Sometimes, artistic success depends on knowing when to draw a line under something and call it quits. For some reason this concept is foreign to many TV producers and the list of shows that should have ended sooner rather than later is way too long.
Here are ten of the most serious offenders, plus a scientific analysis of when the producers should’ve pulled the plug.
Although your tolerance for the glibly smackable Zach Braff may vary, "Scrubs’" first six seasons were light, funny, and in the opinion of many doctors and interns a fairly accurate look at the interpersonal dynamics of a teaching hospital.
After six seasons, however, the frothy fun of the series started gradually phasing into “maturity” (a.k.a. “boredom”) and the balance began to shift from medical comedy to medical soap opera, which we have too many of already.
It was obvious to nearly everyone that the ninth season (where almost all of the main cast appeared only in cameos) should never have been made. We maintain that the series could have and should have ended with the season 6 musical episode as a sort of last hurrah of kooky funny good-times.
HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER
Most of you that have actually asked how your father met your mother probably didn’t expect the story to go on for the next eight years. If the creators of CBS’ acclaimed sitcom had an elegant plan for wrapping up their show, most critics agree that they should have rolled it out by the end of the fourth season.
Instead, the time-limited premise has managed to stretch out to what is promised to be a final ninth season. Although producers have refused to comment on whether Neil Patrick Harris’ character Barney might appear in the series’ version of the “present” as a horny cyborg.
In its first extra-long season, Fox’s "The O.C." earned almost universal critical acclaim and a nomination for a Writers Guild of America award for its premiere episode. The second and third seasons… not so much. What The New York Times praised as “a truly smart show… in the guise of something commercial and trashy and fun” devolved in its second year into actually being commercial and trashy but fairly limited in fun.
The fun was almost entirely gone by season three, and as viewers left in droves, the commercial appeal was pretty limited too. "The O.C." was greenlit for a fourth season, one that critics and fans generally agreed was pretty close to the quality of the first, but wasn’t able to overcome the inertia and the loss of fans from the abysmal third season and was cancelled.
Like "The Simpsons," "The X-Files" represented the early willingness of Fox executives to take chances on unproven or unconventional ideas. Also like "The Simpsons," "The X-Files" eventually came to represent Fox executives’ ironclad determination to squeeze every last drop of money out of their early successes, prolonging the series even after David Duchovny more-or-less left the show over a contract dispute.
Duchovny was convinced to stick around in a reduced role for the eighth and ninth seasons, but fans were disgruntled that the series’ perennial “will they or won’t they” sexual tension question was answered that “oh hey, they did, but it was totally off-camera and we decided not to really talk about it.”
Even the introduction of a cute, possibly half-alien baby wasn’t enough to save the show, and it was allowed to wind down after the forgettable ninth season.
NBC’s oddball action-comedy-romance-spy-drama "Chuck" was never a ratings winner, but critical success and a devoted fan community kept the show going for five seasons before eventually shutting down.
Unfortunately, while NBC was willing to keep the show on the air in order to maintain that sweet Subway ad revenue, they weren’t going to spend a lot of money to do so, and from the third season on the show looked visibly less interesting as budget cuts forced the re-use of earlier sets and locations.
Worse, in the middle of that same season the writers seemed to start running out of ideas, and characters that were once enjoyable for their evolution and development started doing roughly the same things again and again.
Season 3’s last episode “Chuck Versus The Other Guy” was regarded by fans and critics alike as one of the series’ high points, but in light of what came after it would’ve been best to just go out with bang then and there.
BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER
Of course, when we’re looking at cult hit TV series that persisted beyond their sell-by dates due to the support of a rabid fanbase, it’s hard not to mention the elephant in the room.
The fifth season of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" was the last one to appear on The WB and is almost universally regarded as the series’ high watermark—a number of critics claim that the mid-season episode “The Body” was one of the best episodes of any TV series ever broadcast—and ended on a spectacular and moving note when Buffy died to save the world.
That would seem like a pretty logical place to finish a series, but Buffy was literally resurrected next season on UPN. It was explained that she was pulled out of a peaceful existence in heaven to continue serving on earth and was understandably a little depressed about it.
With the exception of a mid-season musical episode (what’s the deal with those things anyway?) the sixth season fared poorly among anybody but diehard fans, and even they have trouble defending the even less interesting seventh season.
THE OFFICE (AMERICAN VERSION)
If you have a friend who is into British comedy and is also sort of a jagoff, you’ve probably heard a lot of whining about the American version of “The Office.” A particularly sore point is the NBC sitcom’s extraordinary length (201 episodes) compared to the typically concise BBC original (twelve episodes, not counting a few post-finale specials), and with the dip in quality of Office USA’s later seasons there’s some truth to that criticism.
While a number of critics feel the unique charms of the American "The Office" peaked at the season 2 finale “Casino Night” and Jim & Pam’s famous silent kiss, we will officially pronounce “Broke” the point where a clean break could be made. If only for the presence of renowned heroin kingpin and Norse god Idris “Also Had Kind Of A Crappy Part In Prometheus” Elba.
THE OFFICE (BRITISH VERSION)
Consider your script flipped, "The Office" UK fans: after creators Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant famously announced that they would not write a third season of their smash hit Britcom, they went ahead and did pretty much that by writing two extra-long Christmas specials that reversed the show’s satisfyingly dismal ending.
Dawn leaving her marriage and her new life in the USA just because Tim bought her a set of colored pencils seemed far-fetched and schmaltzy, far removed from "The Office’s" abysmally dark satire.
Ricky Gervais has since brought back the character of David Brent for a charity Web special and a series of Youtube shorts, possibly after Karl Pilkington escaped the cage he is kept in between episodes of the Ricky Gervais Show
Consider this: counting their primordial appearance on "The Tracey Ullman Show," the Simpsons have been in existence for twenty-six years. That means Matt Groening’s creation isn’t just old enough to vote or buy alcohol, it’s old enough to rent a car without paying an additional insurance premium.
On top of that, for more than half of that time it hasn’t been any damn good—what started out as a brilliantly subversive cartoon sitcom eventually spiraled into hacky clichéd garbage, abandoning the subtle jokes and inspired family satire of its early seasons for increasingly goofy stunt cameos up to and including reclusive author Thomas Pynchon wearing a paper bag on his head.
Every erstwhile Comic Book Guy on the internet agrees that the beginning of the decline was season 9 episode 2’s “The Principal and the Pauper” (aka the Armin Tamzarian episode), reportedly Groening’s least favorite episode.
I take a more contrary view and argue that the rot set in during season 8, where apart from the fantastic second episode Bond-film parody “You Only Move Twice” the series began showing signs of falling apart. And oh yeah—season 8 also features a musical episode.
Next: 10 TV Shows You Should Binge Watch
AMERICA’S FUNNIEST HOME VIDEOS
"The Simpsons" has been on the air for more than twenty years because they were and to some extent still are a timeless part of American culture. "America’s Funniest Home Videos" has been on the air for more than twenty years because old people still don’t know how to use YouTube.
Launched in 1989 back when personal video cameras were bazooka-sized VHS-driven monsters, AFV has been adding unnecessary sound effects and commentary to amateur video for almost 25 years and shows no sign of stopping or even slowing down.
While creaky old people (e.g., me) prefer to remember AFV as hosted by fantastically vulgar stand-up comedian Bob Saget exercising superhuman levels of restraint, the longest-serving and current host is genial sociopath Tom Bergeron.
Bergeron has a splendidly mellifluous announcer voice and a charmingly glib affect from his years in the trenches of Hollywood Squares, but all true "America’s Funniest Home Videos" devotees will accept nothing less than Saget’s knowing leer and deadpan delivery. Also, I guess Daisy Fuentes was fun to look at.