Every week, IndieWire asks a select handful of TV critics two questions and publishes the results on Tuesday. (The answer to the second, “What is the best show currently on TV?” can be found at the end of this post.)
This week’s question: What show was the hardest show for you to say goodbye to as a critic? Why?
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Emily VanDerWerff (@tvoti), Vox
Like so many critics who came up professionally in the 2000s, I came up parallel to the rise and reign of ABC’s “Lost.” It was a show that sometimes infuriated me and sometimes annoyed me but always, always engaged me. Through most of the show’s run, I was scrambling to gain a toehold in the industry, but for its final season, I recapped the show for the Los Angeles Times and devoted everything I had to it. (At one point, I turned in a 3,500 word piece mere minutes before it was supposed to go up. What a great freelancer I was!) I know there were questionable decisions made in that final season, but bidding it farewell also felt like bidding farewell to a part of my life, and I have rarely been so emotional as I was at a special screening of the finale I attended, surrounded by all the new critic friends I had made along the way.
(Also, “Halt and Catch Fire” made me so sad to say goodbye. Geeeeeeez that show.)
Eric Deggans (@deggans), NPR
As a critic, I’ve often found that shows that end on purpose have a reason for winding down. So, as much as I loved “The Sopranos,” “The Wire,” “Breaking Bad,” and “The Americans,” it always felt to me that their end came when it was necessary. But, even though I wouldn’t become a TV critic for three more years, the show I found hardest to say goodbye to was “In Living Color.” The show ended in 1994 after just four years, but in that time it helped redefine TV comedy and introduced the world to everyone from Jim Carrey and Jaime Foxx to Damon Wayans, Jennifer Lopez, Tommy Davidso, and David Alan Grier, among many others. The program rose to prominence as a black-focused sketch show airing on Fox opposite NBC’s mostly-white Must-See TV lineup of blockbuster sitcoms. And besides providing a forum for performers who were overlooked by more established shows, it also provided a comedic voice for black culture on TV at a time when it was still serious struggle to find authentic black voices on network television. The show, which was created by Keenen Ivory Wayans and featured many of his siblings, essentially fell apart when the Wayans family left amid conflicts with Fox executives. I always wondered what might have happened to the program – which did have its problems with sketches that were insensitive to gay people and women – if the Wayans hadn’t bailed and they had spent the rest of the 1990s providing a multicultural counterpoint to the too-white worlds of Seinfeld, Friends and Frasier.
Allison Keene (@KeeneTV), Paste Magazine
Once most series end I’m pretty much at peace with it. Great series of TV canon are often (though not always) able to go out on their own terms, and even if I could spend endless time in that world, I understand the practical need to wrap things up. There are, of course, many series that are taken from us too soon, and I respect the fan response of trying to get shows “saved” (even though now it seems like a game that’s being played with the networks where they gain points by “saving” a show rather than just renewing it), but I rarely participate in it. There’s so much TV, so much wonderful TV, that I’m ultimately OK moving on.
And then there was “Downward Dog.” ABC’s wonderfully quirky, sweet, beautifully crafted series ran for just one short season. Its tone, setting and aesthetic felt progressive for a network comedy (it’s something that might have thrived elsewhere), but it likely fell prey to a misunderstanding of what it was and what it was doing. A live-action “talking dog” show doesn’t seem like a cool, subversive, soulful series, and yet that’s exactly what “Downward Dog” was. Led by Martin (real name Ned) and a fantastic cast (Allison Tolman, Lucas Neff, Kirby Howell-Baptiste, and creator Sam Hodges as Martin’s sardonic voice), the series understood millennials better than most, and in the form of a lovable dog no less! It was so smart and creative and funny and lovely, I hated to see it go. I still think about it and encourage others to watch it, even though they, too, end up being upset that it’s over. And yet, no one is sorry to have spent time with this glorious gem of a show.
Clint Worthington (@clintworthing), Consequence of Sound, The Spool
Sometimes it’s hard to say goodbye to a show you’ve grown to love over years and years, but it’s even harder to say farewell to a great show that was just getting off its feet. That was me with Lisa Hanawalt’s “Tuca & Bertie,” Netflix’s brilliant, soulful companion piece (but not a spinoff, according to Raphael Bob-Waksberg) to “BoJack Horseman.” While both were melancholy tales of shattered dreams and modern malaise set in a world of anthropomorphic animals, “Tuca & Bertie” carried with it a vibrancy that I’d never seen before. The tale of two millennial birds, voiced by Ali Wong and Tiffany Haddish, trying to make it in the Big City of Birdtown while juggling funemployment, sexual harassment and uncertain relationships with overly accommodating partners (like Steven Yuen’s sweet doormat Speckle) was a buzzy breath of fresh air. In just 10 short episodes, the show managed to touch on everything from toxic friendships to inherited trauma, all under the guise of a frenetic, undulating animal world that feels like Hollywoo on LSD, and is all the more startlingly real for it.
April Neale (@aprilmac), Monsters & Critics
That question! So many answers. I was genuinely saddened when “Game of Thrones” wrapped. I felt the last season short-shrifted the characters like HBO’s “Sopranos,” and just hearing that opening theme music always geeked me up as a critic and fan. The “Breaking Bad” series ending was a gut punch too but the story was deftly wrapped up and then we got Vince Gilligan’s great gift of “Better Call Saul” that was served on its heels, softening that loss.
Having said that, the two shows that were super hard for me to say goodbye to were AMC’s “Mad Men” and another HBO effort, the Bruno Heller “Rome” series that was kneecapped by Season 2.
Kaitlin Thomas (@thekaitling), TVGuide.com
There are actually very few shows I have had a truly hard time saying goodbye to because I feel that many of the shows I love ended at the right time. That being said, I can already sense that I’m probably going to have a hard time letting go of “Supernatural.” I stopped watching the show a few times throughout its very long run (lookin’ at you Season 7!), but I always came back, and that is at least partly because of how much I loved the show in the beginning.
Fifteen years is a very long time for a show to be on. By the time the show signs off next year, I will have spent nearly half my life watching Sam and Dean save the world. And while I will always maintain that if the show had ended after five seasons like creator Eric Kripke originally intended that it would likely have a much different, and greater, legacy. But the legacy it will leave behind after defying death again and again and again is equally impressive. “Supernatural” might have had some very low lows in the middle seasons, but the creativity on display, especially in episodes like “Changing Channels,” “The French Mistake,” and “Scoobynatural,” is what kept it going. I know I spent years joking the show was going to outlive us all, but in the end, as we prepare to embark on the show’s final season, I know I’m going to have a hard time letting go. I guess it’s a good thing I can still watch “Mystery Spot” whenever I want.
Joyce Eng (@joyceeng61), GoldDerby
I’m usually sad but I can deal if my favorite shows get to end on their own terms. I save the true separation anxiety for shows that didn’t get a chance to grow old, like my beloved one-season wonder “The Grinder.” Yes, this is me picking “The Grinder” again for an answer. Let me be. It’s been three years, and I’m still not over it. It was light, fun, with the exact type of meta humor that’s right up my alley. And I’m pretty sure Dean Sanderson is the only person who loves “ER” more than I do. Ask me, and I can tell you in detail where I was when news broke that it was canceled, a choice that cannot be justified.
Marisa Roffman (@marisaroffman), Give Me My Remote
OK, I’m going to pull a Fienberg and not single this down to one thing because I am both terrible at goodbyes and terrible at picking a singular answer.
“Bones” was a bizarre show to say goodbye to, because I literally wrote about it for the entirety of my career up until the point it ended. My first byline in this industry was about the series, and I, uh, covered it a lot. I was fortunate enough to be on set for the final episode for a piece, so that was a nice bit of closure, but it’s still weird to not be covering it today.
But I’ve also covered a lot of shows I felt extraordinarily strong about over the years. “Fringe” was a gem, on- and off-screen, and its mid-Season 2 to end of Season 3 run of greatness remains one of my favorite stretches I’ve ever written about. Plus, it brought incredible people into my life. (Hi, Damian Holbrook!) I also had difficulty saying goodbye to things like “Person of Interest” and the recently-departed “You’re the Worst.”
(It’s possible I care about TV too much.)
Ben Travers (@BenTTravers), IndieWire
There are certainly two ways to think about this: the shows that meant the most to you, and the shows that were ripped away at the wrong time. For the latter, it’s been difficult for me to say goodbye to “The First,” “The Grinder,” and “Tuca & Bertie,” all of which offered such excellent first seasons that the expectation for what’s next was too tantalizing to forget. Potential cut short is often the hardest decision to witness for any TV fan, but they don’t quite compare to spending years and years of your life studying, appreciating, and dwelling on a particularly compelling series. For anyone who’s ever read this far into a Critic’s Survey, let alone anything else I’ve written, it’s obvious “The Leftovers” was immensely important to me. Reviewing episodes of “Mad Men” were formative, as well, but Damon Lindelof and Tom Perrotta’s earnest exploration of loss spoke to my interests in such a specific way, I’ll never truly say goodbye. It helps, of course, that it’s the best show of the decade — providing ample analytical fodder that even my 3,000 words screeds couldn’t encompass — but hellos tend to be based in curiosity while goodbyes are more personal. “The Leftovers” hit every mark a TV critic could hope for, which is why so many wrote such eloquent adieus, and it remains close to my heart.
Q: What is the best show currently on TV?*
A: No Decisive Winner
Other contenders: “Big Brother,” “A Black Lady Sketch Show,” “Dear White People,” “Derry Girls,” “Gordon Ramsey: Uncharted,” “Love Island,” “Orange Is the New Black,” “Perpetual Grace LTD,” “She-Ra and the Princesses of Power”
*In the case of streaming services that release full seasons at once, only include shows that have premiered in the last month.