Wednesday, June 11, 2014

What I'm Watching: Finales Part III

I confess I feel a little strange addressing some of these endings almost a month after they aired.


But on the other side of the coin, it’s given me some time to ruminate and for some things to happen, some of which I think are important to the future of TV as we know it today.


So let’s start with the big one.




I’m trying to figure out the exact moment I realized that my enthusiasm for Glee was just plain shot.


I know part of it came from pulling the 100th episode collection out of plastic and putting it in the CD player.  The show hasn’t done many compilations over the last few years, and it’s harder and harder to find the recordings on actual discs now.


Any why?  Because they don’t sell very well now.


In their first and second year, they went Gold and Platinum on a regular basis.  Now? 


Now they barely chart, and when they do, it’s not for long.


This one was touted as kind of a big deal – a full recording, based on episode 100 and 101, with a few new songs and some fun re-recordings of some old favorites.


But what did we get from it, really?  That’s harder to gauge.  I had listened to the whole thing before I realized that no one singing on it had joined the show after season two.  The remake of Loser Like Me nicely demonstrates that a catchy song can be reworked a bit and still be fun.


And we get a fourth version of Don’t Stop Believing, which despite only minor changes, just isn’t as wonderful as that first version.


To summarize: The soundtrack offered mostly just reminds how much I used to enjoy the show, and how much my interest has waned.


There are other issues as well.  Ohio was dropped from the show, post-episode 100, and I thought that perhaps the show would get a shot in the arm.  Instead, once again, all characters added after season two are now a distant memory. 


Which is the say, the show was/is desperately trying to dump nearly two seasons of characters, which they previously (I guess) wanted us to invest in and care about.


So we got to spend time with a bunch of people re-hashing stories we’ve pretty much already covered.  Blaine and Kurt are still together, in some strange on-again/off-again way.  They put Sam and Mercedes back together, even though I can think of exactly zero people who ever got invested in them the first time around.  They put Brittany and Santana back together, but forgot to put Brittany back on the show on a regular basis, and never mentioned where she might be.


And overall the show became the “Rachel gets everything she wants and acts totally irresponsible and it’s all okay for her” story.


And the show had, like, two endings in this season alone.  One where the glee club ended, and one where Sam decides to go back to Ohio because “everyone else is leaving,” even though only Rachel and Mercedes are leaving, and only temporarily, most likely.


And then the show ended with a happy song, and the club is over, and… and it felt like a real ending, even though season three felt like a real ending, and the glee club ending felt like a real ending, and…


And there was other weirdness. 


The show has already been renewed for season six, but the guy who ran Fox said that he was going to have to talk to the folks at Glee about a shortened season, because Glee actually got beaten by a show on the CW.


On its finale night, the one time everyone is supposed to check back in with their used-to-be-favorite shows just to see how they wrap up.


Except Fox guy is gone, was either quit or fired, depending on how you look at it.


Sooo… what happens now?


Here’s the deal.


I can’t envision a show where the ratings on Glee ever recover.  The only scenario I can see that happen is this: They hit the reboot button hard.  They actually fix all the problems that show has (weak writing, unmotivated characters, characters changing fundamental things about how they act within THE SAME SCENE, an overall trend towards meanness for the sake of being mean, etc.).


They work extra hard to get creative in their arrangements, instead of offering note-for-not karaoke on far, far too many song choices.


Mostly, the show needs to be what it used to be about – the joy that can be found even in the struggles we have to live with.  Because lately, it has mostly just been about succeeding and succeeding some more.


Unfortunately, I can’t see next season as anything other than a write-off.


If the show is going to make a comeback, it’s going to need to improve to a level of Game of Thrones or Breaking Bad – something so good and so compelling people need to come back on board.


But I don’t think the show can really put together a solid 13 (or worse, 6) episode season that will tie off the last few story threads in a satisfactory manner.


Really, the big question is, who is left to even care about.  Santana?  Mercedes?


Does anyone really want to know what becomes of Blaine in the future?


If I were running Fox, I’d call it a day on the show.  The only other choice is to drag the characters together for no real reason to get us involved in stories that are going to come to an abrupt end just a few episodes down the road.


They might be able to make a 22 episode season that tells a complete story, and go out well, but I don’t see that happening.


And I suppose it’s worth mentioning that, yes, this far in, I’ll be on my couch catching the last few dregs of the show as they work their way down the drain.


Sometimes you have to see it through.  But I suspect I’ll be one of the few.


Agents of SHIELD:


From the saddest ending to the one that pleased me probably the most, I guess.  Because Agents played a long game and made it work.


I remember Joss Whedon saying years ago that his new series (I forget whether it was Dollhouse or Firefly) would have seven episodes in a row, all of which could be a pilot.  And I think that’s what happened here, where the show had to make sure EVERYONE was on board before moving forward.


And that killed them.


They had to tie themselves to movie release schedules.


That killed them.


And people just expected the show to be great from the word go, even though pretty much every show, ever, needs some time to really find its feet.


And that killed them.


And then… then they turned it all around.


The last episode of the first season was the most Whedon-y episode I think I’ve seen outside of a full-on Whedon show.  It was funny.  It had some great action.  It had hilarious conversations taking the air out of the sails of the villain. 


It even had a delightful bad guy moment in the final seconds of the episode.


The truth, of course, is that the show is still beholden to the Marvel universe around it, and that is going to murder their momentum in the future.


Will that kill them in the end?  Possibly.  But I’m hoping that getting the last few episodes out the door and getting the ratings back up a bit will install a trust in the show folks for the future.  I think they’ve earned it.


Good job, folks.  I had fun.  Sorry everyone else was so whiny about it.


Modern Family:


What is there to say about Modern Family at this point, I wonder? 


The show powers along, and it spent the year working up to the marriage of the two gay men on the show.  They tried to make it funny and poignant, and I think everyone who wanted that got it.


The show has gone through five seasons now, and as it moves on from here it’s going to get harder and harder to be creative, to service the many characters on the show, and to come up with new and exciting ways to keep the show moving.


And yet, they can still pull out great moments – like the impossibly well-oiled Vegas episode. 


As long as the show can still offer up one or two of those a season, I’m in.


Parks and Recreation:


Parks is coming back for one more season after this, but much like Glee, I kind of wish that it wouldn’t.  This season was clearly designed to feel like a conclusion, as everyone found love or otherwise got the happy ending they deserved, whether by getting married, having babies, or moving on with their lives.


Much was made of the fact that the show wasn’t as good as it used to be, but I disagree.  Watching the season in the course of a week (as my wife and I always do) revealed the usual flaws, the jokes that come back a little too often, yes, but more importantly, the show let all the characters grow up a little, and change, and get to where they needed to be.


The thing of it is, the ending was lovely, and now, much like Glee, the show is supposed to come back for a short season where everything is different.


When that happens, you get things like the ninth season of Scrubs, where it’s too different for many folks, who just go ahead and abandon ship.  And the rhythms are a little different, and you have to deal with a new pilot, and just as you get invested… it’s over.


I’ll admit, I want more Parks, because I love Parks.  But it ended in a good place, and I suspect that the next year will end with a whimper, not a bang.