breaking up is hard to do

The Frustration of Loving a Show That’s Been on Too Long

I don’t know why I’m still watching Dexter. Commitment? A misguided desire to finish what I start? Inertia? The knowledge that there are only two episodes left is a relief, but only in that banging-your-head-against-the-wall sense: It feels so good when I stop. There was a time Dexter was among my favorite shows, a time the mere mention of the Ice Truck Killer or the Trinity Killer could prompt a conversation about the nature of evil characters, the perception of vigilantism in American culture, and the beauty of a perfect shocking ending. Now when I think about Dexter, all that comes to mind is, Holy shit, is that still on?

Dexter should have ended a long time ago, probably right after Rita died, since that was the last surprising, risky, or interesting move the show has made. And Dex and friends aren’t alone in wearing out their welcome: When HBO announced last week that the next season of True Blood would be its last, even fans of the show seemed relieved. And as we look ahead to the fall season, there are plenty of shows kicking around that are approaching (or have passed) their expiration dates: Bones. Grey’s Anatomy. Glee. Sometimes it’s just time.

Loving a show when it’s past its prime is like staying in a bad relationship because, ugh, one of us is going to have to move out. I’ve poured nine seasons into Grey’s Anatomy; I can’t just give up now. Bones and I used to have so much fun together! Glee saw me through some rough shit; don’t I owe it to them to stick it out for at least a little longer? You just don’t know How I Met Your Mother like I do — deep down, it’s a really good show.

Oh, True Blood, I really tried to make this work. I kept up with your cockamamie supernatural beings. (Step off, werepanthers!) I stuck up for you when other people called you stupid. I brushed it off when people scoffed, You still watch that? I defended your love of blood fucking, because, hey, everyone has his or her thing. And this is how you repay me? With Warlow? Well, I hope you two are very happy together.

There’s a level on which this pains me. I used to love these shows! And if you love something, don’t you want it to be around forever? Sort of — except forever’s not really an option. No show can stay good in perpetuity, even when that show is engineered for longevity: Even an O.G. like Law & Order, television’s most stable workhorse, eventually ran out of steam. TV shows are designed to end (well, not counting The Simpsons), and the more consciously they’re designed to end, the better. Take, oh, TV’s golden child Breaking Bad. Its end date has been in sight for more than two years, and the show itself has an inborn, natural conclusion, with the Scarface-ification of Walter White. When Dexter was renewed for a seven and eighth season, it was “likely” they’d be the show’s last — but as recently as this past December, it wasn’t clear whether the show really was going to end.

It’s hard enough to have a show you treasure to its natural, appropriate end. I loved 30 Rock from start to finish, and I can look back on it with nothing but fondness; not so The Office, whose running-on-fumes years tainted the legacy and memory of the show. Dragging things out as long as humanly possible makes complete sense from a financial standpoint. But it doesn’t make any sense from a creative perspective. And certainly not from a fan one.

Loving a Show That’s Been on Too Long