We recently took a look on the Scoop at programmes we considered were cancelled prematurely (see here). These beloved televisual treats are gone but not forgotten, and yet in their stead we get the same shows over and over again. If sometimes TV bosses are too quick to call time on a show, does it follow that they could also be too generous and indulgent with others?
They might claim they’re providing us with what we want, but there are many occasions when we find we no longer want it anymore. Shows lose their way, crucial cast members leave and what was once so fresh and exciting becomes tired and stale. It’s time to point fingers, take numbers and get heavy with those shows that over-stayed their welcome.
I was a big fan of Cheers and so when that passed on to TV heaven, I transferred my love and affection to the spin-off show Frasier. For what was essentially a minor character for many seasons of Cheers, Frasier Crane didn’t seem like an obvious choice to base a new show on, but it proved to be a very smart decision. Frasier won award after award, the critics loved it, audiences loved it and the stuffy Crane brothers, their down-to-earth father Martin and his live-in physical therapist Daphne Moon proved to be a winning comic formula. This was until the will-they-won’t-they sexual tension between Niles and Daphne was resolved, with the couple getting married. Happy endings are always best saved until the climax of a show, not of a show’s single season and so in one single stroke Frasier’s best quality was gone. The jokes were still funny, the characters still engaging but Frasier should have finished with the “I do’s.”
4) Beverly Hills 90210
Maybe it is hard for TV bosses to appreciate when their young fans have moved on to telly programmes new. I doubt many crusty suits tuned in to 90210 at its best, let alone when the wheels were coming off. A glitzy, glamourous, shamelessly unrealistic look at students at the West Beverly Hills High School, 90210 was a typical Aaron Spelling production. It made teen heart-throbs out of stars Luke Perry and Jason Priestley, while Shannon Doherty became the notorious bad-girl of the tabloids. Where 90210 had succeeded was in its issue-led storylines, where it failed was in its evolution into a bland, character-led soap. The star names left, the show followed the high school students to university (never an easy transition) and the whole concept of outsiders in Hollywood was forgotten. Shannon Doherty might not have been the Katherine Hepburn of teen TV but she was streaks ahead of Tori Spelling, promoted seemingly in the absence of everyone else. When a bit-part actress only making up the numbers because her daddy signs the cheques, assumes centre stage, you know it’s time for the fat lady to start warming up.
3) Happy Days
Everyone, absolutely everyone has seen Happy Days. It’s impossible not to fall in love with the gentle humour, fond nostalgia and cute family dynamic of the Cunninghams and their lodger, the smooth operator Arthur Fonzarelli. Happy Days sadly lost its magic when cast members began to leave. Richie, the wide-eyed innocent who had been the chief protagonist throughout the show’s run, as played by now Hollywood director Ron Howard, left and his replacement Roger was but a pale imitation. Leaving at the same time as Richie was comic side-kick Ralph Malph and as the show progressed without these former favourites the focus shifted onto Chachi and Joanie. The show lasted for 255 episodes and by the end, was sadly a shadow of its former self.
2) Dawson’s Creek
Katie Holmes has now been appointed baby-maker for Tom Cruise (in case you’ve been living under a stone and weren’t aware), while former Creeker Michelle Williams has hooked up with her Brokeback Mountain co-star Heath Ledger. But away from tabloid headlines, the girls were once famous for playing tomboy Joey Potter and reformed slut Jen Lindley respectively in Dawson’s Creek. The teen drama focused on the growing pains of film-lover Dawson (him from the title) and his motley crew of chums, including slacker Pacey. At its peak, DC was the IT programme for angsty adolescents but when the characters left the Creek for college and other adventures, things began to slide. All cohesion was lost with the various locations and when once we had been told to root for the Dawson/Joey romance, now we were forced to accept the Pacey/Joey coupling. In contrast to his friends, Dawson had always enjoyed a stable home-life, but with the death of his father, another building block of DC’s success was chipped away. New characters failed to re-capture the energy of past favourites and like Dawson’s confusion over his future in film, so we, the audience found ourselves alienated from the show. Dawson’s Creek lasted for six seasons, it should have ended after four.
1) The X-Files
I know that I’m sticking my oh-so-pretty neck out on this one, but please hear me out. During its peak, nothing could touch The X-Files. It had dark humour, a will-they-won’t-they love saga and production values to knock your socks off. The sci-fi/supernatural yarn came to define drama in the ‘90s and even spawned a song from flavour-of-the-month Britpoppers Catatonia. Girls lusted over the laconic David Duchovny, while lads wanted to see if Scully had anything saucy underneath all those preppy suits. A Hollywood movie followed, but in keeping with the show’s famous slogan, we learned to ‘trust no-one’, not even X-Files creator Chris Carter who failed to pull the plug on his show when he should have. As the seasons drifted on, Duchovny’s contribution became negligible and rather than draw things to a neat ending, the show limped on with Robert Patrick assuming the male lead. When Scully’s future became less certain, Annabeth Gish was introduced, but the two original characters hung on in there. Other popular features such as the Smoking Man and the long-standing plot with Mulder’s sister were resolved years before the show ended, which with the low ratings at the show’s eventual demise prompt the question: why did it go on so long?