By Paula Hendrickson
This Thursday is full of season finales. Yes, it’s only April, but as we’ve discussed before, the old September-through-May broadcast season is a thing of yore. Even CBS seems to have embraced the change. Last month, CBS aired the final episode of its long-running How I Met Your Mother and launched Friends With Better Lives the same night.
Staggered premieres and finales should lend the TV landscape an air of continuity, or at least ease the pain of having seasons of your favorite shows all ending at the same time. At least it works in theory.
Community, Parenthood and Scandal all wrap their current seasons this week. On the same night, no less.
Despite the creative resurgence Community experienced with the return of creator/showrunner Dan Harmon for its 13-episode fifth season, the series wraps yet another season unsure of its fate. Ratings didn’t reflect the show’s sharp upturn in quality, but what show stands a chance in the ratings when it competes directly against new episodes of CBS’s massively popular The Big Bang Theory? Even so, fans are hopeful that Community will defy the odds once again.
Parenthood is another NBC show with a Thursday finale. Like Community, each year Parenthood leaves fans wondering if they’re watching a season finale or a series finale. Despite airing against ABC’s juggernaut Scandal, Parenthood has managed to maintain its audience, even hitting series-high ratings this spring. That near-miraculous feat, plus an abundance of critical acclaim, might keep Parenthood around for next season, despite regularly being crushed in the ratings by Scandal — which also wraps its current season this Thursday.
Scandal creator Shonda Rhimes is a genius when it comes to amping up the drama and putting characters in both moral and physical peril, so you know she’ll leave fans with a huge, game-changing cliffhanger guaranteed to drive us crazy all summer. If only NBC could give Community and Parenthood fans the same assurance — or at least a sense of finality.
The best thing about this era of overlapping seasons is you never face a summer filled with only reality shows and repeats. Now, when one scripted show’s season ends, another show’s season begins.
This week, FX premiered its latest series, Fargo, set in the world of the 1996 feature film, but with entirely new characters. The cast is led by Billy Bob Thornton (Bad Santa, Slingblade), Martin Freeman (Sherlock, The Hobbit), Colin Hanks (Dexter, Band of Brothers) and relative newcomer Allison Tolman. Because the series has the official blessing of the original film’s co-writers and co-directors, Joel and Ethan Coen, Fargo has strong buzz, don’t cha know.
Another new series that also happens to be named for a town is WGN America’s first scripted drama, Salem. Debuting April 20, Salem poses the question: What if witches orchestrated the Salem Witch Trials to shift attention from themselves and toward their enemies? It’s an intriguing concept, but will it be able to compete given the record number of witchy and supernatural series populating TV listings in recent months? Time will tell.
Finales — Community, 7 p.m. Central, Thursday, on NBC; Parenthood, 9 p.m. Central, Thursday, on NBC; and Scandal, 9 p.m. Central, Thursday on ABC.
New shows — Fargo, 9 p.m. Central, Tuesdays on FX; and Salem, 9 p.m. Central, Sunday on WGN America.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
From the April 16-22, 2014, issue