List: Current Shows Spiraling Downward
Posted by Mr. Feeny on November 20, 2009
My review of Dexter’s fourth season got me thinking about how many of my favorite shows are on the decline. There are really just a handful left that I truly enjoy as much as I used to. 24 returned to that list after flirting with disaster in season six. LOST isn’t as great as it once was, but hasn’t completely fallen off. How I Met Your Mother is still wonderful. Desperate Housewives has remained remarkably consistent. But for the most part, my shows keep falling by the wayside.
It’s the natural order. All shows start to decline. They run out of ideas. Writers feel forced to make changes simply to shake things up. The novelty wears out. As I’ve said before, I never quit on a show I loved and I always judge a series as a whole. That’s why The West Wing ranks so high for me. Their fifth and sixth seasons were not very good, but Season 7 was redemptive, and the first three were good enough to counter any mistakes down the road. Frasier stopped being funny once Daphne and Niles became a couple, but I still enjoy watching reruns. Sadly, I can’t say the same for these shows.
I don’t want to use the term “jump the shark.” I haven’t identified a specific moment where any of these shows stopped being enjoyable or quality programs. But they were all in my Top 10 current shows at one point and have slid out. And there’s a variety of reasons. Some have gotten too complicated. Others too simple and repetitive. Some too slow, others too fast. No matter what, though, I continue to watch. But now, it’s almost more of a chore than a pleasure. So, I’m hoping all of these shows end very soon. Don’t let them become ERs. And with that in mind, let’s make this list medically themed (with pictures from the good old days):
Patients’ Problem: Late Series Malaise
Brothers & Sisters — When It Started: Season 3 or so. Symptoms: Stories moving too quickly, relationships dissolving too easily, copious soap opera elements, Holly. Diagnosis: You might consult Dr. Keohane for a second opinion, but this show really started to lose me when Kitty and Robert started growing apart — after about a year of marriage — and when Kevin and Scotty got married. Talk about sudden. Wasn’t he just dating Robert’s brother? And making Saul gay for no reason. And keeping Holly around every episode. It’s just become tiresome. Conflicts created solely to try storylines. Prognosis: The writers need to stop doing things backward. Don’t think of a problem and apply it to a character. Figure out what problems would naturally occur to those characters.
Damages — When It Started: Season 2. Symptoms: Too many characters, jumbled plots, confusing storylines, unrelateable conflicts. Diagnosis: On a list of greatest first seasons ever, Damages is in my Top 5. I hadn’t been so excited to watch every next episode since 24’s first. But that intrigue was completely lost in the second season. I think I’m a pretty good TV watcher…but I couldn’t even follow all that was going on. Every plot was uninteresting and dragged on. Even the season-long teaser about who Ellen had shot got tiring as little new information was revealed from episode to episode. Plus, Ted Danson and Zelko Ivanek’s departure proved costly. Prognosis: This third season could be its last, since FX isn’t pulling in high ratings. With another all-star cast, it’s in danger yet again of becoming a jumbled mess. Focus on Glenn Close — the show’s constant bright spot — and it’ll be decent at least.
Dexter — When It Started: Season 4. Symptoms: Lack of story, unimportant secondary plots, under-developed emotions. Diagnosis: I’ve said enough about this show in my other review. In short, there no longer seems to be any solid character development and the story drags. Prognosis: Already guranteed a fifth season, the show’s creators should use that to go out with a bang. Go to a place of no return. Perhaps Dexter needs to rid the world of himself.
Heroes — When It Started: The writers’ strike (Season 2-3). Symptoms: Too many alternate futures, confusing timelines, underdeveloped stories and characters, loss of serial memory Diagnosis: Several shows were killed by the writers’ strike. Mostly new programs that never got enough of a following. But Heroes is the ultimate example of a returning superstar — a ratings monster — completing collapsing because of it. Their first season was a thing of beauty. You wanted to be consumed by the mythology. The second season seemed just as interesting, with a virus threatening to do away with the heroes. But they had to wrap it up sooner than expected, leaving some stories dangling, only to be resolved unsatisfyingly next season. Perhaps Season 3 would have made more sense had Season 2 fully developed, but as is, the third and fourth volumes played far too much with what could happen in the future and not enough with what was happening in the now. I couldn’t even follow how characters’ lives were changing. Not to mention the ridiculous plots of Season 3: Arthur Petrelli marketing a heroes formula and Nathan Petrelli rounding heroes up for jail time. It made no sense. Much too large. Prognosis: What made Heroes’ first season so good was the smallness of everything. These were just normal people realizing their potential. There were no global conspiracies. Just little problems to solve. Season 4 seems to have returned to that, with more of a character focus. But nobody watches anymore.
House — When It Started: Season 5. Symptoms: Too many characters, manufactured relationships, predictability. Diagnosis: It’s a medical mystery procedural. Of course it’s supposed to be predictable. But after 5 seasons, 8 wrong guesses in 55 minutes before stumbling on the right answer becomes a little tiresome. Plus, with all the medical jargon, that part was never the appeal of House. It was the doctor himself, and those around him. But the writers doomed that relationship with viewers by saying Chase, Cameron and Foreman were only on a three-year tour. So things had to change in Season 4. And I loved it initially. The competition to replace them lasted half a season and truly was something different. Add in Wilson, Amber and that great season finale, and it’s my favorite of House. But Season Five tried to play with too many characters, creating unnatural romances between all of them. So when all you have to fall back on is House’s wit and his interactions with Wilson, it just seems tired. Prognosis: Despite the excellent Season Six premiere, this season has just been more of the same, with drawn out stories that don’t concern me…to the point where they actually take away the focus from the patients. I don’t give House a long life expectancy.
Rescue Me — When It Started: Season 4. Symptoms: Lack of show progress, no interesting stories, sudden and inexplicable character death Diagnosis: I loved catching up on Rescue Me over the summer on Hulu. I only go through three seasons before they took it off, though, so I was anxiously anticipating getting the fourth on DVD. And now I’m suddenly tempted to not even bother watching the fifth. It’s the most sudden drop-off I’ve ever experienced. The whole season just seemed to tread water. Touch on Tommy’s relationship with his ex-wife, touch on his feelings for his kid, touch on his alcoholism…but never actually delve into it. The first three seasons all had a concrete progression from beginning to end, not just for him but for all the firefighters. Season Four…I can’t figure out how anything changed. Just a bunch of a little stories. I liked that he was masquerading as his cousin, but that interesting character development was suddenly introduced and just as suddenly resolved. Plus, the idiotic suicide of the Chief. That made no sense and made me think for the first time the writers were just making decisions for the heck of it. Prognosis: I haven’t seen their latest season, but I wish it were the last. I know I saw previews with Tommy and his ex-wife and Sheila. As long as all the same love triangles remain, there’s no hope for this show.