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5 Shows That Overstayed Their Welcome

by Clay Conger 3 July 2013 280 views No Comment E-mail Clay Conger

A common complaint for fans of TV shows is that a beloved show is either abruptly cut off (Arrested Development) or runs for so long that the quality drops and it begins to embarrass itself. This article is about the latter. This is not to say there have not been quality, long-running shows, but there are sadly many more that simply stayed on the air for too long. There is often a limit of how many character developments and plots and twists you can cram into a show before it starts to be contrived or even ridiculous, and when a show has spent its creative juices you start to see a noticeable drop in quality each passing season. The point where the show begins to lose its spark is precisely when the show should bow out with grace, keeping its reputation intact.

An easy way to do this is to, at some point, decide exactly when the season will end, and drive the show to that point. For example, Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner has already declared that the show will end on Season 7. Doing this helps create a feeling of escalation, as each season drives toward a certain goal and then ends with a rousing finish. It’s cinematic and satisfying.

It’s obvious why successful shows keep going rather than cut early. They make money and there are fans diehard enough to swallow even the worst episodes of a series. Yet it often results in a show that, upon looking back, cannot be described as a wholly great show but a great show “excluding the later stuff.” This is a bit of a shame, not only because it’s a bit sad to have to admit a beloved show’s descent, but also because certain shows could have been almost perfect if they had close the curtains earlier.
Here are five shows that stayed on too long.

5. Frasier, NBC

Seasons: 11
Should Have Ended At: 9

Frasier was a brilliantly written show with a good mesh of stuffy jokes as well as down to earth ones. The characters were not only funny but felt real, and you could see the natural chemistry between all the actors. At the finale of Season 7 and carrying over to Season 8, there was a huge development. Niles (Frasier’s brother) and Daphne (Frasier’s housekeeper and father’s physical therapist) discover that their affection for each is reciprocated and they leave their partners behind to be together. Normally this would be a series, not season finale, and I admire that the show didn’t cut away to a happily ever after type ending and decided to show the ups and downs of Niles and Daphne’s new relationship. The problem was that it just wasn’t very funny now that they were together. The show took the dramatic rather than the comedic route with the couple and the writing was not as sharp or fresh. Kelsey Grammer (Frasier) even admitted that the show took itself too seriously. Two seasons of the new couple would have been plenty, but four (Seasons 8-11) was too much to take.

4. American Idol, FOX

Seasons: Currently on Season 12
Should Have Ended At: 2

This is not to say American Idol is not providing a good service: giving unknown talents a chance at stardom. However, that doesn’t seem to be the point of the show anymore. The show has become so toothless and corporate it feels less like a talent competition and more about broadcasting as many bright lights and washed up celebrities as possible. It feels more like the show Glee, promoting the music and the popularity of show itself and not the actual competitors. The judges change so often it’s nearly impossible to keep track and without the brutally honest and utterly hilarious Simon Cowell, there is little to recommend about the show. Season 1 was a modern day Gong Show that was a massive success. Yet when Season 2 proved that the winner (Ruben Studdard) became less successful than the runner up (Clay Aiken), you came to realize that while the show was promoting new talent it was sadly still operating in the superficial pop music industry. As you watched each season, you came to realize that the show was essentially buttering up a new pop star in a very assembly line like production, giving us stars that looked the same, sounded the same, sang the same tunes and released the same music. It became less about revealing new talent but copy-and-pasting everything we’ve already seen and heard. It’s no wonder that a more talent oriented show America’s Got Talent came to be.

3. Lost, ABC

Seasons: 6
Should Have Ended At: 3

Why: Possibly the most aptly named show ever; Lost was nothing less than baffling. This is not the say it was not well put together, and the first few seasons were well acted, competently written, and features glimpses of beautiful cinematography and action scenes. The problem is that we the viewers had to constantly suspend disbelief when we saw things like black smoke spirits, polar bears on a tropical island, and the fact that 95% of everyone who landed on the island looked like a model. But we let these things slide because the show was interesting and there were plenty of twists and turns for us to follow. After a while though, things got damn ridiculous. The moment the island turned into a giant electromagnet was the moment the writers should have come to terms with the fact that they were screwing with us and had no idea what to write next. The plot twists became downright absurd, and the amount of flashbacks to fill time was so monotonous it was hard to stay awake. When a show that’s already pretty crazy gets silly to the point of stupidity, it’s time to throw in the towel.

2. That 70’s Show, FOX

Seasons: 8
Should Have Ended At: Season 7

The makers of this show had a great thing going, with charismatic actors, a funny script, attention to detail and possibly the greatest TV pilot ever created, yet the moment Topher Grace (Eric) and Ashton Kutcher (Kelso) impressed interest in leaving the show, That 70’s Show should have bowed out. You can’t let two huge players in the show’s plot drop out and expect to carry on without them. The show tried replacing them with surrogate characters that were somewhat similar to the originals, but it was so obvious what the writers were doing that is was a constant distraction. You can’t replace a famous character with a random dude with similar characteristics and expect us not to notice. That’s like replacing Bugs Bunny with a rabbit you found in your backyard.

1. The Simpsons

Seasons: Just Completed Season 24
Should Have Ended At: Season 11

You had to have seen this coming. Make no mistake that The Simpsons is one of the greatest shows ever made. It’s constant lampooning of society is brilliant and its comedy ranges from the broadest of humor to the most subtle of wit. There are almost too many characters to count and they’ll all memorable, the voice acting is fantastic, the writing taps into everything from public school budgets to class warfare, and come on, even d’oh! got added to the dictionary. The problem is that when I or most people write the above phrase “one of the greatest shows ever made” there is a little nagging voice in our brains that reminds us that this phrase does not include the past several seasons. I am a Simpsons fanatic. I own countless DVD box sets and have seen more episodes than I’m proud of and I can say with confidence that The Simpsons first started to lose touch during Season 11. Now that is an amazing streak, and the show could go down as the unanimous best show ever made if it had just ended then. The finale of Season 11 is hilarious as well: a tongue-in-cheek Behind The Music special of the show itself. This would have been a genius ending to the sitcom, but for some reason (money) The Simpsons still has not stopped despite the fact that the jokes aren’t funny. The comedy is gone. It’s left the show without looking back and is carrying suitcases filled with heart and cleverness as well. It’s a real pain to badmouth a show that I once snuck downstairs to watch when my parents weren’t paying attention, but it’s not The Simpsons anymore. It’s a bad show now, and it should have left during its stride. And since it obviously can’t go back in time, The Simpsons should quit now, with a kickass final episode, and depart gracefully, restoring the dignity it once had. We all adore The Simpsons, but like booze, candy, and Krustyburgers, having too much of a good thing will leave a bad taste in your mouth.

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