So, at risk of starting The Thread With No Bottom, let’s consider the flip side. I believe Shamus’ premise is that HSR went out at the right time – before it got stale or beat itself into the ground. What are other similar endeavors that chose the other path – went on way longer than they should have, and suffered for it?
Good question. I’ll start us off with a few:
- Family Ties – The political dimension of the sitcom was completely lost on me as a teenager, and I suspect it’s what’s prevented a real revival of interest in the show. Nothing goes stale quite like topical political humor. At any rate, even as a family comedy I think the show ran out of steam several seasons before they stopped making episodes. Even as a teenager with… unrefined tastes, I sort of realized I was watching a sitcom that no longer made me laugh. I was tuning in mostly out of habit and affection for the characters.
- Sopranos – I misunderstood Sopranos while I was watching it. What I wanted was a really long mini-series, a long-running story with a beginning and an end. But it was, at its heart, a soap opera. Like all soap operas, the writers had no plan and no sense of direction. Plots and sub-plots ran in circles, dropped off without explanation, or ended in contrivances. I lost interest because of the lack of coherence and direction, and I always thought the show would have been better with a smaller, tighter, more focused run. That said, it’s supposedly the most successful show in the history of TV, so I guess it worked for someone.
- Alien and Terminator – I list these together because both franchises followed the same trajectory. It begins with a really tense, personal sci-fi horror / thriller. Then James Cameron comes along and makes a spectacular, quotable, smarter-than-average blockbuster action movie out of the material. It’s good, but this tonal shift makes it really, really hard to go back to making thrillers. After this the series is fed into the sequel meat-grinder where the continuity and lore are over-extended and the whole thing turns into tired action schlock.
- Resident Evil – Capcom is pretty much the poster child for horrible videogame writing. Their Resident Evil lore is so convoluted and goofy that it’s agonizing to sit through the cutscenes, which are frequent, superfluous, mood-breaking, horribly acted, and overly verbose. We could pardon this if we could excuse the story as just as an excuse to shoot zombies, but the gameplay itself changes with almost every iteration. They re-invent the gameplay we supposedly like and then retain this stupid and needless lore that we could do without.
The common excuse is that it’s satire, but it doesn’t feel like satire. Satire should have something to say about the material being satirized. At the bare minimum it should have a punchline beyond, “Hey, is this material dumb, or what?” Resident Evil isn’t making fun of the old idiotic B-movie zombie stories. It IS an idiotic B-movie zombie story.
While we’re talking about the series, it’s worth pointing out the Errant Signal Episode (with special guest: Somebody else I’ve never heard of) on Resident Evil.
I’d nominate Sonic as well, but I’ve seriously never played a single minute of Sonic in my life and I’d just be repeating what others have said about the series. I’ll leave the criticism to the fans who know what they’re talking about.
So your turn: What series went on too long? TV, Movies, Books, games, whatever. Let’s hear it.