Monday, August 15, 2011

Never underestimate a good ending

This past week, my boyfriend and I started watching the first season of Breaking Bad. I know, we're a little behind the curve on this one. Season 4 has already started airing and Season 5 has been confirmed, although it will be the show's final season. This already makes me sad and I haven't even started watching Season 2.

I had no idea how extensive Bryan Cranston's acting career has been. I just remembered him as Dr. Tim Whatley, a memorable reoccurring role on Seinfeld. It's a testament to his acting chops and natural charisma that he stood out in a show on which he only occasionally guest starred. He is, of course, sublime as Walter White, the title character in Breaking Bad.

I always wish that truly great TV shows could go on forever even though it's been proven time and again that nothing lasts forever and even good things must come to an end. This got me thinking of good TV endings and bad TV endings. So I thought I'd draw up a list. 'Cause everyone loves lists.

Great ending: Seinfeld
Seinfeld ran for nine glorious seasons and when it was announced that it would end, I was beside myself. How could this show end? It was at the top of its game. There had to be more stories about nothing. I couldn't fathom TV without Seinfeld

But to this day, I thank Jerry Seinfeld for deciding to go out on top, leaving us wanting more. Even the "reunion show" assembled for the seventh season of Curb Your Enthusiasm was great and didn't tarnish in any way the original show. It was pitch perfect.

Bad ending: Friends
As much as I loved this show, it should have ended after nine seasons. The tenth was basically a prolonged goodbye episode that sucked the life out of the show. It's like Friends took itself too seriously and got a little too narcissistic towards the end. It left a bitter taste in my mouth. It's as if the show was saying to its viewers "OMG, you are SO gonna miss me! What will you DO when we're off the air?" Umm, change the channel and see what else is on, that's what.

Great ending: Cheers
This beloved, long-running show was one of my faves. In 11 seasons, it never lost its gusto, and the last episode was appropriately touching, a perfect ending to a phenomenal run. Despite some major casting changes (Kirstey Alley replacing Shelley Long; Woody Harrelson stepping in for Nicholas Colasanto), this show thrived on an incredible ensemble cast and supporting characters. It will be remembered with much love and affection.

Bad ending: Roseanne
It pains me to put this show in the "bad ending" category since its first few seasons were rock solid. Relevant, bold storylines, great writing and lovable characters. However, this show lost its way well before it actually ended after nine seasons. One major mistake was to recast the role of Becky (originally played by Lecy Goranson, Sarah Chalke took over the role in Season 6; Lecy came back in Season 8 only to be replaced by Sarah once again in Season 9). 

Recasting is not always a death sentence for a show (see Cheers above). However, recasting someone in the SAME role will kill the show, either quickly, or in this case, over four seasons. Once that was done, I just couldn't buy it anymore. Sarah Chalke is amazing in Scrubs and has some real comedic talent but Lecy was, and always will be, Becky. 

I don't mind shows taking creative risks but the surreal nature of the final season just didn't resonate with me, and I suspect, with many other viewers as well, since Roseanne's rating plummeted from #1 in Season 2 to #35 in Season 9. This show got off to a great start but in the end, crashed and burned.

Great ending: Buffy the Vampire Slayer
After seven incredible seasons, how does one end Buffy the Vampire Slayer? Not to worry, Joss Whedon was on the job. The finale was everything we could have possibly hoped for, and for a show that could get pretty dark due to its subject matter, it ended on a very positive and inspiring note. A fitting end to such a formidable show.

Bad ending: Angel
We can't blame Joss Whedon for this one. Rumour has it he was informed midway through the fifth season that the show would not be renewed, so some major adjustments needed to be made to wrap up Angel much sooner than expected. And that's exactly the feeling I got watching the last half of the final season. The ending left me feeling empty, like it wasn't the proper ending. Something about it just felt... wrong. Kinda like the TV executives who decided to cancel this show well before its time.

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