock from the Sun
Peak Ratings: 11.6 million viewers (1995-1996)
Series Finale Ratings: 6 million (2001 Season)
Difference: 5.6 million viewers

7. According to Jim
Peak Ratings: 10.6 million viewers (Oct. 1, 2002)
Series Finale Ratings: 4.1 million (June 2, 2009)
Difference: 6 million viewers

6. My Name is Earl
Peak Ratings: 10.9 million viewers (Sept. 20, 2005)
Series Finale Ratings: 4.4 million (May 14, 2009)
Difference: 6.5 million viewers

5. Prison Break
Peak Ratings: 10.5 million viewers (Aug. 29, 2005)
Series Finale Ratings: 3.3 million (May 15, 2009)
Difference: 7 million viewers

4. Judging Amy
Peak Ratings: 17.6 million viewers (2001 Season)
Series Finale Ratings: 10.5 million (2003-2004 Season)
Difference: 7.1 million viewers

3. The Practice
Peak Ratings: 18.3 million viewers (Oct. 8, 2000)
Average Final Season Ratings: 9.1. million (2003-2004 Season)
Difference: 9.2 million viewers

2. Dharma and Greg
Peak Ratings: Estimated 20 million viewers (1999-2000 Season)
Series Finale Ratings: 6.7 million (April 30, 2002)
Difference: 13.3 million viewers

1. X-Files
Peak Ratings: 27 million viewers (Nov. 2nd, 1997)
Series Final Season Average: 6 million (March 2, 2002)
Difference: 21 million viewers

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Dustin is the founder and co-owner of Pajiba. You may email him here, follow him on Twitter, or listen to his weekly TV podcast, Podjiba.