Too often, we see great TV shows that were cancelled before their time. “Firefly,” “Twin Peaks” and “Awake” come to mind. But in a way those shows were lucky. Unfinished as they were, they went out at their peak, leaving their fans with nothing but fond memories.
These shows, on the other hand, stuck around far longer than they had any right to.
1. “Stargate SG-1”
How did this show get 10 seasons? It makes no sense to me. That’s not to say this show was bad. It was an OK sequel to a decent movie. There were certainly elements about it that appealed to a giant sci-fi nerd like me, but at some point it’s time to call it quits. Roland Emmerich’s brand of military science fiction starts to feel pretty bland after a while. Even though the characters could carry a movie and maybe a few episodes of television, they weren’t fun enough to hang out with for ten years.
2. “Law and Order SVU”
This show is still on. The original “Law and Order” lasted 20 seasons, and its spinoff will likely hit that mark as well. At this point, the writers have dreamed up every horrible thing you can do to a person, and are now working with variations on an uncomfortable theme. It doesn’t take long to become desensitized to the extreme sexual violence on display every week, and at that point, why even continue to watch the show? There are plenty of police procedurals on TV that do something interesting and different with the formula. Somehow though, this boilerplate, predictable drama keeps trucking along despite having long since run out of new tricks.
“Supernatural” was originally planned to be five seasons long and it shows. Go back and watch the first five seasons. It’s a well-paced, tightly-written story. Each season builds on the last, raising the stakes higher and higher, all leading to an epic battle with Lucifer at the end. You can tell it was supposed to be the end too. Everything about the final episode feels, well, final. Right up until the last shot, which feels tacked on and completely undermines everything that came before it. The CW wanted another season, and the writers didn’t know what to do. They’d already dealt with the possibility of there being other gods. They spent a few seasons floundering around, introducing the Leviathans as a lackluster big bad. The plot has been running on filler for a while now, and even bringing Lucifer back feels cheap. They’ll never top that first battle with the ultimate evil.
4. “Family Guy”
It hasn’t been on nearly as long as “The Simpsons,” yet “Family Guy” has grown twice as stale. Maybe it’s the over reliance on ‘80s references. Maybe non-sequitur humor just gets old really quickly. Or hey, maybe it was never all that funny to begin with and I was willing to laugh at anything “offensive” during my late teens. “The Simpsons” may not be as good as it used to be, but it’s still capable of producing a decent episode every now and then. “Family Guy” is still sticking to the same gags it always has. They’re no longer surprising, funny or even offensive anymore. They’re just dull.
“Scrubs” was on the verge of cancellation from about season five until the end of its run. Oddly enough, that led to some of the show’s best episodes. With the writers thinking each season was possibly their last, they put their inhibitions aside and produced some of the most creative, experimental TV ever to come out of a primetime sitcom. And when it came time for the show to end, everyone got a proper sendoff. The last episode of season eight felt like a true finale to the show. Then they brought it back for season nine. What a mistake that was. They brought in a new cast of interns and completely changed the feel of the show. It wasn’t as funny, it wasn’t nearly as creative — in fact, it was kind of sad. Thankfully, the producers wised up after one season of that and cancelled it. This one is just frustrating because they could have gone out on a high note. Instead, they milked a once-great show for a sloppy, lifeless encore.