It’s no secret that in the entire history of television, shows have overstayed their welcome. Most sitcoms hit their prime in their early years or midpoint, and their quality finds a downward trend from then on. This creates something very bad, which is a poor perception of the show as a whole by the viewer. A show’s early, golden years will be undermined by the more inferior years, and viewer will think less of the show as a whole. This is something that should not be done, because a show’s legacy should not be able to be tarnished by its later and poorer seasons.
The prime example of this is The Simpsons. The show has been running for around 24 years, hitting its 25th this upcoming season. Everyone who has watched the show can agree that within the show’s first 9 to 10 years, it was at its best. These seasons of television contain some of not only the show’s, but the mediums best moments. However, paired with those great moments are 14 or 15 seasons of The Simpsons, whose quality ranges from good to mediocre. This may seem like an insurmountable quantity of mediocre television, but really, it takes nothing away from The Simpsons as a whole. Just because there are 15 seasons of Homer getting into unamusing situations, doesn’t mean that “Homers Enemy” isn’t a great episode of television. Poor Marge-centric episodes from more recent seasons will take nothing away from “Marge vs. the Monorail.” The Simpsons is an incredible achievement in television, and just because it is unable to churn out great episodes like it used to doesn’t mean that it isn’t one of the, if not the greatest comedy series of all time.
Another great example of this is the U.S. version of The Office. From seasons 2 to 5, this show was one of the best shows on TV, but like all sitcoms, it fell off a cliff in its 6th year after the great “Niagara.” Post “Niagara” episodes were spotty at best, but there were spots of greatness, particularly found in “Goodbye Michael.” When “Goodbye Michael” showed the show’s center out the door, the show came to drag on for 2 more years. Those two years really, really sucked. There was Robert California, Andy’s transformation into a unlovable monster, and the show even threatened to destroy its emotional core: Jim and Pam’s love for each other. But even if these moments of television were really bad, they take away nothing from The Office as a whole. In its prime, The Office reached extreme highs, finding a new source comedy every week. Seasons 2 and 3 are all time great seasons of television, and even if the characters we knew and loved were slightly weakened in the later years, the show’s legacy remains intact. Say what you will about the show’s 8th season, but to this day I will put “The Injury” up against any episode of television you name.
There are countless other shows which are all-time greats but recently have gone past their prime. The Dan Harmon-less 4th season of Community takes away nothing from that show’s legacy. Regardless of what you thought of Arrested Development‘s 4th season, it will still go down in history as one of the greatest shows of all time. 30 Rock hit some rough patches in its later years. The 9th season of Scrubs? Please forget about it. How I Met Your Mother went of a cliff quality-wise around season 6 or 7, but “Slap Bet” is still a really great episode of television. The lesson here is that most sitcoms (save the canceled/unresurrected ones) tend to have poorer quality in their later years, but as a whole turn out great.
As a viewer, we have to focus on a show’s better times. Instead of remembering the good old days, we have to cherish and preserve them. Viewers cannot let a show’s later, inferior years creep up and undermine the show’s quality and legacy as a whole. TV shows are anything but stable; they are close to a living and breathing entity whose quality fluctuates as its life continues. We have to focus on and remember what we as viewers truly loved about the show instead of focusing on its negative aspects. The viewer has the power to remember a show and determine its perception, so why let some bum later years tarnish what we really loved?