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Shows that went on way too long
"Californication" (seven seasons)
Congratulations, Minnesota. Nearly three years after Anoka High School student Justin Aaberg hanged himself after allegedly being subjected to anti-gay harassment, state Republicans seem to have decided that bullying is no longer a problem. The Pioneer-Press reports Monday that an anti-bullying bill has been withdrawn “after Republicans said they planned 10 hours of debate on the issue.”
Using mean, aggressive measures to get your way over a bullying bill? Anyone else feel an Alanis Morissette verse coming on?
After Aaberg’s death — just one of many high-profile 2010 LGBT suicides that made bullying a national issue — Sen. Al Franken made a strong push for tougher, clearer legislation to protect students. “No student should have to dread going to school because they fear being bullied,” he said. “It’s clear that we need to do more to ensure schools are a safe environment for all students. Ending this bullying and harassment in schools will be a priority for education reform in the next Congress.”
Like most states, Minnesota does already have some anti-bullying measures in place, though as MinnPost noted in April, they’re among the weakest — and most vague — in the nation. A 2012 statute calls for each school board shall to “adopt a written policy prohibiting intimidation and bullying of any student … in all forms, including, but not limited to, electronic forms and forms involving Internet use.” The Safe and Supportive Schools Act would have gone further and more explicitly, providing “clear definitions of bullying, harassment, and intimidation; training and resources for students, staff, and volunteers; and forward specific procedures for schools to report bullying incidents.”
The state’s House passed the anti-bullying bill earlier this month. But its progress may have been impeded by, of all things, the tremendous recent progress for LGBT rights. Last week, Minnesota became the 12th state to approve marriage equality, a victory that has left many conservatives angry and frustrated. In April, the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis sent out a strange, strongly worded letter to Catholics questioning the difference between “prevention of school bullying or re-education camp?” In it, the Archdiocese called the anti-bullying effort an “Orwellian nightmare, claiming, “this bill is not designed to protect all kids from school bullying” and calling it part of “the relentless assault in our schools on the dignity of the human person, authentic sexuality, and the institutions of marriage and family.”
The term “bullying” is inherently vague, and there’s always the risk, in legislating behavior, of imposing a moral value on uncomfortable opinions. But proponents of “traditional” marriage and relationships shouldn’t fear an “Orwellian” nightmare — or worse, pretend that kids don’t need to be educated about bullying and protected from it. Living in a free country means that we should all have the expectation of interacting with people who feel and believe differently than we do. It shouldn’t mean that our kids should be verbally abused and tormented in their schools. That’s what this is issue about. And until our kids stop killing ourselves, our kids should come first.
Democratic State Sen. Scott Dibble told Minnesota Public Radio Monday morning that “Republican after Republican got up and said ‘I talked to superintendents and they say things are just fine in our schools.’ Not one of them talked about talking to kids themselves. Well, I talked to literally hundreds of kids and they tell us things are not fine in their schools.”
"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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