Thursday, May 25, 2006

Finales

It's been a few weeks of finales, television-wise, and I have to say it has left me vaguely annoyed. Or in the case of last night's Lost finale, actively pissed off. What was that? I have finally joined the ranks of other Lost fans disillusioned with what promised to be a really cool, weird, and innovative show, only to be steadily worn down by a season of deferals, tangential storylines, and overt digressions, never giving us anything approaching closure on any of the various narrative spurs that have been running off madly in all directions.

All of this leading up to last night's two-hour craptacular exercise in wasting my time. OK, so a few things did happen -- we found out (sort of) what happens when the button in the hatch doesn't get pushed, there was a halfway-decent showdown between the traitorous Michael and Jack & co., Michael got Walt back, and Jack & co. were captured by the Others. But seriously -- those things could have been dispatched in twenty minutes, not two hours.

I return to my original thesis about the show: it was launched with the expectation of a quick cancellation; when it became a big hit, the writers were left scrambling, and have essentially been playing a delaying game. Get it together, guys! What's wrong with setting a finite timeline on the series?

The other finale that annoyed me was The West Wing ... here's a series I loved beyond what I think an academic is technically allowed to love a TV show, and followed it religiously from the beginning, even suffering through the dreadful fifth season that I think was trying to compensate fir the loss of Aaron Sorkin by being poorly and humourlessly written. It redeemed itself through season seven somewhat, reclaiming a bit of the frenetic pacing and humour of the Sorkin years (more the former than the latter, alas).

But the series finale? Nothing happened. Toby got a pardon, CJ got a lot of job offers, Jed Bartlett spent a lot of time looking soulfully out windows, Santos was sworn in, and Debbie got an inordinate amount of screen time (which could have been spent more profitably with Sam Seaborn) harranging Bartlett about getting dressed for the Inauguration.

Not to harp on the Sam Seaborn thing, but seriously: he was everyone's favourite character, why wouldn't you use him more in the last few episodes as long as you've got Rob Lowe on the payroll again?

In the season premiere, we got a brief glimpse of the future in which a few things were revealed: Toby was a prof at Columbia, CJ was married Danny Concannon, Charlie was doing something at the UN (and had an icky moustache), and Will Bailey had been elected to Congress. Would it have been so painful in the season finale to have had a proleptic montage in which we see these characters we've come to love doing these things???

I think I am retrospectively pissed off about these questions, because this past week I've been working through season five of Six Feet Under on DVD. Now that was a series finale! Be warned, if you haven't yet made it to season five: by about two thirds of the way through, it will take you to depths of despair and desperation you didn't think was possible for a television show. But the final episode redeems all, and for a show that was frequently dark enough to be painfully depressing, it ended on a transcendent note of hope without being cheesey or trite ... and managed to put all the travails of the characters in perspective. Truly, a television high point.

Here's my thought: now that the writers on Six Feet Under are out of a job, let's fire the Lost writers and drop them in. Are you listening, JJ Abrams?

3 comments:

jo said...

Dave and I saw, for the first time, an episode of Lost in England (of all places), where it is broadcast, and we were, frankly, baffled by it. But then, being two old anglophiles, we only really watch old British television shows (like, for example, The Sandbaggers, from the late 1970s, which we just watched on DVD--terrible production values; great--for the most part--acting!) On an almost completely unrelated note: Did you see recent reports in the media that more Americans had voted for the current American Idol than for the current American president? O the humanity!
P.S. Break a leg at the Congress!

jo said...

I forgot to say in the last comment: The Apartment is a superb Billy Wilder film! My favourite line occurs when Jack Lemon's landlady asks him if he has any napkins and when he says paper serviettes, she calls him a Beatnik.

Awesome!

Lesley said...

I have to agree and disagree (don't you love it?) with you. While I actually enjoyed the Lost finale (somewhat), I can understand why you felt left in the cold. It was kind of dumb. It was a play by the writers. "Tune in and we'll tell you why the plane crashed" and then they tell us and we're sitting there all "the hell?" about it. Frankly, I'll give them another chance if only because it's something to do on Wednesday night until something better comes on (ya ya I know, read a book sez the professeur). And I will whole heartedly agree with the West Wing finale. It's like it rushed right through to tie up loose ends before it ended. It was like there was something missing. And I loved (loved loved loved) Aaron Sorkin and wished he was there through it all. I think it would have been better done (is that right?) if he had been at the helm for the end. Sigh...what am I going to do all summer. Oh right, I have a couple of books I want to read...