10 Seasons and Counting.
By Mumbua Nzula Nzyoka.
Getting to Season 10 is not an easy feat to manage. There are contract negotiations to contend with from producers, directors to the actors themselves. Speaking of actors, there is also the fact that they are human beings as well, they have a life. There are marriages, pregnancies and everything else that comes with living. All these things affect how a show progresses and more importantly, how the story flows. In this case, there are many shows that have had to incorporate real life female lead pregnancies into a story. Shows like “Bones”, “The Vampire Diaries”, “Friends”, “Nashville” “Alias” etc. And some of these pregnancies did not make sense story wise. If you think about it, this is arguably one of the reasons that Adult cartoons such as “The Simpsons”, “Family Guy”, and “South Park” have lasted this long. The ‘living’ element is minimal.
Assuming that ‘living’ is not that big of a problem, there is also the matter of keeping a storyline compelling, which is a hard thing to do after five seasons. It becomes harder for any story to stay fresh. By Season 5, (for most shows) the wrinkles begin to show, and if unmanaged, they turn into cracks and before you know it, the whole wall starts to disintegrate. When that happens, the network executives have no choice but to concede defeat and move on to the next one. Season 6 and 7, mostly, are usually the hardest, (assuming a show survives that long) even for the best shows. And once the hurdle of six, seven or even eight seasons is out of the way, most TV shows opt to end it at Season 10. There are not many shows that go beyond ten seasons.
So how do the shows that get to or go on after Season 10 do it? They have a loyal fan base. It might not seem like an important factor, but it is. A loyal fan base will keep your numbers steady (which is all that matters to executives) even when your storyline wobbles. They will complain about it, but they will stick by you. To gain such a loyal fan base the show’s story has to hook its audience from the beginning and present them with characters they can both relate to and love.
Here are three shows that have managed to stay on the air after Season 10.
- Supernatural (Currently airing Season 11)
I feel as if someone should do a show/documentary/movie called “The Curious Case of Supernatural”. Personally, Supernatural is an oddity because it was never meant to survive this long. The show was supposed to run for five seasons, and that is how it was set up by the show’s creator Eric Kripke. To this day, there are those who believe that Supernatural should have ended in Season 5. You can’t blame them, if you were to watch Supernatural Season 1-5, you would discover that those five seasons tell a complete story. The five seasons tell the story of two brothers who follow in their father’s footsteps by travelling across America “saving people, hunting things, the family business.” Through the seasons, we follow our two favourite brothers as they hunt, die (a couple of times) and go to hell literally. That is until they go up against their biggest monster yet, Lucifer. It was always going to come down to a Winchester vs. Lucifer showdown if you think about it. It was set up that way. So When the CW network announced that they were proceeding with Supernatural Season 6, everyone was surprised. I mean what’s next after Lucifer? Who’s or should we ask what’s worse than Lucifer? Those are legitimate questions. Keeping that in mind, it stands to reason that Season 6 and 7 are Supernatural’s weakest seasons. It got back to form in Season 8, and if you ignore a couple of bumps here and there, it feels like Supernatural has gotten its groove back in its old age. So far, Season 11 is reminiscent of the old Supernatural. Can they keep it that way? We’ll have to wait and see.
- Grey’s Anatomy (Currently airing Season 12)
If you want to talk about compelling characters, the first step is to talk about the characters that Shonda Rhimes creates. She manages to create characters that we can love and hate in equal measure which is not an easy thing to do, especially if you consider that there are more than three main characters in Grey’s Anatomy. When a show survives this long, it is going to lose a few fans and upset a few of them along the way. It’s the natural progression of things. I know a few fans who stopped watching the show because “all my favourite characters are gone.” Sigh! Next to George R. R. Martin, Shonda does have a knack for killing people off. There was Derek Shepherd (Patrick Dempsey), George O’Malley (T.R Knight), Lexie Grey (Chyler Leigh) and Mark Sloan (Eric Dane). The list goes on, but you get the point. However, when a show has lasted this long, you just have to expect it. And Grey’s has no signs of slowing down or stopping. If it goes on for three more seasons, it will be the longest-running medical drama on American TV beating “E.R” which currently holds the record with 15 seasons. Speaking of medical dramas “Casualty” (British) is the longest running medical drama in the world with a whopping 30 Seasons under its belt. It seems that Grey’s Anatomy is in the running to break a few records.
- NCIS (Currently airing Season 13)
13 years! That’s how long Gibbs and his team have been entertaining us. There is something to be said about procedural shows and their rate of survival. CSI (The original) lasted 15 years, and Law & Order lasted 20 years. This, of course, has a lot to do with the story-telling format. Like most procedural shows, NCIS has garnered enough attention to get a spin-off(s) – NCIS Los Angeles currently in its 7th Season and NCIS New Orleans whose fate hangs in the balance after concluding its 2nd season in March last year. What NCIS has going for it, is that it does not have a complicated plot. There are no time-travelling gimmicks, and they are not fighting machines trying to take over the world. You could call NCIS one of the old ones. It relies on good old detective work to get the job done. At its core, it has an old soul. I don’t know whether this has something to do with the main star Gibbs (Mark Harmon), but Harmon does play the character exceptionally. It is the only show on Television that has remained un-hip, refusing to change in the face of the revolution. Probably one of the many reasons it has survived this long and will continue to do so.
Side Note: Since I have established with NCIS that procedural shows tend to outlast most TV shows, here are other honourable mentions in the category.
- “Bones” – The show will come back for its final season later this year. Season 12, which almost didn’t happen due the show’s main stars filing a lawsuit against FOX, will give fans of the quirky show much-needed
- “Criminal Minds”- The show is currently airing its 11th season and its new spin-off called “Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders” will premiere on March 16th.
- “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” – Currently airing its 17th
This list is by no means exhaustive (there are only three shows listed up there) and there are shows I am hoping will join the list such as “Doctor Who” if it gets renewed after Season 10 and “The X-Files” if FOX approves a Season 11. You will notice that I left out reality T.V Shows, which like procedural cop dramas, tend to last beyond Season 10. Shows such as “Keeping Up with The Kardashians” currently in its 11th Season, “American Idol” airing its 15th and final season and “The Deadliest Catch” (Season 11), etc.
Let us know which shows you came up with.
“It’s Always Sunny in Philadephia” is currently airing its 11th Season. If it gets renewed for the 12th season, it will be in the running to beat “Two and a half men’s” record which stands at 12 seasons as the longest running sitcom.