Shows that went on way too long
"Californication" (seven seasons)
Chris Christie is probably running for president in 2016. He is probably one of the “favorites.” The donor class loves him so much they begged him to enter the race in 2012. He is cruising to an easy reelection in a very blue state with the support of a surprising number of Democratic donors. Despite the apparent cross-partisan appeal, he has also been a right-wing folk hero, primarily for his “viral” videos in which he yelled at government employees. Christie polls well in New Hampshire, and leads nationally in some polls. There is just one small problem, though: He is already the candidate Republican voters hate the most.
That’s what Rasmussen’s latest poll says. Twenty-one percent of Republicans nationwide say they’d vote for Christie to be their nominee in 2016. But when asked who they least wanted to be the nominee, 31 percent of Republicans said Christie. Hillary Clinton has a similar problem among Democrats, but her yeses at least outweigh her negatives. How did this happen to Christie, exactly? The simple answer is that he’s too good at what he does, and what he does is hide his conservatism behind a mask of reasonableness.
One (particularly vile) segment of the right hates him for one of Christie’s unambiguously admirable acts: standing up to virulent Islamophobia. Unfortunately, virulent Islamophobia is very, very popular on the right, tolerated at the highest levels and encouraged by even the most respectable media outlets of the conservative movement. Mitt Romney counted John Bolton, ally of raving anti-Muslim loons Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer, as a “foreign policy adviser. “Shariah law” hysteria has taken hold at Republican-run legislatures across the nation. These people are prepared to go to war to prevent Christie from being the nominee. They will (and have) essentially call him a terrorist sympathizer.
Daniel Pipes and Steve Emerson wrote of “Chris Christie’s Islam Problem” in the National Review. The odious Robert Spencer declared Christie “a foursquare tool of jihadists and Islamic supremacists.”
Christie does have some cover: The neoconservatives, including some marginally less-extreme Islamophobes, have adopted him and are instructing him in the ways of their ultra-hawkish foreign policy. The Washington Post’s Jennifer Rubin rather suddenly likes him a great deal. This is the source of the entire Christie/Paul fight.
But naked Islamophobia is populist in a way that neoconservative interventionism decidedly isn’t. A sort of generalized paranoia about Muslims in general — and a desire to keep them out of the United States — is broadly popular among scared old white conservatives. Actual wars, though, even conservatives are tired of. As the 2012 race began, polls showed conservatives and Republicans feeling much less excited about interventionism than they were during the Bush years. Forty-five percent of Republicans said the U.S. should “mind its own business internationally.” So Christie wins no points from conservatives for sounding like Bill Kristol, and loses points for not sounding like Geert Wilders.
Similarly, the right has not forgotten Chris Christie’s post-hurricane embrace of President Obama. The words “Benedict Arnold” have been thrown around. Conservative commentators of varying prominence explicitly blamed Christie for Obama’s reelection. That sort of talk largely came from the less “respectable” voices of the conservative movement, but the conservative base hates and distrusts anything “respectable.” Dick Morris may be a fool, but he’s a fool with a massive audience that does not know he’s a fool.
The ironic thing about this conservative distrust is that Christie actually would be a very conservative president. He’s an antiabortion and anti-gay marriage staunch Catholic who believes in low taxes and no regulations and all the rest of the important, eternally unchanging policies on the checklist. Christie’s branding is designed to make him attractive to moderates in the Northeast — this is how the press fell in love with him, obviously — but it’s just that: branding. On the issues, he’s a man solidly of the right.
So, like Jon Huntsman before him, Christie blinds both conservatives and center-lefties to how conservative he actually is. That didn’t work out so well for Jon Huntsman.
Mitt Romney, it’s true, was not particularly beloved by the Republican base. But none of his primary opponents were remotely serious enough to deny him the nomination, especially with his massive organizational and financial advantages. In 2016, Christie will probably have to contend with less ridiculous opponents, with stronger support.
Nate Cohn, who is much smarter than I am, “says it is surprisingly easy to envision Christie winning the nomination.” That’s still true: All the money people do love him a lot. But if the divide between what the money people in the conservative movement want, and what the raging base wants, grows between now and 2016, Christie will find himself on the side with far fewer Republican primary voters.
"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.
Alex Pareene surveys the burgeoning and bloated world of political news and opinion and explains the day's most essential story in Opening Shot, posted by 8:30 a.m. each weekday. Bookmark this page; follow @pareene on Twitter.