Earlier this month, Channel 4 announced the end of Paul Abbott’s Shameless. It will conclude for good after 11 series next year, by which time it will have played an impressive 139 episodes.
I have to be honest from the get go that I have never seen an episode of Shameless, so I don’t know whether – in terms of its storytelling quality – it is ending before time, or well after it should have.
But I have been interested when speaking to people who have seen the drama how many have said that they “used to watch it” when it first aired in 2004, but that they didn’t bother to revisit it in its later series.
As I said, I never watched it, so it would be wrong of me to comment on the end of this particular series.
But it has made me think about long-running television shows, and when enough is enough.
The problem with dramas, in particular, is that storylines and characters can appear to become tired and forced the longer a show runs. The more writers look to find new angles and territories for their characters to explore, often the more absurd those characters and stories become.
Take Desperate Housewives as an example. I watched each of that show’s eight series. And for the first three, I would say, I genuinely loved seeing the characters evolve and the situations they found themselves in. By the end I was tearing my hair out, shaking my head in disbelief at how ludicrous it had become. The writers clearly had nothing they wanted to say, but, because the broadcasters wanted more, they churned out more – often penning episodes of an inferior quality to those at the series’ start.
And yet I kept tuning in. No matter how much I told myself it was rotting my brain, I couldn’t help but watch. Perhaps, in some weird way, I found it comforting to have the show on – to be with the characters I had got to know every week. Like friends you know are no good for you but remain friends with anyway. Perhaps I was hoping it might still turn a corner and surprise us like it used to in the early days.
Actually, I think the writers or broadcaster should have had the courage to turn around and say, “Do you know what? There’s nowhere else to go with this. Let’s call it a day,” earlier than they did. Because it’s a shame when a series you love ends up becoming one you can’t wait to see the back of.
On which note, I ask you, which series/formats have run their course and need to end?
I can think of a few, which I will name here, but I would be interested to know yours.
- Whitechapel – the ITV1 drama series has just been commissioned for a fourth series. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely adore this show and I think it takes us to places other dramas wouldn’t dare. But I was a little disappointed with the third series, as it seemed to me the writers had run out of good ideas. Now, with a fourth in line, I worry that they will be scraping the barrel. After this, I would imagine it’s time to say goodbye.
- The X Factor – this show definitely needs to end. It makes a mockery of the music industry. And where it once may have been about new talent, now it’s more about judges’ dramas, contestants people can point and laugh at, and lining Simon Cowell’s pockets. Be gone with you!
- Musical theatre talent shows – you know the ones. Most recently we had ITV’s Superstar. I enjoyed he first few – on the BBC – but the last effort was a dreadful affair. And I think the argument that they are good for the industry because they get people attending musicals who might not have before is a tired one. They may have done to begin with but as shows like Matilda prove, if you have a good show with good music, the audiences will find it, with or without a casting series.
These are a few of my choices. Yours?