When you devote yourself to television fandom, you open up a vulnerable spot in your heart. You give a little piece of your emotional well-being to a TV series, and you expect that it will be nurtured and kept safe. Like with any relationship, the more your televised partner supports you, the closer a bond you will form. But also like with any relationship, when trust is betrayed for too long, there comes a time to call the whole thing off.

I recently sat down for coffee with “Heroes” to discuss just that. I was worried it wouldn’t return my calls since it has been neglecting viewer feedback for so long, but eventually the show called me back and we agreed to meet. And as we took our seats that fateful day, I could tell from the tears in its eyes that the show knew what was happening: We were finally breaking up.

Back in season one, everything in our relationship had seemed so great. The “Heroes” plot was just developing, the characters had depth and the show held me close, captivating me with twists and turns. It was puppy love at its televised best. But as I reminisced about the good times, bracing “Heroes” for the final blow, people started to stare. Then again, it’s not surprising. “Heroes” has really let itself go.

Season two was a rough patch, but I thought it was something we would get past. “Heroes” acknowledged it was losing its flair and becoming bloated with unnecessary sideplots, but it said it was going to work to get back on track. So while I went on to apologize for my flaws in the relationship — watching it online instead of when it aired — I could see “Heroes” wasn’t buying my remorse, and rightly so. “Heroes” knew it was fully at fault. It promised no more time travel! It promised!

But this is when “Heroes,” like anyone who sees it’s about to lose something dear to it, got aggressive. It started to berate me, citing its many changes for the better, quoting all the times its creators pledged to improve, trying forcefully to convince me we could still make it work. But I saw through the bullshit. Sure, “Heroes” and I had our honeymoon period, but ever since I’d just felt burdened by it, and its promises to change have gone wholly unkept.

And so I walked out of that coffee shop short one television show, but with a great burden lifted off my chest. And I’m never going to look back.

For every show, there is a breaking point — a time after which there is no use continuing to watch. I used to think this was treasonous and that fandom was forever. But I’ve come to realize I can’t sit around wishing all the shows I watch would just get better. Eventually, you have to let go. But the tricky part is determining when exactly that time has come.

There are plenty of potential reasons to give up on a show: obnoxious new characters, uninteresting or over-the-top plot developments, the addition of random celebrities or just a personal change of interests. Now, it’s important to keep in mind that when I say “give up” I don’t mean “decide not to add to your repertoire.” I’m talking about shows you’ve already invested yourself in that have since jumped the shark, rode it around the tank and gotten utterly devoured by it.

And that’s why it’s so hard to walk away. There’s a trust there, and the knowledge that the show is capable of being good. It’s hard to give up on something when you know it’s capable of doing such great things.

To take a reality twist on the topic, let’s look at “The Mole.” Once hosted by the amazing Anderson Cooper, now notable as CNN’s gallant golden boy, silver fox and probably several other metalloid nouns, the series drifted from a compelling look at its contestants’ minds to a display for a sordid selection of celebrity has-beens. Needless to say, I stopped watching during the celebrity seasons. But then, something unforeseen happened. “The Mole,” after a several-year hiatus, came back — without the celebrities.

I watched the first episode of the new season, and I was disappointed all around — the new host sucked, the new challenges sucked, the production sucked, the contestants sucked. Not to mention I predicted the outcome of the series from the commercials, before the first episode even aired. Despite the fact that watching the new season wasn’t really enjoyable, I still sat through the whole thing, thinking that maybe — just maybe — it could return to its former glory. It didn’t.

So the question that matters at the end of this story is this: Do I wish I had just given up? And, at least with “The Mole,” the answer is “no.” Part of me feels some sense of personal accomplishment having coped with the pain, but really, it’s a matter of faith (something that I really only have when it comes to TV, anyway). I’m a fan of “The Mole,” and I damn well showed it.

“But wait, Jamie,” you say urgently in a peeved voice, “I thought you said giving up was OK.” And my response is best illustrated by the following hypothetical: If “The Mole” gets another season (which it won’t), then I will watch it. But if that one sucks too, it’s not getting a third chance.

My recommendation to those of you facing TV disillusionment, then, should be no surprise. Hold out for a while. Every show has its bad season or two (I’m looking at you here, “Lost” season two), but that doesn’t mean it’s a bad show (I’m now adoringly staring at you, “Lost”). But if you wait a few seasons and things don’t turn around, then maybe it just wasn’t meant to be. Sure, every relationship goes through its ups and downs, but when the downs are so low as to use a lesbian kiss to pander for ratings (as “Heroes” is allegedly doing this week), it’s probably time to call the whole thing off.

Until next time, if any of you see “Heroes” crying in the corner sipping a latte all alone, tell it I’m sorry. But then also tell it to clean itself up and get a fucking comprehensible plot.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.