Network TV Closure

Ending A Series Well

So once again, we find ourselves approaching the end of another television broadcast season. At some point in the next few days, I will be assessing whether or not the series that were renewed deserved to come back, and whether the shows that were cancelled did likewise. But for now, I want to take a look at a different type of idea. The idea of closure, at least when it comes to TV.

It is rare for a television series to come to an ending that satisfies both the audience and the critics. One need only look at the concluding episodes of “The Sopranos”, “Lost” or “Seinfeld” for some of the most obvious examples. But some series do manage to make a perfect exit — one need only consider the final episode of “The Shield”, “Six Feet Under”, “Justified” or “Breaking Bad” to serve as examples. However, it is often much harder for a network series to come to a satisfying conclusion for obvious reasons — it is often in the network’s interest to keep the series going as long as possible, so that by the time the series does end, most of the people who watched it originally no longer care about it.

Quite a few series of note have come to an end this season, some of their own volition, some mainly because they were canceled before they could come to a satisfactory conclusion. One of the latter examples will be the series “Nashville”. An interesting critically acclaimed series when it started its run in 2012, it will come to a premature end on May 25 due to, like most series, low ratings. Intriguing for awhile, it never managed to truly decide what kind of series it wanted to be, and eventually ran out of creative steam last year. That said, one can imagine its devoted fan base will be deeply upset that it comes to an end with likely so many gaping plotlines still open. And considering that the showrunners had no warning, they’ll have no chance to close them.

Another series that some of its fans will probably be relieved is coming to an end is “Castle”, mainly because if the series had gone on to a Season 9, it would’ve done so without Stana Katic as Beckett. Considering that the entire series was based around the relationship between Beckett and Castle, and that the writers probably would’ve been forced to kill her character off to continue, one can hardly imagine how the show would’ve been able to proceed without it. The outcry would probably have been even larger than when Shonda Rhimes killed off Derek Shepherd last year. (Of course, now that series has been picked up for Season 13, but that’s another article.)

Another show will be airing its final episode in the next few weeks, which has still upset those devoted fans watching “Person of Interest” On a purely personal basis, I have grown rather irritated with the show, first for its protracted battle with a supercomputer last year that never took off, then for killing off some beloved characters in the Season 4 finale, and finally for taking an entire year between that season finale and the Season 5 premiere. CBS has been known for treating some series exceptionally badly over the years, and while this treatment wasn’t as upsetting the same way they handled “Chicago Hope” or “Joan of Arcadia”, it was still rather offensive. Hopefully, the writers will be able to end the series on their own terms, but it’s frustrating when a network treats a show this disdainfully.

Then again, CBS did make a good ending with “The Good Wife” on Sunday. I have already spoken about how the series significance in an article last week, so I’ll just say that I was mostly satisfied with how the Kings managed to bring their magnum opus to an end. Yes, it didn’t wrap up a lot of the plotlines, and we don’t know whether Alicia will finally end up with Jason or stay with her husband, or stay with her law firm or end up running for governor herself. But the final minutes of the episodes had a perfect synchronicity with the opening teaser of the Pilot, and it demonstrated how much Alicia has grown over the series seven year run. It had some nice touches that we wouldn’t have expected (they overdid it a little, but it was still good to see Josh Charles again) and it left us with the feeling of completeness we almost never get from broadcast TV these days.

Of course, the fact of the matter is closure is something of a lost art because its becoming more and more irrelevant. Considering how many old or classic series have been or will be brought back in this year alone (a Gilmore Girls revival is coming this fall; new editions of “24” and “Prison Break” are on Fox’s fall schedule), one could make the argument that closure pretty much ends the possibility of the sequel or movie. (We probably will get an X-Files Season 11 as well, someday.) So who knows? Maybe someday Castle and Beckett will be solving murders again. One just wishes that sometimes the networks would realize that sometimes they should let a series go. That’s what fanfiction and comics are for, after all.