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The Huge Show That Over 30% Of People Think Should Have Ended Already

It's great to be living in the Golden Age of Television, which is currently entering its third decade, believe it or not. In the last decade or so, it's only gotten ... er, more Golden. With the advent of digital streaming services joining all of the cable networks that proliferated in the aughts, there are more outlets than ever before jostling for your eyeballs with high-quality programming. Unfortunately, while televised productions have truly soared in terms of things like production values, casting, and cultural relevance, there is one aspect that too few content creators have gotten down: the subtle art of quitting while one is ahead.

That's not to say that it never happens: think of The Good Place and Breaking Bad, two of the very best shows of the last 20 years, which ended their runs after four and five seasons, respectively. But for every series that has the good grace to call it quits when there's no more story left to tell, there are plenty more that lumber on, zombie-like (folks in the entertainment business call that foreshadowing) for far longer than anyone ever wanted. Some of the most beloved shows in TV history have been guilty of this, so we decided to pose a provocative question to our readers: Which current TV series should have ended long, long ago? 

We polled over 500 fans from across the United States, and the series that garnered the highest number of votes isn't necessarily the obvious choice.

A lot of fans think The Walking Dead should be put down

That series: The Walking Dead, which debuted on Halloween night 2010 and has shambled on for over ten seasons, and which just over 30 percent of our poll's respondents feel is past due to come to a close. Considering the sheer number of main characters who have been killed off or otherwise departed the show over that run, it's actually pretty impressive that TWD has managed to stay on its feet for so long, but there is an end of sorts in sight: as reported by Deadline, AMC announced in 2020 that the upcoming eleventh season (which will sport a whopping 24 episodes as opposed to the standard 16) will be the last.

That's not to say that the world of The Walking Dead will vanish from our screens following the main series' conclusion, however. The show has already fielded two spin-offs, Fear the Walking Dead (the seventh season of which is currently in production) and The Walking Dead: World Beyond, a limited series which has aired one season and will field one more before wrapping it up. In addition, two more spin-offs are in the works: an as-yet untitled series centered on fan-favorite characters Daryl Dixon (Norman Reedus) and Carol Peletier (Melissa McBride), and an anthology series titled Tales of the Walking Dead. In addition to that, fans also have three theatrical features to look forward to, which will focus on the character of Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln, who departed the main series after season 9). So, while those calling for The Walking Dead to shuffle off into the sunset will soon get their wish, it looks like the franchise — like the walkers themselves — will just keep on dragging itself around.

Some fans think Grey's Anatomy is on life support

There are long-running medical dramas, and then there's Grey's Anatomy, which debuted on ABC in 2005. The show stars Ellen Pompeo as Meredith Grey, the uber-talented, extra-sensitive surgeon at the series' center, and one of the only characters to appear in all 16 seasons. To be fair, Grey's Anatomy has achieved consistently high ratings and has continued to be a critical darling, so it's not a huge surprise that ABC would want to keep the ball rolling. But, between the deaths of fan-favorite characters, the introduction of Meredith's long-lost sister, a cataclysmic plane crash, multiple massive explosions at Grey Sloan Memorial Hospital, and other such extreme plot developments, many fans feel that Grey's may be the only show in history to jump the shark not once, but five or six times, and about 22 percent of our poll's respondents think the show should have long since cashed it in.

No matter. Thanks to those robust ratings, Grey's Anatomy recently began airing its seventeenth season, which has dealt with Meredith navigating a beach-set dream world while struggling to emerge from a COVID-19-induced coma. We haven't yet seen her jump over physical sharks, but it may just be a matter of time. 

In March 2021, showrunner and writer Krista Vernoff seemed to indicate that the end might be nigh in an interview with Entertainment Weekly. "I will say that we have been building this season from the beginning as if it's the last season," she said. "I don't know at this point if it is the last season, but the reason why you're like, 'Oh my gosh' every episode is because we approached it with a certain reverence of: 'Okay, if this is the last season, [then] what are we doing?" 

Vernoff should probably just buckle up for another ten seasons or so. In February 2019, The Hollywood Reporter reported that Grey's Anatomy is worth about $4 billion.

The Simpsons may have worn out their welcome

So here we are, discussing the series that almost certainly popped immediately to mind when you read this article's headline. To be sure, everybody loved The Simpsons at one point or another— there's probably some kind of national law. But even the show's most ardent defenders will begrudgingly agree that, flashes of brilliance aside, it hasn't been consistently great for, oh, 20 years or so, which is a pretty darned long time to tread water. 

Of course, those first 12 or 13 seasons constitute some of the most awesome, hilarious material the medium of television has ever produced. But The Simpsons has been on the air for a truly absurd length of time. It debuted in 1989, meaning that technically, episodes have aired in no fewer than five different decades. As of this writing, the series has fielded a ridiculous 32 seasons comprising a hair over 700 episodes, and in March 2021, it was announced that Fox has re-upped for two more seasons, as reported by The Wrap. Sure, it's kind of hard to picture a world without Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa, and Maggie plopping down for yet another couch gag once a week — but judging by the unreasonable length of The Simpsons' run, we may not have to. 

This, despite the fact that just over 20 percent of the fans we polled were of the opinion that the show probably should have called it quits sometime around the turn of the millennium. 

A few other shows that fans think should bow out

Bringing up the tail end in our survey were a trio of long-running series that garnered smaller vote totals, led by one that... well, hasn't really been running for that long. Over 13 percent of those surveyed thought that Riverdale, the dark 'n gritty melodrama based on classic Archie comics characters, should have pulled the plug by now — despite the fact that it has only fielded a comparatively paltry four seasons since 2017. As of this writing, Archie, Betty, Veronica, and Jughead are currently enjoying (in a manner of speaking) their fifth season on the CW, which has reportedly renewed Riverdale for season 6, according to Deadline.

Next up, with nearly 7 percent of the vote: NCIS, one of the longest-running police procedurals there has ever been, which has aired a whopping 18 seasons on CBS since 2003, in addition to producing the spin-offs NCIS: Los Angeles and NCIS: New Orleans. The series, which stars Mark Harmon as special agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs of the U.S. Naval Criminal Investigative Service, has been a consistent performer year in and year out for its network — but with Harmon's contract coming up, there's been rampant speculation that the nineteenth season of NCIS (which has not yet been confirmed by the network) could be its last, as reported by Newsweek.

Finally, coming in last is a guy who is not accustomed to that position: The Flash, the longest-tenured show in the CW's interconnected "Arrowverse" shows featuring DC Comics characters. (The inaugural series, Arrow, ended in 2020 after 8 seasons). About 5 percent of our poll's respondents felt that The Flash, which as of this writing is airing its seventh season and has been renewed for an eighth, should probably have stopped running awhile back.