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Shows that went on way too long
"Californication" (seven seasons)
Bobby Rahal found it difficult at times over the last six years watching son Graham driving for other open-wheel teams.
But the three-time CART champion and 1986 Indianapolis 500 winner wasn’t going to be a meddlesome father.
“There were a lot of times when I wanted to say something to the team. My tongue bled a lot,” the elder Rahal said. “There were a number of races where he was in a position … maybe win, and some of these strategy calls would come out and basically take him out of a chance from winning the race.”
Graham being on his own, with a chance to make a name for himself, was part of the Rahals’ plan all along before they were going to work together. The youngster won his IndyCar Series debut in 2008, after a year in Champ Car, and had six other IndyCar podium finishes before driving for dad.
Now on the same team this season, they are racing alongside another IndyCar father-son combo with a famous racing name — the Andrettis, Michael and Marco.
“It’s been great,” said Graham, at 24 already in his sixth IndyCar season. “Dad and I, for those that know us really well, he and I are much the same person. … I’m excited for what the future has in store for us together as a team.”
While it’s been a tough start — through eight races, Graham was 18th in points, four spots below teammate James Jakes — the Rahals know they are just getting started together.
“We’ll get there, and I have complete confidence in his abilities to drive a race car,” Bobby said.
Their only IndyCar race before this season was the 2010 Indianapolis 500, when Graham finished 12th.
Bobby remembers the late Scott Roembke, the team’s former chief operating officer, telling him then that having the young Rahal was “the best thing that could happen to this team, and it’s the worst thing that could happen to this team. … It’s the best because he can drive the wheels off a car, and it’s the worst because he’s your son.”
Marco Andretti, currently second in points just ahead of Andretti Autosport teammate and defending series champion Ryan Hunter-Reay, had just turned 19 when he made his IndyCar debut driving for his father in 2006. Andretti later that season became the youngest driver ever to win a top-series auto race, a distinction Graham took over two years later with his first victory.
Both Graham and Marco are third-generation drivers.
Graham Rahal’s grandfather was a sports car racer. Marco is the grandson of four-time IndyCar champion Mario, the only driver to win the Indianapolis 500, the Daytona 500 in NASAR and a Formula One title.
“I didn’t really provide the choice for them pursue the career of lawyer or diplomat or something like that. But it was ultimately their choice,” Mario said of sons Michael and Jeff following him into racing.
“We’ve been able to share something very special,” Michael said of the three generations of IndyCar drivers. “It’s a very unique situation, and we’re proud to be part of all of that. This sport’s been very, very special to me personally, just with loving the sport. Then you throw in the family element and it makes it even that much more special. … We’re lucky, and we count our blessings for sure.”
Mario remembers his grandson being 5 and riding a 4-wheeler, standing on its rear wheels.
“It’s really difficult some times. … When I assess the situation my own way, I say maybe Marco shouldn’t be driving for his dad,” Mario said, with a bit of a chuckle. “Why? Because maybe his teammates might think, people might think, that he gets favors. So Michael goes out of his way not to show favoritism. So Marco struggles sometimes, you know what I mean. It’s a double-edged sword.”
The patriarch of the Andretti racing family also knows the benefit of Marco always being part of a top team. He believes his grandson can carry a team to a championship, but also says it’s Marco’s responsibility to control his own destiny in what is a much different dynamic than most owners and drivers.
“You’re going to have some confrontation between father and son you probably wouldn’t have with a different boss, because either side know they can get away with it,” Mario said. “It’s something different. I’m just glad I never had to drive for my dad.”
Before announcing their working relationship, Bobby discussed with Graham how they would have to treat each other “on a higher plane” than just father and son.
“The father-son thing, that can be great, and it can be really destructive too,” Bobby said. “There can be a big emotional aspect to that, and that’s not good. So we have to really discipline ourselves to ensure that there isn’t that emotional element in there, and that’s not always easy.”
With Father’s Day coming up, Marco and Graham have a chance to give a gift few sons can to their dads.
“Hopefully a pole and win,” Marco said. “That way I don’t have to get him a card or anything.”
The series runs Saturday at Milwaukee, a race Michael Andretti’s marketing company is promoting and where he won five times, including a 1991 CART race when he shared the podium with his cousin, John, the runner-up, and third-place finisher Mario.
“Well, I couldn’t ask for a better present that’s for sure,” Michael said when asked about the possibility of Marco getting to Victory Lane there on Father’s Day weekend. “It’d be another special moment at Milwaukee if that were to happen. … That would just totally add to it.”
"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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