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"If there's one thing history has taught us, besides not to piss off people called Genghis or put lead in your water pipes, it's that if you're going to make something incredibly good that becomes frighteningly popular, make sure it's the last thing you ever make in your entire life because otherwise you get to spend the rest of your creative career struggling under the weight of high expectations and bricks."
Ben 'Yahtzee' Croshaw, Spore Review

Say, you're an author. You've created a work (let's call it "Opus A") you're proud of and publish it. Turns out that pride was justified. You've created a great work. Even more: An epic. Your work grows to huge proportions, creating something that prints money. You become one of the world's most renowned authors. You bathe in the glow for a few years, but then you feel a familiar itch: The author in you demands his right once more. You create a new work. Once again, you're proud of it. You publish it. It's good.

And it bombs. And so does your next work. And the one after it. You've become a one-hit wonder, but that's not because of the quality of your works. In fact, the one single flaw of your new works is: "It isn't 'Opus A'". You've had your personal Crowning Moment of Awesome, but it overshadows everything you will ever do from this point on.

Essentially the creative version of Typecasting.

Contrast Protection From Editors, for when the new creations do suck but get published anyway, or need more work if they're not going to suck but no one dares tell you this. Compare with Glory Days. See also First Installment Wins and One-Hit Wonder. If a Fan Dumb becomes split over this it causes a Broken Base. This trope will often lead to Sequelitis and/or Contested Sequels. Frustration over this trope may cause Creator Backlash.

Examples of Tough Act to Follow include:


Anime and Manga

  • Believed to be the reason why Rurouni Kenshin author Nobuhiro Watsuki was not (and likely will never be) able to have another series which runs longer than 10 volumes, the magic number where Busou Renkin ended publication. Gun Blaze West was cancelled after only three.
  • Saint Seiya fell victim to this. Kurumada's first runaway hit was Ring Ni Kakero, a boxing drama although with its share of Shonen elements. Saint Seiya was the closest he got, but it lost popularity and was forced to conclude with a Bittersweet Ending. A few of his works have tanked and the only series post-Kakero he was able to end on his terms was B't X.
    • On the other hand, Saint Seiya is the only one of Kurumada's works that enjoys worldwide popularity (even more than twenty years after it was first published,) and it continues to generate spinoffs and prequels, and in 2012 even a reboot. Ring Ni Kakero is all but unknown outside of Japan.
  • Likewise, Naoko Takeuchi was less than well received after having completed Sailor Moon, and never managed to finish anything else afterwards, leaving several Orphaned Series behind.
  • Yoshiyuki Tomino had this problem with Mobile Suit Gundam. He became very bitter over this, but has lightened up considerably since working on Turn a Gundam.
  • Yudetamago ran into this after concluding Kinnikuman.
  • Tetsuo Hara never illustrated another manga series that was as wildly popular as Fist of the North Star. Hana no Keiji (a fictionalized biography of Keiji Maeda) was somewhat of a moderate success, but most of his other titles (Cyber Blue, Takeki Ryusei and Rintaro Nakabo) never managed to last more than a couple of volumes. Even Fist of the Blue Sky, a prequel to North Star set during the early 20th century, concluded in a rather lukewarm matter after the magazine that was publishing it folded and Hara went on to work on a different title.
  • Quick, name a manga Akira Toriyama has drawn since Dragon Ball. He's actually created quite a few short manga since then, but they've barely registered on most people's radars. It might be because they're almost all single-volume series, though. He's never even attempted a long series since Dragon Ball ended, partially for fear of this trope.
    • He does, however, avert this trope in the video game realm, where he remains quite popular as the head artist for the cult classic games Chrono Trigger, Blue Dragon, and the Dragon Quest series.
  • Office Academy, the company behind Space Battleship Yamato, made several forgettable series such as Space Carrier Blue Noah that failed to gain recognition inside or outside of Japan, unlike Yamato.
  • Quite possibly the reasoning for nothing but more Yu-Gi-Oh!! from Kazuki Takahashi. And even then, his input has fallen from writing the manga (Yu-Gi-Oh!), to having major input and plot work on the anime (GX), to... pretty much doing character designs (5Ds and Zexal).
  • Tite Kubo, Bleach's creator naturally, hasn't seen much success in his other manga works ever since this magnum opus' popularity. Zombie Powder from the same artist, never got to see volume five.


Comic Books

  • Art Spiegelman when it comes to his "comix" duology Maus. He has been quite vocal about how he never expected the "monument to my father" to become so popular, nor did he expect that his later works would be greeted by wishes for Maus III.
  • Jim Starlin, who thanks to his masterful work crafting Infinity Gauntlet, has every comic book given to him compared to it and rarely in a favorable light.
  • Mark Millar has suffered this with his post-Authority. Taking over the book just as it became popular (Ellis left the book just as it was catching on in order to focus on Planetary and Transmetropolitan), the book made Millar a household name adn his fights with DC over content made him a cause celeb amongst comic fans for creative freedom. He went on to Marvel but his career was never ever the same; Ultimates and Civil War were widely panned by critics (though commercially successful), he lost all of his creative freedom street cred when he sided against Mark Waid when Waid was fired from Fantastic Four over creative issues and his creator owned books were widely panned and had to be extensively rewritten by Hollywood to make them palatable for non-comic fans.
  • Marvel's had this with the Avengers: Kurt Busiek's run was widely acclaimed but when he left the book, the comic could never recovered. Geoff Johns left the comic due to editorial micromanaging him while Brian Michael Bendis and Chuck Austen were given free reign and produced widely reviled runs.
  • Chris Claremont on the X-Men; only a bare handful of writers have managed to carve an identity out on the X-Books that did not have Claremont's shadow hanging over them.
  • Green Lantern has Ron Marz, who made the book a hit with the introduction of Kyle Rayner of Green Lantern. When he left the book, he was replaced with Judd Winnick, who's run was so reviled that many Rayner fans blame him for sinking the sales of title and basically forcing DC to bring Hal Jordan back as Green Lantern to stop the bleeding.


Film

  • Since The Sixth Sense, M. Night Shyamalan has been trying to replicate his success with low-key supernatural horror and the Twist Ending. So far, each film has had a progressively worse critical reception, though it's arguably not because fans want another Sixth Sense and simply because his later works actually have gotten worse and worse.
    • The poor guy has become a "verb" on Urban Dictionary: To pull something spectacular off once, and then fail miserably each time you try to do it again.
  • The Star Wars prequels. Regardless of what you think of their quality, would they have gotten anywhere near the level of hate if not for the extremely popular original trilogy?
  • Orson Welles never had a prayer of producing another film that would live up to the reputation Citizen Kane enjoyed, although this is partly because he was never again allowed the degree of creative control he had with Kane. A later Welles film, Touch of Evil, is nowadays regarded by critics as a great artistic work, though it's nowhere near as well known to the public at large as Kane is.
  • Most of Quentin Tarantino's films have been financial and critical successes, but none of them will probably ever top his first major release, Pulp Fiction, at least in terms of mainstream reinvention of the medium.
  • Tobe Hooper never was able to replicate the success of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre as well as the his subsequent films. The closest he ever came was probably Poltergeist, but the involvement of executive producer Steven Spielberg overshadowed Hooper's work.
  • Austrian actress Luise Rainer won the Best Actress Oscar twice in a row in 1937 and 1938, (a feat repeated only by Katharine Hepburn). She once said about her awards that nothing worse could have happened to her, as audience expectations from then on would be too high to fulfill. Her career waned at the end of the 30s, and she retired in 1943.
  • There is a large group of people who said Kevin Smith never did anything good after Clerks. He's said multiple times the film "hangs over [my] whole career."
  • Donald Cammell spent his career trying to make another film as well-received as his debut, Performance (co-directed by Nicolas Roeg). He eventually committed suicide after dealing with Executive Meddling one too many times.
  • Christopher Nolan has expressed anxiety over the prospects of the third film in the Dark Knight saga, noting that after the massive accolades The Dark Knight received it will be difficult to write a satisfying follow-up, and pointing out "how many good third parts in a franchise can you think of?"
  • Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan had it all: an edge-of-your-seat plot, tremendous music, fantastic (for its time) visual effects, literary references galore, a true Tear Jerker ending, and great timeless themes interspersed throughout. With every new movie since, they've been trying to measure up to that - and always fell short.
  • John Singleton's directorial debut Boyz N the Hood was critically acclaimed, and made him the youngest Academy Award nominee for Best Director at the age of 24. Twenty years later, it's still regarded his best work.
  • Deadpool 2 suffered from this trope. Regarding superhero movies, it came right after the smash hit that was Avengers: Infinity War (which drew praise from its unconventional The Bad Guy Wins cliffhanger, while Deadpool 2 has the antagonist be defeated in the end). Specifically relating to the X-Men Film Series, it's the next movie in the series after Logan, another monster hit that was also acclaimed for its Bittersweet Ending (as well as for being the perfect farewell to Hugh Jackman's version of Wolverine).


Literature

  • Ender's Game was Orson Scott Card's first novel, which received major critical accolades and has sold millions of copies. His later novels, including a number of sequels, have not reached nearly its popularity or acclaim. In spite of it all, Card has still enjoyed a long, successful career, and his novels generally sell very well.
  • This trope is (probably) the reason Harper Lee never wrote another book after To Kill a Mockingbird.
  • The idea that everyone has a moment which overshadows the rest of their life becomes a major theme of the novel Foucault's Pendulum. (And some would say the work is itself an example!)
  • William Golding's first novel was Lord of the Flies. He wrote many others afterwards, but none of them matched its success.
  • The success of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz haunted L. Frank Baum for the rest of his career. Although he tried to make forays into other stories, he was never very successful and ended up penniless, forced to write more Oz books. Although he didn't enjoy it, the continuation of the Oz series are some wonderful stories, making this an example of Tropes Are Not Bad... at least not for the reader.
    • In the intro to one book he actually says that he knows many stories not about Oz, and wishes he had a chance to tell them.
      • He used the fourth book of the series, The Road to Oz, as a sort of Massive Multiplayer Crossover by inviting characters from his other books to attend Princess Ozma's birthday party, hoping to get his Oz readers interested in those other stories.
    • Similarly, Gregory Maguire has had trouble digging his way out from under Wicked.
  • Like the Oz examples above, Sir Author Conan Doyle could never escape the popularity of his flagship series about a certain 19th century detective. Despite Doyle's attempts to move on by killing off the iconic protagonist, he later bowed to public pressure to bring him back. Also, like Frank Baum, Doyle got fed up with having to continue the series, but financial necessity and failed outside novels prevented him from branching out.
  • Mary Shelley once said something to the effect that: "some people only have one really good novel in them." She would probably know a little about this trope, given that most people can only name one thing she ever wrote. Guess what it might be...
  • Peter S. Beagle unintentionally displayed the upside of this trope in an introduction to one edition of The Last Unicorn. He stated that the book would always haunt him "even as The Crock Of Gold came to haunt James Stephens." Notice that Stephens and The Crock of Gold don't have entries on the wiki—but The Last Unicorn does, and Beagle got a stub primarily because of it.
  • Watership Down was Richard Adams's first novel. He wrote several others, but none of them became nearly as successful.
  • Similarly, Joseph Heller never again came close to the success of The Great American Novel, Catch-22. Some of his later works playfully reference this.
    • Heller has a wonderful (possibly apocryphal) quote on the subject: "They say I haven't written anything as good as Catch-22 since. Well, neither has anyone else."
  • This is entirely why The Silmarillion was unfinished at JRR Tolkien 's death. He knew the Lord of the Rings was impossible to follow, especially since The Silmarillion was never intended for mass consumption.
  • Chuck Palahniuk exploded onto the scene with Fight Club, which became a major success after the highly popular and influential film adaptation. While his other novels sell well, none of them have come close to the success of Fight Club. His other novels usually advertise the fact that they are written "by the author of Fight Club, and reviews typically describe his work in relation to it.
  • Walter Miller Jr. After publishing his magnum opus A Canticle for Leibowitz, Miller isolated himself for 40 odd years and never published another book again, only stating in an interview that his reasons for not publishing were "not for the public to know." The posthumously published follow-up to Canticle, "Saint Leibowitz and the Wild Horse Woman", is universally regarded as inferior.
  • Andrzej Sapkowski, writer of The Witcher saga has published few other books in his native Poland after the last volume of the series, but cannot top its popularity. In fact, his last book is hated by many for being too different from The Witcher.
  • Amy Tan admits in her memoirs that she felt a lot of this after the runaway success of The Joy Luck Club. Her eventual solution was to write many novels until she came up with one she thought could stand on its own (The Kitchen God's Wife). In the end, she thinks it's better than The Joy Luck Club.
  • Stephenie Meyer had a huge hit with the Twilight series. Her next novel, The Host sold very well, but has nowhere near the same level of hype. She has stated she has many other ideas for novels, so it remains to be seen if anything she does will come close to her first.
  • Japanese author Koushun Takami has not written another novel since Battle Royale. After the original book received much international acclaim, and a film and manga adaptation a mere year after its 1999 release, it's hard not to see why.


Live-Action TV

  • After the success of The Office, creators Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant actively parodied / dared people to invoke this trope in the lead-up and advertising for their next series Extras, which was essentially billed as "the show people are already calling 'the disappointing follow-up to The Office". Although Extras was largely praised as being just as good as their original series, comments of this nature could still nevertheless be heard from time to time.
  • On Saturday Night Live, when Norm MacDonald was fired in the midst of a mild controversy, Colin Quinn's first episode as the Weekend Update anchor acknowledged this trope essentially saying "don't shoot the new guy."
  • Everyone's favorite Doctor is a tough act to follow (not to name names; you know where the bases are broken.)
  • Chris Carter is a variant of this trope. He tried three different times to premiere new shows while his most famous show, and ultimately the only one that's remembered, The X-Files was on the air. These shows are: Millenium, a conspiracy show in a similar vein as The X-Files minus the paranormal angle; The Lone Gunmen, a spin-off of The X-Files featuring three of its most popular supporting characters; and Harsh Realm, a critically derided effort featuring characters trapped in a virtual reality. All three featured an attempt at crafting a Myth Arc much like that of The X-Files but all three failed to catch on and lasted less than one season (with the exception of Millenium which lasted 3, with the show being retooled beyond recognition each season). Millenium and The Lone Gunmen both received Fully Absorbed Finales on The X-Files and neither is remember as fondly. Harsh Realm on the other hand is almost not remembered at all. Since The X-Files' conclusion, Carter, who was once a well-known show runner on the same level as Joss Whedon, has mostly faded into obscurity, coming out of semi-retirement to write and direct an X-Files film which was not well received and failing (or possibly not attempting) to get any other series or films off the ground as of 2011.
  • Tony Hancock apparently sunk into a deep depression after his famous Blood Donor sketch. Most people couldn't understand why this could be, given how brilliant the sketch had been, but it was apparently because Hancock believed he would never ever top it.
  • The Super Sentai series experienced this throughout the early and mid 90's--Choujin Sentai Jetman was so immensely popular, that nearly every season that came after it in the next 9 years was seen as a huge step down (although Gosei Sentai Dairanger has been Vindicated by History as being a spectacular season in its own right). In 2000, when Mirai Sentai Timeranger began airing, the Jetman hype had finally died down, and even the hardcore Jetman fanbase was satisfied with Timerangers drama and story rivaling Jetman's.
    • Though Your Mileage May Vary on which post-Jetman sentai were the ones that suffered - general consensus was that Zyuranger and to a lesser extent Kakuranger were the only ones affected. Dairanger was an awesome series in its own right, and the other series were no slouches either (except for Ohranger, but it was because of other factors.)
    • Played straight, however, by Tensou Sentai Goseiger, coming immediately after the dripping-with-awesome Samurai Sentai Shinkenger. It doesn't help matters that Kaizoku Sentai Gokaiger came after it.
      • And now Tokumei Sentai Gobusters is in exactly the same position, coming right off of the immense success that was Gokaiger.
  • There's the infamous "Seinfeld Curse" that allegedly prevents any of Seinfeld's four main cast members from achieving future success:
    • Jason Alexander had two failed sitcoms, Listen Upand Bob Patterson. He's consistently found supporting work in various movies but is always seen as George Costanza, a fact he disdains so much that as of 2011 he started wearing a hairpiece to open up his acting opportunities.
    • The biggest victim is arguably, Michael Richards (Kramer) who basically retired from acting after The Michael Richards Show failed to catch on in 2000 because the main character was turned into a cheap Kramer clone thanks to Executive Meddling and Richards almost completely destroyed his reputation in 2006 when he hurled racial slurs at a heckler during his stand-up act. In the 12 years since The Michael Richards Show Richards has only returned to acting for a voice part in the Jerry Seinfeld written Bee Movie and an appearance as himself on co-creator Larry David's Curb Your Enthusiasm.
    • Its debatable as to whether or not Julia Louis-Dreyfus applies since after Seinfeld she took a break to be a mother to her children. Later she seemingly broke the curse with The New Adventures of Old Christine when she won an Emmy but then the show's ratings steadily plummeted til it was cancelled and forgotten. She does have a new show starting on HBO soon so we'll see how that pans out.
    • Jerry Seinfeld himself largely sidestepped this, returning to stand-up and only doing the occassional one-off voice acting job.
    • Co-creator Larry David subverted this when his film Sour Grapes bombed critically and commercially but his second series Curb Your Enthusiasm became a hit in its own right.
  • Keeping with the Sentai trend, Power Rangers Samurai. The show isn't without its faults, but the series would have likely been better received had it not been adapted from Samurai Sentai Shinkenger (a very well-received Sentai) and following Power Rangers RPM (considered one of—if not the--best season that Rangers has ever done). Similar things could be said about Wild Force coming behind Time Force, and Turbo never stood a chance after Zeo.
    • The same could be said of pretty much every series set after In Space (with some exceptions, depending on who you ask), which not only managed to Win Back the Crowd after Turbo's lukewarm reception, but was the Grand Finale of a Story Arc starting with the original Mighty Morphin Power Rangers (remember, In Space was originally going to be the last Rangers season, so it needed to end with a bang). As all subsequent seasons are (mostly) self-contained, standalone works with only about 30 episodes to develop character and whatnot, they tend to fall short of a saga that had a six season buildup and was more or less at the apex of the Cerebus Rollercoaster by its end.
  • Averted and played straight with Star Trek: The Next Generation. It managed to step out of the shadow of the original show, but it made every subsequent Trek franchise feel rather lacking. Star Trek: Deep Space Nine could also be said to make the following shows feel lacking.
  • Surely the most obvious Tough Act to Follow in television was The Prisoner? Actor Patrick Mc Goohan actually left the UK shortly after the controversial final episode aired and settled in the US, and his only television series since then (Rafferty) has been long forgotten except by die-hard cult fans. He did have some sporadic success in the US, notably when working with Peter Falk on some episodes of Columbo but The Prisoner completely overshadows all his other work.
  • This seems to be rule of thumb for the star of any critically acclaimed cable series, particularly on HBO. For instance James Gandolfini (The Sopranos), Ian Mc Shane (Deadwood) and most people in the cast of HBO's The Wire (with the exception of Idris Elba and possibly Michael Kenneth Williams) have found all of their other roles eclipsed by the parts that made them famous. This is probably due to the fact its easier to shed association with a film role than with a lead part that is stretched over multiple seasons or in some cases the better part of a decade.
    • Subverted and played straight with "The Shield": the series reinvented the careers of Michael Chiklis, Glenn Close, and Anthony Anderson while launching the careers of many writers who have since gone on to show-run shows such as the Walking Dead and Sons of Anarchy. However, however writer Shawn Ryan's career has staggered (his follow-up shows The Chicago Code and Terriers and his time working as show-runner of "Lie To Me" was largely ignored by most).
    • Speaking of The Wire, after many critics and viewers dubbed David Simon's magnum opus as the "greatest TV show of all time", it's inevitable that Treme would never live up to his masterpiece.

Music

  •  ?uestlove, drummer for The Roots, said this about the trope in an interview:

 "For anyone that's ever had a musical breakthrough in their career, it's always followed by the departure period right after. Stevie Wonder's Songs in the Key of Life gave you Journey Through the Secret Life of Plants. Prince's Purple Rain gave you Around the World in a Day. The Beatles' Revolver gave you Sgt. Pepper's -- which kind of backfired and made them even bigger."

  • Any One-Hit Wonder.
  • Don McLean may be the biggest example, never being able to create anything close to the success of "American Pie".
    • Part of the problem was that it was a different type of song from the rest of what he did, so his other good songs were legitimately worse than American Pie by the measures of the people who preferred it, and many of the people who would have liked his other songs didn't bother listening to the further discography of "that guy who wrote American Pie".
  • Bone Thugs-n-Harmony can't make a album without people bitching about it not being like E.1999 Eternal (or The Art Of War, depending on who you ask).
  • Nas is always in the shadow of his classic debut Illmatic. Nothing he has made after that has been as acclaimed. He came close with Stillmatic, though.
    • Some go as far to say that none of his songs top "Live at the BBQ".
  • Michael Jackson's Thriller. There are some who believe he grew as a artist afterward, but his personal life and Thriller overshadowed that growth.
  • Hootie & the Blowfish's Cracked Rear View is their dark cloud.
    • Possible aversion, as lead singer Darius Rucker is having a great deal of success in country music.
  • Alt/Rap group Arrested Development went through this after their debut album. Most credit their downfall mostly to Hype Backlash rather than a lack of good music.
  • The (semi-)collective and solo careers of The Beatles, certainly after their 1970 breakup, can count. Paul McCartney's every step of late qualifies, particularly after John Lennon's death, not only for the Beatles, but his past solo/Wings glories (Band On The Run, for example). Possibly much of the negative criticism he has received is magnified by his participation in one of the 20th century's most successful pop songwriting teams. Lennon likely fared not much better in his solo career.
    • Lennon does fare slightly better, largely owing to his tragic and untimely death and his tendency towards Creator Breakdown fostering a True Art Is Angsty mindset to his work. However, it's notable that on compliation albums of Lennon's solo material, the same songs tend to appear; general consensus remains that neither Lennon or McCartney were as good solo as they were together.
  • Pietro Mascagni and his career after Cavalleria Rusticana (Countryside Knighthood). He was once interviewed and asked why he never made another Opera after Cavalleria Rusticana. He had a sad moment and then melancholically said "I did. I made a lot of other works. But no one seems to care."
  • One of Felix Mendelssohn's first works was the Op. 21, the overture for A Midsummer Night's Dream, and some claimed it indicated talent greater than that of Mozart. While not a failure, none of his later works ever reached the prominence of this one, composed when he was 17 years old.
    • Except for the wedding march from Op. 61, incidental music for the same play expanding on the overture he already wrote.
    • Mendelssohn had a number of other works that are also very popular and successful, including his symphonies and violin concerto, but most of these were written several years after A Midsummer Night's Dream. (And then he died young.) This tends to be common among composers; since they often produce many individual works instead of a smaller number of collections (e.g. albums) like pop musicians do, it is unlikely that two consecutive works will be considered among their best.
  • Oasis averted this with their second album (What's The Story) Morning Glory?, which sold better and as well-received by critics as their debut Definitely Maybe. The ones that followed, however, spawned successful singles but weren't in the standards of the first two.
    • Their third album, Be Here Now, not only failed to live up to the hype but also managed to kill the Britpop movement.
  • Also a problem of Pearl Jam after the release of Ten; the albums that came after couldn't really live up much to the success of it.
    • In fact Pearl Jam were consciously aware of this, and more or less intentionally sabotaged their own career to a certain extent so they wouldn't become major rock stars. Vitalogy, their third album, was initially released on vinyl, and only released on CD and cassette two weeks later, meaning it was only available on an effectively dead format for the first several weeks of its release.
  • Country music singer Cyndi Thomson stopped recording because she couldn't handle the pressure of a second album.
  • Carl Orff disowned everything he had written before Carmina Burana. His later works, while not entirely unknown, are largely overshadowed (and it doesn't help that some of them quote words from Carmina Burana).
  • Arguably Natalie Imbruglia and "Torn". Not to mention the fact unbeknownst to most it was a cover, almost everything she's done afterwards has never quite lived up to the massive success of her debut single. It even holds a place as the most played track on Australian radio since 1990 as of May 2009, about 11 years after its release.
  • The Eagles certainly realised that Hotel California was going to be a Tough Act to Follow. Not only did their next album, The Long Run, fail to live up to that challenge, but the stress of striving to make it do so was one of the main factors in the subsequent breakup of the group.
  • Mayhem will always be remembered primarily for their debut album, De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas. Every subsequent album has been nowhere near as widely acclaimed.
  • Slayer knew that they couldn't follow up their 1986 album Reign In Blood with faster guitarwork, so they made a deliberate decision to slow down for 1988's South Of Heaven.
  • The Strokes. Their first album, Is This It, was released to massive critical acclaim and is often named as one of the greatest albums ever created. While both of their follow-up albums are very good, they will forever be eclipsed by it.
  • The Cars, after a successful run of singles in the late 70's and early 80's, had one of the top-selling albums of the decade with their 1984 album, Heartbeat City. The innovative video for "You Might Think", won the first MTV Video Music Award for "Best Video", and they followed that up with hits (promoted with groundbreaking videos) like "Drive" (their first Top 10 hit in the UK), "Magic", "Why Can't I Have You", the title track, and "Hello Again". A successful tour followed which brought them to Live Aid. Aside from a Greatest Hits album with the single "Tonight She Comes", they took a hiatus from 1985-1987, they released one more album, Door To Door, which largely failed to make an impact, and they were unable to fill arenas. Only one major hit was released, "You Are The Girl". They broke up amicably in 1988. Bandleader Ric Ocasek maintained a low-profile solo career, bassist/vocalist Benjamin Orr died of pancreatic cancer, and drummer David Robinson retired. guitarist Elliot Easton and keyboardist Greg Hawkes largely laid low, except to form "The New Cars" with Todd Rundgren replacing Ocasek. Ocasek, Easton, Hawkes and Robinson did finally get back together in 2010, releasing Move Like This a year later - instead of drafting a new member, Easton and Hawkes alternated playing bass and Ocasek sang lead for the whole album. Of course, Move Like This didn't match the success of their earlier material, but it did meet with generally positive reviews and debuted at #7 on the Billboard 200 albums chart.
  • It's been argued by some that Mike Oldfield has never done anything else as brilliant as his debut album Tubular Bells (which made Richard Branson very, very rich). There was certainly a radical change after Incantations and only Tubular Bells 2 (a very clever rewrite of the original) and Amarok have been anything like it.
  • George Michael and his Faith album of 1987. It didn't help to have more challenging and introspective follow-up albums, constant Take Thats at his sex symbol image in later videos, a scandal which outed him in the mid-1990's, problems with his record labels, and drug- and alcohol-related run-ins with the law over the years.
  • Even the kindest reviews of Weezer's latest material will usually have the aside: "It's not as good as The Blue Album or Pinkerton, but...".
  • Jay-Z is a weird hybrid of this trope and Broken Base. His first album Reasonable Doubt is considered a hip-hop classic. But he has since made albums that is at least five times more popular financially. But people still put Reasonable Doubt as his top record artistically, and critically, even above his second best album The Blueprint.
  • Dream Theater's Falling Into Infinity isn't a terrible album by any means, but the fact that it came on the heels of Images and Words and Awake (two of the most acclaimed Progressive Metal albums ever) meant that just about everyone was disappointed by it. To a degree, pretty much every subsequent album (except for maybe Scenes from a Memory) is inevitably compared to Images and Words and Awake.
  • Natasha Bedingfield's two singles "Single" and "I Bruise Easily" underperformed, partially because they were both released after her monster hit "Unwritten", which radio stations simply refused to let die. It wasn't until "Pocketful of Sunshine" that things got back on track.
  • Delta Goodrem's Innocent Eyes is exactly this, 4.5 million copies world wide, number one at the ARIA's for 29 weeks, coupled with the Tall Poppy Syndrome when her second album came out. She may be justified in wanting a break now and again. Still Australia's princess never the less.
  • Evanescence's Fallen is still the go to record for alot of people's "teen angst" stage and was a HUGE success for the band selling 17 million world wide and top three in the Billboard charts. Sadly everything released afterwards has only been received at a temperature of lukewarm or ignored outright.
  • Boston's self titled album was the (then) highest selling debut album of all time with 17 million copies sold and spawned songs that are played repeatedly on any classic rock station. None of the four albums since have reached that amount of success and aren't well remembered out of some of the band's more hardcore fans.
  • In 2006, a country music band called Heartland had a number one hit with "I Loved Her First". This was quite a feat, as a.) it was the first top 40 hit ever for their label, Lofton Creek Records, and b.) they became only the second band in the history of country music to send a debut single to #1 (Diamond Rio was the first). Then the label dropped the ball massively by flip-flopping on what the second single would be. The original plan was for "Let's Get Dirty", but the label heads changed their minds and went with "Built to Last", very similar in sound to "I Loved Her First". After "Built to Last" amassed a single week at #58, they went with "Let's Get Dirty" but it went nowhere. Heartland ended up changing labels twice but still have nothing to show for it.
  • Metallica has had plenty of trouble following up "Master of Puppets", especially thanks to the tragic death of Cliff Burton and introduction of Replacement Goldfish Jason, who, no matter your opinion of him, was nowhere near the musical force that Cliff was.
  • Most older Mariah Carey fans will tell you that 1995 until 2000 was both her creative, commercial and critical peak. During that time period, she had 3 platinum-selling hit albums (one of which has since gone DIAMOND), a special compilation that featured every #1 hit she had up until that point (13 of them, only 8 years in to her career), and amassed 7 number one hits (which gave her a #1 for every year of the 1990s). All of her post-comeback work has been compared by the fandom to that period in her career, with the consensus being that her 2009 "Memoirs of an Imperfect Angel" is the closest she has ever come to returning to her late-90s peak—well, at least creatively. Critically and commercially speaking, that would have to be her 2005 comeback, "The Emancipation of Mimi", where not only did she almost break her own record that she set 10 years prior (her 1995 hit, "One Sweet Day" spent a record-breaking 16 weeks at #1 and her 2005 hit, "We Belong Together" spent 14 weeks at #1), but she also set a Billboard achievement by being the first female artist to occupy the top 2 positions on the charts (her #2 hit was "Shake It Off").
  • Sir Elton John had a critically winning period from 1970's Self-Titled Album until 1973's classic Double Album Goodbye Yellow Brick Road. Even when the reviews got worse (and he occasionally delivered relatively lackluster albums that still produced hits), he had a financially successful streak from 1972 to 1976, when he was the biggest-selling most popular male solo act in The Seventies. His friend John Lennon was quoted in an interview as saying that Elton was biggest thing to come along since The Beatles came along. The period was also marked with Elton wearing elaborate, crazy costumes, glasses, theatrics and wardrobe, and he even reached Teen Idol status. Following his self-outing in Rolling Stone magazine in 1976, and a Ten-Minute Retirement a year later, his popularity fell fast. He's been largely unable to repeat his 1970-76 success since. He's had a few career comebacks, a sobering-up in the early '90s, and even an Oscar for co-writing songs for The Lion King, but nothing compared to his glam period.


Newspaper Comics

  • Though they were both as funny as their predecessor, neither one of Berkeley Breathed's post-Bloom County comics--Outland and Opus—had the same wide circulation and notability that Bloom County enjoyed in its heyday.


Sports

  • Any team that was led to success by a standout athlete has trouble after he goes away - best example being the Michael Jordan-less Chicago Bulls.
    • Or the Denver Broncos without John Elway. It's actually eerie how similar those two turned out: Jordan was universally regarded as basketball's greatest player, while Elway was arguably football's greatest quarterback. Both retired in 1999 after winning championships, and neither team has truly recovered. (Of course, Jordan came back with another team, but we prefer to not think about that)
      • Elway was NEVER considered the greatest quarterback, he was always in Joe Montana's shadow. A better example would be the 49ers without Jerry Rice or Montana.
      • In some ways this can be subverted, for instance Kobe Bryant is just as beloved as Magic Johnson. How? Because he has a completely different playing style and personality. Same for Larry Bird and Bill Russell.
    • In Formula One, Ferrari after Michael Schumacher.
      • Anyone after Michael Schumacher. Even the man himself.
      • In Brazil, anyone after Senna - Rubens Barrichello in particular got some flack from being the new Brazilian driver but unlike Senna not having his prowess, powerful car or luck.
    • Every Brazilian National Football (Soccer) Team after the Pelé-led team of 1970. Teams of 1982 and 2002 have come close.
    • The New York Yankees will never be as loved as when they had Babe Ruth. They probably will never even be as loved as when they had Mickey Mantle. Feared, yes...
    • Bill Mazeroski, the Hall of Fame second baseman for the Pittsburgh Pirates, called his walk-off home run to win the 1960 World Series to complete an upset of the Yankees "a curse in disguise". He was never a prolific hitter, and outside of Pirates fans, people saw only that home run, not realizing he is arguably the best defensive second baseman to have ever played the game.
    • Roger Maris, after breaking Babe Ruth's single season record for home runs claimed the rest of his career would have been "a helluva lot more fun" had he never done that.
    • Any league with a salary cap essentially forces this as any team with a surprisingly good year is forced to get rid of half their players since they're now demanding pay raises, especially if they win the championship. Aversions happen in teams that are centered around a few key players or have excellent general managers.
  • Any sensational record in any sports.
    • At the 1968 Summer Olympics, Bob Beamon set a world record for the long jump with a jump of 8.90 m. Prior to this, the world record had been broken thirteen times since 1901, with an average increase of 6 cm; Beamon's jump bettered the existing record by 55 cm. The defending Olympic champion, Lynn Davies told Beamon, "You have destroyed this event". The record stood until 1991. Beamon himself never won another Olympic medal.
  • As for personal tough acts to follow, quintuple Olympic ski jumping champion Matti Nykänen is a particularly sad case - not only did his sports career plummet with his failure in adopting the modern V style, so did his life. From The Other Wiki: since the 1990s, his status as a celebrity has mainly been fuelled (...) by his colourful personal relationships, his "career" as a "singer", and various incidents often related to heavy use of alcohol and violent behaviour.


Theater

  • Gilbert and Sullivan struggled with this after the mega-hit, The Mikado. Gilbert darkly suggested renaming their next operetta (Ruddigore) Kensington Gore: Or, Not Quite So Good as The Mikado. Given that it was greeted with shouts of "BRING BACK THE MIKADO!" from the galleries, his bitterness was arguably justified.
    • Ruddigore was erroneously considered a flop in Gilbert's lifetime; Special Effect Failure on its opening night may have contributed to its underwhelming reception. 20th century revivals restored the work's reputation.
  • Meredith Willson's first Broadway musical, The Music Man, achieved great popular and critical success. Of his three subsequent musicals, each was less successful and less distinguished than the previous one, with his final show (1491) closing before reaching Broadway.
  • Mitch Leigh had an even worse record: all the musicals he wrote after Man of La Mancha were atrocious flops.
  • Pietro Mascagni, whose fame rests on his debut Cavalleria Rusticana, went on to compose another 14 operas. All are forgotten by the time of his death. It is especially lamentable because, as the rare revivals attest, some of these works (like Iris and Il piccolo Marat) show great artistic vision and experimentation. But sorry, the public is looking for another Cav.
  • The Phantom of the Opera is this for Andrew Lloyd Webber—while several of his subsequent shows did decent/fine business in his native England (Sunset Boulevard also did well in the U.S.), he's never had another international sensation along the lines of Evita, Cats, Starlight Express, or Phantom. In 2010 he brought out a sequel to Phantom, Love Never Dies, but its reception has been extremely mixed.
  • For Lerner and Loewe, one reason Camelot disappointed so many people was that it was their follow-up to the sensation that was My Fair Lady.
  • Boublil and Schonberg followed up Les Miserables with Miss Saigon, a critical and popular smash that introduced the world to a seventeen-year-old Filipina phenom named Lea Salonga. But not even Miss Saigon can top the longest-running, best-written, best-loved, best-known, and quite possibly best musical ever produced. Interestingly, Les Mis is so good that no one really cares what Boublil and Schonberg have gotten up to since - they wrote Les Mis and are therefore entitled to write whatever else they damn please.
  • Even though Stephen Schwartz was well known at the time, this could almost be said to apply to Wicked. Nothing he did before it even comes close to Wicked's level of popularity and revivals of some of his older work (notably Godspell which is returning to Broadway) now carry the advertisement: From the creator of Wicked (with occasionally Pippin being mentioned as an afterthought).


Toys

  • The story of Bionicle was so, well, huge, that its successor line Hero Factory gets a considerable amount of hate for its bare-bones, simple-to-follow plot and minimalistic characterization. Complainers tend to overlook the fact that even so, HF's story is still a tad more complex than that of an average, non-licensed LEGO line, and its characters are among the most developed of any original-LEGO characters (if still far from Bionicle's). LEGO themselves consider HF a wholly separate entity -- a line that occupies the same niche as Bionicle, but it's not a follow-up, nor, strictly speaking, a replacement.


Video Games

  • While still being good, Generation 3 of Pokémon had to follow up Gen 2, which is widely regarded as the best in the series (until their gen 4 remakes). The fact that they downplayed the time factor and the exclusion of many Pokemon didn't help matters either. Gen 5 is said to be a new tough act to follow as well.
  • Chrono Cross was cursed from the beginning to never be as popular as Chrono Trigger, one of the most beloved games ever made.
  • Games designer Will Wright seems to be heading in this direction, considering the general reaction to his latest game, Spore (along with most recent entries to the Sim City franchise), hasn't been nearly as warm as with his seminal masterpiece, The Sims. (The quote from Yahtzee up top is from Zero Punctuation's review of Spore.)
    • Wright wasn't responsible for the latest iterations of Sim City; he and Maxis haven't been involved with the series since SimCity 4, which is often regarded as its apex.
  • The Final Fantasy fandom is "divided", but it's probably safe to say that Final Fantasy VIII didn't live up to what was expected after Final Fantasy VII. Whether or not Final Fantasy VII lived up to what was expected after Final Fantasy VI is the source of many flame wars.
  • Super Metroid set a standard for every subsequent game in the series and (by extension) the Metroidvania genre in general. This was the only reason we didn't get Metroid 64, as the creator said almost word for word that Super Metroid was a Tough Act to Follow.
  • Metroid Prime was fantastically well-received, smashing through the Polygon Ceiling and successfully switching genres from platformer to FPS while appeasing the fans. Once the Prime subseries ended, the next 3D Metroid title was Metroid: Other M, which had a very hard time following up both Retro Studios' games and Super Metroid.
  • Deus Ex, naturally. Provided you accept that there were acts that followed it at all; quite a lot of fans don't.
  • Hotel Dusk: Room 215 has a fictional example: Each of Martin Summer's works are worse than the one before, with his first being a smash hit. It is later revealed that he plagiarized the manuscript from a former friend.
  • The original Yoshis Island: Super Mario World 2 was a great game, seen as a classic entry in the Mario series in all respects. However, Yoshi's Story and Yoshi's Island DS, despite being good games on their own, got incredibly badly overshadowed by the original, to the point of the former being ripped apart for not being the same style and general gameplay as Yoshi's Island (and the latter was Your Mileage May Vary for many, and being Nintendo Hard didn't help).
  • One of the reasons why Duke Nukem Forever festered as long in development as it did, according to a Wired article, was simply because 3D Realms wanted their game to be as groundbreaking as Duke Nukem 3D was back in its day. As a result, they were constantly adding more and more new features into the game, upgrading the technology and occasionally starting the entire project from scratch because what they had wasn't up to par, until they ran out of funding in 2009 and Gearbox finished off what they had two years later.
  • Arguably, the reason less like Donkey Kong Country 3 compared to the second game. The second game was (and still is) the generally most well received in the series, and the very different style of the third is something that seems to have not quite lived up it in the same way.
  • In hindsight, Harmonix choosing to craft their first single-artist Rock Band game around the musical output of The Beatles might have been a poorly considered move in the long term, because no matter how great your music is, it's very, very difficult to find another group as universally beloved as The Beatles. So who did they pick for their next game? Green Day.
  • At this point, the entire Castlevania series is trapped in the shadow of the Symphony of the Night.
  • The original Uncharted was good. Uncharted 2 was a fantastic game adored by critics and gamers alike and is currently ranked the sixth-best game of all time according to gamerankings.com. The newly announced Uncharted 3 is going to have to be pretty damn spectacular.
    • And if the trailer is any indication, it won't disappoint... and it didn't. It received critical acclaim across the board.
  • Most of the Classic Mega Man series' sequels (and their soundtracks) generally aren't considered quite as good and memorable as Mega Man 2 (with the only arguable contenders being Mega Man 3 and V). 9, however, was good enough to revive the series and surpass 2s level of quality and popularity (which had reached the level of oversaturation, by that point). This naturally became apparent, once '10 came out, divided the fanbase again and performed below sales expectations.
  • Ocarina of Time is generally considered in the Zelda fanbase to be one of the greatest games in the franchise, and by many outside of it one of the greatest games ever. Future games in the series, while still very good, garner complaints because of how unlike (or, sometimes, how like) Ocarina of Time they are.
  • The Silent Hill series has struggled in the shadow of its second incarnation through four sequels, numerous comics and its film release. Silent Hill 2 is widely regarded as the definitive installment, which tragically influenced its subsequent media by having various elements recurr when they were either unwelcome or poorly implemented (Sexy Monster Nurses, Pyramid Head, Soliptical protagonists fighting through surpressed trauma). While Team Silent's third and fourth games didn't fall into this trap and were generally liked by the fanbase, they failed to enthrall the wider public as their predecessor did.
  • Infinty Ward's first two games were critical and commercial successes. Then they released Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. They turned a good-selling series into a Cash Cow Franchise, perfected the single player experience, changed the perception of the "generic shooter" from World War II to modern, and created the possibly the most addictive multiplayer system of all time. Both Treyarch and I-Dub have had trouble following that act.
  • Tecmo Bowl had this happen after Tecmo Super Bowl was released for the NES. In 1993, they released a sequel (not a port, contrary to popular belief), also named Tecmo Super Bowl for the SNES and Mega Drive (Genesis). One of the main reasons was because of the roster changes from the 1990 season to the 1993 preseason. Many teams and players got better or worse, such as Dallas improved the most and Chicago arguably got worse. One common complaint was the Three-season mode, where you play three seasons in a row with one team to get a better ending. Of course, it's an optional feature.
  • Saints Row 2 was beloved by so many that Saints Row the Third almost had to be a letdown. On its own, there's not a lot wrong with The Third, but when compared to its predecessor, there's a lot missing. For every new great thing that The Third introduced, it gave up something else from its predecessor. Better looking models but way less character customization. Better action, less reason to care about the characters. Shaundi becoming a completely different character from her original to the point of being unrecognizable. The optional side-activities becoming mandatory, and a lot of the popular ones from the past (like FUZZ or Septic Avenger) completely gone. So on and so forth.
    • Don't forget the most fanbase splitting moment of the game, By Killing off Johnny Gat, the series Memetic Badass who last game got stabbed in the chest and then managed to shoot his way out of the emergency room the very next mission. He is killed in this game within the first 30 minutes, Offscreen. At first it was supposed to show how dangerous The Syndicate really was, however this is instantly null and void when you kill their Leader at the end of the first act. While to be fair they also made up for it by improving on the other characters including last game's Butt Monkey, Pierce. However this is hit and miss for some, especially Shaundi as previously mentioned.
  • This is one of many ways one can describe what's happened to Sonic the Hedgehog. The original 3 games (this is taking Sonic 3 and Sonic & Knuckles together as the complete title) and Sonic CD are hailed effectively universally as the shining gems of the series (and fantastic examples of high speed platforming in general). Every. Single. Sonic. Game. Since. Then. has been trying to get out of this shadow, some to far better results than others, and even then each one has an unfortunately strong Fandom Rivalry to go with it. The series has gone on to become an exemplary sample of Broken Base (amongst other things) as a result of this very trope.
  • Super Mario 64 is considered to be the best Mario 3D platforming game in the history of the Super Mario series, despite it dividing the fans over whether or not the 3D games are better than the 2D games. Super Mario Sunshine had an extremely hard time living up to everyone's expectations that was set by 64. Sunshine wasn't a bad game by any means, but many fans prefer 64 because the game was more open compared to Sunshine. Super Mario Galaxy also was met with high expectations and it generally succeeded.


Webcomics

  • Sean Howard has provided this, as the reason why he's not writing any more webcomics. A Modest Destiny got very popular for getting very dark, and when he entered emotional recovery he didn't feel he could write like that any more. However, when he tries to write anything more lighthearted, he gets hate letter after hate letter from people demanding that he finish AMD rather than "waste time" on his new project.


Western Animation

  • Beast Wars had such a devoted and passionate fanbase that when Beast Machines premiered, it was held to an impressively high standard and unfortunately, in the eyes of many fans, did not meet expectations. And since then, Beast Wars has become almost like a measuring stick for newer Transformers shows to be compared to.
    • The Transformers franchise suffers from this as a whole. Despite numerous reboots the 1984 series is considered the definitive version. Any new version is compared to it and rarely passes. Even Beast Wars the most successful reboot had hatedom for a while ("Trukk not munky", et all).
    • One of the reasons why this situation results in numerous arguments among fans is because the Generation 1 show and Beast Wars are seen as "the standard" for different reasons by different people. G1 for many fans is the definition of Transformers—its concepts, the characters, the designs, the overall "feeling" of the show is what hard-core fans want to re-experience in every new cartoon. Beast Wars, on the other hand (and nowadays Transformers Animated as well), is used as a comparison point because it is a generally good, solid, quality production. In short, part of the fandom strives for the preservation of details between the different TF iterations, while the other isn't so concerned about these, just want a show that's good in its own right.
  • One of Walt Disney's early successes was the cartoon short "The Three Little Pigs" (which featured the song "Who's Afraid Of The Big Bad Wolf?") Other follow-up cartoons with the same characters were less successful, which prompted Walt to comment, "You can't top pigs with pigs."
    • He actually made that comment before he made the other two cartoons. He made them anyway as a sort of proof-of-point.
  • Lee Unkrich admitted to waking up physically ill from worry while directing Toy Story 3, afraid he would screw up the series.
  • Many of the revivals of Looney Tunes have suffered from trying to live up to the quality of the original Golden Age theatrical cartoons. That said, The Looney Tunes Show has tried to avert this by intentionally going in a different direction from the original shorts (sans the new Wile E Coyote CG shorts)--the producers even admitted that they did this because they realized by that point that trying to imitate the original cartoons would only lead to more failures. Some were happy, many were not.
  • Walt Disney suffered this after his attempts at surpassing Snow White's success with several experimental films ended in disaster in the 40's,[1] not having another big hit until 1950's Cinderella gave the company the kick in the pants it needed.
  • Check a video on YouTube for The Batman or Batman the Brave And The Bold and see how long it takes to scroll through the comments and find someone complaining it isn't as good as Batman the Animated Series or that Kevin Conroy or Mark Hamill do a better Batman and Joker.
  • As a whole, My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic averts this, being far and away the most popular incarnation of the franchise, but this trope still holds true for individual episodes (although all of them have been Vindicated by History to varying degrees):
  • The Spectacular Spider Man adapted Spider-Man and his adventures with a good balance of drama and humor, updated characters and stories for the 21st century while retaining their likable traits, and managed to fit a relatively high amount of depth. Unfortunately, Sony Pictures Television's rights to Spidey expired, which resulted in a premature cancellation, and the rise of a new cartoon: Ultimate Spider-Man. Several Marvel fans find that while this show has a more universally appealing visual style than Spectacular Spider-Man, it doesn't take itself very seriously, and the characters don't seem as endearing. The high level of Cutaway Gags and running gags in Ultimate Spider-Man can make it unbearable to sit through for viewers wanting more drama and/or characterization.
  • The first animated Peanuts special, A Charlie Brown Christmas, attracted half of the nation's TV viewers of its time, won a Pulitzer Prize, and continues to air every winter to this day. The second, Charlie Brown's All-Stars, didn't win any awards, and only airs sporadically these days. The fact Charlie Brown's second most popular TV special came a few months afterward probably pushed it even deeper into obscurity.
  • The Avengers' upcoming animated series, Avengers Assemble, will air after the end of The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes. Fans already feels like cursing Marvel Animation for not going beyond 52 episodes of Earth's Mightiest Heroes.

Notes

  1. the only success he had in the 40's was "Dumbo", a budget feature
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