End of the Road: Looking at Recent Series Finales

[Out of courtesy, SPOILERS AHEAD]

Last Friday, Hart of Dixie aired its season finale. With its status being on the bubble for quite some time and renewal chances looking slim, it very much acted like a series finale. I mean, they did title the episode “Bluebell”, which is about as final as naming it “Hart of Dixie” or “Finale”, and even the actors’ tweets seemed to point towards it being the end. [For what it’s worth, I don’t think The CW knew what to do with the show because they didn’t have anything else like it on the network – sound familiar? *cough* Nikita *cough* – until now in Jane the Virgin. And the one week they got paired up, it was cute/crazy overload that I loved] It’s all rather unofficial, but the finale left me in tears because of how perfect it was for the show, and if it is indeed the end, it was a satisfying ending. I’ll miss the crazy Bluebell antics regardless. In light of everything, I thought it’d be a good time to look at some other series finales, all within the last two months and which also made me cry (the measure of a good finale obviously).

Parenthood was the little show that could over on NBC. It flew under the radar and had a loyal fan following. For 6 seasons, we watched the Braverman family as they celebrated the good times and struggled through the bad times. We cried tears of joy and sadness along with them, throughout all 103 episodes. It was a wonderful series that was well loved by the people who watched it, but was constantly on the bubble and never got the award recognition it deserved. The cast was also so incredibly talented – from Craig T. Nelson to Peter Krause, Lauren Graham to Mae Whitman, and all the other Braverman children, grandchildren, extending to all the guest stars. The series finale saw Sarah getting married to Hank, Joel and Julia adopting another child, Amber adjusting to life as a single mom and becoming partners with Crosby to run the Luncheonette, Adam becomes Headmaster of Chambers Academy, while Christina opens another school. Everything seemed great until we see that Zeek dies in his sleep, a plot point that had been written in the cards for the season. But the show ends on a happy note, as Zeek’s ashes get scattered on a baseball field and the remaining Bravermans honour his memory by playing a game there. It doesn’t end there though, as we get treated to a montage checking in on everybody at different points in the future. I truly loved that they didn’t do just a basic flashforward – seeing glimpses of their life in the future (and obviously only the happy/joyful moments) was actually a lot more satisfying.

Parks and Recreation was sort of the comedy equivalent of Parenthood, in the way that it was an underdog show on NBC and was loved by all those who watched it. The cast, led by the amazing Amy Poehler, were so incredible in this show and have been criminally unrecognized because they deserve all the awards. Now, the final season of Parks and Recreation had already taken us to 2017, so the finale took us even further into the future. The hour episode jumped forward to different times for each character. Donna doing well for herself as a real estate agent in Seattle and then putting some of her earnings towards an education non-profit with Joe. Tom unsuccessfully expanding the restaurant, and then finding yet another life as a motivation speaker/writer. Andy and April having kids. Gerry staying on as mayor of Pawnee until he dies on his 100th birthday. Ron ends up looking after the Pawnee National Park. As for Leslie and Ben? Well their government aspirations continued to grow, as the show hinted at Leslie possibly becoming POTUS (or at the very least, she gets to the White House). It really was a nice wrap up to the show; nothing too crazy or dramatic, but straight to the point future.

I’ll admit, I checked out of Glee a long time ago, sometime around season 4 (I may have stuck it out that entire season, but can’t recall any of it). I tuned into season 5 for “The Quarterback” and “100” for obvious reasons, but besides that I didn’t care for it. The show was so far off from what I had initially loved about it, that not even the music could save it (actually, a lot of the music choice kinda killed it for me). When the series finale rolled around, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to watch it, but everybody’s nostalgia for it pulled me in. The first episode of the two-part finale, “2009”, took us back to when the Glee Club was first formed and we saw how Rachel, Kurt, Mercedes, Tina, and Artie ended up in the Glee Club. Capped off with a re-airing of that original performance of “Don’t Stop Believin'”, it was such a heartbreaker and yes, the tears started.  The second episode, “Dreams Come True”, jumped forward to essentially show us everybody’s happy endings. In the immediate future, McKinley is turned into a performing arts school where Mr. Schuester is principal. Sam is the new teacher/coach for New Directions. Mercedes’ career skyrockets, starting with a gig as Beyonce’s opening act. When the show jumps forward to 2020, Sue is Vice President of the United States and intends on running for President. Kurt and Blaine are living a wonderful life together in New York, being an inspiration to kids. Artie and Tina are together, and his film gets into a festival. Rachel becomes a surrogate to Kurt and Blaine’s child, marries Jesse St. James, and wins a Tony. And before one last group performance featuring (almost) everyone who was ever on Glee, Sue declares that the McKinley auditorium will be renamed to honour Finn. Major tears. For a show that kind of lost itself, they certainly stuck the landing, offering a reminder of what people had initially loved about the show – that underdog spirit and the feeling that things will eventually be okay.

Not all finales end well or tug at the heart strings, but that’s neither here nor there. The point is the most successful finales should be measured by whether the show ended in a way that was right for it and acts as a cap to the series as a whole. Sometimes these shows weren’t perfect but their respective finales proved that (most of) our time spent with them weren’t a complete waste.

 

Music Monday: Songs from TV and Movies

It’s no secret that I’m a fan of all things entertainment, so when music intersects with movies or TV, I get super nerdy about it. Last September at TIFF, I saw a movie called Can A Song Save Your Life? and instantly fell in love with it and the music in it. Fast forward some 10 months and the movie finally gets released under a new name Begin Again and I FINALLY got my hands on the soundtrack, so I could just listen to all the songs over and over again. It is certainly something special when the right song (whether written specifically for the movie or not) is played at the right moment and encapsulates the feeling of that entire scene or becomes synonymous with that movie/show.

So with that being said, here are some of my personal favourite songs from TV and movies

  1. Adam Levine/Keira Knightley, Lost Stars [Begin Again] – I’m sure I’ve said it enough at this point, but I LOVE this song. I keep alternating between Adam’s version and Keira’s version. There’s such a sweetness in Keira’s version that plays to how the song was written within the context of the movie. Adam’s more polished version of the song presents itself later in the movie, showing character growth with a slight sense of nostalgia.
  2. Switchfoot, Dare You to Move [One Tree Hill] – I could have gone the easy route and just picked “I Don’t Want to Be” because if you think OTH, you think of that song. With “Dare You to Move,” I actually remember hearing it in A Walk to Remember first, but always associate it with OTH + Nathan & Haley, their memorable kiss in the rain.
  3. Nada Surf, If You Leave [The O.C.] – Again, it would’ve been too easy to put “California” or even “Hallelujah” but instead I had to put “If You Leave.” Who could forget the scene with Seth playing out the cliche of running to the airport, chasing after Anna, thinking that she’s moving back to Pittsburgh because of him?
  4. Gina Rene, U Must Be [Step Up] – Ahhh Step Up, the movie that brought Channing Tatum and Jenna Dewan together. It was a pivotal scene, with Nora telling Tyler how she imagined her senior showcase, and then they dance with the sunset in the background. It’s all cute and romantic, and stuff.
  5. Michael Jackson, The Way You Make Me Feel/Ruff Endz, If I Was the One/Jamiroquai, Canned Heat [Center Stage] – So I’m cheating a little bit here, putting three songs for one movie. BUT, these three songs were used for the finale piece in Center Stage! They go together! And I can’t listen to any one of these songs without immediately playing the scene in my head, picturing the choreography.
  6. Gerardo Matos Rodríguez, La Cumparsita (Remix) [Take the Lead] – For some reason, I’ve always loved watching a good tango, so I’ve always loved the song, even if I didn’t know what it was called when I was younger. Then Take the Lead came out and featured this AMAZING trio tango with a remixed version of La Cumparsita, which kind of became my everything. The classic tango song, updated with a hip-hop flavour, which was part of what made the movie unique.
  7. Glen Hansard & Marketa Irglova/Steve Kazee & Cristin Milioti, Falling Slowly [Once/Once the Musical] – Just such a beautiful song.
  8. Katharine McPhee & Megan Hilty, Let Me Be Your Star [Smash] – Let this be one of the few good things to come out of Smash. The pilot capped off with this wonderful song, that set the stage for the rest of the show. Unfortunately, it was all downhill from there. But hey, at least we got this song and Megan Hilty from that mess.
  9. Oscar Isaac, Never Had [10 Years] – Oscar Isaac actually wrote this song for the movie (an underrated gem about friends meeting up for their high school reunion), where he plays Reeves, a musician with this hit song. The song keeps getting talked about throughout the movie, until Reeves gets convinced to karaoke his own song. The song has a great nostalgic tone that was obviously meant to work with the movie. Just watch it.
  10. Dianna Agron & Lea Michele, I Feel Pretty/Unpretty [Glee] – There once was a time when I loved Glee, before it all went to shit. I particularly loved it most when they actually picked songs that worked itself organically into the story, and not just them doing songs for the sake of it. The performance is actually still one of my favourites that they did, which was in season 2, and dealt with Rachel’s want to get her nose fixed.
  11. Jason Segel, You Just Got Slapped [How I Met Your Mother] – Now for something fun and silly. Because creating Slapsgiving wasn’t enough, the HIMYM gang created this tune to commemorate the occasion in season 3.
  12. Orishas ft. Heather Headley, Represent Cuba [Dirty Dancing Havana Nights] – I stand by my “I don’t really like the movie, but I love the soundtrack.” I just love this song.
  13. Sara Bareilles, Breathe Again [The Vampire Diaries] – There once was also a time when I loved The Vampire Diaries. Now season 1, their music supervisor had already established himself with some really good song choices. But I remember distinctly the first half of season 2, where I thought they were just on a complete roll with the music. They used this fantastic Sara Bareilles song as the coda in episode 4.
  14. Jonathan Groff/Kyle Riabko, Left Behind [Spring Awakening] – It’s a poignant song in the musical, with Melchior lamenting Moritz’ death, wondering what led to it including Moritz’ parents’ treatment of him. Obviously I love the original version as sung by Jonathan Groff, but there’s also a soulful quality to Kyle Riabko’s version which he did on his own album.
  15. Florence + the Machine, Cosmic Love [Nikita] – Season 1, Episode 17: Michael goes to see Nikita and realizes she was right all along when it came to Division. They kiss and that was the beginning of Mikita. I sigh just thinking about it.

 

 

Glee Does Britney, Take 2

I probably could’ve come up with something witty for a title, but then it would’ve been way too obvious and cheesy (then again, I am writing about Glee sooo…)

To be completely honest, Glee is a show that has been incredibly inconsistent throughout its three (now on its 4th) season run. The show prided itself on doing stories and having characters that were rooted in reality; things you would see at a high school these days. Anyone who watches the show will tell you that they may use these real stories and characters as a base, but will often steer the plot or writing to some ridiculous place. The music used to serve the purpose of aiding the storyline or used as a way to give life to what a character was feeling. They still do that…sometimes. But more often than not, you’ll most likely find the cast sing some random song that has no relevance to what’s going on. At times, that’s perfectly acceptable (having a little fun in the choir room or on stage), however when the random song in question is a current Top 40 hit, it’s a little groan inducing. It’s like they could’ve picked ANY song, but they HAD to choose the song that is completely and utterly overplayed by mainstream radio? Really?!

Britney Spears. Pop royalty. Love her or hate her, you gotta admit (at her best) she is one hell of an entertainer. I am and always have been Team Britney. I don’t love everything she’s done but I’m a fan through and through. I remember watching her music videos religiously to learn the choreography.

Back in season 2 of Glee, they did a Britney tribute episode and it was one of those cases where storyline didn’t matter in the slightest. They made up some ridiculous storyline where some of the members of New Directions went under anesthesia while at the dentist, and consequently dreamed that they were in a Britney Spears music video. See? Sounds incredibly stupid, but the end product was pretty fun to watch, even if only one song wasn’t a carbon copy of the original.

Flash forward to now and we have witnessed a second episode of Glee dedicated to Britney songs, that leaves me with mixed feelings. On one hand, the storyline wasn’t something completely ridiculous and they played around with the music a little bit, giving us 2 different mash-ups and 2 songs that were completely re-done from the original. On the other hand, they still gave us 4 songs that were pretty much carbon copies of the originals and didn’t do anything spectacularly different. Also, they brought up the dark years of Britney Spears (head shaving, attacking paparazzo, the ‘Gimme More’ VMA performance). We all know it happened but am I the only one that was a little uncomfortable at them bringing it up like they did? (Admittedly, the random student shouting “Leave Brittany alone!” was kinda funny.) I, for one, would rather not be reminded of those rough years in Britney’s life/career. I can’t imagine Britney’s camp were aware of what they were doing over at Glee either, or else they probably would’ve stopped it from happening. I understand the purpose of it all was to make way for Brittany/Britney’s comeback, but they couldn’t have gotten to that in some either way? Yeah, I’m not a writer or anything, so what do I know?

Quick Thoughts on the Songs

  • Hold It Against Me: Brittany leads the Cheerios in this number. Choppy cuts/strong edits makes it hard to appreciate the dancing. Not to mention, they didn’t change much to the song, except maybe speed it up a little bit.
  • Boys/Boyfriend: Blaine and Artie bring on the boy band cheesiness on the mash-up. I think they should’ve used NSYNC’s “Girlfriend” instead of Beiber’s “Boyfriend”, if only because…they sound the same. Wasted opportunity.
  • Womanizer: Didn’t really do much for me.
  • 3: Definitely one of the worst Britney songs, lyrically – but the original had an infectious dance beat. Glee strips it down here and still keeps the infectiousness intact. Bonus: Tina sounds amazing here. Nice to hear her vocals more this season.
  • You Drive Me Crazy/Crazy: Newbies Marley and Jake succeed in taking on this inspired and stripped down mash-up of one of Britney’s early hits with one of Aerosmith’s classic.
  • Oops!…I Did It Again: Love what they did with this song, changing it from just a pop song to a sexy R&B track. The performance itself was pretty good (thanks for showing up, former SYTYCDers Marko, Melanie, and Kent!), but similar to HIAM, too many quick cutaways and the smoke/fog/whatever was kind of unnecessary, which took away a little from the performance.
  • Gimme More: It was like the VMA performance – uncomfortable. I couldn’t even see it as funny like when they did ‘Toxic’ or even ‘Push It’ back in first season.
  • Everytime: Marley did a decent take on one of Britney’s few ballads. It worked well as an ending song, is probably the best thing I can say about the inclusion of this song.

Cover Songs: Love Them, Hate Them, Can’t Get Enough of Them

I love cover songs. I think it is totally awesome when artists sing another artist’s song, especially during concerts because it mixes things up a little bit. On her recent “Stronger” tour, Kelly Clarkson performed at least 3 cover songs at each stop: 2 were part of the setlist (Florence + the Machine’s “Heavy In Your Arms” and Carrie Underwood’s “I Know You Won’t”) plus a fan request. I’ve heard Maroon 5 sing “Ain’t No Sunshine” and “If I Ain’t Got You.” James Morrison and Diane Birch once performed “With A Little Help From My Friends.” John Mayer has sung “Free Fallin” and “Gone.” Justin Timberlake sang “This Love” at one of his benefit concerts (even though he technically performed that with Maroon 5). This is just the tip of the iceberg and I could go on and on with amazing covers.

It’s only recently that I’ve realized where I draw the line when it comes to covers. Hearing covers in concert is one thing because I’m watching an artist I’m a fan of so they can’t do much wrong in my books. But over the years, watching so many TV shows where covers abound like Idol, The Voice, X-Factor, and now with Glee + Smash, my reaction to song choices vary from the usual groan and eye-roll when a song that’s been OVERDONE is sung again (11 years of Idol will turn you into a cynic) or total excitement. There has been countless times when we’ve heard female contestants sing songs by Mariah, Whitney, Celine, etc. even though they don’t have the range for it. But then there are a lot of cases where singers do a fantastic job covering the song by either changing up the song to fit their style (Hello David Cook’s version of “Always Be My Baby” and Kris Allen’s “Heartless” that’s STILL on my iPod) or just simply singing the HELL out of the song. Some covers are even better than the original. Glee, in my opinion, does this the best – take an okay song or one that’s entirely overplayed and make it better/worth listening to (i.e. Blame It On the Alcohol, Teenage Dream, We Found Love). For certain songs though, I’ve found that I can’t even like the cover, despite how good it might be.

In the episode of Glee entitled “On My Way”, the Troubletones sang Kelly Clarkson’s “What Doesn’t Kill You (Stronger)”. I was excited to hear it, but at the same time, it was like “Why couldn’t they pick another song?” I think it comes down to the fact that it was a single and I like Glee better when they’re not doing songs that are already on the radio. After I heard it, I felt kind of indifferent about it – it was good but I didn’t really like it. Why? I realized that I’m fiercely protective of when anyone sings Kelly’s songs. I mean I love Kelly Clarkson – she’s one of my favourite artists ever and I love her songs like they are the soundtrack to my life. So for me, I don’t think anyone should ever sing her songs, unless they can do the original justice.  Megan Hilty sang “Breakaway” on a recent episode of Smash and though there’s no denying that she has a great voice, I didn’t feel as though it carried the same weight as Kelly’s original. But again, maybe that’s because “Breakaway” was such a big song for Kelly. Then on Glee, at the end of the episode “Choke”, Lea Michele sang “Cry” off of Kelly’s “All I Ever Wanted” album and I thought she did a fantastic job with the song. It fit nicely with the storyline and worked well with Rachel Berry’s feelings, so it didn’t feel forced. Actually, it was a nice reminder of what Glee was like when it started. Now of course it really is a track-by-track basis, in terms of what I’m willing to accept.

Christina Aguilera is probably one of the best voices in the industry; she’s got a diva voice. We’ve heard people sing “Beautiful” and “The Voice Within” among other Christina songs, and it’s usually met with the same eye-roll and groan. I thought Amber Riley did a good job singing “Beautiful” on Glee, but I definitely was not happy about Darren Criss singing “Fighter” in the episode “Big Brother.” Not that there was anything really wrong with his version, but “Fighter” is one of my all-time favourite songs and no matter how much angst we’re supposed to feel from the storyline, it just can’t match Christina’s sheer power.

Then there’s Adele. Over the span of this past year, I have no idea how many times an Adele song has been covered. Scratch that, over the span of the past 6 months, I have no idea how many times an Adele song has been sung on TV. I’ll admit I liked  Angel Taylor and Mathai’s attempts at singing “Someone Like You” and “Rumour Has It”, respectively, during their blind auditions on The Voice. Before that, Glee did a great mash-up of those 2 songs as well. But now it’s just plain old fatigue of hearing people try to sing Adele. Just stop please.

It’s not just songs by these artists with big voices being covered that have me  up in arms. I have deliberately  sort of avoided American Idol this past season because it got tiring, with the theme weeks and the judges making no sense. But there was the one week where the theme was songs from this decade (so, the past three years in music). Seeing what the set list was ahead of time, I found it to be an interesting line-up, so I actually attempted to watch the show that week (in between my regular television shows of course). I only came out disappointed, feeling like it was a slap in the face because they not only ruined 2 Kelly Clarkson songs, but also a Maroon 5 song. I know, one should not compare a contestant’s rendition to the original, but let’s be real, it’s inevitable and you can’t help it. The contestant in question, Phillip Phillips, re-arranged Maroon 5’s “Give A Little More”. I’ll embed both versions below and judge for yourself. But while the original has a sexy quality to it (what Adam Levine does seamlessly), Phillip re-arranged it somehow to make it cheesy (Saxophone? Really?). This also doesn’t mean The Voice gets off scott-free either because I was REALLY not impressed with RaeLynn singing “Wake Up Call”. Sure the song can be made country but not by RaeLynn, sorry Blake. And I know Adam seemed to like it, but as a fan, I was not having any of it.

Those are the artists, who in recent weeks/months have been covered that I’ve had problems with. On the flip side, I always love a good Britney Spears cover. I love Britney, and to me, she’s pure pop royalty. People can say what they want about Britney, but damn does she not have some great catchy pop songs? I love it when people cover Britney because her songs aren’t obvious choices. When people hear Britney, they just hear the music because she’s never really been known as a vocalist (which she isn’t and we all know that). So hearing someone sing a Britney song, gives a somewhat cool factor. Naturally, when Tony Lucca sang “…Baby One More Time” on The Voice, I flipped out because the whole thing was just PURE GENIUS. Same song, different show – Marty Casey was absolutely brilliant with his version on Rock Star INXS back in 2005. In concert, I’ve heard Kate Voegele sing “Till the World Ends” and again, I geeked out.

Consider this me ranting about song choices on TV shows (reality or otherwise). Also, a justifiable excuse for me to post videos of some cool/awesome (and I guess one not-so-great) covers. Enjoy!

Upfronts 2012: FOX Takes the Stage Unveiling Its Schedule for the 2012-2013 TV Season

Day 2 of Upfronts and it is now Fox’s turn to show us what they have in store for next season. Outside of figuring out where to place its new shows, it doesn’t seem as though there were that many changes to the schedule. The network picked-up a total of 5 shows – 3 comedies and 2 dramas.

  • MOB DOCTOR [Drama – Mondays @ 9]: As far as I’m concerned, this show could’ve used a better title. Sure it is succinct and straightforward, but it just sounds dumb. Jordana Spiro stars as the titular character, who while a promising young surgeon, must also do work for the mafia to pay off her brother’s debt. I probably should wait until I see previews for it to make judgment, but I’m not entirely sold on it.
  • BEN & KATE [Comedy – Tuesdays @ 8:30]: Show #2 that could probably use a title change (and it has already changed its title once). If you didn’t know any better, you would probably think this is some relationship comedy involving a couple. Still about a relationship, but about siblings. Kate dropped out of college after giving birth to her daughter and now spends her time either with her daughter or working as a bar manager. Ben is her spontaneous + irresponsible older brother who comes and stays with her, to take care of his niece, giving his sister the opportunity to live her life a little. If the writing’s solid, I might consider giving this one a look.
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  • THE MINDY PROJECT [Comedy – Tuesdays @ 9:30]: Frankly, I didn’t pay much attention to what the show is about, except for the fact that this show stars and is produced by Mindy Kaling (formerly from The Office). She’s proven how funny she is, both as an actress and a writer, so I can’t wait to see what she’ll do on her own show, outside the confines of The Office.
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  • THE GOODWIN GAMES [Comedy – Midseason]: Becki Newton, Scott Foley, and Jake Lacy star as 3 siblings who must come together and follow their late father’s wishes if they want to inherit the $20 million he left behind. This cast, plus the fact that this is coming from the same guys who brought us How I Met Your Mother, means that I am totally in! Only thing that sucks is we have to wait until the winter.
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  • THE FOLLOWING [Drama – Midseason]: A new thriller from producer Kevin Williamson, the show stars Kevin Bacon as a former FBI agent, who is brought back in after a serial killer (played by James Purefoy) he put away 9 years ago, escapes from death row. Without a doubt, an interesting premise; I’ll be sure to tune in.
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Other notable changes in the schedule:

  • Raising Hope starts off the Tuesday comedies @ 8.
  • With FOX making an all-comedy Tuesday block, Glee now moves to Thursdays @ 9, following The X-Factor/American Idol results shows. In related news, it was announced that Kate Hudson and Sarah Jessica Parker are slated to guest star on Glee for multiple-episode arcs.
  • Touch now anchors the night on Fridays @ 8, leading into the final season of Fringe
  • Britney Spears and Demi Lovato have been hired as the new judges on The X-Factor. Love Britney, but not sure how I feel about it. She’ll certainly bring more to the table than Demi – Britney’s had a career for over a decade, while Demi’s still new.  I’m honestly can’t see who would take Demi seriously as a judge/mentor. Just watch, she’ll probably get the younger girls as her team.

Tomorrow, it’s on to ABC.