Some television shows are just so good that fans want them to stick around forever. Maybe it’s a cast of particularly relatable, compelling characters, or storylines that somehow get better with each passing season, but everyone has at least one programme they wish would never end. Until, of course, season six or seven rolls around. Maybe some of the actors and actresses who played key roles left, or a new writer took the reins and steered those oh-so-compelling plotlines directly off of a cliff.
In simplest terms, some shows just need to end; not necessarily die so much as saunter quietly out to pasture to be remembered for their golden era (or eras). Here are some such shows that could take note of when enough is enough – arguably.
Supernatural started off as a decent show about two brothers who hunted down demons, spirits, and other assorted supernatural creatures in the hope of finding their father (who, on many occasions, was shown to be a generally awful person). The show really hit its stride by season two, with character relationships, an amazing balance of drama and comedy, and some very strong storytelling. In typical formula, there was one major antagonist and many minor ones throughout the season. If Netflix ever switched to a pay-per-episode model, the earlier seasons of Supernatural would bring in the big money; it’s near impossible to not want to see what happens next.
There’s a point when killing a character off only to bring them back later really loses its punch…
What happened, then? There’s a point when killing a character off only to bring them back later really loses its punch. It cheapens each subsequent character death, betrays the fans’ trust, and becomes more of a minor plot inconvenience to help flesh a season out (see also: the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s impressive body count and resurrection rate). Even with new threats each season, Supernatural feels so formulaic at this point that it’s possible to cut and paste a new villain’s name into the previous one’s spot and have a new season. Sam and Dean bicker. Dean sure does love pie and booze. Sam makes for a pretty impressive moral compass. Castiel has a somewhat passable, but almost unchanging knowledge of how to interact with people. Mark Sheppard makes people uncomfortable and amused in a matter of two of Crowley’s lines. And so on. Even when there is some deviation with side characters taking bigger roles, it’s usually only to build viewers up before the writers kill that character off.
What needs to happen, then? Every time Sam, Dean, Castiel, and the happy herd of supporting characters take out one big bad monster, an even bigger and badder one arrives on the scene. Can’t the Winchesters stop the Apocalypse one last time? That isn’t to say they need a happily ever after. This show deserves to go out in a blaze of glory, with Sam, Dean, and every supporting character who might be fodder for a spin-off dying in battle. They go off to a peaceful afterlife, letting other hunters duke it out with the forces of evil, because there’s no way there could be a justifiable happy ending for the characters in Supernatural. Anything beats another round of one brother dying and the other selling their soul at this point.
Grey’s Anatomy arrived to cable after Scrubs and House, MD, and it’s somewhat difficult to admit this but it filled a medical drama niche that the other two didn’t quite occupy. Scrubs had mastered zany comedy with the occasional doses of deeper meaning and serious drama. House, MD had an excellent character drama with dry, well-delivered humour courtesy of Hugh Laurie. Grey’s Anatomy felt like the necessary counter-balance, with some humour but much more drama; a night-time medical soap opera. It focused less on the procedural aspects of hospital life and more on the lives within the hospital (featuring the hospital staff as well as some patients). The writers had a talent for penning heart-wrenching, soul-crushing drama, and so the first few seasons stood out as some very well-done television. This show weathered the writers’ strike, emerging as strong prime-time viewing. It was no House, MD by any means, but it had its own charm. Meredith Grey was, for the most part, a sympathetic character, and it was difficult to not want her to succeed as a doctor while growing as a person.
While interpersonal drama has endless potential, there are only so many ways it can play out…
What happened, then? On-set melodrama happened first, between Isaiah Washington, Patrick Dempsey, and T.R. Knight. Washington was fired from the show, removing one of the major characters. Grey’s Anatomy weathered this expertly, evolving around the changes instead of collapsing from them. The show continued, and gradually lost more cast members to other career paths (or simply not wanting to be part of Grey’s anymore), and each time was an attempt at tugging on heartstrings that felt more and more like pandering. At this point, it seems even some of the most devoted fans are feeling more indifferent toward the show, with each major dramatic moment feeling less like a shocked, sudden intake of breath and more like a long, drawn-out sigh. Meredith is in danger…again? Someone cheated on someone else…again? While interpersonal drama has endless potential, there are only so many ways it can play out on television before it grows stale.
What needs to happen, then? The major players should be given closure. That isn’t to say the show needs to time-jump into the future (please, oh please, don’t do this) when Meredith Grey is either retiring or on her deathbed recounting the good old days. No. As a perfect foil to this show and all of its intensity, these characters all deserve a damn break. A series finale with everyone mostly-happy, continuing along their day-to-day lives with implied potential for tragedy would be the perfect send-off for Grey’s Anatomy. It’s been running since 2006, so it’s about time for it to take its final bow and join the ranks of House and Scrubs (but not 3lbs; poor, poor 3lbs).
This one’s a bit tricky, as Sherlock hasn’t run nearly as long as the other shows listed (unless the time between series releases is included, at which point the forecasted break between series four and five will likely be longer than the history of human existence). Sherlock is a solid title. It started off big and clever and impressive, with series one striking the sort of gold that makes much of BBC’s best programming what it is. The writing was exceptional, the casting was flawless, and the first three episode series just felt fun. Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman went together on screen like peanut butter and jelly. Or fish and chips. Or a hobbit and an enormous, foul-tempered dragon. Andrew Scott entered the mix and the show became even more amazing. Sherlock’s attention to detail and sense of cinematic grandness are what really made its first series fantastic.
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What happened, then? Series two rolled around, and it felt familiar; not in the way seeing an old friend for the first time in ages does so much as waking up to repeat the same day over and over might. Benedict Cumberbatch’s portrayal of Holmes remains largely stagnant. Yes, he develops some bond with Watson, who continues to act as more of a babysitter than a companion to him, but much of how he conducts himself remains the same from episode one onwards. This acts as a deal-breaker, as instead of Sherlock Holmes growing and developing, the rest of the characters seem to just shrug it off as more Sherlock eccentricities. Even in instances where Holmes is off-putting and upsets other characters (on the many occasions he hurt Molly, Lestrade, or Mrs. Hudson, to name but a few), the following scenes seem to have forgotten what just happened and simply move on. There are never any real, lasting consequences for Sherlock’s behavior, with a perfect example being at the end of series three. At this point, it would be less surprising if Sherlock Holmes turned out to be a very unconvincing robot programmed to never really fit in, yet live disguised as a person, than Sherlock just being brilliant and clever and unable to adapt to life around him. The twist at the end of series three smacked of pandering to fans, and “The Abominable Bride” – as good as it was – played out like fan fiction.
What needs to happen, then? Sherlock doesn’t need to end, necessarily, but for it to really merit continuing there has to be some real character growth. In the same way repeating an action with expectations of different results is madness, Sherlock should not be able to continue churning out increments of three very similar episodes while expecting to survive the long-run. Maybe that’s not the plan. However, it seems as though if fans have their way that BBC’s Sherlock will last as long as Moffat feels like throwing out witty one-liners and tongue-in-cheek moments. Johnny Lee Miller and Robert Downey, Jr. both have shown how capable Sherlock Holmes is, as a character of growth and development. It’s time Benedict Cumberbatch (and the writers of Sherlock) either do the same or hang up the proverbial deerstalker for good.
By Phil Gorski