- TV shows with large casts can struggle to do justice to all of their characters, resulting in rushed and unfinished conclusions.
- Introducing too many characters can hurt the overall story, leading to dropped storylines and underutilized characters.
- The size of a cast can negatively impact the main storyline and cause shifts in focus, ultimately detracting from the show’s overall quality.
TV shows with large casts can be appealing for numerous reasons, including the fact that they give viewers many characters to relate to and root for — but sometimes such approaches backfire. While TV series that feature an abundance of perspectives have a lot to offer, they also face a daunting task. The larger a cast in a television series, the more personalities the story needs to flesh out. Even with the length of modern TV seasons, doing justice to so many characters can be a huge challenge. It’s one that’s amplified when the time comes to end a show.
It’s difficult enough to portray a large cast with the nuance that’s required, but this hardship doesn’t just affect the characters and their development. Introducing too many players can hurt a TV show’s story as well, especially when it comes to the ending. It’s not easy wrapping up so many character arcs and storylines, and many series fail to do so, proving their casts were simply too large to do the narrative justice.
12 Game Of Thrones (2011-2019)
Didn’t Have Enough Seasons To Do The Cast Justice
Game of Thrones initially benefited from having a larger-than-average cast, as it made the HBO show’s political stakes feel that much higher. With the series offering the perspectives of multiple major houses, it became difficult to root for just one party. This helped the conflict between the Starks, Lannisters, and Targaryens feel much more pressing and immersive.
Game of Thrones continued expanding over the course of its eight seasons, introducing all sorts of characters, from the Wildlings beyond the Wall to the people of Dorne. This gave a realistic depth to the show’s fantasy world, and it was faithful to George R.R. Martin’s books. However, Game of Thrones didn’t have enough seasons to thoroughly flesh out all of its players. As such, its conclusion felt rushed and unfinished, and many of the finale’s messages were overshadowed by that.
11 Lost (2004-2010)
Underutilized Characters & Dropped Storylines
Lost had a huge cast of characters, many of them survivors of Oceanic Flight 815. The large group of survivors made the narrative compelling, but it also made it difficult for the ABC series to keep up with everyone. Survivors like Claire were made to seem important, then forgotten about in the grand scheme of things. Some characters also departed early, whether because the actors who played them left or the show killed them off. All this made it feel like Lost‘s story shifted over time, with certain subplots not paying off. This wasn’t helped by later additions like the DHARMA Initiative or Others, which made things even more complex.
10 The Walking Dead (2010-2022)
The Zombie Show Expanded Too Much
The Walking Dead had a longer run than most television shows, and the series’ length likely contributed to its popularity fizzling out. The large cast likely added to this, as The Walking Dead faced similar problems to shows like Lost and Game of Thrones. Although the large number of characters enabled the series to live on through spinoffs, it also resulted in many excursions from the main story and shifts as characters died off or cast members left. By the end of The Walking Dead season 11, the story looked much different than it did in season 1. Some of this can be attributed to the huge cast,
9 Manifest (2018-2023)
Flight 828 Had Too Many Passengers To Contend With
Manifest had many similarities to Lost when it first premiered, and its large cast of survivors presented similar challenges for its narrative. Unfortunately, Manifest handled its supporting cast worse than Lost from the beginning, with many of the minor characters on Flight 828 falling into minimal roles or being forgotten altogether. The Stone family were very clearly the focal point of the show, and this made it difficult to address the other passengers, their storylines, and the overall message.
8 Shadow And Bone (2021-2023)
The Crows Took Away From Alina’s Story
Shadow and Bone boasted a large cast like many fantasy series, but its beloved supporting characters took away from its leads. The Netflix series attempted to combine the events and casts of Leigh Bardugo’s Shadow and Bone trilogy and Six of Crows duology, but Shadow and Bone was still meant to be Alina Starkov’s story. Unfortunately, by season 2, time was evenly split between Alina’s narrative and the Crows’. This meant that the series’ main storyline suffered due to the size of its cast, which could be the reason Shadow and Bone was canceled ahead of season 3.
7 The 100 (2014-2020)
The CW Series Went Through Too Many Shifts
The 100 began as a sci-fi survival series about 100 delinquents sent from their home in space to a post-apocalyptic Earth. They soon encountered other people already living there, but this alone didn’t detract from the main premise. The show went further off the rails as it introduced more and more players, including the adults from the Ark, Charmaine Diyoza’s prisoners, and the people of Sanctum.
As The 100 withered its many narrative shifts, it grew further and further from what it was. The final season was among the most divisive outings on television, and it didn’t help that the series introduced a whole younger generation of characters and a prequel narrative, then did nothing with them. Arguably, the later seasons of The 100 should have shifted focus to Jordan and Maddie, but the series kept repeating the same storylines with the original gang to its detriment.
6 How I Met Your Mother (2005-2014)
The Sitcom Didn’t Know What To Do With Its Cast
How I Met Your Mother didn’t have a huge main cast compared to other sitcoms, but the show’s ensemble was large enough that it didn’t know what to do with it. With five main characters in HIMYM‘s early seasons — six, after Tracy came around — the series struggled to decide who should end up together, as well as where each character should go. The Ted, Robin, and Barney love triangle was the best example of this problem, but even the Mother’s fate indicated that the sitcom had no idea where to take her relationship with Ted after introducing her.
5 Westworld (2016-2022)
The Sci-Fi Show’s Cast Was Hard To Keep Up With
Like many other shows with large casts and complex narratives, HBO’s Westworld expanded as time went on — but this wasn’t necessarily in the show’s favor. What started as an exploration of what would happen if robots designed for human entertainment gained sentience, Westworld soon became a series about much more, even making its way to the real world in season 3. The setting and story changes were made worse by the introduction of new characters, as well as the constant shifting of already-established ones. Westworld‘s approach to its cast proved difficult to keep up with, which may have contributed to its early ending.
4 Skins U.K. (2007-2013)
Casting Changes Made It Hard To Stay Invested
The British teen drama Skins was highly regarded while it was on air, but the series undoubtedly got weaker as time went on. Part of this had to do with its casting changes, as later seasons of Skins U.K. focused on the younger generation of characters rather than the original group of teens. This was inevitable given the passing of time, but it did present challenges in keeping viewers invested. Some characters were also more compelling than others, so their storylines overshadowed the others’.
3 Gossip Girl Reboot (2021-2023)
Supporting Characters Received Too Much Attention
The original Gossip Girl had a fairly large cast, but it kept its focus primarily on the main conflicts that surrounded Blair Waldorf and Serena Van Der Woodsen. The subplots centered on supporting characters were balanced well, something the Gossip Girl reboot didn’t pull off as neatly. The sisterly relationship between Julien and Zoya should have been the heart of the new series, but it attempted to treat their main friend group as equally important. While this wasn’t all bad, it did mean certain players were underutilized. The reboot’s Gossip Girl twist also forced the show to over-focus on the teachers, which wasn’t the strongest approach.
2 Pretty Little Liars (2010-2017)
Supporting Characters Detracted From The Original Premise
Pretty Little Liars began its run as a mystery series centered on the secrets of a friend group of four, and those characters made the show as compelling as it was thrilling. However, as the show continued — arguably longer than it should have — Pretty Little Liars expanded to be about their love interests, families, classmates, and even the friend they’d believed dead. The constant focus on characters outside the core four detracted from the main story, and Pretty Little Liars’ central mystery got too complex as more and more characters were revealed as “A” — many of whom were just red herrings to drag things out.
1 The Crown (2016-2023)
The Series Over-Focused On Those Around The Queen
The Crown chronicled the life and reign of Queen Elizabeth II, but the Netflix series also portrayed the rest of the Royal family over the years, changing actors as they “aged” on-screen. While The Crown‘s cast changes were a stroke of brilliance, one could argue the series over-focused on the surrounding members of the Royal family over Queen Elizabeth. This was particularly noticeable in The Crown season 6, which dedicated a lot of time to Princess Diana — a development that made sense but wasn’t as balanced as it could have been. The final outing struggled to conclude its story, and its large cast contributed to that.