TV shows overstay their welcome more often than not. The phrase “jump the shark,” the erosion of quality, the exhaustion of inspiration, comes from a television series after all. (Funny — or frightening — to think that the Fonz and “Happy Days” would continue six full seasons after Henry Winkler paired water skis with his signature leather jacket in that 1977 episode.)
But it doesn’t have to end in failure. Several programs — “The Dick Van Dyke Show,” “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” “Schitt’s Creek,” “Everybody Loves Raymond,” “The Sopranos” and “Breaking Bad” among them — won series Emmys for their final seasons. “Game of Thrones” did too, though nearly 2 million of its fans have signed a petition demanding that the show’s creators rewrite and reshoot the entire closing chapter.
This year, it’s possible that both “Succession” and “Ted Lasso” will win the series Emmys for their final seasons, though, at the time I’m writing this, we’re not even sure that “Ted Lasso” won’t be returning in some form or another, even without Jason Sudeikis and the title character. (Please don’t become “AfterMASH,” please don’t become “AfterMASH” ...)
And they aren’t the only departing shows in contention this year. What kind of send-off should the dearly departed expect from voters?
‘SUCCESSION’ Seasons: Four Emmy nominations: 48 Emmy wins: 13 Jumped the shark? Try “entered the pantheon” instead. Outlook: “Succession” won the Emmy for drama series the last two years and would appear poised (OK, it’s pretty much guaranteed) to prevail again. The real suspense come Emmy night will revolve around how many Emmys “Succession” will win and which cast members will go home with a trophy. The lead actor race is particularly loaded now that Kieran Culkin has decided to move up from supporting, joining Brian Cox and past winner Jeremy Strong. Cox could have shifted to supporting given his early departure in the season, but that wouldn’t be true to the actor — or the character he plays.
‘TED LASSO’ Seasons: Three Emmy nominations: 40 Emmy wins: 11 Jumped the shark? Let’s just say they probably made the right call to end it at three. Outlook: The show’s third season featured episodes that usually ran about an hour, packed with sentiment that could sometimes be a bit cloying, even by “Ted Lasso” standards, and diversions (the Keeley/Jack relationship, for one) that could be exasperating by any measure. Worse, the story redeemed Nate in about the time it takes for Ted to deliver biscuits to Rebecca each morning. And yet ... a great many people adore the characters and the kind, caring universe they inhabit. Never underestimate a show that gets in folks’ feelings like “Ted Lasso” does.
‘BETTER CALL SAUL’ Seasons: Six Emmy nominations: 46 Emmy wins: 0 Jumped the shark? Never. Some even rate it above “Breaking Bad” as one of the best dramas in television history. Outlook: If voters were to come to their senses and finally give “Better Call Saul” something, anything, it probably would have happened at last year’s Emmys, which took place about a month after the show’s satisfying, devastating finale. That episode aired in August, making it too late to be eligible for 2022 ... and probably too late to be remembered in 2023. Expect more nominations, but at this point, “Saul” should wear its O-fer like a badge of honor.
‘BARRY’ Seasons: Four Emmy nominations: 44 Emmy wins: Nine Jumped the shark? More like shot the shark. Outlook: Too brilliant to be ignored, too dark and weird to win broad support for a series win, “Barry” will likely earn another pile of nominations, hopefully folding back in Sarah Goldberg and Stephen Root. Bill Hader won the comedy lead actor honor for the show’s first two seasons, but he’ll probably be cheering (like the rest of us) when Jeremy Allen White takes the stage for “The Bear.” Hader could still win an Emmy though. He directed all eight episodes of “Barry’s” final season, building on the boundary-pushing work he did in two of the greatest half-hours of television I’ve ever seen — the exhilarating “710N” and the terrifying “ronny/lily” episodes. Hader has simply become a master at mixing tones. I can’t wait to see where he goes next.
‘THE MARVELOUS MRS. MAISEL’ Seasons: Five Emmy nominations: 66 Emmy wins: 20 Jumped the shark? Nope. Creator Amy Sherman-Palladino mapped out a grand finale. Outlook: 16 of the show’s 20 Emmy wins came for its first two seasons, including a comedy series trophy in its inaugural year. “Maisel” remains a strong bet to earn the usual round of nominations for series, costumes, music and the like. And actors Rachel Brosnahan, Tony Shalhoub and Alex Borstein — all of whom own Emmys for their work on the series — are automatic choices. But “Ted Lasso” and “Abbott Elementary” have stolen the spotlight, so it’s difficult to see it winning any of the top-line awards.
‘ATLANTA’ Seasons: Four Emmy nominations: 25 Emmy wins: Six Jumped the shark: Season 3 was ... interesting Outlook: “Atlanta” was one of the most celebrated shows on television for its first two seasons, earning 22 Emmy nominations and universal acclaim for the way it blended experimental and surreal elements with comedy that was playful and often profound. Then it went away for four years, returned with an unfocused set of episodes set in Europe and lost most of its audience. Its fourth season, if not quite a full return to glory, had some excellent moments, enough to warrant consideration. But it aired last fall and does not appear to have held a for-your-consideration event for voters.
‘DEAD TO ME’ Seasons: Three Emmy nominations: Five Emmy wins: 0 Jumped the shark? No. But the co-dependency between Christina Applegate and Linda Cardellini’s characters couldn’t have survived one additional minute. Outlook: Applegate and Cardellini landed nominations for the program’s stellar first season and then went missing (as did the entire series) after a so-so follow-up. The third season’s focus on the women’s friendship righted the ship, and the “Beaches”-esque finale left fans sobbing. That should be enough to earn the actors nominations again. That Applegate was diagnosed with multiple sclerosiswhile shooting the season, worked through her limitations and delivered her usual sparkling comic perfection could even boost her to a win.