Merciful Show Kills

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Over my tv watching years I’ve learned that loving a television show doesn’t just mean knowing every episode title by heart, or getting into online debates minutes after an episode airs, or cyberstalking the creators on Twitter and Facebook, but also knowing when it’s time to ::sigh:: let it go. For newbie television fans this seems like a counter intuitive concept. If you love your show, why do you want it to be cancelled? The thing of it is, I don’t, but just as in real life, everything has a season and all good things must come to an end. As much as I adored my bad boy TV boyfriend Jack Bauer, it was time to let him and 24 clock out. Gregory House was beginning to overstay his welcome and knew it was time to hang up his cane. The ladies of Wisteria Lane did their final victory lap (perhaps a year too late) before taking a final bow and moving on to apparently normal lives.

There’s no shame in hanging up the towel. You get to go out on your own terms at your peak (or just after your peak). It actually shows humility and great awareness to recognize that your best work on this current show is done. In fact, it can often be the best thing to realize for all involved because it then allows the talent to move on to fresher projects and you to move on to fresher viewing experiences.

Unfortunately, some shows still prefer to keep on limping on to the increasing disappointment of its fans and decreasing (non-financial) benefit of its talent. You watch as a thing you once loved so much turns into the unthinkable- a thing you hate to admit that you don’t like as much anymore.

A good example of this? The CW’s Supernatural which is now limping into its eighth season. Don’t get me wrong. I in all-capital-letters LOVE(D) this show.  I adore its characters (and the actors who play them) to the point of regularly reading Supernatural fanfiction (although I draw the line at the Wincest). But honestly? After seven years of watching Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki shed beautiful manly tears and retread the same, brotherly angst of having to save the world at the cost of their tattered souls, a big part of me is beginning to root for evil to win and the duo to drive the Metallicar over a cliff Thelma and Louise style.

When your audience is rooting for your main characters to bite it, it’s time to start wrapping it up.

Now I don’t dismiss the risk in starting over and getting back into the pilot circuit again. It’s hard out there for American actors when even US acting jobs (even our super heroes!) are being outsourced to foreign talent. But pulling up stakes and taking the risk can be so worth the gain. Zach Levi is purportedly this close to getting the Fandral role in Thor 2 that he originally lost out on due to Chuck (which bid adieu in classy fashion, thus freeing him up) because Josh ‘Prince Charming’ Dallas is tied up with Once Upon A Time. Lena Heady being freed from Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles allowed her to be in position to take on Game of Thrones’ Cersei. Benjamin McKenzie had barely finished recovering from the rapid rise and fall of his stint on The O.C. before he got suited up for Southland. Even if you don’t get a great gig right out of the gate, you’re in position for that great stint that’s waiting out there. I honestly believe that had Supernatural ended its run naturally at five seasons, Jensen Ackles would be scheming it up with Larry Hagman on TNT’s Dallas. The man was made to play a devilish sexy Texas stud.

But I digress (as usually happens when it comes to Jensen Ackles). My point is that I get its scary to move on for all involved (I still haven’t found a replacement for the thrill that 24 gave me and Kiefer didn’t exactly hit it out of the park with Touch), but more often than not the change will do everyone good. All that stagnant, burned out talent is suddenly revitalized and exciting to watch when allowed to grow in a new setting. David Boreanaz shedding his broody Angel for the more amusing Booth on Bones has given us and him seven (okay, five) more great years of television. Alyson Hannigan is just as much lovable Lily from How I Met Your Mother as she is Willow from Buffy. Tim Olyphant as Raylan Givens has me going ‘Bullock Who?’ There is life for everyone-actor and fans alike- after being on a previous pop culture zeitgeist show. It’s not a betrayal to want a beloved show and its actors to be freed from its zombie shell (or perpetual limbo) to retire to TV show afterlife. Cancellation often gets the bad rap of being the ruthless act of greedy network executives, but in some cases it’s actually a much needed act of mercy for a wounded, floundering show and its beleaguered fandom. 

Which show should quit while it’s still ahead?

American Idol


Grey’s Anatomy

Two and a Half Men


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