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Shows that went on way too long
"Californication" (seven seasons)
The narratives are similar, and timed remarkably close together. But the outcomes have been completely different. Had it been only or the other, it’d be a lot easier to draw simplistic conclusions. Instead, what happened this week in Roma families in Ireland and Greece has only led to more questions.
In Greece this week, a fair-haired, blue-eyed little girl known as Maria was discovered in a Roma camp in Greece after police noticed her during a camp raid for drugs and weapons. DNA tests subsequently revealed that the 5 or 6 year-old child, quickly dubbed the “blonde angel” in international media, is not related the couple she had been living with. In photographs, Maria’s long braids appear much darker at the ends, suggesting her hair may have been dyed at some point to conceal her identity. Greek officials say her caretakers, Christos Salis and Eleftheria Dimopoulou, had fake registrations claiming several children born in a ten month period, changed their story about how they obtained Maria repeatedly and had a false birth certificate for Maria. But the couple insists they acquired the child in an informal adoption from a Bulgarian mother. Maria is now the subject of a worldwide hunt for her biological parents, and the couple, have been formally charged with abduction.
The case has shed light on what some are calling a serious human trafficking problem in Greece, where, as the BBC’s Mark Lowen reports, the country’s lax “prevention and prosecution” systems mean children are “subjected to forced labor, sex-trafficking or sold to couples, in Greece or abroad, in illegal adoption schemes.” But it has also reinforced age-old stereotypes about child-stealing.
Roma peoples remain among the most vilified groups in all of Europe. They were targeted by the Nazis as “racially inferior” and exterminated by the tens of thousands. More recently, France has come under fire from the United Nations for its push to entice Roma persons to leave the country. Earlier this month, Daily Kos reported on Sweden — where a large population of blonde, blue-eyed Roma live — and its Roma registry, a throwback to what used to be known as its “gypsy inventory.” In Kosovo this week, the parents of a Roma family that was deported from France earlier this month – including a 15 year-old girl who was forcibly taken from her school bus – were beaten by a group of unknown assailants. The mother was sent to the hospital for her injuries. And this past Sunday, the New York Times asked, “Are the Roma Primitive, or Just Poor?” In that article, Dan Bilefsky wrote about an explosive recent trial in France over Roma children who were trained to steal – one in which the defense argued about crime in terms of “following age-old Roma traditions and generally operating outside the norms of society.”
And then there’s the other story, of the other child. As in Greece, in Ireland this week, a blonde, blue-eyed girl was taken by authorities from the Roma family she was living with. Police, acting on an anonymous tip, descended on the child’s Tallaght home. There, they noticed that the name the couple call her and the one on her passport don’t match, and they took the child into custody. But subsequent DNA testing revealed that the couple she was taken from are her biological parents. She was removed largely because her parents are Roma and because she didn’t look like them. Meanwhile, in the wake of the discovery of Maria, authorities in Greece have carried out more sweeps of Roma camps there, and further raids have been done in Spain, Italy and France.
Today one child is back with her parents and another remains an enigma. So is it dangerous racial profiling to question the presence of a fair child in a Roma family? Does the outcome of the investigation change the answer? The two stories reveal in different ways the complexity of the issues surrounding Europe’s Roma communities, which exist largely outside the parameters of official documentation. Human trafficking is real. Profiling and hate crimes are real too. The investigations now taking place are only going to ramp up. They are to some an inevitable response to reports of child-snatching and a “witch hunt” to others. And in a situation with so many mysteries, the victims of exploitation are not always clearly defined.
"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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