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Say what? These TV shows are still on the air?

Chuck Barney
Contra Costa Times (MCT)

It happens every fall. The new TV season arrives and we gaze with anticipation at the schedule only to discover that a favorite show is missing in action. ("Life" apparently doesn't have any). On the other hand, some shows inexplicably keep going and going and going. (Call it the "According to Jim" effect).

Here are five series that we just can't believe are not dead yet.

"Scrubs" (ABC)

This wacky medical series looked like a sure goner when NBC canceled it. But after resurfacing on ABC and shooting what was thought to be a series finale, it refuses to flatline. ABC has plans to return to Sacred Heart for a ninth season, even though Zach Braff and Sarah Chalke will appear in only six episodes and the Janitor (Neil Flynn) has left the building. Is it time to issue a "Do Not Resuscitate" (DNR) order?

"'Til Death" (Fox)

Rumor has it that people actually watch this shrill domestic sitcom starring Brad Garrett and Joely Fisher, but our valiant search party has yet to locate them. Multiple cast changes and schedule moves have failed to boost the show's anemic ratings. Fox even yanked it off the air at one point last year. Still, it just won't go away as it returns for Season 4 this week. 'Til death, indeed.

"One Tree Hill" (The CW)

As originally conceived, this teen drama revolved around two basketball-playing half brothers. But after Season 6, one of them (Chad Michael Murray) was kicked to the curb to save on production costs. Another main protagonist (Hilarie Burton) was also axed. Clearly, this is no longer the show fans signed up for. Last season's finale felt like a series finale, and perhaps it should have been.

"Law & Order" (NBC)

Creator Dick Wolf boasts that, at 20 seasons, his crime series has matched "Gunsmoke" as TV's longest-running drama. But toss in an asterisk. Ratings for "L&O" have declined for years, and the show likely would have been canceled on another network. "Gunsmoke," however, remained a Top 15 sharpshooter deep into its run. Besides, with "L&O: SVU" having eclipsed the mother ship, hasn't the case load reached a breaking point?

"American Dad" (Fox)

With the addition of "The Cleveland Show" this fall, maniacal Seth MacFarlane now controls three pieces of Fox's Sunday night animation block. Someone, please, make it stop! Unlike MacFarlane's "Family Guy," this mind-numbing show about a CIA agent and his family has never become a pop cultural darling. But yet, here it is — at 80 episodes and counting. Is it time to 'toon out?

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