Finalizing the Finales
Season enders around the dial
Having waded through approximately half of this spring’s 28-day May Sweeps Month (officially coming to an end on Wednesday, May 24), I’ve come to one conclusion: Season finales deliver a lot more tease than climax. With assorted sitcoms, dramas and reality shows coming to their season (and in some cases series) closers, May has subjected us to more cliffhangers, question marks and “will he/she or won’t he/she” dilemmas than an entire week of soap opera programming. But does all this conclusion leave us salivating for more, or merely burned out on the conventions of the medium? Do we even need season finales anymore?
Lately, the Idiot Box has become increasingly less reliant on the traditional television seasons. Once upon a time, summer was the exclusive realm of reruns. But, with new cable series drifting in and out on a monthly basis (HBO’s “Deadwood” returns in June!), network television has felt a need to play catch-up. As a result, we get all sorts of new shows throughout the summer (even if most of them are cheap-to-produce reality shows). Networks have learned they can keep us hanging only so long.
The other new stumbling block to traditional September-through-May programming is the “limited” series. The return of FOX’s “American Idol,” for example, introduced us to the relatively new concept of the “fall season finale” when it forced the popular show “Prison Break” off the air in November. “Prison Break” came back in March, leading to its “spring season finale.” Two finales for the price of one!
Even with such “innovations,” audiences this season seem just as subject to the four traditional wrap-ups: Graduations, weddings, births and deaths.
UPN’s teen detective “Veronica Mars” matriculated on her May 9 season finale. No word yet on if she’ll return on the newly formed CW network, though. “Malcolm in the Middle” definitely won’t be returning in the fall (the show shut down production after seven seasons), but star Frankie Muniz finally admitted his rapidly advancing puberty and accepted a high school diploma on his character’s behalf. The cast of FOX’s “The O.C.” graduates from Harbor High on May 18.
Wedding-wise, two of the kids from WB’s “One Tree Hill” got hitched on May 3. NBC’s “Las Vegas” followed up with a quickie wedding on May 12. Over on CBS, “CSI: Miami” star David Caruso will get hitched on the 22nd, while Charlie Sheen considers giving up his bachelorhood on “Two and a Half Men” the very same night (which, considering recent headlines, seems like a bad idea).
NBC’s “Will & Grace” drops its final curtain after eight seasons on May 18. They’ll be doing so with the birth of Grace’s baby. And maybe a wedding. But I doubt it.
And, finally, what would season finales be without a little death? CBS’ “NCIS” and NBC’s “Law & Order” could both be losing team members. NBC’s “ER” also concludes its season with a cliffhanger shooting--which isn’t quite as cool as offing a guy with a falling helicopter, but I guess we’ll have to live with it.