I never thought that I’d admit this
in print for the entire campus to read: I cry at the end of every
school year when I have to go back home for the summer. While I
don’t desire to sit through another month of boring lectures,
it does make me melancholy to see the fun college life come to a
close at the end of April. I’ve been like this since I was a
child. I never wanted the party to end.

Julie Pannuto

This not only holds true for my life, but for the lives of TV
characters on my favorite shows. Sometimes it is hard to let go
after the series has gone on too long. This year, the party ended
for “Sex and the City” and will soon be over for NBC
favorites “Friends” and “Fraiser” as
well.

While the pilot may be important for the success of a television
show, the series finale is essential in shaping its legacy. I still
remember the finale of “Who’s the Boss?” that ran
back in 1992. It was sentimental yet funny, as Angela and Tony
ended up together — just as we always wanted — in a
scene that mimicked the pilot.

Perhaps it is a level of predictability that makes finales
successful. How would we look back on “Who’s the
Boss?” if years of sexual tension between the two leads
resulted in nothing? Predictability was certainly the case for
February’s farewell to “Sex and the City,” where
Carrie ended up in the arms of Mr. Big. Sure, it is what we all
expected, but it was what we all wanted too. With shows like
“Sex and the City,” the finale is the bow on top of the
package, tying everything up nice and neatly so viewers, though
slightly saddened, walk away feeling content the series is
over.

The alternative is much bleaker. Messing with predictability can
leave viewers wanting more and forever remembering the terrible
final moments rather than the seasons that preceded them. Case in
point: “Dawson’s Creek.” Unlike “Sex and
the City,” which chose to go home when the night was still
young and everyone was still looking good, “Dawson’s
Creek” stayed until the wee hours of the morning. After years
of conditioning viewers to believe Joey and Dawson are “soul
mates,” the show decided to pair Joey with Pacey in the end,
leaving the leading man alone. The two-hour farewell was also
plagued by the drawn out death of Jen and a lame closing scene.

Similarly, writers tried to do the unconventional with the
series finale of “Seinfeld.” The ensemble was on trial
after uncharacteristically mocking a perfect stranger as he was
being robbed. Charged for their failure to act, the show used the
courtroom to bring together memorable characters of the past
— the episode’s only redeeming quality. When Jerry,
Kramer, Elaine and George ended up in a jail cell at the end,
everyone was shaking their heads.

Going crazy at the end of a series may seem inconsequential to
networks — after all, it is the end — but it’s
the fans that are left disappointed. “Felicity” tried
to keep everyone happy two years ago with four flashback episodes
in the end of its run that gave the heroine the chance to go back
in time and chose a different man. The uncharacteristic
supernatural theme and “Wizard of Oz”-type ending prove
that a finale can’t do both; it has to choose the path of
predictability or go astray.

A month from now, “Friends” will be making its way
out the door and we all can predict that Ross and Rachel will be
back together in the end, and all the friends will go on with their
more grown-up lives while keeping that special bond they found in
New York City.

Is there really any other way to end? Perhaps Rachel will take
the job in Paris but then realize she can’t leave behind her
friends and come running home to the Big Apple like Carrie. The
other option is for the series to go astray like its NBC
counterpart “Seinfeld.” In the end, will we be crying
because it is over or outraged by a misguided attempt at
originality? Even non-fans are a little curious to find out.

 

Much to Katie’s dismay, the finale of
“Dallas” sucked too. E-mail sympathy to
“mailto:gateskm@umich.edu”>gateskm@umich.edu.

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