After ten seasons and three feature films, when do we finally admit it’s time to say goodbye?
Most TV shows peak between their third and fifth season. That is a fact. After that fifth season, things start to go downhill little by little. Premises get weaker and weaker, fresh ideas start to dry up, important cast members leave, and the whole thing just becomes old news.
Some shows handle the inevitable downfall with grace. Breaking Bad left the game with its head held high, while Parks and Recreation more or less managed to do the same. Rather, it’s the opposite that’s more common – when a show struggles and fights and doesn’t know when to stay down. Think about what happened with The X-Files. Or Scrubs. Or The Office. Hell, it’s happening right now with It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, which has been inexplicably renewed for two more seasons.
It can be painful to watch, right, when we see a show that was formerly excellent huffing and puffing after seven, eight, nine seasons. Some people are able to take a step back and say, “You know what, I love this show, and because of that, I recognize it is a shell of what it used to be. It needs to end. Now.”
Others have a harder time letting go. We can rationalize a show’s prolonged existence. We say things like, “Oh, I know it’s not as good as it used to be, but I just enjoy watching the characters I like living their little fictional lives.”
That’s the sort of mentality I’ve had for years with It’s Always Sunny – a show that is fueled by nostalgia, passable viewer ratings, and the occasional good episode here and there at this point – and it’s also how I used to feel about Trailer Park Boys, the cult hit from our neighbors up north.
After watching the most recent season after it premiered on Netflix in late March, however, I’ve just about had enough. From the beginning, Trailer Park Boys only had one legitimate story arc up its sleeve – three pals living in a shitty trailer park try to get rich while an alcoholic park supervisor and his tubby assistant try to foil the boys’ plans. Yes it’s a funny one, but not after watching it get recycled over and over again for over a decade.
It’s time for the show to end. There are no new ideas to explore (nor did the show do much exploring to begin with).
Celebrities make a big cameo here in the form of Snoop Dogg, Tom Arnold, and Doug Benson. While it’s sweet to see Snoop and Bubbles – the fan favorite with the coke bottle glasses – bond like family, there’s not a celebrity in the world who could show up and make this season any better than the last few. It seems like Netflix’s acquisition of the show’s rights has coincided with a real downturn in quality.
Maybe it’s a good thing Netflix didn’t get Hannibal after all.
The interesting thing is that on the surface, not much has changed about the show. I would argue it’s one of the most consistent series out there, and its dedication to a very specific formula was its greatest strength and now its greatest weakness. What made the show so amazing is now ruining it for everyone.
I’m more than willing to admit that describing the tangibles of this phenomenon are difficult. It’s just a feeling in my gut – and maybe the fact that I don’t laugh or really feel any joy from watching the show anymore. All the storylines in the show are the same every single season and the kicker is that it used to be okay. We didn’t care because it was so fucking funny.
And yet, experience something amazing long enough and the novelty starts to wear off. Experience it for a decade and the effect is a little more severe. Shows should surprise us. They don’t have to do it a lot. But do it enough and it’s easier to stay on top.
It’s Always Sunny has its share of flaws, but one thing it manages to do is keep it fresh at least a little bit. Remember “Charlie Work” from the tenth season? The one that was filmed in one continuous shot? That was an exceptional work of art.
Trailer Park Boys will never do that, nor should they. But their success is their downfall and it’s time we admit it. The boys had a good run. Now it’s time for them to retire permanently. It’s time for Ricky to settle down with Lucy and the kids. It’s time for Bubbles to keep looking after cats and being the best buddy someone could ask for.
As for Julian… well, his situation is uncertain.