Shows that went on way too long
"Californication" (seven seasons)
One of the Senate’s most vulnerable Democrats is joining a call to pass a public health insurance option through the budget reconciliation process — which could give a jolt to efforts to push a stronger bill through Congress than what the Senate has already passed, even after Democrats lost their supermajority.
Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., signed a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid Tuesday afternoon, asking for the public option to be included in whatever legislation Congress passes to merge the House and Senate healthcare reform bills. Another potentially vulnerable Democrat, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, also signed the letter, as did Oregon’s Jeff Merkley and Ohio’s Sherrod Brown. Colorado, a classic swing state, could be one of the key battlegrounds in November, and progressives say Bennet’s decision to sign the letter should push some of his colleagues to do the same.
Though Congress is out of town this week, the reconciliation process is getting some buzz Tuesday. The idea is for the House to pass the Senate’s more conservative healthcare bill, and then for both chambers to pass, using reconciliation, a measure to “fix” the Senate bill by incorporating some of the House’s more progressive ideas. That would only take 51 votes in the Senate, which means the GOP couldn’t filibuster it with their 41-vote minority.
Progressives are lobbying for Democratic leaders to make the bill even stronger — if you only need 51 votes, why worry about holding onto conservative and moderate Democrats? With Gillibrand and Bennet joining the call — despite what could be tough reelection campaigns in the fall — activists are hoping to show that the public option is the smart political choice for all Democrats. “Every day, it becomes increasingly clear that the best way to ‘fix’ the original Senate bill is to pass the highly popular public option through reconciliation,” said a joint statement from the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, Democracy for America and Credo Action, the three groups who pushed the letter. “It’s the populist reform that the House will need in order to pass both bills together and the key change Democratic and Independent voters will need in order to believe in health care reform again and show up in 2010.” The groups blasted an e-mail out to their members, asking them to contact their own lawmakers and get them to sign the letter, as well.
The political angle isn’t necessarily all about November. Bennet has a potential primary challenge from the left ahead of him before he has to worry about the general election, and Gillibrand is courting liberals in New York in preparation for a primary bid by former Tennessee Rep. Harold Ford Jr. Still, the fact that two vulnerable lawmakers are getting out ahead of the charge could help give some momentum to healthcare reform efforts, after weeks of bad news. And Bennet certainly didn’t sound conflicted about the issue. “Too many people in Washington believe that just saying you are for health care reform is a substitute for actually getting something done,” he said in a statement. “While some choose to stall progress under the pretext of principle, more and more Americans are losing the health care coverage they need.”
"Californication" (seven seasons)
"Entourage" (eight seasons)
Much like “Californication,” this man-centric show started strong and buzzy -- a perpetual nominee at the Golden Globes and Emmys, and a perceived gender-swapped “Sex and the City.” Then it ground on and on, and what might once have been read as a sophisticated satire of Hollywood materialism became a grinding conveyor belt of self-congratulatory guest-star appearances.
"Will & Grace" (eight seasons)
Hey, did someone say “self-congratulatory guest-star appearances?” Look -- it’s Jennifer Lopez, and Cher, and Janet Jackson, and Madonna! The latter seasons of “Will & Grace” effectively ruined the fun of watching the show in syndication now -- will it be a fun and jaunty early episode, or a later episode in which title characters enact an Ibsen play about having a baby together (really) while Jack and Karen meet one pop star or another? The fact that the show hastened a widespread acceptance of gay people that, then, made the show something of a throwback by the time it ended is one thing; the fact that the show itself seemed uninterested in relying on its actors’ sharp comic timing is quite another.
"The King of Queens" (nine seasons)
This CBS stalwart just kind of kept going, exactly as long as was needed to launch Kevin James’ film career. In the show’s final minutes, a formulaic sitcom became a mile-a-minute soap, with the central characters considering divorce and then having two children.
"Frasier" (11 seasons)
Though it ended strong, "Frasier" had something of the opposite problem as “The King of Queens”: While the CBS comedy chucked a whole bunch of plot at viewers toward the end, NBC’s Emmy magnet stayed stuck in familiar ruts, with Frasier questing endlessly for love and Daphne and Niles in fairly unthrilling domestic bliss. The jokes stayed good, but this maybe could have gone one or two years shorter.
"Weeds" (eight seasons)
As “Homeland” viewers may be learning, Showtime isn’t particularly good at keeping its shows coherent over time. (Maybe this is “Californication”’s issue -- we wouldn’t know!) This show changed settings and, effectively, organizing conceits so many times that by the end, it had few earnest defenders.
"Nip/Tuck" (six seasons)
This FX series, too, changed settings midway through, moving from Miami to Los Angeles four seasons in for no compelling reason. The show’s most gripping subplots had a way of petering out (remember the anticlimactic solution to the mystery of the Carver?), and its bizarre tendencies overtook any sense of fun.
"Glee" (five seasons and counting)
The series has, like its sibling show “Nip/Tuck” (Ryan Murphy created them both), switched locations, moving in large part to New York once its core cast graduated high school. But what’s the point of a high school series when the stars graduate? Despite some lovely moments, the show’s heat seems gone, and attempts to get back into the conversation (the school shooting episode, for instance) have been more desperate and tone-deaf than effective.
"Grey's Anatomy" (10 seasons and counting)
Here’s the thing: By all accounts, “Grey’s Anatomy” is not a creative failure. And it’s still widely watched. But when you begin your life as a world-beating hit, anything else seems somewhat marginal. “Grey’s Anatomy” has shed more regular viewers than many shows will ever hope to get in the first place (same’s true of “Survivor” and latter-day “ER,” to name just a few). Those who stopped watching once the Golden Globe nominations petered out may wonder why the show is still on; loyal viewers know better.
"The Simpsons" (25 seasons and counting)
Like the “Grey’s” doctors, the Springfield clan and their neighbors still draw a crowd. But “The Simpsons” is so omnipresent in syndication and in pop culture that the first-run series seems besides the point (not least because, though there are good episodes here and there, the show’s best days are universally agreed to be behind it -- like way behind it, in the 1990s).
"The Office" (nine seasons)
There was a natural break for this show, where it ought to have ended -- with the departure of lead actor Steve Carell in Season 7. The latter years were a creative fugue state, and as NBC’s Thursday night lineup continued to flatline in the ratings, one-time fans could be forgiven at their surprise that the adventures of Jim and Pam kept on unfolding.
"The X-Files" (nine seasons)
Once one of the show’s leads departs and has to be replaced -- as Steve Carell did on “The Office,” or David Duchovny did here -- the show faces a reckoning; if the lead is so central to the show’s plot as to make people wonder how the show could possibly go on, maybe the show shouldn’t. And even “X-Files” superfans might have been happier with fewer seasons of drawing out the conspiracy string toward a famously unsatisfying ending.