It’s hard to keep a TV show fresh over several seasons. Producers and writers have to balance finding something new for the characters to do, without losing sight of what people liked about the show in the first place.
Five of my favorite’s are showing warning signs they are losing that balance. I hope I’m wrong, but the seams are showing.
5. Game of Thrones
Don’t get me wrong: Game of Thrones is still appointment TV. And with only one season remaining, the show will not have a long slide into mediocrity — but are the writers losing touch with the characters in favor of plot twists?
The key might be in Arya Stark, who, if the producers turn her into a full-blown villain after being the person we most cheered for through eight seasons, may alienate a lot of fans. Sure, she’s been through a lot, and making revenge the focus of one’s life would take a certain toll, but please, please don’t turn her against her sister.
4. Ray Donovan
Ever since show creator and TV producer extraordinaire Ann Biderman left, Ray Donovan has gotten sadder and sadder — not just the character, the whole show.
But while last season redeemed itself with a bang-up war with the Armenian and Russian mobs, Season 5’s theme so far has been revealing in tidbits how Ray’s wife Abby died. (She was alive and well at the end of Season 4.) But it’s like peeling off a Band-Aid one hair at a time.
This show about a Hollywood fixer and his mobster dad and messed up family has always been dark. But glum and dark are not the same thing. Everybody but the wickedly watchable Jon Voight as the irascible and amoral Mickey seems to be battling depression. I would put everybody but Mickey on suicide watch.
If they don’t snap out of it, the show is done.
3. Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
Eventually, Kimmy was not going to be a fish out of water, but the charm of this combination of Blast from the Past and Sister Wives in the first two seasons was seeing the vast cultural change in New York City through the eyes of someone who’d been in a bunker for 10 years — and who would have had a culture shock coming from Indiana regardless.
The wackiness seemed more forced in Season 3 until Kimmy went back to college, found out she was “privileged,” and tried to embrace all the campus PC at once. This restored some of the magic, but I’m worried Season 4 might get really tired very quickly.
Season 1 ingeniously updated Stephen Hunter’s terrific first Bob Lee Swagger novel, Point of Impact, by involving Russians and Ukrainians, almost wiping out the memory of the awful movie that made the first attempt.
But instead of turning to the novels, which offer a rich treasure trove of great stories and back stories, Season 2 trots out the oldest trope in the thriller cliché storage bin — drug dealing CIA agents.
Bob Lee Swagger is supposed to be a combination of Sergeant York and Chris Kyle, not Jason Bourne. Maybe somebody associated with the show can immerse themselves in the books before next season.
1. The Last Ship
The surest sign that a show has reached its creative limit is when they start all over. But in this case, you really can’t go home again.
The Last Ship was better than anyone could expect a Michael Bay produced military show starring Dr. McSteamy from Gray’s Anatomy to be.
In the first season, the crew of a missile cruiser is in the Arctic as a pandemic sweeps the world and destroys civilization. Turns out they had been on a secret mission to find a cure. For 3 seasons, they try to spread the cure and restore order.
But Season 4 opens with the virus mutating to — destroy crops? I hate it when that happens. Remember when smallpox attacked the corn supply?
And the captain being forced to join a gladiator team on his cliched Greek island retreat? And of course, his ship just happens to be in the Mediterranean, where the cure just happens to be… cue the dramatic pause and swelling music (about twice as often as previous seasons). I’ll give it about another week.