Lost and 24 , two of the '00's defining TV juggernauts, said goodbye to dwindling audiences this week. Last night, Simon Cowell bared his chest fur one last time as host of American Idol. Titans of the last decade in TV are dropping like flies. Which should be put to pasture next?
It's funny how epochal shifts sometimes align neatly with the calendar. It happened in spring 2000 when the dot.com boom of the '90s--hello, pets.com!--crashed like a 56k modem connection. Nirvana's grungy "Nevermind" didn't unseat '80s icon Michael Jackson on the Billboard charts until January of 1992. But the shift was so seismic that it missed completely accidental fin-de-décennie synchronicity.
Ratings for Lost, 24 and AI had faded over the years. Lost's series finale drew 13 million head scratchers, which paled in comparison to the first season average of 16 million. A mere 8.9 million viewers tuned into Jack Bauer's last bladder-defying effort to save the world. At its peak, nearly 14 million watched 24.
American Idol (which, caveat, will continue despite Cowell's absence) was the ratings success story of the decade, single-handedly pulling Fox out of the Nielsen basement and, some have said, sustaining network television in the face of cable, the internet, video games and niche culture in general. But even Cowell's farewell couldn't stop last night's season finale from being the lowest-rated ever.
Times. They're changing! And some of the tired old staples below would be welcome additions to the TV graveyard:
Desperate Housewives: It's fun to recall the days when this show was all the rage. Remember when people gossiped about the backstage bitchery between the ensemble cast? When the ladies landed the cover of Vanity Fair? When Jesse Metcalfe had a consistent paying gig?
The Entire CSI Franchise: CSI, CSI: Miami, CSI: New York and CSI: Paducah air on perennial fuddy-duddy network CBS. I think that at some point people not confined to a nursing home followed the franchise's original entry. But for several years the only exposure most of us have had to the show is Soup segments spoofing David Caruso playing with and second fiddle to the show's lead actor, his black sunglasses.
The Hills: Luckily, this warhorse and its increasingly disturbing players are riding off into the smoggy L.A. sunset very, very soon. Will Heidi Montag, or her silicone, spontaneously combust without the prospect of TV time? Is it wrong to say I hope so?
Two and a Half Men: This is one of those shows that gets enormous ratings despite no one you have ever met having seen an episode outside of an airplane. At least, they won't admit it. While I fear for Charlie Sheen's post-Two and a Half Men career, and for Charlie Sheen in general, it's time to count down from 2.5 to zero.
Sex and the City: We all know it's not on TV anymore. We all know we still cannot escape it.
Gossip Girl: It pains me slightly to say this, but this show is starting to stink more than that six-month old quart of Half & Half at the back of your fridge. Gossip Girl certainly had its moments. Its dialogue was sharp, its cast was attractive in a way that was non-threatening and oddly easy to mock and its Liberace Fantasy version of New York looked pretty. But creator Josh Schwartz has got a way of making shows--ahem, The O.C.--whose quality nosedives after season two. And Gossip Girl could not outsmart the death knell of all high school shows, the dreaded move to college.
Worried these cancellations will wreak havoc on your DVR? Don't worry: The Simpsons will be on the air long after you're Six Feet Under (the rare TV show that quit while it was ahead).
Photo 1 via Mario Perez/ABC, 2 via Vince Bucci/Fox