With TV shows like Fuller House and The X-Files signaling a wave of returning ’90s shows, the networks hope to cash in on the nostalgia in the air and the marketplace may have some housecleaning to do. In fact, a number of TV shows currently in production are getting dangerously close to overstaying their welcome anyway.
Whether it’s due to a lack of fresh ideas or the simple fact that these TV shows are no longer culturally relevant, it’s time that their respective networks behind these hits consider when it might be the right time to finally call it quits. (For the record, we’re focusing on scripted primetime TV shows that have a number of years behind them — no reality series or younger upstarts make appearances on this list.)
1. The Simpsons (1989–present)
Even the most devoted fans of this groundbreaking series have to admit that The Simpsons is far from its prime nowadays. Over the years, the show has endured largely because of its status as a primetime pioneer. And 27 seasons in, it looks like no one at Fox wants to be the one to pull the plug on the series.
The Simpsons is so beloved — mostly because of its early years — but over the course of nearly 600 episodes, there isn’t much juice left in the show, despite the continued efforts of its longtime voice cast. The series is already the longest-running scripted primetime show ever by a significant margin.
So now may be a good time to nail down an endpoint. Perhaps the team behind the show can even focus on developing the film franchise that started with the 2007 megahit The Simpsons Movie.
2. Family Guy (1999–present)
Much like The Simpsons, this newer animated Fox comedy has seen better days. Family Guy has long towed the line between brilliantly stupid humor and just plain stupidity, often alternating from one to the other within the same joke.
However, more recent seasons have shown a growing reliance on shock value over anything resembling storytelling. The show has slipped off the pop-culture radar so much that it has been forced to turn to ratings stunts like temporarily killing family dog Brian off the show to keep people talking.
Without a doubt, Family Guy has made its mark as an heir apparent to the legacy of The Simpsons, but when series creator Seth MacFarlane readily admits his hopes that the show will come to an end, it’s time to grant his wish.
3. Law & Order: Special Victims Unit (1999–present)
After 17 seasons, Law and Order: Special Victims Unit is the last vestige of the NBC mainstay still on the air. However, considering that police procedurals are a rapidly dying breed, maybe the network should consider finally letting Law and Order fade into the annals of television history.
After all, television has evolved far past shows like this one into the bold new world of streaming services and serialized storytelling. By comparison, such formulaic tales like those presented in case-of-the-week TV shows like SVU feel more than a little passe. It’s time to move on, NBC.
4. Grey’s Anatomy (2005–present)
Shonda Rhimes has more than proven herself a reliable moneymaker for ABC. TV shows like Scandal and How to Get Away with Murder are a testament to her ability to craft compelling stories that keep viewers coming back week after week. However, her career in television truly blew up with the 2005 debut of long-running medical drama Grey’s Anatomy.
For more than a decade, the show has been a solid performer for the network, but its slipping ratings and Rhimes’ own busy schedule may indicate that the time is right to end the show gracefully. Even series heartthrob Patrick Dempsey has left the show at this point. So the writing may be on the wall already.
5. The Big Bang Theory (2007–present)
Few sitcoms have managed to stay on the airwaves for more than a decade. In large part, this is due to the fact that the characters run out of people to go at a certain point. The Big Bang Theory could very well reach that point now that it’s set to enter Season 10 this fall. Though the show still remains one of the highest-rated comedies on the air, it should take a cue from classic sitcoms like Seinfeld and go out with a, well, bang.
Considering the show’s close ties to geek culture and the legion of fans who still tune in each week to see Leonard, Sheldon, and the gang, The Big Bang Theory deserves to do right by the viewers who kept it a hit for so many years.
Follow Robert Yaniz Jr. on Twitter @CrookedTable
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