Tuesday, January 22, 2013

TV Finale Thoughts Part 2 of 2: Selling the Drama

From ALIAS to VERONICA MARS, there have been just over a hundred TV dramatic series finales over the past few decades.  True, many more dramas have come and gone, but most of those never had the opportunity for even a half-hearted or slapped-together farewell episode.  But when I decided to pick my top three favorites of all time, I wanted to do my due diligence.  

You see, after publishing such a compilation, it's not uncommon for readers to spring forth decrying any number of candidates that appear to have been snubbed. One risks concussion with all the time spent slapping one's head with "Oops" after "My bad" after "D'oh!"  So I scoured the internet, combing through list after list of literal show stoppers to ensure no show would be overlooked.

Now, a dramatic series finale can have all sorts of effects on a dedicated viewer. 
It can make you laugh, make you cry. 
Make you smile and make you sigh.  
It can make you ponder and make you wonder.  

And apparently, it can even make you come up with cheesy rhymes for a half-baked blog.

I won't waste any time and space discussing what didn't make my list. Suffice to say, regardless of whether the show dealt with funeral directors, outer space refugees, cops, doctors, federal agents, mobsters, superheroes, lawyers or vampires (and yes, those last two may be redundant), they were all considered and subsequently dismissed for perfectly logical and sound reasons.  Or at least that's what I'll say right now so I can tra-la-la past that quagmire and get to:



THE WIRE is the one series I can honestly say I feel like a better person for having watched it. A series that juggled literally dozens of characters and just as many story lines, dealing with hardcore and hard hitting issues from drugs to politics to the public education system.  From the biggest villain to the smallest extra, THE WIRE was overstuffed with performances that were genuine and unforced.  The writing felt so visceral and so real, you'd swear someone hid a microphone on a Baltimore street corner and transcribed the dialogue into script after amazing script.

With an almost impeccable track record of excellence going into the finale, how could David Simon (creator & head writer) possibly resolve so many plot threads? How would he conceivably cover (much less tie up) the final resolutions to over 20 different characters?  How in the world would he ever be able to satisfy the small but fiercely dedicated audience that loved this show so much?

If I knew how he did it, I'd be sitting here writing something a lot more important & impressive than a blog. But he did do it. Perfectly.

#2  LOST

I could have easily transposed THE WIRE and LOST on this list.  Perhaps it's a battle of the head and heart, but despite the flaws and frustrations of LOST's final season, the series finale packed one mega-powerful wallop.  We knew years in advance that it would be polarizing. So it was easy-peasy to anticipate the scores of people who would be left disenchanted and disappointed by the perceived lack of resolution to what must have seemed like hundreds of mysteries and stories.

I wrote a recap & review that went on longer than The Return of the King, but I'll plug a link to that here instead of repeating myself more than I am already prone to doing.  If it ain't "clickable", then I'm sure it's "cut and paste-able".



As any beloved series nears its final episode, the audience will wonder how it will all end.  What will be the final outcome for the story lines and will their favorite characters finally attain whatever goal they have been striving to reach? However, a few shows broke away from the pack of likable ensembles, choosing to concentrate on what could best be called an "antihero".  Stories based around a protagonist who would be considered the antagonist anywhere else.  The bad guy.

When THE SOPRANOS was nearing the end, all anyone could ask was, "What's gonna happen to Tony?"  Would he live or die?  Would he pay for his crimes or get away with it all?"  

The same sort of questions have arisen over the ultimate fate of Walter White on BREAKING BAD. But there was one other show that had the same issues to work out for its finale.  A series that not only handled it brilliantly, but did it in a way that none of us had guessed at beforehand.  

Of course, I'm talking about THE SHIELD.

I won't reveal the ultimate fate of Vic Mackey, as I know there are many who will read this who have yet to watch this balls-to-the-wall dynamo of violent intensity.  But it's not a spoiler to say this: if you do invest the time in watching all seven seasons, unlike so many other series, you will NOT be disappointed in the resolution Shawn Ryan (creator & head writer) pulls off here.

Honorable Mention:
BABYLON 5, for setting a course five years in advance, and even though the ride was bumpy at first, it finished in a spectacular and truly satisfying manner. Some shows, one can say, "Oh, they're making things up as they go along."  You couldn't say that about B5.  Well, you could, but you'd be wrong. And stupid. Folks can go on and on about the greatness of the 21st century take on BATTLESTAR GALACTICA, and it certainly was great.  But BABYLON FIVE dealt with a galactic canvas as well, with a far smaller budget or critical hoopla -- and finished in a way that pleased all B5 fans. That's something BSG can't claim.

A Few Great Moments in Drama Finale History:
The final six minutes of SIX FEET UNDER made up for two seasons of being bummed out.
The destruction of the "love triangle" between Beecher, Keller & Schillinger on OZ.
Spike's sacrifice (albeit short-lived) on BUFFY...
...and the crew fighting till the very end and beyond on ANGEL.

Dishonorable Mention:
Some may nominate THE SOPRANOS for the infamous smash-cut-to-black that left the fate of Tony and his family in the air. Having re-watched it recently, I have come around to accepting if not totally embracing the ending.  Others may nominate QUANTUM LEAP, which informs us with a postscript that Sam never returns home.  The fact they spelled his name incorrectly was far more egregious than Doctor Beckett's sad fate.  Finally, there's the "It was all in the mind of an autistic child and his snow globe" ending of ST. ELSEWHERE which is often recognized as one of the biggest WTF moments in TV history.

No, I'm picking the US version of LIFE ON MARS.  Week after week it became painfully apparent that this was a pallid version of the exceptional UK series.  But the worst decision was to not only ignore the original's finale, but to reveal that the cops are actually all Mars-bound astronauts.  It was nothing short of ludicrous.  I've never muttered the phrase "You've gotta be fucking kidding me" as many times in such a short period of time.

And with that, I bid you goodbye, farewell and amen.  


  1. shit, guess i have to watch the shield now. wasn't that fucker like 18 seasons long?

  2. Lucky you, poot. I need to watch Shield and Wire.