Should I Stay or Should I Go? — When Genre Shows Need to Stop

20 Apr

Stewart here…

Every television show has to end.  There is no way to really avoid that for many loyal fans, but like many of those fans, I wonder when that time comes, is it too soon or too late.   Keeping a show fresh and enjoyable for seasons is no easy task, but with changes in cast and crew, sometimes that task becomes harder to accomplish.  Sometimes a show should know, in the immortal words of Kenny Rogers, “when to hold ‘em”, and “when to fold ‘em”.

Here’s an example of what I mean: I love The X-Files and watched it whenever it was showing new episodes, but after six seasons of being teased with answers and more questions in return, I got tired of watching it regularly.  I simply got bored with the carrot being dangled in front of me, and decided to move on to something else.  The show went on for three more seasons, but its hard to find anyone who thinks the show ended prematurely.

I want to believe the second X-Files movie didn't happen.

I want to believe the second X-Files movie didn’t happen.

I find this less of a problem for something like the Law & Order, NCIS, or CSIs of the world because there isn’t really a long term plan in motion unlike most serialized storytelling.  Its case of the week stuff, with an occasional callback to something that happened previously, so my investment in what happens to these characters, despite how I might feel about them, is somehow limited.  You could argue there’s a familiarity that comes from that which is comforting, and I don’t have a problem with that if that’s the case.  But there’s only so long you can watch one character in these type of shows deal with the situations they do before you wonder why they aren’t popping anti-depressant pills like tic tacs to get up in the morning.

But we’re in a realm of new territory where shows are getting more serialized and more high-concept, specifically in the sci-fi and fantasy territory, and as a result, we expect an end and feel disappointed when we don’t seem to get there sooner rather than later.  Network TV has never been the best place for serialized TV, only because they are in it to make as much money from their said show as possible, which means keeping it on the air as long as they can, even if the show becomes creatively bankrupt because of it.  I think of shows like The Office and 24 that got to a point where they needed to end before they fell into being repetitive and just spinning their wheels, but they just didn’t.  Ratings shouldn’t be the only deciding factor in ending a show, but just the feeling of taking the story as far as it can go.

Recently, when I heard about this season of Starz’s Spartacus series being its last, I never said, “Oh man!  That sucks!  I want to see this show go on forever!” but instead “OK.  That sucks, but it makes sense.”  Do I want to see many more seasons of Spartacus killing his way through Roman soldiers?  Sure, but I’m also aware that I don’t want that to be at the expense of telling the story the creators of that show want to tell.  It may suck for many fans, but considering some shows shouldn’t get more than the seasons they got (ahem, Dexter), but I respect that kind of decision.

But it's okay, Spartacus!  I'm fine with your show ending!  AAAHHHHH!!!

But it’s okay, Spartacus! I’m fine with your show ending! AAAHHHHH!!!

I remember back when Lost and Battlestar Galactica announced their respective ends, and I could sympathize with the producers.  You make a commitment to an audience with high-concept stories to pay them off, and people can tell when you’re paying something off or just spinning your wheels to eek out another season.  There’s only so much stuff you can do with a mysterious island, or with keeping the Battlestar Galactica from finding a home before audiences and fans would ultimately go, “Who cares?”  And in my mind, “Who cares?” is a phrase that gets more painful and truthful every season any show goes on.

It’s not to say there are exceptions to that rule where a show gains a second wind due to its time on the air.  Smallville had a really good final three seasons, but of course, that came after a dismal six and seventh season that convinced me at the time that the show should’ve died out right there.  Supernatural had a fifth season finale that I could have gladly accepted with being a series finale, but it moved on to a season eight, and now a ninth one.  On the other hand, I appreciate the shows that lasted a few years and either because of circumstance or ratings, decided to bow out before they got too old or got cancelled.

How long will the Winchester brothers be growing from boys to men?

How long will the Winchester brothers be growing from boys to men?

I’m not saying not every show should have an end on the horizon, but quality should be a factor in deciding that as much as ratings.  I recently came to the mind that after four or five seasons, if you don’t have any more to say or are just going through the motions, maybe its time to go.  After all, quality is way better than quantity.  Its hard to let a show you love go, but even worse when you fall out of love with it.

But, what are your thoughts?  Is there a show you love that has been on for a long time?  Is there a show that’s been on for a long time you’ve fallen off of?  Is there a show that you thought ended at the right time?  You think I might be wrong about my analysis?  Debate it below, people…

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