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Lessons I've Learned From T.V.: Quit while you're ahead

Staff Writer

Published: Sunday, February 9, 2014

Updated: Sunday, February 9, 2014 21:02

A big problem we often see on television is a show overstaying its welcome. While a lot of shows are forced to end prematurely for one reason or another, we more often see the other problem where high ratings and greedy networks force longer seasons and more of them in order to keep a popular show on air. We are currently witnessing this in CBS’s “How I Met Your Mother.” I suppose, given the nature of the show, its ending has been long overdue, but the sitcom was so well written and funny that fans didn’t really care if they ever met the mother or not. After approaching last season as if it were the final one, CBS struck an expensive deal to keep the show on air for one more season. How has this affected the show? By forcing the audience to watch a 24 episode season take place in the course of a weekend where each episode is usually an hour or two and is just some random and ridiculous shenanigan occurring before the big wedding. After a few episodes, it became so repetitive and unnecessary that it began to annoy me, even if I am still laughing.

Another show that went on just a bit too long was “Lost.” Fans will recall that ABC originally refused to give the writers an end date although they argued the show needed one in order to progress toward an end. How did the writers respond to this? They began writing ridiculously awful episodes for the sake of wasting time. One infamously awful episode showed a flashback of how Jack got his tattoos which contributed absolutely nothing to the show or its mythology. After this, ABC finally decided to give them an end date a few seasons away and the show’s quality increased, although it did still go on a bit too long. It’s a shame we don’t see many more writers with this kind of courage.

Recently, AMC’s ‘Breaking Bad’ concluded. Rumor has it, both the network and an executive at Dreamworks offered the show’s creator a substantial amount of money to continue the show and then to extend the final season, but they were both declined. Whether or not this is the full true story, this is the kind of trend we should see more of in television. “Breaking Bad” not only ended perfectly, but at the right length. While fans were sad to see it go, did anybody really want to sit through another five seasons of Walt fighting cancer and battling drug dealers before it finally caught up with him? I could imagine another one or two before it lost substance.

Unfortunately, we don’t see this much integrity for shows in other production teams. While funny, “How I Met Your Mother” is long overdue for an ending which is bound to be anticlimactic anyway in that we have already been given excess hints of who the mother is, and how they meet, in order to keep us watching. While the show has overstayed its welcome, we should be happy that it probably will still end better than “Dexter.”

 

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