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Shows that went on way too long
"Californication" (seven seasons)
WASHINGTON (AP) — They sat in wheelchairs as honored guests at President Barack Obama’s second inaugural, attended to almost minute-by-minute by active duty members of the military. For these Tuskegee Airmen, members of the famed all-black unit of World War II and several years beyond, the tables surely turned.
From the terrace of the Capitol, they watched an African-American president being sworn in for his second term. And they were cared for reverently by many whites in uniform, who more than six decades ago would have had no contact with these two dozen veterans now sitting with green Army blankets across their laps. Several of them said they were at Obama’s first inaugural but were just as excited to attend his second.
The tables certainly were turned for Homer Hogues, 85, who marched with his segregated unit in President Harry Truman’s inaugural parade in 1949.
The black troops were quartered in a hangar with little heat, while the white military marchers were in a barracks.
“We couldn’t do a lot of protesting at the time,” said Hogues, a Dallas resident who was a mechanic with his unit working on P-47 Thunderbolt fighters. What would he have told Truman, the president who integrated the armed forces? “I would have asked him, ‘Why did he put us in those hangars,” said Hogues.
As a civilian, Hogues tried to get a job as an airline mechanic but was told he only could work cleaning planes. He went to work instead in the metalworking industry. He looked forward to seeing Obama again at the Commander In Chief’s inaugural ball.
Clayton Lawrence, a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel, was among some 100 black troops disciplined in Indiana in 1945, during a protest when black officers attempted to enter an all-white officers’ club. A trainer of B-25 bomber pilots, the 89-year-old former New York City employee received a written reprimand and three officers faced courts-martial.
Transposing that day with the inauguration of the nation’s first African-American president, Lawrence said, “I never thought I would live to see it.”
Ezra Hill, 82, of Hampton, Va., who was an engineer with the unit, said the Tuskegee Airmen “never gave up” the hope that the military would be integrated. So many times, while he was in uniform, Hill said he was told, “We don’t have colored boys here.”
Grant Williams, also of Hampton, who had an administrative job with the unit from 1941-45, said the airmen suffered more discrimination in the United States then when they were deployed during World War II.
“We got much better treatment overseas than at home,” the 92-year-old said.
"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.
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