Five Failing TV Shows We Should Take Off the Respirator

There are issues so polarizing, so emotionally draining, so morally fraught, that we never really solve them as much as we table them for a while. Euthanasia is one such issue, which has come back to fore during the vigorous debate over American health care. But it's an equally important issue in the world of entertainment: when is it finally time to pull the plug and kill a TV show? I know there are emotions involved, believe me I do. But I have to be the cold realist—there are some shows that have to die. It's simply too painful to see them in their current state. I can't bear it, and I'm willing to make the tough choices that others can't. What follows is a list of the shows that must be taken off the respirator post haste.

1. America's Next Top Model. Top Model has always been a house of cards. The title suggests that the show's winner will go on to have a fruitful career in the modeling industry. Now that we're into the show's 13th season, it's clear that isn't true, and probably never will be. However, for the sake of the show, it's still important to pretend there's still some connection, however tenuous, to the actual world of modeling. In this season, Tyra Banks just threw all pretense of legitimacy out the window. She claims to be challenging the industry by casting only contestants who are 5 foot 7 and shorter. She fired judge Paulina Poriskova, an actual model who gave the girls sage advice on the craft, and replaced her with a revolving cast of guest judges. Lauren Conrad? Really? Imagine if American Idol stopped giving the winner a record contract, or if Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? replaced the million dollars with a buy-one-get-one-free coupon for Shake and Bake. There would be no reason to watch anymore, nor is there any reason to watch Top Model.

2. Dexter. This one is going to hurt me, so I'm going to mitigate the criticism by starting out with a compliment. Dexter is not the type of show I'd have expected to last more than a season, simply based on its elaborate, seemingly self-limiting premise. That the producers managed to pull off two great seasons is a marvel. Yet here we are in season 4 and I can't help but think the wheels have come off. Season 3 sputtered all the way through. I was intrigued by the possibility of the fourth season because for the first time, the show seemed like it was going to try something different from the pattern it repeated for the first three seasons—Dexter meets someone as homicidal as him, but without his moral code, so he has to take them out. The new John Lithgow character seems like he could provide a worthy foe. But the show feels stale and recycled, and it's arguable that no other show knows less what to do with its supporting characters than Dexter. There's a fifth season already locked in, but a guy can dream.

3. Scrubs. Casts change. That's a part of life in the television world. But when a cast changes so cataclysmicly that the entire DNA of the show is changed, maybe it's time for the show to end. That was certainly the case when ABC cleaned house at The Practice, and it's the case with Scrubs. Following a season finale that could have just as easily been a series finale, the show will return soon with nearly all of its main cast, including Zach Braff and Sarah Chalke, gone. I was never a huge fan of the show to begin with, so maybe I'm being needlessly harsh, but isn't eight seasons enough? Creator Bill Lawrence is now running things over at Cougar Town, so perhaps he should focus on that.

4. Entourage. Again, I've never been a huge fan of this particular show, and I've dropped in and out periodically through its run. But it's clear that Entourage has only two scenarios: Vince is famous, beloved and life is awesome, or Vince is on the Hollywood outs and life is terrible. If there's nothing to do rather than ricochet between these two tired extremes, then why keep the show on for so long? Like , this is another case of wishful thinking, though; Entourage is going to drag on for at least one more season. And sure, that means more Ari (Jeremy Piven), and no one can argue with that, but if a supporting character is my only reason for watching a show, there's a major problem.

5. Weeds. I feel bad for picking on Showtime, but its other big hit, Weeds, is perhaps in worse shape than any show on this list. It started with the season 2 finale, which ended with an ambitious, hydra-headed cliffhanger. But the consequence of making such a mess is that you have to then clean it up. So much for season 3, and when that season ended with the show completely abandoning its original premise, it's been unrecognizable since. Characters I loved are gone, and the ones that stayed have almost no reason to be there. There's only a scant reference to marijuana anymore, which used to be a focal point of the show, now it's just a smoke screen. There's another season queued up, but, man alive, do I wish there weren't. To its credit, Weeds does finales very well. I just hope the next one will be its last.