Jan 06 2011

Five Shows That Actually Weren’t Killed Soon ENOUGH

Published by at 12:00 pm under Lists,Television

We always like to reminisce about the shows that were killed too soon. Arrested Development, Firefly, Freaks and Geeks, Undeclared. All were seemingly cut short despite their brilliance, and we will forever be robbed of any future greatness they might have produced were they allowed to live.

But I want to put forth a counterargument. A lot of the reason they’re now considered immortal is BECAUSE they were killed so early. That way they never had the chance to start going downhill, jump the shark or any other euphemisms you might want to use.

What of good shows that became relatively long-running? Only one show has produced a really lengthy run and managed to be good the entire time, Seinfeld, but that’s not a feat easily duplicated. Rather, this is a selection of shows that went (or are going) on for a relatively long time that I think could have benefitted from being killed years ago.

1. Battlestar Galactica

It’s one of the most engrossing shows I’ve ever seen, and I’ve managed to get many people into it who would otherwise never go near sci-fi. Its mysteries about the Cylons and Earth are fascinating, and propelled our interest forward.

But at four seasons, with 20+ episodes in some of them, the show started to drag. This ultimately culminated in a bizarre series of events where the humans and Cylons started living side by side on an icy planet, and the show lost some of its magic.

When it should have ended: Season three, and we could have cut out a lot of the fat that often slowed the show’s progress to a crawl.

2. Lost

I’m not sure any other show better exemplifies what I’m talking about than Lost. It was an incredibly engrossing experience, watching the show from week to week, but the turning point became clear to me almost immediately as it happened.

Time travel was when things started to get wobbly, and the show began to get wrapped up in itself to such a degree, creating so many mysteries without resolving old ones, you know it was all going to go bust in the end, as the finale couldn’t possibly be satisfying with so much left unanswered.

When it should have ended: This might be blasphemy, but I think Lost would have made a great one season, 24 episode miniseries. I think they should have stuck with their original plan that the survivors were dead and paying penance for their sins in purgatory, which would have been a far better explanation than the one it took six years to tell. It really seemed like the show was making stuff up as it went after the first season, and it would have been better off sticking to a more concrete plan from the beginning.

3. 24

I love Jack Bauer and could watch him interrogate a phonebook, but eight seasons at 24 hours a piece was just an absurd amount of time to fill, and more often than not it forced the show to cram in so much action, the lines between plausible reality and pure fiction were often eliminated entirely.

There are only so many variants of terrorist plots you can unravel before they all start to blur together. Something is about to blow up, someone is a mole, etc etc, and the latter seasons of 24 were desperately scrambling to shake things up, with stupid subplots like Tony Almeida faking his death and Jack’s brother and father showing up as villains.

When it should have ended: I’d say four seasons, with season four being replaced by the far superior season five, and Jack sacrificing his life for his country at the end giving a perfect conclusive bookend to the series. Not lumbering along for eight years only to end on a off note to make way for a film that may or may not happen.

4. Smallville

Good lord, I bring this show up every time the issue of overstaying one’s welcome comes up. The show had a very solid few seasons, and the concept of Clark Kent’s life before he became the Man of Steel is a good one, but do we really need to see all twenty years in a row?

If you think that’s a joke, we’re half way there at ten seasons, which is promised to be the final one, though I will believe that when it happens. The show has lost (and found) many cast members, and has been so desperate for plotlines it’s pulled almost every hero and villain from the DC universe save Batman to guest star. What’s left for him to even do when he becomes Superman? Besides fly of course.

When it should have ended: The show should have been a four season arc of Clark’s progress through either four years of high school or college, with him becoming Superman after that. They could have made his power development concise, and the insane amount of guest starts and extraneous characters wouldn’t have been necessary.

5. The Office

Oh, The Office. I once counted this among my favorite shows, and was practically giddy with excitement when I’d heard that piano theme before every new episode each week. The first few seasons were a perfect mix of absurdist comedy (Michael and Dwight), subtle humor (Jim and the background characters) and gripping drama (Jim and Pam). I was confident in saying the blasphemous truth that it was even better than the British version that spawned it.

But years upon years have gone by now, and the drama and dry humor has been eclipsed by slapstick. Yes, there are on occasion good episodes, but it’s very clear that the show is now aimlessly wandering, and  is boasting that it will continue on after Steve Carell leaves, which would be a disaster.

When it should have ended: Season three, with a BBC-ish Christmas Special where Jim and Pam get engaged. At the end of the third season, the Jim/Pam saga had reached its peak, and many including myself will argue that when they got together, the show had a sharp downward turn in quality, as over-the-top comedy now makes up nearly the entire show, and dry wit and drama are a thing of the past.





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35 responses so far

  • pb

    I completely agree with the office, it should have ended when they got engaged. Now they’re trying so hard they’re resorting to entire episodes outside of the office? What was that episode at the theater all about?? Terrible.

  • Cheryl

    I’m a huge fan of the Office and agree with you 100%…and it breaks my heart. Now that repeats are on just about every channel I find I enjoy watching them more than the new ones.

    Another show – I was never into it really – Prison Break…after they got out why more seasons?

    2 1/2 Men also, isn’t that kid 20 now or something…I dunno…anything to get that piece of crap off tv…

  • http://chordian.net Chordian

    LOL @ “I love Jack Bauer and could watch him interrogate a phonebook”.

    Not only was Lost too long (I agree that it really went downhill at the time traveling stuff), I also missed the cool John Locke from the first season instead of making such a fool out of him in the later seasons.

    One other show that was way too long was Prison Break. Every time someone asks me if that series is worth it or not, I always recommend they watch the first solid season and then just pretend that they live happily ever after.

  • Guy Incognito

    Whenever someone says that the Lost writers made it up as they went along I point to the skeletons the survivors find in the cave in the 5th episode which are later explained in epsiode 118 (the 3rd last). The writers hinted for a long time that those were put there so that when the series ended you could look back and see that it was all planned out from the beginning. While many individual stories were certainly made up as the show went along, the nature of the island (which is what everyone complains about) was part of the initial concept by the writers.

    Also would like to point out X-files, though that is much older then anything in your list.

  • Bert

    I’d certainly have agreed with you on Smallville – until I found the ongoing series of blog posts on Comics Alliance. Two of their contributors (comics nerds, naturally) who had never seen the show watch the entire tenth season specifically to rag on how terrible, absurd, and crazy they are. It’s really quite entertaining, especially if you grew up reading (and still read…cough, cough) DC comics like I did.

  • http://www.aintitbalenews.com Koutchboom

    The office has had a good upswing the past couple of episodes. Jon Vitti has come aboard recently, and you will know him as being one of the head writers for Simpsons back in its hay day…also thats a show that should probably be on this list. But its oddly fascinating now for some reason. Its not half as bad as South Park has been since Imaginationland, that show has just been awful since then.

  • Jax

    I strongly agree with @Chordian and @Cheryl on Prison Break. I loved the first season and attempted to watch the second but it was no longer the same show. Later on when I learned the plot arcs of later seasons, just wow I dodged a bullet there. I mean really, something about them going back to prison only to have to rebreak out? Such a mercy killing was needed after the first season.

    With Lost I remember watching someone’s recap on youtube for basically those that hadn’t watched and wanted to know what the fuss was about. The recap was basically season 1 and season 6 as most of the middle seasons didn’t matter to the end result. That got me thinking that while yes the writers may have planned everything out from the beginning they just kinda made up stuff in the middle until they knew they were reaching cancellation.

    Seriously PLANNED short run series are not horrible, people just can’t let go of characters they love nor can the networks let go of a cash cow without sucking it dry. Shame really.

  • http://www.crystal-lynn.net Crystal

    “This might be blasphemy, but I think Lost would have made a great one season, 24 episode miniseries. ”

    I agree 100%

    I stuck with it over the years, but things got more and more drawn out and ultimately it was just too thin, flimsy, and thrown together. Using the team they had for the first few seasons to focus on a miniseries would have resulted in a much stronger show.

  • http://www.unrealitymag.com Paul Tassi

    @Choridan

    Prison Break is a PERFECT example of this. Was totally meant to be one season, was dragged into what, four? Absurd.

    Good ratings can ruin a show in that way.

  • Steve

    I can think of another show that didn’t get bad with each season, and also ended a season too early: The Wonder Years. Sure you can argue that when Kevin and the gang started getting older the show lost it’s “childhood innocence” charm since they were almost adults by the end, but the storys and situations they got into in the later years were experiences we all had growing up as well. We never got to see them graduate from high-school. Honestly, I’d have taken a lackluster final season if it meant finishing up the story of their youth. And yes, I know they told us what happened to everyone later on, but still.

    Eh, for what it’s worth, 6 seasons is a good run. I guess I’m still disappointed that Kevin and Winnie didn’t end up together lol.

  • Josh

    In addition to Steve’s comment about The Wonder Years, Boy Meets World fell into the same trap.

  • Bert

    @Josh – must be the curse of the Savages.

  • Bert

    On a related note, wouldn’t it be awesome if Fred and Ben Savage’s father was Randy Savage?

    (Yes, I know his real last name is Poffo.)

  • Chris

    X-files could have been killed a lot earlier than it was. Rescue Me is in the same territory too. Entourage should have been dead two seasons ago

  • steve p

    2 other shows that needed earlier endings:

    heroes. for real, the first season was BRILLIANT. had that been it it wouldve been one of the best shows in history. instead they kept going and trading powers, making new powers, losing powers, changing the future, changing the past, becoming family, undoing family. it got so dumb.

    sliders. i LOVED this show when it began. but as time went by i lost track of it and it got moved to sci fi. the show had endless possibilities. you could do ANYTHING. you want a western ep? make a western earth, you want a future episode, make an earth whose tech moved faster, you want a medeival timed war, well make an earth for that. instead sci fi has to syfy it up and make it all about an alien war. forget the excitingness of new worlds, forget the subtle differences in each san fran, instead lets just chase cro mags from earth to earth and rewrite the shows history. quinn didnt invent sliding, he was born on a different earth to slider parents who sent him away to protect him from the cro mags. please. the show was so ridiculous by the end, not to mention all the actor/character replacements.

    also, LOST was awesome and ended too soon. i know it got crazy, but i think had it gone a bit longer they could;ve explained things better. yes THEY chose the end date and thus shouldve been able to write accordingly, but they didnt. honestly though, i think with what we were given we can figure out all the answers and the ending was awesome.

  • steve p

    @ guy incognito

    “Whenever someone says that the Lost writers made it up as they went along I point to the skeletons the survivors find in the cave in the 5th episode which are later explained in epsiode 118 (the 3rd last).”

    i am probably the biggest lost fanboy ever and defend the show as much as i can, but even something like this isn’t evidence of a plan.

    there really isnt anything that can prove they had it planned all along. im not saying they didnt, i completely believe they had a plan from day 1, but theres just no way to prove it.

    especially not with the adam and eve skeletons from season 1 being reveled to be 2 characters we didnt really meet until the end of season 6.

    i am in the middle of the series rewatch (just started on season 5) and there is a ton of foreshadowing and fun little hints, but there is also so many things that don’t really add up.

    they def had an overlying story planned, but so much was made up as they went. still the best show to ever exist ever.

  • BuddyLee

    surprised the simpsons didn’t make this list

  • Grant

    I agree with BuddyLee. I freaking loved The Simpsons up til season 8 or 9, but it needed to be laid to rest long ago. Either that or bring back some writers from the first few seasons and dumb down the animation. It looked so much better in the first few seasons when it was more rough looking.

  • Henrik

    I agree with Smalville and The Office. I tought Lost was great troughout tough. Have not seen the other shows. And where is The Simpsons and Family Guy. Both those shows should have ended a long time ago (especially Family Guy).

  • Josh

    Amen on The Simpsons. I am surprised they have lasted this long. I haven’t watched them for about 8 years.

  • Nick

    You either die a hero, or live long enough to see yourself become the villain.
    The Office is sad, though I think season 4 was still good. Season 5 is when it jumped the shark in several ways

  • Sam

    @cheryl
    Two and a half men survived for too long the minute after it was greenlit.

    Now on lost, I am a die hard fan, I still love it to this day. But it did last too long. It shouldn’t have been a one and done show though. The shows best moments came after season 1, the constant, not pennys boat, the end of ab aeterno etc. I would say it should have been four 16 episode seasons.
    Heroes definitely belongs on this list, should have been an epic 13 part mini series ending with them saving the cheerleader. Would have gone down in history then.
    Golden age simpsons (seasons 3-10) can’t be beat. New stuff isn’t great, but it’s still way better than family guy…or american dad…or the cleveland show. South park sucks now too. Let that be a lesson for all you wannabe comedy show writers. You only have 4 seasons worth of “funny” anything more and you are wearing out your welcome. Unless you’re the simpsons.
    I’ll stop now, before I wear out my welcome.

  • Ant2206

    Heroes!

  • MR

    I really don’t understand your perpetual distaste for the American office. I think it is because you keep comparing it to the British Office. Which is sort of like the Jack Nicholson/Heath Ledger debate. Two similar things done two very different ways.

    Yes the Jim and Pam arc is over. But I still enjoy the show. Even you have have to admit the snowball fight hilarious. So what if its isn’t as sophisticated as its counterpart? Comedy does not have to be complex in order to be funny and entertaining.

    Sure we loved shows like arrested development, red dwarf and the show about nothing. These shows taught us about how you can put intelligence and buildup into a joke, but not every show needs to do this.

    As far as I’m concerned, it isn’t quite over yet. we will wait and see what becomes of it once Steve leaves.

  • http://www.aintitbalenews.com Koutchboom

    Snowball fight = John Vitti. Know your TV writers.

  • SinisterMarmalade

    I am (to this day) a huge fan of ‘Scrubs,’ but I will testify to my last breath that it should have stopped at the end of season eight. Also, the best episodes were in the first three seasons (before JD became a parody of himself). I love all the actors in it, but damn people, season eight ended perfectly, they really intended to stop things there, then they just tack on another season, with a different set, annoying new interns, less time on the original characters that made the series great, and they have to hackney a plot into place to get JD back. It sucked hard.

  • Mike

    @SinisterMarmalade Was season eight where JD had that montage of the future? If so, I totally agree and was actually disappointed the show came back for another season. That felt like the best possible series ender and could have been one of the better ones of any show.

    And don’t get me started on this most recent failed attempt that was missing like half the characters.

  • Daniel

    Agree with you on lost. The 1st seaon was good. Second not so good, then just went down hill. Stopped watching in 3. I went to my parents one time and couldnt belive that lost was still running.

    I used to love smallville. Prob one of my fav shows, the 1st few seasons anyway. Tbh i havnt seen it in years and how no idea its in its 10th season did you say? I agree that really once he left collage and went out into the real world, it should’v ended. Dragging shows on like they do just ruins it tbh

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  • Ryan

    Not sure it was mentioned anywhere in the comments yet, but one show that needs to be cancelled asap imo is Family Guy. It used to be funny random humor that made me love the show. I can honestly say after watching most seasons, they start to get really lame after about season 4. Just watched the new one last sunday and it seems blatantly obvious that they are running out of ideas and humor.

  • Neyshan

    Another show that has pretty much jumped the shark is House. Once he started dating Cuddy anything that was left to be interesting about that show vanished, there are only so many times it can’t be Lupus.

  • Thromp

    I’m pretty sure I’m just feeding a troll here, the troll being the author of this article, but here it goes anyway.

    Lost is the most legendary sci-fi mystery show of the last several decades, the show that every network is scrambling (and failing) to reproduce. It is a masterpiece; the best 6 seasons of television drama ever and you would like to erase 5 of them from the annuls of history. DIAF.

    The Office is no different than Seinfeld. It has been hilarious the entire time and still is. Season 7 has been one of the best yet. The addition of Ellie Kemper has cranked the funny meter up one notch higher. It hasn’t jumped the shark… YET. Yes, when Steve Carell leaves it may go south and fast, but only time will tell.

  • Larry

    I think House really ended with season three. Foreman left, Chase got fired, and Cameron quit. What could be a more perfect ending for such a bitter, hateful misanthrope? House is left alone, and, if I’m reading the final shot correctly, is okay with it. I’ve tried watching it off and on since then, but the show just doesn’t seem to go anywhere and I totally lost interest. Now if I want a House fix, I watch some of the first three seasons which I have on DVD.

    Another show of Hugh Laurie’s that outstayed its welcome was Jeeves and Wooster. 1 through 3 are gold, but series 4 looks like it was written by someone who didn’t know who PG Wodehouse was.

    I guess there’s so just so much money to be made in television, people just don’t know when to walk away.

  • misterman

    I have to somewhat disagree about Smallville.

    There are a couple of hit & miss seasons and horrible plotlines (anything involving Lana Lang)…but this current season is absolutely amazing and is shaping up to be the best season so far. Granted, they have been stretching it at times over the past few seasons and the dumbest thing they could have done was let Allison Mack & Michael Rosenbaum go…but overall, the show has been solid…unlike Heroes, which should have been a one season deal.

  • Erin

    The Office picked up speed and got it’s own style after Season 2; it no longer was constrained by remaking the UK version (season 1 is my least favorite because it tried so hard to be the UK version note for note…down to Michael’s horrible hairstyle). I agree it’s waned in the past season, but I’m hopeful for the upcoming one with a new boss…Michael was just getting to the point where his antics were desensitized and didn’t have any effect.

    Part of me still wishes the Simpsons would have gracefully bowed out after season 10.

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