I have two words for you: The Office. And one more: Extras. Both of Ricky Gervais’ original British TV series ran for two six-episode seasons (followed by a special). [...] The British seem to do that with regularity: create a series meant to run for a single season of episodes. Period. Think about Prime Suspect, for example, the incredibly complex and compelling show in which Helen Mirren played a police inspector battling the old-boy network as well as her own personal demons. It ran as a limited series in 1991 – and, yes, it came back six more times (Prime Suspect: The Final Act aired in 2006), but never two seasons in a row. And even then, each series rarely ran for more than four hours – total. It only seemed to resurface when they’d fashioned a plot that was worthy of DCI Jane Tennison’s time – and ours.And yes again: We know the networks' economic imperatives require beating things like Lost and Heroes to death. But! When they decide to get as serious as the rest of us, we're in — just as long as nobody touches Tyler Perry's House of Payne. We really do need something to hold us over in those three-month gaps between Madea movies.
How do you know when campaign season is over? Maybe when the boldest idea of the week comes from film and TV critic Marshall Fine, who argues today for the termination of TV series after one year. Even the hits! (Especially the hits, in fact.) And we might even sign on — with a few exceptions.Fine's logic is exactly that: literal and emotionally detached from the enduringly riveting qualities of shows like Mad Men, 30 Rock, The Simpsons, Grey's Anatomy and a handful of others. But wouldn't the outrage following those and other great programs' predetermined self-destruction after 12 or so episodes would be preferable to their having eventually squandered their legacies on so-called stunt-casting and/or firing controversies? Doesn't going out gracefully a la Rome or The Wire allow for a better fan memory (and presuppose a bump in DVD sales)? Can't we avoid syndication hell with Friends and Two-and-a-Half Men? Yes, yes, and yes, writes Fine, who points to the UK as an example of doing things right: