By Scott Brown
Updated June 06, 2006 at 12:00 PM EDT

As <a href=”
“>Deadwood heads for boot hill with the blessing (and even the urging) of creator David Milch, we must ask ourselves: How much, in TV terms, is too much of a good thing?

Milch actually wants Deadwood to sign off. Denied a 12-episode arc for the fourth season, he said he’d simply prefer to work on something else. Good for him. Did we need those excruciating post-Mulder seasons of The X-files?

Increasingly, the BBC subscribes to the “less is more” theory of television. There’s The Office, of course, with its two-season, 20-episode lifespan. Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant felt it was what it was. And guess what? It was. Now there’s the acclaimed Brit-political satire The Thick of It, which unfolds over six episodes. That’s it. Six eps, no encore. What’s that old showbiz saying about leaving them wanting more?

Of course, the illusion of a never-ending story is part of TV’s seduction. Soap operas are essentially infinite, and that’s the way we like them, though it should be noted, their viewership is on the wane. Are we more comfortable with impermanence, or simply too capricious and distractable to sustain interest over several seasons?

But maybe it’s simpler than that. I ask: Would you, as a viewer, prefer fewer eps of a great show, or several mediocre seasons of something you’ll grow to hate? And hate even harder for having loved it so much at the outset?