Monday, December 11, 2006

All Good TV Things Must End

It's always been kind of a love/hate thing with me and Series Finales.
For one; they're almost always bittersweet. When I love a show, I love a show. And If I've cared enough to follow a show straight until its natural end (which, these days, is rare), I'm always a bit hesitant about seeing it fade off into re-run heaven.
On the other hand, if a show has run past its prime, then I'd rather see it end on a high instead of watching an X-File-ish descent into sheer old-age madness.
Then there's the issue of closure. That is - how the hell do you wrap up a long-running show while pleasing its entire audience? You can't. So again - love/hate.

This weekend, I had the immense pleasure of finishing Six Feet Under. But more on that later. While renewing my hope for great TV, it also got me thinking about other Series Finales I've seen and how they've either changed or enhanced my feelings on their respective shows.

So...if you care, a little review. Warning: Spoilers Ahead.

X-FILES
Show Plot: Scully's pregnant, then she's not. Then she is. Mulder's dead. Then he isn't. Then he is. Aliens are here. Then they aren't - then they might be back. Scully and Mulder leave. Come back. Rinse. Repeat.
Finale Plot: After multiple years of having the same argument, Scully and Mulder finally get to the bottom of the alien invasion and their love/more-than-friend feelings for each other. Oh, and Cancer man is alive...wtf?
Series Finale: Sarcasm aside, the X-Files were my first true plunge into TV Geekdome. I remember calling home in University just to hum the opening intro with my mom. No, I did not have a girlfriend at the time...why? Either way, after about 1 movie and three seasons too many, the show had jumped its last shark and was finally ending. Now...up until the end, the entire series had led up to some mysterious and uber-complicated alien conspiracy. That and an often-baffling love affair between the two main leads (something the creator swore would never happen). Needless to say, expectations for the 2 hour finale were high. And they remained high until the last 10 minutes when the alien invasion kinda semi-began. huh? HUH? Almost nine years of teasing for...an open-ended closing? No. This shit may fly with other shows, but X-Files needed closure. Until this day, I still think FOX misplaced the last 10 hours of the final season. I'll still love the X-Files, but I'll always shake my fist when I think of what could have been.
Rating: 2 flip-flopping plots out of 5

ANGEL
Plot: Angel (of Buffy Fame) wrangles up his own army of do-gooders to take on do-badders.
Finale Plot: Angel and his team make one last desperate plight to rid the world of ultimate evil from inside the bowels of the beast (aka a law firm).
Series Finale: The last two seasons of Angel were nothing short of pure giddy geek fun and the series finale embraced this feeling right up until the final lines. Many balked at the jarring ending, but there was no better way to say goodbye to Angel and friends. After successfully bringing down the worst of the worst, the worst strike back in the final moments by opening up a can of wup ass on earth. Broken, beaten (and some dead) the remaining members of Angel's posse run off into their certain deaths...doing what they do best. Perfect. Goosebumps. While I wanted everything to be wrapped up all nice and pretty, this was Joss Whedon's way of reminding us that these heroes are immortal and should be remembered as such. Whedon has a gift for making you really care about his characters - be they interdimensional Kareokee singing demons or vampire brides - they feel real. So when the show ended, it felt as though we were saying goodbye to these very real people - and some, like Wesley, for good. Action packed, funny, touching and all-round great - Angel's last moments left you wanting more, but not needing more.
Rating: 4 'hell yeahs' out of 5
SIX FEET UNDER
Plot: TV's most depressing/quarky family struggle to maintain the family funeral business while staying sane and pursuing their own 'lives'. I wrote a spec for this show back in University. Just...you know...plugging myself.
Finale Plot: The last season took a turn for the dark and stayed this way until the end. Pretty much everyone who was still kicking by this point was either reeling from a loss, affair, mental breakdown or near-death experience. The final few episodes even saw the departure of one of its more complicated characters and the arrival of two new adopted children in David and Keith's lives. The ultimate highlight of the series finale was the uber touching montage at the end which had Claire driving off into her future mixed with scenes depicting the eventual death of everyone in the series. Starting with Ruth's peaceful goodbye in 2025 to Claire's bedridden fairwell in 2085 - everyone meets their maker (and some, like Keith, more violently than others). I can't remember a time in TV when I was so moved/taken. This was the payoff I wanted. After the final Fisher bit the dust, I knew I would never need to know what comes next and that death...well...it happens man.
Review: 4.5 Choked up Matt's out of 5

SEINFELD
Plot: A show...about nothing! Ingenious!
Finale Plot: The famous foursome stand trial against their peers for just being plain assholes.

Finale Review: How do you wrap up a series about nothing? How do you complete one of the best modern sitcoms? Seems the creators didn't really have an answer themselves. Instead of breaking new ground, Seinfeld digs up the ultimate cliche and brings back all the famous one-off characters for tv land's biggest interventions. I wasn't a huge fan of Seinfeld, but I still respected it for its ideas and fresh take on the genre. This final episode didn't help bolster this impression. Left in a jail cell to (presumably) continue being assholes, the series ends with a pretty bold statement about its characters and a somewhat hollow feeling inside.

Review: 2 point 5 NEWMANS! out of 5

The Office (British Version)

Plot: Regular joes amble through their jobs at a paper company under the insane rule of a severely insecure boss in this 'mockumentary' of office life.
Plot Finale: Done as a 2 hour movie - everyone returns to the office for one last Christmas Party.
Review: As the American version looks to be mirroring the British, I won't give too much away. Suffice to say, the series wraps up on a very touching note and does a fine job of making you laugh out loud until it does. Highlights include David's run as a washed up reality tv show celebrity, his adventures in online dating and Tim's special gift to Dawn. Oh - and a music video that will leave you with a warm feeling inside.
Review: 4 'will they or wont they's' out of 5.


OTHER NOTABLE MENTIONS
Farscape: Yeeeeeeeahhhh! Cheers: Awwwwwww Wonder Years: Sniff sniff.

So - in the spirit of opening up discussion - what are your favorite series finales?

4 comments:

Scribe of Dreams said...

Thank you MB for creating a blog that i can not read over 50 % of because you talk about shows that i am currently watching but havnt finished, or plan on wathcing over the next year..so this comment is basically like sienfeld...about notthing at all...

Ps: tea with the ladies Friday?

Attention Whore said...

tea with the ladies?
Hey..no fair...I like tea...I'm a lady....I think.

Matt, you need to compile these kinds of entries and send them into a magazine or an agent....DO IT!

Susie said...

For all the ladies out there... how about the series finale for Sex and the City?!? This one (in my opinion) ended in it's prime.. and another few seasons would have been greatly appreciated.
So now all us sex and the city-ites have to get our hopes up when they speculate about making a SATC movie - is it true that kim Cattral is holding out for more money? I guess we might never know...

m.bradford said...

Hmmm...Sex and the City eh? please tell me it ends with the Red Head going to prison. She just rubs me the wrong friggin way.