Monday, April 26, 2010

When “The End” Is Too Late

Ah, spring. The time that heralds new growth, the always-popular “break,” the upcoming summer vacation, and of course, that time when TV used to be all in repeats.

Remember those days? I suppose they’re kind of hazy now, but as recently as five or ten years ago, all the major stations would put everything into reruns, which allowed you to go outside once in a while. Or, alternately, catch up on a show you missed.

But the big question is always this: Those shows? The ones wrapping up their seasons over the next two or three weeks?

Which ones are coming back?

And more importantly, are there some shows that just plain shouldn’t return?

I started thinking about this recently thanks to an essay about the “perfect four seasons of ‘Babylon 5.’” Mostly, it talked about how the show ended just when it needed to.

For those of you who don’t get the joke, “5” ran for five seasons. Not four.

As a fan of the show, I saw the writer’s point. When the show was originally conceived, it was supposed to run for five years. And when they got the call that they were only going to run for four, the creator of the show closed off most of the major storylines at the end of the fourth season.

Then? A last-minute reprieve gave them a fifth season, and suddenly a lot of storylines that might have lasted an episode or two became major, major storylines. One of the storylines was pretty much a disaster, introducing a character a lot of fans just plain didn’t like.

But to pretend that the fifth season just didn’t exist?

I thought that was more than a little odd, but the more I considered it, the more I could see the guy’s point.

Two reasons:

First – “Scrubs.” Great show. Introduced us to a collection of characters that fans, including myself came to love. Ran for eight years. So-so ratings. And then? Most of the cast left the show, along with the show’s creator, and the powers that be granted it a ninth season.

Now, the last episode of season eight closed off the last of the major storylines. It even featured a short cameo from the show’s creator. It was clear that the point was, “This is it.”

When the show came back, it returned with a mostly new cast.

So if you’re a fan, and you didn’t like the ninth season, why NOT pretend that the show came to an end after season eight?

Second example – “Supernatural.”

Last year, around this time, Entertainment Weekly ran a very interesting article that said, essentially, that everyone working on “Supernatural” wanted out after five seasons. The show had been designed to last five seasons, the fifth season was coming, and once that was over, the show would have literally dealt with the final battle of good and evil.

And then, a few weeks ago, it was announced that “Supernatural” was going to get a sixth season.

Now, in a couple of weeks, “Supernatural” is going to wrap up all its major storylines, and give us a nice “The End” kind of moment. Only to return in the fall.

So if you don’t like the “last” season, why not just ignore it?

The more I thought about it, the more I started to wonder if maybe the author of the “Babylon 5” essay didn’t have a point. After all, a lot of shows wear out their welcome long before someone realizes they need to pull the plug.

Off the top of my head, I remember people really hating the final season of “Night Court.” A lot of fans feel like “Seinfeld” dragged on at least a season too long.

And a lot people who loved “Gilmore Girls” disliked the final, not-creator-run season.

Which brings me to the opposite point: Sometimes, I think the crowd is wrong.

For better or worse, I thought the final season of “Gilmore Girls” was just fine. Not as good as previous seasons, perhaps, and with a few awkward storylines that had to be dealt with before the show could come to its truly lovely conclusion.

So let me put the question to you – if you could pretend any show ended early, which show would it be, what season would it end with, and why?

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