Yesterday, our esteemed colleague Josh Jackson listed the 15
Best TV Shows That Were Canceled Too Soon. (He left off Kings, but anyway.)
Today we flip over the coin to comment on a few shows that maybe went on just a tiny bit too long. Or a lot too long.
And in case anyone’s wondering how to end a show right, how
to strike exactly the right note before the final credits roll—this is how.
1. The Price Is Right
We have not watched the Drew Carey version. We do not want
to watch the Drew Carey version. We want to imagine that the definitive daytime
game show retired in 2007 along with its 83-year-old host, Bob Barker.
2. That ’70s Show
This kitschy comedy became overripe during its eighth
season when Topher Grace's Eric Foreman and Ashton Kutcher's Michael Kelso were written out of the series so they could pursue their respective movie careers. Meanwhile, Fez started dating Jackie (what?) and an unfunny Tommy Chong arrived to make pot jokes in an attempt to mask the complete void of real humor. Bummer, man.
once-great and innovative show taught audiences to accept blood and gore in
their primetime network TV lineup (you're welcome, CSI
). But by the time of its cancellation this year, almost all of the original cast had gone on to bigger, better things and the protracted storylines were tired. Carol (Julianna Margulies) had run away to be with Doug (George Clooney), and Mark Greene (Anthony Edwards) had died of cancer years before. By the end, the quintessential medical drama had lost its heart. Even Uncle Jesse couldn't salvage it.
Once inventive, goofy-funny and sweet, the tragicomic series that offers glimpses inside the bizarre brain of doctor John "J.D." Dorian (Zach Braff) has been on the verge of cancellation several times. Last season, it moved from NBC to ABC and, in a classic jumping of the shark, brought in a whole new generation of young, less interesting interns, relegating most of the original cast (Turk, Elliot, Dr. Cox, Carla) to supporting roles. It had a good run, but the series is now DNR.
The Jim/Pam wedding was cute, and Michael’s rehearsal-dinner
speech was a truly inspired bit of inappropriateness. But overall the show has drifted from awkward to adorable. Awkward is funny. Adorable, not so much. This is why the British original cut the cord so quickly, to quit while they were ahead.
6. The West Wing
Save your hate mail: We loved The West Wing. We just think it kinda, you know, maybe wasn’t as
awesome at the end—after creative genius Aaron Sorkin left—as it was in the beginning. The show started as a transcendent examination of idealism in the halls of power. Despite the best efforts of Jimmy Smits and Alan Alda as rival presidential candidates, Wing ended as a lame duck.
7. The Wire
Save your hate mail: We loved The Wire, too! But did you notice how after the masterful,
gut-wrenching fourth season, the fifth was a long anticlimax? We noticed.
Amazing show, shaky resolution.
8. The X-Files
For five years, Chris Carter's X-Files was one of the best shows on television. The chemistry between Scully the skeptic and Mulder the believer was unparalleled, the romantic tension between them taut as a tightrope. And show's main plot—about shadowy government operatives covering up the existence of alien visitors—was riveting. Where would the show twist and turn next on the way to its ultimate conclusion? The smart thing to have done would have been to build the show up to a fever pitch and then deliver the payoff in the 1998 X-Files film Fight the Future. Sadly, the film never wrapped anything up. It just introduced more questions. After a while, it became apparent: The writers didn't how the show was going to end. So it dragged on for four more years, losing its magic and momentum, becoming a parody of itself, as Mulder and Scully became romantically involved, and the plot got more and more tangled and unbelievable. Bafflingly, the show even continued when Duchovny decided to leave, becoming completely unraveled by the end.