Isn’t it amazing when a talented new writer/musician/director etc bursts into the public eye with a project that’s so dazzling, so well-crafted and so inspired that it will forever be regarded as a classic? It truly is a great thing when the years that someone has worked to hone their craft come to fruition with their debut. But what happens next? A retreat from public life to work on that difficult second album/book/sculpture. A piece which, when it comes out, can be met with anything from relief to indifference to horror. And it’s often the negative end of the scale, as it’s so difficult to follow up an earth-shattering start. Find out who stumbled at the second post in our Top 10 Most Disappointing Follow-Ups.
10. Blair Witch 2: Book of Shadows
The first Blair Witch Project movie was scary. It was pant-wettingly scary. The whole point of it was that no-one knew for sure whether this film actually had been found in the woods or whether it was all faked.The truth was somewhere in between – yes, it was faked but the terror in it was authentic. The unknown actors camped in the woods while the directors tried to freak them out by making strange noises and leaving tiny wooden voodoo dolls about the place. In fact, lead actress Heather Donohue was so mistrustful of the whole set-up that she carried a hunting knife with her on the set. The result was a raw, shaky, structureless film that really captured the feeling of being lost and scared in the woods.
It wasn’t a film that needed a sequel. But one popped up just a year later. Filmed in the slick, boring style of “I Know What You Did Last Summer” and a thousand other teen horrors, it was wooden and stilted and had little to do with the original. No wonder it has a rating of just 3.9/10 on IMDb!
9. Room on Fire
2001 was a grim time for music. The Britpop and grunge years were long gone, and a clutch of bland soulful indie groups (e.g. Travis and The Stereophonics) had reigned for the last few years. And then, in the summer of 2001, a new wave hit. At its forefront were the White Stripes and The Strokes – unashamedly retro-sounding bands that mixed things up, fuzzed up their sound and got the crowds dancing again. The Strokes’ debut album “Is This It?” was a corker – the lyrics may have been indecipherable, but the Velvet Underground-tinged tunes were brilliant. It was a fresh, new sound.
Unfortunately, the second album “Room on Fire” wasn’t fresh or new. Recycling some of the tricks from the first album but in a less catchy way, it received fairly positive reviews and sales, but fans didn’t like it. Their next albums “First Impressions of Earth” fared less well still, and the band never quite hit the creative heights of “Is This It?” again.
8. Andy Roddick
There aren’t many fields in which a star can rise and crash so fast as in the world of sport. And Andy Roddick certainly felt the full force of that, when he was dubbed the savior of American tennis. He made a huge impact to start with, winning the 2003 US Open, but a spate of bad luck and injuries meant he could never follow up on the initial success. In 2004, he lost in the quarter final and the title was won by Roger Federer. Roddick never won an Open title again and eventually retired in 2012. He now commentates and says that he has no regrets about retiring at just 30.
7. The Casual Vacancy
Of all the people on the list, few had such expectations resting on their shoulders as JK Rowling. After creating the magical world of Harry Potter, which turned into a multi-billion pound industry, where could she go next? Her decision was surprising – adult fiction.
The novel itself “The Casual Vacancy” was sadly unsurprising. Like all people who start their careers working with children, JK obviously felt she had to prove herself as a credible adult writer. So, she threw every adult theme you can think of at the book – drug use, swearing, sex, incest, violence, death – and it came across as trying a little too hard to impress, like a kid at school who thinks it’s big to use the F-word. Sales were good but it’s unlikely to ever be known as a classics, unlike her earlier works.
Weezer, on the other hand, never set themselves huge expectations. An unassuming garage rock band that formed in 1992, they released their first album “Weezer” two years later and were probably as surprised as anyone when it went triple platinum. So, the normal thing to do would be to rush out a follow-up as soon as possible. Instead, frontman Rivers Cuomo went to Harvard, and the experimental next album, “Pinkerton”, was writing around his studies.
On release, sales were mediocre, and it only went to number 19 on the Billboard charts. Rolling Stone named it as the 3rd worst record of 1996. 5 years later, Rivers would describe it as ” A hideous record… It was such a hugely painful mistake”, but by then they were on their way back to chart success with their new album called….”Weezer”. “Pinkerton” later became something of a cult classic, but the band are still keen to disown it.
5. Kimbo Slice
As anyone with a passing knowledge of “Friends” knows, The Ultimate Fighting Championship is a no-holds-barred, brutal fighting challenge. You don’t just have to be tough to win a fight, you have to be near-indestructible. And so it was remarkable when the wonderfully-named Kimbo Slice burst onto the UFC scene in 2009, beating Houston Alexander in three rounds. For a moment there, it seemed like UFC had a new star, but it wasn’t meant to last. His second fight saw him knocked out by Matt Mitrione in the second round, and he was dropped from the league shortly afterwards. He later became a professional boxer, but has never quite lived up to his initial hype.
4. Cars 2
“Cars” was never the best Pixar film, lacking the laugh-out-loud moments of its predecessors. But its story of friendship and racing appealed to small children – especially boys – and they bought Lightning McQueen pyjamas and lunchboxes by the truckload.
It’s bemusing then, that Pixar decided to mess with a winning formula for the sequel. The second movie was carried by Mater – who was essentially a one-note character – and the James Bond-esque plot was so complicated that even parents failed to follow it. Also, it wasn’t very funny and went on for way too long. Still, it shifted a load more merchandise, so there’s probably no-one at Disney-owned Pixar sobbing into their pillows about the loss of their artistic integrity.
3. Sam’s Town
Another debut album glittering with potential, the Las-Vegas based band Killers, released “Hot Fuss” in 2004 and with it came…a lot of fuss. It reached number 7 in the US charts and number 1 in the UK charts where it eventually became 6-times platinum. Critics hailed it as the best debut album of all time. So how to follow that up?
With “Sam’s Town”. Unlike the British-tinged debut album, Sam’s Town was American to its core, with songs about Grandma Dixie and a brother who was born on the 4th of July. And fans bought it, it did well in the charts but the overall feeling was one of indifference. It just wasn’t as good as “Hot Fuss”. Even Rolling Stone, who had lauded the first album, described the album as full of “unfortunate big-rock bombast”. Another band that peaked too soon.
2. Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest
When the first “Pirates” film came out in 2003, no-one was expecting much. A film based on a theme-park ride – how exciting could that possibly be? So it was a pleasant surprise when it turned out to be not only full of swashbuckling grandeur but also a lot of sharp and witty humor, mostly courtesy of the now-iconic Jack Sparrow. It grossed $654,264,015 worldwide, far exceeding its budget.
A sequel was inevitable and it arrived three years later. But it somehow lacked the spark of the first one. While the money still rolled in, the reviews took a turn for the worse, with Rotten Tomatoes scoring it just 54%, compared to 79% for the first one. By the next film , that would sink to 44%, then 34% for the fourth. However, as long as they keep making money, the films will keep coming!
1. Heroes Series 2
However bad things have got in the lower reaches of the list, there is nothing that quite matches the car-crash that was the second series of “Heroes”. The first series had been snappy, plot-arc driven and cool. Everything had been working towards a point, and the finale was explosive. The second series was rambling, sappy and pointless. But what makes it exceptional? The fact that the writers of the show apologised for just how bad it was. In an unprecedented move, creator Tim Kring issued an apology for the slowness of the season saying that, among other mistakes they made, ” I don’t think romance is a natural fit for us.” A follow-up so disappointing that it comes with an official apology? A fitting winner of the number one slot!