Byzantium's Shores has an interesting post up that spins out of my post below on the wonderful James Woods episode of ER, and I thought I respond to some points he makes.
A lot of Kelly's post comes down to the fact that he doesn't find ER to be interesting anymore--the stories, characters, arcs, are all uninteresting or, at the most, decent-but-rehashed for him. I disagree, but that's, of course, fine. To each his own and all that jazz. Some of his complaints do seen a bit unfair--he makes it sounds as if the parade of big-name guest starts he lists all took part in variations on a very similar story, when in fact each was unique in its own way--the only connecting tissue being "big-name star playing character with bad illness" which, if you think about it, is a pretty broad canvas on which to write.
Still--he doesn't like the show and think it should be cancelled. Fair enough. But here is my real question. If a show was brilliant, say for five years or so, and then becomes very good should it be put out of its mercy? (note--I understand that Kelly wouldn't place ER under this definition at all--this is a more general question, that I think applies to ER but am curious about in a much more general way). From his post, and I may be wrong, he would say yes. Roger Owen Green, in a comment on that same post of mine below, basically says, again, if I'm not misreading him, the same thing. And I, as is probably pretty clear by now, disagree.
I wrote a post a while back about how awesome it is that Ricky Henderson continues to insist on playing baseball, even if on a minor-league level, because he loves playing and feels he can still contribute. I have never seen the supposed honor in quitting at something simply because you are no longer at peak capacity. I've read so many times about how Seinfeld went on too long, or went just long enough--Kelly makes a similar claim in his post. But was Seinfeld, by any measure, a bad sitcom in its final year? Or even an average one? I'd say, no matter what you thought of the final season, by normal measuring sticks (i.e., if not measuring it against earlier, brilliant, seasons of Seinfeld) it was, at least, pretty good. Not excellent, perhaps, but pretty good. Now, in this case I know the prime drivers of the show--Seinfeld himself and Larry David--wanted out, so, of course, it should have ended. But this notion that any great, well, anything--singer, ballplayer, television show, artist, actor--should quit once they become less than great--even if they are still by any rational measure pretty damn good--baffling.
Very good is a rare enough quality in itself, even if not so rare as excellent or brilliant. To disparage very good, just because it used to be great, is, to me, sad in a way. One last example--The Simpsons. Inarguably brilliant, for a good run of years, at least six or so. Now--very good, if nowhere near the brilliance it one had. And yet so many fans, critics, and others call for its mercy killing, as if the brilliance of those six years or so can somehow be retroactively, in some sci-fi, time-traveling way, harmed by the past several seasons just-plain-good quality. Why? Why should we lose a half hour a week of good, solid (if not brilliant) laughter?
I just don't get it. So here's to the very good who used to be brilliant. May they continue to move, entertain, and amuse us, for as long as they wish and are able to do so.