21st Century Digital Boy: TV Series Finales Always (Frakking) Suck

Written by 21st-Century Digital Boy, Television

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Television programming executives despise smart, engaged viewers. Like, uh, me, for instance.

I’m the kind of guy who jacks up their focus groups and bell curves. I record their shows and burn through their well-placed advertising on the DVR (because I can). I’ll drop a meandering show like a bad habit. I like my “Joyrides for Shut-ins” done medium-well—intelligent, complex, but I hate tired plot devices and holes, and “clever for its own sake” (yep, I’m looking at you, Lost). And while I don’t claim to be a member of the so-called cognitive elite, I do have a smoldering case of voluntary Tourette’s Syndrome and an elephant’s memory.

None of this ever helps the execs. I’m almost impossible to make (and keep) happy.

So let me start this opening salvo with some fuel for the fire: TV series finales almost always suck. That is their nature. It’s almost as if closure itself is overrated in television.

It doesn’t seem to matter if a TV show has had a short life, or become an iconic representation of visual media fit for enshrinement in the pop culture lexicon and at the Smithsonian. And it doesn’t matter if it was brought to and end by flagging ratings or drawn to a close at its absolute peak of popularity. TV endings are almost always disappointing.

Naturally, any grand pronouncement like this will bring the contrarians out of the woodwork for comment, so yes, I’ll say that there are exceptions.

But if you search yourself, you know that poor endings far outweigh the passable and the perfect when shows are brought to an end. For every Newhart there’s a dozen Seinfeld or Everybody Loves Raymond endings. For every Strangers With Candy or Twin Peaks, there’s a Sopranos cop-out. For every M*A*S*H* or Freaks and Geeks, there’s a dismally painful Sex and the City or Moonlighting.

Did you see the recent series finale of The L Word? Or Life on Mars? Gah!

All of this brings us to the finale of the Peabody Award-winning re-imagining of Battlestar Galactica, which ended its brief, politically-charged, theological run on the Sci-Fi (or — sigh — SyFy) Channel on Friday. When this show was on, it was dynamite (and not as in “boom goes the…”). Deemed the “show of the decade” by some and the best science fiction TV series since The X-Files, BSG’s six-year strand was already starting to unravel when it ended with a two-hour finale aimed at cinching some unresolved mysteries.

What was up with Starbuck? Clone or not a clone? Who was “The One Who Must Not Be Named,” anyway? What was the role of Cylon-human crossbreed Hera? And, perhaps most importantly to fans, could all of the divergent threads in the series be satisfied without pulling a deus ex machina? I won’t be the spoiler; I realize some of you reading this may not have watched your DVR yet, but to me, the show had one of the weakest finales of all—not a good sign for this particular genre of programming, or for an audience so hopelessly engrossed in detail.

Let’s take it a step further: How could a show such as BSG even begin to fulfill the lofty expectations it had been busy creating since launching in 2004? There’s no option of trotting out Drs. Doug Ross and Carol Hathaway like some ER wrap-up— the story was, and is, everything.

As a viewer, I felt a palpable sense of loss before viewing the finale. Yet after all the didatic grandstanding, Kara-as-guardian-angel, Baltar-as-Jesus, pandering and gerrymandering and so on, I can’t say I’m sorry to see it go. It really had “jumped the shark” long before the final frames of this so-called coda.

In the end, methinks Mulder and Scully fared far better. And that’s not saying much. Perhaps television executives should reconsider “ending” programs at all. There’s an old adage that “all things end badly, otherwise they wouldn’t end.” So, what does this mean for the doctors at County General Hospital? Will the writing and heartstrings save that 15-year-old primetime patient?

Who knows? But you’d better have those defibrillators ready. Stat!

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