Shows that went on way too long
"Californication" (seven seasons)
When it comes to the Republican Party’s budget proposal that passed the U.S. House this week, I agree with those who find it strange that anyone sees the initiative as a serious attempt to “grow the economy,” as Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., claims. I also agree that the now-standard barrage of reports that accompany such an initiative render most non-political junkies confused, bored or both.
However, all of that doesn’t mean the proposal Ryan spearheaded is unimportant, nor does it mean that there are no worthwhile analyses to explain that significance. On the contrary, the proposal is quite important because it endorses an economic war waged by the upper class against everyone else. Two simple studies make this war painfully obvious.
To properly contextualize those studies, first keep in mind three facts: 1) According to Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz, “The upper 1 percent of Americans are now taking in nearly a quarter of the nation’s income every year” and control 40 percent of the nation’s total wealth, 2) the bottom 80 percent of Americans own just 7 percent of the nation’s wealth, and 3) Stiglitz notes that “while the top 1 percent have seen their incomes rise 18 percent over the past decade, those in the middle have actually seen their incomes fall.”
Considering this, it is no surprise that the United States is one of the industrialized world’s most economically unequal nations. Just as unsurprising is International Monetary Fund data showing that such acute inequality reduces macroeconomic growth. In light of that, any proposal purporting to create what Ryan calls a “pro-growth economy” should, in part, include policies that aim to make the United States less stratified.
That brings us to the first report on Ryan’s budget, courtesy of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
As that watchdog group shows, the allegedly “pro-growth” GOP proposes no big cuts to corporate welfare or other subsidies that enrich the already rich. Instead, the party proposes that 66 percent of the cuts come from “programs that serve people of limited means.” Yes, that’s right: The “pro-growth” GOP is proposing to primarily cut the programs that reduce economic inequality and, thus, spur economic growth.
Where do much of the savings generated from those cuts go? That gets us to a report by Citizens for Tax Justice. The nonpartisan group discovered that after a decade of trickle-down tax cuts delivered more economic inequality and historically weak macroeconomic growth, the GOP is now proposing a budget whose centerpiece is a proposal to give those with an “income exceeding $1 million (an) average net tax decrease of over $200,000.”
Taken together, these two analyses spotlight the self-evident moral argument against such a budget. With all those aforementioned facts showing the rich getting richer and everyone else getting hit so hard, how heartless does a political party have to be to propose this kind of budget blueprint?
That, however, is the wrong question, because this isn’t about morality; it is about ideology and, more specifically, an ideological commitment to a class war.
Supercharged as it is, that phrase – “class war” – is appropriate and accurate. As the data prove, the GOP and its financiers are so committed to a class war that the party is willing to put forward a budget proposal that quite clearly preferences fighting that war over doing what’s actually necessary (read: addressing inequality) to fix the economy.
That may not make for a proposal that is a serious attempt to address America’s problems, but it does make for one that is significant in how honestly it states the Republican Party’s true long-term goals.
David Sirota is a nationally syndicated newspaper columnist, magazine journalist and the best-selling author of the books "Hostile Takeover," "The Uprising" and "Back to Our Future." E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org, follow him on Twitter @davidsirota or visit his website at www.davidsirota.com. More David Sirota.
"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.