Tuesday!

Recently, on the twitters, there was a discussion about The Big Bang Theory. Specifically, someone noticed that some of his Facebook friends had “liked” The Big Bang Theory and noted that none of these Facebook friends were among those that he considered to be funny.

Our own Trumwill pointed out that, hey, the first two, maybe three, seasons were pretty good and it wasn’t surprising that it tapered off into mediocrity because most shows taper off into mediocrity after 100 episodes or so.

Which leads us to the question:

Well, which shows did *NOT* turn into a mélange of meh after, oh, 100 shows? (I was going to say “five seasons” but England has this thing where a “season” means “3, maybe 6, episodes” and that seemed like a real apples and oranges kind of comparison.)

Some shows that were brought up were M*A*S*H, Stargate, and Frasier but, surely, there are a ton of others out there.

I mean, if my bud was going to go in for some kind of surgery that involved the doctors telling him “and after this, you’re going to need to spend 3 weeks in bed watching television”, what would be the ultimate bingewatch for a show that maintained high quality well into 100+ episodes?

Note: Saying “The Simpsons” is cheating.

So… whad’ya got?


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Jaybird is Birdmojo on Xbox Live and Jaybirdmojo on Playstation's network. He's been playing consoles since the Atari 2600 and it was Zork that taught him how to touch-type. If you've got a song for Wednesday, a commercial for Saturday, a recommendation for Tuesday, an essay for Monday, or, heck, just a handful a questions, fire off an email to AskJaybird-at-gmail.com

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137 thoughts on “Tuesday!

  1. Also, I agree that early Big Bang Theory was mildly amusing, and then it became not. I haven’t watched it in several years.

    Also, I find MASH unwatchable. I was a faithful viewer, back in the day, but I find its holier-than-thou preachiness (lefty version) unbearable. This is a bit odd in that I was a Republican back in the day, until I wasn’t. Even apart from that, the show lost its edge after Frank Burns left. It needed a foil, and Charles Emerson Winchester wasn’t it, at least not over the long haul. Even back in the day I noticed that without that edge it became a boring love fest.

    Also, Mary Tyler Moore Show. For some reason it dropped off the cultural radar, but it was really good.

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    • M*A*S*H was one of those shows that struck me as absurdist and crazy humor but the grownups in my life with military experience looked at it and said “meh, yeah, that’s pretty much how it is…”

      Now that I am a grownup of sorts, I look and say “yeah, M*A*S*H isn’t that far off.” (Somewhat relevant: My friends with jobs in Hospitals tell me that Scrubs is practically a documentary.)

      My criticisms looking back now include “they spent too much time with officers and not enough with enlisted”.

      That said, Colonel Potter was a more believable Colonel than Colonel Blake.

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  2. Farscape
    Babylon 5
    Star Trek DS9
    Burn Notice
    Futurama
    I’ll agree on MASH too, although Hawkeye’s sanctimoniousness got tedious.

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  3. Babylon 5 for sure. But Babylon 5 has the advantage that its complete arc was planned from the start, so it never faced the problem of “how we milk this thing longer?”

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    • No, no, no, no, no. Babylon 5 was an innovative show, wonderful in many respects, but 100 episodes puts the show into the fifth season. Do you remember season 5? Awful. No point to it. They didn’t expect to have a fifth season, so they moved all of the scheduled 4th and 5th season arcs into the 4th season. The big war ended, and Earth’s arc was resolved. Season 5 began without Ivanova, and with no story.

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        • I rewatched it a few years ago. I’d forgotten how bad the acting used to be in science fiction. Either the acting was the worst in the first season or I got used to it as the show went on; I suspect the former. I know that B5 was an important turning point for science fiction writing, but I can’t think offhand when the change came for science fiction acting.

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            • Rich,
              There were awful actors on STNG. Seriously awful actors.

              If you want a show that picked up decent actors on the sly, look at My Name is Earl.

              The secret to ensemble shows is finding good character actors and making them sing. (Like Gotham, whose writing can be dire, but whose actors can often make the whole thing work anyhow).

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      • I feel the same way about Xena Warrior Princess. Innovative and wonderful, especially in how it embraced its cheesiness. But it was showing its wear by Season 5.

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    • J_A,
      That’s not quite true. Babylon 5 was the show which the writer would change on a moment’s notice. So you’d ask questions, and the entire show would change. It was flexible like that, and written to be flexible (enough to withstand people dropping out).

      That’s a show that had a flowchart about as timeywimey as DoctorWho’s, and was mostly indicative of a writer with too much time on his hands.

      Kinda like Old Man Henderson.

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  4. Do foreign shoes count?

    Doctor Who it is. Even with the short seasons, it is going strong. How can I say it, it’s a show that regenerates itself all the time.

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        • I will seize this opportunity to agree with Aaron. I started watching Dr. Who when the reboot sortof happened, it was good, had fun plots, neat overarching themes but then it started getting so repetitive, so self referential, the fishing Dr. Who character just running around screaming “do you know who I am?!?!?!” to fix problems. Also the episodes became soooo repetitive.

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            • I was actually quite fond of Silence in the Library despite the fact that the solution in the end consisted of *spoilers* The Doctor saying “Look me up, see how scary a dude I am” and the bad guys going “Oh snap, we surrender!”

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              • North,
                Well, if you liked that one…
                Might I introduce you to the Thief video game series?
                (A french dude upgraded the Thief 2 engine (which you can play thief with), so it now works right on multicores, and they Fixed The Sound!).

                [So, um, how does a video game guy get involved in Doctor Who? A little thing called Bureaucracy…]

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                • The original and the most recent thief game were pretty damn good. I preferred the originals over the newest one, but they were fantastic in terms of immersion, even with kinda bad graphics. First person sneaker ftw. I also liked the challenge of not killing anyone on the more advanced settings.

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                  • Damon,
                    Yeah, you totally should replay the original on the “latest” Thief2 Engine.
                    Also, there are tons upon tons of fanmissions (The one that killed the playtester has been redone so it’s less scary. And there’s one by a Romanian about Dracula’s Castle… And just bunches upon bunches more of fabulous fanmissions).

                    If you aren’t playing Thief on Expert, you’re not playing the game. ;-)

                    Thief 3 had one good mission: “Robbing the Cradle”

                    Thief managed to pull off a large world, by making it cramped (so fewer polygons on screen), and they managed to make an honestly 3d game (nobody’s actually managed rope arrows since, and believe me they’ve tried).

                    Another in the same vein is Metro 2033, a “figure the story out for yourself” Muskovite video game.

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                    • I seem to recall playing some of the fan missions back in the day, but didn’t really get into player mods until Skyrim.

                      Maybe I’ll get back to it, but there’s still a lot on my list…..

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              • The thing is, that was a rational response by the bad guys. The Doctor had displayed a long history of winning despite apparently having nothing. A perfectly rational strategy for doing bad guy stuff is if you realize that it is The Doctor you are facing, immediately withdraw. Try your bad guy stuff again another day, when he isn’t around.

                As a matter of drama, you can’t go to this well very often. If every bad guy has this response, then you have no story. It is much like the old problem of Superman stories, where the hero is invincible so your only story is about whether or not Lois Lane will figure out Clark Kent. But as a one-off, it is pretty badass.

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                • As a one off, yeah, which is why I liked him but there were entire seasons that mostly consisted of this weasely git just screeching that he’s badass, in a twee sort of way, and everyone freaking out about it. So I checked out.

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                • Nicely inverted in the Pandorica episodes.

                  The Doctor gave a stirring speech, daring the aliens to come take him — but suggesting, given his history, they do the smart thing and let someone else go first.

                  Except…they’re all there collectively to deal with him. And they do. (I mean it doesn’t take, because it’s the Doctor. But he basically tried to bluff them, thought it worked…..only to realize he’d been outplayed).

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    • How many episodes of Doctor Who are there?

      Here, let me google that for me.

      As of 1 July 2017, 839 episodes of Doctor Who have aired, concluding the tenth series. This includes one television movie and multiple specials, and encompasses 275 stories over 36 seasons. Additionally, four charity specials and two animated serials have also been aired.

      839?

      Jeez.

      Yeah, that counts.

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      • When you’ve had 839 episodes, I think you can comfortably agree that even if 200 of them are marginal, and another 200 are outright bad… you’re still worthy of a longevity award.

        400 episodes that are middlin-to-good is a pretty good bulk of work.

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        • For the life of me, I thought we had a shot of there being under a hundred.

          There were 4 seasons of Black Adder with a grand total of 24 episodes.

          I figured that the six episode season was just something that the BBC just *DID*. So I assumed that the first six doctors or so gave us a mere 36 episodes.

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    • J_A,
      We’ll see how it goes once they start playing the “I Am Woman” Card…
      Do not have high hopes for Chibtard.

      I may be completely biased (of course I am!) but Doctor Who careens from “Completely Unwatchable” to “This is the Best Television Ever.” (The abortion of a moon episode was complete drek, and the one with the trees was a joke episode not intended to actually be shown on Television. Designed to mock other Doctor Who episodes. Not For Airing, folks. The one with the Tower of Time, otoh, was just excellent top to bottom)

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  5. All in the Family was as good in episode 100 as it was in episode 1, and equally good well past that, but ran out a steam just before it ended.

    And say what you will about the various Laws & Order, since the formula was so exact, the quality of each was sustained also well past 100 episodes for the three (so far) that have gone that distance.

    (“Is this because I’m a lesbian” was a sign the show’s quality had declined, but they were past episode 300 by that point.)

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  6. I’ll go out on a limb and say South Park. It’s had a few weaker seasons, but even those seasons had some strong episodes. And the last two seasons were really good.

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  7. Frasier and Cheers managed it, I think.

    Two and a Half Men was never great, but was probably better in season 8 than it was in season 2.

    Married With Children became a different, and better, show over time.

    How I Met Your Mother also stayed pretty constant until the end, which is impressive because the plot didn’t lend itself to a really long-running show.

    I have a hard time coming up with any that aren’t sitcoms, oddly enough.

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    • For dramas, the only one that comes to mind is E.R. with 331 episodes, so surely the first 100 were quality. It looks like Clooney left (or was removed from the credits) around episode 107.

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      • There’s a whole list of Golden Age westerns other than Bonanza that went more than 100+ shows. Gunsmoke, 635. Death Valley Days, 452. Wagon Train, 284. The Virginian, 249. Have Gun – Will Travel, 225. Rawhide, 217. The Rifleman, 168. Zane Grey Theatre, 149. Maverick, 124. Some of those were award-winning in their day. Presumably some of them maintained their quality through at least five seasons. I may be old, but not old enough to have firsthand knowledge.

        Separately, The Twilight Zone original series.

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  8. Well, Justified didn’t make 100 episodes, but I think that is a point in its favor.

    Always Sunny in Philadelphia is at 138 and going strong!

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  9. I have just about abandoned Big Bang Theory. Last season I just read the synopsis for the last few episodes. I don’t like the direction they have gone with Leonard & Penny. The gags are getting old with everyone else. It’s disappointing because once upon a time it was must-watch TV for me.

    As for shows that held up, Friends is high on the list for me. I was just as engaged the last season as the first. I’m really struggling to think of another show that fits that list. I have a bunch that are dear to me, but most are Golden Age shows like Hell on Wheels that were never intended to hit 100. I believe Game of Thrones is wrapping at 73.

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    • I watched the first fifteen minutes of the first episode and turned it off. Nothing I have read since suggests that I should regret that decision.

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    • I was a LOST fan though am not a defender.

      LOST definitely does not pass this test, though it was the reason I chimed in on the Twitter discussion mentioned to say that there are often things that happen during the later meh seasons of shows that as a fan you wouldn’t want to do without. They’re just buried in meh.

      That’s what happened on LOST.

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  10. Parks and Recreation
    It’s always sunny in Philadelphia
    Kodomo No Omocha
    Fushigi Yuugi (otherwise known as “I hate my main character” itis).

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  11. Soap Operas, I assume, come and go. General Hospital probably has great months and it probably has crappy months.

    I know for a fact that Raw and Smackdown have spectacular stretches and, well, less spectacular stretches.

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    • Soaps must be tough to write, given five shows a week and the usually glacial pace. I watched Dark Shadows off and on after school. They hit their peak of popularity after they figured out the viewers wanted straightforward vampires and werewolfs and things that go bump in the night. Popularity declined sharply when they gave up on that.

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  12. Seinfeld really hit its stride in season 4 and the episodes in seasons 5-7 are its best writing (ignore the disastrous Susan-killing season 7 finale).

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    • +1.

      One might argue Seinfeld never even came close enough to going meh to be eligible for inclusion in this. It was never even in danger of falling into a dip that it would have then risen out of.

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      • …Nevertheless, Seinfeld would have been my response as well.

        Will’s also right about Frasier and Cheers, and others who said M*A*S*H*.

        I would also add The Bob Newhart Show – but not Newhart.

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  13. Top Gear. 100th episode with the final cast was just when I started watching, 2010 or so. Two or three short series later, they started an exponential slide, but if it’s your bag, I think it sneaks in.

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    • Strange and wonderful, but I have no opinion as to its quality arc.

      Then there was the brief attempt at an Americanized version with William Shatner: strange and awful.

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      • The problem with the William Shatner version is that they tried to do a strict translation of the Japanese version of Iron Chef. That meant the entire eccentric wealthy man hosting elaborate cooking contests was played for real. Now William Shatner is one of the best actors you can get for an English speaking Chairman Kaga but I don’t think Americans, Canadians, and other English speakers are the right mentality for an Iron Chef played straight. The Food Network attempt worked much better because they realized that English speakers like watching cooking contests but they won’t take the Chairman Kaga set up seriously, so they dropped that.

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  14. What fascinates me is that 100 episodes is actually a really high bar. Here are the shows I would recommend to someone stuck in a hospital bed for a while:

    Veronica Mars – 3 seasons – 64 episodes
    Six Feet Under – 5 seasons – 63 episodes
    Friday Night Lights – 5 seasons – 76 episodes
    Farscape – 4 seasons – 88 episodes (90 if you count the peacekeeper wars)

    Even The Sopranos only made it to 80-something.

    So…. over 100 I got nothing.

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      • Ignoring the horrible first season, Parks and Rec has to be, hands down, the funniest show of the ’10s. It’ll be a long time before TV comes up with a character as funny and original as Ron Swanson.

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        • I argue with a colleague often over Parks&Rec v Office. While the latter had some amazing moments and undoubtedly made the former possible, it tailed off disasterously and lacked the emotional pull of its successor. I cared, deeply!, about the folks of Pawnee. I couldn’t have cared less if the people of Scranton got buried by a mudslide… even if they did make me laugh.

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        • It’ll be a long time before TV comes up with a character as funny and original as Ron Swanson.

          Now I love me some good Swanson… but let’s be honest, he’s just a Suburban Dwight Schrute who read some Ayn Rand in college.

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          • Schrute v. Swanson is a tough one to pick, but I think the smaller cast of Parks and Rec allowed the characters to be fleshed out a bit more, thereby making them more interesting.

            That said, I’ll have to respectfully disagree with you re: The Office. Steve Carrell’s departure left a void at the top that was never filled, but the rest of the cast remained as good as ever.

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            • I suppose it depends on what we mean by “good”. I watched the Office end-to-end and often sing its praises. I do think it finished poorly, largely due to Carrell’s departure (though I may be in a tiny minority who found Spader hilarious at times).

              It’s not that I don’t think the show or characters were good. At its best, the show was fantastic and they created so many fantastic characters.

              My argument is that… as a show… I felt much more connected to the Parks & Rec people. Maybe because they were more fleshed out, but there was more emotional connection between them all and they were all, at the core, good decent people who you wanted to cheer for. I just don’t think that is true of most of the Office crew. I laughed with and at the Office crew… but I never really cared about them.

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              • The Office began as a comedy about a terrible place to work with an insane boss. A big part of his insanity was thinking of the workplace as a family, when actually the rest of the people tolerated each other and despised him.

                By Carrell’s departure, the workplace was a family, with Carrell pretty much universally liked (even loved) and strong affection among the others (Ryan excepted).

                It’s the kind of softening sitcoms are prone to, with the antagonists become first respected rivals and then friends (think Hot Lips becoming Margaret), but it’s striking because it so completely subverts the initial premise.

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                • You could read that writing on the wall from the beginning though, imo. Commitment to the initial premise as you describe it was weak. Reeked of apology (ultimately by General Electric) for the reality of modern mid-to-low-level corporate office work, not a true indictment. For such an apology to be persuasive, the portrait of the reality has to be reasonably convincing – the more the better up to a point.

                  I would argue the show is disturbingly effective as such an apology – to the point that the effects can be seen in our actual world. 30 Rock did the same shit.

                  None of them had the courage to give us ‘Tofutti Break,’ which is close enough to the absurdity we actually experience on a daily basis to be uncomfortable to VPs and C-level types.

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                • I guess the show just missed it’s mark with me, as I simply never came around on many of the characters. I never found sympathy for Michael, I never thought Jim was anything more than a smug jerk, and I only wavered on caring about Dwight. The secondary characters weren’t flesh out enough. By the end, I just wanted them all to go away. I had zero emotional investment in their outcomes.

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                • I remember some interviews with the producers around season three. They commented that American audiences needed a bit of optimism behind and underneath it all to be able to laugh. So Michael Scott had to be more redeemable than David Brendt. There had to be some good in there.

                  It wasn’t mentioned, but remained true that over time the bad characters had to become less bad. That really does seem to happen on just about every show. The character you hate early on is one of the gang by the end. Ryan is a counterexample, though he did evolve over time as he started out bland and kind of sympathetic and became a villain over time.

                  Some of it may have less to do with American mentality than that when you have that many episodes, the characters have to evolve to keep it interesting and bad characters turning less bad or good is one way of doing so (Ryan’s evolution is another). In Britain, they rarely have the time.

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            • Heh, well I really enjoy Swanson as a character – he’s a poor man’s Jack Donaghy – so I’m not going to die on Schrute Hill (which, I’m pretty sure was really a hill somewhere on his farm where someone probably died or was buried).

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    • There’s a joke hiding there:

      “BBC’s masterpiece “The Hifallutin” can be now purchased in one collection. Own the complete ten seasons, all twenty eight episodes, for just $99.99 plus S&H”

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  15. Just remembered another British product, and it’s topical since they just started the 13th series and is not far below their peak, if at all – the quiz show Only Connect.

    Game shows and panel shows in general can be extreme long-runners like soaps, but I can’t thunk of all that many that were all that good, esp. from the US. Jeopardy, maybe. You can see where my tastes run…

    Mention of Only Connect always makes me remember QI, which also qualifies, in spades. Although I must admit, while I like Sandi Toksvig, it’s hard to take over the role that made Stephen Fry STEPHEN FRY.

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  16. Well, if we play strictly by the 100 episode rule that seems to eliminate a lot of good TV… especially British TV.

    So a quick run through the link above…

    The Office
    Newhart

    Not necessarily the best shows, but among the best that managed 100 episodes.

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    • I chose 100 because it’s the traditional cutoff for syndication. It’s historic the *goal* of an American TV series. Anything that comes after is overtime.

      It doesn’t always work that way, of course, but it’s a pretty good dividing point. It’s hard to come up with 100 original stories around any particular concept. It usually seems to either involve a show that changes a lot over time or ones that revolve around a tight formula. Interesting, this applies to Law & Order but doesn’t apply as much to SVU.

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    • Browsing @marchmaine’s link reminded me I wasn’t even thinking about kids’ shows. Most of them appeal to me not at all as an adult, but there are some I love when I am invalided, so I would at least *suggest* them to someone recovering in a hospital:

      Fraggle Rock (only 96 episodes but it definitely got syndicated and it’s so close!!)
      Muppet Show (120 episodes, and I don’t *remember* any decline though I’m not caught up on rewatching) [ONLY the vintage 70s-80s stuff, which is what the 120 eps are, not the new stuff although some of the movies, old or new, hold up]
      Mr. Rogers (895 episodes)
      The Friendly Giant (3000 episodes)
      Mr. Dressup (4000 episodes)

      They’re even better for chilling me out than Bob Ross…. YMMV of course.

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  17. Modern Family at 189 and counting. It may not still have its best fastball every time out, but is eminently watchable still.

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    • I disagree (and it’s one of the few things i’ve been in sync with AV club reviewers). Modern Family over the last 2 seasons has been half the show it used to be, because the kids have become terrible as they’ve gotten older.

      (And they did the whole ‘the kids are no longer young and cute, so let’s add a new one who is’)

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    • My partner and I do watch it on a loop, and though I would say that while West Wing stays almost always above (sometimes just above) meh, it definitely falls into meh *relative to itself* from after Sorkin left until the primary election sequence, and then again until the end, though with bright moments (the Ellie wedding episode being one that very recently shocked me at how good it is).

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    • Robin,
      Burn that show.
      Seriously.
      And I liked Sorkin’s Newsroom, despite the “You Don’t Know Africa, Stop it, Go HOME” vibe.

      Sorkin writes his female characters in West Wing pretty damn poorly… he let someone leave the show without even giving us a line as to why (Mandy). And he lets his ego get way, way over the “This is Implausible, unless you want this character to be slapped down for being a gigantic dick” line.

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