1. Marie's Kleptomania (Breaking Bad)
Breaking Bad was a show about intricate details and excessive planning - every single action and character and plotline wound up having relevance to the ultimate plot and emotional endgame...except for one: Marie's kleptomania.
Even Hank's brief stint collecting minerals (NOT "ROCKS," MARIE) ultimately had some significant - signifying his frustration with his injured state and inability to continue his investigation into the blue meth epidemic, which ultimately drew him back into the game and...well, to telling a neo-Nazi that he was ASAC Schrader, and you can go f--- yourself.
But Marie's kleptomania, introduced midway through season 1 and briefly revisited in season 4, is much murkier. It led to a quick feud with Skyler that was soon resolved and briefly as a coping mechanism for dealing with Hank's depression and cold attitude (and DOES lead to the local police bringing the Gale Boetticher case to Hank, but they could have found a zillion other ways to do that). Mostly, it was an oddly pointless distraction, unless you count the moment towards the end of the show where Marie tries to take Holly from Skyler as another example of her kleptomania (and not, ya know, trying to protect an innocent baby from her meth dealing, murderous father):
2. Florida Sabre Store (The Office)
Season 8 was rough for The Office - having lost its star, Steve Carrell, the show was trying to reinvent itself while simultaneously holding onto what made it so unique in the first place. The attempt to make Andy Bernard the new Michael was more or less a huge mistake, recurring guest star James Spader was never as interesting as his first appearance promised, and everything was just a little off. And then the Florida arc happened, and things got VERY off.
The basic premise was this: Dunder Mifflin (under new ownership) would be launching a faux-Apple Store outlet in Tallahassee, Florida, where they would sell triangle-shaped tablets and phones. And, for some reason that is still unclear to me, instead of hiring employees to run the store, they just took half of the employees from their PENNSYLVANIA PAPER COMPANY BRANCH and sent them to Florida to work in tech retail.
The plotline is fundamentally stupid and the show acknowledges that (it doesn't last very long), but the way it's handled is even stupider - splitting the cast does the show no favors, as half the fun was watching the characters interact with each other. And worse, there's a long thread of "will Jim cheat on Pam with a hot new co-worker?" and the answer (to anyone who has watched even one episode of the show up to this point) is obviously "no" but the show still drags it on for suspense regardless.
3. Dorne (Game of Thrones)
Dorne had something of a notorious reputation long before the plotline was introduced into the Game of Thrones show - the first actual glimpse of Dorne (in the books) came with 2006's A Feast For Crows, the long awaited 4th book after the event-filled A Storm of Swords. And it was...boring. A ton of time was spent with Doran Martell, a gout-having prince who mostly sat around and contemplated things, and a slew of other (completely new) characters whose narrative importance seemed pretty suspect - especially for a book that didn't include any chapters for the series most popular trio of characters: Tyrion Lannister, Jon Snow, and Daenerys Stormborn.
But while it was unfairly judged because of that, the Dorne plot is pretty interesting - it's much more of a slow burn than the other plotlines, with the ultimate purpose deeply hidden in seemingly tangential things (to the degree that - even now - it's not super-explicitly clear). But Dorne in the show is an entirely different matter - it just plain sucks.
Why does it suck? Kinda the opposite reason why the book's Dorne plot was underwhelming - we spend almost NO time in Dorne, getting to know the new characters and understanding the intricacies of the region, and the plotline that is happening there is exceedingly blatant and stupid. And worse, it maroons two of the show's best characters - Jaime Lannister and Bronn - in a plotline where they have nothing worth doing.
Also, the single worst fight sequence in the show's history.
But perhaps the worst moment comes at the end - the culmination of the storyline is Jaime returning to King's Landing with his daughter, Myrcella, in tow, and them sharing a heartwarming moment where Jaime reveals her true parentage...and she accepts it warmly! They hug! Everything is nice!
And then Myrcella dies, because the Sand Snakes poisoned her. Poisoning children isn't a big deal on Game of Thrones in general - it's pretty par for the course, really. But the one thing we had heard about Dorne from Oberyn Martell (aka the only cool Dornish character) was "We don't hurt little girls in Dorne." And then what is the one big thing they do? HAVE DORNE HURT A LITTLE GIRL.
SHAME! SHAME! SHAME!
4. The Flashsideways (Lost)
The final season of Lost gets a lot of shit - and, ya know what? It deserves it. It's exactly as bad as people say it is - meandering and full of bizarre retcons and characters acting uncharacteristically and weird new plot elements being introduced at the last minute and a huge number of terrible, terrible decisions. But one terrible decision stands above the rest - the Flash-Sideways.
The big "twist" in the premiere for Lost's final season was that the characters were no longer being served by flashbacks or flashforwards - but rather, "flashsideways", glimpses into an alternate universe where Oceanic 815 never crashed onto the dumb Mystery Island and everyone led VERY different lives. The exact nature of what this world represented was kept a mystery until the final episodes, where it was revealed that it was some kind of purgatory, where the characters were all in an afterlife, searching for answers and meaning and - ultimately - peace (by hanging out in a non-denominational church and ascending to Best Friends Heaven or something at the end, and yes it's exactly as stupid as I'm describing it).
The big problem with the reveal of the nature of the flashsideways should be obvious - if this was Limbo or Purgatory or whatever, it's meaningless. There are no stakes - ALL of the characters are already dead, and we're just watching them slowly figure out how to achieve enlightenment or something (it's never really made clear). And there also seems to be no consequence for NOT achieving enlightenment - it's indicated EVERYONE will eventually, but some people need more time than others.
So, in the end, it doesn't inform the characters in the main plotline in the way flashbacks did, it didn't offer glimpses into the consequences of their decisions in the way flashforwards did, and...well, it didn't add ANYTHING to the show. It was filler - during the final season, when we were promised the days of filler were over.
(yes, I'm still mad about Jacob's dumb light cave)
5. The Paper (The Wire)
The Wire is a show that requires patience - plotlines and characters develop slowly and gradually, but in the end paint a compelling tapestry of a city held captive by unrelenting institutions and systems that crush everything that gets in their way. And with each season, something new and dire is introduced - from the death of blue collar workers in season 2, to the corrupting influence of politics and the reality of the drug war in season 3, and culminating in season 4's brutal depiction of how children ultimately don't stand a chance in a city where no one has their best interests at heart. Season 4's the key here, because it truly is the show at its most powerful - watching 4 kids have their lives torn apart by drugs, uncaring politicians, and a street war amongst criminals and cops where they're simply pawns.
So the odds were stacked against season 5 to begin with - how would it top season 4? The answer: by adding in the least compelling narrative in the show's history, the chronicle of the Baltimore Sun newspaper. For one, it's just SO HARD to care about the struggles of upper-middle class writers and editors whose biggest worry is JOURNALISTIC INTEGRITY when other characters are struggling for their very lives. It was introduced at the wrong point, with the wrong characters, and with the show's least believable plotline (McNulty has "made up" a serial killer to get funding for his pursuit of a drug operation, and one journalist is ALSO kinda making it up?).
And with season 5's reduced episode count, it shines a light on how the paper's screentime could've been given to more compelling plotlines or characters. Because seriously, you can NEVER get enough Omar.
6. The existence of Jason Biggs (Orange is the New Black)
Orange is the New Black is an interesting, powerful show that easily moves between lighthearted comedy and incredibly moving drama, between it's all-too-real depictions of the lost inmates at a women's prison, the guards who patrol them, and the administrators who handle the bureaucracy.
Oh, and also Jason Biggs, for some reason.
Yep - the pie-fucker himself is the protagonist's fiancee, whose only connection to the main plotline and diverse ensemble is that he is engaged to the main character and otherwise really has nothing to do with anything relevant. Because he's so detached from the main storyline, every time it cuts to Jason Biggs, it feels like wasted time that could be better spent getting to know the prison and its inhabitants better (since that's what the show is about).
So the plotline would be pretty bad regardless, but luckily the character and the actor who portrays him are both unrelentingly shitty and obnoxious, so it's even worse! Jason Biggs (I refuse to do the research to look up his character's name) is an overprivileged, whiny writer who can't handle the slightest inconveniences in his life for more than 2 seconds. His wife is taken to jail for crimes committed in her younger years and is due to spend a little over a year in prison. All he has to do is wait for a little over a year (while his wife deals with some seriously dangerous and degrading shit), but in that time he manages to:
- Constantly blamed and condescended to his wife
- Wrote a tell-all article about his wife's experiences in prison (without telling her or asking her permission)
- Went on a radio show and spilled all the details of her life that he could remember (and put her in danger in the process)
- Hooked up with his ex-fiancee's best friend pretty much IMMEDIATELY after ending their engagement
- Was generally an irritating, selfish piece of shit
Thankfully, his character was dropped from the show after season 2, and we haven't had to deal with him since. Sure, the show has thrown a lot of other horrific tragedies our way (particularly a major death in season 4), but nothing would be as horrible as the idea of Jason Biggs returning.