Making the world a better place, one show at a time.

My Photo
Washington, DC, United States
I guess you would like to know a little bit about the person making all these proclamations upon good taste and horrid characters. I'm Andrea and when I was 15 I fell in love. An hour after meeting "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" I was forever altered in the way only love can, and I never questioned for one minute afterwards that television offered me an amazing chance to experience lives and moments that I could never imagine. So now, when I'm not getting distracted by my real life, I write about TV. I also read, am finishing a Master's degree in English Literature, travel, am attempting to learn vegan cooking, am the 5th of 6 children, and drive my roommate nuts by constantly cleaning our already clean apartment. Now that we're old friends, time for you to take my opinions as the be all and end all.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Peaky Blinders Season 1 - Don't Let the Name Throw You

A good recommendation is hard to find.

I haven't been particularly enthused with television for the last while.  (Maybe you can tell by the fact that I didn't post a single review in all of 2014.  Yikes!)  There have been good shows, but nothing that really captured my attention and imagination.  (With the exception of Outlander, but that is whole other story.)

Talking with my friend KP the other day she told me that she was going to start watching Peaky Blinders.  This is show that Netflix recommends to me all the time, based on my viewing history.  But, honestly, I wanted nothing to do with it.  First off, the name is terribly off-putting to me.  It's hard to say and didn't give me a whole lot of information.  Second, the cover art Netflix uses didn't appeal to me.  I wish a were not so easily influenced by trivial matters, but marketing is important.  After explaining my reservations to KP, I asked her to let me know how she like the show.  Less than an hour after we were off the phone I got a text.

"You must watch this show."

Okay, right-e-o, friend.

I'm so glad I did.

Before I start gushing about everything that I love so much, how about I do the "what is it about" part.  Peaky Blinders is Thomas Shelby's story.  Thomas (Cillian Murphy) is the unofficial patriarch of the Shelby family, an Irish/Romany clan running an unlicensed gambling operation (along with other, um, endeavors) in their neighborhood of South Heath in Birmingham, England.  Tommy, his brothers, and his friends are all recently returned from France, decorated veterans of World War I.  The Shelby's are professionally known as the Peaky Blinders (see, I'll explain the name!), because they sew razor blades into the bills of their caps (peaks), allowing them easy access to a weapon (to blind with) when those around them don't want to do things their way.  Tommy, flanked by older brother Arthur (Paul Anderson), younger brother John (Joe Cole), and advised by Aunt Polly (Helen McCrory), is working out his plan to take over the the legal gambling syndicate of his rival Billy Kimber (Charlie Creed-Mills).  Tommy's desires become more complicated when he unintentionally comes into possession of a shipment of guns, which could bring him a financial windfall, but also puts in him the sights of Inspector Chester Campbell (Sam Neill).  Campbell has been sent by Winston Churchill from Belfast, a city he has "cleaned up," to retrieve the stollen guns, and relieve Birmingham from the sway of its criminal element.  Tommy's world is even further complicated by the arrival of Grace (Annabelle Wallis), a mysterious woman recently hired at his pub The Garrison, determined to bring singing back to the pub, a tradition Tommy has banned since his return from France.

Okay, done.  That's enough back story.  Can't hold back the love!

I basically love everything about this show.  The story-lines are intricate, thoughtful, and accessible.  Each piece moves the others forward and while the audience is often at a loss for Tommy's direction, all is revealed in due time, without feeling patronizing.  The characters are real, complex, and completely fascinating.  The styling is superbly detailed.  And the majority of the soundtrack is The White Stripes, The Raconteurs, and Arctic Monkeys.  Now that might be a detail that doesn't matter to most people, or that others might find infuriating since isn't "of the period" but the music is used a beautiful compliment to the action.  It just works.  Everything on this show just works.

I could talk in detail about every single character, but I'll focus on the main two: Tommy and Pol.

I'm not always an actor-watcher.  I can tell good acting from bad acting, but I'll put up with less than stellar performances for an engaging story.  No need to compromise here.  The cast is phenomenal.  This is Cillian Murphy's part.  For years, in my mind at least, he couldn't shake the creep factor of Batman Begins.  I didn't disagree that he was talented, I just didn't want to watch him because it was always vaguely unsettling.  Murphy brings all that intensity, intelligence, and restrained passion to Tommy, but also a humanity, dignity, and sly humor that makes Tommy both ruthless and sympathetic.  This is not a case of the viewer being forced to accept a monster as the hero (a trend in TV I'm not super into), but rather an unflinching representation of a deeply broken man.  It's a fine balance that most shows can't manage: displaying the flaws of an individual who has suffered a great fissure in his soul without either sentimentalizing or moralizing.  (Okay, here's my tangent about it.  I love broken characters.  I will go all in with real human beings with real souls.  I detest being told that bad people are good people.  It's almost impossible to turn on the TV without the disingenuous display of characters who behave selfishly, corruptly, and maliciously, but are praised as "really good people."  Besides morally offensive, I find it boring, because it's false.  More on this later.)  In the last episode of Season 1, Aunt Polly says a prayer for her family.  Her words to God for Tommy sum up the situation perfectly, "Protect Tommy, who does what he does for us.  I think."

The counter-voice of the Shelby endeavor is Aunt Pol, played to perfection by Helen McCrory.  Pol is unsettled, having been displaced from her position of visible authority as leader of the Shelbys by the return of her nephews.  Pol is unsure of her place or her influence, but this doesn't lead her to desperation or foolishness.  She loves her family, but it is a demanding love.  While she cannot understand the changes in Tommy, she is unwilling to let her fear of what he is hiding from her damage her respect for him.  Pol could easily devolve into a caricature of a displaced woman, shrill and uncompromising, but thankfully, Pol is delicately balanced between vulnerability and tenacity.

Commentary on John Donne focuses on his use of metaphor, especially his use of multiple, often contrasting, metaphors within a single poem.  Donne layered metaphors because he understood that a single metaphor, no matter how oft repeated, would be incapable of expressing the inexpressible and therefore multiple metaphors must be blended in order to illuminate the motions of the soul.  Peaky Blinders is steeped in metaphor, because it strives to illuminate the nature of loyalty.  From the overarching cultural surroundings, down to the details of the character's haircuts, each element is designed to more fully explore loyalty.  The larger cultural divides (Irish vs English, Catholic vs Protestant) are present, without becoming pedantic.  They are noted as a part of the atmosphere the character live in, without being the overriding concern for them.  The deepest division is between those who served in the Army and those who did not.  Campbell chooses to see an affinity between Tommy and himself; he wants to assert an identity between the them.  Tommy sees no such thing.  Campbell is unworthy of consideration or respect in Tommy's eyes because he didn't serve in France.  Tommy gave his loyalty to his King and was repaid with tragedy, therefore he cannot indulge the moral preening of a man who considers himself a servant of the Crown from behind the safety of a desk.  Tommy is driven to pursue the life he does so that he never need be in a position again where is loyalty is abused.  Campbell's eventual moral quagmire is the natural result of his lack of awareness of where his loyalty lies.

On the weaker side of things is the romance between Shelby princess Ada (Sophie Rundle) and Freddie Throne (Iddo Goldberg), a Communist agitator and Tommy's former best friend, who saved his life in France.  The benefit of almost a 100 years of history, and 10 of millions of brutal deaths, make is pretty much impossible for me to look with any kindness on Communism, so Freddie's plight (pursued constantly by police as he attempts to organize a strike at the BSA) holds no sway for me.  Ada is spoiled and lazy.  She seems to be devoid of Aunt Pol's intellectual gifts, as well as any desire to productive or useful.  But they love each other.  The obvious irony of their affair is fairly easy to dismiss, both for them and for the viewer, because Tommy is the really threat to their future happiness.  Ada and Freddie are meeting clandestinely for fear of Tommy's wrath, but while Ada is correct that Freddie and Tommy are divided, she wrongly ascribes the motive to herself.  The division between Tommy and Freddie may come to head over Ada, but it is fundamentally religious in nature. Freddie saved Tommy during the war.  Tommy's hatred toward Freddie is the conflict of a salvation.  Freddie has denied Tommy the death that would have ended his suffering and a man who wishes for death will be unable to love the man who delivers him to life.  The promise of healing their relationship holds more interest than the eventual fate of Ada and Freddie's romance, though the later provides the potential for the former.  Ada's role in the season finale confrontation between the Peaky Blinders and the Kimber gang displays some growth on her part, but she still has a long way to go.  (Here's hoping Season 2 gives Ada some depth and wisdom.)

In contrast to the somewhat flat Ada/Freddie storyline is the love between Tommy and Grace.  Slow, subtle, and controlled, Tommy and Grace fall in love with a natural passion that the viewer cannot help but be entranced by.  Tommy and Grace are drawn toward each other, and united by conflicting self-interested motives.  As Tommy draws Grace into his business world, she draws out of him the memory of who he was before the war.

Peaky Blinders doesn't do the work for you.  Often, when a show is culturally enclosed, the viewer is subjected to awkward exposition that defies any naturalism.  (Think about product placement in Top Chef, and how no one would every say the name of the brand of broth they were using while making dinner, or the model of car they are getting into.)  This is what separates a good show (or just an enjoyable show) from an excellent show.   At no point when discussing the BSA does anyone turn to anyone else and say "Oh, you mean the British Small Arms factory?  The large manufacturing concern that is one of many in this flourishing industrial town in southwest England.  That BSA?"  (Okay, at least that is what the internet told me the BSA is, because seriously, it is never explained.)  The show gives the viewer all the information necessary to understand, without twisting in knots to avoid accusation of difficulty.  I strongly suggest using the subtitles, though.  It helps.

Sometimes you find a show that feels like it was made just for you.  I can't wait to dive into Season 2.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Arrow: The Superhero Buddy Comedy We've All Been Waiting For

Last fall LilBro asked me a question:

"Have you watched Arrow?"

I replied that no, I hadn't.  See, what I didn't tell him (or maybe I did) is that I make very arbitrary decisions in my life, and one of those is that, aside from Batman, I am not a DC-universe girl.  I am willing to accept certain things as an either/or situation, and therefore in the case of superheroes I'd picked Marvel and wasn't budging.

I have never been so happy to be wrong.

Don't let the cheesy promotional art fool you.  (Honestly, I think the cover art for Season 1, at least the one on Netflix, is rather lazy.  I can just see someone saying "how will we get people to watch this show?  I know, put a shirtless shot of our extremely buff star on the front, that'll do it."  Ugggg, poor choice to make your gritty sci-fi show look like a cheep romance novel.)   Arrow is well-crafted, engaging and funny.

Arrow has all the traditional elements of the hero story: after a young man is abandoned and forced by dire circumstances to shed his indolence and narcissism, he must return to his home and reestablish order by exorcising the corrupt.  Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell), the son of a successful industrialist, is rescued from a deserted island after being presumed dead in a ship wreck with his father five years before.  Oliver is covered in scars and stoic about his experiences, but wastes no time in setting out on his mission of ridding Starling City (which it took me almost the entire season to figure out is supposed to be Seattle) of the list of criminals and opportunists that his father passed on to him.  His family, mother Moira (Susanna Thompson), sister Thea (Willa Holland) and step-father Walter (Colin Salmon), and his best friend Tommy (Colin Donnell) are overjoyed at Oliver's return to life.  His ex-girlfriend Laurel (Katie Cassidy, aka original Ruby from Supernatural!) and her father Det. Lance (Paul Blackthrone) are less thrilled, since Laurel's sister Sara was on board the Queen's boat as Oliver's "guest" when it sank and Sara was killed.  They're not too happy about that.  Luckily, everyone soon has their hands full with Oliver-in-a-hood shooting arrows into all the scumbags and the evil conspiracy that his family may or may not be involved in.  Oliver recruits his mommy-mandated bodygaurd John Diggle (David Ramsey), a retired army officer, to help him, both as an extra set of eyes and as a conscience.  Before long team Hood (it makes me genuinely happy that Oliver never calls himself anything and that the two nicknames "the hood guy" and "the vigilantee" that his alter-ego is referred to as are assigned by the police) adds IT wiz-girl Felicity Smoak (Emily Bett Rickards), who reluctantly agrees that not all is well in Starling City.

Good sci-fi/fantasy tells stories about loss, redemption, courage, and struggle.  Removed from the confines of "realism" (which is a joke at this point, because really, how realistic are most show that claim to be set in the real world) sci-fi/fantasy shows have the freedom to tell classic stories that are deeply personal and truthful.  There is a never ending irony in that the more a show claims to be "realistic" the more likely it is to be a series of manufactured emotion, while a show that has an absurd premiss unlike to occur in reality is where one will find whole characters who behave as actual human beings do.  Accept the premise that Oliver is an expert marksman with an incredible capacity to allude the police, and from there you are able to ask questions about how a family copes when a dead son returns to life, about what is the difference between justice and revenge, and most importantly about what constitutes redemption; is it an accomplished act of internal change or is it a life-long dedication to continual gradual improvement.   Lost, in my opinion, wasn't successful because it wanted to have things both ways; it wanted the freedom to reach for truth that sci-fi/fantasy allows but it wanted the legitimacy of being like the real world that we live in day to day.  (I know, I know, is it possible for me to get through one post without complaining about Lost?  Well, obviously not.)

One of the best parts of Arrow is the Oliver is just plain awkward.  He talks to the side of people's faces, he's abrupt and vague, and says things that are socially inappropriate.  It's really funny.  Here's this handsome, rich, supposedly charming guy, and he's kind of a doofus because he was isolated from civilization for 5 years.  And he's a secret superhero.  It's much more humanizing than whining and brooding and agonizing would be and that is the way that shows usually try to soften boarder-line-sociopaths-as-main-characters.  The audience isn't subjected to a great deal of Oliver sitting alone thinking sad thoughts about his sad life and then having sad soliloquies about his sad life.  We are all better off for this, show and audience.  I'm not against a good brood on occasion, but it's overused and ineffective in most cases.  (Think about how awful those final David Tennent Doctor Who specials are, and really, it's mostly because The Doctor is a big sobby bore.)

Balancing the awkwardness, and preempting the brooding, is Dig.  The interaction between Oliver and Dig provides a great deal of the humor in the show, but also the opportunity to discuss the larger moral implications of extra-lawful activities without being heavy-handed about it.  Like my title says, Oliver and Dig are like buddy-cops; they quip and bicker, disagree about methods and morality, but share an ethical outlook that creates a bond of affection and respect.  Genuine male friendship are so satisfying to watch, not only because they are so rare on TV, but because it is a hopeful reminder to society that good men bring out the best in each other, and that men need strong non-sexual relationships just as much as women in order to grow as persons.  Strong friendship between men (not dudes) is a rebuke to a culture that has relegated men to at best well-intentioned buffoons and at worst predatory deviants.

There are some hilariously idiosyncratic elements to Arrow.  Like the fact that flashback-Oliver is styled to look like late-Dawson's Creek James Van Der Beek.  It took me a couple of episodes to pay attention to what was happening without snickering about how the bad wig and the completely buttoned up collared shirt.  Or that Oliver comes back from a deserted island with professional tattoos that he didn't have before he left, and no one seems to ask about it.  I mean, yes, we know Oliver wasn't on the island by himself, but other people aren't supposed to know that.  The Microsoft product placement is a bit forced in places, but not nearly as bad as it can be on other shows.  (This seems to be something that we just accept now, that a show will be both an entertaining story and an add for cars or computers or makeup.  What exactly does that say about us?)

The pace is excellent.  Neither too slow nor too fast, each episode both advances the current story of what is happening in Starling City and flashes back to what happened to Oliver on the island that wasn't as deserted as believed to be.  But, the audience is not so bombarded with information and plot twist as to make it impossible to recognize and appreciate the characters and their relationships.  Backstory and current story are balanced and neither is belabored.

And as far as I'm concerned, it never hurts a show to be a stop along the way for sci-fi actors.  Guest roles are filled by some of the greats from Battlestar Galactica, Doctor Who, Angel and Fringe.   This may not matter to anyone but me.

Now, not everything about Arrow is golden.  It pains me to say this, because Katie Cassidy can be a hands down badass, but Laurel is stiff and boring.  The morally upright crusader for the poor and downtrodden, Laurel is "caring" in that way that comes off a bit too sanctimonious.  In the beginning she's understandably angry with Oliver but before long, and far too easily, she forgives him.  I'm not against forgiveness, but there is little demonstrable evidence provided by Oliver to Laurel to warrant her change of heart.  It's seems clearly out of convenience, a necessary step in order to back up the assertion that Oliver and Laurel "belong" together.  And I'm fundamentally against the couple that "belong" together.  How do I explain this?  I tend to root for the couple that develops naturally, that results from respect and emotional understanding between the characters, and these are often the couples that struggle the most or don't make much sense.  I don't like being told by show overlords that this person will be with this person simple because that is what we say, not because who those people actually are.  Sadly, Laurel isn't a fully developed character.  Especially to Oliver, she is a figure of goodness, not a whole person with both faults and virtues.  Therefore, the attitude that their romantic reconciliation is inevitable isn't a genuine love story, but rather a formula (boy lost girl, boy gets girl back) that is dictated from the writer's room.  Oliver and Felicity on the other hand, now there is a couple to root for.

It's a pleasure to watch a show that you feel wants you to be pleased.  Too often now I find myself in the situation of trying to enjoy a show that seems to have set itself up to make it difficult for me to do so.  I love shows that make me think, that challenge my expectations, that have something that I want.  But the show also needs to want to give what it has to me.  I get the sense with many shows that I am scornfully being allowed to experience something I don't really deserve.  That's not a good dynamic between show and audience.  It's easy to get involved in Arrow because it all comes together in a way that invites you in, rather than makes it clear that you will bow to it's greatness no matter what.

So, thanks LilBro and SisterDear for keeping the bug in my ear about Arrow.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Doctor Who: Love Lights the Way

(Doctor Who: S6, E15 "The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe")

My father died 17 years and 1 day ago.  Today would have been his 67th birthday.  In 3 days it will be my 29th birthday.

It may be needless to say that I have been a little drawn in on myself the last few days.  It happens every year at this time.  To call it depression isn't the right word.  Closed would be more accurate.  My heart closes, protecting itself from regrets of final mistakes and lost possibilities.  Around noon I was struck by a thought.  "Hey, I totally missed watching the Doctor Who Christmas special this year.  I don't really feel like doing anything right now, I think I'll watch that."  You see, in some respects I have very good instincts; even when I would rather not find an answer, something inside me will show me what I need.

And at it's best Doctor Who is what we all need.  We all need love.  We all need magic.  We all need strength in our suffering.  We all need rest in forgiveness.

On Christmas Eve 1941 Madge makes a wish.  Though we don't hear it, the Doctor does.  She wishes for a beautiful Christmas to ease the news she must tell her children that their father's plane has been lost over the Channel and that he has died in service of his country.  To repay her kindness in helping him a few years earlier when he fell from the sky in a backwards space suit, the Doctor meets Madge and her children Lily and Ceril at an old house as The Caretaker.  He's renovated the house with all children could ever ask for; moving furniture, a lifetime of toys, a fabulous tree, and a huge present to be opened the next morning.  Ceril can't wait and in the night opens the present: a doorway into a beautiful snow-filled forest, the prefect Christmas adventure.  The Doctor and Lily, and then Madge, all go through the box in search of Ceril, who has been taken by the trees, who are trying to transport their life-forces off the planet before it is burned for fuel.  Madge, as a mother, is able to take the life-forces into herself, to be a lifeboat for them, and must use her memories of home to guide their ship through the time vortex.  She wishes to hold onto her happy memories of her husband, and fights against seeing his last moments, but by facing the truth of his death, is able to create a light for his plane to follow, and the family is reunited on Christmas morning.  In thanks, and with a great deal of practicality, she orders the Doctor that he is not to spend Christmas alone, that he must go to his friends who think he has died. Forced by the unassailable logic of a practical mum, the Doctor goes to Amy and Rory, who set a place for him at dinner every year.  River told them that he wasn't really dead (of course!) and after a few shots from a squirt gun for his obstinacy, Amy and Rory lead him into their home, with the simplicity that love allows.  The Doctor allows himself a few private tears of happiness.

Outside of fiction space and time travel will not allow a lost loved one to return to us.  In that Doctor Who is beautiful wish-fulfillment.  There is no mad man with a box who can circumvent death.  But that does not relegate Doctor Who into trivial escapism, a wouldn't-it-be-nice fantasy.  Presents do not negate the loss of a parent, but pleasure is a comfort that reminds us that we will not always be in pain.  In grief our suffering is extreme, but to accept that suffering is an expression of the depth of our love.  And our love cannot be taken from us.  Death may physically separate husband from wife, parent from child, friend from friend, but with honesty in our heart, the true acknowledgement of both joy and sorrow, our love unfolds beyond past and future as the light of our present.

Happy Birthday Dad.  I love you.

Andrea

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Top 5: Shows I Actually Need to Finish

Haha, what right do I have to talk about the proper ending of a TV show when it turns out that I have not gotten around to watching the finale of some of my most beloved shows?

Sometimes life gets in the way and you get behind on a show and it feels like you'll never catch up.  Or sometimes a show just really goes downhill and you have to give up or you will lose all your good memories of when the show was not sucktastic.

But it's pretty clear to me (and why don't I share it with you) that I have a few projects hanging over my head: shows that are done and complete that finishing my own viewing will provide me with a little peace of mind.  Or at least spare me the embarrassment of having to say "yeah, I didn't finish that..."

Friday Night Lights
Last Episode I Watched: Season 5, Episode 1
Why I Stopped Watching:  I just couldn't cry that much.  No seriously, that is the reason.  Knowing that  by the time it aired on NBC Friday Night Lights was officially and forever over, that there would be no more, that the fat lady had most definitely sung, made it kind of impossible for me to watch without just sobbing uncontrollably.  So much crying.  So I decided I didn't want to cry that much.  So I didn't watch.  Maybe I should put on my big girl pants...

Lost
Last Episode I Watched: Season 6, Episode 5
Why I Stopped Watching:  Do I need to say why?  Juliet was dead.  It was boring.

Chuck
Last Episode I Watched: Season 4, Episode 1
Why I Stopped Watching: I've made no secret of my ambivalence toward Sarah.  I've never really warmed to her and I get super annoyed when a show tells me how much I am supposed to love someone that I find kind of boring and selfish.  (This is one of my most pet of pet peeves.  I HATE it when a show, through dialogue, tries to impart upon me a singular opinion of a character that either isn't or can't be established through that character's action.  Hence my unending fury with Kate from Lost or Don from Mad Men.)  So when Chuck became pretty much completely about Chuck and Sarah's relationship, I just couldn't really work up much enthusiasm for watching.  I wanted to want to watch it, but I just couldn't take yet another discussion of their love.

The Wire
Last Episode I Watched: Season 3, Episode 7 (I think)
Why I Stopped Watching:  Because I thought my heart was going to explode.  In the scene where Stinger tells Avon that he had Avon's nephew killed in prison, I literally thought that I was going to have a heart attack, it was so frakking tense.  And that is always what it feels watching The Wire.  So I decided I needed a break.  And that break has turned into a year and a half.

Greek
Last Episode I Watched: oh my frakking goodness I have no idea!
Why I Stopped Watching:  It would seem after my rant-y-ness about Chuck that I wouldn't in any way endorse a show that really had no plot movement aside from who-is-getting-together-with-whom, but I really enjoy(ed) Greek.  It's simple, sweet, and surprisingly funny.  Time.  Time is why I stopped watching.  Each episode is 42 minutes, and it just never seemed to fit into the time that I had to watch it.  But I think I can work with that.  I mean, I know how it ends for Cappie and Casey (is there really any question about that?), but I would like to know what happens to everyone else.  To the Netflix!

The TV Girl


Thursday, July 26, 2012

You Make Me End Where I Begun: Is There Any Way To End a Show Well?

I got a lovely shout out yesterday from my friend Calah on her blog (yup, I am the Andrea who couldn't manage to get along with a three year old) and it made me think "wow, I haven't blogged anything in FOREVER."  (In my defense, I have that thought every day, there have just been more important things in my life for the last year.)

So, the conversation Calah and I were having about all the failures of the BSG final season has got me thinking: is there any "good" ending to a show?

When shows end suddenly or after an unintentionally short run (Firefly being the prime example) viewers are often left with questions about storylines that never get answered, relationships left eternally in limbo, and bitterness towards TV executives who seems to find joy in the pain of the poor and innocent.  It hurts when you love something and it ends because not enough people out there are smart enough to love it too.  Couple this natural disappointment with frustrated curiosity ("wait, what would have happened if they had been given more episodes?") and suddenly you're sitting there mired in bitterness over the "terrible ending" of a beloved show.

Conversely, when a show has a good long run it can work itself into a corner ("tell me you have an exit strategy!") and when the planned and expected final arrives all the threads of the show are such a jumble the ending makes no sense.  My friend Alissa once quoted our friend Katy to express her own anger on this subject: "sometimes I think everything is fine, and then I remember how Lost ended."  I haven't gotten around to the end of Lost (the last 13 episodes have been sitting in the back of my mind for like 2 years), but I know what she's talking about.  There is nothing quite like watching a show for YEARS, waiting impatiently while it is on hiatus, revolving in your mind the various possibilities of how things will turn out, discussing the characters to the point where you forget that they are fictional, only to get to an ending that seems to be "well, sorry folks, we fucked ourselves royal and then just gave up trying."  I have professed many profanity-riddled diatribes against the sense of time-waste and emotional manipulation that spews forth from the soul when the screen goes black on a much anticipated finale that amounts to little more than a middle finger to my devotion.  The ending of Felicity still makes me livid.  (J.J. Abrams was disappointing me long before any plane crashes.)

Is there no solution?  Is there no way for a show to end that doesn't leave a scorched earth of angry viewers and backtracking writers?  Are we all doomed?

Well, no.  The easiest solution would be for me to care about TV less.  Don't care as much means won't be as disappointed.  But since that is NEVER going to happen, let's look at realistic solutions.

I think that the ending of a show is satisfying to the viewer when the show fulfills the promise made in the pilot (or I suppose we should say, at the outset, since not all pilot episodes are equal and sometimes it takes shows a few episodes to find themselves).  I am not necessarily talking about promises made by writers and producers in interviews and at conventions, though sometimes that factors into things.  I'm talking about the expectation evoked in the viewer based on premise, plotting, characters and the underlying moral and metaphysical perspective of the created world.  In a great pilot all of these elements are present, while in an excellent pilot all of these elements are fully developed and integrated into a whole (Supernatural is a case in point).  People are quick to scoff at the idea of "well, I guess we know what we are going to get for this" without acknowledging that it is completely natural that when we are confronted with a certain set of circumstances we expect a certain outcome.  It's not a bad thing.  (Although since this principle doesn't discriminate by taste, this does account for the continued existence of such crap as The Bachelor and Grey's Anatomy.  Those viewers get exactly what they were promised, even if it's garbage.)

So, do any shows actually worth watching live up to my high standards?  You might be surprised to learn, yes.  For example, Spaced.  The promise at the beginning of Spaced is that together Tim and Daisy will help each other towards functional adulthood by forming a loving bond that creates a family.    And they do.  Tim and Daisy work to bring out the best in each other, providing both friendly distraction and frank reality, so that neither wastes their talents in fugue state of a post university haze.  Behind the fake sexual relationship Tim and Daisy present in order to rent their apartment (man, Britain doesn't make any sense to me) real intimacy develops and that intimacy does exactly what it should: opens Tim and Daisy up to connecting with others, through which their friends and neighbors become kin.  The ending of Spaced isn't satisfying simply because Tim and Daisy are "together" at the end.  It's satisfying because they are both better people for loving each other and while understanding the joy and responsibility their relationship will require they both choose it.  The ending of Spaced is perfect because it is Tim and Daisy sitting on their couch, as they have for the whole show, but a little wiser and a great deal happier because they are the center of a community and no longer isolated individuals.

The ending of The O.C. is also great.

The TV Girl