It appears a huge spate of series cancellations came too late for what Community fans want, a bona fide finale that out-surreals the show’s highest heights. (And yes, “highest” is a double entendre).
It won’t be the first time a show got yanked before the writers got to address it. For that matter, it’s worth asking whether every show even needs a finale.
It wasn’t until the late ‘70s that series finales entered the public consciousness. I Love Lucy never aired a finale where Lucy divorced Desi and went to work for Theodore J. Mooney (Gale Gordon).
In fact, the ‘60s were rife with shows that should have demanded a finale. They just ended. The castaways in Gilligan’s Island never got off the island (they did in later TV movies, but always ended up back on it – a hilarious gag that would later be stolen by Lost).
Similarly, Lost in Space remained lost in space. The Robinson family never made it back to Earth, meaning they would continue to encounter aliens that resembled floor lamps covered in shag carpeting.
On My Favourite Martian, Uncle Martin (Ray Walston) never made it back to Mars. The Beverly Hillbillies remained in Beverly Hills, untouched by city ways.
And Star Trek never finished its five-year mission. Although it ended with William Shatner’s career over-the-top performance – the episode Turnabout Intruder, in which a deranged ex-girlfriend used alien technology to switch bodies with Kirk. Yes, the Shat got to pretend there was a hysterical woman inside him! Priceless.
I Dream of Jeannie sort of had a “finale season,” a jump-the-shark affair where Major Nelson finally married the genie in the bottle. Now he had a wife who called him “Master.” (Marriage really has changed.) But there was no farewell episode.
The Fugitive broke the mold on Aug. 29, 1967, when, after four seasons, Richard Kimble (David Janssen) finally caught up to his wife’s murderer, the one-armed man.
But despite the huge ratings for that episode, finales didn’t become a network “thing” for a decade or more (the Mary Tyler Moore Show, M*A*S*H, The Bob Newhart Show). Charlie’s Angels used a clumsy “flashback” show for its finale, in which Kelly (Jaclyn Smith) was shot, and while clinging to life in hospital, Kris and Julie (Cheryl Ladd and Tanya Roberts) reminisced. Despite teases, Charlie himself was never revealed.
Meanwhile, the end-of-season hatchet continued to leave storylines dangling, particularly on series that dared to end their seasons with cliffhangers.
It’s ironic that Robin Williams’ The Crazy Ones is one of this season’s casualties. The last time Williams was on TV, in Mork & Mindy, the series ended with a cliffhanger, with M&M being flung through a time vortex by an evil alien. For the conclusion to this exciting episode, tune in… um, never.
Herewith, some series that deserved some kind of denouement:
TERMINATOR: THE SARAH CONNOR CHRONICLES: In a nutshell, John Connor (Thomas Dekker) meets his pal Kyle Reese in the future. Wait, isn’t Kyle Reese actually his biological dad? How did that go? I guess that’s what fan fiction is for.
LOIS AND CLARK: THE NEW ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN: In a season cliffhanger that became the last episode ever, Lois (Teri Hatcher) and Clark (Dean Cain) find a baby on their doorstep. Yeah, and…?
CARNIVALE: HBO, Showtime, etc. are where you really take your chances. For every Sopranos or Six Feet Under that was allowed to play out, there was a Carnivale or a Deadwood, or a Dead Like Me or a Bored To Death (maybe there’s a thread here) that ended in mid-story. The demented Depression tale Carnivale, starring Nick Stahl, was loaded with predictions, including images of a mushroom cloud. What did it all mean? Who knows? It just stopped after two seasons.
DEADWOOD: Fans were bought off by HBO’s promise that there would be two TV movies that would tie up the many loose ends, historical and plotwise, but it was never to be. What turned out to be the final episode included a spoof of Hamlet’s soliloquy uttered by Al Swearengen (Ian McShane) to the skull of a Native American. It contained 12 F-bombs in a little more than 100 words of dialogue. Among many questions left hanging: Was Doc (Brad Dourif) dying? And were Calamity Jane (Robin Weigert) and Joanie Stubbs (Kim Dickens) to live happily ever after?
HEROES: It’s probably not a bad idea that they’re bringing the series back and rebooting it, so tangled had its narrative become (Time travel kills everything). But the original ended with Claire (Hayden Panettiere) “coming out” with her powers to the whole world by jumping off a Ferris wheel in front of the media. Kind of like the end of Iron Man, though we found out how that played out in the next movie.
V: The ‘09/’11 one, we mean. The final episode included an alien matricide, a patricide, and the alien queen Anna (Homeland’s Morena Baccarin) exerting mind control over all of humanity. Couldn’t wait to see how they were going to resolve that. Then it got cancelled.
LAW & ORDER: You’d think after 20 years, they’d let the show go out with some kind of send-off. But the cancellation came too late. In the episode, Lieut. Van Buren (S. Epatha Merkerson) got news about her cancer diagnosis, and that was the only thing unusual about what was another self-contained episode (about a potential school shooting by a… disgruntled teacher).
TWIN PEAKS: Bob the Demon possesses Agent Cooper (Kyle McLachlan). Kind of seems like the cliffhanger to a new season – or a segue to a movie (though the badly executed Twin Peaks movie, Fire Walk with Me turned out to be a prequel).
PUSHING DAISIES: The cancellation of this offbeat series (about a baker who can raise the dead with a touch and then re-kill with a second) happened before creator Bryan Fuller hit the editing room. Endeavoring to make it as finale-like as possible, he edited out a cliffhanger that – who knows? - might have led to Ned and his formerly-dead girlfriend Chuck finally being able to touch. We found out that Chuck’s agoraphobic aunt Lily was really her mother. And Ned’s private detective pal Emerson was reunited with his daughter. Fuller recently mused about launching a Kickstarter campaign for a PD movie that would tie it all up.