I hate the direction DBZ went after Cell because none of it had any literary weight (and I know that sounds stupid for an anime about buff dudes punching each other, but still). Even after revisions, Cell being Gero's creation still lent itself to being the Red Ribbon Army's last hurrah, and was one of the big key pieces to resolving the loose ends of Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball Z. The entire saga was full of it: Piccolo finally reconciling and fusing with Kami, thus finally putting an end to King Piccolo once and for all; Gohan's untapped potential finally being released and his coming to accept his own strength and the good he could do; hell, the fact that the setting for the final battle was (at least initially) a fucking tournament! It was all a perfect send-off to the world Dragon Ball made, and if Goku had stayed dead and the series followed Gohan, that would have made it all the sweeter.
The Freeza saga was, from a narrative standpoint, Goku coming to terms with his Saiyan heritage, something he had a hard time doing from the moment Raditz revealed it to him. By accepting and embracing being a Saiyan, he earned his right as the legendary Super Saiyan and the right to avenge his people once and for all. The Cell saga should have been the same for Gohan: accepting his heritage as the champion of Earth, and using the strength he had always feared to finally do away with Cell, the last fragment of his father's earliest enemy. By ignoring that and listening to the fans, all the emotional weight was swept away, and future installments of the series really were just "look at this new strong bad guy, go punch him out" on loop.