I considered a lot of different titles for this post. Here’s the thing about aging gracefully. Here’s the thing about being good to the last drop. Here’s the thing about how TV shows should be like a fine wine – they just get better with age. But they were all too long and too much about beverages. So I just kept it simple. But this post is, indeed, about TV shows aging gracefully, staying good to the last drop, and getting better with age.
With a lot of shows wrapping up their seasons this week I got to thinking about the shows that stay consistently entertaining from finale to finale, from season to season. Now there are a lot of criteria on which to judge a television program and despite my many years of TV watching, I am under-qualified to evaluate based on most of these criteria. This list here is solely based on entertainment value. If I watch an episode from the last season of this show am I going to be as entertained (or more so) as I would be watching an episode from the first season? Let’s be honest, not every cast of characters stands the test of time. Everyone’s got their favorites, and here are some of mine.
1. Will & Grace – Eight seasons of hilarity. Jack was always hilariously clueless and theatrical. Karen was always entertainingly drunk and cruel. Grace was always satisfyingly needy and hungry. Will was always adorably trying to help while simultaneously getting in his own way. The creators knew they had a good thing and they stuck with it. The only thing I have to complain about in the later years is Leo Marcus (blegh), but it’s totally cool because around about the same time we meet Leo we also meet Vince D’Angelo, who is wonderful and makes up for all of Leo’s bad jokes and adultery.
2. 30 Rock – Seven seasons of hilarity. While I only just got into 30 Rock six months ago, I have already watched the entire series at least twice. Unashamedly and gracias a Netflix. It’s just always funny. Jenna and/or Tracy are always in some kind of a fix, Kenneth is always saying something outrageous (“I don’t drink hot beverages. That’s the devil’s temperature.”) and Jack is always assuming he knows and can do everything. I also enjoy how they call themselves out on forgetting about Josh and then later forgetting about Danny. I will admit that the last season was a bit rushed, but nothing Liz did (deciding to get married on a whim then realizing it meant more to her than she thought, putting her show before her family and then realizing that was stupid) was out of character.
3. Criminal Minds – This show is still airing, so there’s a chance it could go south, but finishing up its ninth season this one is still entertaining. There are a lot of crime/cop shows out there I could get into, but the reason I really like Criminal Minds is because of the time the writers spend on the agents. Yes, we get to see wrongs-righted and crimes-solved, but we also get to see into the lives of the people who do the wrong-righting and the crime-solving. I started Criminal Minds last year and am all caught up (I know, I know, I’m a pro at binge TV watching) and I have fallen in love with every one of the members of the BAU. I’m still clutching my pearls, nine seasons later, when one of my beloved gets shot and I’m still pumping my fist, nine seasons later, when Garcia does something awesome like save Spencer’s life.
While there are some shows that stayed strong until the end, like the three listed above (she says in faith – I’m trusting you all at Criminal Minds!) there are some that went on for too long, took a left turn, or, as Sheldon Cooper says about Heroes, “progressively got worse until we were glad it ended.” Ironically, the Big Bang Theory is one such show. I love the first two seasons of the Big Bang. There are some early episodes I practically have memorized! But there are only so many inconsistencies and references to intercourse a gal can take. Not to mention the fact that Penny is a straight up alcoholic, which only becomes more evident as the series progresses. If you need alcohol to get through an evening with your boyfriend’s friends, there might be a problem. I watched Leonard and Penny get engaged because history, but due to Penny’s conviction that she is somehow doing Leonard a favor by being with him, their relationship makes me sad, even though it’s what Leonard wanted for so long. Really, Leonard could do better.
The Big Bang Theory isn’t the only show to have induced the “wah wah” sad trombone sound in me. The Gilmore Girls got too self-destructive, Glee got too weird (it was the puppets that did it for me), Heroes got too confusing (wait, she’s a lesbian now?), Prison Break got too “you’ve got to be kidding me” (of course she’s alive!), CSI got too corny, and House got too repetitive (and also self-destructive). There have been a lot of fictional characters (and the writers that bring them to life) that have let me down, but I rest easy knowing I can count on the fair few that stand the test of time.
Who are your tried and true fictional friends? What shows do you believe should’ve shut it down long ago?