There comes a time when even the greatest of television shows must be brought to a graceful and quiet end; see, for example, the stellar and possibly unbeatable closure in Six Feet Under’s finale episode. Creators, actors, and producers alike eventually need to move on to other projects because they’ve said what they need to say.
Unfortunately, some shows currently airing have apparently not gotten this message, and it appears they need a bit of a gentle kick in the rump to remind them that it’s time to exit stage right before they get too much longer in the tooth.
We’ll start with Grey’s Anatomy, which has been circling the drain for over a season and currently shows no sign of stopping. When it premiered in 2005, it was a remarkable show with a strong cast and a powerful production team. It explored medical ethics in interesting ways and pulled readers in with dynamic plotting and characters.
And it got increasingly soapy over time. It went from mildly soapy but still bearable to overwhelmingly so, and at this point, the majority of the show is great frothy suds splashing across the screen. Grey’s Anatomy has shifted from interesting, dark, funny medical drama to ER or General Hospital, and the audiences of these shows are very different. This is not what I came to Grey’s Anatomy for, and I don’t think anyone else did either. Shonda, it’s time to put this one to bed.
Speaking of medical dramas, House also appears to be past its sell-by date. It was telling that by the middle of last season I couldn’t even be bothered to watch episodes, although I made a token effort. The genre is a challenging one to keep interesting through multiple seasons because the premise of every episode is effectively the same, and eventually even viewers tire of a series of medical mysteries. That means you need to keep it alive through the characters, and House is failing on the job here.
The loss of Cuddy, in particular, has made House much less stellar and engaging than it once was. There’s an increasing sense of disconnect with the characters and their lives, and even the cases they work on, since the outcomes are so predictable. The team will come up with a diagnosis which will be wrong, House will have a sudden insight, and they’ll rush to the rescue, hopefully in time to save the patient. Even pushing the envelope with medicolegal issues will only take you so far, and the lovable asshole bit gets old after a while.
True Blood also appears to be struggling; the last season was a muddled mess of plotlines that left much to be desired for viewers. Although based on Charlaine Harris’ set of bestselling novels, it’s splitting off in other directions, which is to be expected, but unfortunately not all those directions are good ones. There’s a little bit too much going on right now, and the dynamic, interesting Sookie I know from the books has had the life sucked right out of her.
So to speak.
Alan Ball entered the field strong with this one, but couldn’t seem to hold it together over the long term, despite having the books as a guide; the end result is a growing amount of sex and gore and a shrinking amount of interest on my part.
While I admittedly loathe it, which makes me extremely biased, others have assured me that Glee is also ready to go gently into that good night. Whether you think it’s a fun musical dramedy or a vile excrescence, the plots are getting weaker and the music is getting worse. Having a handful of excellent singers on board doesn’t make up for the rest of the actors, and Glee seems to have missed the train a bit in terms of coming up with a long-term hook to keep viewers captivated.
There are only so many weeks in a row you can tune in for a thin storyline used as an excuse for absolutely atrocious covers of beloved music, and the mauling seems to be getting even worse this season, like the producers are ready to go all out. The show may have spawned a live musical tour, a slew of hits on iTunes, and a goggling amount of tie-in merchandise, but this particular dog has had its day.
And then there is the cornerstone of CBS’ income. The CSI franchise is sometimes fingered as a pioneer in television, although of course shows like Quincy predated it. It certainly sparked public interest in forensics in the United States, causing an explosion of applications for forensic training and leading to the so-called ‘CSI effect’ of unreasonable expectations among juries and the general public. It’s also long-past time for these shows to hit the trails, my friend.
Bodies of the week keep stacking up, but the characters feel stagnant and dull, because they’ve effectively run out of material. Some adding and dropping of characters has been inevitable over the years as individual characters leave the show and join the cast, but one result of long-running franchises with big ensemble casts, like Grey’s Anatomy and the CSIs, is that they start to develop extremely complex soapy backstories that leave new viewers in the dark. If you’re just tuning in for the weekly mystery, its allure has to fade eventually, and you certainly can’t follow or remember the lengthy backstories behind the characters to stay invested in the series.
The tendency to run series into the ground in the United States contrasts sharply with the crisp, self-contained series used in the United Kingdom; producers would do well to take notes.