Top 10 Shows That Overstayed Their Welcome
There are only so many times one man can save the world in the span of 24 hours. And there are only so many ticking time bombs an audience can take. After eight seasons of fighting terrorists in “real” time, Jack Bauer is retiring … at least from TV. Fox has canceled 24, and the last episode (the final hour) will air later this year, though plans are in the making for a big-screen version.
The popular action series, which took off when George W. Bush was in the White House and meets its demise during the Obama Administration, attracted both viewers and controversy. While Counter Terrorist Unit agent Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) excelled at torturing the truth out of fictional bad guys, his lack of nuance doesn’t quite mesh with the current attitude toward interrogation. Indeed, in Season 7, the conflicted hero testified before Congress about his harsh tactics. Despite that overly strained attempt at topicality, the show’s nadir probably arrived in Season 6, when the show’s creators detonate a nuclear bomb in Los Angeles and Jack discovers that his father (who kills Jack’s brother and then kidnaps Jack’s nephew) is involved in the plot.
If you have any gripes about reality TV, blame Survivor. In 2000, the show popularized the genre that turned “real people” into television stars. The concept behind Survivor was revolutionary: take a group of unknown amateurs, drop them onto a deserted island and offer $1 million to whoever is able to both mentally and physically best all competitors. It was obvious that the concept was a viable one: the first-season finale garnered 51.7 million viewers. So CBS, of course, repeated it, twice a year, for 10 years. But 20 seasons later, the concept that once felt so original and fresh now seems stale. After all, once you’ve seen Amber and Rob get engaged, been confronted with naked Richard and witnessed Team Pagong noshing on a rat, what else is there? Besides, haven’t they run out of deserted islands by now?
At the Movies
It wasn’t just a television show but the emergence of a whole new TV genre. When At The Movies went syndicated in 1982, with Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel as hosts, the notion of a weekly movie-review TV show took hold. But in 1986, Siskel and Ebert left the show after a dispute arose with Tribune Entertainment. They were replaced by Rex Reed and Bill Harris, and the show continued through 1990.
Much later, in 2007, At the Movies was rebooted as At the Movies with Ebert & Roeper. When Ebert suffered complications following cancer surgery that left him unable to speak, Richard Roeper went forward with an array of guest hosts. Turbulent contract negotiations resulted in both Ebert and Roeper walking away from the program in 2008, taking the trademarked thumbs with them. In their absence, Ben Mankiewicz and the widely panned Ben Lyons stepped in as hosts for a single year before being replaced by Chicago Tribune critic Michael Phillips and New York Times critic A.O. Scott.
It was recently announced that Aug. 14 would be the last episode of At the Movies, an announcement that surprised few fans. After all, this was Siskel and Ebert’s show — people knew their names better than the actual name of the program — and when you took away one (or both), At the Movies just wasn’t the same. “RIP, ‘At The Movies,’ ” Ebert tweeted the day that news of the show’s cancellation broke. “Memories.”
The phrase jump the shark refers to the very moment when something that was once good turns completely ridiculous. It originated with Happy Days, specifically in the Season 5 episode in which the Fonz literally jumps over a shark while wearing water skis and his trademark leather jacket. It’s difficult to appreciate just how absurd this scene actually is until you watch it. It’s like an outtake from a bad ’60s surf movie. The show lasted more than half a decade more, in which time Richie (Ron Howard) departed and Scott Baio joined the show as Chachi, Fonzie’s younger cousin. While Chachi and his gal Joanie kept the show afloat for several of those years (and eventually starred in their own spin-off), it was clear that the early, warmly nostalgic seasons were truly a thing of the past.
Before there were Grey’s Anatomy, House and Scrubs, there was ER. The show that made George Clooney a star (thank you!), goes down in history as the longest-running medical drama ever, with a record 15 seasons. After its September 1994 debut, the show achieved massive popularity, ranking at the top of the Nielsens for many of its early years and garnering more than 40 million viewers at its peak. Key word there: peak. The cast members came and went almost as often as patients do in an actual emergency room (Noah Wyle was the only star who stuck around for the entire run), and viewers found it hard to hang on after each departure. NBC should have taken a lesson from those stars and said goodbye before the show flatlined.
America’s Funniest Home Videos
Yes, this show is still on. America’s Funniest Home Videos was the original YouTube. Beginning in 1989 and starring comedian and Full House star Bob Saget, who cracked corny jokes in between videos, the show was a bona fide hit (about 38 million viewers per episode in its prime), with awkward videos of hilarious children, stunts gone wrong and animals doing cute and amazing things. But when Saget left in 1997, the show became simply AFV and changed hosts to Daisy Fuentes and John Fugelsang, and later Tom Bergeron. Though it still brought in a surprising 7 million weekly viewers in 2010, we’ve probably seen enough wedding-day bloopers for this lifetime.
We realize it’s nigh on blasphemous to defame The Simpsons. We did, after all, put it on our list of the 100 Best TV Shows of All Time. It is, after all, the longest-running sitcom in history. It is, after all, one of the most affecting portraits of a family ever aired on television. But anything that has existed for that long is bound to suffer a decline in quality. And so it has been with The Simpsons, which has aired on Fox for more than 20 years. The common line is that it has moved away from stories in favor of absurd comedy, that it has turned its once vibrant characters into caricatures, that it has sold its soul for the many guest stars it showcases every season (see Bob Costas, above). And while 2007’s The Simpsons Movie reminded viewers why they fell in love with Homer, Marge, Bart, Maggie and Lisa in the first place, the show itself has fallen deep in the ratings. Reliable and familiar should not equal immortal.
That ’70s Show
On Aug. 23, 1998, Fox took a trip back to the disco era with its premiere of That ’70s Show. The series brought Eric Forman (Topher Grace) and his five cannabis-loving friends from a smoke-filled Wisconsin basement to America’s living rooms. The supporting characters — played by then relatively unknown actors Grace, Ashton Kutcher, Mila Kunis, Wilmer Valderrama, Danny Masterson and Laura Prepon — fulfilled every “Me Decade” cliché. They sported polyester, adored Zeppelin and, of course, hated “the Man.”
While That 70’s Show experienced steadily high ratings in its first six seasons, viewership dropped to 7 million in 2004-05. The two biggest names (Grace and Kutcher) left the series before its final season to pursue film careers, though the cast reunited in the final episode, appropriately set on the eve of 1980. After eight years of doing the same old thing they did last week, That ’70s Show ended on May 18, 2006.
The popular ’80s romantic dramedy made stars of Bruce Willis and Cybill Shepherd, who played David Addison and Maddie Hayes, partners at the Blue Moon detective agency. While the show’s early years clicked with those obsessed with the pair’s “will they, won’t they” sexual tension, viewer popularity waned quickly after the two inexplicably consummated their relationship in Season 3. The show eventually limped through a Season 5 that wasn’t even in Nielsen’s top 30.
The Real World
MTV’s The Real World has spent the past 17 years testing the chemistry among groups of coed strangers from various backgrounds living together in different cities. It has also attempted to answer the age-old question, What happens when people stop being polite and start getting real? You saw that one coming.
In its early days, The Real World was championed for testing social limits by spotlighting then taboo topics: story lines featuring an HIV-positive housemate, a cast member contemplating abortion and various racially driven conflicts drew critical acclaim. But after 23 seasons, the show has encountered a fair share of criticism for focusing on ratings-friendly roommate hookups and drunken shenanigans. But regardless of how mixed reactions to the show have been, don’t count on it going away anytime soon. MTV has confirmed that the reality stalwart has been renewed for at least three more seasons.