For its final season, Fox's Glee will jump ahead six months. Although the trick is nothing new, it can produce mixed results. For every show that is creatively revitalized by the time jump, there are those that either lose their way or just simply fall right back into their old patterns. Need proof? Click ahead to see the best and worst TV time jumps.
With the final season of the acclaimed but low-rated comedy on the horizon, the writers ended Season 6 with a three-year time jump just after a newly pregnant Leslie accepted a job with the National Parks Department. In the quick final scene, Leslie -- now with bangs! -- is suddenly mom to adorable triplets, her husband Ben is in a tux waiting for Leslie to go to some type of event, and Larry (aka the artist formerly known as Jerry) is now called Terry. Although certain characters (e.g. Tom) are left out of the pivotal scene, Mad Men star Jon Hamm makes a delightful surprise appearance as an incompetent employee Leslie must fire. Although fans have yet to see how the time jump will pay off (Season 7 doesn't premiere until early 2015), the producers were likely wise to skip the all-too-familiar pregnancy and new mom tropes just months after Leslie's BFF Ann went through her first pregnancy.
Wisteria Lane's unique blend of romance, mystery and dark comedy began to turn stale, so the writers shocked, and delighted fans, by fast-forwarding five years into the future in Season 5. Lynette is still married to Tom, and their now-teenage children are still out of control (and doing more damage than ever). Bree reunites with Orson and is now a best-selling Martha Stewart-esque cookbook author, while Gaby has suddenly morphed from a selfish trophy wife to an unkempt and overworked mother of two while still caring for a blind Carlos. But for all the great new story lines the time jump set up, viewers were outraged over the revelation that Susan and Mike had split, and that Mike is now with Katherine. Fortunately, the two got back together (and stayed that way!) by the beginning of Season 6.
In the wake of Baltar winning the presidential election on a really shaky platform, we skip a year ahead to see that he's just as bad as a president as we expected. Not only does he not give a crap about his duties, but his resettlement plans on New Caprica didn't factor in a need for medical supplies. Starbuck and Anders are now married, Lee gained weight, Chief Tyrol is a union leader with Cally as his wife, and for some reason, Tigh is somewhat approachable and nice (but we won't go so far as to say jolly). This is probably one of the most effective time jumps because of a) its surprise factor, having occurred in the epic Season 2 finale, b) it did away with the tedious business of watching the planet get resettled, c) it upended a few relationships in exciting ways and last but not least, d) it gave us back Adama with a mustache. So say we all.
Season 4 of the cult hit picked up in real time, seven years after Arrested was canceled in 2006. As the season progressed, the show continued tojump around, filling in what each of the Bluths had been up to during the interim years. The experimental, non-linear narrative was definitely a risk and one that didn't pay off to fans who were anticipating the Arrested they knew and loved. Arrested's fourth season was so hard to follow, in fact, fans had to construct "detailed timelines" to try and sort out the order of events.
The FX biker drama skipped ahead 14 months between Seasons 3 and 4 in order to bypass the key members of SAMCRO's prison sentence. But besides from the obvious changes (Jax cut off all his hair! Sheriff Roosevelt is now calling the shots in Charming! Jacob Hale is building a new subdivision!), the show didn't really lean into the time jump to open up new storytelling. Club members wore hoodies over their now-banned biker kuttes, but they still created the same old mayhem: Clay started killing (or trying to kill) anyone who threatened to unearth his secrets all while the club partnered with a drug cartel and tried to avoid a federal RICO prosecution. Guess some things never change.
In the Season 6 finale, the series jumped forward six months to show a very different world. On the domestic level, we see that Sam Merlotte is the mayor of Bon Temps, Bill has become a writer, Merlotte's has been renamed Bellefleur's, and Sookie and Alcide are in a relationship. In the bigger picture, the world is overrun by Hep-V-infected vamps, which leads to a proposal that each citizen pair with a healthy vampire for a symbiotic relationship: The human gets protection, while the vamp gets a clean source of blood. On one hand, this sets the stage for the final season's conflict between the Hep-V vamps and everyone else, but the flash-forward was unsettling to viewers because the emotional investment in previous stories didn't get a payoff. Our connection to the characters was sacrificed for trying to set up a bigger, but far less compelling, story.
With the central Red John story line wrapped up, The Mentalist underwent a reboot midway through Season 6, fast-forwarding two years and splitting the team up in the process. Patrick Jane went from a revenge-seeking mastermind to a laidback beach bum, while Rigsby and Van Pelt had a baby and formed their own private investigaton business in Austin (which set up Amanda Righetti's and Owain Yeoman's eventual departures from the show). Of course, it was only a matter of time before Jane, Lisbon and Cho reunited and formed a new team, with new job titles, at the FBI. Though many fans felt that the show flailed its way to the season finale, Lisbon/Jane 'shippers got a satisfying payoff in the form of a kiss -- and the time jump allowed the show to bypass two years' worth of will-they-or-won't-they.
The ABC drama kicked off its fifth and final season one year after Robert's apparent fatal car crash in the Season 4 finale, and we found him where we left him: in a coma (again, for a year). His wife, Kitty, who eventually pulled the plug, had moved, as did Kevin and Scotty, while Justin split from Rebecca. Two staples of the show -- the Ojai Foods building and Nora's sprawling home -- were replaced by Kevin and Scotty's new restaurant Café 429 and Nora's radio station workplace as primary settings, which don't really lend themselves to classic Walker family dinners (sit down, drink wine, argue, drink wine). The drastic changes felt like a last-gasp effort to secure a renewal.
Heading into the show's fifth and final season, Ghost Whisperer skipped ahead five years for viewers to meet Jim and Melinda's son, Aiden, at an age where his inherited gift for speaking with the dead could be utilized as a central story point. It also allowed Jim to complete medical school so that the hospital could provide for a new centerpiece and dark stories. While the jump didn't drastically change Melinda -- after all she could still see ghosts -- the decision proved to be successful by breathing new life for the show's steady audience.
When the CW soap hit the mark that's always challenging for teen shows -- the college years -- creator Mark Schwahn made the wise decision of skipping it all together. Instead of carrying out more drama at the town's local college, at the start of Season 5, the gang was scattered around the country pursuing their dreams as a young 20-somethings. Naturally, they all flock back to Tree Hill (even Brooke Davis, who had become a fashion mogul). The timejump not only allowed the characters to age up more appropriately to the actors' real ages, but provided for more mature story lines and character arcs. It also allowed the show to slowly dispense character history from those four missed years. The series also jumped ahead a significant amount of time during the series finale in Season 9, bringing the show full circle, while providing a satisfying end for loyal fans.
They have to go back! Lost hit a turning point on the Season 3 finale, when the show began incorporating flash-forwards instead of flashbacks to give viewers a glimpse into individual characters' off-Island lives. This was important for two reasons: It promised viewers that at least some of the characters -- six, to be exact -- would make it off the Island eventually, and the Season 4 premiere, aptly titled "The Beginning of the End," was the marker at which the show really went off the rails. What the hell is a "flash-sideways" anyway?!
The 19th episode of every Fringe season was traditionally reserved for an odd story line, but "Letters of Transit" seemed to come out of nowhere. With a sudden time jump to 2036, the episode followed two FBI agents -- Simon Foster and who turned out to be Etta Bishop, the daughter of Peter and Oliver -- who attempt to overthrow the oppressive Observers by tracking down the amber-encased bodies of the original Fringe team. Little did fans know, the entire final season would take place in this time period.
The Season 2 finale found Sydney passed out after a bloody battle. But the show didn't make it evident in the final minutes that two years had passed. Instead, the audience -- and Sydney herself -- slowly figure it out by the new city and a mysterious scar, finally realizing that she had no memory of what happened, people thought she was dead, and that her love Vaughn had moved on and remarried. After a well-received first two seasons, thejump only aided the show by introducing new characters and new elements. But while this lapse may have worked, fans weren't thrilled when another jump provided for a frustrating twist that ultimately didn't really change the show before its cancellation.
The seventh season premiere jumped ahead three years, skipping Nancy's time in prison and picking up with her trying to sell drugs while living in a halfway house. Most fans were sad to miss seeing Mary-Louise Parker in a prison jumpsuit, though Jenji Kohan has since took a spin in prison with Orange Is the New Black.
When Sam resurfaced in the Season 6 premiere, a year and a half had passed since he'd been trapped in Hell. The time jump itself wasn't the problem -- it was the fact that it served no real purpose since neither Winchester evolved during that period. Dean lived in stasis, playing house with Lisa and Ben, while Sam wasn't even himself, having lost his soul in the Hell cage. The series would have been better off at least picking up the premiere in real time, only a few months after the Season 5 finale.
The J.J. Abrams collegiate drama will first and foremost be remembered for The Haircut Heard 'Round the World, which is good because the less said about its final five episodes, the better. Jumping into the near future post-graduation, Felicity finds herself dissatisfied with her life choices, but instead moving forward and learning from them, Meghan sends her back in friggin' time a year so Felicity could pursue Noel instead of Ben. Of course, she ends up cheating on him in the alt-verse and longing for Ben anyway, which sends her back to the present. The whole thing was completely weird and out-of-tone, but in hindsight, it foreshadowed Lost's flash-sideways.