Now, five is being nice. It really is. The sell-by-date abuse of most TV series is egregious, not to mention stink-filled. But to be on this list, a series had to be really wonderful, an offering that once kept people buzzing in chat rooms and recalling key scenes the next day around the water cooler. And now? Generally unhappy viewers. Really unhappy critics.
1. "The Practice." ABC. Oh, God. Oh, God oh God oh God. Somebody please shoot this thing dead. James Spader can't save it. It doesn't even help that all the really skinny people are gone. It's just unseemly, this bid to stay alive. Lazarus this is not.
2. "The West Wing." NBC. Um, could somebody return our favorite characters to their upright positions and give them back their personalities, as written all those years ago? Tune in next week when Leo sets himself on fire for no reason other than a possible "Third Watch" crossover episode. What's happened here is just plain sad.
3. "ER." NBC. Hmmm. Another John Wells show. But that's not the point. The point is that even "stat" jokes aren't funny anymore when making those tired resuscitation references. Too much cast turnover. Way too much forced drama. And who really wants to be in the hospital this long anyway?
4. "Gilmore Girls." WB. Lauren Graham is still worth the price of admission. The peppy dialogue is still sometimes amusing and even stunning. But growing up and moving on has hurt this series creatively. Maybe there was no good answer for how to fix the splitsville in Stars Hallow, but "Gilmore Girls" has fallen down the rabbit hole, and it may be the saddest story on TV right now.
5. "Law & Order." NBC. Not caring anymore might be the biggest letdown of all. Perhaps there should be no more watering down of this franchise? But maybe there's just a ripped-from-the-headlines malaise going on now that we won't fully understand until it hits us as we watch the 24-hour "Law & Order" channel.
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