TV Endings

This past Sunday I watched and very much enjoyed the last ever episodes of The Good Place (CBS). I’ve avoided articles about it in my newsfeed, but a headline or two suggested some fans weren’t satisfied. (A rant for another time: Clickbait headlines and headlines with spoilers. So annoying.)

Maybe some fans just didn’t want the show to end, which I get, but I appreciate knowing when and how to make a graceful exit. I like the way the show’s creator, Michael Shur, effectively said, ‘This much and no more.’

As it turns out, it’s not the only show I watch that’s ending. Several of them are. (And there’s one or two I really wish would call it quits.)

I’ve already posted about Madam Secretary (CBS) ending. That one also ended on a strong note — another appropriate and graceful exit.

All that remains for me on CBS now is NCIS, which has been on thin ice the past season or two, and Bull, on which I’ve always been iffy, and which really hasn’t endeared itself to me that much.

The problem I have with Bull is the premise of trial science, which appalls me. It’s naked manipulation of the truth, and the show has had several episodes where we never discover what really happened — only what Bull’s team convinced the jury of.

That’s certainly true to life, but it offends my views about facts, truth, and honesty. The show skates on the ice of having most of their clients being pretty clearly innocent.

But Jason Bull is no Perry Mason seeking truth in defense of an innocent client. Bull treats the jury like Pavlov’s dogs to be selected by their leanings when possible and manipulated by misrepresentation of reality. On some level, that sickens me.

§

One show that, in my view, has gotten very tired is The Blacklist (NBC).

With The Good Place over, it’s the only NBC show I follow, and I’ve been hoping it’s on its last season for two or three years now. The draw has always been James Spader, but I’ve gotten weary of the convoluted back history involved.

And, as I’ve said before, I’m also weary of this need to paint everyone as, not just highly flawed and dark, but often as a downright asshole.

In fact, I’m sick to death of this social mode of tearing everything and everyone down. Our culture seems to have decided that aspiring to greatness is too challenging, so let’s all just chill and embrace our inner asshole.

Which is kinda how we ended up with trump as POTUS, so I’m not at all on board with the idea.

§

Actually, there is also, on NBC, the rebooted Will & Grace, in its third and final season (for a total run of eleven seasons).

At some point this year we’ll see the final episodes of that show, and I can’t say I’ll miss it much. It has been a bit fun watching those four actors go through their well-established paces, but for the most part it’s been more caricature than character.

The most recent episode where Grace plugs a toilet was pretty slapstick. The show was always a bit exaggerated and silly, but in the past had more ability with human moments that made the show worth watching.

The writing lately has seemed pretty paint by numbers.

§

Meanwhile, over on ABC, Fresh Off the Boat is in its sixth and final season.

I thought the first four seasons were really good. I really enjoyed those seasons. Maybe familiarity plays a role, but in season five it began to seem more standard sitcom. Perhaps the Asian point of view story barrel had been well tapped.

What really distinguished the show was that Asian point of view. Many of the earlier stories wouldn’t be possible with an all-white cast.

Lately the stories are more about the personalities and interactions, pretty much as with any sitcom. Jessica is driven, Louis is laid back, the kids all have their personalities, and so does granny.

At least it hasn’t sunk to relying on gags, which W&G often does. But I don’t find myself laughing much anymore, either.

§

So, wow, on commercial TV I’m down to NCIS and Bull on CBS and The Blacklist on NBC.

Two that I’m iffy on (one especially) and one I’m hoping will end.

Not a good score for commercial TV. By spring it might be down to just baseball and a daily dash of MSNBC (in the form of Nicole Wallace, one of the few talking heads I can stand to listen to on a regular basis).

I suppose I should count The Simpsons (Fox) and South Park (Comedy Central). I know many disagree, but I think The Simpsons is still comfortably entertaining — it still makes me smile.

And South Park still seems fresh and relevant. I’ve come to rank it as a superior show to The Simpsons in many ways. (Certainly compared to the last decade or so of The Simpsons. Nothing really parallels the first couple of decades.)

§

On the other hand, there’s a whole world of shows streaming.

Which has been a game-changer. Entire seasons of old shows easily available. My extensive library of DVDs made obsolete in the space of a few years.

The CDs — not to mention the vinyls — had been obsolete for a while. (At least owning physical books still makes some sense, although I haven’t been inside a book store in many years now. I used to almost frequent them.)

The availability of old shows, along with the current tendency to “drop” entire new seasons at once, has led to binge watching.

Which, I will admit, has its attractions. It’s like watching a very long movie.

(In fact, I think the rise of TV shows and the decline in movies owes in part to how much more nuanced and exploratory TV shows can be. There is time to explore back stories and characters. Of course, that can work against a storyteller, too. Sometimes the padding for length is obvious.)

But people are realizing it can get competitive, this race to be among the first to have seen (all of) Russian Doll or Disenchantment or Jack Ryan or The Expanse.

To just name four I have, in fact, binged.

(I liked Black Mirror and Love, Death & Robots so much I was frugal watching episodes. I wanted to savor them. In contrast, I just re-binged Russian Doll because [A] it was so good and [B] I wanted to actually understand it.)

It isn’t just the FOMO that attaches to failing to binge a newly released show. It’s starting to occur to people that binging is the opposite of savoring, and savoring is a big part of remembering and enjoying.

Folks are starting to realize they don’t remember (or enjoy) as much when they gulp down a six- or eight-hour meal.

But savoring takes patience, and that seems in short supply these fast-paced days.

§

It’s funny to look back at the shift over time.

Firstly, from shelves of books and a few crates of vinyl record albums — very physical analog objects — to digital versions. Many advantages to that shift, but something was lost. There is something to the ritual of playing a vinyl record.

Secondly, from owned physical digital media to streaming and cloud services. Movies, TV shows, and music, that I only own access to. I only have the use of those bits.

And it turns out that’s okay. In a world will so much content, there no longer is so much need to collect your own.

As an old saying puts it, “Another bus will be along in twenty minutes.”

Stay episodic, my friends!

About Wyrd Smythe

The canonical fool on the hill watching the sunset and the rotation of the planet and thinking what he imagines are large thoughts. View all posts by Wyrd Smythe

6 responses to “TV Endings

  • SelfAwarePatterns

    The only shows I’m really watching right now are Doctor Who and Picard. I almost stopped watching DW after the third episode, but things got much better in eps 4 and 5. Picard remains watchable, but nothing much has happened yet after two eps, so still waiting to see which way I’ll fall on it.

    My only beef with the binging is that it is over so quickly. I could have spent more time in the universes of The Expanse, Lost in Space, or The Witcher. Unfortunately, as I’ve gotten older, the rewatch has stopped working for me. And I’m pretty selective on which shows I watch, which doesn’t leave me with a lot of entertainment.

    Hundreds of cable channels, and tons of streaming options, and there still isn’t anything to watch. 😛

    • Wyrd Smythe

      It does remain something of a wasteland. I think part of the problem for us is that we’ve been around long enough to have seen a lot of stories by now. Some of it does get old, which is why I really appreciate the rare gems that can take me somewhere new.

      I learned while I was married that I can live completely without TV and not really miss it. I didn’t get back into watching TV until a while after the divorce. (When my dog died, I had a lot less to do, plus I was pretty mopey. The century did not start off well for me: 9/11 (I was born in NYC), divorce, finding a new position after they closed my department, bought a condo, beloved dog died. Difficult and strange few years.)

      What has helped keep me sane is having very diverse interests. When I get tired of something, I move on to something very different. Between hobby coding, reading, TV and movies, blogging, baseball, math, etc. there’s a whole rotation of things that keeps it fresh. One nice thing about streaming is I can stop watching TV completely if something else catches my attention, so after a few weeks, sitting down and watching seems attractive.

      Find something completely new that’s always kind of caught your eye, but which you never found time or reason to explore. The trick is to find an orthogonal direction so the territory is as new as possible. Keeps the mind active, and it’s surprising how much something completely new “wakes you up” and excites you. (It’s exactly why people get into such trouble over having affairs. Getting some strange really is very exciting and compelling.)

      My new interest in aviation, for instance, seems to have reached a (somewhat low) cruising altitude, but in the last couple of weeks it’s been really fun digging into it and learning a lot about commercial aviation. My mind has really been lit up. I’ll keep on learning, at least for a while longer, but I can tell it’ll never be a major topic for me (like baseball became).

      Maybe that’s just me. I’m very prone to wonder “what does this button do?” or “where does that road go?” And then very prone to press it or walk down it to find out. 😀

      That “over too soon” feeling of binging is exactly why I dole out episodes of some shows.

      (I’ve left the final chapter of the last Terry Pratchett Discworld novel unread because I can’t stand the idea that I will have then read everything he wrote about Discworld.)

      Between my feelings over being over Trek, my feelings about reboots, and my feelings about CBS Ondemand, I’m not sure Picard has much of a chance with me. Maybe if, after a season or two, people start raving about it I’ll check it out. My problem, as I’ve mentioned, isn’t so much finding something to watch as having long TO-WATCH and TO-READ (and TO-DO) lists.

      Doctor Who has been okay, but it still really hasn’t found its stride with me, yet. Do I recall you only got into it with the latest The Doctor? You haven’t seen the reboot until now? (Or am I thinking of someone else?)

      • SelfAwarePatterns

        No, I’ve been watching Doctor Who since it returned in 2005. Prior to that I had watched the Tom Baker ones from the 70s, and a few of the Peter Davidson ones. So I’ve been a Doctor fan for a while.

        But the show has gotten too preachy for me, even though I usually have no issue with the stances themselves. The producers seem to have corrected this season to bring back some of the old characters and situations, which is helping, but the heavy handed political correctness is starting to wear thin.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        Okay, I’m thinking of someone else then. I didn’t see Who Classic with any regularity, but did see a few. (One small life regret I have is not getting into it from the beginning as I did with Star Trek.) But I’ve been a big fan of the reboot.

        I totally agree with your assessment. Who has always been socially relevant, but the show is trying way too hard. As you say, “heavy handed” and then some. I do like that they’re touching base with their past. It was fun seeing Captain Jack again, and I guess Cybermen are coming. I think the show suffered from trying to make too much of a break from the previous regime.

        The family approach with companions was done with Classic Who, but it’s new to the reboot. It really changes the dynamic, but part of the old dynamic was the hint of romantic tension between The Doctor and Rose/Martha/Donna/Amy/Clara. They pulled away from that with Bill Potts, and it’s completely absent with the Thirteenth Doctor. (Just as well, probably. They do have the ability to play with that now that The Master is back. They just had it the opposite way with Peter Capaldi and Michelle Gomez. The current Doctor would be aware of that.)

        It’s not perfect, but it’s still some of the best SF on TV in my book!

      • SelfAwarePatterns

        “I think the show suffered from trying to make too much of a break from the previous regime.”

        I agree. Particularly, given the gender switch, in retrospect it was probably the wrong move, piling up too much change all at once.

        “It’s not perfect, but it’s still some of the best SF on TV in my book!”

        It has its moments. But it also has breathtakingly sloppy storytelling at times. Under David Tenant and Matt Smith, I didn’t mind it as much because they were also fun. The show in recent years just hasn’t felt as fun as it used to.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        I think you put your finger on it. I agree wholeheartedly on all counts. It’s taking itself too seriously. With Who, that might be a fatal error.

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