I always hate it when sitcoms stay on longer than they should. Basically if a show goes beyond seven years they are pushing their luck, especially when most of the cast has taken off. One of the all time great examples of this was “Happy Days”. There’s a reason why this show originated the phrase “jumping the shark”. How in the world did that show go eleven years? I guess times were different then, but by the end it was really “The Fonzie Show” and the creators had to keep inventing characters to keep the show going. All of whom have been forgotten.
Even if actors stay something happens to the writing. Simple age wears down any good show. “Night Court” was boring, “Who’s the Boss” got silly. The writing just gets stale and the actors even begin to phone it in. Even poor “Seinfeld” was not immune to this. Let’s be honest, were those last two years really that good? Sometimes the show plows on and becomes a shadow of its former self. “Will & Grace” was so bad those last two years, it was as if they were doing a parody of their own show. “Mad About You” had the same problem; the plots were stupid and the acting just silly. “Everybody Loves Raymond” also got old; every episode became the same formula over and over. On “King of Queens” the main characters became much meaner for some reason; the whole last season is hard to watch. “Murphy Brown” became so horrible I can barely bring myself to talk about the way the actors forgot how to play their roles, and the biggest example has to be what happened to “Roseanne” in that last season. After they won the lottery and, well, it was just dumb.
Of course some shows are smart enough to figure this out and stop before they get stale. “Cosby Show” bowed after seven years when they easily could have done eight, same with “Family Ties” and “Full House”. The only show that left after a long run which I felt could have continued was “Cheers”. I really think that show could have had a 12th season, it was still that good.
“Friends”went out right on time, I give the writers of that show a tremendous amount of credit for keeping it fresh and funny. The thing with “Friends” was that the show evolved rather than trying to do the same thing over and over. Also it evolved naturally, it didn’t abruptly change its entire format in its last season so it could have a last season, like a little show called “Scrubs” horribly tried to do.
“Scrubs” was not the first to revamp is format to stay alive. “Laverne & Shirley” was another, when they changed the setting to California to shake the show up it was horrible. Same thing with “Coach”, did anyone watch when the setting moved to Florida? I know I didn’t. “Home Improvement” ended because the cast knew to continue it would have to be revamped and that would be a mistake, they were smart enough to know reinventing never works. It could be said it still left a little late, but at least it ended graciously. The worst example of reinventing was probably “Family Matters”; I mean what did that show becomes exactly toward the end?
The reason I am bringing all this up is because tonight is the season premier of “Two and a Half Men”. Forgetting about the Charlie Sheen/Ashton Kutcher stuff for a moment I can’t help but wonder why this show is still on. I will be honest, I was never a huge fan and maybe I am wrong and the show is still as fresh and creative as it ever was. Problem is now they are changing cast members, and that almost never works. “Three’s Company”, “Designing Women”, and “Head of the Class” are all examples. In fact the only time I remember that working was when “Valerie” became “The Hogan Family” with Sandy Duncan. Anyone even remember that show? It’s one thing to add a cast member like “The Brady Bunch” with Oliver or Leonardo DiCaprio on “Growing Pains” (neither worked by the way). It’s another to replace a main cast member after so many years and have it work.
I wonder why they are keeping the show going when it has been on for years and will be in syndication forever. Don’t they realize that it doesn’t work? Are they running it dry, or will the show be reinvigorated? I guess we will see. I do look forward to watching to see what happens.
By the way, I know I was picking on sit-coms so I will say drama’s have this problem also. Just ask a little show called ER.