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Shows that went on way too long
"Californication" (seven seasons)
Herbal therapies are astoundingly popular among the American public. In 2008 statistician Patricia M. Barnes of the National Center for Health Statistics and her colleagues reported that almost 20 percent of children and adults in the U.S. had used an herbal medicine during the past year. In 1998 a team led by physician David M. Eisenberg of Harvard Medical School determined that use of herbs for physical and mental problems had risen 380 percent between 1990 and 1997.
Our enthusiasm for herbal medicine is undoubtedly fueled by the high cost of prescription drugs, the fact that these drugs do not work for everyone, and a burgeoning interest in natural remedies. Moreover, many people erroneously assume that natural substances are inherently safer than synthetic medications.
The use of plants as treatments dates to at least 3000 b.c. Today this practice is part of a broader movement known as complementary and alternative medicine. Many people turn to such treatments—which also include remedies such as acupuncture, aromatherapy and massage—for psychological problems. In a 2001 study sociologist Ronald C. Kessler of Harvard Medical School and his associates found that more than half of people with panic attacks or severe depression used some form of alternative therapy, including herbs, during the previous year, usually without medical supervision.
Nevertheless, most plants have not been studied for their therapeutic value or side effects. Studies of two herbal treatments—kava for anxiety and St. John’s wort for depression—indicate that some plant-derived substances might help individuals with psychological problems, but the evidence is so far inconclusive.
Kick Back, Relax
Pacific Islanders have long used an extract of the root of the kava plant (Piper methysticum), which grows on those islands, for social, ceremonial and medicinal purposes, including relaxation and the reduction of anxiety. Introduced in the U.S. in the 1980s, kava extract is most often served as a drink, which Americans can now sample in any of various kava bars. The Purple Lotus Kava Bar in West Palm Beach, Fla., for example, offers “a popular alternative to the same old nightlife, a place to truly kick back and relax.”
For the treatment of anxiety, people generally purchase kava in drug and health food stores. Some experimental results suggest the root has antianxiety properties. In a review article published in 2010, physician Max H. Pittler of the German Cochrane Center at the University of Freiburg and physician Edzard Ernst of the Peninsula Medical School in Exeter, England, analyzed 12 well-designed studies comparing kava with a placebo for the treatment of anxiety. They found that kava was more effective than the inert substance for ameliorating general anxiety, but the difference between the two was small. Unfortunately, relatively few studies qualified for inclusion, and the investigations differed in the dosages used, strains of kava, duration of treatment and severity of the patients’ anxiety.
In addition, although the herb is relatively safe, it should not be used with abandon. Its side effects may include stomach complaints, restlessness, headache and fatigue. Reports of the root causing liver damage led to a 2002 warning from the Food and Drug Administration, along with bans on kava in several countries. Further research has quieted this concern, and the bans have since been lifted. Even so, we cannot rule out the possibility that kava causes liver damage because alternative explanations for a few cases of liver problems remain unexplained by other factors.
Of more concern are interactions between kava and other medications. Kava can intensify sleepiness if taken with sedatives, sleeping pills, antipsychotics or alcohol, raising the risk of injury during activities such as driving and using heavy machinery. It may also enhance the sedating effects of anticonvulsants and worsen the side effects associated with antipsychotic medication.
"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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