Bad TV, I Wish I Knew How to Quit You

From 'The Walking Dead' to 'Cold Feet,' knowing when to kill a TV series, or bring it back to life, makes all the difference between viewers pining or whining

A scene from 'The Walking Dead' season 8 trailer.
Screenshot

It hardly seems fair that while there are 50 ways to leave your lover, I’m still struggling to find one effective way to remove certain television shows from my life.

Sure, you can switch off the set, Brett. Flee the TV, Dee. Cut the cable, Mabel. But trust me, none of these will work – otherwise I wouldn’t be about to subject myself to season eight of “The Walking Dead,” even though I can’t actually remember the last time I tuned in with any sense of anticipation. It was definitely some time before the Saviors, Lucille, Negan et al showed up, but I know I won’t be able to break the habit. (The only takeaway I took from “Who Moved My Cheese?” is that I need to find new places to hide my dairy products.)

Worse, I’m still watching the spin-off series, “Fear the Walking Dead” (HOT AMC, Mondays at 21:00 and HOT VOD), even though its ludicrous plot is more George Costanza than George A. Romero. “Fear” is already more than midway through its third season and getting worse by the week, but I’m still staggering toward the TV in a zombified state to watch the latest installment.

As I was watching the show’s midseason return, I actually found myself thinking: Just what is it going to take for me to stop watching this shit? I’ve been reduced to pinning my hopes on an actual zombie apocalypse. Seriously, you’re reading the person who sat through all nine seasons of “How I Met Your Mother,” even though by season three I’d already renamed it “Meet Her Already!”

And don’t even get me started on “Homeland,” which I have quit more times than I’ve quit diets. The problem is that as soon as I read a review featuring the words “return to form” or “recaptures the old magic” – as if it were David Copperfield and Claudia Schiffer getting back together – I’m straight back there, watching the bipolarizing adventures of Carrie Mathison.

That’s why I was so delighted to hear that “Veep,” one of my favorite all-time comedies, has made the bold decision to bow out after its seventh season next year. Leaving when you’re at the top of your game is such a menschy move, especially from Julia Louis-Dreyfus. Even better, it saves me ever having to make a decision about whether to stop watching.

Sure, the “Seinfeld” alumnus doesn’t have to worry about paying the bills, but she’s still giving up the part of a lifetime (Elaine Benes? Pah! Selina Meyer gets my vote every time).

Louis-Dreyfus also knows how difficult it is to produce an iconic comedy show. “The New Old Adventures of Old Christine” (2006-2010) may have bagged her a few more Emmys, but it failed to leave a lasting mark. Then there was the ironically titled “Watching Ellie,” which was canceled after only two seasons.

My only gripe is that maybe Louis-Dreyfus should have stolen a trick from her old “Seinfeld” pal Larry David and mothballed “Veep” for a few years – when, hopefully, the U.S. political climate will be less farcical than now.

It’s a move that’s definitely worked for David. The world was pretty blasé about “Curb Your Enthusiasm” when the eighth season aired on HBO in 2011. Now, though, next month’s “Curb” return is being seen as the Second Coming – absence making the art grow fonder, and all that.

The cast of 'Cold Feet'
Jonathan Ford / Courtesy of ITV

A show that disappeared from our screens for even longer was the British comedy-drama “Cold Feet” (Yes VOD). When it first aired between 1997 and 2003, it was sold as the British “Friends,” albeit less sitcomy and with fewer songs about smelly cats.

As the name implies, “Cold Feet” was all about relationships – starting them, ending them, enjoying them, enduring them. It was revolutionary at the time for its depiction of middle class northern life (it’s set in Manchester), which had hitherto consistently been presented like something out of an L.S. Lowry painting.

First World problems

As the show progressed, however, its charms started to fade (certainly by season five), becoming a succession of rather nauseating First World problems (you know, like when you tell a friend you love Ryan Adams’ music and a week later they announce they’ve bought two tickets for the Bryan Adams gig in Tel Aviv – do you tell them their mistake or go along and try to look happy when the chords of “Summer of 69” crash in? First World problems).

But then something brilliant happened. “Cold Feet” ended (its creator, Mike Bullen, left Britain for Australia) and the show became something we started to think more fondly of as the years passed (a bit like Britpop).

So when British commercial network ITV announced the show’s return in 2016, I was genuinely thrilled. By allowing us to catch up with these “old friends” 13 years on, it was almost the fictional equivalent of Michael Apted’s brilliant British documentary series “Seven Up,” which revisits the same group of people every, you guessed it, seven years to see how their lives have changed. (The show first aired in 1964 and the next installment, “63 Up,” is due in 2019 when Apted himself will be 78.)

The “Cold Feet” characters we had last watched in 2003 had become older but, thankfully, none the wiser. And sure enough, season six worked like a charm, disproving the saw that nostalgia ain’t what it used to be.

Five of the original six characters all returned – ladies’ man Adam (James Nesbitt); former couple David and Karen (Robert Bathurst and Hermione Norris); and token struggling couple Jenny and Pete Gifford (Fay Ripley and John Thomson). The only actor who didn’t reappear was Helen Baxendale, who considered the idea of returning to play the ghost of her dead character Rachel an eminently refusable offer.

So why did my heart sink when season seven returned to our screens this month? Two words: too soon. We waited 13 years for season six of “Cold Feet,” but less than 12 months for season seven. And things definitely feel rushed this time around.

There’s a slightly caricaturesque element to proceedings, with Adam getting broody with new, younger girlfriend Tina (Leanne Best), David selling life insurance and trying to get his life back together after a second divorce, Karen trying to build a publishing empire with one author on her books – as I said, First World problems.

I’ll stick with it, of course, for the very reasons outlined at the start of the article (call it apathy, if you like – I can’t be bothered to argue with you). But if they want me to be more enthused for season eight, I suggest they wait until 2030 before shooting it.