Earlier this month, we ran our list of shows this decade that we think got the axe way too early. In comprising such a list, the staff here at Blend Television found that it was just as easy to come up with a list of shows that went on way past their prime. Shows that started off great but somewhere along the line, took a turn for the worse and ended up out-staying their welcome.
Before we get to the actual list, it should be said that ER should probably be at the top of the list, however since none of us were watching the show by the time this past decade rolled around, we found that posing a legitimate argument other than to say “How long was that show on for?” wasn’t an option. So, while ER might win the prize for being the top show to out-stay its welcome this decade, below are other series we thought overstayed their welcome.
You can scoff at Smallville and its inconsistencies all you want, the truth is that the show was at one point a great retelling of Clark Kent’s journey from farmboy to super hero. Creators Gough and Miller did an admirable job of balancing the lore with the WB’s (and eventually CW’s) desire for sappy teen drama. The problem is not that the show became something different, but that it was pushed too far. Season five saw Clark and company begin to move away from the high school roots. Smallville began to straddle the line between the original concept and going full speed into the Superman mythos. Gough, Miller, and Michael Rosenbaum (Lex Luthor) left the show after the seventh season, causing even more turmoil on the creative end. By now Smallville has become a shadow of not only itself, but of its potential. Occasional geek out moments when other DC characters come into play or some big step occurs to take Clark to the place where Superman dwells, are all that’s left to help fans remember what the show was supposed to be. The new creative teams that have been given the helm have already realized that the time for Kal-El’s studies were up awhile ago, and Smallville worked that in by having Clark start his training, but remain a part of the world. It’s messy and sad.
Should have ended: Season five, with a new finale showing Clark enter a chamber in the Fortress of Solitude to begin his many year training.
Some might argue that Alias went downhill after Sydney and her father successfully helped the CIA take down terrorist organization SD-6. After all, that was the point at which the series went from being about a young, hot double-agent to something a little less exciting, however it seems more likely that the quality of (and interest in) the series started to slip when the show became less about Sydney trying to juggle her secret-job with her more tame personal life and more on Sloane's ever-growing obsession with Milo Rimbaldi and his various doomsday devices. By season three, the line between Sydney's work-life and personal life was non-existent. By the fifth and final season, Sloane's quest for immortality and never-ending bag of evil-schemes was a stale and overused plot that weighed down the series and dragged it far away from the elements that drew many of us into the show in its earlier seasons.
Should have ended: End of season 3.
Sabrina the Teenage Witch (ABC/WB)
The first couple years, Sabrina, The Teenage Witch was fun, a whimsical cauldron of talking cats and kooky aunts, held together and stirred by a fresh-faced girl next door trying to find love and A’s in math through hard work and cheap, witchy, easy ways out. Sure, she’d get her comeuppance by episode’s end, but by then, she’d of learned a valuable lesson and that damn cat would have told he saw the error of her ways the whole time. It was a great formula, tried and true from Full House to Bewitched, Saved By The Bell to Happy Days, but a funny thing happened on the way to the mall. Melissa Joan Hart grew up. Her life complicated. She and Harvey separated. The show moved to the WB. Her hips got wider. Nothing felt the same. That’s the thing about growing up. Your real problems can’t just be solved in a half hour, witch, feline wizard or otherwise. Guess that applies to half hour installments as well.
Should have ended: 2000
Back in 2001 a little known CTU agent named Jack Bauer stopped a plot to assassinate Presidential candidate David Palmer. In real time, Jack worked to save both his family (only half successful) and Palmer from a group of revenge-intent terrorists. Viewers were treated to a true television gem. The season was phenomenal, the format somewhat revolutionary and the ending had a legitimate, “Whhaaaaa?” moment. Subsequent seasons have pitted Jack in even more sensational, diabolical, and frankly, unbelievable plots. After seven seasons, Jack is still living out the longest day of his life, fighting new and improved (if not ridiculous) terrorists and trying to save his family. With each season comes a new twenty-four hours of cliffhangers, just in the nick of time escapes, double (or triple) agents and tons of yelling. Where the first season introduced a cutting edge way to view television, the subsequent years have just retread a tired theme. It’s time to see Jack and company take a much needed retirement.
Should have ended: when the Chinese nabbed Jack after Season 4.
The Real World (MTV)
Once upon a time, back in the early ‘90’s, The Real World captured some of the true reality of what it was to be a young adult in America. Put a bunch of 20-somethings from different backgrounds and walks of life in a house and find out what happens when they stop being polite and start getting real. Now-a-days, the series is less about getting real and more about getting trashed, hooking up and fighting over ridiculous drama. Is this really what young people are all about or did MTV trade reality in for exploitation of sex, drugs and a general lack of motivation and direction? Hey, not everyone knows what they want to be at twenty-two years old but back in the series’ earlier seasons, there were houseguests with actual life-goals and at least a little motivation to figure out who they are and find their place in the world. That’s what made the show so addicting back then. MTV's sampling of America's youth, for the most part, consisted of regular people with one or two explosive houseguests to stir things up. Now, the reverse seems to be the case as the series banks more on drama than documenting the struggles of trying to become a grown-up.
Should have ended: After the return to New York, right around the time the reality TV genre blew up and started feeding America’s growing addiction for drama and train-wreck story arcs.
The Bachelor (ABC)
It’s kind of hard to say exactly when The Bachelor fell apart as a series. Considering that of the fourteen bachelors, and five bachelorettes from the gender-reversed spin-off, only one couple has wound up in a happy and healthy marriage, isn’t it safe to say the format doesn’t work? What’s the point of watching these people court one another for an entire season if you know there’s more than a 90% chance no lasting love will come of it? When they started mining editions of The Bachelor for their next bachelorette, and vice-versa, it was definitely over for this show. That’s what VH1 does on their skank-fest series. Now their pulling contestants from here to appear on Dancing with the Stars, proving definitively that ABC has no idea what the word “star” means.
Should have ended: End of season 7 (Charlie O’Connell, ABC? Charlie Freaking O’Connell?!)
Deal or No Deal (NBC)
Noticeably inferior to Let’s Make A Deal, the Howie Mandell-hosted, semi-re-imagined faux game show was surprisingly interesting, at least as a televised psychological experiment during its first season. Dangle thousands within the grasp of America’s lower classes and watch ‘em press their luck like a Marine on his fifth tour of duty. It’s a game show, sure, but without the pesky skill. Just pick a case and let the powers that be know when you feel like stopping. Family members were always involved, the audience at least a somewhat relevant entity, but like Extreme Makeover: Home Edition producers continued to push further and further with more outlandish, stupidly extroverted contestants. Need some luck? Well, at church you always spin around three times, why not have the whole audience spin around three times? Why not have your little girl pick a case? Why not ask stomp around like a two year old having a temper tantrum because you’re vaguely aware you’re on TV and that’s the sorta thing people like seeing? Why not make a daytime version so this C- idea can be further saturated?
Should have ended: After the first season.
Vinnie Chase and company are the closest most people will ever get to an inside look at Hollywood. Who doesn’t dream to be in Vinnie’s (or E’s or Drama’s or Turtle’s) very expensive shoes? Entourage combined every element of the guy fantasy. Fame? Check. Fortune? Check. Hot chicks? Check. Your best friends in the world with you the whole way? Check. Getting characters like Johnny Drama and Ari Gold was just an added bonus. It was like Sex in the City, but for dudes. And for a few seasons Entourage was interesting (if not, at times, poorly acted) television. But how many times can we see the rich and famous, get even more rich and famous? Vince and company have run into their fair share of obstacles and always come out on top. And that never-ending success, glitz and glamour just gets old after awhile. It’s no wonder celebrities are always trying to top their previous act. Entourage has one-upped itself into some pretty forgettable television.
Should have ended:10 minutes before Vince scored the Scorsese movie after Season 5.
Will & Grace (NBC)
When thing started getting more complicated in the lives of Will & Grace, it somehow took the comedic heart away from the show. Karen caught Stan cheating, Grace wanted a baby and Will & Grace started being more about its celebrity guest stars than the stories and characters that made us fall in love with Will, Grace, Karen and Jack in the first place. They still managed a few laughs here and there, but it just wasn’t the same anymore. The series managed to limp along, with viewership slipping, for several years. It kept getting top name celebrity guest stars like Madonna, Kevin Bacon, Cher, Britney Spears, Glenn Close, Gene Wilder, Elton John and many more. It’s as if Will & Grace had become a variety show that sometimes tried to be a sitcom.
Should have ended: End of season 4
Though it began as an intriguingly trashy, family-oriented soap opera spiced up with unique plastic surgeries and sexual conquests, Nip/Tuck did not take long to become a parody of both itself and the culture it tries to entertain. The Troy and Mcnamara clans buried the family aspect with flippant infidelity, spousal/child abuse, incest, bi-sexuality, attempted patricide, and abortive intentions, to name just a few. The surgeries became an afterthought plot device, spotlighting and exploiting any and every disorder and taboo under the sun. After the second or so season, the one-upsmanship of the writers diluted the characters to speak- and fuck-boxes, completely separated from realism. (The Hearts 'n Scalpels show-within-a-show with Bradley Cooper being a prime example.) Admittedly the first season was pretty entertaining, and the second season's introduction of the implausible rapist-mutilator The Carver made for tense viewing. But after the disappointing reveal of the Carver's identity, and further character irredemption, things got too cartoony to matter.
Should have ended: By combining its second and third seasons, and ending somewhere in between them.
It is hard to convey in just one paragraph how much Heroes has let its audience down. In its first season, Heroes was definitely much-watch TV. The mysteries and the characters were well-written and the show really garnered a lot of positive hype with its arc of "Save the Cheerleader, Save the World." Its first season finale delivered, but not as much as people had hoped. The beginning of the second season started the road downhill when it stuck Hiro in feudal Japan for half the season and wiped Peter's memory for about the same amount of time. To top it off, the season was cut short by the Writer's Strike--which was a blessing in disguise because most of the show's flaws were henceforth blamed on it. In Season Three, Sylar, who arguably should have died in the end of Season One, is focused upon because by now the only Heroes character anyone seemed to care about now was its villain. First he's bad, then he's good, then he's just an addict, then he's a Petrelli, then he's not. In the meantime, Peter and Hiro provide a thesis on how not to use your time traveling power and Nathan's character gets character motivations even he can't figure out. In Season Four, we have a carnival theme and Prison Break's T-Bag is the newest villain....well except for Sylar who is still trying to figure out if he's good or bad or Nathan. In comic book form, these storylines can be accepted because a comic book title sometimes can run for twenty to thirty years. But Heroes, the TV show probably should have taken a cue from Lost and given themselves an end date. If anything, it owes its audience a great super powered battle between Peter and Sylar. Those always seem to happen behind closed doors.
Should have ended: Season One Finale, with Peter exploding and taking the entire show with him.
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