When TV Shows Need to Die

Well, spring finales have come and gone (for the most part), and now we’re left to pick up the pieces. That is, if there are any pieces left to pick up. By now, television networks have decided which shows will continue into the next season, and which will end. And for the most part, we as viewers pray that our show made the cut.

But sometimes, TV shows meet their expiration date. It’s usually better for everyone involved if it ends after the first two seasons. Admit it: there’s been at least one TV show in your life where you’ve prayed to the almighty television gods to smite it down in a flash of character deaths and a series finale.

So when does a show come to its steep decline? Well, it could be during that one moment when you find yourself looking for other ways to have fun while you watch your show. I, for one, know that my show has reached a new low if I open another tab on my browser because I can’t stand watching it anymore. It could be when the producers have nowhere to take the show. They’ve exhausted their plot within one or two seasons and are struggling to keep it going. Or it could be when you start to watch the show, only to laugh at it. You tune in every week with your friends to see just how bad the show can get. That, in my opinion, is when you know a show needs to die.

Let’s take a look at a few examples this season. “Once Upon a Time,” a show I wrote about back in the fall, and for which I previously had high expectations, has now become a show that I cringe at when I watch. There is always someone “crying” or someone scrunching up their face because they’re “feeling.” Any and all dialogue is only there to further the plot or explain plot holes/character motivation. It feels like something a middle schooler would script.

Same goes for “Community.” When a show focuses on a gimmick it initially used as a one-time joke to fuel the season finale, you know that it’s run out of steam. If it consistently uses old gags and jokes blatantly so the fanbase will feel connected to the show, it tires out the show.

And probably the worst of these is “Glee.” I don’t think I need to even say anything about why this show is terrible. It’s just one of those shows that everyone knows has one foot in the grave, but it just won’t die.

All of these shows have run their course. They’ve all reached a point, somewhere along their narrative, where they could have closed the book on things and left with dignity. But instead, producers drag things on and destroy the perfect image of the show that we once had. It’s the perfect struggle that a lot of serials face: do they make something mediocre and run it for as long as they can? Or do they make the best possible story, even if that means it will end almost immediately after it’s begun?

There have been shows that have found that perfect balance, and everyone still remembers them. “Lost” ended its stint about four to five years ago, and it’s still remembered positively, even if it got off track halfway — it found its way back after giving itself a deadline.

Other shows too, like “The Office” or “How I Met Your Mother,” have given themselves that deadline to wrap their stories up, giving us a nice clean cut with the story. If shows gave themselves that deadline from the beginning, then I think we would have much better television to watch, and shows wouldn’t become so painful as often.

So when does a show need to die? I think it comes down to how succinct the show is as a whole. We as audience members know that a show has failed once it starts to thrash around and look for on which ways to continue. When the characters begin explaining themselves and their actions as “He did A, so I did B, that way C could happen,” or when they start to ugly cry every episode to make the audience gain sympathy for them, is when we know the show has spiraled inward. It’s imploded when every joke is a joke it’s made beforehand, and there is no new spin on it.

For shows that have reached that point, I can only hope and pray that they give themselves the decency of one last farewell arc instead of a forced cancellation. Make it clean or make it messy; just end it so we don’t have to think to ourselves, “God, that show was so good during its first two seasons. When did it go downhill?”