...and now news that Lost is going to end after 5 seasons (2 more years), and people being HAPPY ABOUT THIS. They even cite X-Files as an example of "when shows go on too long."
Here's a secret: there is really no such thing as too long. Not as long as there are still familiar character around to keep it alive. They don't even have to be all the original characters - ER comes to mind - so long as some members remain from year to year to ease the transition. It is better to keep the full original cast, of course, but still. I want to see my characters continue to return to the screen, giving me as much insight as possible into their lives. And yes, I admit that it is possible to exhaust one's storylines - but 5 years is not even close to long enough for that to happen, as some of the longest running shows I can think of really hit their stride farther down the road.
Let's take X-Files. The early years are fun, in their own way, but where my interest really starts to take off is somewhere in season 3, and I still think their peak period was in seasons 5-7. It would be hypocritical of me to say that I was not a little relieved to hear it was ending after 9 years, but that was an exception - that would have meant Scully leaving in addition to Mulder, and X-Files was not an ensemble show, and taking away BOTH leads just wouldn't have worked. I don't think 8 and 9, with Doggett and later Reyes, were as good as the other years, but I would rather have had those than ending after season 7. There were stupid eps, sure, but there were also amazing cases even til the end, and of course, more MSR scenes than you could shake a stick at. Suffer the SureKills to reach the DeadAlives, is what I'm saying.
The "late peak" applies to other shows too, like ER - doesn't get interesting until season 4 or 5. On CSI, I've said multiple times over that I think this current season - #7 - the best so far. And I'll take a season 5 episode over a season 1 any day. Yes, I know I'm also currently bitching about CSI: Miami's sad state of affairs and looking longingly back towards seasons 2 and 3, but that doesn't mean I want to see the show canceled any time soon. It has plenty of room to grow and get better. And the Clavo Cruz 2-parter this season was single-handedly enough to make the whole year worth it.
Bottom line: One fantastic episode - and there will always be at least one - can make ten stupid episodes more than worth the price of admission.
But back to Lost. There's a lot I don't like - Locke, Hurley, Desmond, the anti-Jack attitude of the beachgoers, Kate's inability to choose one leg of the triangle and stick to it, and all the flashbacks everywhere for every reason - but the good points easily outweigh the bad, and what's more I feel like the show is just picking up steam. It's a mere fledgling - the idea that it's in the second half of its life already is hard to fathom. Isn't the point of setting up all these mysteries and unanswered questions, and the increasing complexity of the other island inhabitants, to sustain a longterm set of storylines? Then again, I never understood most Lost fans' whining about "too many repeats" (you mean like every other show on TV?) or "Why aren't we getting answers??" (you'll get them in due time; meanwhile shut up and watch the pretty boys talk. Or ogle the hot women, if your tastes run in the other direction)
People have no patience, is the conclusion I've come to, which holds true for both viewers and network execs - shows get canceled left and right so often that people seem to have adjusted their expectations, and by the third year they start getting antsy. Which I really don't understand - for me, the purpose of television is to escape into someone else's life for an hour at a time. I want those virtual lives to go on as long as possible, whatever's happening in them - I want to be there to witness it. Once a show is canceled, all you have are memories, like flipping through a photo album. And since all shows will invariably end at some point, wouldn't you like to have as many photo albums as possible saved up?