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ENOUGH IS ENOUGH – Saying Goodbye When a Good Show Goes Bad

December 20 2012

This New Year, is it time to clean out your television schedule?

by Amy Sharma

Breaking up is hard to do. We all fear change, and the crappy situation you know is at times preferable to the situation you don’t. But sooner or later, the time sometimes comes when we have to let go of even the most special of our relationships; when the bad just overwhelmingly outweighs the good. As we approach 2013 and we begin our physical and emotional cleansing, it’s time to evaluate some of our more personal relationships—and by that I mean the cherished shows that we know and love and that our DVRs have been faithfully recording for us on season pass. I realize this may be hard because, let’s be honest, those shows are more reliable, and sometimes longer lasting, than a lot of relationships.

When is it time to let go? It’s difficult to know, because most shows do not commit a single egregious crime that instantly causes you to pull out the remote, cancel the season pass and declare “I am never watching that again!” It’s more a slow build-up. I know we all talk about shows “jumping the shark”, a reference to the now legendary episode in which Fonzie (Henry Winkler) did so on water skis and thereby killed any vestige of cool then left to Happy Days, but if you look back and reflect, bad things were starting to happen before that shark ever appeared. Doubtless there were many warning signs that the writers were running out of good material: the sudden appearance of a new, fan-dividingly annoying, character (babies count here too), main characters repeatedly hooking up and breaking up, the sudden death of a cherished member of the team (not explained by failed contract negotiations), episodes in new locations, unfathomable trouble with the law, out-of-character decisions, a serial killer nemesis on a crime drama (ahhhh!), recycled plot lines, etc.

In some shows this is inevitable because the premise sounds more like the plot of a good movie than that of a TV show (Lost), and so it’s hard to sustain over a longer period of a full network season (or even a shorter cable season). I am sure those of us who like Once Upon a Time are already wondering just how many fairy tales can be retold before it gets old. They’ve already had to rely on the ‘ol “courtroom drama” gig in the first season, and when you start bringing in Dr. Frankenstein and Mulan, you’re definitely out of fairy tale lore. Or remember how fast Heroes fell from awesome to horrible? Every day people with superpowers! Save the cheerleader! Super-hot Sendhil Ramamurthy! The menace of Syler! And then… what, you have nothing else for us, writers? We’re bored now.

A similar fate is bound to befall any show that depends on an overall conspiracy that perhaps hasn’t been very well thought through (The X-Files, obviously), because after a while – and even despite the presence of only a handful of conspiracy episodes a season – these get so bizarre and draggy that you see the smoking man on your TV screen and run from the room. Burn Notice was doing well until Michael Westen (Jeremy Donovan), who used to be a spy, got unburned and was a spy again in Season 5, and then just started making the oddest decisions ever in order to essentially burn himself again because that is, after all, what the show is called. *sigh* The fact that I had to dump that show makes me sad because they always built cool bombs (yay, engineering!), plus I love Bruce Campbell and Jeffrey Donovan is nice to look at—but it had to be done.

Similarly, had I not known the last season of Buffy was indeed the last season, the whole ultimate evil thing there was wearing a bit thin too. It was an entire season of “conspiracy episodes.” (For the series’ sake: it was a darn good thing the “magic-addicted Willow” and “Glory” arcs were not full-time).

For a while there 24 had a good idea: each season was its own stand-alone story arc. Good enough. But there are only so many terrorist plots one man can foil, and only so many inept people in power that Jack (Kiefer Sutherland) can possibly need to circumvent. I quit during the season where three separate plot lines/situations were recycled in just one episode. Also, according to friend who would just get the DVDs and watch all 24 episodes in a row, the plot holes were enormous. Which, it’s only one season, wasn’t the story-arc planned beforehand? Dickens may be boring, but he was a serial writer, and he planned his darn stories. Poe always predicted the endings. It means Dickens was doing a good job (okay, I still don’t ever want to read Great Expectations again, but still, no plot holes). A team of university educated writers can’t do the same? They are forced to study awfulness like Dickens. I don’t think it’s that hard.

"Hi, I'm Laurence Fishburne and I'm about to kill your series."

CSI had been a DVR favorite for years because the story-arcs are minimal at best. I mean, I still don’t know what half the characters do in their off-time. Fabulous. But then Morpheus appeared and he had to have a “dark past” plus a “serial killer nemesis” and then he’s gone and Ted Danson shows up? What? Ugh, enough already! CSI was out. And don’t get me started on serial killer Red John in The Mentalist. I don’t care about your dead family, just keep doing witty, charming Australian-being-American stuff, Simon Baker. (But yes, I should have known better; Patrick Jane’s vengeance-filled search for Red John was always the premise.)

Bones. What a fantastic show for six seasons. I loved this show. And then, wait, she can’t beat a nerd who kills people with vacuum tubes? What? Why the hell not? She’s Dr. Temperance Brennan (Emily Deschanel), super forensics person who always solves the trickiest of cases because of her much vaunted super genius. I wasn’t even that upset about the baby thing, or the off-camera hook up with long-time love interest Booth (David Boreanaz). But that lame nerdy murderer guy had me mad mad mad.

So how do we know when it’s the end? For me, the signs are clear. The DVR builds up with five new episodes and I’ve got to tell it not to delete them. Then there are ten. And then I’m left wondering, “Wait, it’s been over ten weeks and you don’t want to watch one episode? Really? You just watched three episodes in a row of Law and Order and you don’t even like Law and Order. But that, commercials and all, was preferable to the DVR shows? What happened here?”

But let’s say I decide to forego yet another tale of the criminal justice system (in which there are two separate yet equal parts) and try to catch up on some of my recorded shows instead. There is a sense of dread when I press “Play” on the remote. I think something along the lines of “Oh goodness what idiotic thing will they do this time?” Basically, when returning to the show makes me unhappy and apprehensive, I know that I am done. Kind of like when you’re hanging out with a significant other that you know it’s over with, but you can’t bring yourself to admit the truth, because really, they haven’t done anything wrong. It’s just not right anymore.

And we all know there is the recidivism phase, where you return to the bad relationship, despite knowing it isn’t very good. I understand this. It’s hard. You start wondering: what will I do with that extra hour or so a week? Learn to salsa or knit? Actually have a conversation with my husband? Read more bad romance novels? But, stay strong. Most things are better than losing brain cells churning over the uncharacteristic things your old friends are doing on the telly, and then being furious about it for days.

So in the spirit of the New Year, find that crazy season pass menu (it’s buried in there somewhere), and start seeing what you can let go. I realize this is almost as hard as deleting contacts from your phone or unfriending people on Facebook, but stay strong. And then go find a new TV show. There are plenty of fish in the sea.

Recent Bad Break Ups:

24 (Season 5)
Burn Notice (Season 6)
Bones (Season 8)
Charmed (Season 7)
CSI (Season 11)
Desperate Housewives (Season 2)
Heroes (Season 3 – yes I made it past Season 2)
In Plain Sight (Season 4)
The Mentalist (Season 4)
The Office (Season 5)

Don’t be afraid! It hurts for a while, but as with the ending of any dysfunctional relationship, you’ll be better off in the end.

– Amy Sharma

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