Today’s Question: Do All Shows Have a Three Season Shelf-Life?

When I read that Desperate Housewives “jumped-the-shark” it got me thinking. Is it really fair to say that a television show is not as good as the first season? Unfortunately, most shows today hit their peak during season one. Why? Because they have such high-concepts, and it becomes impossible to duplicate that momentum. Desperate Housewives was so great when it started, because of the mini-murder mystery. When the mystery was complete, the show was too. Sure Marc Cherry tried to keep it afloat by inserting other mysteries, but he painted himself into a corner. Had the story been secondary to the characters, and not the other way around, perhaps it would not have taken such a hit. Look at Grey’s Anatomy. It began as character driven, and became story driven after season two — which is when the decline began (remember all those bombs and car crashes that strangely kept happening every other episode?). Interestingly, many of the most successful shows in television history got better after the first season, when the show had an opportunity to “find its way.” Both Seinfeld and Cheers, for example, did not immediately catch on. Those shows were built around the characters, not the intense story-lines, and it therefore avoided the creative roadblocks. So what’s the solution? Stop getting greedy and start getting creative. When someone pitches an idea that doesn’t involve a car-chase, don’t kick them out of the meeting. Also — don’t sack shows that struggle at their outset. Have some darn patience.

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