…That Went On Way Too Long, at least according to Daniel D’Addario for Salon.com:
One of their top choices -and I don’t think this requires spoilers- is The Simpsons. Man, do I agree with that choice. I vividly recall when the show first appeared way, waaaay back in 1989 and being completely entranced by it. To me it was absolutely must see TV, a show that provided seemingly non-stop laughs.
Then, something happened.
I can’t even put my finger on what exactly what it was but all of a sudden…I had my fill of The Simpsons. More than my fill. I haven’t seen an episode of the show -new or otherwise- in more than fifteen years. Perhaps even as many as twenty years (the show is on its twenty fifth season).
Mind you, at the time I finally dropped the show I don’t think it had changed in any significant way. The humor remained roughly as before but after five or six seasons of faithful viewing I no longer felt the need to continue doing so.
There are other shows on the list, like The X-Files and The Office, which reached a point they should have ended, particularly when one of the lead actors took off and were replaced by actors audiences didn’t care about quite as much. There are other shows that have reached the proverbial point where they “jumped the shark” (a reference to a particularly stupid episode of Happy Days which sealed the fate of that show and became a point of reference when TV shows do something so silly or preposterous that a significant chunk of viewers are forever turned off from the series).
Looking beyond this list, let me indicate some shows that probably ended right on time.
My first nominee would be one of my favorite series: The Wild, Wild West. The show lasted four seasons from 1965 to 1969, the best season of which was probably the very first. The second and third seasons, however, weren’t all that bad either. If you’re a fan of the show like me, though, and you bought the four seasons on DVD (I wasn’t around to see it during its first run), you can’t help but notice that the fourth season of the show, despite some good episodes here and there, features a clear drop in quality. Some of these episodes feature a sloppiness not found in the early seasons, a sense that perhaps the cast and crew were focused on getting these episodes done as quickly and cheaply as possible.
Having said all that, The Wild, Wild West’s last season wasn’t a total disaster, but I suspect if the show had gone on to a fifth season, that may well have been the case.
Another show that ended in the proverbial “nick of time” was the original Star Trek. Lasting only three seasons between 1966-69, the show was never a ratings darling and it is a wonder it lasted as long as it did before cancellation. It wouldn’t be until after it was done and in reruns that the show achieved its cult, and then very real, hit status. In retrospect the first two seasons of the show are considered the best while there is a marked drop in quality with the series’ third season. But, like The Wild, Wild West, there are some good episodes to be found in that season along with outright clunkers such as Spock’s Brain and Turnabout Intruder. Had the show continued with a fourth season, I suspect the bad might have started to overtake the good. Again like The Wild, Wild West, I can’t help but feel that the cast and crew of Star Trek had grown tired of the series and weren’t as dedicated at making each episode as they were earlier on.
Finally, The Prisoner. Lasting a mere 17 episodes from 1967-68 (one season), this fascinating, mind-bending show was meant to have a conclusion and boy-oh-boy did it ever. Even in this short episode run, however, there were a couple of “lesser” episodes in the batch and a conclusion some have felt was way over the top. While I would love to live in an alternative universe where The Prisoner -and, for that matter, Star Trek and The Wild, Wild West– lasted a little bit longer than they did, I also recognize that sometimes you have to appreciate what you have and realize more doesn’t mean better.
Anyway, just my humble opinion…