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.

 

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Upfronts 2014: The CW Unveils its Schedule for the Fall TV Season

Last but not least for the major broadcast networks is The CW. Keeping it small, The CW only picked up four new shows, two of which are based on DC Comics entities.

THE FLASH [Drama – Tuesdays @ 8]: Barry Allen was introduced earlier this season on Arrow, with plans of having a backdoor pilot integrated. The network asked for a pilot but decided on its fate as separate from Arrow, so the backdoor plans never came about, but as expected, it got picked up regardless. Not being that familiar with the original source material, I’m not really in a place to comment on this, but I’m still not incredibly convinced that Grant Gustin was the right choice for Barry Allen/The Flash. He pulls off the geeky Barry Allen side; it’s the Flash side I’m concerned about. But hey, what do I know? Still looking forward to watching though, not to mention the inevitable crossovers with Arrow.

The Flash

iZOMBIE [Drama – Midseason]: This is the second show the network picked up that is based on a DC Comic, albeit one that is definitely not your typical superhero stuff. Liv (played by Rose McIver, previously known as Tinkerbell from Once Upon a Time) has been unexpectedly turned into a zombie and in order to maintain her humanity, she takes a job working at the coroner’s office, giving her access to brains that she needs. Of course, there’s a catch: with every brain she consumes, she inherits some of the person’s memories which she then uses to help solve cases. There’s obviously a procedural/case of the week style to this, but at the same time, this is VERY different. Not to mention, Rob Thomas, creator of Veronica Mars, is the executive producer on this, so expect a lot more of its uniqueness to shine through. I’m intrigued, to say the least.

Pilot

THE MESSENGERS [Drama – Midseason]: A mysterious object crashes onto earth sending out a shock wave that kills a group of strangers. However, these strangers awaken shortly thereafter and learn that they are the key to preventing the impending rapture. It seems to me that these big mystery stories are very hit and miss. Obviously the mystery of how this happened and why did it choose these people are the hook, but the producers and writers have to be careful and make sure they make the story and the characters compelling enough to make viewers care. Also, none of the “answering questions with more questions” or plain old asking questions with no answers – that is more than infuriating as a viewer. I’m hoping for the best, but prepared for the worst.

Pilot

JANE THE VIRGIN [Drama – Mondays @ 9]: At 23, Jane has her life planned out – study to become a teacher while dreaming of being a writer, marry her fiance who accepts her insistence to save herself for marriage and her timeline for their future together. But all her plans get turned upside down when she accidentally gets artificially inseminated during what was supposed to be a routine check-up. As ridiculous as that sounds (really, how negligent of a doctor/nurse are you to “accidentally” do that to someone?), it’s obvious that this show is meant to have a lot of heart. If my guess is correct, this could make a decent pairing with Hart of Dixie.

Pilot"

Notables/Thoughts:

  • Surprisingly, The CW kept most of its current schedule in tact. Really the only big change is that The Originals got moved to Mondays @ 8. I like that The CW is trying to build their schedules more fully around their “established” shows (shows that they know have a very good audience), as opposed to putting the weaker and/or newer shows together. My only concern is that Jane the Virgin isn’t the most logical choice to follow The Originals.
  • On tap for midseason is Hart of Dixie and Beauty and the Beast, which if you ask me, the network will probably ship off to Fridays. As much as it pains me to say it, due to my love of Hart of Dixie, they are the lowest performers ratings-wise. I actually didn’t have much concern over Dixie’s renewal because it doesn’t get more in-house than that, being a Warner Bros. produced show and it’s filmed at the WB Studios lot with next to no special effects; in other words, it’s a cheap show to produce. BATB on the other hand…I don’t know. I got nothing. It’s renewal still confuses me.

So that’s it! All the broadcast networks have announced their fall schedules! For this Canadian, my scheduling doesn’t start until I hear what the Canadian networks are picking-up from all these new shows and how they plan to schedule them in for them for the fall.

The CW: A Network With Identity Issues

In late November, The CW had announced that it was cancelling Emily Owens M.D., after giving full season orders to fellow freshman series Arrow and Beauty and the Beast. The announcement itself didn’t come as much as a surprise, given that Emily Owens wasn’t doing particularly well in the ratings and wasn’t particularly well-received by critics. I myself didn’t make much of the pilot, and for some odd reason, found myself continuing to watch it. The writing wasn’t anything spectacular but sometimes you need some lighter fare amidst heavy drama and not wanting to delve deep into laugh-out-loud comedy (not to mention the onslaught of comedy that was on at the same time?) What honestly struck me about the announcement was reading the comments on the entertainment news websites (EW, TVLine). There were the usual comments, ranging from “Saw it coming, can’t believe it took them this long” to “That sucks! I liked the show!” But then there were a few comments that were along the lines of “What is this show? Never heard of it. Oh right, that’s because it’s on The CW”, which particularly struck me as interesting. Now, I’ve expressed my frustrations with The CW several times over the years, namely when it comes to Nikita, but it’s comments like that that make you realize there’s a bigger issue at hand.

The CW, as a network, is a peculiar case. It is a smaller network, but is included amongst the broadcast networks (ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX), as opposed to the cable networks (USA, FX, TNT, ABC Family). It is seen as a niche market network, similar to ABC Family, mostly appealing to the 18-34 demo (one could even argue that the demo is more around 18-24). It’s position in the network TV landscape causes it to not be taken seriously by many because it is almost always last in the ratings. On the rare occasion that a CW show actually beats one of the other networks’ shows in the demo, the other show is seen as being in trouble. So how exactly did the network find themselves in this predicament?

When the network launched in the fall of 2006, it was the product of the networks, UPN and The WB, merging, based on a deal between CBS Corporation (which owned UPN) and Warner Brothers Entertainment (which owned The WB). Both of those former networks tended to appeal to the younger female audience, as evidenced by shows like Dawson’s Creek, Gilmore Girls, Felicity, Veronica Mars, and One Tree Hill. But shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and its spinoff Angel, Smallville, and Roswell attempted to lure in other viewers beyond teenage girls. When the 2 networks merged, The CW became a mish-mash of TV shows from both networks, while keeping its core demographic intact. It was the following TV season, in the fall of 2007, that The CW really started to make a name (however small) for itself, with the premiere of Gossip Girl. The show became a hit for the network, a guilty pleasure for some, and a huge target for the Parents’ Television Council for its depiction of teens and their underage drinking and sex.

To this avid TV viewer, with Gossip Girl being such a huge hit, the network seemingly over-relied on the show as a selling point. From that point on, the network became known as a place for TV shows about hot young people with their hot young people problems, as evidenced by shows that both succeeded (the 90210 reboot) and failed (the Melrose Place reboot, The Beautiful Life). When The Vampire Diaries got picked up, it still fit into that category but got the added bonus of being a known entity and cashing in on the teenage vampire craze caused by Twilight – further establishing the network’s demographic, but not really bringing in other viewers. Any other shows that wasn’t already part of the roster, which attempted to be more than just about attractive people hooking up, like Privileged and Life Unexpected, for the most part didn’t see past a first season. So for shows like Hart of Dixie and especially Nikita to be on the air right now, and not being the stereotypical CW show, in their respective 2nd and 3rd seasons is certainly a feat.

Let us not forget the glaring area of The CW’s schedule that is reality TV. The CW has one slightly stable reality show in America’s Next Top Model, brought on from the former UPN days, but has yet to find another reality TV series winner. For what it’s worth, even for a reality show, ANTM still manages to fit the CW mold.

So we come back to what issues The CW faces in becoming a viable network that can be taken seriously by all. Programming is certainly the biggest issue. Where the network is now, is not all that different from when UPN and The WB existed; on the one hand, they have very teenage fare and on the other hand, they have genre fare. The shows that play very well with the teenage crowd (GG, 90210, TVD, the upcoming Carrie Diaries) is what is making the network money. The more genre or non-teen oriented shows (Supernatural, Nikita) is what generally gets better reviews from critics/journalists, but struggle in the ratings. Lucky for the network, they have a bonafide hit in Arrow, which appeals to teens (the marketing dept. certainly knew what they were doing advertising a shirtless Stephen Amell), fanboys/girls, and critics alike. However, not every show gets the luxury of being a known entity and it is seemingly more difficult to find a show that meets every need.

Another big issue The CW has is its scheduling. As a whole, what’s working for them this season is that they held off premiering their shows until October, allowing for there to be less breaks between episodes during the run of the season. However, how the network schedules their shows and what shows get paired up has been a problem. If you look at the past few years, you’ll notice that the only show that has stayed in its time slot is TVD; everything else has changed time slots, same day or otherwise. There’s something to be said about having anchored shows, by which you build your schedule around. That also leads to another problem in that The CW only has 10 hours of original programming a week (2 hours, Monday to Friday), which does make it increasingly difficult. All of this does relate back to the kind of shows that they have which determines how the schedule looks like. Hardcore TV fans will follow their favourite shows anywhere, but the issue is with the casual TV viewer, who could watch one show and might stick around to watch the next show if it is complimentary to the first show. Hart of Dixie, as of right now, is paired with Emily Owens, which works well together. Given the cancellation of Emily Owens, that slot will go to new show Cult in the new year, leading to a big WTF? pairing. Don’t even get me going again on the choice to pair ANTM with Nikita

With the end of Gossip Girl and maybe (hopefully? wishful thinking…) 90210, it’s about time the network truly attempts to revamp their programming or at the very least, their marketing. There is certainly no shame in being the network that has shows the other networks don’t. At the same time though, no one wants to be seen as a joke. The CW really has to get down and really consider what they want to be known as, as a network. On top of that though, the marketing and PR departments have to really make a push and work on getting more exposure for all the shows, not just the ones that are big hits or what they hope will be a big hit (yes, I’m talking about the onslaught of promotion for The Carrie Diaries during the series finale of Gossip Girl). Obviously every network has their own set of issues, but The CW doesn’t have the same clout as the Big4 broadcast networks, and it’s time that they make a serious name for itself.

Upfronts 2012: The CW Releases Schedule for Next Season

Last but not least, The CW announced its schedule for the 2012-2013 TV season today. With 5 new shows being added to its lineup, major scheduling changes were inevitable for the network and it turns out The Vampire Diaries is the only show that will stay put in its current time slot. Though others may seem surprised, the scheduling changes made for some obvious pairings. But first, a look at the new shows coming on the network.

  • EMILY OWENS, M.D. [Tuesdays @ 9]: Emily, fresh out of med school, is a first-year intern at Denver Memorial Hospital. Happy to put her days as a geeky girl from high school behind her, Emily soon realizes that life at the hospital is just a grown-up version of high school. Mamie Gummer stars as Emily, and is joined by Justin Hartley, Michael Rady, and Kelly McCreary. I obviously usually have reservations about a medical drama, but seeing as how this is The CW and not CBS, I’ll check it out. I have to commend the network though on further trying to develop and put shows on the air that are might skew a little bit higher demographic (as opposed to pretty much playing for the teenagers).
  • ARROW [Wednesdays @ 8]: One of the most known entities in the lineup of pilots picked-up, Arrow is the origin story of DC Comics’ Green Arrow. If you watched Smallville, you know they did their own take on the character, with Justin Hartley playing Oliver Queen/Green Arrow. For this show, they cast Stephen Amell as the title character, supported by Katie Cassidy, Willa Holland, David Ramsey, and Paul Blackthorne. Shows and movies based on comic book characters have always been iffy for me; it really all depends on the look and feel of it all. I didn’t really watch Smallville when it aired (a good number of episodes, but didn’t follow through on all 10 seasons), but I might consider watching this just to see where they’re going with it.
  • BEAUTY AND THE BEAST [Thursdays @ 9]: Just because ABC hit gold with Once Upon A Time and NBC with Grimm, fairy tales seem fair game. But I don’t see why this was necessary (not to mention there was another B&B pilot in contention on ABC). In this new updated version of the tale-as-old-as-time, Kristin Kreuk plays homicide detective Catherine Chandler. When Catherine uncovers a clue regarding her mother’s murder, it leads her to Vincent Keller, a doctor long presumed dead but is now living on the outskirts of society in order to protect his secret – “when he is enraged, he becomes a terrifying beast, unable to control his super-strength and heightened senses.”So the Beast is pretty much the Hulk, except he doesn’t turn green? Not gonna lie, I have my doubts about this show. Obviously the network has faith in it, to give it the Vampire Diaries lead-in (though I’m not sure anything else would’ve made sense anyways), but I just can’t see this doing well.
  • THE CARRIE DIARIES [Midseason – Mondays @ 9]: Based on the novel by Candace Bushnell, this series follow Carrie Bradshaw as a teenager in the 80’s, before she became the Carrie Bradshaw that people know from Sex and the City. I know this is coming from Fake Empire (Josh Schwartz’ creative team) but I could care less about this show. I didn’t even watch Sex and the City, so I have no prior interest to even be compelled to watch. As it is, it was pretty damn obvious that this show is being groomed as the successor to Gossip Girl, but that too is a show I stopped watching/caring about.
  • CULT [Midseason]: When Jeff Setton’s brother, Nate, goes missing, he starts to investigate in the dark world of a show called “Cult”, its rabid fans, and how the gruesome twists on the show are becoming all too real. Matthew Davis, Jessica Lucas, Alona Tal, and Robert Knepper stars in this show from Josh Schwartz, Stephanie Savage, Len Goldstein, and Jason Ensler. The premise itself sounds quite intriguing, added to that, the midseason placement isn’t really an issue as it is intended to have a shorter episode run (so we know they are developing for a specific number of episodes).

Other changes in the schedule:

  • 90210 and Gossip Girl are paired back up again on Mondays (thanks CW for clearing up my Mondays ever so slightly). This will be the final season of GG, and it is set for an 11-episode order.
  • Hart of Dixie moves to Tuesdays @ 8, predictably leading-in to Emily Owens.
  • Supernatural makes the move from Friday to Wednesdays @ 9, making it the perfect companion to Arrow (as it was with Smallville for several years).
  • Nikita stays put on Fridays, but now gets the 9 PM slot. It gets a lead-in from America’s Next Top Model, which swapped with Supernatural, moving from Wednesdays to Fridays @ 8. I’m thankful that Nikita gets a lead-in (and a new season!), but I’m not so sure ANTM is the proper lead-in for it.
  • This is a general scheduling note – in order to reduce the number of breaks/re-runs during the season and to get away from the slew of other network starts in late September, The CW has opted to push its season start-date to October. In previous seasons, the network decided on getting a head-up on the other networks by starting the season in the first weeks of September, which only led to multiple (annoying)/long breaks for many of its shows, and they only suffered in ratings afterwards (particularly the new shows).

So that’s it for upfronts! For a more detailed description at all of the CW’s new shows, check out Deadline.

Save This Show!: Hart of Dixie (The CW)

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In the fourth installment of this series of blog posts, I wanted to put the spotlight on The CW’s “Hart of Dixie,” starring Rachel Bilson, Scott Porter, Wilson Bethel, Jaime King, and Cress Williams. Despite the reunion of Rachel with “The O.C” creator Josh Schwartz, Hart of Dixie hasn’t quite caught on. One could say that it’s not a “splashy” show like some of the others on the network (ex. The Vampire Diaries, Gossip Girl).

I’m not going to rave about the writing like I did with Nikita and Fringe, because that’s like apples and oranges. Hart of Dixie harks back to the old WB days, with its focus being on character drama. No vampires, witches, supernatural beings, rich people and their ridiculous drama, just people with standard TV problems. It’s a simple show that sometimes get lost in the hoopla of other shows.

I’ve got a friend who said she tried to watch the show but everything looked fake about it. I get what she was saying, sort of. For one thing, I know for a fact that they do film the show on the Warner Brothers lot (Rammer Jammer gave it away), instead of some actual small town. The actors’ accents might be a little exaggerated, but I’m not from the South so what do I know? And apparently, people still can’t get over the fact that Rachel Bilson does not look believable as a doctor. To me at least, I feel like you can get over those things. Suspension of disbelief for 42 minutes isn’t going to kill you. If you can get past those things, you’ll see that the show has a lot of charm to it, which really is the biggest selling point of the show. The men of the show have charm in spades, fully taking on the phrase “Southern Charm.” And if you loved Rachel Bilson on “The O.C.” there’s no reason not to like her here.

“Hart of Dixie” isn’t necessarily appointment television, but it’s a show that puts a smile on your face. It’s a wonderful mix of drama and comedy, which I’ve only found done well on some of the cable shows. For a network comparison, I can only really think of “Glee.” And while I like “Glee” I’ve found that it occasionally tries too hard to be funny and serious. With Dixie, it’s just very light-hearted and it’s certainly not a bad way to end off your Monday nights.