Several months ago my father, who does not watch much television, asked why shows don’t go beyond the average eight or nine years. I explained that if he watched the shows he would understand. Something happens to shows, whether they are sitcoms or dramas, and they just get stale. Now some shows know when to bow out gracefully. Family Ties, Seinfeld, Frasier, MASH (though an argument could be made on that one), and even Friends are all examples of shows which ended before they lost their fan base.
Now of course some shows get bad and never even make it to seven years. But what about those shows which just keep going, even though they have run out of ideas and the only audience they have left are the hardcore fans? Today I wanted to look at some examples of programs which went on far too long.
3rd Rock From The Sun-This is a unique example because usually six years is not too long. In fact most shows are still going strong then, but this is an exception. When it first premiered this show was just plain hilarious. John Lithgow played the alien commander and his over the top acting was perfect for the show. Since the entire town was kind of nuts, the four aliens just seemed to blend right in. The question is, why was this show on for six years? I mean let’s be honest; they had really run out of things to do by the end. Yes the final episode was very well done, but it would have been even better a year earlier.
Happy Days-I have talked about this a million times so will keep it short. This is the poster child for “why is this show still on the air?” Eleven season? Half the cast wasn’t even in it anymore! I have said before that I missed the show when it was first on, and maybe if I had been a diehard fan I would have understood. But I had no problem with Seinfeld and Cosby Show ending their runs before they ran their shows into the ground, so maybe not. Yes the final episode was sweet, but man was this show on far to long.
ER-It’s amazing that this drama lasted for fourteen years. Even more amazing because they ran out of ideas after season 10 or 11. As someone once said, when you start replacing your replacement cast that’s a sure sign that it may be time to pack it up. I stopped watching altogether by the time the last season rolled around, though I did watch the final episode which admittedly was very well done. ER in its prime was a groundbraking medical drama. Too bad that it went on few years longer than it should have. I mean, John Stamos? Really?
Dallas-This was a cutting-edge drama when it premiered in 1978. It went off the air in 1991! You know, I was a huge TV watcher back then (duh) and I have no memory of this show being on so long. It was opposite TGIF that may have something to do with it. In its early days the show was brilliant. The stunt â€œWho Shot J.R.?â€ was one of the biggest stunts ever, it had so much attention with the whole country wanting to know just who it was that shot J.R.! But as the years went on the show got silly, and of course it had the legendary jump the shark moment when the killed Bobby Ewing suddenly popped up in Pamâ€™s shower, alive and well. The whole season before just a dream. I never watched the show, but even I call that laaammee!!! Despite that Dallas changed the course of TV drama and gave us the memorable spin-off Knottâ€™s Landing and, yes, a new series today.
Murphy Brown-Talk about beating a dead horse! This show premiered in 1988 and was a huge hit. It was topical, clever, and very well written. It should have been cancelled around itâ€™s eight season, but instead it plugged away for another two years. Man was it bad, and I mean really bad. By the end the show was barely recognizable, and so was the character.
Two and a Half Men-Will anything kill this show? I will be honest; I have never been a fan so maybe it’s still as fresh as it was when it first came on the air. But somehow I doubt it. This show is currently in season 10 and yes some may argue that it doesn’t count as 10 seasons because season 8 was cut so short. I thought for sure Charlie Sheen leaving the series would be the end, but instead it just keeps plugging along. I admit I have seen some episodes and even laughed at some of the jokes, but I still can’t bring myself to be a regular viewer.
The Simpsons-Oh, you knew we were going to be talking about this one. When The Simpsons first aired it was a groundbreaking program. It was controversial, topical, and damn funny. The problem is that was in 1989. This is 2012….and it’s still on!!! Would someone please explain to me why? I have grown so bored with this show I didn’t even check out the Halloween episode this year (someone will have to tell me if it was good or not). This show has lots of awards, accolades and records, including being the longest running prime time animated program, but good lord end already! Since I don’t watch it I can’t tell you for sure how stale the gags are, I know that the show itself has poked fun of the fact that many fans which it would end already. The show is like a stubborn person, refusing to accept that theyâ€™re day is past. I think two decades and a feature film are enough! I feel bad because every year they plow on, itâ€™s tarnish on the history of the show. It should be remembered for its groundbreaking humor, not for the fact that it stayed on the air way to long!
Scrubs-This show was really good for many years. It was a screwball comedy with lots of heart, and could even be darn depressing. However the last few years got really silly. It just wasnâ€™t the same show. Then came the 8th season, and what appeared to be the final episode. It was a beautiful episode, very well done! That was that, right? No someone decided to revamp the show for a 9th season! The show was taken out of the hospital and put into a classroom? What? Well, needless to say I never watched it for me the series was done and that was that. That final episode from season 8 should have been IT, instead we get this humiliating last season.
Everybody Loves Raymond-There was a point around the seventh season I think where I realized the show had just lost its charm. It had gone from a little show about family situations, albeit a dysfunctional family, into the cast just yelling and arguing week after week. This show managed ten seasons, but I would have preferred it ended around 8.
Survivor-Why is this show still on? I realize that itâ€™s different every year but really, what hasnâ€™t been done on that show by now? I will admit, this is all my opinion and it may well be that the show is exciting to watch year after year. But reallyâ€¦..isnâ€™t it enough yet?
Couple others real quick include Threeâ€™s Company, According to Jim, LA Law, Martin which I never watched but have read that it got real tired by the end, and the trash talk shows like Jerry Springer and Maury Povich which, no matter how much I wish, will not disappear.
There are probably plenty of other examples, but I will stop there. There are exceptions of course. Lassie was on forever! Good or bad, not really sure. Law & Order and Gunsmoke managed 20 years and I think they could have done more. Sesame Street has been on for forty years now. Dr. Who has been on for decades in various forms. Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune have been on every night at 7:00 for as long as I can remember (and is Price is Right really still good with Drew Carey?). 60 Minutes has airing on Sunday night for ages, and Saturday Night Live is still going strong. NBCâ€™s Today and Tonight Show have been on for half a century and theyâ€™re Meet the Press wins the award for longest running show, and itâ€™s still on every single Sunday.
Some shows do know when to end gracefully. Cosby Show, Cheers, West Wing are all examples and probably the sweetest ending was The Carol Burnett Show. She could have done a 12th season easily, but knew that the time had come. Her last show was sweet, she sat on the stage and said goodbye to the audience. She sang her theme song â€œSo glad we had these times togetherâ€ one last time, and that was it. Part of TV history, and the one show I still regret missing out on!!!!!!!!!!