It's a question that plagues every long-running TV series: Should the network cancel a show when it starts to lose viewers or when it starts to lose its creative spark?
While some shows tend to lose viewers as the series goes on, other shows (such as "How I Met Your Mother") seem to gain viewers the longer they are on the air. The more viewers a show has, the more a network wants to hang on to that program.
This is what's happening with Showtime's "Dexter," which just wrapped up its seventh season. The show made headlines after its penultimate Season 7 episode "Do You See What I See?" was a ratings smash. The episode scored 2.6 million viewers (3.1 million if you count repeats). This made it the highest-ever rated Showtime original series. The Season 7 finale went on to beat that number, scoring 2.75 million views.
"Dexter" is planned to end next year, with Season 8 marking the definitive end of the series. However, with the show scoring its highest ratings ever (and the highest ratings for the network's original programming arm), does it make sense for Showtime to let "Dexter" come to an end?
Complicating matters further, some members of the "Dexter" fan base argue that as the show has gotten more popular, the writing has gotten worse. However, it's worth noting that most fan complaints of "seasonal rot" are linked to writing and plot, and not to acting.
The TV blog Warming Glow has been outspoken about the problems with the past two seasons of "Dexter," and argues that it's time for the show to end…no matter how high the ratings have soared.
As Warming Glow's Dustin Rowles puts it, "Let's just ignore for a moment the fact that the previous two seasons of Dexter were not very good, and go with the opinion shared by some that this season has been a creative rebound…If, due to exploding ratings, Showtime decides to extend 'Dexter,' they'll have to push the end game (Dexter's capture/death/rehabilitation) back yet another year, which means that next year would be another stall…Eight seasons is enough."
Should "Dexter" keep telling its story if there are a growing number of fans who want to see how it all plays out? Does Showtime have a greater obligation to provide artistic quality, or cater to the show's growing fan base and keep telling new stories? Only time will tell which direction Showtime and "Dexter" will take. But if the cast is amenable, Showtime may just greenlight a ninth season of "Dexter" before Season 8 even starts filming.