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Shows that went on way too long
"Californication" (seven seasons)
NELSPRUIT, South Africa (AP) — This is part of the vision Nelson Mandela had for South Africa’s national rugby team.
A black player is set to make his debut with the Springboks on Saturday after rising from a poor township in the home province of the former president and anti-apartheid icon.
Once closely associated with the apartheid government, the Springboks are often seen as an indicator of South African race relations.
The team has selected black players before and has long moved past the all-white squads of the apartheid years, but the story of Siya Kolisi resonates in its own way. The 21-year-old flanker is to take his place on the Boks’ bench this weekend against Scotland and likely play when the team makes its debut in the northeast city of in Nelspruit.
Kolisi is from the Zwide township in Port Elizabeth, Eastern Cape province, the kind of poor region Mandela wanted South African rugby to reach. Kolisi embodied the hope that the Springboks would reinvent themselves as a team that celebrated South Africa’s diversity and no longer contributed to its divisions.
“It’ll be a special day tomorrow for Siya. I think it’s a great story. I think it’s a great success story,” South Africa captain Jean de Villiers said Friday. “I think it is South Africa in a nutshell, hey? Someone that didn’t have the opportunities that maybe I had growing up.”
Kolisi and De Villiers represent something Mandela hoped for from the Springboks when he famously embraced the team at the 1995 Rugby World Cup. But their paths to this point couldn’t have been more different. Kolisi fought to be recognized playing in Zwide, a rugby backwater, while De Villiers attended Stellenbosch University, one of South Africa’s most famous rugby academies.
This week, they have shared a hotel room as Springboks teammates.
Kolisi has paid for his father, with organizing help from the South African Rugby Union, to attend the test and watch his son play rugby for only the second time. It will be the first time Fezakele Kolisi flies.
The 94-year-old Mandela remains in the hospital for a recurring lung infection, leaving South Africans fearing for the health of their ailing father figure. De Villiers said the Springboks will continue to honor Mandela — affectionately referred to by his clan name Madiba — on the field.
The Springboks maybe share a closer bond with Mandela than any other team in South Africa.
“Madiba has done so much for this country, he’s an unbelievable person and I’ve had the honor of meeting him as well,” De Villiers said. “I’ve got a photo with him, myself and the World Cup, which is quite a special photo. He’s just a great guy.
“Death is something that is going to happen to all of us and he’s sick at this stage, but he’s a fighter. He showed throughout his life … and hopefully he can hang in there and enjoy the team with his family, and people can give him the space that he needs. A great person. I suppose, from a Springbok point of view, all we can do is try and honor him as much as we can on the rugby field.”
"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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