When Weeds began back in 2005, Nancy Botwin was your average spunky widow next door who sipped her iced coffee a little too loudly and dealt pot now and then to make ends meet. Seven seasons in, Mrs. Botwin has become a threatening, robotic drug mule-business woman with bugged out eyes, raising her children in a poisonous environment and whoring herself out to drug lords in the biz. We think it may have done her well to take a toke several seasons ago, get some peace of mind, and quietly retire from the industry before having gone off the very deep end.
After fifteen seasons and fourteen years, ER finally ran out of ways to kill and save people in the County General Hospital emergency room. But it ran out of all the interesting ways to do so much earlier. ER enjoyed a long run of fantastic ratings and devoted audiences during its first eight seasons, but its producers simply couldn’t recognize when it was time to get out. And that time would have been 2002, when the show’s ratings slipped from third to sixth, and then to eighth. It took the ratings to slip all the way down to fifty-fourth for its team to STILL not take the nudging hint, make one more season, and then finally give it a rest.
Like the Bible, which is the rock that holds this show’s plot together, 7th Heaven drags on several volumes longer than even the most god-fearing attention spans can handle. Its title puns on the seven children in Reverend Camden’s family, but by the time it ended — 11 years after it began! — that family had expanded exponentially. When kids started to move out, rebel, and multiply, and the Christian household was no longer able to keep tabs on all its characters, it was high time to turn the cameras off.
First there was The Kids of Degrassi Street. Then there was Degrassi Junior High. Then there was Degrassi High. Then there was Degrassi: The Next Generation. And now there’s plain Degrassi. Over the past twenty plus years, the Degrassis have had their high points and even managed to achieve one of the most realistic portrayals of high school on television. But at present, the show has featured every possible high school caricature, dramatic situation, and life problem, and messed up relationship. And then some.
Two and a Half Men
Okay, so we might think that Two and a Half Men should have ended before it began. But since it didn’t, it should have at least given up once Charlie Sheen left the scene. When a show starts relying on Ashton Kutcher to save the day, then its day is over — not that that seems to be stopping most Americans from tuning in.
That ’70s Show
If you’re a late-night channel flipper, you’ve probably realized that when it comes to always being on television, That ’70s Show comes in second only to Law and Order. And given that its entirely possible to watch every night without seeing an episode twice, it’s sometimes hard to believe that the show isn’t still airing new material. But new or old, episodes of That ’70s Show — whose very title forewarns against its generic nature — are all variations on the same, recurring non-plot, and after about three seasons, it became clear that nothing was going to change other than their seating arrangement in Eric’s car during the opening credits.
While the first season of The Office is perhaps too awkward for even the biggest of Michael Scott fans to endure on rerun, the most recent season was too gushy to live up to the show’s rep. It seems that the dry wit, discomfort, and tense inter-office relationships that made the golden seasons of this comedy bearably unbearable have now been replaced by feel-good moments, weird nods at not-so-current trends, and James Spader. Blech.
While we realize that we might get in trouble for this one, we have to be honest — Veronica Mars was never the same after its star matriculated at Hearst College. Maybe it was the fact that a show that once felt effortless was suddenly making ham-fisted attempts to appeal to the masses. Maybe we couldn’t get on board with Wallace and Mac’s respective roommates. Maybe we were sick of seeing Veronica and Logan struggle to be happy in their relationship. Regardless of the reasoning, we think it speaks volumes that we would rather have seen the beloved series cancelled after two seasons than watch what followed.
Speaking of shows that were never quite the same once their protagonists left high school (and Kristen Bell for that matter)… When Gossip Girl first premiered back in 2007, watching its pretty young things romp around the Upper East Side was the ultimate guilty pleasure. But as our own Judy Berman recently noted, the primetime soap lost anything resembling a hold on reality the second that Serena and Blair graduated from Constance Billard. It was almost as if the show’s writers were worried that viewers would be bored by the new college setting, and felt a need to keep topping themselves (see: the ridiculous and “highly-controversial” threesome episode; Jenny as a drug dealer; Chuck’s near death experience; Georgina’s baby drama; Juliet Sharp). And for some reason, that just made tuning in beginning in Season 3 feel a little less fun and a lot more dirty.
Premiering back in 1972, M*A*S*H was set in a Mobile Army Surgical Unit in the heart of the Korean War but rumored to have been more of an allegory for the Vietnam War. It certainly mimics the latter at least when it comes to longevity; while the Korean War only went on for three years, M*A*S*H’s actors fought for a decade, and much like the Vietnam War, it lasted far longer than everyone wanted it to. In its last few seasons, the humor that made the show’s debut so lovable became forced and apparent, and plots seemed to be on a faster rotation than the doctors they were about.