Binge watching has become a very popular pastime in the last several years. There are a lot of reasons but one of the most overlooked is how it’s a bit easier to get invested in a show you already know is a hit. Every year, networks bring up a slew of new series, some of which are gone faster than others. Everyone knows the feeling of getting invested in a TV show, really getting into it only for it to be canceled before it can really reach its potential. It happens too often and thus why fans enjoy getting into series already established. Yet some of these shows can go a tad too long in the tooth. Roseanne Barr once joked that “every sitcom should end after five years or you’re just replaying old episodes.” Given her show lasted beyond its appreciation date, she should know. Networks hate to lose a hit but it’s clear some shows just get worse as they go on and wear out their welcome majorly.
It’s a shame to see such series drag on and on while really great shows end up being axed fast. Then again, one can make the argument that those very shows might have faltered as well if they’d gone on. After all, TV is also filled with series that had brilliant first seasons but fell apart after that and thus a short life might actually have helped make them more beloved. It’s tricky to see as there are shows that last a while but still have fun turns and some that were short-lived. But examples abound of shows that turned out worse as they went on while others deserved a longer life. Here are 10 shows that outlived their welcome and 10 that should have gone longer to show how unfair TV can be.
Note: some SPOILERS for a few series.
20 TOO LONG: Full House
Back in 1987, ABC’s TGIF lineup didn’t really exist and Full House wasn’t meant to be anything special. It was your typical sitcom of a dad, his brother-in-law and their best friend living together and raising three girls. It got popular thanks to stars Bob Saget and John Stamos and then building up as the girls grew up to become more famous. Soon, it was a bonafide hit and building up more as a cornerstone of ABC’s comedy lineup. However, as the kids grew up more, the concept became a little less acceptable. Indeed, you had Stamos and Lori Loughlin’s characters marrying but still living in the same huge house and raising their own kids. It just got crazier with Michelle going from cute kid to arrogant brat that grated on fans. Thus, its axing after eight seasons was good before they could come up with an excuse of the kids in college but still living there.
Incredibly, in 2016, Netflix revived it for a full-scale new series with the same characters despite horrible reviews. This House should have been condemned much earlier to spare us too much of this poor comedy.
19 CUT SHORT: Jericho
Here’s a rare case when a fan campaign to save a show actually briefly worked. This 2006 CBS show has a stunning first episode. Skeet Ulrich played a young man returning to his title Kansas town just as word comes in of nuclear attacks across the country. Cut off from the outside and unaware of what’s going on, the townspeople have to figure out how to survive. The cast was great such as Gerald McRaney as Ulrich’s father, Ashley Scott as his lost love and especially Lennie James as Robert Hawkins, a seemingly quiet man who turns out to be a deadly agent. It explored drama of people dealing with the loss of normal life while working a storyline involving the conspiracy behind all this. It built up to a fantastic finale where the town faces off against the military and Ulrich famously snapping “Nuts!” to a surrender demand.
When CBS announced the show was canceled, the fans reacted by sending several thousand pounds of peanuts to the network. It worked as it was revived for a seven-episode second season which had more action and plotted out more of the conspiracy. Sadly, that wasn’t enough as the show was axed again just as it was really building up. It has lived on in comics with a “Season Three” storyline exploring more but fans wish it had been able to show it on TV to continue the fan love.
18 TOO LONG: Dexter
Had this series ended after its amazing fourth season, it would still be regarded as a terrific thrilling ride. Sadly, it went another four years after that. The idea was terrific with Michael C. Hall as the title character, a lab tech who seems a nice guy but in reality, murderous sociopath. Realizing there was no way to change that, his policeman father at least channeled his energies so Dexter only kills other killers and uses his skills to hide the evidence. The show was great balancing out dark humor with Dexter’s journey, his being with girlfriend Rita who he eventually married and had a child with and his foster sister Deb. There was the thrill of whether his secret could come out and clashing with other killers. It reached its height with a season-long cat and mouse game between Dexter and John Lithgow’s ruthless killer that claimed Rita’s life.
But from there, the series slumped badly. The show pulled in bad plotlines, including a disturbing one of Dexter’s foster sister Deb having feelings for him as well as not-so-engaging killers. It built up to a horrific finale where Dexter basically gets away with everything and lives a life as a lumberjack. A big move was the loss of creator Clyde Phillips who had said he always intended for the series to end with Dexter exposed and executed for his crimes. Phillips argued it was key Dexter eventually pay with the final shot being him looking out at a gallery of all his victims (including Rita) as he’s given a lethal injection. Many would have preferred that as a good ending rather than see a once-great series fall apart.
17 CUT SHORT: Firefly
Some actually think that being cut short is what helped Firefly attain its massive cult following. From the start, the idea of Joss Whedon doing a space Western was intriguing with a great cast and a good plotline. But the issues occurred as Fox didn’t air the two-hour pilot first, leaving viewers confused as to who these people were and what they were doing. While fans enjoyed the characters and the fun motif, Fox didn’t seem to want to properly promote it and soon had it cut off. This led to huge anger at the show not given a proper chance and thus more feeling it was an example of how Fox screwed over good shows than a great one in its own right. The series caught a break by being one of the first shows released on DVD with episodes not aired and soon began to really take off with fans. The adulation even pushed a big-screen movie, Serenity, and fans still beg for a comeback of some sort to show how Fox axing this early was a bad move.
16 TOO LONG: Entourage
Like a lot of the “too long” shows on this list, the first couple of seasons of Entourage weren’t that bad. It focused on Vinnie Chase, an aspiring star and his pack of friends who help him out. The scene stealer was Jeremy Piven in his Emmy-winning turn as foul-mouthed agent Ari Gold. The show had some nice satire of the Hollywood life and cameos from real stars amid some hot ladies and such. However, the show began to lose some of its bite as it dragged on, too many plotlines like a season of Vince obsessed with making his “dream project” which turns out to be a major flop. It went too far asking fans to buy Vince as this super-star actor and too much of Piven dominating the show with his act.
The show had an air of smugness about it, asking people to buy a spoiled rich actor who engaged in drug use as a guy to pity and it got worse as it went into eight seasons. The show was actually revived as a big-screen movie in 2015 but it flopped, showing the fandom had died out majorly. Which is a move many wished had happened earlier to cut the series much shorter.
15 CUT SHORT: Privileged
Lucy Hale is well known for her role in the popular Pretty Little Liars series. But many fans would have accepted her not getting that role if it meant she could have continued in this 2008-09 CW show. Joanna Garcia played a young woman who finds herself losing her job, apartment and boyfriend in one day. She thus jumps at the chance to fly down to Palm Beach and work for a fashion mogul. But instead of being her chief assistant, Garcia’s real job is to take care of the woman’s spoiled rotten granddaughters (Hale and Ashley Newbrough). She soon handles things, including how she’s catching the eye of the guy who just happens to be dating her sister while unaware her long-time best friend has been in love with her for years.
The show was fun with the chemistry of the three main leads terrific as they bantered and argued but hung together. The show gave Hale nice humor and even a chance to show her singing skills at times while rocking some hot outfits. Critics enjoyed it, citing how it wasn’t some cookie-cutter teen drama but tackled good issues and romance with great humor. It ended on a cliffhanger sadly never concluded but folks who watched it felt privileged to see a fun show that enjoyed itself nicely.
14 TOO LONG: The X-Files
The series should be credited for helping change the TV landscape. The moody arcs of the first seasons were terrific, mixing truly scary episodes with dark humor. David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson were amazing making Mulder and Scully one of the best couples on TV with a great “will or won’t they” vibe. The show was one of the first to take advantage of the Internet to gain a passionate fan base to rise from cult success to mainstream hit and spawn slews of imitators. But as the years went by, the show lost some of that, overwhelmed by its own mythology and complex story-telling. It just got muddled and while the “monster of the week” stories could still be fun, it faltered with the deeper conspiracy stuff. Worse was when Duchovny left for a time and the series clearly suffered without him yet kept on going. When the series finally ended, it was with an air of “it’s about time” rather than real celebration. Now, it’s been revived which some feel is a bit too much as this was a show that elevated genre TV but outlasted its welcome.
13 CUT SHORT: My So-Called Life
That a show so amazingly realistic and charming only lasted one season is remarkable. In 1994, ABC introduced a gem of a series that continues to be hailed as one of the absolute greatest high school series ever. In the role that made her a star, Claire Danes was Angela, the wise-beyond-her-years teen handling life in a small town. The show dealt with issues like homelessness, teen drinking, abuse and more in a warm and heartfelt way. Danes was perfect as Angela, carrying the issues of a teen handling life with her friends, heartbreak, family drama and more. Her friends included a gay teen wrestling with his abusive home life, a truly gripping subplot and the show was fun in showing the adults had their own problems so as not to make them look too bad. The romances and fun were appealing and there was great humor so a shock when the show was axed after its acclaimed first year. Danes has gone on to a fine Emmy-winning career but many wish she’d continued to keep this Life going longer.
12 TOO LONG: How I Met Your Mother
The finale of HIMYM is among the most divisive in television history. After spending the entire season building up to a Barney-Robin wedding, a montage shows the duo got divorced after just a few years. The friends drift apart, Barney back to a womanizer but then a one-night stand produces a daughter he loves. Wilder was how, after spending the entire series building up to it, Ted finally meets the Mother…and after one brief montage of a life together, she dies of cancer. Then we see Ted wrapping it up as his kids finally say the entire point of the story was Ted in love with Robin and encouraging him to be with her. It was a finale so many felt went the wrong way.
The key issue is that had this occurred when the series was, say, only four or five seasons, it might have gone down better. But nine seasons built in a huge amount of expectation for fans that when the Mother finally came around, it would be a huge deal. To suddenly say that it was just Ted and Robin’s story after all that was something hard to take. While the show had a lot of great stuff to it, it’s sadly overwhelmed by that poor finale. Thus, had the series not gone on so long, the impact of that end would have been lessened and the show might be better regarded today.
11 CUT SHORT: Freaks And Geeks
Before he became a famed writer/director of hit films, Judd Aptow scored with this fantastic 1999 NBC series. Set in 1981, it focused on a small Michigan high school, giving a fresh take on life back then in a way that felt quite real. Humor and drama were there but without the usual clichés which won viewers over. But at times, it even embraced those clichés to show how true they are to life and nice how it showed kids who were just as screwed up as anyone you’d meet for real. Helping was a cast that included quite a few future famous names like James Franco, Seth Rogen and Jason Segel. Critics loved it, hailing it as genius for its fun takes on life and how it showcased teenaged life much the same no matter the time period. The show was axed after its first season despite most hailing it as one of the best on TV, a decision many still slam NBC for. At least it lives on in DVD form to win over fans and impress with one of the best high school series ever made.
10 TOO LONG: Weeds
At first, Weeds got nice attention thanks to its fun vibe and lead. Mary Louise Parker was Nancy Botwin, a mom who takes to selling weed to make ends meet for her family. She was a great star, showing a very sexy vibe (including some hot love scenes) and her vibrant manner winning over viewers. They also got pulled into her life, including a son who may be a sociopath, a nutty brother-in-law and her variety of bizarre neighbors. The first couple of seasons kept the dark comedy going very well as Nancy got in over her head with antics and had some sharp stuff going. However, things started going off the rails when Nancy got married to a major drug kingpin and things took a wild turn with murder and on the run. This meant hiding out with her quirky family that didn’t do wonders for the storyline. A time jump also hurt leading to a very poor final year and bad finale. It’s a shame as the first few seasons were great but keeping it up for eight years was too much to sustain.
9 CUT SHORT: Wonderfalls
Maybe this isn’t too shocking as this was a show wonderfully original and offbeat so trying to get an audience in 2004 into it was a bit much. Created by Bryan Fuller, it focused on Jaye, a young woman in a dead-end job selling souvenirs at Niagara Falls who finds herself having conversations with animated figurines only she can see. They encourage her to take chances with life, leading her to whacky romances and handling her nutty friends and family. The show relied on a lot of humor and visual gags as well as the wonderful leading charms of Caroline Dhavernas as Jaye. Critics went wild loving it but audiences just found it a bit too much to take in and thus the show was canceled after just four episodes. The remaining nine were aired in Canada and then became a hit on DVD to find its audience. Fuller would use the same nutty humor for his beloved Pushing Daisies yet had so many fans for this series. It was just a wonderfully original idea, something rare and magical in so many ways and the series deserved a longer life but remarkable it got on the air at all.
8 TOO LONG: Two And A Half Men
The first couple of seasons of Men weren’t bad. Charlie Sheen was perfectly cast as a womanizer forced to room with his brother (Jon Cryer) and the guy’s son (Angus T. Jones). They got along well, the show had a good humor, some very hot ladies co-starring and won huge respect for Sheen. Cryer even won an Emmy for the show and it was a huge ratings hit. However, having it last over seven seasons seemed a bit much as it was soon just hitting the same plots of Sheen womanizing, Cryer unlucky in love and that kid growing up too much. Of course, in season eight, Sheen had his now-infamous blow-up and meltdown that led to him and Chuck Lorre nearly coming to blows before being fired.
That should have been it, the only logical thing was to end the show. Instead, Sheen’s character was killed off, Ashton Kutcher replaced him and the show amazingly kept up as a hit. The show even brushed off Jones’ character and replaced him with Amber Tamblyn as Sheen’s daughter. The series finally ended with a finale that was basically a giant “screw you” to Sheen but most thought it should have been finished long before his meltdown to cut a dumb comedy shorter.
7 CUT SHORT: Cupid
Jeremy Piven is well known for his role as Ari Gold on Entourage that won him three enemies. He’s added on credits like Mr. Selfridge and Wisdom of the Crowd along with numerous movies. But many feel Piven’s best role was in this 1998-99 ABC series created by Rob Thomas. He played Trevor, a man claiming to be the god of love, Cupid, cast down to Chicago for his screw-ups. The only way he could get back to Mt. Olympus was by getting 100 couples together. He thus works as a bartender overseen by Claire (Paula Marshall) a shrink who sees him as a great case study. The genius of the show was that it never confirmed whether Trevor really was a god or just a well-meaning nutcase but did have a gift for getting couples together and marking the “wins” each time.
Piven was great in the role, charming, funny and sex appeal (although he didn’t sleep around, claiming being with a mortal would rob him of his powers). The chemistry between him and Marshall was delightful as she doubts in both him and love itself but helps him as he gets various people together. Sadly, despite the love of critics, the show was axed at the end of its first season. The producers have stated the plan was for the final episode to have Trevor and Claire the final couple in love but leave his godly status up in the air. ABC tried a revival in 2009 but it failed as it lacked the same charm and appeal as the original. A shame it didn’t last as this was a series all too easy to fall in love with.
6 TOO LONG: Law & Order SVU
When this show began, it could be daring with its takes on sexual-based crimes and bringing things to light. The focus was the great acting like Mariska Hargitay (who won an Emmy) and the others and how it shone a light on tough issues. It could get preachy but it was backed up by good writing and various turns. But ever since the original Law & Order was axed, this show has worked too hard to take the “ripped from the headlines” approach and thus taken on stories that really don’t fit the “Special Victims” vibe. There’s also way too much preaching and character taking on various issues that comes off too soapbox to viewers. While Hargitay remains a great actress, the others don’t connect as they used to and often wasted on bad subplots and attempts at characterization that go poorly. The show is in its eighteenth season which to many is way past the time to end it and finally put the once-great franchise to bed rather than drag it out with a show that can play like a parody of what it once was.
5 CUT SHORT: Bunheads
Amy Sherman-Palladino is known for creating the beloved dramedy Gilmore Girls. But she also was the mind behind this too short-lived ABC Family show. Tony winner Sutton Foster was Michele, a Vegas dancer who impulsively marries her boyfriend Hubble. He takes her to his small town where his mother, Fanny (Kelly Bishop) is not happy with this. The pilot ends with the twist of Hubble dying and leaving Michele ownership of the house and Fanny’s dance studio. Michele sticks around and helps a quartet of aspiring dancers with their problems. The cast was great with Foster and Bishop handling the whip-smart dialogue and hysterical lines along with a fun supporting cast. The show could be funny but heartfelt with the issues of the teenage girls handling life and putting on some fun dance numbers. The series had a real good heart and was building up when the network decided to axe it, wanting more “edgy” fare. A shame as Foster (now seen on Younger) was great in the lead and this deserved more attention from Gilmore fans.
4 TOO LONG: The Simpsons
Frankly, it’s long past time. Yes, The Simpsons is a modern television classic. It redefined so much of comedy and pop culture, becoming a part of our modern world. Bart, Homer, Lisa, Marge and their wild supporting cast are known over the world. The 1990s and 2000s saw the show with some fun comedy, warm-hearted but some cutting edge satire and a slew of guest voices. Yet it’s clear it just hasn’t been the same the last few years. It retreads the same plots and themes (Mr. Burns is evil, Lisa a genius, Homer a moron) and it’s lost its satirical edge to more famous cartoons. The show is an institution but now, it just feels more like comfort food than anything delicious, the antics of the town long in the tooth.
Fox no doubt wants at least one more year for its 30th season but maybe it’s finally time to let it go. Nothing lasts forever and the fact it will hold this honor as the longest-running comedy is something to be proud of. Yet it’s better to remember how it once was than what it’s become which is rather tired.
3 CUT SHORT: Profit
You can actually cut Fox slack for canceling this after just three episodes in 1996. This show was so incredibly ahead of its time that the fact it even got on the air was remarkable. Adrian Padsar played the title role of Jim Profit, a man who was willing to go to any lengths, from blackmail to murder, to get ahead in his company. The show focused on a very troubled and twisted man who slept naked in a box in his penthouse apartment and brilliantly played everyone around him. Long before anti-hero characters were commonplace, Profit was one of a kind, a sociopath but you rooted for him, especially the irony that this murderer had a bit more class than most of his corporate co-workers.
The entire eight-episode run became a much-watch DVD as the show showed qualities that would inspire numerous successful dramas. The show was like nothing before it on television so it’s not surprising mainstream audiences weren’t ready for it. But time has been much kinder to show how it paved the way for a lot of darker series we know today and thus Fox was just too ahead the curve in an attempt to change TV.
2 TOO LONG: Supernatural
It’s almost funny to think that when Eric Kripke claimed he had a five-year plan for this series in 2005, fans were worried it wouldn’t live long enough to get there. The idea of a pair of brothers cruising America fighting demons was good and the series rested on the great chemistry of stars Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles. The show was soon a winner from the WB to CW and engaging fans with larger plotlines. However, many feel it’s gotten a bit long in the tooth. The threats have built up to angels, demons and various other forces and each season has to end with a massive battle. The show has repeated plotlines of the brothers keeping secrets, each dying and brought back and slews of threats recycling themselves. True, they can get original now and then (a musical and an upcoming animated episode) but the show is clearly repeating itself a lot and one wonders just how many times you can see dark murder scenes going around. The actors are still good but many believe it’s time the road trip end and the show finally call it a long night.
1 CUT SHORT: Karen Sisco
The character of Karen Sisco first appeared played by Jennifer Lopez in the 1998 hit Out of Sight. In 2003, ABC decided to give it a go, based on the Elmore Leonard novels. Carla Gugino took over the title role of a U.S. federal marshal in Miami who fights for respect from her co-workers while hunting down crooks. The show had a wonderful style and great charm with Gugino looking hot as hell in the title role. Robert Forster was well-cast as her retired cop father helping her out and the cases were fun. The show had a great vibe to it and was building up but ABC foolishly put it against long-time hit Law & Order so ratings were bad. The show featured Leonard’s trademark wit and writing along with fun cases and should have gotten a longer run but was axed after seven episodes. Gugino did reprise the role in the later hit Justified but fans truly wanted to see this continue for one of the hotter ladies of law enforcement getting more of a chance to show her stuff.