News out of the TCA this week is that “How I Met Your Mother” — currently in its 7th season and contracted by CBS for eight — may actually extend beyond 2013, despite earlier suggestions that the sitcom would wrap up next year and the identity of Ted’s wife would be revealed. That’d be a lousy idea. Even if most of us have moved beyond caring about the show’s initial premise, eight seasons is enough. In fact, notwithstanding a number of great episodes over the last two years, five seasons probably would’ve been enough.
Nevertheless, despite record ratings, I doubt “HIMYM” will go beyond eight seasons anyhow: Jason Segel is a big Hollywood star now and probably has no desire to stick around; Cobie Smulders’ movie career may get a boost from The Avengers; Neil Patrick Harris probably has an awesome talk show in his future; and Josh Radnor has been expressing frustration with working on the sitcom for years now. Those guys don’t want to come back. If “HIMYM” were to stick around, it’d have to move ahead 20 years and replace Radnor with his voice over, Bob Saget. And then the show would really run off the rails.
But it wouldn’t be the first — or last — beloved show to do so. Here are ten other initially adored television shows that overstayed their welcomes.
Scrubs — One of my all-time favorite sitcoms, “Scrubs” wore out its welcome after its fifth season and 27th schedule change. Granted, it did bounce back with a fairly exceptional 8th season — its last with the regular cast — but to most minds it ruined even that with “Scrubs: The New Class” in its 9th season (I have a soft-spot for “Scrubs 2.0,” thanks largely to Eliza Coupe).
Roseanne — “Roseanne” also ran for nine seasons — from 1988 – 1997 — but far fewer people stuck around after John Goodman’s heart attack in the 8th season. Those who did were met a dreadful 9th season, in which the Connors supposedly won $108 million in the lottery only to find out that the entire season was a dream.
Smallville — The first few seasons of “Smallville” were outstanding, especially once they moved beyond the villain-of-the-week episodes and brought in the comic-book mythology. But the show began to falter around the fourth season, struggle after Clark Kent died, and downright suck after Lana Lane and Lex Luthor left the show after the seventh season. It would last another three, but very few were witness to those seasons.
Weeds — “Weeds” was an outstanding show right up until the end of Season Three, which is when it should’ve ended. Once the show left the suburbs, it lost the appeal of its premise: A suburban housewife forced to sell marijuana to support her children. It’s 7th season redeemed the last three seasons somewhat, but it’s still a shell of its former self.
Big Love: The drama centered around a polygamous Mormon family wore out its premise quickly. After Roman Grant died at the end of season three, “Big Love” lost its way, veering into complete stupidity when Bill — who had three and a half wives — began his run for Senate in the fourth season.
The Simpsons — Now in its 23rd season and approaching its 500th episode, “The Simpsons” still attracts a sizable number of viewers, but even those who still watch the show don’t actually care about it very much. They watch because it’s there, out of nostalgic affection, and because every great once in a while, a good episode will interrupt the flow of mediocrity.
Friends — For seven seasons, “Friends” withstood the will they/won’t they relationship of Ross and Rachel, but in the end, it was Monica and Chandler’s marriage that truly ruined the show for the remaining three seasons. Chandler — the show’s best character — became an emasculated sad sack; Joey’s only remaining personality trait was the ability to eat lots of sandwiches; and Ross morphed into a perpetual mope.
Dexter — “Dexter” peaked in its fourth season, and by all rights, should’ve ended with the Trinity Killer. Having just wrapped its sixth season, and renewed for two more, the show can’t get much worse than it did last year. There’s only so many times you can run the exact same season-long formula.
The Office — “The Office” suffered long before Michael Scott left. The show began its long descent into watchable mediocrity after Jim and Pam’s wedding. Now the show has no moral center; it’s just a collection of eccentric characters bouncing around one another with little rhyme or reason.
The X-Files — If the “X-Files” had wrapped up after five seasons, it would’ve gone down as one of the very best dramas of the last 20 years. But by year six, it became abundantly clear that the writers were making it up as they went along, and after David Duchovny left the show in the 7th season, the whole series went to sh*t. It wouldn’t completely bottom out until the end of season 9.