But there's another category, another list, that's a bit more complicated and a lot more rewarding. It's the category of things that go on after they need to, for which we can be grateful and a little bit sorry. It's not about wishing Elvis died in the army or that Bob Dylan's career was cut short of Christianity (Robert Chalmers begins a nice piece on Dylan "Everything would be so much more simple if he were dead" - but notice: he's talking about simplicity) or that a meteorite crashed into the set of The Godfather Part III, smashing the equipment to smithereens, wiping out all the recorded footage and taking out Andy Garcia, Al Pacino, Eli Wallach, Bridget Fonda, and Joe Mantegna (sparing Sofia Coppola and George Hamilton).
It's a list of those things that could have ended at a certain point - and no matter what happens afterwards, part of you thinks maybe it should have ended there; sometimes you stop yourself and are glad it went on, other times, you're not so sure.
1. Peep Show. This heads the list because the wedding of Mark and Sophie would have been the most perfect ending to what was up to that point a fairly perfect show. Comedies are traditionally supposed to end with marriages, but in Peep Show, the wedding was not a restoration of the moral order and a consummation of comedy's erotic promise, it was complete submersion into comic horror. Had Peep Show ended there, the show would have had a classic formality that would make it largely unsurpassable in the annals of modern sit-coms. It's gone on. While I'm not sorry, I also am.
3. Until last week, I would have said Obama's Presidency, which peaked at a historic high on January 20, 2008, and has been mostly downhill with a few small highs. But some things have . . . changed; nevertheless, I'm keeping it on the list as a sort of moral-political compromise.
9. Woody Allen's career as a director
10. Clint Eastwood's career as a director
12. Slavoj Zizek's books after about page, oh I don't know, 200.
The question I'm asking myself: will I soon think that 30 Rock will be on this list? Or, I'm biting my lip nervously, will it be on the same list as The Office (US Version)?