Breaking Up is Hard to Do – Even with TV

Valentine’s Day: the bane of every single person’s existence, until one comes to the magical realization that it doesn’t matter outside the Hallmark-ian sphere of card-and-chocolate retail. Nevertheless, the day provides a prime opportunity to reflect upon memories of past relationships, ranging from bittersweet to so terrible that ending it was more like dodging a rocket than a bullet.

Being an avid television viewer can resemble serial dating: a tentative approach to familiarize yourself and determine if it’s worth your interest, followed by a whirlwind of a courtship as you fall fast. Or maybe it’s a slow burn, something casual, that you suddenly realize turned into a full-on commitment when you weren’t looking. Either way, next comes a period of ardent infatuation, when you happily overlook minor flaws while you spread your adulation to anyone willing to listen.

Sometimes that affection lasts until death (via cancellation) does you part. Other times, with television as with life, something goes awry, and with a heavy heart you decide that you and a once-beloved show must part ways. In this case, it’s best to have an arsenal of time-tested break-up lines at your disposal.

With such a long and storied television viewing history as mine, I’ve had ample practice with TV break-ups, an expertise which I’m prepared to share with you. All the ready-made lines include an example of a time when I saw fit to use each of them on a show I abandoned (after watching for at least a full season).

Note: This was originally supposed to be a dual article with Kristin Marie, but in a case of media consumption resembling life, she never breaks up with shows. She also met her husband when she was 14. For dignity’s sake, I’ll leave my dating life unexamined here.

It’s not you; it’s me. The Bridge, you really were too good for me. You won a Peabody Award for your efforts to raise awareness around the challenges of law enforcement on the US/Mexico border. You had charming and talented actors, particularly the spectacular Demian Bichir. But when it came to starting Season Two, your substance was too much for my attention span, addled by the summer sun. Sadly, I wasn’t the only one who felt this way, and your second season was your last.

I just need some space. The danger of getting into a binge-watching relationship with a show as heightened as 24 resides in the show’s frequent repetition of motifs: torture, moles, Keifer Sutherland’s clenched jaw. I began plowing through from the beginning in 2007, during the show’s sixth season, but I never actually caught up. The audacity of setting off a nuclear bomb in LA at the end of Season Four piqued my interest for a bit, but somewhere around the middle of Season Five, the faux-immediacy began suffocating me, and I had to carve out room to breathe, returning most of the DVDs to Netflix unwatched.

You’ve changed. You aren’t the one I fell in love with. Tracking and apprehending Red John usually stayed as background serialization on The Mentalist, a show much more procedural than not. But the intensity of Patrick Jane’s (Simon Baker) pursuit of the man who killed his wife and daughter was such an important character-shaping trait that when he was apprehended, the show felt…deflated. The shift from the California Bureau of Investigation to the FBI meant cast and locale changes, and the new format lacked the same appeal. Halfway through Season Six, I realized I didn’t want to get to know this new version, and I moved on.

I’ve found someone new. Honesty is often the best policy, and in the case of extraordinarily unrealistic spy shows, I ended up throwing over the quirky Chuck for the more self-serious Covert Affairs. Nothing personal, Mr. Bartowski, but after you and Sarah got married at the end of Season Four, your story seemed to have run its course, and Annie and Auggie’s chemistry attracted me more.

I’m just not that into you. Graceland’s first season was sunny and shiny melee of different law enforcement agencies working on their cases and their tans on a California beach. Its premise and charm were just enough to make it a fixture on my summer 2013 schedule, but during a more interesting summer television season in 2014, I found it slipping down my viewing schedule in favor of more engaging fare; we eventually parted ways.

You don’t treat me right. I deserve better. Heroes’ first season burst onto the scene with a well-crafted plot and a snazzy catchphrase in “Save the cheerleader, save the world.” However, once I committed, it was like the show didn’t think it needed to try for me any longer: the plot became the television equivalent of lounging around the house in unwashed sweatpants all day. Still, I made it all the way until the Season Four episode “Thanksgiving” before I realized I was wasting my time on this dud.

The magic is gone. Glee was my manic pixie dream girl. I became enamored with the newness, the passion, the quirky songs that promised to change my life. But like the manic pixie dream girl, it was an ephemeral love, intended mostly to demonstrate how I, the protagonist, can grow up and mature out of the relationship halfway through Season Three, while the girl flounders in increasingly sad immaturity towards cancellation in my wake.

We’re better as friends. Steve Carell wasn’t the only thing keeping me tethered to The Office, but after his departure, my interest did wane, partially because everyone else in the office became meaner in his absence. Near the end of Season Seven, it stopped becoming appointment TV, and I missed the rest of the show’s run. However, my roommate has been working his way through the series on Netflix, and I’ll sit down with him and watch an episode on occasion. Revisiting The Office is like reconnecting with an old friend. I don’t want to re-immerse myself in the show, but these congenial encounters are a welcome reminder of our past connection.

I’m just going through a lot right now. Life can get in the way of a relationship, and for me, the second year of grad school meant being inundated with a constant deluge of reading. That work often kept me up late Sunday nights, and my relationship with Desperate Housewives was the cost of my scholarly aspirations. Even though I could record it, the Season Seven episodes backed up on my DVR, their presence accusing me of neglect. I soon made the call that it just didn’t have a place in my life anymore.

I love you, but I’m not IN love with you. Some TV shows are fine. Hawaii Five-0 is fine, and I initially added it to my schedule out of affection for the leads’ past projects (Daniel Dae Kim from Lost, Grace Park from Battlestar Galactica, and Alex O’Loughlin from the short-lived Moonlight). I never stopped enjoying it when I watched it, but I also never hit the stage where I wanted to proclaim my love on rooftops or actively proselytize my friends. Beginning with Season Two, the show and I drifted apart.

No, it’s definitely you. I came to my senses about The Following after the first episode of Season Two and sent it packing. Some shows – and people – are flat-out awful.

So, if you have a television series in your life that’s weighing you down, take advantage of one of these break-up lines to put the relationship out of its misery. You’ll thank me in the end. Got a good television break-up story to share? Tell us below.

  • Susan Cruickshank Mercier

    I am a boomerang watcher. I agree with you about Glee and The Mentalist. I stopped watching/dvr-ing both at various points. But I’m back now to watch the final seasons. I just want to see how they end, however abysmal that ending might be.