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Buffy The Vampire Slayer

"Buffy" and "Angel" ranked high as dramas that went out with dignity

Friday 21 April 2006, by Webmaster

When Dramas Go Out with Dignity

As promised in my “Ask Matt” column, here are some responses to a recent question remarking on how rare it is for drama series to go out on a creative or popular high - the theory being that hit dramas routinely overstay their welcomes and tend to limp off the air, well past their peak and often with precious few original cast members remaining. As might be expected from my readership, Buffy the Vampire Slayer ranked high among those that went out with heads held high. A sampling of responses follows. Feel free to play along in the Comments area.

From Donna Tamres (representing the Buffy contingent): "It took two networks, and the ratings were never great, but Buffy the Vampire Slayer, my all-time favorite series, departed at the perfect time on a truly creative high. As a fan, I would have happily continued watching for years more, but I must admit that seven seasons were sufficient to complete Buffy’s evolution, slowly and believeably, from a shallow, Valley-girlish teen to a heroic (if flawed) woman. And I doubt that Sarah Michelle Gellar would have wanted to continue the role, no matter how great, for years more. I know some fans (the younger ones, I’d bet) were put off by the grimness of the final two seasons, but I thought they were brilliant; and the ending... absolutely perfect. Isn’t it funny that a genre vampire show had some of the most intensely realistic family and relationship dynamics of anything on TV?!"

From Brett: "Matt, I know you get sick of people bringing up Buffy and Angel, but in my opinion both Buffy the Vampire Slayer (at seven years) and its sister show Angel (at five years) are examples of shows that ended strong without ever having significant drops in quality. I know a lot of people complained about Season 6 of Buffy, but I thought it served the theme of finding one’s purpose in life very well. I feel Angel actually improved in quality as it found its rhythmm and developed longer story arcs. These shows are not your typical dramas, but I think they should be considered when looking at shows that achieved a high level of quality throughout their runs."

From Erin: "In response to Jonathan’s question about whether or not any recent dramas have been able to end on creative high notes, I’m surprised you didn’t think of Felicity! This show was allowed to die the most natural death possible, with Felicity graduating from college. I could’ve done without those extra "rewind" episodes that showed us what would’ve happened if Felicity had chosen Noel instead of Ben (the only purpose they served was introducing us to the more “far-out” J.J. Abrams, who would later give us Alias and Lost), but I was so grateful to the show for not continuing past the fourth season. And remember how beautifully that graduation episode ended, with Ben following Felicity back to California and saying, "It was my turn to follow you"? I was ecstatic to see the series come full circle. I only hope J.J. Abrams can."

From Mark Perigard: "Two dramas that went out at the tops of their game by choice: Star Trek: The Next Generation and St. Elsewhere. Yes, one was syndicated and the other had middling ratings but a kickass, prized demographic, but both pulled the plug before overstaying their welcomes."

From Rob Riemensnyder: "The only series which comes to mind is Hill Street Blues. The quality of the stories on that series stayed at relatively the same high standard all throughout the show’s run."

From Michael Sadowski: "Wow. Wow, wow, wow, wow. After reading your Ask Matt column, I decided to check for TV dramas that finished at their critical peaks or close to it, with the original casts intact. I found it shocking that there are actually no shows that did.... At least I couldn’t find one from the last 15 years. I’d say the closest is Homicide: Life on the Street, even though only four people from the original cast remained at the end, and Angel, even though Charisma Carpenter was gone. Everything else just went though either tired stories (ER), crazy stories (Picket Fences), or couldn’t seem to cope with massive defections (NYPD Blue). What gives?"

From Mark: "About your answer on hourlong drama series that went out while on top, I have a few names. I realize they weren’t all in the top 20 when they went out, but I think they still had decent ratings. Murder She Wrote, Eight Is Enough, Hill Street Blues, Little House on the Prairie, Gunsmoke, Dr. Quinn: Medicine Woman and The Waltons. What do you think of those?"

From Celeste: "I have to at least partially disagree with the person who asked you to recall a TV drama that went out on a high note and said that they could not think of one. What about the terribly underrated drama Third Watch? An excellent show that never seemed to get the attention it deserved, it was always very watchable, and in my opinion ended too soon. True, many of the original characters had left, but perhaps it was because they knew the show was on the chopping block. It boasted an excellent cast, evolving story lines and characters, and top-notch production values. It definitely went out at the top of its game, and for those of us who loved it, way too soon."