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Milking The Shark: TV As Vapid Cash Cow


How I Met Your Mother is to return for a ninth season. Ninth! This is despite the back it hasn’t been funny for the last 5 seasons and has become increasingly cartoony and has essentially jumped the shark.

It is just another example of milking a beloved series for absolutely all it’s worth and until there is zero credibility left in the franchise. I for one dread to think how they are going to stretch this out for another series given it is all pretty much wrapped up quite nicely to end this year. By which, I mean pretty much all the character arcs have run their course.

I can’t say much though, because I still watch it just because I have committed too much time over the years so want to see it through to the end.

It happens with far too many shows.

Friends didn’t need ten seasons. It could quite happily have stopped after season seven and left a wonderful collection of comedy, rather than the bloated mass it eventually became.

The X-Files certainly didn’t need two seasons without Mulder and Scully. What were they thinking?!

Even the brilliant 30 Rock has gone on too far. Kenneth became a bit too weird and Tracy Jordan completed his character arc years ago and they’ve been struggling to find things for him to do ever since.

And don’t even get me started on The Big Bang Theory, which has been in terminal decline since the end of season two as the geeky humour that made it so great was gradually replaced with broader jokes more in line with it’s expanding fan base. Ker-ching!

Want more proof?




In fact the only show I can think of that has run for such a long time without a decline in quality is The Office. Despite running for nine seasons and the loss of its main character, it has managed to revitalise itself sufficiently to keep things fresh without alienating the old fans or letting the show become a caricature of itself.


19 thoughts on “Milking The Shark: TV As Vapid Cash Cow

  1. I totally agree with HIMYM. I used to be a fan, but the dollar stream ruined the concept as they have passed on too many fine actresses that could be the titular “Mother”. There are also so many “reveals” about the mother that they can never bring together in the final season. At this point I really do not even care who the Mother truly is.

    The Simpsons is now an industry, with the merchandising overwhelming the actual show. I even can claim to be a rider of an amusement park ride from Universal Studios in Florida.(Sanity check here: I was on a band trip and the band director, younger than i, was a HUGE Simpsons fan).

    • Yeah, it’s hard to keep an interest. I suspect they’ll be able to keep it all together plot-wise, but I’m not sure the final reveal will actually be worth it, especially if the mother is only in it for a couple of episodes right before the end.

  2. Pingback: Reading Digest: Goodbye 2012 Edition « Dead Homer Society

    • A long running show is not necessarily a bad thing. What is bad is when the show keeps going and going and going long after it has started to stagnate.

      The Office however, is one of the few shows that has managed to maintain it’s quality throughout the run and will be coming to a dignified end at the end of it’s ninth season.

      Not so sure on the Dwight spin-off though. That could easily be another Joey.

  3. I’m baffled by your praise for The Office. Did you not see the last season, where a British woman wandered into the office and literally took Michael Scott Lite’s job by sitting in his chair? The parade of nondescript female characters (Andy’s girlfriend, Warehouse Girl, Pam’s replacement)? Jim & Pam’s ever-increasing irrelevance? Erin’s minor story arc with the Hip Grandma in Florida?

    • The Office makes me laugh like a drain during every episode. Every episode. There is no show that has run for so long that has made me laugh so consistently and so hard.

      True, not all of it has been perfect but it has never gone too far and every time has pulled itself back. Anything with Catherine Tate I cannot accurately judge because I am from the UK and know her work, which I do not like. Her role was annoying at times, but I put that down to my personal opinion of her. Still, even then the rest of the show was hilarious. So yeah, they might go too far at one point, but never for too long, or for everything (or even, most things) in an episode.

      Erin Hannon as the new receptionist was an absolute breath of fresh air and was one of the primary reasons the show have been so good for song long. Her introduction brought something new to the dynamic, i.e. she was the only person happy to be there. The character is just warm and affable and Hannon is a genuinely naturally funny actress.

      Val the warehouse girl was as much as anything an attempt to start the closing of the Darryl relationship arc for when the show ends at the end of this season, whilst Andy’s girlfriend seemed a natural response to the situation. True, not all of them have particularly big roles, but that is as much about trying to find the appropriate dynamic within the group.

      Pam and Jim still play a prominent role, though obviously with their main story arcs completed there is little for them to do, unless they break up. They are kind of like the elder statesmen of the show, whilst the relationship emphasis has naturally and inevitably shifted to other characters. If you want irrelevant characters, go watch Tracy Jordan in the latest episodes of 30 Rock. No point to his being there whatsoever, unfortunately.

      The Florida arc was very funny and the only problem was that it didn’t last long enough.

      Things within the show have changed, that is true. Yet none of the characters have changed that much, aside from a natural growth and the humour has remained pretty much the same throughout. Even Dwight, the most likely candidate for becoming a caricature of himself, has managed to grow without it looking contrived or really stupid. It has not always been perfect, but there has always been enough in each episode to make it work and the laughs have been natural, not forced. If there has been a better show running for this long, at this level, then I’ve not seen it.

  4. Disagree slightly on HIMYM – it’s still amusing, though far from as funny as it once was.
    The characters still make me laugh for the most part. Though Barney’s gone from an understated character with quirks in series 1 to a cartton character, as you say, Barney and Robyn’s arcs have sort of ended and been reset only to start up again, and the last genuinely interesting thing they did with The Mother was a momentary hint she was working as a stripper when they met (back in series 2).

    And I’ve rewatched most of series 8 & 9 of The X-Files – apart from a main plot of supersoldiers that felt more action movie than suspense, I think it holds up surprisingly well.

    • The cartoon quality started when it was literally impossible for Barney to have a bad photo taken, regardless of the pose he was in. That was the beginning of the end. Lily and Marshall are also becoming cartoon characters with their 4th wall breaking “comedy” screams. But the biggest problem is that the jokes just aren’t funny anymore.

      Yeah, the mother thing no longer holds any interest as each reference or sighting adds nothing to the show.

      I’ve not seen them in a while, but I remember being bitterly disappointed about how far The X-Files fell from its peak, which I have seen and is still as good as it ever was.

      • I’d disagree SLIGHTLY about the jokes not being funny. The recent gameshow episode, with the giant wheel in the living room, made me wince at how OTT the concept was, but I laughed a few times at the jokes.
        Might be that I’m more able to switch off my brain and enjoy second rate humour (hardly something to boast about!) or the sympathy the characters have built up, but I still found it half decent.

        I’ve rewatched most of the X-Files (apart from a dozen or so that didn’t tape properly) in the last year or two, and I really enjoyed Robert Patrick’s ‘no nonsense ex New York cop’.

        • It’s not that I never laugh (though some episodes I don’t), it’s that I don’t laugh enough.

          The wheel episode is a good example. Some of the jokes were alright, but they certainly weren’t good enough to justify the ridiculous setup.

          I’ve found the more comedy I watch, the more disdainful I become of the shows I’ve watched for years. The lowered expectations of increasingly poor comedy had left me accustomed to stuff I didn’t really like. But then seeing Community and Parks and Recreation and the such reminded me of how good HIMYM used to be and how far it had fallen.

          As for The X-Files, I like Robert Patrick and thought his character was decent enough. But he wasn’t David Duchonvy, he wasn’t Fox Mulder. The show was built upon the relationship of Mulder and Scully, that was one of the things that made it so successful. To try and replace that and carry on as normal is just unfathomable.

          • I think with new HIMYM, because I sit down wanting to laugh, I’m a lot more receptive to what I know is mediocre. It’s not quite reached the point that Friends did, and 2 and a Half Men has always been at, where even though I sit down wanting to laugh, it ends up making me angry, it’s so awful.

            • I’ve definitely gone the other way.

              Friend is a bit of a weird case, because it never really became that ridiculous. Or at least I don’t remember it becoming so. I don’t think it ever gave up the underlying logic (except for the Joey spin-off which was horrendous on every level), it just became more difficult for it to be funny.

              Two And A Half Men is a cultural monstrosity. That it is the most watched comedy show on TV speaks volumes.

              • To me, Friends was ridiculous in that everyone started getting everything they want (Joey and Rachel both get dream jobs, etc.) with none of the suffering and disappointment associated with real life. And they behaved like total jerks (‘We were on a break!’ etc.) which made it almost impossible for me to sympathise with them.

                I’d prefer to watch a comedy that’s illogical to one where I hate the characters.

                • Friends never was never intended to be a commentary on the socio-economic realities of living in New York. It was a feel-good comedy, which is best indicated by the horrific mess they got into trying to do depressive comedy (ie Ross after his second marriage breaks down). Which brings me nicely to the second point. There were loads of disappointments and setbacks. All the characters had earn their pips to get to where they did. Besides, how many shows don’t end with their characters finally happy, one way or the other? Certain shows try to do different things. If you want to see a bunch of people failing badly to fulfil their creative aspirations I’d suggest the under-rated Party Down.

                  I would disagree that they were jerks, but that’s just my interpretation.

                  As for illogical over hate the characters, I think it all depends on whether there was logic in the show initially or not. If a show goes totally off the hinges just to keep going then I can’t stand that as it breaks the pact with the audience. That is what happened with HIMYM.

                  There’s nothing wrong with hating the characters, as long as they are meant to be hated. It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia is a good example, because they are all terrible human beings, but it’s very, very funny.

                  • True, Friends was always feelgood, but in the early years that was because they were helping each other through their dark periods. (The ‘I’ll be there for you’ from the theme tune).
                    One of the worst things Friends did was Ross going mad over someone eating his sandwich, so I agree they didn’t do dark comedy well.
                    But even in the early years, Ross was dealing with his marriage collapsing in a way that undermined the value of the years they’d spent together, Joey was in and out of work and possibly incompetent at his job, Phoebe had her scars from childhood… It wasn’t dark, as such, but there was darkness there.

                    As for being jerks, I’d refer to the beach house episode as an example – Rachel talks Ross’ girlfriend into shaving her head, purely out of jealousy; Rachel writes out a letter detailing why she felt hurt and when Ross falls asleep reading it, he lays into her for going on and on; and the whole ‘we were on a break’ thing.
                    I think around then, they crossed a point that meant, rather than creating characters I really wanted to be happy (which the show was probably incomparably great at in it’s early years) they had characters who, more and more, I really wanted to be miserable.
                    Obviously it’s a subtle shift that takes years, and I think Phoebe, Joey, (and Chandler more or less) are likeable by the end, but there is a shift that’s noticeable.

                    Is Party Down the show with Jane Lynch, where they’re caterers for parties? I love ‘Sunny’ so I’ll have to search that out at some point.

                    • I agree, the underlying philosophy of the show was perfectly summed up by the theme tune. I think that really did carry on from the start to the end, though the issues did become a bit more contrived and were clearly plot devices.

                      The Ross-Emily marriage arc was just horrendous and the London episodes (in particular) represent the lowest point of the show. It did pick itself up somewhat, but it was never the same after that, at least not for any prolonged period of time.

                      They all did horrible things from time to time, but they were always openly acknowledged as being terrible. That adds to make them more human, and not just reject hosts from children’s TV.

                      The Ross-Rachel “we were on a break thing” was the inevitable result of them getting together in the first place. They became happy and ratings began to drop, because no-one wants to see people happy. Basic rule of story-telling, conflict is king.

                      Chandler was always my favourite character to be honest. Joey became somewhat of a joke. I always thought the best Friend spin-off would be Phoebe: The Early Years. Maybe not.

                      Yes to all Party Down questions. But be warned, it is nothing like Sunny. It is good in it’s own particular way.

  5. Kudos for mentioning The X-Files and The Simpsons. I can’t say one way or another about the rest of the shows, I’m becoming one of those people who rarely watches TV anymore. It seems to me that if a show is on for longer than 5 or 6 seasons, it starts to decline, getting progressively worse with each new season.

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