''The X-Files'' has overstayed its welcome, says Bruce Fretts, and so have a few other once-upon-a-time hits
David Duchovny, Gillian Anderson, ...
Credit: The X-Files: Larry Watson/Fox

Which long-running TV shows should end soon?

”We want to go out on top,” creator Chris Carter said when it was announced that Fox’s ”The X-Files” would leave the air after nine seasons. Uh, isn’t it a few years too late for that? The paranormal drama’s ratings vanished along with original star David Duchovny. Which leads us to the question: What other long-running series are past their prime-times? We’ll take it on a case-by-case basis.

FRIENDS A year ago, I would’ve said it’s time for the pals to hang it up, but the sitcom’s commercial and creative comeback this season indicates they may still have some juice left. Rachel’s pregnancy has brought new life to the show, although her romantic stirrings with Joey should be stamped out. It was a pleasant surprise when Monica and Chandler got together, but another intra-”Friends” couple just seems like a knee-jerk move. The only question is: Will NBC prez Jeff Zucker pony up enough bucks to keep the stars in the saddle for another go-round? He’d be be nuts not to.

NYPD BLUE Two seasons ago, I wrote that Steven Bochco’s once-revolutionary cop show had become the TV equivalent of comfort food. I had no idea how right I was. In the aftermath of Sept. 11, viewers have flocked back to this old favorite, but it’s still a shadow of its former groundbreaking self. The producers have been reduced to hiring lookalikes to fill roles. Hey, isn’t that Rick Schroder? Nope, it’s fellow former kiddie star Mark-Paul Gosselaar. And Kim Delaney, who split for ”Philly,” has been replaced by another tousled brunet, Jacqueline Obradors. Time to turn in your shields, guys.

EVERYBODY LOVES RAYMOND It’s hard to believe Ray Romano’s family sitcom is already in its sixth season, considering how fresh it still is. The recent episode in which Ray tries to assert his authority by deciding what brand of tissue to buy for the house was truthfully advertised by CBS as one of the show’s funniest half-hours ever. The audience continues to grow as new viewers discover the Barones in syndicated reruns. ”Raymond” is the ”Law & Order” of sitcoms, and deserves to live just as long.

SPIN CITY It’s hard to believe Michael J. Fox’s ex-sitcom is only in its sixth season. It never reached its comic or ratings potential when he was around, and ”Spin” has been dropping in the popularity polls ever since his exit. Don’t let Charlie Sheen’s fluke victory at the Golden Globes sway you. Rudy Giuliani was forced to leave office, and a term limit should be imposed on this City Hall crew as well.

ALLY McBEAL Robert Downey Jr. artificially extended the lifespan of Calista Flockhart’s terminally trendy dramedy, but without him, David E. Kelley and Co. have resorted to booking the likes of Jon Bon Jovi, Mariah Carey, and Dame Edna as guest stars. It ain’t working. The chances of ”Ally” returning are starting to look skimpier than… well, Ally herself.

What long-running shows do you think deserve to stay — or go?

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The X-Files
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