Just a warning spoilers included…
Before DVRs or binge watching became commonplace, summers were a perfect time for fans of the small screen to ponder television season-ending questions like “Who shot J.R.?”
Ratings, advertising dollars, Americans' short attention spans and a gluttony of streaming options are contributing to a rapidly changing entertainment landscape. That said, people know what they like.
Most shows fade into oblivion but when the audience connects, television becomes part of our weekly schedules. Judging from social media feeds, the series finale of Game of Thrones and The Big Bang Theory were the latest examples. I never watched a single episode of the HBO fantasy series, and survived. I’ve read that several fans were not satisfied with the way the show concluded.
No matter how good the series, some endings fail to meet expectations. I watched Quantum Leap for its entire run. I felt cheated because Dr. Sam Beckett didn’t leap home.
When television sets suddenly cut to black on a Sunday in 2007, fans of the Sopranos were left wondering about their cable connections and what happened to favorite anti-hero Tony Soprano. Over a decade later show writer and producer David Chase still answers questions about the fate of the fictional New Jersey mob boss.
Drama isn’t the only genre known to leave engaged fans unsatisfied. Considered one of the top television shows of all time, Seinfeld’s ensemble cast built a show about nothing. Writers and actors made audiences howl with delight, once they understood the humor.
But nothing lasts forever, Yada, Yada, Yada, they ended up in jail!
At least they didn’t yada yada the best parts.
There are of course examples of happy endings for popular television shows, Ross and Rachel ended up together on Friends, while The Big Bang Theory also ended with a Nobel Prize and pregnancy announcement. 23.44 million tuned in to see the conclusion to the longest running multi camera comedy series.
Television is entertainment which allows viewers to escape into the characters world. The audience can feel as though we become a member of their family and friend group. We experience the emotions of the characters.
Television can also reflect society, and help us to connect with our parents, or kids and possibly change the way we view our world.
Americans saw the Vietnam War though troops saving lives in Korea, part of MASH. All in the Family and The Jeffersons used humor to illustrate differences in racial attitudes and generational conflicts. Archie Bunker was a lovable but wrongheaded character who stubbornly held onto his racial bigotry. While Archie was resistant to change – the ‘Meathead,’ Gloria and Edith cajoled him. Archie may not have changed but through superb writing and an award winning cast, the country saw a different way.
Plans to air live action recreations of All in the Family and The Jeffersons episodes were surprising. I just hope they don’t screw it up. If they do, I’ll turn to DVDs or something else to fill the show hole.