Sunday, August 12, 2012

TV and the Sell by Date


Almost every TV show you can think of, jumps the shark or surpasses its inherent sell-by date.

I am especially aggrieved when it is a good series. When the writers seem to have lost interest or their way. Or just couldn't turn the money down.

THE OFFICE just had an horrific season, for instance. Think of the last year of SEINFELD, TWIN PEAKS, and so many more.

What TV show stands out in your mind as almost ruining the good years by giving us the bad.

17 comments:

Chad said...

The first series that jumps to mind is the X-Files. It should have ended seasons before it did.

Anonymous said...

Good choice. Northern Exposure also comes to mind. The last year of Seinfeld (and the last episode in particular) was terrible. You may or may not have liked Roseanne but they had several good seasons. The last two were for me literally unwatchable.

Jeff M.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Making Roseann rich was a huge mistake, wasn't it?
And X Files ran out of ideas-and who can blame the writers.
Did Joel leave before NORTHERN EXPOSURE ended? I think so. They needed someone like him to balance all the cuteness. But I loved that show for a few years.

David Cranmer said...

Almost all of them, Patti. For me: MASH, X-Files, and The Sopranos, Seinfeld.

Anonymous said...

Sopranos suffered from the death of Nancy Marchand as West Wing did from the death of John Spencer.

Jeff M.

Charles Gramlich said...

I'm not sure. I hardly ever watch a series long enough. I did think the new Office episodes I saw this year were pretty lame. Happy Days comes to mind back in the day.

George said...

I'm with Chad on THE X-FILES. Once David Duchovny left, they should have pulled the plug.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I guess the real question would be, what series left the air in time.
Mary Tyler Moore, The Wire....

Brian Busby said...

I think that a list of series that left the air in time would be woefully short. Deadwood, probably my all-time favourite, springs to mind.

George said...

I think Kyra Sedgwick is closing down THE CLOSER while the series is still at the top of its game. The last couple episodes have been great: the revealing of "the leak" (very clever!) and Brenda's personal tragedies. It doesn't get much better than this. I can't wait for the series finale tomorrow night.

Deb said...

Yet, who amongst us would not wish for extra episodes of "Fawlty Towers" which went off the air after just 12 episodes? Perhaps the English had the right idea: plan from the beginning to produce a specific number of episodes, regardless of how popular the show becomes.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I think everyone was shocked when DEADWOOD ended after three seasons.
And FAWLTY TOWERS-it has hardly begun.
I think MAJOR CRIMES will be very similar to THE CLOSER. Hopefully not a mistake to try and repeat it.

Todd Mason said...

When writers run dry on ideas, one hires new writers. Even such a control-freak as Rod Serling knew that much. But, then, he was a writer first. Chris Carter (THE X-FILES) was a magazine editor, and should've realized as much, too. That said, my spotty viewing of the last season of THE OFFICE wasn't as miserable as most of yours...but it was spotty. While SEINFELD fell apart after Larry David left...the clever cartoonishness became simple cartoonishnes, and it wasn't just the last season. David's series finale, a kiss-off to what the series had become, was all too appropriate.

TWIN PEAKS fell apart in the second season because neither producer cared much any more, and while it righted itself by its conclusion, the first half of the second season was indeed miserable.

ROSEANNE, THE COSBY SHOW, GRACE UNDER FIRE, THE DREW CAREY SHOW and CYBILL all fell apart as the star was allowed to run rampant over the production; MAGNUM PI suffered a similar fate. COSBY, for example, turned into 15 minutes of Cosby mugging at small children every episode. Endlessly fascinating to Cosby, I'm sure.

Series that were cut down before they had run their natural course include DEADWOOD, ONCE AND AGAIN and its predecessors RELATIVITY and MY SO-CALLED LIFE, JOURNEYMAN, THE MIDDLE-MAN, and quite a few others...but series such as ST. ELSEWHERE and several of the Bochco series didn't really jump any sharks...and others yet, such as ER the popular one (ER the sitcom was another cut down too quickly) would weathervane and course-correct throughout their run. Some of the worst episodes of that series were sprinkled in nearly every season.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Interesting to look back at the worst episodes and see if the same writers were responsible for them. For instance in THE CLOSER, were the same writers brought in for the horrible episodes featuring Brenda's parents.
So true about Cosby, Todd. He thought kids made him look good. And in truth, not at all.

Todd Mason said...

And, you know, perhaps the rarest birds are the series which improve notably with time...ST. ELSEWHERE in its first season was pretty mediocre, with Brand and Falsey the creators as show-runners (and most of what was bad about NORTHERN EXPOSURE was in evidence in the first season), who were fired...and the show became compelling in its second season and remained so. Many series have somewhat rough pilots and improve as they sharpen, but few are sharpened as was KIDNAPPED, the shortlived NBC series of a few seasons back, which literally got better with each episode...not the best way to run a new series these days, or ever. There are other examples, but they aren't coming to mind.

M*A*S*H was definitely a lesser but obvious case of the cast getting too much control of the scripting...they wanted to be more likable. particularly after the big cast changes in the fourth season. Which could've been done subtly, but it sure wasn't. (My oft-cited best example of character insight on the series before that shift was an offhand reminiscence by Frank Burns to Trapper John of his abused childhood, which clearly shakes Trapper, but doesn't make Burns any easier to take on a day-to-day basis).

HOMICIDE was another which never seriously worsened, even though NBC's meddling to make Andre Braugher's Pembleton the focus/true star didn't help.

I haven't watched THE CLOSER enough to know about that, Patti, but it sounds like a producer's crotchet...IMDB would probably tell you...

Cap'n Bob said...

For me, Cheers was unwatchable after Diane left. Her replacement was a Scientologist and I won't watch one of them knowingly.

Gunsmoke suffered after the loss of Chester, and after Matt started doing cameos I lost interest.

Adam quitting Bonanza also left a hole in the family dynamic, and adding Mitch Vogel didn't help.

Heck, I'm glad my girls outgrew Barney because I didn't care for Baby Bop or that creature with the tennis shoes at all.

Chris said...

I don't watch enough long enough, but one that jumps to mind is the remake Battlestar Galactica.

My theory is that shows and writers cram so much excellence into a season or two, just to get picked up . . . then when they are successful, that longevity outlasts the premise. Then it becomes a struggle to maintain the world they have set up while moving it forward and they flounder.