It’s The End Of This Show As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)

It’s The End Of This Show As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)

By KiddoFriday - May 28th, 2010Categories: Rant, Television

The long-awaited, highly anticipated series finale of Lost had the Interweb in a year-long maelstrom of Lost fan speculation, news and viral overload. For six seasons its writers wove intrigue after intrigue, without producing any real resolve or explanation. But it HAD to end in some cataclysmic, life-altering revelation or at least connect these webs of coincidence and symbols… right?

Wrong, and you brought it on yourself.

Of course it was all for not and will likely be remembered as one of the hugest failures in television, with a frustratingly unfulfilling finale that left fans scratching their heads, pulling their hair, and punching whoever was closest.

Don’t blame the writers. Blame the network. Heck, blame yourself for egging them on!

Anyone who has ever become entrapped by me in an emphatic preaching regarding the shelf-life of the contemporary television series, knows that I am a strong proponent of the British model by which series air for a only a handful of years and produce a limited number of episodes, usually no more than ten, per season.

For the most part this is uniquely UK, but as of late US networks like FX have begun to emulate this model. It makes room for new and original shows and allows beloved series to go out at the height of their quality and popularity. Conversely, there is a plethora of critically acclaimed and fan-favorite US television series that arguably went before their time. Lasting only one season, Freaks and Geeks was a launching pad for the careers of funnymen Seth Rogen, Jason Segal, and the indefinable entity that is James Franco. Despite its short tenure, it still does well in DVD sales, airs regularly in syndication and is lamented for its untimely departure. In a similar case, Arrested Development aired before North Americans were ready to wake up and become smart, engaged TV viewers (a statement immediately discredited by the advent of The Hills, nay, all things MTV). But, it went out as hilarious as it came and its cancellation has become in hindsight one of the greatest tragedies in television (somewhere behind the Lost finale).

Cut down prematurely, these shows are preserved fondly in our memories, our DVD boxsets, our TiVos. In their “failure” they managed to avoid the point of decline that many other beloved shows – their storylines and love-triangles beyond exhausted – have reached. Network executives are bleeding tired series dry, refusing to acknowledge that the shark has jumped and is somewhere off at sea, circling the dinghy of the passengers of Flight 815. Simply put, Lost and many other series should know when to say enough is enough and turn down those fifth, sixth, etc. seasons.

I know Jack. It eats me up too.

Take 24 starring Kiefer Sutherland. Its unique real time format drew in viewership during the first season, but ratings were in decline the last few seasons. Last week the show aired its final episode, concluding an eight season run, drawing a lackluster response (everyone too busy watching Lost) and leaving a giant question mark on the future of Kiefer Sutherland’s career. Can he make a return to film? (Ed note: What’s that? An upcoming supporting role in the Owen Wilson driven big screen adaption of the single-paneled comic “Marmaduke“? Well, he could… it’s never… you know… nevermind.)

Desperate Housewives too emerged as an inherently peerless ratings grab. The first season established a community full of sordid characters and juicy plots… and that is where it should have ended. A miniseries would have sufficed; Teri Hatcher could be cryogenically frozen so as to release her withered beauty on future (terrified) generations.

Hugging your knees and gently rocking back and forth seems to be the only defense.

One of the best, funniest shows currently on the air, The Office, is dangerously close to gnawing its own foot off. Adapted from the British original, the once quirky show chronicling the hi-jinx of Dunder Mifflin Paper Co., managed by the oblivious and obnoxious Michael Scott (Steve Carell), has strayed from its initial feel and instead turned to a heavy focus on romantic subplots that detract from the fun. Seeing Pam and Jim taking turns unrequitedly pining after one another tugged at heartstrings the first three seasons, but as of late their relationship has become… well, boring. Pam’s maternity leave provided a welcome break. Steve Carell has announced that the 2010-2011 season will signal his departure, so hopefully the rest of the cast will take the  hint.

Even Jersey Shore, which, if all is right in this world, will not go down in the annals of revered television (and may just prove to be a bad dream), has already peaked. There won’t be a season as shocking or genuine or truly “interesting” as this first season.

But it’s not scripted you say – how can you exhaust plot lines that are generated by real life? It’s pretty widely acknowledged now that even the most gritty, authentic reality television is lightly scripted or manufactured in some way. I mean, those people can’t be real… right?

Moreover, the huge success of the show has taken a cast of then unknowns and thrown them into the spotlight and a world of celebrity unbeknownst to them. Take the Guidos off the Shore and they become tainted. What should happen, say, they accidentally be exposed to art, or literature?!?!?

There won’t be a season quite like the first because the raw people we saw will have changed, therefore the entire essence (I can’t believe I used the word “essence” in the same thought process as Jersey Shore) will have changed with it. But don’t worry, MTV will still milk the shit out of it.

The television industry is a business. Creative types sacrifice their principles and art, ignoring what they know is failing and floundering because they are in the hands of network executives compelled by the bottom line. Gone are the days when network execs were rock stars – the Brandon Tartikoff’s if you will, making anti-drug PSA’s on Saved by the Bell! Now they are faceless jerks that don’t care what was going on down under that hatch or what the six numbers etched on the side mean!

I'm still not entirely sure what "The Marriage Ref" is (and I don't think he knows either).

Longevity doesn’t always equal success or quality. Over-expending and over-extending have diminished the legacies of good television shows. There’s a time to know when to call it quits, or, at least have the decency of Seinfeld to keep it top tier until the bitter end, and choke out in the finale. At least give me that… and then star in a funny new show, Larry David.

Honorable  mentions: Ugly Betty, How I Met Your Mother. You’re on the cusp fellas!

Thou whicheth shalt not be spoken in mineth house: Two and a Half Men, any of the variations of CSI. If you watch either of these shows, get the H-E- double hockey sticks off this website. Pls & ty.