Friday, April 27, 2012

10 FAVORITES (56): Jumping Sharks

Television is a vast landscape with shows that are around for all of five minutes to shows that seem to go on forever (and ever...and ever!).  For the ones that go on too long, there is a name for that.  It is a delightful little trope that has made its way into our cultural lexicon: Jumping the Shark.  There is even a whole website devoted to figuring out exactly when TV shows (past and present!) indeed "jumped the shark."  This year, a couple of the shows that would have been considered shoe-ins for this category announced their impending departure (House M.D. and Desperate Housewives).  And some of the more popular "bubble shows" have been announced for renewal but with the caveat that next year will be their last.  But there are several other shows that are currently airing on Network TV that deserve a good reprimand.  They have waded their way into Shark-Jumping Territory and they should take a page out of Fringe's notebook and think about calling next season their "Swan Song."  This week's 10 FAVORITES are devoted to that group of shows that have, in effect: Jumped the Shark.  (QUICK NOTE: I have not ranked this list, as that might cause too many heated discussions. So they are listed somewhat alphabetically.)


When the show first started, there was clear sexual tension between Dr. Brennan and Agent Booth (perfectly played by Emily Deschanel and David Boreanaz).  But now that the two characters have finally hooked up and it has resulted in a child, the tension is not as good as it used to be.  The cases are still "fresh" (excuse the term when referring to dead bodies!), but the changing dynamic is quickly getting old.  The two are now literally a married couple (without actually being married!) and they have now gone into the territory that shows like JAG and The X-Files did by diffusing the unspoken sexual tension with actual sex.  Plus the revolving door of "squinterns," which once breathed new life into the show, has now lasted longer than most normal internships. 

The original has already been renewed for next year, but CBS is beginning to hem and haw when it comes to its two spin-offs.  Both shows have now suffered from abnormal hiatuses this year and original CSI has gone through almost as many cast changes and departures as the original Law & Order (the NBC franchise that inspired CBS to have one!).  While Ted Danson may be playing completely against type and Elizabeth Shue weekly shows why she was an Oscar-nominated actress, CBS might want to consider next year the last for one of their flagship procedurals.

I'm going to rant a bit here, folks.  Because this one is definitely on its way to shark-jumping territory (if its not there already!).  The first season was too phenomenal that nothing they could have done would have lived up to it.  So a less-than-stellar second season and an all-over-the-map third season has made the show more disconnected and out-of-touch from what the audiences really want.  And, as far as I'm concerned, they still haven't done the worst they could do.  Yes, this year's Christmas episode was one long "WTF!" and that mid-season jumble filled episode with an attempted suicide and a climactic car crash were definitely over-the-top.  But all of that will pale in comparison to what the creators seem to have planned for the McKinley High students post-Graduation (all the charming Disco or Whitney tributes and cameos by Whoopi and LiLo aren't helping!), since rumors abound that its "senior" stars including Lea Michele, Chris Colfer and Cory Monteith have 7-YEAR CONTRACTS!  Seriously, who hires an actor to play a High School student for 7 YEARS?!?  Apparently FOX does.

The show has definitely made its stamp on the culture (when President Obama references you in a speech, I think you've made it!).  But after 5 years, stars Blake Lively and Leighton Meester are exploring their burgeoning film careers.  And once you lose your sexy stars, the show will completely fall off the radar (which is something this fifth-place Network cannot afford for one of their flagship shows!).

For many fans of this medical soap opera, the show "Jumped the Shark" last year with its mega-musical episode that centered on the tuneful delusions of the near-death Dr. Callie Torres (the fabulous Tony-winner Sara Ramirez).  Now, with rumors that stars Patrick Dempsey (aka McDreamy!) and Ellen Pompeo (who just happens to play the Grey in Grey's Anatomy!) might not sign on for next year, the show might just lose the strong storylines and heartwarming characters that once brought female audiences in droves to the show a few years ago.

My father religiously watched this show.  He even loves catching this show in its many reruns on USANetwork.  He was very pleased back in 2006 when star Mariska Hargitay won an Emmy Award as Best Actress in a Drama Series (and my father NEVER cares about the Emmys!).  But this year's big cast change (re: the exodus of Cristopher Meloni's stone-faced and complicated Detective Elliot Stabler), has made him abandon the NBC procedural he once championed.  After almost 15 years, maybe creator Dick Wolf should let next year's "Special Victims" be the last ones of the Peacock's profitable franchise.

It has already been said by many others...and I'm gonna repeat it: Steve Carell's departure was a blow to this show's dynamic.  Now, it seems that Ed Helms (who was "promoted-from-within" to replace Carell) is eyeing a similar departure (or at least threatening to behind-the-scenes!).  The show has won awards.  It has taken over a prime spot on TV (once owned by the likes of Cheers and Seinfeld!).  It has made comedic all-stars of most of its cast.  It is time for Scranton's Dunder-Mifflin office to close its doors and that "mockumentary" crew to pack up and go home.

Let's just face it.  The luster is gone.  The bloom is off this rose.  There are really just too many reality shows to say which ones have passed their prime (Idol, DWTS, ANTM, Celebrity Apprentice...just to name a few!).  Most of these shows are in their 8th or even 12th season and they keep using the argument that "Reality TV is cheaper than Scripted TV."  Well, that argument is wearing really thin when promotions for Idol and DWTS cost as much as the budgets on New Girl or 2 Broke Girls.  And then you see the hosts, trainers and judges of these various shows signing on for ├╝ber-million dollar contracts that would make the casts of Seinfeld and Friends jealous.  Time for these shows to hang up their mirrorballs, stop "firing" celebrities and live with the "Idols" and "Top Models" they've already given us.

Even MacFarlane himself has stated that his landmark sitcom (Family Guy) should have ended years ago.  Now he could be saying this to get people to focus on his other two shows (which, let's face it, are often not as good as Family Guy) or to promote his other projects (his upcoming film Ted or his proposed reboot of The Flintstones).  No matter what his motives are, Family Guy and American Dad! are beginning to show their age and without the original, spin-off The Cleveland Show would just not make sense.

The show was already on "hollow legs" when Charlie Sheen was drunkenly slurring his way through scenes between angry diatribes aimed at creator Chuck Lorre.  Now with Ashton Kutcher, though the show is still extremely popular in ratings, that can be likened to how people love to watch the beginning of a car accident.  I think the viewers are just hanging in there until the show fails completely (if Kutcher doesn't sign on for next year, we may suffer through a revolving door of "Men" getting paid way too much to take Sheen's place!).

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