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Shows that went on way too long
"Californication" (seven seasons)
When you’re a famous doctor with a daily TV show, you’ve got to be careful about the claims you make. You’ve got to tread the line between giving entertaining sound bites for daytime viewers and knowing how to avoid giving any advice that could get you in hot water. So it was perhaps inevitable that cardiac surgeon, People Magazine Sexiest Man and television personality Dr. Mehmet Oz would find himself on the receiving end of a lawsuit from an unhappy viewer. What’s surprising about it is the cause.
Earlier this week, 76-year-old Frank Dietl filed suit in Manhattan’s Supreme Court, saying he’d received third-degree burns on his feet after sleeping with heated rice-filled socks as Oz recommended in a show last year. Dietl says he has neuropathy, which diminishes sensation in his feet and made him unable to realize he was being burned. The show’s spokesman, meanwhile, issued a statement that it stands by “the content in our program as safe and educational for our viewers.” Ah, good old educational Oz.
Dr. Oz first made a big name for himself a decade ago, in the high flowering of pop alternative medicine – a guru who guested on “Oprah” to dispense common sense and demystify good health. Authoritative, practical and plain-spoken, Oz became a superstar of integrative ideology and basic common sense. But in recent years, the good doctor has turned his talk show into a showcase for a variety of dubious subjects and advice. In a New Yorker profile earlier this year, Michael Specter noted that “Oz has been criticized by scientists for relying on flimsy or incomplete data, distorting the results, and wielding his vast influence in ways that threaten the health of anyone who watches the show.”
Some of it has been pretty minor stuff, like butt-busting brownies and a fast-food diet. Some of it’s been considerably dicier. He’s railed about arsenic in apple juice, sending the FDA into attack mode. Last year he “investigated” reparative therapy, asking, “Is there a gay cure?” and welcoming “experts on both sides” — including the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality. Though he claimed on his blog that “I have concerns about the potentially dangerous effects when the therapy fails,” he also defended the show and its guests, saying, “You have to present multiple perspectives.”
And while Dr. Oz explicitly states that he does not endorse “any brand name or commercial supplier,” all it takes is one mention of an exciting! possible! breakthrough! — usually concerning looking younger or losing weight – for anything to do with it goes flying off the shelves. He’s devoted shows to ways to “supercharge your body with human growth hormone” and started a run on SeroVital – despite the fuzzy evidence of its effectiveness. He examines green coffee beans for weight loss, and zing! suddenly coffee bean extract is a thing.
Last month, Oz did an episode about the HCG Diet, and featured the glowing testimonial of Dr. Sheri L. Emma on his website — with a handy link to her own site and its $149.95 “starter kit.” He’s invited the controversial Dr. Joseph Mercola on repeatedly, gently stating that he doesn’t agree with everything the man says but praising him for “defying convention and thinking largely outside the box.” Mercola’s outside-the-box thinking: advising against mammograms and selling an $8,000 “Whole Body Vibration Training Machine” on his website. Unsurprisingly, he has inspired the FDA to warn him about his claims, more than once. When Mercola said sunscreen promotes cancer and recommended tanning beds for Vitamin D, Oz responded, on his show, that “My bottom line — I am rethinking tanning beds. In the last year I have looked at a lot of information. …I think there is a value of UVB radiation, not just for vitamin D but for other sources as well. I am not interested in this as a tanning solution … I am interested in the health benefits of it, and for some people it might make sense.” It was a statement Oz later waved off with his smartypants explanation that “As a doctor, it is my natural inclination to evaluate and question emerging information.” Which was a pretty funny response to his own episode about “The Alternative Medicine Guru Who Says You Shouldn’t Trust Your Doctor.” Guess it depends who the doctor is.
So if, of all the wildly expensive, questionably out there things that Dr. Oz has given a platform to on his show, the thing that has landed him in a lawsuit is the old rice-in-a-sock compress remedy, there’s a strange poetry to be found in there. And if you’re looking for further evidence the universe may have a sense of humor on the topic of Oz and the “emerging information” he so promiscuously offers, it’s notable that the lawsuit was filed on Monday. The topic of Oz’s show that day? “The Biggest Scams Threatening Your Health.”
"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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