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Counterpoint: 'Grey's Anatomy' and other shows don't owe fans anything

Last week, fellow EW Community Contributor Tamar asked, “Do fans have rights?” after the death of Patrick Dempsey’s long-running character on Grey’s Anatomy. As expected, fans were angry.

No, I mean really angry. Angry as in scolding creator Shonda Rhimes and taking action: Currently there are over 88,000 signatures on a Change.org petition to reverse this turn of events. I suppose by making it a dream sequence or making him a zombie?Tamar concluded:

“There has to be some middle ground. There has to be a way for writers to have the freedom to write the stories they want to write while not taking advantage of the people for whom they are creating their art. Audiences are resilient. We can stand some pain and suffering, and we can recover from almost anything. Some things should be sacred, though—shouldn’t they?”

My answer to her question: No, not at all.

To those 88,000 folks, I say: Give it up. It’s not your show. Even though they may see themselves as “customers” who keep the show “in business,” television is storytelling. Storytelling is an art form—an art form that writers and showrunners practice. Networks, of course, need viewers for shows, but we need to trust that the people they hire to write those shows have a vision and are writing quality television. Sometimes compelling stories require sacrifices. I don’t want to belittle those who get very emotionally attached to shows (heck, that’s all of the EW Community), but the show doesn’t owe us anything.

Many of the reasons that character deaths and departures happen is because the actor wants out, for legitimate reasons. The actor may find the working hours of a TV-show star are no longer desirable; they may want to explore other projects, because they are actors and that is their art form. They are not our court jesters. We don’t have the right to demand they stay with the show we want them to. We don’t own them as fans.

Sure, it was frustrating when Matthew (Dan Stevens) suddenly died in Downton Abbey, after we spent three seasons investing in the “will they or won’t they?” with Mary. Dan Stevens didn’t want to do the show anymore, which is fine for him. In fact, it was a great choice to move on. (Have you seen him in The Guest? He was amazing and incredibly creepy.) I was annoyed that I had invested in characters who were suddenly off the show. You know what I did? I stopped watching Downton Abbey. It was tough, but I didn’t like the direction the show went in. Does Julian Fellowes owe me an apology? No.

In the few times that fan outrage has “saved” or “changed” shows, the immediate change feels like a victory, but then what? We’re left with a forced decision that doesn’t feel like it is part of the original vision of the show. Remember all the fan demand about bringing back Arrested Development? And then it happened? Now look me in the eye and tell me that the new Netflix season really met your expectations.

Community is another show where each season’s renewal was always in peril, and it managed to last five seasons until the network canceled it. (Not because it wasn’t good, but because not enough people were watching, despite what the rabid obsessives would have you think.) Yahoo sensed it could provide the fanbase with what they wanted and … season six is on Yahoo. Is it really better? Even if the quality is still there, Dustin Rowles observes on Uproxx:

“Watching Community was once a shared experience. It’s something we on the Internet did together. We GIFed and tweeted and laughed together. We spotted references together. This was our show. Because, you see, there aren’t a lot of people who watch Community in the wide world. … There’s fewer of us. We’re watching episodes at different times. We’re saving them up to binge-watch. We’re just not in it together anymore.”

Congratulations, Community fans. You got your show back. But was it really worth it?

In a time way before social media, in the year 2003, the attractive-teens-are-actually-aliens masterpiece Roswell was on the brink of cancellation again, after its second season. Thousands of fans sent bottles of Tabasco sauce to the network, UPN, in protest. (The Tabasco sauce was something related to the show, not worth explaining. True fans will get it.) It wasn’t renewed, but UPN saw an opportunity to pick it up for a third season. And so the third season aired … and woof, was it awful. No one’s heart was in it, the writing was lackluster, and it turns out it wasn’t a story worth telling for a third season (sorry, Roswell fans—it’s the hard truth.)

Arrested Development, Roswell, and Community are shows where cancellations were protested, not the death of characters, but there’s a parallel: Fans dictating the direction of a show is not beneficial for anyone. I don’t want to say “just get over it” to Grey’s Anatomy fans, because I know what it is like to be invested. I am still not over the cancellation of HBO’s Enlightenment.

Let’s let the writers and actors do the job they are supposed to do—tell the story. Grey’s fans who are really upset: Take a break. Find a new show. Get some perspective. You’ll soon find another show that fills that hole in your heart. And then that show may end or kill off a character. And then the writer of that show may create another show that you will love. And thus the cycle continues, and we will all be okay.

TV Families | EW.com
Mark Harris
February 23, 1990 AT 05:00 AM EST

The Bradys are back, with a passel of 90’s hassles. Do they represent the typical American Family? Did they ever? Who does? Stare and compare!

Kind Of Family
TheBradyBunch 1969-74: Blended
The Bradys 1990-: Enormous
Married…With Children 1987-: Postnuclear
Thirtysomething 1987-: Extended
The Flintstones 1960-66: Modern Stone Age

Family Pet
The Brady Bunch: Tiger
The Bradys: Alice
Married…With Children: Buck
Thirtysomething: Grendel
The Flintstones: Dino

Typical Guest Star
The Brady Bunch: Davey Jones
The Bradys: There’s no room
Married…With Children: Sam Kinison
Thirtysomething: Carly Simon
The Flintstones: Ann Margrock

Expression Of Joy
The Brady Bunch: Groovy!
The Bradys: Ritual hugging
Married…With Children: ”Oh, great.”
Thirtysomething: ”Of course I’m happy for you. Really. But what about me? Why does it always have to be about you?
The Flintstones: ”Yabba-dabba doo

Expression Of Rage

The Brady Bunch: ”Hmmm…”
The Bradys: ”If you back away from something you really want, then you’re a quitter!” (the angriest any Brady has ever been)
Married…With Children: ”Aaagh, God, take me from this miserable life!”
Thirtysomething: ”I’m not angry, OK?”
The Flintstones: ”Willllmaaaa!”

Typical Problem
The Brady Bunch: Marcia and her rival both want to be the prom queen.
The Bradys: Bobby gets paralyzed.
Married…With Children: Al doesn’t buy his family Christmas presents.
Thirtysomething: Nancy gets cancer.
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney are staying out too late.

Typical Solution
The Brady Bunch: The prom committee decides to have two queens.
The Bradys: Bobby gets married.
Married…With Children: They hate him.
Thirtysomething: If only we knew…
The Flintstones: Wilma and Betty decide to follow them.

House Style
The Brady Bunch: Conservative but mod, circa ’69
The Bradys: Conservative but mod, circa ’90
Married…With Children: Roach motel
Thirtysomething: Enviable
The Flintstones: Suburban cave

Clothing Style
The Brady Bunch: Early Osmonds
The Bradys: Made in the USA
Married…With Children: Flammable fabrics
Thirtysomething: Eclectic earth tones; nice ties
The Flintstones: One-piece

Most Annoying Character
The Brady Bunch: Alice’s cousin Emma, the substitute housekeeper (too strict)
The Bradys: Marcia’s husband, Wally (chronically unemployable)
Married…With Children: Steve (supercilious)
Thirtysomething: Ellyn (goes through Hope’s drawers, babbles, changes hairstyle every other week, generally mistreats her friends)
The Flintstones: Mr. Slate (bossy)

Attitude Toward Sex
The Brady Bunch: Never heard of it
The Bradys: Omigod — even Cindy does it!
Married…With Children: Peg: Yes. Al: No.
Thirtysomething: They didn’t get all those kids by accident.
The Flintstones: Prehistoric

How Spouses Fight
The Brady Bunch: They don’t.
The Bradys: Infrequently, but it happens
Married…With Children: Tooth and nail
Thirtysomething: They stop talking
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney go bowling while Wilma and Betty max out their charge cards.

How Kids Get Into Trouble
The Brady Bunch: Greg takes a puff of a cigarette.
The Bradys: Carol’s grandson steals her business cards and sticks them in the spokes of Bobby’s wheelchair.
Married…With Children: By committing felonies
Thirtysomething: Ethan plays with a forbidden toy rocket.
The Flintstones: They don’t.

How They’re Punished

The Brady Bunch: ”It’s not what you did, honey — it’s that you couldn’t come to us.”
The Bradys ”Next time, ask.”
Married…With Children: By the authorities
Thirtysomething: It blows up in his face.
The Flintstones: They’re not.

What Family Does For Fun
The Brady Bunch: Takes special three-part vacations to Hawaii and the Grand Canyon
The Bradys: Has flashbacks
Married…With Children: Exchanges insults
Thirtysomething: Talks
The Flintstones: Attends showings of The Monster at the Bedrock Drive-In

Unsolved Mysteries
The Brady Bunch: How exactly did Carol’s first husband and Mike’s first wife die?
The Bradys: What’s with Marcia’s new face and Bobby’s blonde hair
Married…With Children: What kind of hair spray does Peg use?
Thirtysomething: Why did Nancy take Elliot back? What do Gary and Susanna see in each other?
The Flintstones: How does Barney’s shirt stay on if he has no shoulders? Where do Fred and Wilma plug in their TV?

Worst Behavior
The Brady Bunch: The Brady children once made Alice feel under-appreciated.

The Bradys: Marcia’s son Mickey watches Bobby’s car-crash tape for fun.
Married…With Children: The Bundy’s kill their neighbor’s dog.
Thirtysomething: Elliot has an affair and talks about it.
The Flintstones: Characters don’t wear under-clothes.

Best Reason To Watch
The Brady Bunch: This is what life should be.
The Bradys: They’re all grown-ups now!
Married…With Children: Terry Rakolta hates it.
Thirtysomething (Tie) This is your life. This isn’t your life.
The Flintstones: This is what life might have been.

Best Reason Not To Watch
The Brady Bunch: Blurred vision from rerun overdoses.
The Bradys: You’re all grown-ups now.
Married…With Children: She has a point.
Thirtysomething: After a while, you think it’s real.
The Flintstones: The Simpsons

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