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Finale Fever – Expected and Unexpected
May 26, 2019  | By David Hinckley
 

What’s so good about goodbye?
All it does is make you cry.
--“What’s So Good About Goodbye,” Smokey Robinson
 
If you’re looking for a proposition that can bring a polarized nation together, here’s a candidate: No one likes to see his or her favorite TV show end.
  
Take, say, Game of Thrones, whose fans have spent this week torching last Sunday’s final episode much the way Daenerys torched that unfortunate village a week earlier.
 
I offer no defense of the final episode, or season, in which character and story arcs were hurried along as if everyone had a party to get to.
 
I would, however, suggest taking a tiny step back and appreciating the fact that Game of Thrones actually got the chance to have an ending.
 
For shows with fewer viewers and thus less leverage in the programming war room, that’s a luxury, a fact that came to mind last week when Fox announced last week it was not renewing Star (top),
 
As a series, Star never played in the same league with GoT – or The Big Bang Theory, another TV god that came to the end of a long, adored run with a much better-received sendoff this month.
 
What turned out to be the final episode of Star, on May 8, drew 3.46 million viewers, some 14 million fewer than Game of Thrones. That gap further grows once you count the people who chose to be infuriated by the countless reairings of Game of Thrones.
 
Star, which focused on three flawed yet sympathetic young women in the treacherous and soapy world of pop music fame, was created by Lee Daniels, who earlier scored a megahit on Fox with Empire and was rewarded, let’s assume, by getting to create a second, somewhat similar show Fox hoped would catch similar lightning.
 
Star never did. Still, it was an entertaining show that drew a respectable audience by current prime-time broadcast standards, and several million fans took it as a hard slap when Fox shut it down.
 
And another thing I would like to clarify
Is how can farewell be fair?
 
That’s the TV game, of course. Shows end, often in the middle of what seems to be an ongoing storyline.
 
Star, however, took that frustrating truth to a level rarely seen even in a business as cold-blooded as TV cancellations.
 
[Alert: Spoiler incoming.] The last three minutes of the final episode were a contemporary reprise of GoT’s Red Wedding episode, only with guns instead of knives. We saw many shots, a lot of ducking, an equal amount of toppling, a good amount of blood, a roomful of screaming and then a cut to the instructions on how viewers can order the music from this week’s episode.
 
Maybe it was designed to show us what the final scene of The Sopranos might have looked like if the camera had rolled for another three minutes.
 
Probably not.
 
Maybe the Star ending was designed as a cliffhanger that would leave fans buzzing all summer about what would happen when things picked up in the fall. Except those fans will now just have to hang onto the cliff forever because no one is coming to rescue the story.
 
Well, okay, Hulu or Netflix or someone could pick it up. There could be a movie. As of now, however, we have no indication who’s dead, who’s alive or what happened to the baby.
 
Since you said goodbye to me
All I’ve known is misery
 
Game of Thrones fans may not like what happened with Tyrion Lannister or Bran Star or most of the other survivors, but at least they had something more or less concrete to complain about it.
 
The Star ending reminded me of why the Sopranos ending was awful – because it told the viewer, in effect, to grab a piece of paper and write his or her own ending.
 
Sorry, no. It was your story we watched all these years. Don’t walk out of the room before you tell us how it ends.
 
In any case, sticking the ending of any good TV show is way harder than it might look, and sometimes the better and more complex the show, the harder it is to remain faithful to the story and also acknowledge the legitimate expectations of the audience.
 
(The complexity of that challenge comes up repeatedly, by the way, in a new book called Television Finales, edited by Douglas Howard and a guy TVWW readers might have heard of, David Bianculli.)
 
Some people who write TV shows will tell you they have an ending in their head before they write the first episode. Others find their ending as they go along, and in either case, they count themselves lucky when the show runs the full course, and they get to implement it.
 
Moreover, with the number of quality TV shows out there these days, every year gives us another round of finales. At various points not too far in the future, we’ll see the end of shows like Homeland, The Blacklist and maybe even The Walking Dead – though TWD, like GoT, has an afterlife through sequels, prequels, spinoffs and anything else that might keep the flame burning.
 
More immediately, there’s a unique finale at the end of this month: the long-awaited, almost mythical Deadwood movie.
 
Deadwood was initially sketched out for four seasons. It only ran three, so a wrap-up movie (originally two movies) became the consolation prize. On May 31, HBO delivers it.
 
Full disclosure: To me, Deadwood may have been the best TV series ever, right in there with Mad Men, The Honeymooners, and The West Wing. Further disclosure: The last scene of the third and final season of the Deadwood series was maybe the best finale ever.
 
So to me, Deadwood will have two finales. Which is what many Game of Thrones fans probably wish they could have. Star fans would have settled for one.
 
If leaving causes grieving
And depart can break your heart
Tell me what’s so good about it
I coulda done without it
What’s so good about goodbye?
 
 
 
 
 
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