Sometimes you have to give up on a TV show.

Jon Hamm in Mad Men: Image provided by imdb/AMC

In an ideal world, you would watch a favorite show throughout its entire run. Even as later seasons tend to decline in quality as compared to the early days, when you’re a big fan of a show, you tend to stick it out. “To see what happens,” if nothing else.

But sometimes, you reach a point with a show where it’s just not working on a fundamental level. Where sitting through an episode is a chore instead of a pleasure. It’s when you know. It’s time to give up.

I gave up on Mad Men halfway through its sixth season. I’d been a devoted fan up until that point. I loved the writing and the stylish period production. The cast was first rate, doing career peak work. I had found season five rather fascinating. Don’s marriage to Megan and attempt at fidelity were almost a revolutionary choice for the character.

But then Megan dared to have dreams other than what Don wanted for her. Her inability to make him the center of her world was played as some kind of betrayal. When season six commenced, Don was cheating on Megan with a neighbor. He was wallowing in all the old issues related to his parents and difficult childhood. While Jon Hamm did his best to make it work, it felt suffocating. Worse, as a viewer, I felt like I’d been suckerpunched. The writers had dared me to believe that Don could change and grow. So when he was basically back to square one in season six, I felt like I’d wasted an entire season investing in a story the writers had no intention of paying off. Don was never going to change. It was my own foolishness to believe that he might.

Anna Paquin and Stephen Moyer in True Blood: Image provided by imdb/HBO

After watching True Blood faithfully throughout its first six seasons, I had to contemplate whether or not to stick with it or to give up. By the end of season six, the show felt like it had run out of tricks, in some ways. There would be an epic battle among the supernatural characters. A major character of four would die gruesomely. And then some explicit sex scenes to distract you from the plot holes. The formula had worked well enough in earlier seasons, but by the end of the sixth, True Blood had embraced the repetition. The same character arcs were trod again and again.

But more than that, the climax of season six felt like the proper end of True Blood. The prospect of an additional season wasn’t just unappealing, it felt downright unnecessary. Characters had come full circle. It felt settled. The show could have gone out with that final town mixer at the bar and let that be it. So of course they introduced zombie vampires to both grasp at a trend and extend the series. I chose to skip season seven. From all accounts, it’s not a decision I regret.

Emily Van Camp in Revenge: Image provided by imdb/ABC

I recently felt the need to give up on Revenge. You might be wondering why I hadn’t given up on it long ago. My Emily Van Camp fandom kept me in the tent, I guess. In many ways, the climax of season three was the appropriate end of Revenge. Emily Thorne did what she set out to do in the pilot. She cleared her father’s name and brought down the Graysons. Season four found different characters trying to work their own acts of revenge, while Emily grappled for an identity after her mission was complete. The season came up with a couple of interesting plots, but had basically wrapped them by episode 14. It came back flailing, much of the familiar cast gone and replaced by less compelling newcomers. Watching Margaux failing to cut it as the show’s new nemesis caused me to give up in the middle of an episode. I was done.

There are many other examples. Some shows don’t get that their concepts might make for a great one-season drama but can’t support an ongoing series (think Prison Break or Resurrection). Others just don’t know when to call it a day. Quitting while they’re ahead had already ceased to be an option. Even if networks and producers want to keep flogging the remains, there’s no reason for fans to go down with the ship. It makes you appreciate the rare series that knows when to wrap it up, before they’ve run out of stories to tell (take a bow, thirtysomething).

It’s not always easy to give up on a show you love. But sometimes, it’s the only thing you can do and retain whatever sanity you have left.

Originally published at on April 7, 2015.

Author (Grievous Angels) and pop culture gadabout #amwriting

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