Last night was the inaugural evening of what my friends and I call “TV Thursday,” a night where there are so many good shows on, it dominates our plans for the night. Usually it consists of The Office, 30 Rock, Parks and Recreation and It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, shows we’ve been following since their inception.
Three of those shows came back last night, and rather than feel the thrill of anticipation for each new episode that I used to, I was decidedly more ambivalent. Yes, once upon a time, these were some of my favorite shows, but now 30 Rock and Always Sunny are on season five, The Office at an ancient season seven. And none of them really are that good any more.
Yes, I occasionally laugh and chuckle throughout each, but I literally used to be on the floor during some of these shows early episodes. And now? They merely amuse me at best, and at worst anger me at the degradation of quality at an exponential rate.
But honestly, I don’t think it’s their fault. It’s just by now, we’ve seen it all. Yes, there will always be new adventures for the characters to fall into, but at this point, we get it, we’ve been there and done that in terms of the characters themselves. The cast of TGS, the Dunder Mifflin crew, the Paddy’s Pub gang; after half a decade, we’ve kind of seen everything they have to offer. I have a sneaking suspicion that if Arrested Development was allowed to run for seven seasons, it probably would have gotten old as well.
Ricky Gervais has it right. Create a work of genius, pump out two seasons of classic episodes and a grand finale Christmas special, and move on to your next series. The original UK Office was twelve episodes and one special total. The US version is now pushing close to a hundred and fifty. Can we really blame the show for a dropoff in quality? Or should we blame the network for keeping it on life support until it shrivels up and becomes unrecognizable? In the case of The Office, it will be accelerated by Steve Carell leaving the show at the end of this year, and NBC will force the show to soldier on regardless.
It can be hard to let go of a good thing, and there’s only one show I know that was pure brilliance from start to finish. Seinfeld ran for almost a decade, and called it quits when it was number one in the ratings. Perhaps no show will ever replicate that model again, but it’s something to strive for, and those behind the show should know when to walk away.