Tube Talk: Finales and farewells

May 8, 2013

By Paula Hendrickson
Contributing Writer

Sometimes when a series ends, the producers, cast, crew and fans know in advance the show is coming to a close. NBC’s The Office ends its run this Thursday. (Count me among those who think The Office should have ended when Steve Carell left two years ago.) Producers tried to keep it under wraps, but recent reports indicate Carell will return as Michael Scott for the final episode.

Among the other familiar faces returning will be Mindy Kaling, who is now producing, writing and starring in Fox’s The Mindy Project and who last appeared in this season’s premiere.

Because everyone knows The Office is ending, storylines can be wrapped up, and long-lost viewers (like me) may tune in to see what happens. After nine seasons, one thing’s for certain: no one will feel closure if Pam and Jim break up.

Fringe, Last Resort, 30 Rock also got to bow out gracefully this year. Not all shows are so lucky.

Producers of some series still don’t know if they’ll be returning next year or not. Some, like NBC’s Community, are accustomed to the uncertainty. The show has been “on the bubble” pretty much every season, but will the season four finale also be its final finale?

Some say the fact that NBC only ordered a 13-episode season means the network doesn’t have confidence in Community, despite an avid fan base in the 18-49 demographic advertisers love. Yet, others counter that argument by pointing out how NBC is still struggling to rebuild its primetime line-up and can’t cancel everything. Perhaps most telling is that Community wasn’t named recently when NBC announced renewals and full-season orders of Grimm, Chicago Fire, Revolution and Parenthood (which has never ended a season knowing if it will be back or not) instead of waiting for the upfronts later this month.

This week’s Community’s episode title? “Advanced Introduction to Finality.”

Happy Endings is a critically-adored ABC comedy that finished its third season last week unsure of its fate. In its favor: critics love the show and it appeals to that same coveted 18-49 demo. What doesn’t bode well is the show was moved all around the schedule and pre-empted so often that fans didn’t always know where to find it, and then ABC decided to burn off new episodes in a back-to-back Friday-night hour-long block.

Sorry, but that’s not how networks treat shows they care about. It also doesn’t make for a happy ending to any series.

Other shows are wrapping the season with no idea if they’ll be back. NBC’s Parks and Recreation is another critical darling that’s on the bubble just as it’s reaching a creative peak. If the network has any sense, it will be renewed.

As sad as it can be to say goodbye to our favorite shows, it’s always bittersweet when writers know far enough in advance to make it a true finale. Even though I thought The Office overstayed its welcome by at least two seasons, I’ll still watch the finale just to see how it all (finally) ends.

Paula Hendrickson is a regular contributor to Emmy magazine and Variety, and has been published in numerous national publications, including American Bungalow, Television Week and TVGuide. Follow her on Twitter at P_Hendrickson and send your suggestions to tubetalking-paula@yahoo.com.

From the May 8-14, 2013, issue

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