In 1980, a handgun loomed out of the darkness as a Texas oilman was left bleeding on his office floor all summer long while everyone wondered “Who shot J.R.?”
It was a brilliant move that kept the minds of viewers continually mulling over potential scenarios at home and at work throughout a rather boring summer TV season.
Today, many shows don’t bother with a big build-up. Since many of the programs only run 10 to 13 episodes, a big show-stopper finale isn’t necessarily required. Instead, they pose questions and subtle twists – just enough to entice viewers to wait the six to 12 months before the series returns with new episodes.
But the traditional major networks still love the big shakedown. Every season, they go for the biggest, baddest, most shocking episode that we Never. Saw. Coming.
The staff at Seattle-Grace-Mercy-West-Grey-Sloan-Memorial Hospital have dealt with bombs, shootings, car accidents and a plane crash. Every year, Shonda Rhimes tries to up the Grey’s Anatomy finale ante. So what’s left? The end of the world?
Sort of. This year it’s … a super storm. And I’m having visions of The Wizard of Oz.
ABC’s Revenge may not have hurricane-force winds, but it will close off its second season by killing off a major character. For Chicago Fire, fires and various deadly situations are de rigueur. So on May 15, producers are just going to add a little extra fuel to the flames.
Back in J.R.’s first incarnation, there wasn’t much new programming during the summer months. And beyond your mother’s daytime “stories,” TV didn’t have much influence on our daily lives.
Today’s television landscape is different. The seasons are shorter. Programs are introduced based on our seasonal viewing patterns.
And who’s talking around the water-cooler anymore, anyway? Forget the influx of water bottles and take-out coffee cups. With tweeting, texting and even the occasional IM to share your theories, no one needs to surreptitiously hover in the corner, filling paper cups and listening to those strange watery bowel noises.
Television is part of our conversation, our fashion, our music and even our language. We don’t need a reason to discuss it. We just do.
So is a season finale send-off really necessary? If the show is good, won’t viewers come back?
There’s nothing wrong with a big finish. NCIS has been building a storyline all season that would likely culminate in something altogether huge. For its season finale, Bones tied the Booth and Brennan love story to an arch-nemesis who has been plotting against them all year.
But don’t blow something up just because you can. We’re not 12. It has to make sense. The finale shouldn’t pop up like … a super storm.
I just want the writers to treat me like a reasonably intelligent person. I’ll come back for the next season. I promise. Which is more than I can say for some of these shows.
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