This time of year, we’re always a bit nervous as TV execs — who aren’t known for making wise programming choices — decide which shows [Chuck] will get [Chuck] another season [Chuck–Chuck–Chuck].
TVLine.com kindly keeps a renewal scorecard for us, but we know enough to keep our hopes in check until we see the words “Officially renewed” by our favorites.
Some of the smartest shows avoid cancellation fears by planning their own demise. Lost is a good example: love the ending or hate it (or both), we were prepared for it.
The showrunners based the decision not on ratings, but on story. And that made viewers more confident that puzzling plotlines would indeed be resolved. Well, sort of.
FlavorWire celebrated such shows last week with its list of “10 TV Shows That Quit While They Were Ahead.” While I question a couple of their choices, here are the highlights.
NBC wasn’t too happy with Jerry Seinfeld’s decision to wrap up the show after nine seasons — it was one of the most popular shows on television. And frankly, I’m not sure the last season or two lived up to the standards of the Larry David years. But Seinfeld stayed at the top of the ratings all the way through the last weird episode, when 76 million people watched.
The Office (UK)
I was surprised to learn that Ricky Gervais’ sitcom only ran for two six-episode seasons (plus two Christmas specials). The U.S. version is funnier to me (probably because the humor is more American), but UK episodes never fail to make me laugh in that “mean is funny” way. I am glad the NBC version has been on longer than two seasons, but the network might want to get a clue from the BBC on how to end a show on a high note.
Six Feet Under
Still at the top of my list of Best Finales Ever, Six Feet Under celebrated its own demise with the same creative flair that it gave to every “visitor” to the Fisher & Sons Funeral Home. I certainly wasn’t ready for the show to end with Season 5, but the fact that it did probably is a good reason why every single episode still is a joy to watch.
Sure, Skins still is on the air, but FlavorWire notes that it essentially ends after each generation, when a new cast comes on board. Bryan Elsley and Jamie Brittain are not gentle about dealing with characters, either. They might be beat to death with a baseball bat or be suffocated by the tightness of their own jean shorts. And when a generation ends, we are never ready to say goodbye.
Other shows that quit while they were ahead, according to FlavorWire, are Clarissa Explains It All, Chappelle’s Show, Flight of the Conchords, I Love Lucy and This American Life.
Perhaps FlavorWire wanted to cap the list at 10, but I’m especially surprised that two excellent shows are missing.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer
We feared for Buffy’s life when the WB didn’t want to give Joss Whedon the budget he needed to continue, but UPN swooped in and picked it up just in time. When Sarah Michelle Gellar grew tired of saving the world a lot, Joss was ready with an epic storyline that ended with Sunnydale being swallowed up by the earth and Good triumphing over Evil. The success of Season 8 in comic book form proves that we weren’t ready to give up The Slayer. And I’m glad we can relive her adventures through reruns.
The second incarnation of BSG didn’t have a smooth ending because the Writers Guild Strike broke up the final season, causing a seven-month break. The showrunners weren’t quite ready to end the show, but chose to resolve the story rather than risk premature cancellation. As a fan, I appreciate that, but I wish we’d had another year or so with one of the best frakkin’ sci-fi series ever.
I know you’re ready to tell us about your favorite well-ended show. What is your favorite series that quit while it was ahead?