Saturday, August 22, 2015

THE TOP TEN GOOD TV SHOWS THAT WERE ENDED/CANCELED AT THE RIGHT TIME!

Well, I wasn't going to do this Top Ten List, in fact, part of why I decided to listen to my innermost id and do that Top Ten List on Lilith Fair Era Songs before, was partially a response to the fact that, despite posting in multiple groups, FB groups, asking for Top Ten Lists ideas, requests, suggestions, etc. (This time I added a caveat that this list be about television in respect to the upcoming Emmys) that they hadn't seen or would like to see, I didn't get one fucking response! I know, my computer presence has been severely lacking and compromised lately, but still, not one damn response, c'mon! Frankly, the only reason I got this request was because I was explaining/threatening to do that Top Ten Lilith Fair Era Songs Lists, to me friend and former fellow blogger Jackson Shrout, who then recommended it, and to be honest, I didn't respond well to the idea. (That could be partly why my #1 was what it was on that list but btw, although I do love Alanis in general, or as I refer to her as, God) Mostly, because I-eh, simply disagreed with the concept of this list.

Now, Jackson's thinking was that he's seen way too many lists of shows that went on too long or were canceled too early, why not split the difference and do shows that ended at the right time; eh, I can kinda understand that, it's clever. Plus, I never liked those other lists either, but generally, when a show, supposedly goes bad or "lasts too long," or "jumps the shark" or whatever, I tend to not be so simplistic in my thoughts, and I usually go back and figure out if the show was actually any good to begin with, and to be honest, usually the answer is no, they weren't that good actually. I can usually catch it a lot earlier than most, but anybody could if they were really paying attention. The severely overrated "Homeland" for instance, I figured out by the 5th or 6th episode that there was a clear limit to how good that show could be, although I've heard it's rebounded this last season, redefining itself but yea, the original problem was that the show had "Short Term Show" written all over it, and once that's faded, they have nothing left to do.

Well, hey, but we're clearly talking good shows here however, the very best, they should know when to end, shouldn't they? Actually I think the best shows, could pretty literally have lasted forever, if they wanted to. No, really. Think about it, sometimes a good show becomes less than what it was, but that doesn't necessarily mean it was inevitable for that to happen. "Murphy Brown" probably lasted a little too long, but not because it was a bad show, but it made some questionable decisions by the end that definitely started making it sink, but if they made other choices, there's no reason it could have still been an amazing show for a few more years than it did. Hell, even without Ted Danson, I'd argue that "Cheers" could've lasted another ten years, easily; it was that good. Hell, it's spinoff, "Fraiser" half-way proved that, and hell, that could've lasted another five or ten years. Every time I hear people bitch that "The Simpsons" should be canceled or has gone on too long, I think they're insane. That show can go on for another 30 years, it's still as good as it's always been. (It's not my fault you guys all overrated it.) but, hell, it's a good animated series, those can and hell, I think think they should last forever. "Family Guy" and "Futurama"'s multiple comebacks from cancellation have shown that. Hell, I'm still pissed that they stopped making "Looney Tunes", the original, old ones, not that these new reinventions are bad, but still, why would you ever stop to begin with?!?!

As you might've just guess there won't be any animated series on this list 'cause, well obviously if they were any good they should still be on and if they weren't then they shouldn't have been on in the first place, but I did think about a lot of television and went through every genre I could think of, and still this was a real struggle for me. I had narrowed down to about 50 or 60 songs for my Lilith Fair Era list to chose from, and I still completely forget Garbage's "Push It", (Man, how did I miss that one. I remember to consider all the other great Garbage songs, but that one somehow alluded me; I'm stupid sometimes.) but this list.... I have a really high TV IQ, but I barely managed to come up with ten shows that I felt confident about for this list. Remember, this isn't how good the ending of a series was or wasn't, it's about how well they timed exactly when to end the show. So, sorry "Newhart", although I did think/consider that one for a bit, but yeah, very, very, very difficult to come up with.

Well, no more stalling, let's get to it? We're counting down:

THE TOP TEN TV SHOWS THAT-uh..., hmm, hold on, let's try that again.

THE TOP TEN GOOD TV SHOWS, THAT ENDED OR WERE CANCEL...- wait, AND/OR- what, no, no,- ENDED/CANCELED, - oh dammit! Sorry, give me a minute.

(Under breath)
Ended and/or canceled? We're Ended/We're Canceled, and/or were canceled, UGH! Damn Jackson with his stupid request-,
(Deep breath)
Okay, hold on I can figure this out.
(Long thinking pause)
Okay, I got it now.

THE TOP TEN GOOD TV SHOWS THAT WERE ENDED AND/OR CANCELED AT THE RIGHT TIME!

10. "Six Feet Under" (HBO, 2001-2005)


Sia - Breathe Me (Six Feet Under Finale) by CarolinRoark

I had a few shows that I considered for the last few spots, and all of them seemed a bit off to me. "Barney Miller" came pretty close to making it, but I had to rethink it 'cause I'm fairly certain that could've continued on if it wanted to. I thought about "Wiseguy" for a bit too, but, eh, that ended probably as much because of how no one liked working with Ken Wahl as anything else. This is a tough one, but I finally decided to go with "Six Feet Under". Now, I also thought about "The Sopranos" but I always thought "The Sopranos" was overrated a bit, and I always actually considered "Six Feet Under" to really be the premiere HBO show of that time, but that said, it's hard to imagine this show going on much longer than it did. It was starting to basically move into some repetitive storytelling traits, doing them well, but still, if any show, ever needed to have closure, it was definitely this one, and the more it would've been prolongued, the less powerful it would've become. I know that seems strange considering this show only lasted five seasons, but if you've seen this show and how rich the characters were and became you'll understand it. The Fisher Family of Fisher & Sons Funeral home had become so ingrained into us, even after they had passed. Yes, the finale episode itself, "Everybody's Waiting" will easily make any legitimate list of the best last episodes of all time, but still, it ended at the right moment, and it was one of the first shows that chose to end as quickly as it did. Now, it's not uncommon, especially for cable shows that seem like they're at their peak to suddenly cut their show off but it was unusual when "Six Feet Under" did it, but even Alan Ball, the show's creator said, "63 episodes, 63 hours of that story, that's enough.". And yeah, he's right, as great and as much as I truly love this show, I've never once thought that I need another hour of this, this is was a great ending, and it ended and the exact perfect time. Any longer, this show couldn't been one of those, "Shame it went on too long" series, any shorter and we would've felt like we didn't get enough. This ended at the right time.


9. "Ally McBeal" (FOX, 1997-2002)



This was probably a much tougher decision than it looked at the time to cancel "Ally McBeal". I know on the surface, this doesn't make that much sense. The show had clearly jumped the shark a few years earlier, and even after the somewhat successful, albeit somewhat disastrous off-camera troubles with the fourth season's addition of Robert Downey, Jr., but this was one of those landmark shows that caused controversy and discussion. No, seriously it was. At one point, Time Magazine used Ally McBeal as the basis for arguing the feminism was dead. What the fuck?! The show with the creepy CG dancing baby? Well, I'll be honest, I never was that big a fan of this show, in fact, I didn't start watching it until the last season oddly enough, and from what I could tell, it was just going through the same absurdist troughs that most David E. Kelley show, even his very best ones like "L.A. Law" and "The Practice" would inevitably go through, until he just decided to start a show like that with "Boston Legal" and therefore make the show crazy and ridiculous to begin with. "Ally McBeal", is definitely the in-between show that shows him experimenting with these more abstract and surreal storytelling devices, but he also showed that they can work more times than not, and to some extent, he was in his prime at this point. The other weird thing is that, this was a FOX show, a network known for keeping shows on the air longer than most if they're successful, at that time. (Shut up, "Arrested Development" fans, go back and check how long some of FOX's earlier shows lasted) Plus, this was a critical and commercial success, becoming the first FOX show to ever win the Best Comedy Series Emmy, (and still the only hour-long comedy series to do so) this was a centerpiece show for a network that was only now getting the credibility that the other three networks had. So, I can easily see why, a show that had shown they can come back from disaster before, it would make sense to give them another try or two, but still..., this show already feels to most like a forgotten show, even though it's influence is all over network television now. This was a risk, but it was the right call to end "Ally McBeal" when they did. You can only be so absurd and over-the-top as this show was for so long, even with a rotating cast of actors and characters. (And that was just during that last season, it was ridiculous, but I don't know, I actually kinda thought it worked. Shrugged)


8. "Seinfeld" (NBC, 1989-1998)



(Sarcastic voice) Oh, what a shocking choice, the greatest TV show of all-time, happened to end at the right time. (Normal voice) Yeah, this is a pretty arbitrary choice for most of these lists. And yeah, "Seinfeld" is one of those shows that probably could've lasted forever, if they wanted to. But that said, have you guys really gone back and watched the last couple seasons of "Seinfeld"? They're definitely great, but they were kinda getting out there, even for the show. Really out there, bordering on the cartoonish at certain points. Cartoonish is definitely a word that sometimes damns a live-action sitcom, when the last time anybody's seen a "Malcolm in the Middle" on in reruns randomly? I'm not saying it would've gone down, but I do wonder if we would perceive "Seinfeld" as this brilliant and generally accepted legendary show, if it was on longer. Plus, on the other end, the show was at a commercial peak when it ended. It was literally the biggest show on TV when it ended, and it's just as risky to end a show then. I remember, no less than a week or two before the announcement that this would be "Seinfeld"'s last season, entertainment reports came in and said that the show won in the ratings that week, by 2-1 over it's nearest competition, and they aired a rerun, that had already won it's week. "Seinfeld" was huge, and ending a series at that point was certainly a gamble, even if it might be starting to head down a path of quality that might be questionable. Leave it to Jerry Seinfeld to not care about that, and know that it was time to end it and that the show very much could've started to lose it's quality drastically later. Part of the allure of "Seinfeld" now is that the show, supposedly ended early, that wouldn't have been the case, if it didn't.


7. "Star Trek: The Next Generation" (Syndication, 1987-1994)



Well, for those who wonder why the original "Star Trek" doesn't make this list, well, it was supposed to be a five-year mission, and it only lasted three years. Oops. (Uncomfortable pause) But actually, this is one of two shows on this list that inevitably would continue it's stories on in feature film form. I think that was definitely an intentional reason for why "Star Trek: The Next Generation" ended, plus, it would also spinoff "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine" and later "Star Trek: Voyager", which would actually make you sorta think that ending the series was a bit of an iffy move, but actually, "Star Trek: The Next Generation" definitely knew when it was time to move on. The series had recaptured and expanded upon the mystique of "Star Trek", even adding to it's mythology greatly. The show was still very good, if not great, hell, it even broke into the Emmys Best Drama Series category it's last season, the last time a Syndicated show ever came close to that kind of acclaim. People forget how big this show was, and how big it's series finale was. In fact, it's still the 3rd highest-rated Drama Series Finale episode of all-time, behind, believe it or not, "Magnum, P.I." and "Dallas". (Yes, "Magnum, P.I." is the highest rated, look it up.) This is a strange ending in that it was perfectly timed to set up other series, as well as springboard the show into a new condition and adjusting to feature films; you don't get television shows that have to end to head towards films often, the last one I can remember that was actually done intentionally before this, even somewhat, was, "The Monkees", and that was more canceled than ended. The show could've hypothetically continued as both a series and a movie franchise too, but the fact that they did this, also right at the show's peak, was ballsy and incredibly successful. The timing of this ending helped elevate a show that was once looked upon as a joke or a gimmick and solidified it, not only as the best "Star Trek" series, but as one of the best shows in television history, period.


6. "The Fugitive" (ABC, 1963-1967)



You aren't gonna find too many older series on this list, it's actually kinda difficult to determine with older series, whether or not they ended or why, mostly because, they rarely, if ever ended. While some shows do in fact have finale episodes back then, "Route 66" for instance, as a good example, but most shows didn't have official endings, as most feared/thought that a show ending would ruin the syndication possibilities for a series. The logic being that, if audiences knew that there was a supposed ending to a series, then nobody would watch the reruns of that show. In fact, before "The Mary Tyler Moore Show", only one series was allowed to officially "end", and that was "The Fugitive" and that's only because, they basically had to end it. It would've been pretty fucked up if they didn't, the whole show is based around a guy, who's running from the law for murdering his wife, while constantly on the search for the real killer, the infamous one-armed man. If they ended this show without an ending, he's be looking for his wife's killer, forever. I mean, it's one thing to have Lucy forever getting into antics and her and Ethel forever scheming behind Ricky and Fred's backs, but this...- I mean, I'm amazed how much crap there is for even the worst long-running serial TV shows that get pulled early, and suddenly, there's a fan reaction and outrage insisting they give it a conclusion. This is one of the first shows to use that structure. and there were far fewer channels back then so everybody watched it. Putting "The Fugitive" on here, isn't so much for the timing itself of when, although that's part of it, this isn't a show that could've gone on for a decade or two, but the guts it took to actually end the series at all, puts it one here, especially back when that practice, just wasn't done.


5. "Sex and the City" (HBO, 1998-2004)


Sex and the City - Il finale by cicciabella

Yeah, this NEEDED to end. I mentioned there were two shows on this list that later would continue into movies, ye-ah, where "Star Trek: TNG" did that well and seamlessly, "Sex and the City" really, really, really didn't. Look, I've talked about how big a fan I was and still am of "Sex and the City" before, and how I really think a lot of the hatred for this show is mostly based in the fact that people have completely misunderstood the conceit of the show and completely missed the subtle stories on the edges of the screen that's actually going on, in between the elaborated sexual adventures, misadventures and trysts that are detailed in the article that Carrie Bradshaw's writing, that are then detailed/shown in the episode, (Many of which I argue can often be exaggerations, happened differently than are simply shown, or could sometimes be completely made up by Carrie) However, it's clear to me that one of the people who's also doesn't see that at all either, is Michael Patrick King. (He also completely misses, everything that should've mde "2 Broke Girl$" good and funny, but...-, I've had that rant already) If anything, the two movies now are more proof that this show definitely shouldn't have continued on, but even eliminating that, since, they definitely weren't planning on a future with feature films, the show had pretty much ran it's course, and it's definitely not aged well. Even when it ended, I tended to regard the show mainly as a commentary on dating at the turn of the century, and it should really remain being viewed in that perspective. That said though, this is a great show, that was legitimately funny and sexy, and raised the bar for what a sitcom could do and be. It's also a show that really had a limit. You can only keep and do so much with a narrow perspective of characters' sex lives, especially when those lives inevitably lead to marriage. (Okay, Samantha could've probably gone on forever without leading to marriage, but the rest of them?) So, really this show had a shelf-life and thank God the show ended right as that shelf-life was ending, and was at the top of it's game. It's still the only cable sitcom to win the Best Comedy Series Emmy, as of this writing anyway, and it was for it's final season, and it deserved it. It peaked at the right time, with a show with a quicker half-life than most, and it ended right at that climax. You gotta admire that, and it definitely belongs on this list.

Oh, here's my article on "Sex and the City" btw:
http://davidbaruffi.blogspot.com/2011/08/dear-sex-and-city-please-die-already.html


4. "The Rosie O'Donnell Show" (Syndication, 1996-2002)



Holy Hell, has this been so thoroughly erased from our recent television history, even our recent daytime history? I mentioned that I went through all of televisions' genres to make this list, well, I did, and once I remembered "The Rosie O'Donnell Show", the hire and hire it jumped up on the list, and yes, it's the only talk show to make the list, and this is definitely one of those times where it was not at all obvious that this was timed perfectly until later. Okay, for those who don't remember, Rosie O'Donnell, basically owned daytime almost as soon as she went on the air with her new talk show. Yes, she did. In fact, she was the first serious contender to actually nearly dethrone Oprah. There had been a couple pretenders, like Joan Rivers, or Montel Williams would say, steal a Talk Show Host Emmy from Oprah every so often, but Rosie O'Donnell, actually started beating her in the Series Race. In fact, she's the reason Oprah started taking her name out of competition, that's how big Rosie O'Donnell was. And she's a great host. Now, you gotta understand the timing aspects too, O'Donnell was "The Queen of Nice", in an era of exploitative talk shows like Jenny Jones and Jerry Springer moving up the ratings airwaves, Rosie actually used a late-night format to daytime, something that wasn't en vogue by any means at that time. (Yes, Ellen DeGeneres's success owes a lot to Rosie O'Donnell) She would go on for six years, and left at the top, claiming that she wanted to stay home with her wife and kids (Oh yeah, that's part of this, she wasn't quite out at the time for most of this series, which makes her particularly strange running joke about being in love with Tom Cruise seem odd today) but it seemed like right after the show ended and the next generation went head-to-head with Oprah, words about Rosie's behind-the-scenes behavior caught up to her. Her very public divorce from Kelli Carpenter, her more vocal positions on news, most of which I agree with, and then there's the fact that Donald Trump is fascinated with her, not to mention her public fights over the years with Howard Stern and Tom Selleck, Anyway, while I do think of her as genuine and passionate, it's kinda hard to imagine her now as the Queen of Nice. Go back and rewatch episodes of this show and, yeah, it's hard to picture her now, doing this show, the way she did it back then. That's why, I'm pushing "The Rosie O'Donnell Show" way up on this list. If this show lasted longer, well, it wouldn't have. "The Rosie O'Donnell Show", ended right before it became, just unbelievable and forgotten completely. Sad, but yeah, not everyone remembers how big "The Queen of Nice" was. And frankly, I watched it too, I was a huge fan and yeah, if you're doing any list of the best daytime talk shows of all-time, this should be up there.


3. "The Wonder Years" (ABC, 1988-1993)



In doing some research for the blog, I'm actually a bit shocked to find out that "The Wonder Years" was a show that was canceled and didn't have their official "ending" sculpted out until after the narration was recorded. This to me, seems like a clear and obvious choice for a show that fits this description though. "The Wonder Years" was a strange fit to begin with, a great TV show, that was critically acclaimed and commercially successful, and was based around a teenager, and from a teenager's perspective, (Well, an adult's perspective retelling about being a teenager, but still...) It was also a period piece, and a single-camera sitcom with no audience and no laugh track, and this was in 1988. It seems like a huge anomaly now, but back then, it really was strange and unusual. It's a show that dared to take place and follow a kid growing up and it ended, basically when he became an adult. (Okay, not exactly, but from middle school to the end of high school [Okay, not exactly, but close enough]) It's easily the best show like it, and the most heartfelt and memorable. This is a show who's whole mythos and tone was based in the past, so this was a show that legitimately couldn't have lasted too long. Nobody wants to see Kevin and Winnie in college, and if he's still wondering by then.... "The Wonder Years", it sets it's standard of time in the title, it stuck to it, and kept true to it, and it's an amazing show that still holds up, a lot of it because it only lasted the few years it was on. "The Wonder Years", is almost too perfect sometimes. The reason it was partially canceled was because the network was limiting the kinds of stories that could be told, especially since the kids were getting older and they weren't willing to allow for more adult storylines. Maybe that's true, but, I'm gonna side with the network on this one. The innocence of the show helped the tone of the show, so I think it's fair that the show probably shouldn't have gotten too adult, and therefore, definitely deserved to end when it did.


2. "Breaking Bad" (AMC, 2008-2013)



I'm pretty certain, that if most everybody else did this list, the show that would show up at the top of most lists would be "Breaking Bad". Yeah, one of the best shows of all-time, ending at the top of it's game, and like "The Wonder Years", it set itself up with a deadline, a literal deadline in "Breaking Bad"'s case, and sure enough, it stuck to it, and of course, the fact that the show was as brilliant as it was, makes it being so high on this list a must. So many shows that do a deadline serial plot, and most of them, yeah, they usually suffer for it and that's part of why "Breaking Bad"'s special and will be around forever. I don't think I need to defend this choice too much, it's a show about a guy who's giving little time to live and he decides to do the most with what he's got left. Being a meth kingpin is a bit of an unusual choice, but, what-the-hell. Vince Gilligan said he was gonna turn Mr. Chips in Scarface and dammit, he did, and he didn't cop out or anything. He's sick at the beginning, remains sick at the end, and then, he dies. (Spoilers?) In that time, we've seen one of the riskiest and most successfully gambled characters arc every attempted on film, and it's success, ten-fold. At a time when limited series idea concepts are probably more common then they should be, "Breaking Bad" showed everybody how to do it better than anyone, just by sticking true to it's initial idea.

(Drumroll)
AND NOW, THE #1 GOOD TV SHOW THAT WAS ENDED AND/OR CANCELED AT THE RIGHT TIME IS....

(Drumroll)

This pick is going to surprise and even shock a lot of people, but the more I thought about, the more this clearly made sense, and has to be number one, and I'm gonna explain it, because, while I mentioned "The Wonder Years", as an anomoly, it really is an anomaly when you consider TV shows that are based around teenagers, especially ones in high school. When you're doing a TV show for such a tumultuous time in people's lives, there's a very, very brief window, and the rate of success is temporary at most. Most of these shows, get old, fast. Go ahead, let's go through them. "Saved By the Bell", that's a laugh. How about "Malcolm in the Middle", yeah, that lasted a little longer than it should've too. Oh, how about some really forgotten ones, "Joan of Arcadia", remember that, nominated for Best Drama Series it's first year? It was canceled the next though. Even going all the way back, "James at 15", a remembered and influential cult classic, "James at 16", complete crap. "Welcome Back, Kotter", eh, okay there was some behind the scenes issues but still, they definitely went way too long. "Happy Days", eleven seasons, about six too many, "That '70s Show" even, nine seasons, covering five years and half the cast left by the end, etc. etc. etc. "Glee", ye-ah, I don't know what you guys were thinking with that one. I mean, this is the toughest era to do, period, and there's no way around it frankly, it's almost inevitable, I really wonder, why bother to be honest? If it last at all, it's probably too long and you lose the concept of what you're going for. This is my reasoning for my number one choice, a show that lasted exactly as long as should have. One more season, no, one more episode, and we would not remember this show. It would be forgotten, there wouldn't still be a cult fanbase, fan fiction, continuations in book form, etc. It lasted one season, if it lasted two, it wouldn't be on this list.

1. "My So-Called Life" (ABC, 1994-1995)



That's right, "My So-Called Life". One season, canceled, and that was it. I've often said that no show has ever captured at least from my perspective, an accurate portrayal of high school, but "My So-Called Life" came pretty damn close in my book. I didn't even catch it at the time, btw, I'm late to this series myself, but it has to be number one. Hell, it even jumped the shark during this season, with the homeless episode, but it's a still an amazing and great show. Not, any show that I would call the best, but I certainly wouldn't think about it if it lasted longer than it did. The show was done by the same people who've created shows like "Thirtysomething" and later the influential web series, "Quarterlife" and both those show suffer from the same problems of being so based on the time period, the now that the show takes place in, they're banal and are mainly about how the characters exist in the world today, there's not much to them, and they didn't last that long and for good reason, despite being pretty good themselves. "My So-Called Life" ducked that, by staying on the air, just long enough. "My So-Called Life", remains relevant because it was canceled so early, and that's why it's number one, considering how every other show with this subject matter lasted too long, even by just a second year too long, it's more impressive that, whoever pulled the plug, pulled it, no matter why they did, but they did it, and now the show still holds relevance, and it very easily could've been at most, a minor forgotten footnote. I gotta give credit to that, knowing that a show was good but only good for a year, that's why it's number one.
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