Sometimes, we just pretend that certain things didn’t happen.
Michael Jordan wearing 45 and getting stripped by Nick Anderson in the 1995 Playoffs.
Nipples on the Batsuit.
There are times when we all acknowledge a failure and move on as quickly as possible. In pop culture, this happens all the time, from prequels to spinoffs to collaborations. Whether driven by money, ego, or even artistry, there are certain projects that we collectively pretend never happened.
Many people may feel that The Godfather Part III and Arrested Development Season 4 fall into this category, but I’ve actually gone to great lengths to disprove these notions. However, here are five instances that even I can’t defend:
Scrubs Season 9
It was the perfect ending. After eight wacky, smart, dream-filled seasons, Scrubs wrapped up its run – which had changed in look and tone after moving from NBC to ABC after season 7 – with a flawless sendoff, as Zach Braff’s J.D. takes a walk down memory lane before envisioning a happily ever after life that made everyone laugh and cry.
Then, they ruined it by coming back.
Scrubs inexplicably returned for a ninth season, changing the setting from a hospital to a medical school and focusing more on new characters. Show creator Bill Lawrence wanted to change the name of the show, but ABC (understandably) said no, so the name stuck and the perfect ending became more like an interlude. Lawrence had said his vision was to create a med school version of The Paper Chase, but instead he gave us Scrubs: The New Class with Dr. Cox and Turk playing the roles of Mr. Belding and Screech.
Even Braff knows the truth:
There were several elements that made Halloween H20 work so well, but the main ingredient, of course, was the return of Jamie Lee Curtis as Laurie Strode, the sister of Michael Myers that evaded and outmaneuvered the killer in the classics Halloween and Halloween II. To that end, H20 was a perfect bookend, ignoring the 158 other sequels and picking up the continuity from the end of Halloween II with a tense, taut thriller that relied more on suspense than gore and brought these two classic characters back together.
It ended with Strode decapitating Myers, bringing a satisfying close to the entire story in a film that would have been strong all on its own.
Naturally, the studio decided to ruin it with a woeful sequel that came four years later in the form of Halloween: Resurrection, a piece of shit that (a) poorly explained away the ending of H20, (b) tried to capitalize on the reality show craze, and (c) killed off Laurie Strode in the first five minutes. She escaped Myers for three films, eventually cut his fucking head off, only to come back and get Drew Barrymore’d in the beginning of this abomination?
Nah. H20 is the end of the Michael Myers-Laurie Strode saga.
“I got you stuck off the realness…”
When most people heard Prodigy utter those words on “Shook Ones Pt. II,” they believed they were hearing the first single from a brand new group. In fact, what they didn’t know was that Mobb Deep’s 1995 classic album, The Infamous was actually their second release.
Havoc and Prodigy had dropped their debut, Juvenile Hell, two years earlier on 4th and B’Way Records, the label that had released the classics Paid in Full from Eric B. & Rakim and X-Clan’s To the East, Blackwards. It included remixes by both DJ Premier and Large Professor and while not a bad album, it is far from the masterpiece that The Infamous is, so most people just act like Mobb Deep’s Loud Records debut is their first offering.
The Matrix Sequels
When it arrived in 1999, The Matrix was a phenomenon. A smart dystopian epic that tapped into the zeitgeist that accompanied the early days of the internet and the supposed threat of Y2K, it mixed its incredible special effects with the story of a relatable protagonist flung into an entirely new world. It was sci-fi Alice in Wonderland.
The problem with virtually all sequels is that they are unnecessary and this was certainly true of The Matrix. There was emotion attached to the fight during the climax of the film, followed by an ending that was hopeful yet ambiguous and allowed viewers to imagine how Neo’s journey would unfold in the future.
A decade before movie studios began cutting its final film into two parts, the combination of The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions felt like one giant film split in half. Or, as one critic said of Revolutions, it’s “like a 129-minute deleted-scene extra that could have gone on the DVD of The Matrix Reloaded.” In a world before the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the fact that the Wachowskis introduced their own universe, complete with films, video games, animation, and more, was a bold strategy. But instead of clarifying that world, all of this noise just made it even more muddled, taking a very simple concept and making it more convoluted with long stretches of exposition that were interrupted with action scenes that don’t do anything to advance the story.
While the action setpieces in the first film were dazzling on their own, they were made exponentially more powerful because they advanced the arc of the story and the development of the character of Neo. As viewers, we are learning this world for the first time right along with him, but in the final two films we’re just watching him be a superhero detective, fighting dozens of people for no real purpose and listening to people that speak like a thesaurus give history lessons, all of which makes me want to take the blue pill.
What’s next after winning the Cold War? Running for president? Saving the universe? Instead of trying to outdo himself for the fifth Rocky Balboa film, writer/star Sylvester Stallone wisely took the character back to the hardscrabble streets of the early films and even tapped John G. Avildsen, who won an Academy Award for Best Director for the first film, to return to his spot behind the camera to give the film the same feel as the original.
Unfortunately, while the concept of the film was sound, the execution was lacking, particularly the acting of Tommy Morrison and Sage Stallone and the Don King caricature, George Washington Duke. Originally intended to be the final film of the series – Stallone’s script had Rocky dying in the final street fight – it left everyone disappointed. As a result, the film and its events, particularly the brain damage angle, were eschewed in the surprisingly good Rocky Balboa (not to mention Creed). If Stallone pretends like Rocky V didn’t happen, why should we be any different?
Christopher Pierznik is the author of eight books, all of which can be purchased in paperback and Kindle. His work has appeared on XXL, Cuepoint, Business Insider, Medium, The Cauldron, and many more. Subscribe to his monthly reading review newsletter or follow him on Facebook or Twitter.