Television shows come and go. Some have long runs that are successful throughout while others crash and burn after just a few episodes. However, there are some quite successful shows that simply drag on too long for their own good. There are a number of factors involved in the length of a television series’ run, but for whatever reason, these shows probably should have left the air before they actually did.
Sometimes characters and actors leave shows abruptly. Often, networks are too stubborn to cancel a show as a result, fearing possible fan backlash. The shows on this list, however, all saw their viewerships begin to shrink in a big way later in their storylines and probably should have had the plug pulled at least a season or two before they were actually cancelled. It boils down to figuring out what shows people want to watch and which ones the fans are over.
This list isn’t meant to be exhaustive, as there are many tv series that should have arguably ended sooner than they did. Feel free to leave your suggestions in the comments section below.
10. Entourage: 8 Seasons – 96 Episodes
This HBO show lasted eight seasons and 96 episodes, but the problem boils down to the fact that by season 7 the show was starting to turn into a glorified rerun. There were others who thought the show’s time had come by the end of the fifth season, but there were still three more seasons to go. No cable show is going to get the same number of episodes as a network show, and 96 probably was more than enough for this one. It may have gotten a lot of attention and positive feedback from critics who thought the show was good for its first few seasons, but it went downhill quickly by the end and the axe should have been dropped much earlier.
9. Will & Grace: 8 Seasons – 184 Episodes
The NBC show also lasted eight seasons but had 184 episodes in total. The show peaked during seasons 3 and 4 in viewership with an average of 17.3 million viewers. That made the show one of the top ten network shows in season 4. However, fans began to tune out, especially after season 5, and the season’s viewership dropped by over five million people between season 6 and 7. The final season saw only an average of 8.7 million people watching. NBC spent a lot of time promoting the series finale but it is a finale that probably should have happened after the seventh season instead of after a bad eighth year.
8. Desperate Housewives: 8 Seasons – 180 Episodes
This Sunday night ABC staple lasted eight seasons and 180 episodes, and by the end of the show’s run, it had become the longest running hour-long TV series featuring all female leads. The show started hot with over 21 million viewers per week during its first two seasons but began to tail off after season 5. The top ten ranking that the show had for most of its first five seasons all disappeared by season 6, and by the show’s final year, there were only 10.6 million people watching on a weekly basis. It became obvious by the end that fans were no longer into what was happening on Wisteria Lane anymore.
7. The O.C.: 4 Seasons – 92 Episodes
It can be hard to blame a show for going on too long after just four seasons, but that is what happened to this Fox show. The show started out like a house on fire and had nearly 9.7 million people tuned in each week while airing right after American Idol. The problem is that the network decided to move the show after the first season and the ratings suffered. When the fourth season was over with, the show was down to just 4.3 million a week. Fans signed petitions wanting the show back, but to no avail. Characters were killed off and the appeal of the show went down with it. Three seasons probably would have been enough here.
6. Roseanne: 9 Seasons – 222 Episodes
Nine years is a long time for a show and 222 episodes is quite the achievement, but this ABC show from the late-80s probably could have left the air a season or two sooner. The show jumped the shark when the family won the lottery to begin the final season, along with the changing of the theme song. It was one of the top ten shows in network television for each of its final six seasons but fell off quickly by season eight and the final season saw the show only garner a 10.1 rating after being at 23.8 and 23.1 in its first two seasons respectively. The show should really have ended after the eighth season, which is really quite a good run.
5. ER: 15 Seasons – 331 Episodes
Here is one of the longest-running shows ever at 15 seasons and 331 episodes on NBC, but there were some problems near the end where the show probably should have gone away. By the time it reached its tenth season, most of the characters that started with the show were gone and the actors who took over didn’t bring the same spark to the show. This fact is quickly noticed by the show’s ratings after the tenth season. In the show’s first eight years, it was one of the top four shows on TV. During the final two seasons, the show barely reached ten million viewers a week after averaging over 20 million just a few years before.
4. The King of Queens: 9 Seasons – 207 Episodes
The CBS comedy that lasted nine seasons and 207 episodes was fairly constant with its viewership but simply ran out of steam by the final season. The main characters considered divorce and then had two children. It appeared that the show was just fueling Kevin James’ movie career by keeping him in the spotlight as long as possible at the end. While the show had around 11 million viewers during its final season, it started to turn into a long, drawn-out drip to the finish. It is unfortunate that is the way the show decided to go out. It probably would have been better off leaving after the sixth or seventh season.
3. The X-Files: 9 Seasons – 202 Episodes
The Sunday night staple on Fox lasted nine seasons and 202 episodes, but this show should have ended very simply when David Duchovny left after season 7. There was a lot of anger between Fox and Duchovny and the show suffered for it. Most fans saw the show’s natural ending being Mulder leaving, but the creators of the show decided to go on for another two seasons. The final season saw viewership fall off the map with less than ten million people watching on average. While Mulder did appear some for the final two seasons, it wasn’t the same. Season 7 should have been the end point.
2. The Office: 9 Seasons – 201 Episodes
The NBC comedy lasted nine seasons and 201 episodes, but like the X-Files, the show suffered after one of the main characters decided to leave. Steve Carell left after the seventh season and while the show tried to bring in different big-name stars to replace Carell, it just wasn’t the same. Viewership tumbled after the seventh season to a point where just five million people were watching on average per week. There was just something about Carell’s Michael Scott character that fans really enjoyed and when he left, the show should have found a way to end its run. That didn’t happen and the show limped its way to the finish.
1. How I Met Your Mother: 9 Seasons – 208 Episodes
HIMYM lasted nine seasons and 208 episodes on CBS, but should have ended after season eight, looking at how the final season went. The ninth season turned into a long, three-day journey through Barney and Robin’s wedding that ended up seeing the two getting divorced as Ted finished his story to his kids about how he met their mother and how she had died six years earlier. Ted ended up trying to find Robin which was the obvious conclusion from the first season, but the show didn’t go that way until the end which is not what the fans wanted to see. It was not what should have happened as the show ended with a massive thud one season late.