The last episode of Fringe was promoted as a fall finale. Ringer airs its fall finale this Tuesday. Many shows have promoted their fall finales, promising surprises, thrills, and cliffhangers. I'm not a fan.
It seems that expectations for the final episode of a season are pretty high. A couple of years ago, Bones aired a season finale in which Bones either read a book or Booth dreamed that they were a couple who owned a nightclub. It was a fun episode, had all the squints and Zack in silly roles. It was a trifle, but it was entertaining, which is what a show should be. But oh! the lamentations in the blogosphere - this was no kind of finale.
What? A procedural needs a certain kind of an episode to air for the final episode of the season? That doesn't make sense to me.
Some shows require a finale to be an event. The finales of Buffy the Vampire Slayer always resolved a season-long arc in which the season's "big bad" was finally vanquished, killed, or otherwise neutralized. On the other hand, Lost's finales usually elicited more questions than resolution, but they were for sure events to be anticipated and savored. Lost, of course, produced cliffhangers so we'd return the next season to figure out what it all meant.
One of the best finales I've seen was The Best of Both Worlds of Star Trek: The Next Generation. The tension on board the Enterprise mounted as the Borg kidnapped Picard and turned him into a Borg. It was a bold move for a series that up til then hadn't been very bold.
But I don't require most of the shows I watch to have finales. If they do, so be it, but I won't think less of any show in that category that fails to produce one. Personally, I'd rather have a good episode than a mediocre attempt at a finale.
But now we're expecting shows to have "fall finales"? Are you kidding me?
One of the biggest complaints TV viewers have each year is the month and a half or so that TV turns off. It's the holiday season, and usually starts sometime around Thanksgiving and ends sometime after the New Year's Day. Television programmers have to face the fact that people are very busy during the holidays, going to parties, buying gifts, and mailing greeting cards. So television is placed on hiatus while people are distracted. It makes sense.
We viewers are a demanding lot - we're quite irritated by these breaks in our favorite shows. Some seem to take it quite personally. Finally, some shows like Lost and 24 just waited until the new year to air so that viewers could watch with few if any interruptions.
But now we're expecting shows that air on both sides of the New Year's to have "fall finales"? Please. Fringe's finale showed that Nina Sharp is leading scientists in extracting something from Olivia's body? Wow. Knock me over with a feather. Ringer has promised that they'll reveal something that will change everything. Whatever.
I guess my primary objection to this is that it just seems like a trick, an illusion that forgets that good story telling is what every show should rely upon to keep viewers. Focus on that, and everything should fall into place. Viewers will come for the good stories, not for the cliffhangers. At least, unless you make them expect it.