Thursday, May 28, 2009

Leaving on a high note?

Last week, we discussed what shows we might have saved from cancellation if we had my allegedly mighty "Chuck"-saving abilities (along with the power to travel through time). 200 comments in, Film Cricket made this observation:
Mostly, though, I'd use my time-traveling TV powers to end shows that dragged on beyond their Best Before date (I guess in the hope that newer, better things would be programmed?): "Friends," "Seinfeld," "The X-Files," "Heroes," "ER," etc.
And that leads to this week's question for you all: what one show would you end prematurely to preserve its genius, and when? More thoughts, including my own pick, coming right up...

There's something to be said for watching your favorite show as long as you can, regardless of how much the quality dips, but there's also something to be said for a show like "Freaks and Geeks," which did 18 episodes and then went away while our memories of it were still perfect. As George Costanza learned, sometimes you're better off saying, "That's it for me!" and walking out while your audience is still happy.

Once upon a time, I would have used a show-canceling power on "Friday Night Lights" after the first season finale, particularly after how the second season began, but then parts of the third season were so great that I'm glad the show continued, even if we had to suffer through The Unfortunate Incident of the Beer Bottle in the Nighttime.

So my pick would be "Homicide: Life on the Street," probably at the end of the third season, or at most midway through the fourth season (after the introduction of Kellerman, plus "Doll's Eyes," but before we met Dr. Julianna Cox). The longer "Homicide" ran, the less resemblance it had to the show I fell in love with. The cases became more hyperbolic (snipers! arson! eeeeeeeeevil drug lords!), the new characters were for the most part more attractive but vastly less interesting than the ones they replaced, Andre Braugher clearly started to get bored (and then left), etc., etc. I'd rather not have my memories of "Homicide" clouded by the likes of Falsone, Rene Sheppard and Luther Mahoney, you know?

What would be your choice, when and why? I don't want this to just be a Jump the Shark thread -- the show in question could have just become less good without putting the Fonz on waterskis, or without letting a Sherman-Palladino or Sorkin walk out the door.

186 comments:

Otto Man said...

I'd also pick "Homicide," but I'd cut things off after the end of the Mahoney story arc. That was one I actually enjoyed quite a bit.

Stollak said...

NYPD Blue went bad (for me) after Jimmy Smits died; the suffering that Andy Sipowicz went through became too much to take

YAA said...

Frasier cut last few seasons.
Buffy cut last season.
Sopranos keep the first 2 (possibly 3rd)

BF said...

NewsRadio could have ended right after the "Bill Moves On" episode. Of course, if we're altering the space-time continuum, I'd rather prevent Phil Hartmann's death.

Anonymous said...

Interestingly, the first show that comes to mind is Ugly Betty, which is odd because it was never one of my favourite shows. Having said that, the first season was thoroughly enjoyable fluff. It was a little different, with some entertaining (over)acting. I wish it had ended there, because from the second season onwards it got really boring fast.

Lizbeth said...

Scrubs...

I know the show had sort of creative resurgence this season, but I can't believe it's coming back for YET another FINAL season.

Time to turn off the life-support. Let it die.

King Killer Dave said...

I would have killed Six Feet Under after the second season, or maybe after the third season premiere. It just became so overwrought and self-aware. I know a lot of people who loved the series finale, but I thought it was obvious, and more of a Toyota Prius commercial than anything else.

Sonia said...

Definitely ER. NYPD Blue went on a bit long. MASH -- if only for the fact that I really don't think anyone was in Korea THAT long...LOL

rhamilton said...

I'd still pick Friday Night Lights, I guess. The third season wasn't awful, I guess, but in my opinion most of the highlights were recapitulations of themes from the first season. In general I'm a little skeptical of a show's ability to regroup after a bad turn, because the strategy for doing so is so often to "get back" to what made the show good, instead of trying to cover new, interesting territory.

I don't really mind when shows get bad rather than ending, though. I don't think later seasons tarnish earlier ones by existing, and bad shows that used to be good are often some of the most interesting studies in what separates good from bad television

Tara said...

I would've only ended ER one season early. If it had ended before season 14, we wouldn't have been treated to the weekly acting clinic that Maura Tierney put on in every episode - particularly in "Blackout." Each time I go back and watch that episode, I still can't wrap my mind around the fact that she didn't get an Emmy - or even a nomination - for such a perfect performance.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Remember: I want a specific end point, folks.

Yet another anonymous said...

*shamefaced* I have only caught dribs and drabs of Homicide. Still meaning to see it from the beginning.

I love these kinds of questions, Alan. Agree with the comments thus far (definitely X-Files)

I'll go for West Wing - I appreciated the resurgence at the last season, but those first three seasons were just spectacular, and I think a case could be made for having the show end during re-election.

Going very far back, and pretty randomly, I wish there was never an "Archie's Place."

Too early for me to come up with more right this second; looking forward to reading the other replies.

Todd said...

The X-Files, after the first movie. There are a lot of episodes I like in season six and a handful I like in season seven, but if they had used that movie to wrap up the storyline (see, now I'm rewriting history), it would have gone down as an all-time great.

James said...

I'd end Battlestar Galactica just before that appalling finale.

Would rather have had it like that, than have to endure that tosh they came up with to end it.

Andrew said...

The Simpsons after season 8. The 8th season was the transition between the period where the vast majority of episodes were brilliant with a few clunkers to the period of a few brilliant episodes amidst many weaker ones. So even though the show has continued on for another 12 years, it's really those first 8 that are the basis for the show's reputation for quality humor.

Michael said...

Yeah I say Buffy should have finished at the end of season 5 (She saved the world. A lot.)

And Red Dwarf should have called it a day at the end of series 6.

Agreed on the Simpsons but didn't know which season so I'm guessing you're right Andrew.

My Name is Earl was only fresh for about 2 seasons, 3 tops.

I also suspect Dexter should end now, whilst the going is good but then I'm starting to break the rules of this post and for that, apologies Alan.

Carrie said...

I just started watching Homicide via Netflix and am enjoying it greatly. I guess I know when I need to quit watching! ;)

My pick is lame, I fully admit -- and the show I would select is not "genius" by any means...but I would like to end Dawson's Creek on the third season finale with Pacey and Joey sailing into the sunset. The show just got less and less interesting (who knew it was possible?) as they dragged it on. However -- I would like to cheat and still be allowed to keep the episode "Castaways" from season six and the series finale, even though they would make no sense in the context of ending the show after season three.

Phil said...

Buffy after the third season finale. Season 4 had some good episodes (Hush) and Seasons 5-7 had one or two a season. But nothing could match the writing and character development of the first 3 seasons. Life just seemed to go to Hell after high school.

David said...

X-Files after Mulder was abducted.

Anonymous said...

I'd end Beverly Hills 90210 at the end of season four, just as Brenda leaves for England. The last scene of her going to Dylan's for one last hook-up would be the last we'd ever hear from those kids and we'd be saved from six seasons of watching St. Kelly and her bitchface rule.

Tony Dayoub said...

Twin Peaks should have ended after we found out that ****** was the killer. Notice I say WE found out. It was an episode directed by Lynch in which Agent Cooper arrests the wrong person for the murder, and then goes to the Road House and gets the intuition that he was wrong.

The haunting song sung by Julee Cruise at the Road House; the fact that it not only played over the final scene, but over the end credits as well; the atypical shot of Cooper's haunted face over the end credits; the delicious irony that Agent Cooper who had been set up as a Super-Detective a la Sherlock Holmes, yet failed to get the right perpetrator; all of these made for good indicators that the show should wrap up.

Yes, it would have made a lot of Peakers angry (including myself), but in hindsight... it seemed much more fitting than the road the show went down after that.

Anonymous said...

Ally McBeal after season 2. The first 2 seasons were great. If it had ended then people would talk about it like Arrested Development as one of the great canceled before its time shows of the last decade.

Buffy after season 5.

Scrubs after season 5.

Dan said...

My pick would be "24" and I would have ended it after season 5. Seasons 1-5 for me were absolutely great TV. Every season was edge-of-your-seat intense and while the plots were always a bit far-fetched, they still worked.

Now I realize that season 5 ended with Jack being taken by the Chinese, so it would have been hard to end there without explanation. But I still think seasons 6 and 7 did nothing but taint a great series.

Laura said...

I would have liked to see "The West Wing" minus seasons five and six (and the latter half of four). The seventh season definitely redeemed the series and acted as a nice end point, but before John Wells got a handle on the characters, things were a mess.

But since that doesn't *technically* answer the question, here are my real answers:

"Buffy" after season three (save the musical episode, "Once More With Feeling"), "ER" after season five, "Will & Grace" before Dr. Leo Markus took over (season five, I think?), and "Grey's Anatomy" after season three.

My #1, though: I would have killed "Dexter" (pun, sorry) at the end of the second season. The first two seasons of that show were pitch-perfect, and they had to go mess everything up with the pregnancy and Jimmy Smits. Ugh.

Jennifer said...

I'd say Alias and Felicity. I know everyone thinks J.J. Abrams is some Hollywood god now but those two shows really went downhill after great first seasons.

Piscine said...

Andrew is completely right about The Simpsons. Whereas I'm an apologist and even include a lot of seasons nine and ten in the "classic era," the more acceptable answer for a lot of fans is season eight. And anything post-season 11 is all but unwatchable unless you never knew how good the show was before that.

Anonymous said...

I would end Battlestar Galacta after the episode "Collaborators". I think that was the last episode where that series really made sense as a cohesive whole. From then on out the plotting was significantly worse, there was a lot more empty space, and the ultimate resolution was intensely unsatisfying.

But from the miniseries to the New Caprica arc, BSG was maybe the best show ever on TV.

-DamnYankees

filmcricket said...

Wow, I'm so flattered I inspired a question!

I absolutely agree with Andrew on S8 of "The Simpsons." Perfectly phrased encapsulation of that year, too.

And I'd have put Ross and Rachel back together when Emma was born and have ended "Friends" right there. I know that storyline kept getting dragged out because it was always up in the air until the last minute whether the cast was going to come back or not, but the whole thing just got ridiculous and the show unfunny after that.

Kevin said...

The first three seasons of "Ed" were great, the last one blew goats.

Cindy McLennan said...

For current shows, I'd end How I Met Your Mother after this upcoming fifth season. It's still largely delightful. I still love the characters. I so want them to finish this love story told in reverse this coming year, take a bow and leave on a high point.

Tosy And Cosh said...

Roseanne after season, let's say 5. I maintain that no show evidenced a greater differential in quality than Roseanne - that first season is an all-time great TV Season, just genius, and the last is as bad as TV gets.

l.b. weighs in said...

Northern Exposure with the first episode of the last season, where Joel drinks the magic orange juice and sees what life could have been for him.

sc said...

while I agree that NYPD Blue should have ended after Jimmy Smits died, I would say that Entourage should have gone away possibly after Season 2, and DEFINITELY after Season 3...when it came out, it was different, fresh, and even though I still watch every week, I end up asking myself why?

John said...

I totally disagree that Seinfeld went on too long. Season 9 contains many of the most bizzare and off the rails genius episodes of the entire series. Kramer in particular is on another level. Come on...Merv Griffrin, the Slicer, Butter Shave...incredible stuff. As for the finale I thought it was great. It really made the audience think about whether it was ok to "like" these characters. As for a show I'd end...90210 was a guilty pleasure but it just sucked after they graduated from college..esp. after Brandon left.

Michael said...

I would choose to end Oz after the first half of the fourth season (when Said killed Adabesi).

If I recall correctly, this was intended to conclude the Series but then Fontana & HBO decided to do another half of season 4 and 2 additional seasons, which became completely ridiculous and made the show a caricature of itself.

Robert said...

I agree with anonymous about BSG ending after collaborators. It wasn't the same after that. The S3 finale was good but the slow movement up to it wasn't worth it. S4 was just weird, although the 4.0 finale was good. The only exception that I'm extremely thankful aired would be the mutiny 2-parter, which I would rather exist as a movie or something. It was all downhill once the show switched from into full-steam-ahead finding earth.

I would also end Grey's Anatomy after S3. Completely downhill after that.

Todd said...

Carrie, I v. much enjoyed Homicide most of the way through (I think only the last season is kind of sucktastic). Don't let Alan get you down!

BF said...

According to Jim: at the pitch meeting?

Anonymous said...

"The Unfortunate Incident of the Beer Bottle in the Nighttime" - I've watched every FNL episode, but can't catch this reference - could someone clue me in?

Ben said...

Scrubs; for sure now after that strong supposed series finale and probably after around Season six when J.D. became more fantasy then reality.

Carlos said...

FNL after season 1 is a layup.

But Cheers when Dianne left is the slam dunk. Went from arguably the best sitcom ever (easy top 5 pick) w/ Dianne to absolutely unwatchable w/ Rebecca.

I'm not generally one of these purists / "you can tell all you need to know about someone by their taste in ___" kind of people, BUT, how one feels about the Dianne vs. Rebecca Cheers is a pretty good litmus test.

Dan said...

Prison Break after season 2 (the manhunt thing was fine), Red Dwarf after series 6 (when both creators were still friends and were actually focused on making it funny), Quantum Leap somewhere around season 3, X-Files after season 6 (no show should go beyond 7 seasons, really), and both Twin Peaks and Heroes should have been mini-series.

Amy said...

I would've ended both Gilmore Girls and Scrubs after their 5th seasons. How are you really going to top Turk dancing and lip synching to "Poison"? You're just not.

Danny said...

@Anonymous: think murder.

My picks would be Buffy after s5 and Alias after s2.

Stuart Thorniley said...

Buffy after the season 5 finale credits rolled. Perfect finale, very emotional and the last time I feel like the characters Joss created were still present (funny Xander, check, Cute Willow with that fire hidden just underneath, check, Giles being an excellent father figure and mentor showing his dark side in that moment with Ben, Spike not yet annoying, check... I could go on and on).

If that was where the show ended I'd have fonder memories. If not, perhaps Battlestar after the first half of the finale... I don't feel like I can recommend the show to people any more after the lack of answers in the second half.

The Wire before season 5, the show just lost its way, its reality, the realistic characters from the start of that season. I'm still not over how bad that final season was because its tainted the rest of the show for me to an extent (though just started the season 2 rewatch and it IS magnificent).

Anonymous said...

I second Otto Man's decision to end Homicide after the Luther Mahoney arc, BF's decision to end NewsRadio after "Bill Moves On," Todd's decision to end the X-Files after the first movie (assuming the movie would then have done sufficient wrap-up work), and Andrew's decision to end The Simpsons after season 8.

That about covers it, I think, as far as my all-time favorite network shows go.

Mostly I am just posting because I like the third, fourth, and fifth seasons of Homicide, and want to encourage new viewers to stick with it in spite of Alan's decision. Sure, almost every case turns into an insane red ball, but there's still a lot of genius going on.

Anonymous said...

Alan, just curious what the asterisk in the paragraph about Homicide pertains to... Looks like you might have left something out. Love the blog!

Nicole said...

I agree with ending Buffy after season five, and ending 90210 when Brenda left. General rule: End the teen shows once they graduate _ I'll be curious to see what happens with Gossip Girl.

Grey's Anatomy should have actually let Meredith die after the ferry accident, and end the show there. I've stopped watching since that point anyway, but I've yet to be told there was anything worth watching beyond that point.

Smallville should have ended when Lex left the show.

Anthony Strand said...

The Simpsons and Gilmore Girls (after seasons 8 and 5, respectively) were the first things to come to mind, but then I realized what my actual answer would be -

All in the Family after season 5, the point at which Mike & Gloria move into the Jeffersons' old house. The show was never the same. Season 6 was all right (if tired) and it just got worse from there. By season 9, of course, it was a painful thing about Archie's adorable niece. Those first five are among the best seasons of any sitcom ever. If they were all that existed, it would be just about perfect.

In that sense, I'm glad the DVD releases seem to have stopped with season six. There's very little evidence of the decline preserved for posterity.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Alan, just curious what the asterisk in the paragraph about Homicide pertains to...

I honestly have no idea, nor any recollection of inserting the asterisk. Hmm...

Tom said...

M*A*S*H after season 5, when Frank leaves. I think the show suffered a bit when Blake and Trapper left after season 3, as well, but with Frank went the comedic center of the show. The characters just couldn't play off of Winchester the same way. Also, as the show went on, all of the characters became nicer and more competent, which sapped a lot of the life out of the show. The moralizing and didactic nature of the later seasons would have been less onerous if the characters were still dysfunctional and essentially mean to one another. (That sounds like a strange thing to say - "I wish my favorite shows had nasty people in them" - but it's what gave M*A*S*H its edge.)

And as another commentator noted, it starts to get a little jarring to watch actors age over a decade during a war that lasted three years.

Zohar said...

I would end Entourage after Ari got fired. It was not the greatest show, I but it was still entertaining at that point, and finishing off then would have been a nice conclusion to the Business vs. Pleasure theme.

Also, the comment about Oz was spot on.

Splenda said...

I would have ended the West Wing with Bartlet being re-elected. Of course, in my universe, instead of facing Sorkin's Bush strawman stand-in, Bartlet would have faced someone more akin to Vinick or Walken (Goodman's character). But I would have Bartlet's second inauguration be the series finale.

Joe Beach said...

Jumping on the bandwagon of folks saying Buffy should have ended after Season 5. The UPN years were just... not good. (Exception being the musical episode)

And Heroes would've been just great had it been a one-season wonder.

Geo said...

Felicity before the last bizarre time-traveling eps of Season 4.

Srpad said...

A lot of shows such as Fraiser and Scrubs had a creative slump but rebounded which would preclude me from including them because I don't want to sacrifce the stufff I liked. A couple that fell from grace and kept falling:

Ally McBeal: around season 2 or 3ish. Whenever it started getting overly weird and painful to watch.

The Practice: When they slash and burned the cast to cut costs and set up the spin off

The Sopranos: about 30 seconds before the end. Yeesh.

The X-Files of course. Probably when they moved the production to LA. The show lost something at that point.

Joan of Arcadia. Enjoyed the first season. Just the first season.

Sliders. After the first two seasons maybe...such wasted potential.

That's a few off the top of my head.

Anonymous said...

West Wing: End it after Season Two Finale. Because the show would have ended on a feel-good note with the President taking his chance for re-election after coming to terms with his emotional loss. We don't need to know if the President wins or not. Only that he has the will to try, which he could have easily lost if it wasn't for his ghostly encounter before the "Brothers in Arms" part.

Stargate SG-1: End it after Threads, which would have given the show a satyisfying sense of closure with the end of Anubis and the Replicators, the possibility of Jack and Sam finally getting together now they are single again and more aware of their more than friendly feelings for each other, the mysteries of Daniel's time as an Ascended being resolved, and the Jaffa being given the chance to form their own nation free of the Goa'uld. Also the last scene of them fishing together brings us back to the fact that, by the end of the day, they are more than a team. They're friends. They're family. Seasons 9 and 10 ruin the show for me.

Entourage: End it after Season Two finale. Because the show went increasingly downhill after that with Vince becoming more of a douchebag, Eric and Sloane breaking up, the Drama character getting tiresome, the Turtle character losing his direction after he suddenly no longer became a rap manager, and when I lost my patience with the whole cycle of them sleeping with women, getting high, and busting Drama's balls all the time.

Oz: End it after Season One with the riot. Because Season One was a mostly solid season and future seasons after that were a bit shaky, especially Season Six which had a character or characters die every episode without any room to breathe.

Doctor Who: End it after Doomsday with the Doctor and Rose going their separate ways.

Battlestar Galactica: Either end it after the Season 2 finale or Revelations. Anything in between would lack the punch of a potential series ending

Andromeda: End it after Ouroboros before the show went to hell and became centered on the all-great importance of Dylan Hunt.

The Tudors: End it after the Season Two finale with Anne Boleyn being executed and Henry becoming more of the monstrous tyrant he is destined to be.

The Sopranos: End it after the Season Two finale with Pussy getting whacked, Chris becoming a made man, Meadow graduating from high school, and the life of Tony Sopranos going on.

The Wire: I either leave the way it did end or end it after the Season 3 finale.

The 4400: End it after the Season 3 finale.

Alex said...

House: after the season 3 finale, since the old team got disbanded, House's lost its luster.

The X-Files: after season 7, Scully should have run away with Mulder and their son and end the series here.

Matt said...

Can I preemptively say Scrubs?

If not, I'd end Arrested Development after "Righteous Brothers," the second season finale. I thought the third season was mostly mean spiritedness (with terminal illness and developmental disabilities played for laughs) and TWOP pandering. Even though I really liked the way it ended, everything else before it lacked the charm, the wit, and heart of the seasons prior (in all fairness, that's a direction that might have started when one of the main characters lost their hand).

todmod said...

Simpsons after season 9 (there's enough good stuff in there for sure, Das Bus and City of New York vs Homer Simpson are classics)

Prison Break after they get out of prison (uh, the FIRST time)

Heroes after season 1 - that would have spared me a lot of bad television.

Ostiose Vagrant said...

Trailer Park Boys at about the third time they all ended up in jail.

Veronica Mars season one (going into witness protection program immediately).

Jordan said...

In defense of Homicide, it has to go through the prolonged mediocrity to get to the finale/movie. I found the final scene nothing short of brilliant (although I can see how people would have issues with it) and the final Pembleton/Bayliss scene has some of the best acting on the show.

And while on the subject of David Simon Baltimore cop shows, I don't know why people are always ragging on season 5 of the wire. As Alan likes to point out, you have a problem believing an alcoholic detective fakes some evidence, but not the Baltimore pd LEGALIZING DRUGS?

Mr. Guilt said...

The shift in "M*A*S*H" from a comedy, to a comedy/drama, to an overly-preachy soapbox was subtle, and over many seasons. It's rather problematic to determine exactly what that line is, because even some of the last season episodes were grate TV. Like "ER," it almost seems like two different shows.

There are a few places I might draw the line, mostly marked by cast departures. My first instinct is to say when Frank Burns left. Depriving Hawkeye of a foil (and the brain transplant Margret underwent) changed the feel of the series significantly.

Prior cast changes (BJ for Trapper; Potter for Blake) managed to maintain tone of the show while allowing other aspects of the relationships to be explored. Potter, for instance, was less of a door mat than Blake, and regular army. But he wasn't the stereotype of the monolithic Army that was seen earlier in the series.

But, stop with Frank's departure, and we'd be deprived some great Charles Emerson Winchester moments.

The other cut, and probably the best I can think of, is Radar's departure. Kilger had some great moments as a team player, but that might make a good stopping point.

It also solved one problem I seemed to have with the series: I can understand Hawkeye not getting promoted or commentated given his overall attitude and hijinks, but, given everyone else who rotated out, wouldn't he be elligable at some point sooner than he was?

Eric said...

Going back a bit, how about Wiseguy after the Dead Dog Records arc? Certainly before the non Ken Whal season.

Loretta said...

I'd also say M*A*S*H at the end of season 5, when Frank left.

ER should have ended with the death of Mark Greene, though the death itself could have been handled better. But he was the heart of the show for me, and I drifted away from the series after that. I didn't even watch any of the final season, because I thought seeing Ghost Mark or whatever he was would be painful/annoying. If I remember correctly, his death was around season 8, so it would have been an incredibly long run no matter what.

Heroes should have just been that first season, but with a better finale.

Carrie said...

Anonymous, how could you end the Wire after season three? Then you get no Michael, no Dukie, no Randy! Season four will always be my favorite.

Anonymous said...

As another anonymous, The Wire S3 is a great ending for Jimmy and Beadie. He learns his lesson and settles down as the Stringer chase ends. Yes, S5 he rides off into the sunset as well, but then we're left with a greater impression of Jimmy as an even bigger prick who played a part in the deaths of several innocents (victims of the copycat killer).

chuck rabbit said...

I absolutely agree Dawson's Creek went on too long but would have ended after the high school graduation as opposed to Joey and Pacey sailing off in to the sunset because I liked Pacey's sister even if there was nothing subtle about her "troubles" and I think high school shows should end at graduation. I actually thought it was the series finale and was shocked when the show came back the next season.

The last season of Gilmore Girls should never have happened. Gilmore Girls could have, for me, also ended after high school graduation.

How I Met Your Mother, I agree, has maybe one good season left and should let this season be its last but I doubt it will. This season was a little hit and miss but ended okay. It has the potential to go very very downhill if it drags the meeting out much longer.

That 70s Show should have absolutely ended a season earlier. What happened in that last season... none of it was okay.

Anonymous said...

Definitely Firefly. That show just started to drag after episode 2 or so.

Anonymous said...

That '70s Show. It absolutely should not have gone on that least year without Topher Grace and Ashton Kutcher. But, frankly, it probably should have ended after about 4 seasons. After that it just wasn't that funny anymore.

Anonymous said...

Star Trek: TNG should've ended after 6 seasons. Season 7, except for the finale, was subpar--at best. Substitute the underwhelming 2 parter at the end of season 6 and the start of season 7 where Data gets angry and joins his evil twin Lore and the borg with the excellent All Good Things series finale.

Shannon said...

Maybe I'm a masochist, but even when my favorite shows go through downswings, I don't want them to end.

If Buffy had ended after Season 5, we never would have had "Once More with Feeling" or what I think was a pretty awesome concept for the series finale, with all the potentials around the world becoming slayers. Yes, we had to put up with a lot of depressing dreck to get there, but I think it's worth it in the end.

And just this TV season, both Grey's Anatomy and Gossip Girl suffered from some seriously terrible storylines that made me want to turn off my TV, but I stuck it out and by the end of the season both shows were more or less back on track.

On the other hand, shows I watched more casually, like ER, could definitely drag on to the point where I just wouldn't watch anymore. ER should have ended around the time Mark Greene died, which is the last time I recall watching it regularly.

Daniel said...

Several people have mentioned "Gilmore Girls," which to me was a no-brainer.

I'd also have said "Friday Night Lights" should have ended after one season through at least the first half of the third season, but it closed so very strong this year that I wouldn't say that anymore, though I reserve the right to backtrack should ridiculousness occur next season.

One show I'd suggest that won't be popular is "Veronica Mars" after Season One. The show had one consistent, untampered with season of pleasure. Then it was suddenly on the bubble and the network started poking and prodding and budgets started getting tweaked with and characters would vanish for months at a time for contractual reasons and the twists and turns became variably ludicrous. Would I still like to have kept "Veronica Mars" around for the sake of the three or four really good episodes per season? Perhaps. Did I love the moody, open-ended finale? Yes. But would my memories of that show have been better if it had just had a single, wildly impressive 22-episode season?

Probably...

-Fienberg

Anonymous said...

I kind of think CSI should have ended after Grissom left. Laurence Fishburne is a good actor, but the character is totally ill-conceived and the show isn't really working anymore.

Shannon said...

And I completely agree about That 70s Show. The last season was an abomination. I don't know what they were thinking trying to continue that show without Topher Grace and Ashton Kutcher, and putting Jackie with Fez. Ugh.

dez said...

the new characters were for the most part more attractive but vastly less interesting than the ones they replacedCouldn't you find a better picture to use (one without those less interesting characters in it)? :-) Anyway, agree with your "H:LOTS" pick.

Hatfield said...

I say Law & Order after Jerry Orbach left. If not then, after Dennis Farina, who gave two very solid seasons. By then it had already been on forever, and you can't tell me that any of the characters since then have been all that memorable. I know it's going for the record, but I have a hard time caring anymore, and I used to LOVE that show.

imkey said...

NO way should Buffy have ended after Season 3, then we wouldn't have gotten to see Willow go all badass! I love that story arc myself personally.

Though I love that Buffy ended things in its own terms I would agree to cutting the last and final season.

Sister T said...

Gilmore Girls. Oddly, I was thinking about exactly this in the car this morning. I want to end it at Season Four with the Recipes and Raincoats episode because the build up and release of the Lorelei-Luke stuff (plus naked Kirk) was great. But because the Rory College life story was already a mess. I think, graduation and the Season 3 finale would have kept the show pure and true to its original tone and less soapy.

Anonymous said...

You know, that Costanza line is from the last season.

Muz said...

Cut nothing from 'The Wire'. It's all magic. If anything it needs to be longer (an episode or two in s5 would help. I think it's because Simon knew newspapers too well for his own good. I learned all kinds of things about the command structures and how business gets done in the many parts of Baltimore PD after the first season and a bit. The Sun is still fairly opaque to me).

Anyway; 'Northern Exposure' should have obviously finished when Fleischman was spirited home. Mayby turn it into a longer episode with a bit of a wrap up for everyone else.

Denis said...

Joan of Arcadia after the first season. The shift to darkness in the 2nd season still bothers me. It was such a good-hearted show and man did it go off the rails. Every once in a while I'll catch a re-run and I get so excited until I realize that it's not a first season one. From the lawsuit, to Joan's friend getting stabbed, to Adam acting like a creep, to the "evil leaper" guy who talked to God as well. Gah!

Edward Copeland said...

I'd add to the chorus of people listing Homicide, probably after the third season. In an ideal world, it had more life in it so if I had the power to travel through time, I'd go back and stop them from the meddling they'd start to do that ultimately ruined the show. I'd try to hang on to Ned Beatty. I would never have allowed the Pembleton stroke storyline. As great a character as Luther Mahoney was, I wouldn't have let the character and his fallout dominate the show. I'd never have let Melissa Leo go. I would explain to them how silly it was that every single member of the detective squad seemed to get shot or injured by the end of the series except for Munch. Most importantly, and above all else, NO JON SEDA. Another show I would have wrapped earlier is M*A*S*H. Those early Gelbart seasons with Wayne Rogers and McLean Stevenson were near perfection. While David Ogden Stiers, Harry Morgan and Mike Farrell also were fine additions, the longer the show went on, the more full of itself it became. When Mike and Gloria left, All in the Family should have ended without the Stephanie years and definitely without morphing into Archie Bunker's Place. I do want to do a slight defense for parts of Buffy and X-Files. Season 6 of both shows were among my favorites. X-Files definitely should have ended at 6, which really closed the conspiracy story. While 2 and 3 are my favorite Buffy seasons, I love most of 6 as well. Scrubs was so abused by so many people for so long it's hard to say. It probably should have ended two seasons ago but then they gave it a proper ending this year and now they are going to ruin that with this AfterSCRUBS nonsense. While I loved The Sopranos, its lengthy hiatuses did test its audience's patience and I don't know that it would have been the worst thing in the world if they'd ended in season 4 with Carmela throwing Tony out.

Ursula said...

I was furious when Angel was canceled, but in retrospect, the "cliffhanger" battle against the armies of darkness proved to be the perfect stopping point. But the real telling line came about halfway through, when demon fighter Gunn came on the eve of battle to say goodbye to a woman confronting more mundane human suffering.

Gunn: What if I told you it doesn't help? What would you do if you found out that none of it matters? That it's all controlled by forces more powerful and uncaring than we can conceive and they will never let it get better down here? What would you do?

Anne Steele: I'd get this truck packed before the new stuff gets here. Wanna give me a hand?

The most inspiring words ever spoken on the war between good and evil, the struggle between artists and networks and my own day to day life. I only wish they had cut to black there and left the screen empty for the remaining nineteen minutes.

Chaz said...

Agree with everyone about how Buffy should've ended after Season 5. (SPOILERS)Really I think the only real ending for the show could be Buffy dying.

the-herkmeister said...

Some people have mentioned ending The West Wing after Bartlet's re-election, but I always thought that the show was still good - if not great - until season five started.

On the subject of Sorkin, Sports Night should have ended after the first season - there was very little direction to the second season and what direction existed wasn't particularly good.

(And as for Studio 60, I thought it was watchable until the Nevada Day two parter, and after that it was just horrifying)

Some others:
My Name is Earl after season one.

Scrubs after "My Fallen Idol" in the fifth season.

Simpsons after the eighth season.

You could cut out the final season of Monty Python's Flying Circus, as well, for that matter.

Karen said...

Buffy, after the amnesia episode of season 6--everything after that, with the exception of the series finale, is dead to me.

Veronica Mars, after season 1. I loved the characters still, but that was the only thing that kept me going.

MASH, right before Alan Alda got enough creative control to make Hawkeye so insufferably self-righteous as to make the show unbearable. Or with the departure of Larry Linville. David Ogden Stiers never really cut it for me.

Heroes after season 1.

The X-Files after season 5--the UFO conspiracy/mythology just became too heavy-handed after that.

The Avengers after Diana Rigg left.

And, back to the original question from a week or so ago, I wish Barney Miller were STILL running. Sigh.

Heather said...

Oh, I've definitely got to go with Veronica Mars. At the time, I was overjoyed to get a second season, but knowing what I know now, I'd definitely cut that show off after the first season. The second season's implausibilities and dropped plot points and retcons and insistence on centering the show on a love triangle frustrated me for an entire year. I didn't recognize the characters I'd grown to love in S1, and even the overall look of the show changed for the worse. I finally gave up the ghost early on in S3, and have still never seen the end of the series.

I recently rewatched the entire first season with a friend who'd never seen it, and was reminded of just how much I loved the first season. It was refreshing, because my memories of the show since giving it up had been nothing but sour.

Anonymous said...

Buffy--after the musical episoded. It was interesting & brought a lot out, but it was downhill from there.

ER--can't remember the season or episode, but the one where a bed malfunctioned & rose up to the ceiling after a woman had given birth.

Angel--after Cordy went all glow wormy, it was downhill

Scrubs shouldn't have been brought back, they jokes were getting stale, but this season's finale was a nice way to go out. They should have left well enough alone.

A variation on both themes, what about shows that were cancelled & didn't get a chance to have a fitting series finale? Say we couldn't save them, but we could bring them back for a finale. My choices:

Crossing Jordan
Point Pleasant
Reunion
My Name is Earl (if another network doesn't pick it up)

renton said...

Boomtown after the first season.

Robert said...

End Star Trek: Voyager 3 seconds after the opening credits of the first show started. Blank screen for 60 minutes each week would have been an improvement on that abomination.

Mike said...

Simpsons, right after season 8 (I'm willing to sacrifice the New York episode for the good of the series).

greebs said...

I feel very strongly that if "24" had ended after the fifth season (with President Logan and the Russian PM), folks would think of it as one of the best shows in the last decade or two. With seasons 6 & 7 it is now boring, sort of embarassing and it's getting harder to remember why I used to love it so much.

Anonymous said...

Good choice with Homicide. The final season, while watchable, wasn't worthy of the title of the show.

Prison Break should've ended after season 2. The last couple seasons have been so bad/uninspiring that it almost makes you forget that it was kinda decent originally.

ghoti said...

IMO, Season Six was the best season of Buffy! Doublemeat Palace, Andrew, Warren and Jonathan, Tabula Rasa, Evil Willow, the death of Tara, the MUSICAL EPISODE?

Stop cancelling Buffy after Season Five!!

I'm watching The West Wing from beginning to end (two a day on Bravo) and the John Wells version ranges from mediocre to "it makes me sad to watch this".

I know the last season was better than the previous two, but it still falls way short of the first four.

Andrew said...

I agree on Homicide, but not as early as season 3. I still love seasons 4 & 5 quite a bit. Mahoney didn't dominate in that fifth season. He was only in like four out of 22 episodes. He wasn't involved at all in the majority of episodes that season, unlike season 6 where the fallout of his death had a major role in almost every episode. Furthermore, "The Gas Man," even though it's one of my favorite episodes, would've been a horrible series finale, what with most the characters having nothing more than cameos. I think the end of the season 5 works better as an end point.

Brandy said...

No post Sorkin West Wing. I didn't mind the post election season 4 stuff, but I could live without it one way or the other. But seriously, no post Sorkin West Wing. I know the last season was a resurgence but it also had Toby the traitor. So it's got to be well before that.

FNL, I'd keep. Season 2 had some missteps but season 3 ended on a serious high note. Plus season 2 had some great moments even if they were smaller.

Veronica Mars post season 2. I agree that season one was stronger. But I'd hate to give up alterna prom and epic. Season 2 changed my entire perspective on Steve Guttenburg. Man, I can't watch anything with him now without respecting him for how creepy he was in VM. Also, Duncan had exactly one moment of awesome, making sandcastles on the beach while avenging his sister's death. And did I mention alterna prom and epic? I did. Well it is worth repeating.

But no season three of Veronica Mars.

I'm going to go with season 5 of Gilmore Girls. Not only do you have some really fine moments in season five, and a whole season of having the leads together and the show being good... I think even though both season four and season five ended badly for Rory, I find sleeping with married Dean way way way worse than the stupid boat incident. Sure one is a felony but the other was married Dean.

Rachael said...

Both Alias and Felicity went completely downhill as soon as JJ left:

Felicity: Should have ended after season 3, when JJ left to do Alias.

Alias: Was amazing for the first two seasons, pretty bad in season 3 (when JJ left to do Lost), and just plain awful in seasons 4 and 5 (Jen Garner getting impregnated with the spawn of Affleck was the nail in the coffin of course). ;-)

What I REALLY wish is that JJ would have just stayed longer on those shows rather than leaving so early!!

Gilmore Girls: The last one or two seasons were pretty unnecessary, and basically all the seasons involving Logan (HATED that guy) were inferior to the seasons before he showed up.

My Name is Earl: Totally jumped the shark with the annoying/boring coma plotline ... I think that was season 3? I stopped watching after that.

Scrubs: I don't think that show has been good for the past two seasons, and I am at a total loss as to why they brought it back yet again. I didn't even like the finale at all. Too bad cause I used to love that show.

Anonymous said...

I just want to thank Alan and the previous 98 contributors for a fascinating blog post. Alan, the quality of your commenters is nearly equal to Roger Ebert's, especially their expertise and taste when it comes to TV series. I won't waste space echoing my agreement with most of the suggestions above.

I'll just add one more: Babylon 5, with the end of Season 4, and the last episode filmed that year, which was saved as the finale to Season 5. That was the planned and logical end of the story.

(OK, I'll add this: I've owned Seasons 1-5 of Buffy on DVD for many years. I refused to buy the last two. I recently purchased Season 6, mostly for the muscial and "The Body". Season 7 simply does not exist for me--I'd wipe out those memories if I could.)

Rick said...

I'm going to say that the one show that would have benefited from an early retirement would have been The Cosby Show.

Such is the case with any family-based series, once the kids grow up you run into some problems, and the addition of "Olivia" wasn't so Raven.

It's been so long since I've seen it, I'm not sure when it actually turned, but as long as Theo was in high school and Rudy was little that show was absolutely gold.

Maybe the break-off point is immediately after A Different World premiers.

Anonymous said...

Regarding Scrubs, I don't feel like it's necessarily the show's fault.

You know when a 10 year old tries to be cute by doing things that people used to think were cute when he was 5, but now are just obnoxious? I have felt that way about Zach Braff for about 4 years now.

Anonymous said...

Oops, "The Body" is S5 Buffy. I guess I got it mostly for the musical, then :-)

Zac F. said...

I'm going to risk incurring the wrath of the whatever from high atop the thing, but I would have loved for The Wire to have ended after Season 4.

Season 5 was good, but nowhere near as awesome as 4 was. I know that the 4 kids were fictional, but they were real to me, dammit! :)

Anonymous said...

"The Simpsons" should have stopped at Season 8 and switched the episode order so that they closed with the screen going blank at the end of "The Itchy and Scratchy and Poochie Show."

marsman57 said...

- While never the best programming, 7th Heaven should have never had an 11th season.

- I would be willing to give Sliders season 3 as well as 1-2, but nothing beyond that.

- I am having a hard time with when Smallville should have ended. I would say the original premise of theshow was abandoned by the end of Season 4, so that would be a good logical end. I mean after that point, Clark is not *really* in Smallville. I mean the barn is there and the Talon is there, but all the action happens in Metropolis. Failing that, season 7 could have been a good ending. Season 8 was mostly bad

Yet another anonymous said...

I liked Moonlighting a lot when it first came out (was it one of the first series to break the fourth wall?), but I think that they might have been better off ending it before they infamously consummated the relationship, so figure after the second season?

Rosalie said...

Prison Break after season 2. Then, no Sona, no Mickael's disease, no bad mother issue. Although I like what they did with Alex Mahone.

And, I have to say, I wish Veronica Mars had a decent finale, an actual ending.

Great Blog.

Rachael said...

Anonymous said: "Regarding Scrubs, I don't feel like it's necessarily the show's fault.

You know when a 10 year old tries to be cute by doing things that people used to think were cute when he was 5, but now are just obnoxious? I have felt that way about Zach Braff for about 4 years now."

LOL soooo true!! During this past season, I kept thinking to myself, "If I have to endure ONE more cutesy comment (and annoying facial expression) from J.D. about his and Turk's bromance, or his love for Dr. Cox, or one more "J.D. initiates a hug with Turk" scene, I am going to throw the remote through the T.V.!! Some things can only be funny for so long until they just get old and obnoxious.

Art Fleming said...

Slings and arrows would have been a great miniseries if they would have ended it after season 1. In Season 2 they lost Rachel McAdams and were never really able to bring interesting new supporting characters to fill that hole amd the main relationship got repetitive fast.

Stephanie said...

I think I'd end The X-Files after Season 7, then have the second movie to tie everything up. Things just weren't the same without Mulder.

I would end Veronica Mars after season two as well. As much as I loved that show, the third season felt like something else entirely.

Anonymous said...

My main choice would have been Buffy as well and I thought of it BEFORE reading all the comments and so many agreements.

Next topic- what was the worst episode of the best show? :)

-EmeraldLiz

Tracey said...

I'm with Anonymous on Babylon 5. JMS had planned a 5-year story arc, had to accelerate it because he thought he was only going to get 4 seasons, and then found out as Season 4 was ending that he had another season... and he really had no storyline for it. Season 5 was mostly just treading water. It's not a jump-the-shark situation -- the show was still pretty good in season 5 -- but the sense of an arc was gone, the sense that they were going somewhere was gone. It's like being on a plane and you find yourself circling the airport for an hour at the end. B5 would have gone out better if it had gone out with a bang at the end of Season 4.

Ursula said...

Since Rick broached the subject of Raven, I repeat a question I ask here at least twice a year: Why does Raven-Symoné have an accent mark over that final e but pronounce it sih-MOAN with the e being silent? Just wondering.

Steve said...

The biggest quality drops in series television always happen after key writers leave the show. So for me, I'd have dropped M*A*S*H after Larry Gelbart left at the end of Season 4. Even though executive producer Gene Reynolds kept the tone of the show largely intact before himself leaving in Season 5, and Ken and Dave turned in some funny eps in Season 6, it was all downhill from there.

By the same token, NYPD Blue was never the same after David Milch left the day-to-day running of the show after Season 7. Storylines become soap-operatic, the characters no longer spoke in the delightful dialect known as "Milch-speak," Danny Sorenson's personal demons apparently just went away and we never got any more of those wonderful character studies like "Tea and Sympathy."

Married... with Children had very few high points after Season 6, when creators Ron Leavitt and Mike Moye stopped writing the show together. It went from being a solid suburban satire to just another pointless idiot-com. Someone should have pulled the plug.

For an example of a show I'd have cancelled for reasons other than the writing, Mission: Impossible should have gotten the axe after Season 3, when Martin Landau and Barbara Bain left in a salary dispute. But it wouldn't have been much better had they stayed, as the show switched from lush-by-TV-standards international spy thrillers to cheap repetitive set pieces involving organized crime and counterculture subversion.

Tully said...

My pick would be The Brady Bunch prior to the Cousin Oliver season. We could have ended with the whole Hawaii season, and we never would have been forced to endure the Orange-Haired Greg episode!

Anonymous said...

24 should have ended after season 1. There was a great surprise finish to an excellent season. Everything after season 1 was just silly and repetitive.

Newsradio should have ended after season 4. A lot of people saying after "Bill Moves On" but that would be a bummer. The Titanic episode would have been a much better series finale.

Mike said...

West Wing: I'd end it after S4. I really enjoyed the post-election episodes. Also, what John Wells & Co. did to Toby after S4 was unforgivable. Toby was my favorite character.

Heroes: After S1, like everyone else.

To those who want to end HIMYM after this coming S5, I implore you to watch before you make that determination. I believe in the show.

Scrubs: I'll watch this season before I judge. Nothing that has happened has tainted the legacy of the show (a la Wells to Toby). J.D. got back to normal this season.

These discussions are really fun.

Theresa said...

Grey's Anatomy after season 2, hands down. Seasons 1 and 2 were great, and it should have ended before they had to go killing characters and bringing them back to life.

The Bgt said...

"Law and Order SVU": till season 6 finale.
Since then the show is HORRIBLE, you think it exists only to satisfy Meloni's and Hargitay egos. I hope NBC won't renew their contracts.

"Heroes" after season 1. The show has became so lame I dont even remember why I liked it in the first place. Stopped watching after the 2nd episode of season 3.

"Alias": the last season was an unnecessary disaster.

and "LOST".
I guess I am the minority but I really think 2 seasons would be enough to narrate this show's story.
The way they drugging the mysteries and the stories reminds me of a daily soap opera (to me anyway, which it's why I stopped watching sometime in season 2).

Mike C said...

How about "The Nine", after the pilot? That was a riveting first episode and then things turned ugly.

Echoing some others, I like the idea of "The West Wing" ending with re-election. Sam goes off to California, maybe a couple of other staffers leave (I believe turnover is pretty common in those jobs), and the inauguration would have made a great finale.

Susan said...

I agree on a lot of what's here, but I'll add in another voice for:
* Buffy after season 5 (I like the musical ep in 6, but it's not worth the pain of the mini-Slayers in 7).

* West Wing after season 4 (post-Sorkin)

* Heroes after season 1 (with a better season finale episode)

* Six Feet Under before they all got whiny and self-involved, but I'd keep the finale.

I'll also add Quantum Leap. It's been a while, so I can't think of an exact ending point, but I'd end it before it got gimmicky and they started using real characters from history (Marilyn Monroe, Lee Harvey Oswald). But I'd keep the series finale intact.

Also: L.A. Law should have ended when Harry Hamlin left, and if not then, when Susan Dey and Jimmy Smits left. It got ridiculous in the last couple of seasons, with a revolving door of cast members, not to mention outlandish plots - Rosalind Shays goes down the elevator shaft, an evil woman makes a lawyer think she has a disease she doesn't have, etc.

LA said...

I'm not sure of it's official renewal (or not) status, but Flight of the Conchords should end right now, and it will be perfect.

AMG said...

How about the Tori episodes from Saved By The Bell? I know they aired before graduation, but they were filmed after. It was sacrilegious to let the show go on sans Kapowski.

I know HBO is great, but don't act like you didn't spend your Saturday mornings at the Max.

Jason said...

Buffy after season 5, definitely. She dies, the end. The last two seasons (musical episode notwithstanding) were... unfortunate.

JVD said...

I would like to nominate the end of the flawed-but-still-brilliant first season of "Rescue Me." While it tied up a lot of loose ends, the second season felt like the genesis of the kind of plot developments intended to shock, rather than to inform the characters, that would derail the show over the next two years--including Franco's pill-popping, Shelia's false pregnancy and, the worst by a mile, the out of nowhere death of Tommy's son by a drunk driver. That last development should be enough to wound a character forever, but his death is only trotted out from time to time for effect.

Anonymous said...

I'll jump on the Scrubs Bandwagon, cutting it off at five (only including that for the Poison dance), despite the resurgence this last season.

Alias: After Season 1. Or after the Super Bowl episode in Season 2 (you know the one), cutting out the last scene of that one as well, as it basically ruined the entire series.

That 70's Show: Guilty pleasure of mine, but kill it after Season 3.

The Simpsons: After Season 9.

The Office US: This is one I haven't seen anybody say. Kill it after Season 3. That would leave out "The Deposition" and "Weight Loss" but oh well.

Family Guy: Before it existed.

How I Met Your Mother: After Season 3, I think.

I'm particularly baffled at those who want to cut off any of The Wire, and especially before Season 4. If all television was going to be destroyed and I had the chance to save one television show, it would be The Wire, and if just one season, it would be 4. And both would be easy choices (though all the other seasons are awesome too!).

DolphinFan said...

30 Rock had it absolutely right: NIGHT COURT should have ended both better and earlier. Its last two seasons were so bad that they ruined most of the legacy of what was actually a good show for most of its run; then the accurate accounting of how abysmal the series finale would have been nullified by it never occurring.

An earlier poster said ER should have ended in Season 14: that was originally the plan between the producers and NBC, but the WGA strike ruined that by chewing up months' worth of episodes. I also would have loved to see ER end with Mekhi Phifer, Maura Tierney and Goran Visjnic getting more than extended cameos, but those are the breaks of the game.

Alan Sepinwall said...

"The Unfortunate Incident of the Beer Bottle in the Nighttime" - I've watched every FNL episode, but can't catch this reference - could someone clue me in?

It's what Landry does at the end of the season two premiere.

Anonymous said...

Someone else asked this and no one has answered it (I'm wondering if no one knows what Alan is talking about?) - what does "The Unfortunate Incident of the Beer Bottle in the Nighttime" refer to with respect to FNL?

Also, count me in for ending The Wire after season 4.

Hatfield said...

Look above you, anonymous.

Also, I could see The Wire ending after 3 seasons, even as great as 4 and at times, 5, were, but after 4 would have been terrible. Yes, it was better than the final season, but it was essentially half of a two season story. How could they have left it on that kind of cliffhanger?

Frenchy said...

I totally agree with the one who says that The Wire should never have ended.

To me, Lost should have ended as soon as the fantastic part got too strong. Only Mc Fly can come back to the future.

Eugene Freedman said...

NYPD Blue after Season 7. I would have been upset by it ending then, but there were serious flaws and lack of long story arcs after 7 ended.

I really enjoyed the Jill Kirkendall exit at the end of that season and the corresponding protective side of Danny coming out full bore. Losing Martinez earlier in the season gave a full closer to his career as well- trainee detective to promotion to Sgt.

Most importantly it was before Danny and Diane fooled around, which was the worst thing that ever happened to the show.

It also means that Tea and Sympathy is one of the final episodes. That episode had truly outstanding writing and guest performances and ending the show when Bobby died would have lost a lot of good stuff all the way through Season 7.

Beth said...

What is with all the cranky "end Buffy after season 5" comments? Season 6 and 7 are brilliant! Different, yes; darker, yes, but just as brilliant in their own way. Seasons 1-7 form a coherent narrative arc that's incomplete when Buffy dies at the end of season 5.

NYPD Blue, however, should definitely have ended with the death of Bobby Simone, and ER with the death of Dr. Green, or at least before they started crashing helicopters.

So Cal said...

-Heroes after the first season

-Spin City when MJ Fox bowed out (even though i'm a sheen fan)

-would have said 24 after season 5, but i actually enjoyed season 7, so i'm not as upset anymore with the abomination that was season 6.

Anonymous said...

You can argue all you want about the merits of seasons 6 and 7 of Buffy, but they were barely even the same show as the preceding five seasons. What made the show great the first few years was its mix of drama and comedy. The last two years had absolutely none of the latter and were completely tonally inconsistent with the first five years.

Plus, how anyone can think Doublemeat Palace was a good hour of television is beyond me.

Jordan said...

Part of what made the wire so great and so different is that there wasn't so a clear good and evil (at least good) or a bunch of semi-happy endings. Sorry, Jimmy isn't the good guy. The wire is perfect just how it is.

I also don't get all this Lost ending early business. Sure, season 3 had a lot of low points before they got an end date, but to have ended it early would not be good. Two seasons of setting up mysteries and then end it before answering a damn thing? Then it makes everyone's ended way too early list. Plus then it would have ended before most of the best episodes of the series. Not buying it.

Heather said...

One could not end Lost. That would have been insane.

I would end Heroes after the first season. Tim Kring had wanted it to be a new cast every season but the show got so popular he kept them on. I wonder if the show would have been better if Kring had gone with his original plan.

House after Season 4 when Amber died. This season wants me to write it off.

GabbyD said...

Prison Break! season 1

hazmatzak said...

Roswell, just before they introduce Tess. The first sixteen episodes were almost perfect. But then Tess introduces the whole "royal four" idea, plus the "dupes" and the baby -- the whole thing ran off the rails.

Karen said...

Well, Beth, maybe the crankiness towards Buffy 6 & 7 has to do with our dissatisfaction over the show-runners junking the entire mythology of the previous 5 seasons, and acting as if Buffy's death was going to cause even a single of those stupid, boring Potentials to become the new Slayer. Buffy died at the end of Season 1, triggering Kendra, whose death triggered Faith. Period. Buffy's death at the end of Season 5 didn't trigger a new Slayer, so why would her death in seasons 6 or 7 do so?

Or maybe it's because of our distaste with how Spike was emasculated and turned from his wonderfully evil self into a little shiny lapdog. Or maybe it's when they tried to make us believe that Buffy truly thought Spike tried to rape her, despite their entire history being about violent sex. Or perhaps it was the departure of Giles, and all the sanity he brought.

I know that Joss Whedon likes to say that those of us who hated those last two seasons didn't appreciate its "darkness," but I cry shenanigans. Buffy stabs her true love through the heart and sends him to hell at the moment he loses his demonic nature? THAT's dark.

Anonymous said...

"Or maybe it's when they tried to make us believe that Buffy truly thought Spike tried to rape her, despite their entire history being about violent sex."

I am amazed that Spike apologists, all these years later, remain incapable of admitting that Buffy said "No."

TxGowan said...

Mad About You could have ended when they found out they were pregnant. I loved the show when it was about them and their relationship and think that the baby ruined the show.

AndyW said...

I've struggled with the Buffy question myself. I'm not a fan of 6 and 7, but how many bad seasons would I have been willing to sit through to get "Once More with Feeling"? A lot.

ghoti said...

Not only did I enjoy Doublemeat Palace, but I would have LOVED to have seen an eighth season.

Any hour of television Jane Espenson writes, I consider a gift.

Television shows rarely continue to develop characters seven years into their run. It always seemed to me like the writers still enjoyed discovering new things about these people and having a blast with them all the way to the end of the series.

Well, thanks to the WB anyway, even if I'm in the minority I appreciated getting to watch the extra two seasons.

Anonymous said...

TxGowan, I couldn't agree more.

No "Everwood" fans in these parts? Right before the statutory rape would have suited me fine.

Isaac Lin said...

JAG, before Webb and Mac became a couple (a story line seemingly there just to have Rabb and Webb butt heads), or when Admiral Chegwidden left. General Cresswell's character never seemed to ring true with me, and as the show toyed with the idea of continuing without David James Elliott, it had to waste time introducing a new character to possibly replace Rabb. (That being said, I wonder who won the coin toss at the end, so in some sense I guess I also wish it would have continued for 30 more seconds! However the ending freeze frame with the JAG coin was perfect.)

J said...

I would end Melrose Place with the explosion in the Season Three finale. Go out with a tactically planned bit of domestic terrorism, not a whimper.

darrenoia said...

I agree that "Seinfeld" was great almost up to the end, although it became a very different, more cartoony show after Larry David left. However, the finale was atrocious, so I'd go back just a little bit and end it with the backwards episode "The Betrayal." Jerry telling Kramer "what's mine is yours" would have made a fitting ending, and although it wasn't the funniest episode ever, if that had been the finale, people would have considered it one of the all-time brilliant ways to end a show--on the level of Newhart waking up in bed with Pleshette, I think.

As long as we're following the time travel theme, I'll add that I reserve the right to go back in time, depending on how the next season of "Lost" ties everything together, and end it, say, after we see how the Oceanic Six get off the island. It's not that I don't enjoy the show anymore. I'm still a big fan. But if they don't wrap it up right, all this time travel and Jacob stuff is going to seem very inane.

Tom said...

The Tudors: End it after the Season Two finale with Anne Boleyn being executed and Henry becoming more of the monstrous tyrant he is destined to be.AMEN! Who woulda thunk sex and violence could be so dull?

Also: "Ren & Stimpy" after President Clinton got his willie stuck in the zipper and before they fired Kricfalusi.

"Twin Peaks" after we learned who killed Laura Palmer.

And it pains me to say it, but "House" when they brought on the cottages. That was his Reichenbach Falls moment.

Billiam said...

"That 70s Show" should never have had an 8th season. But actually, I wasn't very impressed with the writing in season 7 all that much either. So I think that Eric & Donna should have gotten married at the end of season 6 (instead of the wedding getting called off), and have that be it.

Anonymous said...

Babylon 5: End it after Season 4 but with the last episode being Sleeping in Light instead of Deconstruction of Falling Stars.

Alias: End it after Season Two. Before the show started to decline with the Covenant, Lauren Reed, Irina's sisters, Prophet 5, Vaughn turning out to not to be Vaughn, and Irina becoming a cardboard villain in the final season.

24: End it after Season 5 but with two alterations. Kim and Jack make their peace with each other then rather than in Season 7. And The last scene would be Jack and Audrey having what come close to a happy ending in the world of 24.

Buffy: End it after Season 5. But after the grave scene, I would have another scene added of Buffy years ago when she and his mother enter Sunnydale for the first time. Giving the ending a full circle feeling.

The Office: End it after Season 5. With Michael doing the mature thing by giving things with Holly some time before they could get together and Jim and Pam receiving some unexpected but joyful news at the hospital.

Stargate Atlantis: End it after Season One.

Millennium: End it after Season Two with its best season finale and one of these best hours of television ever aired.

Cameron Hughes said...

Buffy season 5 finale would have been the perfect finale for it.

Buffy's heroic sacrifice.

Spike is still a monster, but finds humanity.

Xander becomes a man.

Anya and Willow find power in witchcraft and each other.

Anya accepts being human.

It would have been just perfect.

Steve said...

LA Law really fell apart and then had a good last season. The elevator shaft was the point that lost everyone. I thought the show was improving and it was then cancelled for ER. I remember Homicide airing in its timeslot for its brief (and brilliant) second season.

Anonymous said...

Most shows that come to my mind are the ones that "did" get canceled soon after the shows got awful.
Friends should have ended one year after Chandler & Monica's wedding.
The Drew Carey show should have ended after Kate left.
Dharma & Greg should have ended after its first season.
Two guys, a girl, and sometimes a pizza place had an awful last season.
Grace Under fire was good its first season then made odd changes after that.
Coach should have ended in Minnesota.
Laverne & Shirley should have stayed in Milwaukee.
Happy Days needed to end before fonzie moved into Cunninham garage.
My three sons was unbearable in its last season.
Most shows stuck around at least 1 year too long. The real question is which shows stuck around for just the perfect right amount of time.

maxed out said...

I agree with the Alias comments, although, in truth, I liked watching the final 3 seasons, even thought subpar, and would hate to lose them.

But the brilliance was gone after end of season 2. Rambaldi got too ridiculous and when they couldn't get Lena Olin to come back immediately for season 3, that really hurt. She made the show for me and I hate how they finished up with her character in the finale. I also really did not like the actress that played Vaughn's wife, Melissa George.

But Lena Olin, Jennifer Garner, a little bit of Amy Acker... and the great Victor Garber. I love, love, love.

Anonymous said...

My nominees for shows that lasted the right amount of time
Cheers- No question it was 2 different shows. Pre-Diane & Post-Diane. But I thought the show was funny until the end, and I believe it was still the number #1 show in its last season.
Family Ties - Ended when Alex graduated from college and left for New York. Nothing else would have made sense.
Seinfeld - show was very different in its last year compared to the first, but show was still funny at the end.
Once & Again - There were signs they were running out of ideas as more and more stories were about the children so it was probably good it ended when it did.
Cosby show - i know not everyone would agree with this, but I thought Olivia was so raven and rejuvenated the show in its last seasons.
West Wing - The show lasted until the sensible ending, Bartlett leaves the white house at the end of the second term. I enjoyed the last season. I thought it perfectly captured the idea of a lame duck presidency in its last year, in the sense that everybody abandoned the Bartlett administration and the focus shifted to who is the next president, just like in real life. Of course the time line was confused at times, and the improbable story of Jimmy Smits coming from nowhere to win the presidency was over the top, but it wast still more realistic than Barlett's re-election season, which depicted the Republican candidate as a moron. The last season you seriously could have had an ending where either candidate (Smits or Alda) could have won and each candidate you could root , which is why I enjoyed the last season so much.

Rachael said...

maxed out said: "But the brilliance was gone after end of season 2. Rambaldi got too ridiculous and when they couldn't get Lena Olin to come back immediately for season 3, that really hurt. She made the show for me and I hate how they finished up with her character in the finale. I also really did not like the actress that played Vaughn's wife, Melissa George."

Ohh yeah that's right, I forgot how they had trouble getting Lena Olin to come back as well, that also helped to ruin the show. Damn I love that woman. I think the biggest thing for me was the whole "Sydney you've been dead for two years (and now I'm married)." The finale of season 2 was brilliant up until that very moment. What happened as a result of that in season 3 killed the show for me. And yeah nothing against Melissa George, but I also could not stand her as Vaughn's wife. And I never bought that Vaughn would have gotten married so quick after Syd "died".

I just thought of another one: Roseanne. That show went on at least a couple seasons too long, didn't it? I need to go back and watch it again to see exactly when it jumped the shark. I just remember the last season and then the series finale being a real downer ... a much too depressing way to end a comedy series.

Steve Urkel is Sometimes UnRealistic said...

I would end "Family Matters" before Steve Urkel invents anything that won't exist before the year 2300 in the real world.

J. Pitts said...

The HBO prison drama OZ after season 3. A major character died in the season finale and the show was never the same. Man, I don't want to spoil the show for people who haven't seen the series, so all I'm going to say is-Chinese immigrants that speak English move into a prison and start doing crazy flip-kick karate on guys.

Yeah, it went there.

Jim said...

I watched LA Law right up to the end, and I agree it got pretty bad after Susan Dey/Jimmy Smits left--Sheila Kelly was a disaster in almost every scene, and sometimes you wondered if they were going to forget that Benny was retarded. But there were getting good again in the last season.

You know when a 10 year old tries to be cute by doing things that people used to think were cute when he was 5, but now are just obnoxious? I have felt that way about Zach Braff for about 4 years now."You nailed it. I still watched it, when I could find it, and I'll probably look at the new season if it comes up, because they came up with stuff like Jo/Denise. I can pinpoint the moment they lost me: The "Dr Toilet" gag (don't know which season but it was the show JD found out Kim hadn't lost the baby), which was not only really lame but dragged on like an SNL skit. And stuff like Giant Doctor, Dr Head... they went to the well too often, again like SNL.

grand-sophy said...

Heh. This is a very old debate. I remember as a kid thinking they should have ended The Flintstones before The Great Gazoo made an appearance, and ended Get Smart! before he married Agent 99 and they had a baby. And maybe ended Star Trek before they did "Spock's Brain".

J.J. said...

I'd have ended "Six Feet Under" after the 2nd season with Nate going under for surgery. Not that the rest of the show was awful, but I'd remember it much more fondly after those incredibly strong first two seasons.

I'd have ended "The West Wing" with Aaron Sorkin's last episode. The show and characters never felt quite the same after that point.

I think I'd have ended "Weeds" after the fires in season 3 that burned down the housing community. Having Nancy get away from pot dealing and get into trafficking seemed like a bizarre choice that changed the show too much from what I'd come to like (and didn't seem to make much sense for her personally). Although, admittedly, it's tough sacrificing the 4th season if only because we'd be losing Kevin Nealon's noose scene in the season 4 finale (with that hilarious note to his ex-wife that started out like the old guy's suicide note from Shawshank Redemption).

I think I'd have ended "NYPD Blue" after the first season without Sorenson. Ideally, I'd have had them end it immediately after Sorenson disappeared, but I think that would have meant they wouldn't have come back right after 9-11, which would have made me sad. So I wish they'd had one season with Andy breaking in another young partner, just to show life goes on, and let it end there.

I wish they'd have ended "Friends" after the wedding in London. Ross says Rachel's name, Chandler hooks up with Monica -- boom! That's pretty much where the show ends up six years later anyway. I know the show was wildly successful, so there's no way they'd have ever killed it off at that point. But I'd remember that show so much more fondly if that's where they ended it.

Eldritch said...

If we can suggest future questions, how about series that started with weak/bad seasons, that went on to be great shows?

Didn't both Cheers and Seinfeld begin weakly?

J. said...

The West Wing, after Aaron Sorkin left and the characters started falling apart. I don't understand how in the business of television shows the creation can go on without the creator. For me it's kinda like an author's book series going on without her.

Also I don't understand the Buffy and Simpsons, and Wire comments.

The Simpsons have been consistent throughout all their seasons. Not all episodes are as good but that was true for the earlier years too, and in every season there's a few episodes that are just so good. Like last year's "Eternal Moonshine of the Simpson Mind," and "That '90s Show." Those were awesome.

The Wire, season 5 is what brings everything together and makes the show beyond great, showing you all sides of the show's world. That's what makes the show complete.

And Buffy. I loved the show's ending and how it brings the whole mythology full circle to the beginning. "In every generation..." and turns it on its head. But maybe you have to be a girl to get the full power of the statement. It's not just about Buffy saving the world. It's about her teaching others and sharing the power.

:)

chris said...

buffys death at the end of season 5 didnt trigger a new slayer because faith was still alive. so the mythology was still in tact. personally season 6 was my second favorite season after 2. If the show jumped the shark at all it was the beginning of season 4 when the incrediblyannoying dawn showed up.

Todd said...

People.

People.

People.

Buffy should have ended after season six. Season seven was all right, but the plot was way too muddled. As a bonus, the season six closer would have made a pretty dandy series finale if push came to shove.

Karen said...

buffys death at the end of season 5 didnt trigger a new slayer because faith was still alive. so the mythology was still in tact.That was my point exactly, Chris. But throughout the ENTIRE Potentials story arc, the show maintained that Buffy's death would trigger one of them to become Slayer. Impossible. Only Faith's death could have done so.

James Eyeklll said...

The US Office at the season three finale. Perfect ending to the series. It's still amusing, but it used to be so much more.

Also Rescue Me after just one season. It's had its ups and downs since but nothing I couldn't live without, and that year's easily still the best.

DHC said...

Karen - speaking of dark, Buffy stabbing Angel led to one of the best noir lines on TV. "I told him I loved him, then I killed him" Absolutely perfect darkness.

The problem I have with this whole thing is if any of these shows ended earlier, there exists at least one (and usually more than that) classic episode that would never have been. I will gratefully sit through Seasons 8-10 of Buffy dross to see something like Once More With Feeling again.

As for a show that ended right on time, my vote goes with Brisco County. Incredibly underated (which I think by law goes with practically anything Bruce Campbell does) and straight out fun. I just watched it with my kids who got a kick out of it. YOu can see the network meddling in the later episodes and I don't think it would have been as good had it gone on. One season was just right there.

Matter-Eater Lad said...

"It's not just about Buffy saving the world. It's about her teaching others and sharing the power."

That was the season three finale. In the series finale, all of the normal people helpfully leave town and the world is saved not because Buffy defies tradition and shares her knowledge and skills with normal people, but because of a bunch of mystically destined people are given special powers that no one else can have.

Karen said...

Good call, @DHC. That line's a heartbreaker.

Anonymous said...

Coming late to this one, I had my answer thought out, but after reading everyone else's I've realized there's a lot of consensus about which shows got bad and I have no new ones to add. On the other hand, it's surprising to see how much people's opinions differ on where the bad parts are.

I agree with people who said Prison Break, Heroes, and Alias needed to end sooner, but those are shows I just gave up watching, so I'm going to focus on shows I loved enought to stay with through the bad times.

I'm with the many who hated Buffy S7 (despite being a girl, I did not think there was a powerful message there). On the other hand, there was enough good in S 4-6 that I'd keep those three.

On the other hand, reading everyone's comments convinced me that Gilmore Girls should have ended after S3, despite there being much I love in the remaining seasons. I'd give those up to prevent the destruction of Rory's character and the introduction of Luke's daughter and ex. However, I don't think David Rosenthal deserves any blame; he did a great job with S7 considering the disastrous mess the Palladinos had made in the preceding seasons.

I think West Wing should have ended when Sorkin left and thoroughly disagree with those who think S7 was better than those that came before. S7 destroyed all remnants of the Sorkinesque good fellowship and uplifting patriotism.

I'd get rid of S2 of Sports Night so as not to have to watch Dana make Casey date other people.

Some people may have quit watching Frasier (it got bad for a while there) and missed how great it was again in its last couple seasons. I wouldn't give those up.

Moonlighting (as someone else already said) should have ended after S2.

And while I agree that Veronica Mars was never again as good as S1, there's much to like in the other two seasons, and I loved the finale.

All in all, I'd generally rather watch a show get less good (absent any horrible character destruction) that mourn its being cut off while I love it.

Ingrid said...

I think Dexter is only going to go downhill. How much longer can they keep it up before they start cranking stunt episodes? I don't want to see "Dexter, The Musical."

I also would end Angel before the Wolfram & Hart stuff got overplayed.

And I would cancel BSG right after they find the first Earth.

Phantom said...

Very interesting question.

I couldn't agree more about what the-herkmeister said about The West Wing. I even think that the best seasons are the last two, and overall I prefered the era of John Wells (a very rare point of view I know ^^)

For answering the question, I'd say:
Buffy: end of season 5.
Alias: end of season 2
BSG: end of season 2 or end of the 410.
MillenniuM: end of season 2 (even if I didn't enjoy the show as mush as other people)
Twin Peaks: end of the 209.
The Wire: end of season 3 (but I'm not complaining about the two others seasons ^^)
The Sopranos: end of the 601.

When series that I like are canceled and finished on a cliffhanger, I'm often mad but for other shows that would have been much better :D

Toby O'B said...

I'd have ended 'Sopranos' with the first season and with Tony actually smothering his mother. Each season after was a series of diminishing returns.

I haven't seen it mentioned here, but I may have ended 'Picket Fences' with the departure of David Kelley. It just seemed to fly off the rails that last season.

Jason Mittell said...

Here's the problem with messing with the time/space continuum - there are unintended consequences. Namely, if you cut Homicide off after 3-4 seasons, David Simon never joins the show as a regular writer/producer (seasons 5-7); then he never gets the opportunity to turn The Corner into a miniseries; and then Bubbles and Omar are never born! Look what you have done, Alan!

If we're going tempt fate anyway, I'd cut short the life of Dragnet, preventing the 1960s rebirth. Hopefully then people would remember the show as the gritty noir-ish 1950s version, instead of the comically square Friday-battles-hippies version seen on TV Land.

Gayle said...

Maxed Out, word to your post.

I've never been devoted to a show like I was to Alias and there was still a lot to like about it in later seasons (and a lot to complain about as well). But, nothing could ever beat the perfection of Seasons 1 and 2. It should have ended there.

Joanna said...

I only own the first season of The O.C. on DVD because in my mind the show ended with Seth sailing off into the distance, Ryan going back with Theresa, Summer and Marissa heartbroken and Kirsten sobbing her heart out. All to 'Hallelujah'. The first season was incredibly funny and had everyone talking about it. Although I kept watching, it never felt like the same show after that.

H E Pennypacker said...

Great Topic

Ending Buffy with the 5th season finale would have been perfect.

Star Trek TNG should've ended with the 5th season, it was consistently good through seasons 3-5 and the 5th ended on a hot streak of about 10 great eps in a row, then sixth season came along, Michael Piller's attention was on DS9 (which I would keep for all seven seasons) and we got one stinker after another, monsters in the transporter, the crew turned into kids, the holodeck overrun by Datas, just stupid, they pulled their act together in the second half of S6 somewhat, but when Season 7 rolled around it was even worse!

Agree with poster who said end Babylon 5 at the end of season 4.

Cosby Show should've ended with season 5, that was the last year before Olivia and then cousin Pam.

I may be the only person on the planet who found season 11 of Cheers to be its most entertaining! Much better than those Robert Colcord seasons.

Whoever said here Seinfeld should've ended with The Betrayal is a genious - that ending is probably one of my favourite moments of the series.

90210 should've ended with the fifth season, yes fourth season was a high watermark for the show but it sets up probably the best storyline with Dylan relapsing to alcoholism, but after the fifth season we very quickly see the departures of Jim, Cindy, Andrea, and finally Dylan - that pretty much turns the show from a teen drama to Melrose Place II

Sean said...

Interesting topic.

I might go Twin Peaks, by condensing or just cutting a bunch of episodes from the second season (because I dug how it ended).

But I really just wanted to say that Jon Seda was pretty good on Homicide. Cut Falsone some slack.

David said...

You could tell that "The Man From U.N.C.L.E." was a goner from the first color episode of the second season.

Jim said...

I may be the only person on the planet who found season 11 of Cheers to be its most entertaining!

Nope, there are at least two of us.

David- your mention of the BW/Color switch brings back a classic that jumped bigtime: Andy Griffith. They either should've ended it when Barney left, or given him what he wanted to stay. More likely the former.

Mario said...

While the last couple of seasons of Homicide were painful (watch the panel discussion included on the dvd set to learn how NBC basically ordered them to butcher the show), season six is when David Simon became a producer and learned how to run a show.

If you consider Homicide Seasons Six and Seven as Spring Training for the Wire, they are more than worth it.

Rob S. said...

Despite the domino theory that could strange the Wire in its cradle, I'd end Homicide, probably at the end of the Luther Mahoney storyline. *Definitely* before they brought his sister in.

j. said...

Veronica Mars, at the end of season 2. Those first two seasons were awesome, the third was mostly a big yawn. I blame the writing and the casting. Whoever thinks Julie Gonzalo can act is crazy. Also, less Wallace, more Mac? That was stupid. And the whole appeal of Veronica Mars was that it was a show about a high school girl with a big twist. That made it interesting. Season 3 was just the average teenage show. :S

Brian said...

Anonymous said...

That '70s Show. It absolutely should not have gone on that least year without Topher Grace and Ashton Kutcher. But, frankly, it probably should have ended after about 4 seasons. After that it just wasn't that funny anymore.

Reply: should've ended after the pilot. Quite possibly the most overrated mediocrity I have ever seen. Basically three (lame) jokes repackaged every episode. Laugh tracks sounding when NO joke was even made (yes, I understood the context). Had to withstand a marathon of it my relatives were watching. Blecch!