Sunday, December 4, 2011

When is it time to put a television show out of its misery?

Sometimes a good ending is better than a prolonged showing.
That’s never truer than in television.
While it’s great when a show is on top, garnering accolades and inspiring viewers it’s completely different when a once great show is limping along and tarnishing what should be a stellar pedigree.
Two examples of shows that should have already ended are ABC’s super soapy (and often ridiculous) ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ and the CW’s increasingly hard to watch ‘Supernatural.’
In the case of ‘Grey’s Anatomy,’ the show did save ABC at a time when it looked like it might succumb to a ‘Who Wants to be a Millionaire?’ extended hangover. That doesn’t mean that the show should hang on until it doesn’t even resemble the program that it was when it launched.
In the case of this show, creator Shonda Rhimes should have let it go when she lost original cast members Katherine Heigl and T.R. Knight – because, sadly, the heart of the show went with them. While Justin Chambers and Sandra Oh are still infinitely watchable, the rest of the cast has become boring and, in the case of show star Ellen Pompeo, annoyingly shrill.
There was a chance of redemption when the show ended the sixth season with a spectacular hospital shooting episode. Unfortunately, the entire seventh season was a case of “who cares” television – including the much hyped and much loathed musical episode.
You know you’re in trouble when you try to force tone deaf actors to sing to bring in ratings.
On the flip side, the CW’s ‘Supernatural’ is the complete opposite of ‘Grey’s Anatomy.’ While the ABC show was launched with tons of accolades and a lot of fanfare, ‘Supernatural’ was launched a year later with nothing but two likeable and attractive stars -- Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles.
The CW has made a name for itself as the network of teenagers. In some instances – ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ and ‘Gilmore Girls’ – that’s a good thing. In other instances – ‘90210’ and ‘Charmed’ -- that’s a bad thing.
‘Supernatural fell into the ‘good thing’ department.
As demon-hunting brothers Sam and Dean Winchester, Ackles and Padalecki were likeable, engaging and well, let’s just say it, pretty to look at. The show built a small but devoted audience as the brothers lived through the death of their father and one apocalypse after another.
The problem is, after introducing angels and the ultimate battle between heaven and hell, the show had nowhere to go – so of course it went everywhere but some place entertaining.
Season five’s emotional ending that saw the brothers stop the imminent battle for earth’s survival by one brother sacrificing himself was both visually beautiful and emotionally crippling. Just like what good television should be.
Since then, though? Yeah, the show has pretty much sucked.
The entire sixth season was painful to watch. And the seventh season? Well, it’s an improvement on the sixth season, and that’s about all you can say about it. This past week’s Bobby-centric mid-season finale, however, was a nice rebound for the series. Sadly, though, I have serious doubts the show can maintain that momentum.
Maybe it’s time for a little dignity in death for both shows?
I mean, does anyone want these shows to become the punchline to some random television joke? I know I don’t.
With that as inspiration, here’s a list of television shows that might have had a better overall legacy had they ended sooner. In other words, we don’t want ‘Supernatural’ and ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ to become these shows.
10. Happy Days: This one is easy. Not only did the show coin the term “jumping the shark” – it also inflicted the worst catchphrase ever in “sit on it.” And did we ever need a character named Potsy?
9.  The X-Files: The first seven seasons of the FOX show were practically perfect (every show has a few clunker storylines). However, when David Duchovny left and we were force fed a Mulder and Scully baby, new players and a (even more) confused mythology, things fell apart. The final few seasons, including Mulder’s ultimate return, were nothing but weak sauce.
8.  That 70’s Show: As sitcoms go, the FOX comedic goldmine was an all-time gem. The problems with the final season were huge, though. Topher Grace and Ashton Kutcher were key to the show’s legacy, so losing them in the final season was detrimental. That wasn’t the biggest problem, though. The show made fans fall in love with the confusing Hyde and Jackie romance over the course of three seasons. The fact that the couple was thrown out the window for a Jackie and Fez romance is just crap. Eric’s return for Donna in the finale saves that couple.  Sadly, nothing could save Hyde and Jackie.
7. Roseanne: The blue-collar sitcom had some outstanding episodes – ‘Stash from the Past’ comes to mind. The working class family was relatable – thanks to casting and dialogue. The final season, however, involved the realistic Conners winning the lottery and ultimately ended the series with a wipeout of the last season and a bombshell that resulted in the death of family patriarch, Dan. Neither were welcome storylines.
6. All in the Family: While crusty patriarch Archie was the backbone of the show, batty Edith was the heart, so when the program lost her it ultimately lost the glue that held the beloved show together. Saddling Archie with a homely orphan and dropping his cantankerous personality into a bar were both bad ideas.
4. Little House on the Prairie: Laura may have been the heart of the show, but losing Caroline and Charles was the death blow. The Ingalls pa and ma were anchors that the show desperately needed, because ‘Little House: A New Beginning’ was a convoluted mess that hurt the Ingalls family, the Oleson family and the rest of the town. Between Laura and Almanzo inheriting a huge mansion to Mr. Edwards adopting and then losing a mute boy – very special episodes became very boring storylines.
3. Gilmore Girls: The Lorelai and Rory relationship may have been the driving force of the show, but the Luke and Lorelai relationship was the fire that fueled fans. The final season of the infamous WB show had the titular twosome separated until the final episode. While everyone cried when Lorelai had to say goodbye to Rory, no one could cheer for anything at all because Lorelai and Luke were never promised – only hinted  – a happy ending.
2.  Sex and The City: While the finale was a strong episode, watching the women jump from man-to-man became tedious. Miranda and Steve, Charlotte and Harry and Carrie and Big deserved their happy endings. However, had those endings come a season before, I think everyone would have been more comfortable with the show’s ‘sexcapades.’
1. Buffy The Vampire Slayer: People say that hindsight is 20-20. Had Buffy ended at the end of the fifth season with the heroine’s swan song to save the world I would have been ticked at the time. Looking back, however, the show’s overall legacy would have been so much better served. The final two seasons were a mess. Between the horrific Buffy and Spike masochistic and forced relationship to Xander’s transition to an unfeeling pirate, the final two seasons taint Buffy’s overall legacy and only afford a handful of quality episodes.
What shows do you think should have ended earlier?


Blogger Little Miss Smoke and Mirrors said...

The Office is three seasons past its prime. It's so painful to watch it now. Ditto House.

December 4, 2011 at 11:00 AM 
Blogger ekolint48 said...

You're so wrong on Buffy, especially at number one.

December 4, 2011 at 7:24 PM 
Blogger kelios said...

You're entitled to your opinion, of course, but I think you are utterly wrong about at least two things. One, there's nothing wrong with a show changing from it's original premise. Shows and characters change and evolve--not doing so would make them stale and boring. Two, seasons Six and Seven of Supernatural are so much better than Four and Five there's really no comparison. I thoroughly enjoyed Season Six--I thought bringing Sam back from Hell soulless was excellent writing, as was Castiel's betrayal. I admit watching the relationship between the two brothers fray and ravel under the stress of everything that's happened to them was difficult to watch, but it was necessary. Sam and Dean are human, it was inevitable that there would be fallout from the lies and secrets of seasons four and five. The rough road to mending that relationship, with it's ups and downs and hardships, is being perfectly and realistically portrayed.
In addition, Jared and Jensen have both grown as actors and continue to impress me every week with their talent. They are far more than just handsome men, and those who dismiss them as such clearly aren't paying attention.
The way Supernatural is going now, I see no reason why we shouldn't have at least two more seasons. Sera Gamble has brought new ideas and new life to the show; it would be a shame not to take advantage of it.

December 4, 2011 at 8:05 PM 

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