Dropped Shows

There comes a time when a television show does one of a number of things: (a) ends, (b) changes direction, (c) gets routine and boring. When a show ends, one hopes it's on a high note, leaving people wanting more while simultaneously understanding that giving them too much of a good thing will only leave them so full they're sick. When it gets routine and boring, well, that speaks for itself. More of the same each week, and a lot of people might continue to tune in, but eventually a lot of people will tune out.

Changing direction, meanwhile, is tricky. Because the change can be for the better. Or it can be for the worse.

After a few years on the air, networks will sometimes come to a show whose ratings are beginning to flag and say, "Let's change it up a bit." Collective groan from writers and show runners. (It's worse when someone at the network has "an idea" about how to change things.)

The flip side of this might be when, even if the show is doing well in the ratings, the writers and show runners are starting to feel stuck and decide for themselves to change things . . .

Either way, it can be dicey.

Two shows I used to love made some major changes recently, and I've since dropped them from my must-see-TV list. Bones is one. I love the ensemble cast, the characters' quirks, the great dialogue and chemistry between the actors. But then everyone started having babies. And while I can understand the desire to move away from crime-of-the-week stylings and plumb the depths of various relationships on the show, I just found I couldn't care any more. Brennan having the baby in "the manger" was the last straw. Too over the top. I cut the show from my schedule.

The other show is Mad Men. Don Draper was a very interesting and complex character, dark and trying to find his happy. And then he found it. Her name is Megan. And Don Draper as happily married is just not compelling to me. And trying to fill in with other characters' issues doesn't do it for me, either. I like Peggy, sure, and Roger is a riot, but the supporting cast doesn't quite carry the show. I watched the first four episodes of this season and decided not to waste any more time.

A few seasons ago, I felt the same way about House. Right around the time he and Cuddy started to be an item, I just couldn't stomach watching any longer. House is a show that could have benefitted from some big changes, but not the kinds they made with the rotating interns and the on-and-off romances. No, see, they should have stuck with House and Wilson sharing a living space and turned it into a dramedy from that angle. That would have been hilarious. I'd have watched it forever.

Some shows are smart enough to quit while they're ahead. J Michael Straczynski knew he wanted Babylon 5 to be five seasons long. He had it planned out. It struggled at first but gained a core audience. But when asked to extend the show, JMS said no. He knew better than to wear out his welcome. He'd told the story he'd wanted to tell. B5 was like a novelization on TV, and it was perfect.

I read somewhere that Matthew Weiner plans to finish up Mad Men over three seasons (this and two more). I hope for his sake that he plans as well as JMS did. From what I watched this season, everything seemed to have been slowed down so that the show feels like it's being stretched at the neck and strangled.

So now that Bones and Mad Men are off my schedule, what do I watch?

  • Smash
  • Modern Family (though it hasn't been in top form, so it's on my personal bubble)
  • 30 Rock (probably good, though, that next season will be its last, as it's running on fumes)
  • The Office (also not so funny lately, but loving Catherine Tate)
  • Sherlock and Doctor Who (when in season)
We had been watching Grimm for a while as well, but after a big cross-country move, we just didn't care enough to go back and catch up. And we're in temporary housing, so without HBO we haven't had a chance to see this season of Game of Thrones yet but intend to catch up as soon as possible.

For the first time in a long while, then, I'm looking forward to a new crop of television options come summer/fall. Upfronts have created buzz for things like Elementary (another modern-day Sherlock Holmes) and a host of others whose names I can't remember, and I don't have a copy of Variety at hand. Sort of at an out-with-the-old point as far as television is concerned . . .