Read it on Salon
Shows that went on way too long
"Californication" (seven seasons)
BANNING, Calif. (AP) — Firefighters were able to beat back a powerful wildfire that bore down on a dry Southern California city, limiting the damages to a single house and curbing the threat to hundreds more.
But the difficult conditions that helped fuel the 4 1/2 square-mile blaze in Riverside County on Wednesday could be even worse in parts of the state Thursday.
“Today was a transition day,” state fire spokesman Julie Hutchinson said. “Tomorrow is the big wind day”
Winds of 20-30 mph are expected, along with nearly non-existent humidity and an abundance of wildfire fuel.
“The grass, brush and trees are very volatile. They’re ready to burn,” Hutchinson said. “Everything is just very dry. And not just in Southern California, statewide.”
Forecasters said high pressure would send strong winds through Southern California’s passes and canyons and near coastal foothills Thursday.
The fire broke out just after noon about 90 miles east of Los Angeles in the largely undeveloped foothills of the San Bernardino Mountains north of the city of Banning, where hundreds evacuated their homes.
More than 400 firefighters helped by six helicopters and six air tankers turned the orange open flame near the city into sheets of white smoke and had the fire 35 percent contained by nightfall, county fire officials said.
The aircraft were grounded for the night and all evacuations were called off.
But the fire remained large and volatile as it moved away from Banning and toward the nearby communities of Beaumont and Cherry Valley.
The stand from firefighters came too late for Joe Kiener, 53, who lost the house he’d lived in since his mother bought it in the 1970s.
Kiener was home on a lunch break when he stepped outside to check on his barking dog and saw heavy smoke approaching. He took the dog and started to leave just as a deputy arrived to tell him to evacuate, but it wasn’t easy.
“When I left I went around the corner and I got engulfed in a big cloud of smoke,” said Kiener, who could see so little the deputy had to yell to him how to get out.
He got out safely, but the next time he saw the house was in a cellphone picture sent by his neighbor. The roof was on fire, and he knew it would be destroyed, but he shrugged off the loss.
“My mom passed away a month ago. The day before Easter,” Kiener said. “So that was the biggest thing that hurt my heart is losing her. Losing the house is just minimal. We can rebuild.”
In Northern California, firefighters were battling fires fueled by gusty winds in wine country north of San Francisco.
In Sonoma County, a fire north of Calistoga was 50 percent contained after burning 125 acres. Another fire in nearby Napa County was fully contained after burning 75 acres.
In Butte County, a fast-moving blaze called the Panther Fire has burned about 1/2 square mile since it was sparked Wednesday morning, state fire officials said.
State fire spokesman Daniel Berlant said the blazes across of California could be an ominous sign.
“Statewide, our fire activity is up over 60 percent of normal,” Berlant said. “It has everything to do with the fact that conditions are so dry, then you add wind, making the perfect conditions for a fire.”
“We’re a bit drier than normal at this time and seeing conditions that we would usually see in June,” Berlant said. “If this is an indicator of what’s to come, then we’re going to be in for a very busy fire season.”
"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.
Read it on Salon